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Running Through Walls

Running Through Walls is a Venrock podcast featuring candid conversations between investors and entrepreneurs. Each episode, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the breakthroughs, challenges and nuttiness associated with building and growing companies. Venture capital firm Venrock has been investing in entrepreneurs across technology and healthcare since 1969.
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Running Through Walls
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Jun 23, 2021

Not knowing where items are located, what’s in stock, or if they are properly priced cost the global retail industry more than a trillion dollars. Venrock partner David Pakman speaks with Brad Bogolea, co-founder and CEO of Simbe Robotics, about how Simbe’s robot Tally is solving these major blind spots. Bogolea delves into how robotic solutions can keep up with rapid changes without overhauling infrastructure and provide greater optical data than traditional solutions. Bogolea discusses the competitive and consumer pressures prompting retailers to embrace robotic solutions and how the pandemic exposed the need for autonomy and better data. Bogolea also touches on the challenges of financing in the robotics sector, and how being customer-oriented is key to Simbe’s success. 

May 26, 2021

Vlad Coric, M.D., CEO of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, joins Venrock partner Nimish Shah to speak about the significance of innovation and creativity across all aspects of a business. Coric dives into the challenges of launching Biohaven’s drug, Nurtec ODT, during the pandemic and why he believed it was their moral duty to continue the drug supply chain, despite the lockdown. Still seeing patients today, Coric discusses how his patient-centric approach positively guided him as a drug developer. Coric touches on Biohaven’s collaboration with Khloe Kardashian for Nurtec’s launch and his excitement for the digital transformation occurring in biotech. Coric also advises other biotech CEOs raising a cross-over round or going public to be selective with the investors they invite in, as they become an extension of the team.

May 5, 2021

Venrock partner Nick Beim speaks with Jason Wenk, founder and CEO of Altruist, about his mission to increase the accessibility of great financial advice. Wenk walks through his early entrepreneurial endeavors and explains how they’ve contributed to the creation of Altruist. As his leadership style has evolved over the years, Wenk shares the biggest lesson he’s learned while building Altruist and how he’s embraced the fact that it’s okay to not know everything.

Apr 21, 2021

Cyrus Harmon, co-founder and CTO of Olema Oncology, joins Venrock partner Alex Rosen to discuss the history of Olema. Olema had a successful IPO last year and Harmon sheds light on what biotech companies should look for when selecting banks for an IPO and how to build momentum for financing rounds.  He also dives into the factors that led to the founding of Olema and how the company evolved to develop their OP-1250 drug, used for the treatment of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Harmon shares the biggest challenges he encountered, things he would have done differently, and the importance of perseverance as a leader. Harmon also touches on the biotech trends he’s most excited about, including mRNA vaccines, gene therapy, and AI in computational drug discovery. 

Mar 10, 2021

Venrock partner Camille Samuels speaks with Angie You, CEO of Amunix, and Rich Heyman, Chairman of the Board, about the dynamics between a CEO and a Chairperson that foster a successful company. You and Heyman dive into the importance of mutual trust and respect between a CEO and the Board, and You shares her passion for people that makes her such a great talent hunter. You shares her experience as an Asian female CEO that has busted through multiple ceilings, and how her supportive friends and network help to make the CEO’s role less lonely. They also discuss how they’ve built an incredibly diverse management team at Amunix and why diversity of thought is so important.

Feb 17, 2021

Eric Brown, CEO of Dynamic Signal, joins Venrock partner Brian Ascher to speak about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Brown believes you can’t have great culture without putting inclusion first, which is why it was the first thing on his agenda as he stepped into his role as CEO of Dynamic Signal last year. Brown discusses some of the company’s initiatives, including the Mentorship and Access program, and shares how these programs have been received so far. Brown also shares the challenges of balancing family and work and how he had to purposefully make space for each of them to exist in harmony.

Feb 3, 2021

Venrock Partner Mike Tyrrell speaks with Jason Purcell, co-founder and CEO of Salsify to discuss his career and how Endeca’s $1B exit lead to the creation of Salsify. Purcell explains how we are in the midst of a “masses of markets” world, and delves into how commerce experience management platforms like Salsify are helping brands navigate a space where consumers engage with products on a broad variety of channels and win on the digital shelf. Purcell shares the toughest part of his journey at Salsify and what the company sees as its “North Star”. They also discuss the importance of repeated clear communication in leadership strategy, particularly when a company grows past the startup stage.  

Jan 20, 2021

Dataminr uses AI to detect when major events are happening, long before the first news reports emerge. How is this possible? Venrock’s Nick Beim chats with Dataminr’s co-founder and CEO Ted Bailey to discuss how the rise of real-time data platforms and misinformation around the 9/11 attacks helped spark the idea for the company. He shares how Dataminr helps clients mitigate and respond to potential crises more effectively, including the ongoing pandemic. They also discuss how the Dataminr workforce is responding to all-remote work and how Bailey has grown as a leader since founding the company in 2009. 

Jan 6, 2021

Emily Drabant Conley, CEO of Federation Bio, joins Venrock partner Racquel Bracken to chat about lessons learned from her time at 23andMe and how Federation Bio is disrupting the microbiome space. Conley discusses key takeaways from her experience in handling moments of crisis, including the importance of transparency and staying consistent with your company’s mission. As a female CEO, Conley shares what traits of 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki she tries to emulate and discusses how setting aggressive goals has helped her career. Conley also discusses the opportunities that come with working at a small company and reveals her passion for cooking, which she’s ramped up during the pandemic.

Dec 16, 2020

Venrock partner Nimish Shah speaks with Jason Fenton, managing director and head of healthcare capital markets at Cowen, to discuss the explosion of activity in the biotech IPO market this year. Fenton dives into the pros and cons of a virtual IPO process and shares best practices for companies looking to go public. Shah and Fenton outline some of the important factors to consider when choosing bankers and touch on common mistakes CEOs make while going through an IPO. Fenton also walks through the components of a recent successful IPO deal and provides his expectations for the biotech market in 2021. 

Dec 2, 2020

Ryan Nece is a former NFL player, Super Bowl winner, and now a venture capitalist at Next Play Capital. He joins Venrock partner Brian Ascher to chat about the transition from the field to the boardroom, including why so many professional athletes take an interest in venture capital and what elite athletes and successful entrepreneurs have in common. Nece shares the highs and lows of having a famous parent, football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, and his gratitude for the opportunities made possible by his upbringing. No stranger to adversity, he also discusses a challenging time battling injuries that almost ruined his career before it started. 

Nov 11, 2020

Venrock partner Bob Kocher speaks with Hill Ferguson, CEO of Doctor On Demand, about how the company managed a huge spike in demand for virtual care as COVID-19 spread throughout the country beginning in March 2020. He shares how Doctor On Demand implemented a real-time assessment for higher-risk patients to handle growing wait times, and how they partnered with Medicare to cover virtual care visits for seniors for the first time. Kocher and Ferguson discuss how social injustice, economic hardship, and losing loved ones to COVID-19 are contributing to the increased demand in behavioral health services offered by Doctor on Demand. Ferguson also highlights the importance of balance and self-care, shares his expectations for flu season, and unpacks Doctor On Demand’s plan to make primary care more accessible through virtual visits. 

Oct 28, 2020

Jennifer Bisceglie, CEO and founder of Interos, joins Venrock partner Nick Beim to discuss how Interos mitigates the challenges of third party risk management, particularly during the pandemic, by providing customers full visibility of their extended supply chain. Bisceglie describes how Interos continuously builds “family trees” of companies and scans for risk factors so customers can gain visibility into their supply chains and understand the vulnerabilities that can interrupt operations. She shares her proudest moments at Interos so far, the biggest challenge that female entrepreneurs face, and provides advice to women who are looking to start a business.

Oct 14, 2020

Venrock partner Camille Samuels speaks with Corvidia co-founders Ram Aiyar and Michael Davidson about Corvidia’s recent acquisition by Novo Nordisk, just four years after its founding. They discuss how inflammation contributes to cardiovascular disease – the number one killer in the United States – and how their drug Ziltivekimab “Zilti” is proving to be a successful therapy. Aiyar and Davidson share their experiences and advice for other companies exploring a sale, including always being ready for Plan B (or C), maintaining positive relationships, and not rushing any deals. They also discuss why the cardiovascular space is becoming increasingly appealing to entrepreneurs and investors when it was previously avoided. 

Sep 30, 2020

Latane Conant, CMO of 6sense, joins Venrock partner Brian Ascher to chat about marketing strategy for B2B companies and the role of marketing in corporate culture. They discuss the “First Sip Club” which Conant started during the pandemic to stay connected to fellow SaaS marketers, and she shares how it has evolved to stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment. Conant also discusses her new book No Forms, No Spam, No Cold Calls: The Next Generation of Account-Based Sales and Marketing, which covers her distinct B2B marketing and sales philosophy, and gives advice for junior marketers looking to excel in their careers.

Sep 16, 2020

Healthcare industry veteran George Barrett joins Venrock partner Bob Kocher to discuss how the U.S. handled the unprecedented demand for PPE (personal protective equipment) for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Barrett explains the significance of examining all components at the supply chain level to create a system that is more flexible and resilient. They also delve into Barrett’s non-traditional business background and how his musical talents have shaped his career. 

Sep 2, 2020

Venrock partner David Pakman speaks with Roham Gharegozlou, CEO and founder of Dapper Labs about launching CryptoKitties, one of the world's first and most successful blockchain games, and shares his predictions for how crypto gaming will evolve in the next decade. They also discuss the launch of NBA Top Shot, a new kind of digital collectible that capitalizes on consumer affinity for collecting and sports, and Flow, which is a blockchain that takes care of the underlying technology so developers can focus on building their applications. 

Aug 19, 2020

Following up on their discussion of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, Venrock partner Bryan Roberts speaks with Mathai Mammen, Global Head of R&D at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, about Mammen’s career path and what differences he’s found working on drug development in both small companies and large companies. Managing 14,000 people has its challenges, but the scale is incredible: J&J’s products touch more than 1 billion people worldwide. They also discuss trends in gene editing and CRISPR thanks to machine learning and AI.

Aug 6, 2020

Venrock partner Bryan Roberts chats with Mathai Mammen about COVID-19 vaccine development and therapeutics in this special episode of Running Through Walls. Mammen serves as the Global Head of R&D at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, where he is heading up the firm’s COVID-19 vaccine development. They discuss J&J’s unique approach to the vaccine and which therapeutics are promising in the fight against the virus. Mammen shares how the U.S. can be better prepared for the next pandemic, and highlights how his company approaches vaccine production and distribution on a global scale.

Jun 17, 2020

Allison Pickens, former COO at Gainsight and co-author of “The Customer Success Economy: Why Every Aspect of Your Business Model Needs A Paradigm Shift” joins Venrock Partner Brian Ascher to discuss the new and increasingly important function of customer success for SaaS companies. They discuss how customer success differs from customer support, how working with customers has evolved, what startups should consider when making their first customer success hires, and common mistakes companies make when rolling out new programs. Recorded pre-pandemic, Pickens also shares how startups can make sure all functions are working together to support customer success with several examples that are relevant in today’s remote working environment.

Feb 12, 2020

Venrock Partner Bob Kocher speaks with Ezekiel Emanuel, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, about Emanuel’s upbringing and family, how to deliver better patient care and implications of data/AI for medical ethics. They speak about their time working together in the Obama White House on the Affordable Care Act. With the 10-year anniversary of the legislation coming up in March, Emanuel talks about what’s improved in the U.S. healthcare system and what challenges remain. Emanuel also shares his love for chocolate and what inspired him to become a chocolatier.

Jan 15, 2020

10x Genomics CEO and co-founder Serge Saxonov joins Venrock’s Bryan Roberts to discuss the founding of the company and its recent IPO. Saxonov shares his story of emigrating from Tajikistan to New York City as a teenager, learning English and becoming an entrepreneur. He talks candidly about how he’s grown as a leader over his six years as CEO of the company and how the company’s technology has evolved to meet customers’ needs.

Dec 19, 2019

Paul Koenig founded SRS Acquiom to make M&A deals more manageable for entrepreneurs. Venrock partner Brian Ascher speaks with Koenig about what he’s learned from seeing thousands of deals, including best practices for shareholder reps, common misconceptions about due diligence, and trends in all-cash vs. stock offers. They also discuss how entrepreneurs can set the stage for a smoother M&A process when they first start the company and why having the right advisors is crucial.

Nov 21, 2019

Adam Boehler, CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and former Deputy Administrator for Innovation & Quality at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, sits down with Venrock’s Bob Kocher to talk about the business of healthcare. He shares his journey from venture to founder to government, and he offers lessons learned in the shift to a value-based healthcare paradigm. He talks about his experience as founder and CEO of Landmark, including the decisions and challenges in providing home-based medical care.

Nov 6, 2019

Venrock’s David Pakman speaks with Misty Robotics Founder and Head of Product Ian Bernstein and CEO Tim Enwall about the launch of Misty II and the company’s evolution into a platform for developers. They discuss what sparked their initial interest in robotics and the various ways a robot can help people at home, from eldercare and cleaning to any other application that developers can dream up. They also share lessons learned from launching the BB-8 robot at Sphero, and how design factors into human-robot interaction.

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