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Going Deep with Aaron Watson

Aaron Watson is the CEO of Piper Creative. On this show, you'll hear thoughtful, focused conversations with entrepreneurs, executives, and innovators. Guests include Nathan Chan, Kevin Kelly, Bill Peduto, Morgan Housel, Noah Kagan, Tucker Max, and Barry Ritholtz. This is the biggest business podcast in Pittsburgh.
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Going Deep with Aaron Watson
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Now displaying: 2021
Oct 18, 2021

Dylan Lew is the CEO of Ecotone Renewables, a startup dedicated to making sustainable food and agriculture systems more accessible.

 

Ecotone Renewables has developed the “Seahorse”, which reinvents the food and plant waste disposal system, taking food that would otherwise be wasted and turning it into renewable energy and nutrient-rich fertilizer. The Seahorse uses a process of anaerobic digestion to produce ‘Soil Sauce’ and transform methane gas emissions into less harmful CO2.

 

Ecotone won 2nd place at the Allegheny Cleantech Competition in 2018 and at the 2020 ACerS Humanitarian Pitch Competition. They are currently running a crowdfunding campaign to catalyze their next phase of growth.

 

In this episode, Dylan and Aaron discuss composting, emissions, waste management, and how many modern sustainability issues are matters of coordination, not requiring technical breakthroughs.

 

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Dylan Lew’s Challenge; Reduce your own food waste.

 

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Ecotone Renewables Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out these three sustainability-focused startups; Fifth Season (vertical farms) founded by Austin Webb, Sequoia Waste Solutions’ Charlie Dolan, and Mark Cuban-backed PittMoss (w/ CEO Brian Scott).





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Oct 11, 2021

Dylan Beynon is the Founder & CEO of Mindbloom, a telehealth psychedelic therapy startup. Dylan founded Mindbloom to help people treat mental disorders with clinically back solutions involving ketamine.

 

This is Dylan’s third startup and he has already raised money from some blue chip investors, including Founders Fund.

 

Mindbloom is on pace to deliver 100,000+ psychedelic therapy sessions by the end of 2021 and is aiming to climb from 13 to 42 states of operation.

 

In this episode, Dylan and Aaron discuss finding a Chief Medical Officer, ketamine’s history of use, and Dylan’s vision for a healthier future.

 

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Dylan Benyon’s Challenge; Take 110% responsibility for your mental health. Read a book about mental health and well-being like Awareness by Anthony de Mello, The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer, and Letters From a Stoic by Seneca.



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MindBloom Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out our interview with Henry Schuck where we discuss sales and taking ZoomInfo public.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Oct 4, 2021

Don Racey is Chief Executive Officer of Engage Energy & Industrial Consulting and President, Marketing for American Energy Partners.

 

Don’s specialty is assisting diversified energy companies to better align with sustainability and ESG initiatives.

 

Don’s background in corporate finance, operations, and strategy allows him to guide business transformations and Asset Lifecycle Management plans.

 

In this episode, Don defines ESG, talks about the energy systems that need to change, and talks about his background as a consultant.

 

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Don Racey’s Challenge; Go out and plant a tree.

 

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Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 458 with Mark Marmo where we discuss natural gas, business building, and company culture.





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Sep 27, 2021

Kamron Khodjaev is the Chief Commercial Officer of Koop. Koop is an insurance technology and specialty brokerage company focused on commercial autonomy and robotics.

 

Robots have different data sets, risk models, and track records of performance than machinery operated by humans. Due to this complexity, many robotics firms find themselves struggling to get insured or paying way too much.

 

Kamron and his three cofounders realized that they could use their own proprietary algorithms to better chart the risks of autonomy and partner with large insurers the help these companies.

 

In this episode, Kamron and Aaron discuss the founding of the company, different data his team looks at, and the enormous market opportunity. 



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Kamron Khodjaev’s Challenge; Keep an open mind.

 

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Koop.Ai Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 395 with Çetin Meriçli where we discuss self-driving trucks and episode 357 Jim Gibbs about parking for self-driving vehicles. 



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Sep 20, 2021

Michael Tam is a partner at Craft Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund known for the development of B2B Saas startups.

 

Based in Los Angeles, Michael sits on the boards of Bbot, Dray Alliance, Route, Trellis, and Vendr. He also works closely with notable investment companies such as Pipe, Salted, Shef, and Sync, amongst others. 

 

Prior to joining Craft, Michael was an investor at Crosscut, where he led investments at the seed stage. As an operator, Michael managed Uber's business in Southern California markets and launched L., a direct to consumer brand acquired by Procter & Gamble. 

 

Michael also serves on the investment committee of the USC Marshall Fund, which invests in startups in the Southern California tech ecosystem.

 

In this episode, Michael and Aaron discuss how to break into venture capital, his investments in Shef & Pipe, and much more.

 

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Michael Tam’s Challenge; Reach out to someone you’re afraid to. Send a cold email w/ intention.

 

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Twitter

Craft Ventures Website

Michael@craftventures.com

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 466 with Matt Harbaugh where we discuss founding a venture fund.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Sep 13, 2021

Dave Fink is the CEO and cofounder of Postie, a platform for making direct mail marketing campaigns as sophisticated as elite digital marketing.

 

Dave Fink has been building companies for the consumer internet for over 15 years. Over the last decade Dave has launched and scaled over 20 consumer-internet businesses. During the early part of his career he created performance-marketing platforms helping brands as diverse as Walt Disney World, Procter & Gamble and The Gap adapt to the rapidly changing digital media strategies available in the internet world.

 

Dave also established the customer acquisition strategy that successfully launched consumer brands with celebrities including Kate Bosworth, Jessica Simpson, Rachel Bilson, and Mary- Kate and Ashley Olsen. 

 

In this conversation, Dave and Aaron discuss some basic marketing definitions, the mission behind Postie, and how Dave coaches marketing clients to success.



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David Fink’s Challenge; Find a new hobby to get a break from work.

 

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Postie Website

dave@postie.com

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 386 with Jon Shanahan where we discuss YouTube marketing, men’s fashion, and much more.





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Sep 6, 2021

Joe Percoco could not stand the idea that the best financial products were inaccessible to the common person, so he co-founded Titan. Titan is a fintech startup that aims to be this century’s Fidelity Investments

 

The startup is growing rapidly with 500% growth in the last 12 months, 30,000+ users, nearly 1 billion in assets under management, and a recent valuation of $450 Million. Their investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Kevin Durant, Odell Beckham Jr., and Will Smith.

 

Joe has been able to build this company so quickly thanks to his pedigree at some of the world’s top business institutions; Wharton business school, Goldman Sachs, and McKinsey.

 

In this interview, Joe and Aaron discuss the building blocks of a fintech startup, why index funds & day trading aren’t right for everyone, and the near-death experiences Titan has survived.



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Joe Percoco’s Challenge; Answer the question; What is your personal KPI for the week?

 

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titan.com



If you liked this interview, check out episode 231 with Andy Rachleff where we discuss Wealthfront, index investing, and a framework for successful venture investing.





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Aug 30, 2021

TJ Fairchild started Commonplace in 2003 with his wife in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Today, Commonplace has nine locations and TJ is consistently hired to consult with other coffee shops to help get their business established.

 

In addition to operating coffee shops, Commonplace also roasts their own beans which they sell directly to consumers and wholesale to other coffee companies.

 

TJ did not have a business background before starting his company, he majored in philosophy and avoided a career in academia to start his firm.

 

In this episode, TJ and Aaron discuss the equipment needed for a coffee shop, how to develop a soulful environment, and the shortcomings of ‘free trade’ coffee sourcing.



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TJ Fairchild’s Challenge; Be Grateful.

 

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Commonplace Coffee Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 455 with Michael Mayer where we discuss his smart scales that automatically ship customers fresh coffee whenever they start running low. You can also check out the interview we did with Patrick Colletti.






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Aug 23, 2021

Howie Choset is a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a serial entrepreneur. With his students, Howie has formed several companies including Medrobotics, for surgical systems, Hebi Robotics, for modular robots, and Bito Robotics for autonomous guided vehicles.

 

Further, Choset co-lead the formation of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, which is $250m national institute advancing both technology development and education for robotics in manufacturing. He is aksi a founding Editor of the journal ‘Science Robotics.

 

In this conversation, Howie and Aaron discuss the series of startups he has founded, how to delegate & develop teams, and the patience required to see technological innovation turn from idea to reality.

 

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Howie Choset’s Challenge; Have good students actively teach students that are further behind. Go into fields that seem too difficult. Find applications for snake robots.

 

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Biorobotics Lab Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 306 with Bryan Salesky where we discuss raising billions of dollars to develop self-driving cars.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Aug 16, 2021

Charles McIlvaine is an effective operator and financier who is in the midst of a significant rebrand for Coen Oil.

 

After acquiring the company in the 2000s, Charlie and his brother Andy have built and spun off the company’s Energy and Transport businesses, in order to focus on their convenience store and gas station business.

 

In this conversation, Charlie and Aaron discuss business strategy, company culture, and how to differentiate a company’s brand.

 

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Charles McIlvaine’s Challenge; Evaluate your business through people, process, and technology. Also, remember you are not alone. Nobody succeeds alone.

 

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Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 415 with Bill Sarris where we discuss building a family business and candy empire.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Aug 9, 2021

Will Weiner is the CEO of Xpogo, the association focused on the growth of extreme pogo sticking.

 

After taking over in 2018, Will has focused on expanded the sports media reach and developing a more robust event strategy.

 

In this episode, Aaron and Will discuss media, business models, and the athletes that make it possible.

Aug 2, 2021

Eli Harris is the cofounder and President of R-Zero Systems. R-Zero has raised $60 million to re-design hospital-grade disinfection solutions for day-to-day life.

 

In just fifteen months, R-Zero has raced to over $20 million worth of revenue and finds itself at the right place, at the right time, to take advantage of the cultural changes taking place post-pandemic.

 

Eli has been named a Forbes 30 under 30 and previously founded the portable energy company EcoFlow. EcoFlow has raised $100 million and has been valued over $1 billion in private markets.

 

In this episode, Eli talks about disrupting the disinfectant industry, his past failures as an entrepreneur, and the discipline requires to build something great.

 

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Eli Harris’s Challenge; Ask for help.

 

Connect with Eli Harris

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R-Zero Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 453 with Brock Blake where we discuss PPP loans, equity vs debt financing, and how to build a company in Utah.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Jul 19, 2021

Barbara VanKirk is the CEO and founder of IQ Inc. She has spent the last 28 years creating company value by providing the vision, leadership, strategy, and general management skills necessary to grow IQ Inc into a dominant player in Pittsburgh’s tech ecosystem.

 

IQ Inc helps its clients with expert consulting, staffing, project management and software development services. They serve clients across financial services, transportation, and medical device with Software Design & Development, Software Q/A Testing, Product Development, System Integration, Technical Writing, and Database Design.

 

In this episode, Barbara and Aaron discuss how she bootstrapped the company, how to hire tech talent, and why her company has stood the test of time.

 

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Barbara VanKirk’s Challenge; Learn something new, Give back, Seek feedback, Stay hungry

 

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IQ-Inc Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 438 with Ben Wilson where we discuss building a computer software consultancy.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Jul 12, 2021

Jeremy Searock cofounded Advanced Construction Robotics in 2016, aiming to bring robotic technology to construction sites around the country.

 

As President and Chief Technology Officer, Jeremy has overseen the development of ACR’s first two products, TyBot and IronBot. The machines dramatically enhance workforce productivity and safety by aligning and tying rebar for reinforced concrete on heavy infrastructure projects.

 

Prior to starting a company, Jeremy managed the autonomous systems engineering group at Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center and ran tactical leadership of a U.S. Submarine, including the detailed management of the submarine's nuclear powered propulsion plant. 

 

In this conversation, Jeremy and Aaron discuss his military experience, why construction is ripe for disruption, and his leadership principles.

 

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Jeremy Searock’s Challenge; Don’t underestimate yourself.

 

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Construction Robotics Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out our interview with Steve Muck where we discuss buying a construction company, developing young talent, and starting new business lines.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Jul 5, 2021

Gabriela Isturiz has founded two different high-growth SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) technology companies that were ultimately sold to Fortune 500 companies.

 

Her first company, eBillingHub, was a pioneering electronic billing solution for law firms around the world. Her product development, sales, and business strategy acumen allowed for eBillingHub to be acquired by Thomson Reuters (NYSE: TRI) in 2011.

 

After that, Gaby founded Bellefield System, which rose to be a global leader in time tracking and compliance technology for lawyers. Their product was recognized as the #1 legal timekeeping solution for 5 years in a row worldwide and she led the firm to over 3,500% growth within 6 years, positioning it among the top fastest-growing companies in Western Pennsylvania. 

 

In December 2019, Bellefield was acquired by Roper Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: ROP) (Aderant division) a constituent of the S&P 500.

 

In this conversation, Gaby and Aaron discuss building a Saas company in the early 2000s, how to recruit talent, and how wisdom compounds.

 

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Gabriela Isturiz’s Challenge; Read about Stoicism. Especially Seneca’s Letters & Marcus Aurelius.

Connect with Gabriela Isturiz

Linkedin

 

If you liked this interview, check out our conversation with Flori Marquez where we discuss her fast-growing crypto startup BlockFi.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Jun 28, 2021

Shea Murtaugh is the founder and president of Hoffmann Murtaugh, the largest media-only agency in Pittsburgh.

 

Shea started her company in 2004 with no capital and now leads a team of 30 people. Prior to funding Hoffman Murtaugh, Shea broke into media via broadcast sales. She’s sold every major form of media over her decorated career and blends that experience into a cocktail that delivers wins for clients.

 

In this conversation, Shea and Aaron discuss how she got her start, when to hire vs train new talent, and the degree to which she has to be the “banker” of marketing.

 

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Shea Murtaugh’s Challenge; Journal for 5 minutes each day your ideal day one year in the future.

 

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Hoffmann Murtaugh Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 418 with Marco Marandiz where we discuss how to market in the modern age, what makes an authentic brand, and the future of commerce.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Jun 21, 2021

Dr. Dietrich Stephan is a geneticist, entrepreneur, and CEO of NeuBase Therapeutics. Neubase is biotech startup focused on developing precision genetic medicines.

 

Dietrich previously founded or co-founded 14 biotechnology companies, was the chair of the Human Genetics department at the University of Pittsburgh, and was the CEO of LifeX Labs, a biotechnology incubator.

 

Neubase, his latest company, is developing technology spun out of Carnegie Mellon University that aims to address genetic diseases at the DNA or RNA level by combining the highly targeted approach of traditional genetic therapies with the broad organ distribution capabilities of small molecules.

 

In April 2021 Neubase went public, trading under the ticker symbol NBSE, and has raised over $100 million in less than three years.

 

In this conversation, Dietrich and Aaron discuss why Neubase went public earlier than most biotech startups, the vicious diseases they are fighting against, and the impact of the Human Genome Project on society.

 

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Dietrich Stephan’s Challenge; 

 

Connect with Dietrich Stephan

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Neubase Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode XX with Craig Markovitz where we discuss business building, university technology transfer, and life after a successful startup.



Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Jun 14, 2021

Jonathan Steckbeck is the founder of Peptilogics, a biotechnology platform company that develops best-in-class novel peptide drugs for unmet medical needs. He also has a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine.

 

Amongst other problems, his company Peptilogics is focused on developing a new category of antibiotics. It has been 20 years since there was a genuinely new class of antibiotics, yet bacterial cells have continued to evolve and develop into drug-resistant infections.

 

In this interview, Jonathan and Aaron discuss the founding of Peptilogics, why they’re focused on this new modality of medication, and the FDA approval process.

 

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Jonathan Steckbeck’s Challenge; If there’s something that you want to do that doesn’t exist, go do it.

 

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Peptilogics Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 456 with Pete DeComo where we discuss the long, arduous process of developing a medical device and episode 443 with Blake Dube where we talk about better oxygen tanks.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Jun 7, 2021

Euan Guttridge is the Director of Technical Program Management at Waymo and previously held the same position with Uber’s self-driving car division.

 

Between these two roles, Euan developed an angel investing syndicate under the banner Reinforced Ventures. The syndicate differentiates itself for the technical proficiency of its limited partners, bringing a fresh perspective to the companies it invests in.

 

Euan’s portfolio includes a number of past Going Deep podcast guests including; Gridwise, Locomation, UpContent, Fifth Season, Edge Case Research, and Honeycomb Credit. While not geographically exclusive, Reinforced does focus on Pittsburgh because of its over $10 billion of academic research funded and $6.6 billion of private funding in technology over the past decade.

 

In this conversation, Euan and Aaron discuss a career developing autonomous vehicle technology, how an AngelList syndicate works, and how to do thorough due diligence.

 

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Euan Guttridge’s Challenge; Follow your curiosity.

 

Connect with Euan Guttridge

Linkedin

Reinforced Ventures Website

euan@reinforcedventures.com

 

If you liked this interview, check out some of Euan’s portfolio companies like Locomation’s Çetin Meriçli, Edge Case Research’s Mike Wagner, and Gridwise’s Ryan Green.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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May 31, 2021

Steve Muck is the CEO of Brayman Construction, a heavy civil and geotechnical contractor that builds bridges, dams, and other large infrastructure. Steve is also the cofounder of construction-related robotics startups TyBot and Advanced Construction Robotics.

 

Steve has started or acquired twenty businesses and currently operates a portfolio of entities that in construction-related endeavors alone runs approximately $200 million in revenue annually.

 

Steve acquired the company over 28 years ago in a leveraged buyout and has since acquired a number of companies as he has expanded his business empire. 

 

In this episode, Steve and Aaron discuss how Steve got started in construction, the company’s ‘Dragon Slayer’ ethos, and how he has upskilled his team in order to escape competition.



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Stephen Muck’s Challenge; Take a risk.

 

Connect with Stephen Muck

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Brayman Construction Website



If you liked this interview, check out episode 412 with Jake Loosararian where we discuss industrial robotics and raising one of Pittsburgh’s biggest Series A financings.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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May 24, 2021

Jon Pastor is the SVP for Consumer Solutions at RealPage, a leading global provider of software and data analytics to the real estate industry. RealPage was trading publicly at over $10 billion market capitalization before being taken private by Thoma Bravo.

 

Jon’s entrepreneurial career started when he cofounder RentJungle with previous guest Geng Wang. That company was acquired in 2014 and Jon chose to stay on and lead the acquiring company as President.

 

Four years later, that company was acquired by RealPage.

 

In this conversation, Jon and Aaron discuss the lessons from all these acquisitions, the challenges facing the real estate industry, and the incentives that guide successful organizations.

 

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Jon Pastor’s Challenge; Create a list of ideas for projects or businesses that you could start. 

 

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Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out episode 474 with Geng Wang where we discuss three startups, social enterprise, and where to find motivation.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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May 17, 2021

Jorge Mazal is the Chief Product Officer for Duolingo. Duolingo is a free language-learning website and mobile app with over 500 million downloads, 40 million monthly active users, and a valuation of over $1 billion.

 

Jorge previously worked on the product for Zynga, MyFitnessPal, and Kleiner Perkins. Today he blends skills in design, gamification, and leadership to manage a product team that has 10xed in size since he joined the company.

 

In this episode, Jorge and Aaron discuss how Duolingo makes product decisions, the importance of interpersonal skills, and how Jorge’s background has prepared him to excel in this role.



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Jorge Mazal’s Challenge; Find some time to go help someone, with no expectation of anything in return.

 

Connect with Jorge Mazal

Linkedin

Duolingo Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out our conversation with Jason Wolfe where we discuss tech products, leadership, and entrepreneurship.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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May 10, 2021

Marko Papic leads the strategy team at Clocktower Group, an alternative investments firm. Clocktower offers long-term strategic investment strategies to their clients, investment managers and institutional allocators.

 

Marko brings his constraints framework, outlined in his book Geopolitical Alpha, to analyzing the geopolitical trends of the day. His ability to accurately forecast major political events has enormous ramifications for portfolios.

 

In this episode, Marko and Aaron discuss how the future of China-US conflict, Turkey’s geopolitical prospects, and how to break into the geopolitical analysis field.



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Marko Papic’s Challenge; Spend time around people with the opposite political and cultural perspective of you.

 

Connect with Marko Papic

Linkedin

Geopolitical Alpha book

Website

 

If you liked this interview, check out our interview with Mike Green where we discuss Bitcoin and index funds.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




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Piper Creative makes creating podcasts, vlogs, and videos easy. 

 

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May 3, 2021

Andy Norman is a researcher focused on studying how ideologies short-circuit minds and corrupt moral understanding.

 

His studies have led him to develop a toolkit of methods for improving reasoning and share them in his book, Mental Immunity.

 

His hope is that a collection of academic research can be lassoed together to serve as the foundation of a new scientific field, Cognitive Immunology. Cognitive immunology would explore the ability of researchers to develop a mind vaccine to inoculate individuals against dangerous ideas.

 

In this conversation, Andy and Aaron discuss the dangers of loneliness, the importance of dialogue, and the future of viral ideas.

 

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Andy Norman’s Challenge; Learn to treat your ideas as houseguests. Perhaps one day they will depart, and you will be glad.

 

Connect with Andy Norman

Linkedin

Andy’s Website

CognitiveImmunology.Net



Books Mentioned

Mental Immunity: Infectious Ideas, Mind-Parasites, and the Search for a Better Way to Think by Andy Norman  

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins



If you liked this interview, check out episode 472 with Demetri Kofinas where we discuss epistemic truth, geopolitics, and.



Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




Underwritten by Piper Creative

Piper Creative makes creating podcasts, vlogs, and videos easy. 

 

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Apr 26, 2021

Geng Wang is the CEO and co-founder of Civic Champs, a software startup focused on creating s seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations

 

This is Geng’s third commercial venture. He’s previously co-founded two companies; RentJungle.com, an apartment search engine that sold in 2014 to The Rainmaker Group, and Community Elf (rebranded as Cosmitto), a social media management firm which we sold in 2017 to a PE firm, Topanga Partners.

 

Given his past successes, Geng is looking to both create financial and social impact with his latest company. He has leveraged a number of startup incubators, including TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield, Elevate Ventures, Innovation Works, TechStars Iowa, and Mass Challenge, to get it off the ground.

 

In this episode, Geng and Aaron discuss how motivation changes through an entrepreneur’s career, the nature of product development, and how to design a startup’s culture.

 

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Geng Wang’s Challenge; For National Volunteering Month, get out there and go find an avenue to help your community.

 

Connect with Geng Wang

Linkedin

Twitter

Civic Champs Website

geng@civicchamps.com



If you liked this interview, check out episode 12 with Scott Rogerson where we discuss Community Elf, social media management, and their software spinout UpContent.

 

Text Me What You Think of This Episode 412-278-7680




Underwritten by Piper Creative

Piper Creative makes creating podcasts, vlogs, and videos easy. 

 

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We work with Fortune 500s, medium-sized companies, and entrepreneurs.

 

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