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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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Now displaying: 2017
Dec 13, 2017

Noah Lang, CEO and co-founder of Stride Health, joins Venrock’s Bob Kocher to discuss the changing nature of work, and how his company is helping independent workers successfully create a “business of one.” Lang recalls his childhood love of building and creating, and how it led him to study product design at Stanford and later launch Stride Health. Stride Health delivers a toolkit that helps independent workers find healthcare coverage and other benefits that workers outside of traditional 9-5 jobs do not typically receive. This shift towards independent employment has fueled Lang’s passion for helping these workers keep more of what they earn and thrive in their businesses. Lang also shares how running and guidance from his coach have helped him continue to improve as a first-time CEO.

Dec 6, 2017

Chris Lochhead, a three-time Silicon Valley CMO, co-author of Play Bigger, and former entrepreneur, joins Brian Ascher of Venrock to discuss the importance of category design and marketing on this week’s episode of Running Through Walls. From having a provocative point of view to not accepting the status quo, Chris outlines what every business needs to do to become a category king. He discusses the right time to think about category design, whose job it is, and why concentrated campaigns called “Lightning Strikes” will grab the attention of consumers more effectively than traditional marketing.

Nov 22, 2017

Peter Lee, executive director for California’s health benefit exchange Covered California, joins Venrock’s Bob Kocher to discuss working with Washington and Peter’s goal of making healthcare a right, not a privilege. Lee started his career as a lawyer and became an AIDS/HIV activist in the 1980s. Peter humorously recalls the time he was arrested outside the Reagan White House for protesting the government’s lack of responsiveness to the AIDS epidemic, and how he had to disclose that story when he worked on the Affordable Care Act under the Obama Administration. Peter shares how he grew Covered California from 13 employees to 1,600, and how he allocates his $110 million marketing budget to successfully target specific consumers. Peter also speaks to the importance of creating a mission that employees believe in, and how he fosters a sense of start-up culture within the government.

Nov 9, 2017

Curious about cryptocurrency? Venrock’s David Pakman talks to Adi Sideman and Yonatan Sela about the upcoming launch of PROPS, a new cryptocurrency. The YouNow team pioneered mobile live video and they were the first to introduce an economy around interactive video, where on the one side people can buy a virtual currency, and on the other side, creators who perform can earn that currency. They discuss what led them to this point, and how YouNow is setting out to distribute network value broadly across users and break up the centralized control of media with the PROPS project.

Oct 4, 2017
Brian O’Kelley, CEO and co-founder of AppNexus, started his entrepreneurial endeavors early, first in high school refurbishing old Apple II computers and later in college creating websites in the nascent days of the internet. Venrock partner Mike Tyrrell talks to O’Kelley about his path from odd jobs to CEO of a $1 billion company. He discusses the tough times at Right Media that led to his firing, and how he turned that experience into a positive one with the founding of AppNexus. And in the tough times of building the business, O’Kelley shares how his commitment to the vision of programmatic advertising led him to keep pushing. He also discusses how he mentors employees and promotes company spirit through all things orange, even his polished toenails. 
 
Jul 19, 2017

As the CEO of medical technology company ZELTIQ, Mark Foley was on the front lines of a major business transformation. Venrock’s Bryan Roberts talks to Foley about turning the company around by changing the business model and swapping out the majority of leadership, culminating in the successful acquisition by Allergan for $2.4 billion in April 2017. But the exit wasn’t all smooth sailing. Foley shares details on the initial failed bids that rocked the company’s culture, how he managed morale during this tricky time, and what led to the successful deal in the end. He also shares how investors can recover after an initial stumble, and how he made the transition from VC to CEO successfully.

 

Jul 5, 2017

Steve Walske founded Parametric Technology Corporation in 1985 and is now on the board of several prominent Silicon Valley companies including Synopsys and 6sense. Venrock partner Brian Ascher talks to Walske about his unique formula for building a strong sales team and striking a balance between managing and empowering salespeople. Walske believes in efficiency above all else, and that means turning down opportunities until the company establishes a real sales presence in the area. They also discuss the truth about “bowling league syndrome” and why employee turnover doesn’t faze him.

Jun 21, 2017
Steve Papa, founder and CEO of Endeca through its acquisition by Oracle in 2011, has thrived in many roles throughout his career: neighborhood Mr. Fix-it, entrepreneur, founder, CEO, mentor and angel investor. In this week’s podcast, Venrock’s Bryan Roberts talks to Papa — now founder and CEO of Parallel Wireless — about his early aspirations and founding Endeca during the rapid expansion of the Internet in 1999. The company survived through two major economic downturns and went through a smooth acquisition under Papa’s direction. He shares how he managed the team during these events, what he learned about perseverance and grit, and how he advises companies facing similar obstacles today.

 

Jun 7, 2017

Venrock partner Nick Beim talks to Mark Gerson, co-founder and Chairman of Gerson-Lehrman Group, about his early entrepreneurial pursuits, why society should promote entrepreneurism and why it’s a bad idea to keep all of your ideas to yourself when first starting out. When Gerson’s innovations stretched to providing first-response services and healthcare for underserved populations, he came to the realization that philanthropy, like any other venture, focuses on the amount of return — social or financial — on any project. From a healthcare foundation operating in areas like Malawi and Kenya, to a network of first responders that treat victims of pre-hospital trauma in Israel, Gerson shares his wisdom on building connections and social awareness through business.

May 24, 2017
Part two of the discussion between former Genentech and Facebook CFO David Ebersman and Venrock’s Bryan Roberts centers on Ebersman’s time at Genentech, where he started working in his 20s and worked up his way up, eventually becoming CFO. He shares anecdotes about working with another executive dynamic duo, Art Levinson and Sue Desmond-Hellmann, and what he learned about problem-solving after working closely with them for several years. Ebersman also discusses Roche’s hostile takeover of Genentech in 2009, and his perspective on financial modeling following the deal. 

 

May 10, 2017

In the first part of his discussion with Bryan Roberts of Venrock, former Genentech and Facebook CFO David Ebersman shares what he learned about leadership from the dynamic duo of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, and discusses his experience taking the company public in 2012. Now CEO and founder of Lyra Health, Ebersman discusses how Lyra solves the problem of finding quality care for mental health conditions, and talks about the most surprising aspects of being a startup founder after stints at large companies. 

Apr 26, 2017

Virta Health CEO Sami Inkinen took a circuitous path to CEO, having grown up on a farm in Finland and studying physics before embracing his passion for computers and pursuing entrepreneurship. Inkinen speaks to Venrock partner Bob Kocher about what led him to co-found the real estate startup Trulia and now Virta, an online medical clinic that’s on a mission to reverse diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. They discuss how this goal impacts decision-making at the company and helps with hiring and motivating employees. Inkinen also shares the differences he’s encountered in healthcare after starting his career in tech.

Apr 12, 2017

When Matthew Prince and Michelle Zatlyn met in business school, they didn’t envision a class project turning into a billion-dollar company, but that’s exactly what happened. Bryan Roberts, partner at Venrock and Cloudflare board member, talks with the co-founders about the early days of company building and how their initial mission statement has remained the same years later, a rarity among Silicon Valley startups. Prince and Zatlyn discuss their measured and thoughtful approach to hiring, and why slower growth helps them keep Cloudflare’s culture strong. They also share their experience with public policy, and a time when they took drastic measures to protect the privacy of a Cloudflare user.

Mar 29, 2017

Bruce Cozadd was a musician in his early years, but a passion for science and business led him to enter the biopharma industry. Venrock partner Camille Samuels talks to Cozadd, now CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, about his journey to co-founding Jazz and the people who helped him along the way. He shares the joys of starting Jazz with a team that had worked together in the past, but also highlights the downside: that his team lacked diverse prior experiences to rely upon while building a company. When Jazz’s stock price fell to just $0.53 a share, Cozadd persevered and relied on grit and determination to turn the company around. He also shares his wisdom about managing people through all stages of their careers, and reveals what his mentor taught him about treating people well no matter how difficult a situation the company is in.

Feb 15, 2017

Hill Ferguson joined Doctor on Demand as CEO in 2016. Venrock’s Bob Kocher talks to Ferguson about his first day on the job and hallmarks of a successful founder to CEO transition, including the delicate balance of fixing problems while preserving what’s already great with the company. Ferguson was on the employee side of this transition in previous roles, and learned the importance of creating an environment where all employees, regardless of position, feel comfortable asking questions. They also discuss Ferguson’s product expertise, and how he views all products as solutions to problems. What products inspire him? Those that help humanity and create economic value while improving people’s lives. Hint: not foie gras delivery. Ferguson also shares the nuances of recruiting doctors for telemedicine and what a good day looks like for Doctor on Demand’s physicians. 

Feb 1, 2017

Steven Aldrich, Chief Product Officer at GoDaddy, has thrived professionally at both large companies and startups, something Brian Ascher of Venrock notes is unusual during this interview. Aldrich shares lessons startups can learn from more established companies and vice versa, noting that startups often try to be scrappy and do things internally regardless of expertise, while hiring someone with expertise would save them time and money. Conversely, big companies need to encourage experimentation and find ways to maintain the sense of urgency that energizes a team around problem solving. Aldrich says having a growth mindset (Carol Dweck, Mindset) is at the bedrock of how he hires and manages, while fixed mindset folks have no place in Aldrich’s organization. Aldrich also talks about GoDaddy’s famous Super Bowl commercials and what impact they had on the company then and today. Spoiler alert: you will see a new GoDaddy commercial during the upcoming Super Bowl.

Jan 18, 2017

Matt Rogers, co-founder of Nest, started his career as an intern at Apple and it was during that first week on the job when he met his co-founder Tony Fadell. While speaking with David Pakman of Venrock, Rogers talks about stretching people to help them grow, why he and Fadell chose to reinvent the thermostat, and why Apple is a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. Nest was going after a market dominated by well-entrenched players, but Rogers says they were prepared for a fight and ultimately these older companies have made it easy for Nest to stay one step ahead. Rogers also recalls a low point in the company’s growth – a product recall – and how they navigated that situation with transparency and continued focus on the whole customer experience. Now a part of Alphabet, Rogers says it’s hard to know what to expect when your company is acquired, but building a good relationship with the acquirer is key. Roger’s kryptonite? Large crowds!

Jan 4, 2017

Founded as Microbia to explore and develop antifungal and antibacterial drugs, Ironwood Pharmaceuticals now has two drugs on the market helping patients with IBS and Gout. After nearly 20 years and many different approaches and targets, founder and CEO Peter Hecht tells Venrock’s Bryan Roberts that he is proud of the failures along the way as the end goal was always to build an enduring pharmaceutical company. The key is to kill programs that aren’t working early and not let them go too long – research is cheap, development is hard. Hecht also talks about managing people when you have a moving target. You have to have great people with the right skill sets and you have to help people who don’t have the right experience move on to a new challenge. Hecht’s superpower? Knowing what he doesn’t know. Though Roberts thinks it is Hecht’s ability to attract a variety of assets – people, ideas, capital...

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