I always need fresh input — whether it is from books, articles or podcasts. Especially others sharing their learning (and failures) is a great source to grow. Instead of sharing my favorite podcast series, I want to recommend specific episodes which helped me and which I listen to over and over again.
For me, an interesting episode is a lot more than just receiving interesting information. What makes the difference is the people in the podcast. That’s why I don’t have too many sources but love podcasts from Danny Fortson, Reid Hoffmann, Jason Lemkin and Andreessen Horowitz (especially the ones from Sonal Chokshi, and with founders like David Ulevitch).
1. David Ulevitch (OpenDNS & a16z): What Time Is It? From Technical to Product to Sales CEO
Since the startup (and founder) journey doesn’t go neatly linear from technical to product to sales, tightening one knob (whether engineering or marketing or pricing & packaging) creates slack in one of the other knobs, which demands turning to yet another knob. So how do you know what knob to focus on and when? How do you build the right team for the right play and at the right time?
It all depends on “What time is it”: where are you on the journey, and where do you want to go. In this episode, David Ulevitch (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) shares hard-earned lessons on these top-of-mind questions for founders; as well as advice on other tricky topics, such as pricing and packaging, balancing between product visionary vs. product manager, how to manage your own time (and psychology!) as your company grows, and more. Much of this is based on his own up-and-down, inside-outside, big-small-big-small, long journey as CEO (and CTO) for the company he co-founded, OpenDNS.
2. Dara Khosrowshahi (Uber): How pirates become the navy
Early-stage startups are a lot like pirate ships — they need a buccaneering spirit to survive. But every startup needs to shed its pirate nature at some point, and evolve into something more akin to a navy — no less heroic, but more disciplined. Dara Khosrowshahi, as Uber CEO, took on the most extreme pirate-to-navy transition in startup history. Though Uber blitzscaled to become the most valuable startup in the world, it was also notorious for its toxic culture — and Dara turned the company around. His method? Truth-telling and doing the right thing.
3. Michael Birch (Bebo) & Danny Fortson (Sunday Times): The Bebo Billions
Michael and Xochi Birch launched Bebo, one of the first social networks. They sold it at the height of the market for $850 million to AOL Time Warner. Two years later, AOL sold it again — for $1. In a two-part podcast, we tell the Bebo story: its extraordinary rise, the fall, and how the Birches made away with the GDP of a small nation.
4. Nick Mehta (Gainsight): Founder Struggles from Imposter Syndrome to Vulnerabilites
SaaStr CEO Jason Lemkin sits down with Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta to discuss what it means to be a SaaS leader. What are the day-to-day struggles? The fears and the worries and what it means to be “crushing it” today.
5. Ben Horowitz (A16Z): “Jeff Bezos should be more like Genghis Khan”
The Sunday Times’ tech correspondent Danny Fortson brings on Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, to talk about company culture, the Amazon example, what’s wrong with new Uber, Uber’s old culture, Silicon Valley’s moment, how culture can be a company-killer, on whether capitalism is changing, why there aren’t more outsiders in venture capital, seeing what you don’t have, how lack of diversity creates product problems, and seeing culture early.
6. Don Erwin (Mixmax): The Secrets to Managing a Successful Sales Team
How do you manage a sales team when you’re at a company with both Free and Freemium Sales-Driven Segments? What about SMB vs. Enterprise Sales? SaaStr CEO Jason Lemkin sits down with Mixmax’s Head of Revenue Don Erwin to discuss it all.
7. Christopher Lochhead (Play Bigger): Category Creation is the Strategy
In this episode, Christopher Lochhead discusses why category creation is the new growth strategy for legendary marketing. Great companies do not focus on incremental growth, rather, they focus on being exponentially different. These leading companies introduce people to new businesses and provide them with new ways of doing things.
Lochhead cites different big enterprises as well as small enterprises as an example. Huge companies now started as small when they changed our way of thinking. Companies such as AirBNB, Google, Amazon, Palo Alto Networks, Cisco and Salesforce not only created great products — they created a good company and a great category.
8. Bob Tinker (MobileIron): Finding Go-to-Market Fit in the Enterprise
In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Bob Tinker, author of the book Survival to Thrival and founding CEO of MobileIron, and a16z general partner Peter Levine, talk with Hanne Tidnam all about how to find the right go-to-market fit for the enterprise startup. How do founders avoid that moment of reckoning after product-market fit, but before growth? When should an enterprise startup accelerate sales investments? — the “Goldilocks problem” (not too early, not too late!) — and pick the right sales team and go-to-market model for their product and their customers? And if you’re stuck in that moment where growth stalls, what are the right tools to get out of it? What are the important metrics to know both where you are, and when you’re out of the woods?
9. Mark Mader (Smartsheet): Staying Accountable and Scaling a High Growth SaaS Company
Learn how Mark Mader grew Smartsheet from a six-employee startup to a publicly traded company with over 1000 employees serving 82,000 customers. How did Mark and his team convince investors and customers that Smartsheet was solving for what spreadsheets don’t do well? Why did Smartsheet host their first customer conference just three years ago? What did Mark look for in new board members heading into Smartsheet’s IPO? Get the answers to these questions and more in this episode.
10. Dirk Schart (RE’FLEKT): Building the AR Operating System for Enterprise
In this episode, Alan Smithson and myself are talking about early-stage markets, my experiences from building trust in the enterprise sector and realizing a vision to make a difference in the AR market.
Most businesses have the information and infrastructures they need to be more efficient and competitive — it’s just a matter of having it all at their fingertips. RE’FLEKT is working at making that process easier by creating a modular, scalable, open-source operating system for businesses to build their own in-house AR applications on top of.
Enjoy listening! I hope you take as much from these episodes as I did.
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Dirk Schart is CMO and President of the Augmented Reality startup RE’FLEKT. His focus is on B2B enterprise software and SaaS models with early-stage technologies like AR, AI, IoT—from market engineering to thought leadership and go-to-market. Dirk is a startup mentor at the German Accelerator in the Silicon Valley and author of two books about Augmented Reality.