Smart People Should Build Things: The Venture for America Podcast

Smart People Should Build Things: The Venture for America Podcast

Building things is really hard and entrepreneurship is often portrayed in the media as the “sexy,” or even worse, “easy” career path. Rarely do we hear the real stories of struggle, resiliency, and even failure – the stress of staying just ahead of payroll, the cost of making the wrong hire (or the transformation that comes with the right one), the sacrifices of personal time, the heartache of the wrong investment in a new product/service and much more.

  • Wednesday, January 11th
  • Interview with Charlie Kroll & Sallie Krawcheck, Co-Founders of Ellevest

    A few months ago we heard from Charlie Kroll about his career and his new venture. This week he joins us again with his co-founder, Sallie Krawcheck, to talk about Ellevest, a company that is redefining investing for women. When Sallie first conceived of the idea for Ellevest she had no desire to bring on a co-founder. When a few people in her network encouraged Sallie to meet with Charlie, she was doubtful that the connection would be fruitful. What she found in Charlie was someone who understood the fintech and startup space and, in her own words, is a stress absorber. Operating with the understanding that the lack of appropriate product offerings are the reason women invest less than men, Sallie and Charlie have set out to have an impact on women and their families by trying to level the financial playing field. Download this week's episode to learn more about this dynamic duo and why the gender investing gap costs everyone, not just women.
  • Thursday, December 15th, 2016
  • Interview with Andrew Lowenthal, Executive Director of Out in Tech

    Andrew Lowenthal began his career in government with the New York Department of Education, where he learned the vital importance of teaching young people about morality and ethics as early in their education as possible. His passion for social change brought him to Out in Tech, the non-profit that unites the LGBTQ and tech communities. As Executive Director, Andrew’s overseen the election of Out in Tech’s first female president, innovative initiatives to give voices to voiceless LGBTQ people in developing countries, and much more. Tune into this week’s episode to hear how Andrew and Out in Tech are helping LGBTQ students visualize themselves as the tech leaders of tomorrow.
  • Thursday, December 8th, 2016
  • Conversation with Toby Hervey, General Manager & Founding Team Member at Pager

    Toby graduated from Georgetown University with plans to work in government and, one day, become Secretary of State. After a change of heart, and as a very audacious 22 year old, Toby landed himself an internship at Gilt by knocking on doors and requesting coffee meetings with anyone who would give him their time. At the end of his internship, with no permanent spot of the Gilt team available, Toby took a job in the warehouse cataloguing every item sold by Gilt Man. Eventually he made a jump over to the Gilt City team and made his way up the ladder to become the Manager of Strategy & Business Development. After leaving Gilt, Toby spent some time at other startups before joining the Pager, an on-demand service that connects patients with healthcare in their home, office or hotel. Today Pager is growing rapidly and attempting to transform our healthcare system for the better. Listen to this week's interview to hear all about Toby's career and how Pager is investing in AI to streamline the way we consume healthcare.
  • Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
  • Interview with Nancy Lublin, Founder & CEO of Crisis Text Line

    Nancy Lublin feels very strongly about law school - "it's where ideas go to die". Yet NYU Law School is exactly where she came up with the idea for Dress for Success, now a global nonprofit that promotes the economic independence of women by providing professional attire and career support. When Nancy turned 30 and Dress for Success was thriving, she left to join to help them survive at a time when their existence was touch and go. While at Nancy's team began using text messages to reach their constituents. Unexpectedly people began texting back about their personal problems, some of which were very harrowing. After receiving a particularly harrowing message from a young woman, Nancy conceived the idea for Crisis Text Line which provides free crisis intervention via text message 24 hours a day every day. According to Nancy, Crisis Text Line is more than a nonprofit- it's a tech company problem solving through products, not people. Today, Crisis Text Line engages with thousands of crisis counselors and has fielded tens of millions of text messages since 2013. Tune in this week to learn how Crisis Text Line is using AI to help people in need.
  • Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
  • [BEST OF] Conversation with Miki & Radha Agrawal, sisters and founders of THINX, Daybreaker, Wild and much, much, more!

    This week we are thankful for all of the badass women out there changing the world through entrepreneurship. We're bringing back this interview with the Agrawal sisters who have worked together on a number of interesting businesses including: Wild, a farm fresh, gluten free pizza restaurant, Super Sprowtz, a children’s nutrition education program that harnesses the power of storytelling, music and the arts to educate and inspire children to be more active and choose healthier foods to fuel their bodies, and Thinx, a patent-pending, leak-resistant, stain-resistant, anti-microbial and moisture-wicking pair of underwear for women dealing with their periods, to name a few. This episode just skims the surface of all the Agrawal sisters have accomplished and what is on the horizon. Download now for the rundown on all of their companies and hear about how the Agrawals aim to build communities and break taboos.
  • Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
  • [BEST OF] Interview with Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll and former CEO of Squarespace

    Dane Atkinson is a serial entrepreneur with lots of great stories to share. We're bringing his interview back this week as part of our "Best of" tag. Dane was the COO of a company at the age of 18, owned a bar in Williamsburg for 3 years, and was the CEO of Squarespace from 2007-2011, among many other things. Today Dane is working on his company SumAll, which democratizes data and analytics for small businesses, pulling from over 40 platforms and synthesizing the data in a simple visualization tool.
  • Thursday, November 10th, 2016
  • [BEST OF] Alexandra Wilkis Wilson

    We're bringing back and oldie, but a goodie! Listen to our interview with Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founder of Gilt Groupe and current CEO of Glamsquad, an on-demand, app-based beauty provider delivering professional and affordable hair, makeup and nails services to your home, office, hotel, or wherever you may be. Alexandra gives Jeremy the inside scoop on what she learned while building Gilt Groupe and what's it's like to be the matriarch of the "Glam Fam" at Glamsquad.
  • Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
  • Interview with Ben Uyeda, Co-Founder of Zero Energy Design & HomeMade Modern

    Ben Uyeda has always been a builder. From building swords out of car suspension leaf springs as a child to starting an architecture firm directly out of college, his passion for design has been motivated by necessity and accessibility. Ben’s first company, Free Green, creates free energy-efficient house plans and HomeMade Modern, his DIY resource for homemade furniture, gives the average person the skills to build something of their own. When he’s not creating businesses, Ben’s a teacher at Northeastern University, a real estate developer, a startup advisor, and much more. Tune into this week’s episode to hear how Ben created such a thoughtfully and personally driven career path and how he almost went into martial arts full-time.
  • Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
  • [Best Of] Interview with Dan Porter, former teacher and CEO of Teach for America, creator of Draw Something, Board Member of Venture for America.

    In this episode Jeremy Shinewald, along with guest host Miles Lasater, interviews Dan Porter - former teacher and CEO of Teach for America, serial entrepreneur, and current Board Member of Venture for America. Dan may be most well known for serving as the CEO of OMGPOP, where he created Draw Something, an app that had over 100 million downloads and is one of the most downloaded games ever in the history of the iPhone. Dan sold OMGPOP to Zynga for $180 million in 2012. Listen to Dan tell his story and how he landed his current role as Head of Digital at William Morris Endeavor.
  • Tuesday, October 18th, 2016
  • [Best Of] Interview with Olga Vidisheva, Founder & CEO of

    Olga Vidisheva was born in Kyrgyzstan and moved to the US to attend Wellesly College. Her story is the quintessential 'American Dream'. Olga learned english while working in a Japanese retaurant (of all places!) and put herself through college by modeling. While she was at Harvard Business School Olga discovered her passion for boutiques and saw an opportunity to help small clothing stores develop a digital presence. Enter, a website that started with only 25 stores and now represents thousands of boutiques across the globe. Download this week's episode to hear about Olga's journey and what it was like to be accepted to Y Combinator as the first single non-technical founder.
  • Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
  • Conversation with Martin Keen, Founder & CEO of Focal Upright Furniture

    Martin Keen comes from a long line of craftsman. Martin's father was known to build furniture and both his father and grandfather made shoes. It is no surprise that Martin followed in their footsteps. After going to industrial design school and experiencing many injuries in a sailboat, Martin designed a sandal with protective toe gear for sailors. His successful design led to the creation of Keen Footwear, a company that still exists today. While Martin was working as a designer and a consultant for other companies, he realized that his creativity suffered when he was sedentary. He began tinkering in his barn and built an upright seat device that kept him energized by correcting his posture. The first prototype was created in 1995 but Martin didn't launch Focal Upright until 2012. Today Martin and his wife, Mary (who appears as a surprise guest in this episode!), continue to build Focal Upright Furniture with the help of Venture for America Fellows. In total, Focal has hired 6 Fellows and continues to be an amazing partner to VFA. Tune in to this week's episode to learn more about Martin's journey from shoe designer to furniture designer and why standing isn't the answer.
  • Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
  • [Best of] Interview with Jon Stein, Founder & CEO of Betterment

    This week Jeremy sits down with Jon Stein, Founder & CEO of Betterment, an automated investing service that helps clients better manage and grow their wealth through smarter technology for a fraction of the cost of traditional financial services. Download this week's episode to hear Jon's journey as a Columbia Business School grad passionate about using technology to better align customers with their financial institutions and why the New York Times named Betterment one of the next "startup unicorns".
  • Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
  • Interview with Ellen Chilemba, Founder & Director of Tiwale

    Ellen is a remarkable young woman who spotted a problem in her home country, Malawi; women have fewer opportunities for education which limits their employment opportunities and keeps them homebound for most of their adult lives. Inspired by one of Mohammed Yunus's books, and the example her mother had set as an evolving entrepreneur, Ellen knew she wanted to help Malawian women to start their own businesses. After attending the Global Changemakers Global Youth Summit at just 18 years old, Ellen raised enough money to start Tiwale. Tiwale began as a microloan program and has grown into a center for entrepreneurship for women in Malawi. Today Ellen is finishing her senior year at Mount Holyoke College while managing Tiwale from afar and setting up her team for long term sustainability. Download this week's podcast to hear Ellen's remarkable story and what happened when she presented famous musician, Bono, with an award that he gave right back to her.
  • Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
  • Interview with Brian Rudolph, Co-Founder and CEO of Banza and featured Fellow in the new documentary Generation Startup

    This week we are re-airing one of our first few episodes with 2012 Fellow, Brian Rudolph. Brian is the Co-Founder and CEO of Banza, a chickpea pasta company aiming to do for pasta what Chobani did for greek yogurt. Brian is also one of the featured Fellows in Generation Startup, an independent documentary which tells the story of six Venture for America Fellows who put everything on the line to build startups in Detroit. Generation Startup premieres in New York this Friday, September 23rd and will hit theaters in select cities across the country in the coming months. Brian shares a lot of his story in this interview but you can see him building Banza in action in the film. For more information visit
  • Wednesday, September 14th, 2016
  • Conversation with Christine Hunsicker, CEO at Gwynnie Bee

    Christine Hunsicker began her career as at a financial reporting company where, on his second day, she convinced the CFO to take an inexperienced college graduate onto his time. She gained tremendous experience helping the company through 7 restructurings and then went on to another startup, industrial design school, and a media company that grew tenfold 2 times while she was there! Today Christine is the CEO of Gwynnie Bee, an online women’s clothing subscription service for sizes 10-32. Christine started the company 4 years ago, first from her apartment and now in a proper space in Long Island City. Listen to this week's podcast episode to learn more about Christine journey building Gwynnie Bee and how she is disrupting the apparel industry.
  • Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
  • Interview with Ben Young and Frederick Kukelhaus, Co-Founders of Hugo & Hoby

    As roommates Yale Business School Ben Young and Frederick Kukelhaus were commiserating over the horrible experience of buying furniture. They discovered that they were both ammature furniture makers and decided to try their hand at making it into a full time gig. They named their new company Hugo & Hoby after their grandfathers who were both also, coincidentally, carpenters and furniture designers. Hugo & Hoby started building their first collection and entered some business competitions and realized that there are a plethora of lumber mills and skilled craftsman right here in the US. Hugo & Hoby uses small batch, just-in-time manufacturing to deliver quality, sustainably sourced, handcrafted furniture at affordable prices. They sell their products direct to consumers through their website. Listen to this week's podcast to learn how they are building their business and check out to catch a glimpse of their new line.
  • Wednesday, August 31st, 2016
  • Conversation with Henrik Werdelin, Founder of Bark & Co and Founding Partner at Prehype

    Hailing from Denmark, Henrik started his career in media as a radio producer for BBC before moving on to MTV. He was the first person to come up with the idea of inserting user generated content in between music videos (for anyone who remembers when MTV used to play music). Later on in his career, Henrik became a Founding Partner at Prehype, an innovation studio that helps established companies and VCs facilitate spin-out companies, incubation and venture partnerships. He developed a structured methodology to come up with new ideas and helps connect talent with companies that have big problems that require innovative solutions. Henrik helped found some well known companies such as Bark & Co and Managed by Q among many others. Check out this week's podcast episode to hear all about Henrik's experience building companies and what percentage of people prefer their dogs over their partners.
  • Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
  • Interview with Jared Hecht, Co-Founder & CEO of Fundera

    After graduating from Columbia University in 2009, Jared joined Tumblr during a major growth phase for the company. While at Tumblr he entered a hackathon attempting to solve a group texting problem which resulted in GroupMe, a free group messaging service that essentially creates a private chatroom for a small group. Jared and his co-founders sold GroupMe to Skype for $80million. He stayed on for 2 years before leaving to start Fundera, a company providing a safe, friendly, and free way to find your lowest rates on small business loans, guaranteed. Fundera is backed by several well known VCs and has raised $14million to date. Listen to this week's podcast to learn more about Jared's career and what it's like to sell a company in your early 20's.
  • Wednesday, August 17th, 2016
  • Conversation with Erik Schreter, Co-Founder & CEO of Venwise

    Erik Schreter grew up believing that he would take over his family's department store when he completed his undergraduate degree. But an unexpected job opportunity led him to IsaiX Technologies where he stayed for 10 years, eventually moving into a very senior role. In 2012 with the support of his wife, Erik founded Venwise, a membership organization of high-growth tech company executives providing leaders with a safe place to work through their challenges. Venwise members include executives from some of the most well known startups in the industry. Check out this week's episode to learn more about Erik's career and his journey building Venwise!
  • Tuesday, August 9th, 2016
  • Interview with Wiley Cerilli, Co-CEO & Founder of Good Uncle

    This week Jeremy sits down with Wiley Cerilli for one of our most raw and honest interviews about the pressures and emotional challenges of starting a company. Wiley lost his father at a young age and bounced around colleges for a year or two while trying to work full time to help his family. In 2000 he joined the SeamlessWeb founding team prior to their epic launch and spent 13 years building the company. In 2010 Wiley started SinglePlatform, a company that helped small businesses manage their digital presence, which eventually sold to Constant Contact for $100million. After a quick stint at First Round Capital Wiley founded Good Uncle, a company giving people access to crave-worthy food no matter where they live. If you are an aspiring founder you really don't want to miss Wiley's incredible story and why his father has always inspired him to see windows in a windowless building.
  • Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
  • Interview with Glen Coates, CEO & Founder of Handshake

    Glen Coates founded Handshake in 2010 with only one day at Columbia Business School under his belt. Glen came up with the idea for Handshake while he was attending trade shows for an employer. He became frustrated by writing down orders with a pencil and paper and saw thousands of others fumbling in the same way. Glen knew that if he didn’t find the solution himself, then someone else would. Handshake is a mobile sales and B2B eCommerce platform that helps manufacturers & distributors grow their business by making it easy for their customers to order the right products from them, in-person and online. In six years, Handshake has acquired 65 employees and has made over $1 billion in orders across 47 countries. Major companies such as Roland, Starkey, OXO and more are using Handshake today. Check out this week’s episode of Smart People Should Build Things to hear more about Glen’s career journey from programmer to general manager of an exciting startup!
  • Wednesday, July 27th, 2016
  • Interview with Ingrid Chrisco, Co-Founder of True North Granola

    A few weeks ago, Jeremy was vacationing in Manchester, Vermont and stumbled upon some fantastic granola. He ended up chatting with Ingrid and Franklin Chrisco, the husband and wife team that founded the granola company. Not only did Jeremy love the granola, but he also loved their story! For many years both Ingrid and Franklin worked as educators while making pounds of granola on the weekends for their friends and family. In 2006, Ingrid was afraid that she would burn out and decided she needed to take her granola full time to create balance in her life. Tune in to this week’s episode to hear the founding story of True North Granola and get the free code that will give you a discount on any of their delicious products!
  • Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
  • Conversation with Brad Svrluga and Ben Sun, General Partners at Primary VC

    Ever wonder what it takes to build a VC firm? Brad Svrluga and Ben Sun can attest that it is no easy task. On this week’s episode of Smart People Should Build Things, Jeremy catches up with Brad and Ben, the co-founders of Primary Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital fund based in NYC. In 2004, Brad created High Peaks, a venture capital firm focused on making Seed and Series A investments, but re-launched the firm with Ben in 2015 with its new identity: Primary Venture Partners. Being raised by an entrepreneur, Ben already knew that running a small business was extremely hard, but ultimately chose this path because he had an “incredible desire to control his own destiny”. Download this week’s episode to hear more about the impact Primary Venture Partners is having on entrepreneurs and to find out what makes this company unique compared to other firms.
  • Wednesday, July 13th, 2016
  • Interview with Daniel Chait, Co-Founder & CEO of Greenhouse

    On this week’s episode of Smart People Build Should Build Things, Jeremy speaks with Daniel Chait, co-founder and CEO of Greenhouse, the world's first recruiting optimization platform. Daniel is not new to entrepreneurship. Since graduating from the University of Michigan in 1995, he has started three companies – each more successful than the last! Daniel started Greenhouse with the goal of unifying technology used in the recruiting process. In only four years, Greenhouse has raised $60 million and hired 180 employees. Tune in to this week’s VFA Podcast to learn more about Daniel Chait's career and how he has set out to build new capability for the finance industry.
  • Wednesday, July 6th, 2016
  • Conversation with Steven Mazur, Co-Founder & CEO of Ash & Anvil

    This week, Jeremy sits down with VFA Alum Steven Mazur, Co-Founder and CEO of Ash & Anvil. Steven dabbled in entrepreneurship at the age of fourteen selling paintball accessories. After completing his two year VFA Fellowship, Steven was eager to found his own company. Searching for company ideas, Steven asked his friends and family what he griped about the most. Their answer - shopping! Many men struggle with finding clothing that fits well. As a 5’6” man himself, Mazur knows the struggle of the "short guy". Steven and his fellow Fellow alum created Ash & Anvil, a clothing company for men 5’8” and shorter. As a 2013 Fellow, Mazur credits two VFA opportunities (VFA’s Innovation Fund and the Accelerator) with helping him create his company. Listen to this self-proclaimed “math and science nerd” speak about his VFA experience and how he and his co-founder, Eric, have gotten to where they are today.
  • Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
  • Interview with Meg Daly, Founder of the Underline

    In this week's intriguing episode of Smart People Should Build Things, Jeremy speaks with Meg Daly, Founder of Miami's Underline, a ten-mile park built on the underutilized land below Miami's MetroRail. Check out this episode to hear Meg chat about her journey spearheading the project that she calls her "crazy idea".
  • Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
  • Conversation with Thomas Kelly, Co-Founder of Mexicue

    Ever think it would be easy to get a food truck up and running? You thought wrong! This week Jeremy chats with Thomas Kelly, Co-Founder of Mexicue, a restaurant that serves delicious food inspired by two of America’s favorite comfort foods: Mexican & BBQ. Six years ago Thomas and his partner saw the food truck craze taking off in California and knew there was an opportunity in New York City. Thomas had no formal training as a chef but managed to buy a food truck on EBay while his partner navigated the shady black market of food truck permits. Today Mexicue has three brick and mortar locations and employs over 100 people. If you haven't had the pleasure of eating Mexicue, you are truly missing out! Listen to this week's episode to hear more about Thomas's path and the ins and outs of the food truck underworld.
  • Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
  • Interview with Randy Brandoff, Founder of Eleven James

    Last week we heard from VFA Fellows Evan Brandoff and Zubin Teherani. This week, Jeremy sits down with Evan's big brother, Randy! Randy began his career at the private jet company, Marquis Jets which was eventually acquired by NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Randy stayed on as the CMO and helped create Avion Tequila. After 11 years Randy was ready to start his own venture, Eleven James, an annual membership club that gives you unprecedented access to hundreds of the world's most exquisite watch brands and styles. Download this week's episode to hear about how Randy is building a luxury watch business by treating his customers like gold and how he was able to walk away from a Warren Buffet owned company. 
  • Tuesday, June 7th, 2016
  • Conversation with Evan Brandoff & Zubin Teherani, Co-Founders of LeagueSide

    Evan & Zubin met at Venture for America's second ever Training Camp and knew it was business partners at first sight. Evan spent his VFA Fellowship in Detroit as VP of Business Development at Benzinga while Zubin worked as the Manager of Business Development at IDScan in New Orleans. They always kept in touch, bouncing startup ideas off of each other in preparation to build a company. Evan had his "AHA" moment at a basketball tournament in Detroit where he realized that the best way for companies to connect with families was through youth sports games. He called Zubin with his idea and LeagueSide was born! Evan & Zubin joined the first ever VFA Accelerator at the end of their Fellowships with just an idea and finished 3 months later with real clients and a growing business. They have since hired a VFA Fellow as their first employee and continue to grow and scale at a rapid pace. Check out this week's episode of the Venture for America podcast to hear more about LeagueSide's fumbles and recoveries and their passion for lowering the cost of youth sports for kids. 
  • Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
  • Interview with Sarah Kunst, Founder & CEO of Proday

    Sarah Kunst grew up in a tiny rural town in Michigan with one gas station and one stop light. At Michigan State University she was the ultimate brand rep on campus, working for Red Bull, Apple and 2 other brands simultaneously. Sarah's experience and hustle took her many places after college including Chanel, Guest of a Guest and a major VC firm. Today Sarah is working on her fitness app, Proday, which features a variety of engaging training routines led by fitness celebrities and world-renowned athletes. Download this week's episode to hear about how Sarah is building her company and all of the tidbits and tips she has for aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
  • Conversation with Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S'well

    Sarah Kauss has always been an environmentalist. Even when it wasn't fashionable to carry around a non-disposable water bottle, Sarah never used plastic bottles. It was on a hike with her mother in Arizona that Sarah realized that she had the vision and passion to start S'well, a company that creates chic and beautifully crafted bottles that keeps drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12. Sarah started with $30k and spent the first 2 years working on her company all by herself. Today S'well has over 40 employees and is sold in Bloomingdales, the MoMA store, and just inked a deal with Target. Hear more about Sarah's story and S'well's path to success on this week's episode of the Venture for America podcast!
  • Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
  • Interview with Dave Finocchio, Co-Founder & CEO of Bleacher Report

    The beginning of Bleacher Report almost reads like the beginning of a corny joke: “Four high school buddies launch a sports site..." Back in 2007 Dave Finocchio and 3 friends saw a gap between the sports coverage that was available and the "snackable" coverage that young people desired. Dave and his co-founders saw an opportunity to make sports fans happy and they took it! In this interview Dave takes Jeremy through the early days of Bleacher Report when the team, admittedly, had no idea what they were doing, to a pivot from a technology company to a media company, and the eventual sale to Turner Broadcasting System for $215 million. Along the way Dave leaves the company, travels for a year, and then comes back as CEO. Listen for yourself on this week's episode of Smart People Should Build Things: The Venture for America Podcast!
  • Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
  • Conversation with Bea Arthur, Founder & CEO of In Your Corner

    Bea Arthur is the definition of a hustler. Before finding her calling as a therapist, Bea dabbled in real estate and personal training, among other things. Bea had a rough start with In Your Corner (formerly Pretty Padded Room), appearing on Shark Tank with some less than friendly sharks who made her question her ability to build a real company. Bea kept at it and was accepted into Y Combinator in 2014 as the first African American female founder! For the past 5 years In Your Corner has found success as a tele-health platform that provides instant, expert support when you need it. Bea has a lot of exciting things in the works, including a new service to help military families and service personnel. Listen to this week's episode for a sneak peak of all that's coming up in Bea's world and the inside scoop on how to survive the Shark Tank.
  • Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
  • Interview with Mike Wilner, Co-Founder of Compass and 2013 VFA Fellow

    We are so excited to air the 50th episode of Smart People Should Build Things: The Venture for America Podcast with VFA Fellow Founder Mike Wilner! After a summer internship in finance, Mike realized that he wanted to work at a company where he was able to measure his own impact and build up skills that would help him start his own company. When he learned about Venture for America, Mike knew it was the perfect way to achieve his goals. Mike spent his two year VFA fellowship at a startup in Detroit, learning project management from Google and jumping into the areas of the business that needed his attention. At the end of his Fellowship Mike and two other Fellows joined the VFA Accelerator where they co-founded Compass, a company that connects customers to talented freelancers who can help them build a website. The Compass team has spent the past year growing the business while honing their sales techniques and relationship building skills. Listen to our 50th episode to hear about Mike's journey building Compass and why he is responsible for a ban on front row seating at Washington & Lee basketball games.
  • Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
  • Conversation with Dr. Tabasum Mir, Founder of MirSkin

    This week Jeremy sits down with dermatologist, entrepreneur and reality show star, Tabasum Mir to talk about developing her personal brand and founding her skincare line, MirSkin. Tabasum was ambitious from an early age, enrolling in high school at only 12 years old, going on to attend NYU medical school directly after graduating from college. After building up her medical practice for 10 years, Tabasum knew she was ready to build her web presence and start her own skincare line, which caught the attention of Bravo TV producers and landed her a spot on The Singles Project in 2014. Tune in to this week's episode to hear Tabasum's scrappy road to success and why she hasn't relied on her fame to continue building her brand.
  • Tuesday, April 19th, 2016
  • Interview with Phillip Krim, Co-Founder & CEO of Casper

    In an effort to avoid having to get a "regular" summer job while studying at the University of Texas, Phillip Krim identified companies that would drop ship products that he marketed online so he could make a few bucks. Within no time Phillip was running a $10 million business with 40 employees including his mom, dad and sister! After winding down his college business and dabbling in some other sectors, Phillip met his 4 co-founders at a coworking space and found himself commiserating about the horrible consumer experience purchasing a mattress. Even though he had vowed not to get back into the mattress space, Phillip and his 4 co-founders created Casper, a company disrupting the mattress industry with a proprietary mattress design that ships mattresses direct to consumer in a box the size of a mini fridge. Listen to this week's episode to hear more about Casper's growth and how Phillip and his co-founders have created an awesome company culture.
  • Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
  • Interview with Mike Rothman, Co-Founder of Fatherly

    Mike Rothman built his career at communications and media companies including Digitas, Hachette and Thrillist. After spending 7 years at Thrillist growing the company from $0 to $100m, Mike yearned to go back to the days of wearing many hats while growing a nascent business. Several months after leaving Thrillist, Mike and his co-founder began incubating Fatherly, a parenting resource geared towards men who want to be great fathers without turning into cliches. Fatherly bootstrapped for a year and a half and has raised $2m to date while become the go-to resource for new fathers and even some mothers! Download this week's podcast episode to hear more about Fatherly and how Mike became the godfather to the child of one of his first cold call recipients.
  • Thursday, April 7th, 2016
  • Conversation with Nadia Boujarwah, Co-Founder of Dia&Co

    Nadia Boujarwah went to Harvard Business school with the express goal of starting her own company. When she dove into the plus size market for women and saw how underserved this market was, she knew she had discovered her customer. After surveying hundreds of influential bloggers, Nadia co-founded Dia&Co, a company that, based on an online style survey, mails each subscriber a hand-picked box of garments to try on in the comfort of her own home. Today, Dia&Co has over 50 employees and has raised over $6 million. Listen to this week's episode to find out how Nadia and her team are inspiring radical self-acceptance through style and transforming the shopping experience for plus sized women.
  • Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
  • Interview with Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos

    Brian Brackeen didn't know he was an entrepreneur until much later in life. He was adopted at an early age by loving parents who supported his decision to drop out of college, leave a big job at Apple, and eventually start his own company. Despite having strong ties to Philly, Brian determined that the cost of living, cost of doing business, and access to capital made Miami the most compelling place to relocate his facial recognition and emotional analysis technology company, Kairos. Kairos is a VFA Company Partner in Miami with strong ties to the Miami entrepreneurial ecosystem. Kairos has managed several acquisitions and has over 9,000 customers around the world across a variety of sectors including medicine, events and retails. Listen to this week's episode to learn more about the fascinating world of facial recognition technology and how Kairos has helped reunite abducted children with their families.
  • Thursday, March 24th, 2016
  • Conversation with Miki & Radha Agrawal, sisters and founders of THINX, Daybreaker, Wild and much, much, more!

    The Agrawal twins are a force to be reckoned with! As each others' self proclaimed biggest cheerleaders, Miki and Radha have worked together on a number of interesting businesses including: Wild, a farm fresh, gluten free pizza restaurant, Super Sprowtz, a children’s nutrition education program that harnesses the power of storytelling, music and the arts to educate and inspire children to be more active and choose healthier foods to fuel their bodies, and Thinx, a patent-pending, leak-resistant, stain-resistant, anti-microbial and moisture-wicking pair of underwear for women dealing with their periods, to name a few. This episode just skims the surface of all the Agrawal sisters have accomplished and what is on the horizon. Download now for the rundown on all of their companies and hear about how the Agrawals aim to build communities and break taboos.
  • Thursday, March 17th, 2016
  • Interview with Heather Hartnett & Megan O'Connor, CEO and Chief Growth Officer at Human Ventures

    This week Jeremy chats with Heather Hartnett and Megan O'Connor of Human Ventures, a startup studio that co-founds and incubates companies in house with exceptional humans. Human Ventures is building and supporting five new companies in their first year (they are a year old this month) and focuses on partnering with individuals who have innate characteristics rather than specific technical skills. Both Heather and Megan have a variety of experiences including backgrounds in the nonprofit space. Listen to this week's episode to learn all about exceptional humans and why Megan and Heather take referrals over resumes
  • Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
  • Interview with Avi Millman, Founder & CEO of BobbyPin

    In this episode of Smart People Should Build Things, Jeremy sits down with Avi Millman, Founder & CEO of BobbyPin, a company that has created an easy way to keep track of and share your favorite spots with trusted friends. Avi's first job out of college was at Steve & Barrys, a now defunct retail clothing chain whose training program he likened to a "private version of Venture for America". Just before Steve & Barry's shut its doors for good, Avi went on to do a variety of things including selling Tonic door to door and a brief stint at a small company in the British Virgin Islands. In 2008 Avi co-founded Stray Boots, a mobile scavenger hunt company that gamifies walking tours. Avi is currently in the process of building BobbyPin and candidly shares his progress on this week's episode. Tune in to hear Avi's honest take on growth, experimentation, and walking away from some very cushy situations.
  • Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
  • Conversation with Matt Brimer, Co-Founder of General Assembly and Daybreaker

    Matt Brimer started his first company selling antique furniture while he was a student at Yale University. If you've been listening to the #vfapodcast this may sound familiar. Matt co-founded Aloysius and General Assembly with previous guest, Brad Hargreaves! Matt has worked on several companies throughout his career, most recently Daybreaker, an alcohol free morning dance party that has gained traction all over the world. Tune in to this week's episode to hear more Matt's varied career and his mission to create more mischief in the world.
  • Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
  • Interview with Chris Webb, Co-Founder & CEO of ChowNow

    This week, Jeremy interviews Chris Webb, Co-Founder & CEO of ChowNow, an online ordering system and marketing platform for restaurants. At just 19 years old Chris's interest in markets and trading led him to start his career at Bear Stearns and then Lehman Brothers. While working in the financial sector, Chris's family made a founding investment in the now popular Tender Greens restaurant chain in California. Chris's experience with Tender Greens brought to light the gap in the market for online ordering solutions for local groups and independent restaurants. To prove the market need, Chris and his co-founder created a fictional product that mimicked the service that ChowNow would offer and traveled to Santa Barbara to see if they could sell their fake service to restaurateurs. Within a few days they had more than sixty restaurants interested and knew ChowNow would be a hit. Tune in to this week's episode to hear more about ChowNow and why Chris and his co-founder were courted by three LA based accelerators without even applying.
  • Tuesday, February 16th, 2016
  • Founder Fireside Chats: Learning from Mistakes, Pivots, & Failures

    In the startup world, failure happens. And who knows that better than a company founder? This week we are excited to broadcast a panel from San Antonio Startup Week (planned and executed by a VFA Fellow!). From losing major clients to handling customer service nightmares, these panelists have seen it all. Tune in for a lively conversation with Magaly Chocano, CEO of Sweb Development, Lorenzo Gomez, CEO of Geekdom, Jason Straughan, CEO/Software Engineer of Grok Interactive, and Melissa Unsell, Vice President and Found Member of elumicor. The conversation is expertly moderated by Paul Flahive, Journalist and Producer at Texas Public Radio.
  • Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • Conversation with Otto Cedeno, Owner of Otto's Tacos

    This week Jeremy is joined by Sam Rosen, Founder of Makespace (and previous podcast guest!), to interview Otto Cedeno, owner of Otto's Tacos, a Southern California inspried Taqueria in New York City. Tune in to this week's episode to hear about the trials and tribulations of opening up a restaurant in New York and why Otto was ahead of the curve in the single serve restaurant craze.
  • Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
  • Interview with Brad Hargreaves, Founder & CEO of Common; Co-founder of General Assembly

    In his sophomore year at Yale, Brad Hargreaves noticed that the university was selling a lot of antique furniture and spotted an opportunity. With a rented U-Haul and a newly caught entrepreneurial bug, Brad and his friend Matt Brimer bought antique furniture at very low prices and resold it for a profit. They called the company Aloysius. Since their days at Yale, Brad and Matt have worked on several businesses together including General Assembly, a global educational institution, which they co-founded in 2011. General Assembly has grown tremendously over the last 5 years, raising over $100M in investment. Now Brad is working on Common, a company that offers flexible, community-driven housing by providing fully furnished, month-to-month memberships, beginning in New York City. Listen to this week's podcast to hear about how General Assembly aims to democratize technology education and how Common is changing the way we look at
  • Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
  • Interview with Jessica O. Matthews, Founder & CEO of Uncharted Play

    Jessica O. Matthews is one of the most decorated guests we have had on the #VFApodcast. Her accolades include Fortune’s Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs (2015), Forbes 30 under 30 list (2014), Black Enterprise’s Innovator of the Year (2013), and Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation (2012). Jessica is the daughter of an entrepreneur and was always tinkering as a child - she even has the scars to prove it! While getting her undergraduate degree at Harvard University, Jessica enrolled in a class that eventually led to her idea for the SOCCKET a portable, power generating soccer ball designed to promote physical activity and spread awareness about the global energy problem. Designing and manufacturing the SOCCKET wasn't easy and Jessica candidly shares the ups and downs of a messy kickstarter campaign and all that she learned about manufacturing, supply chains, and customer service. Download this weeks episode to hear more about Jessica's journey and how President Clinton motivated her to quit her day job to pursue Uncharted Play full time.
  • Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
  • Conversation with Ethan Anderson, Founder & CEO of MyTime

    Ethan Anderson graduated from Duke University and began his career at McKinsey working on tech projects. Ethan stuck it out for 1.5 years and then left McKinsey to found QuickReturns, a company to help provide reverse logistics services to online retailers. Although Ethan & his team wrote an award winning business plan and received initial funding, they decided not to continue after the internet bubble burst. In true VFA fashion, Ethan felt that he had to gain experience working at an online retailer to better understand the business before he could go on to found something else. He became the Director of Strategy & Analysis at where he developed pricing models with machine learning algorithms. After leaving, Ethan attended Harvard Business School, worked at Google, and founded another company, Redbeacom, which won first place at TechCrunch 50 and was eventually acquired by Home Depot. Listen to this week's long distance podcast (sometimes the sound quality isn't the greatest- bear with us!) to hear more about Ethan's career and how he came to found his current company, MyTime.
  • Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
  • Interview with Amanda Moskowitz, Founder & CEO of Stacklist, Co-Founder of Nine Naturals

    Amanda Moskowitz started her career in audience analysis at ABC before making a name for herself in mobile messaging SaaS companies - one of which was focused on mobile for brands and advertisers and other, government and non-profits. Today she has "more than one foot" in two different companies which she founded, Stacklist and Nine Naturals. Listen to this week's episode to hear how Amanda juggles both gigs and the importance of finding the right business partner.
  • Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
  • Part II with Sam Rosen, Founder & CEO of Makespace

    In the second part of this exciting interview, Sam Rosen discusses why operations and logistics are so important to the success of his company MakeSpace, and why a company is best positioned when it is "high volume and low margin".
  • Tuesday, December 29th, 2015
  • Two Part Interview with Sam Rosen, Founder & CEO of Makespace

    We are excited to bring you a two part interview with Sam Rosen, Founder & CEO of Makespace, a convenient, simple, on-demand storage solution and takes the "self" out of "self storage." In the first episode, Sam chats with Jeremy about his career as a corporate banking analyst turned entrepreneur.
  • Tuesday, December 15th, 2015
  • Conversation with Russ Heddleston, CEO of DocSend

    This week, Jeremy chats with Russ Heddleston, CEO of DocSend. Russ graduated from Stanford University with a masters degree in computer science and, forgoing offers from major firms, joined Greystripe after graduation where he quickly became the Director of Engineering at 22 years old. After 3 years at Greystripe Russ went on to HBS with the intent of starting a company while in school and co-founded, a social referrals product to improve how companies source referral candidates which was acquired by Facebook. After helping to redesign Facebook pages and timelines Russ and some friends came together to start DocSend, a company that makes salespeople more effective by enabling them to track, control, send, and present sales materials with real-time document analytics. Download this week's episode to learn more about Russ's journey and how to craft the most effective pitch deck.
  • Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
  • Interview with David Greenberg, Founder & CEO of Updater

    David Greenberg loves the excitement of moving but hates the drama. While working as a lawyer at a prestigious lawfirm in New York City, David experienced the hassle of wasted hours trying to update his contact information with 20+ companies. David couldn't believe that there wasn't a solution to this inconvenience and after a friend dared him to start a company to solve it, he did! Four years later Updater has raised over $15million and has pivoted from a B to C model to B to B sales, partnering with some major real estate companies. Listen to the latest episode to hear David's story and how he negotiated an option to buy the Updater url.
  • Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
  • Interview with Olga Vidisheva, Founder & CEO of

    Olga Vidisheva was born in Kyrgyzstan and moved to the US to attend Wellesly College. Her story is the quintessential 'American Dream'. Olga learned english while working in a Japanese retaurant (of all places!) and put herself through college by modeling. While she was at Harvard Business School Olga discovered her passion for boutiques and saw an opportunity to help small clothing stores develop a digital presence. Enter, a website that started with only 25 stores and now represents thousands of boutiques across the globe. Download this week's episode to hear about Olga's journey and what it was like to be accepted to Y Combinator as the first single non-technical founder.

  • Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
  • Interview with Benzi Ronen, Founder & CEO of Farmigo

    This week's guest, Benzi Ronen, is not a farmer or a chef. This didn't stop him from founding Farmigo, a company that serves as an online farmer’s market that connects consumers directly to local producers in their area where they can get all of their fresh food needs. Download this week's episode to hear about how Farmigo is attempting to "deconstruct the supermarket" while maximizing gains for the partners- the farmers themselves.
  • Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
  • Conversation with Ashley Cook and Danielle Danker, Co-Founders of ash&dans

    Meet Ashley and Danielle, college roommates and the co-owners and designers of the private label ash&dans, an affordable line of luxury jersey accessories. This week Jeremy chats with Ashley and Danielle about falling into entrepreneurship upon arriving in NYC, finding the right manufacturer and hustling to get their products into luxury department stores like Bloomingdales and Bendels.
  • Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
  • Interview with Amol Sarva, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Knotable

    It's hard to sum up in a few sentences all that Amol Sarva has accomplished already in his career. While getting his PhD at Stanford he co-founded Virgin Mobile and has been heavily involved in the mobile phone industry. Amol is the CEO of Knotable, a teamwork app for shared notepads, and serves as a mentor to Techstars accelerators, NYC Seed, and Columbia University startup programs. He built an architecturally ambiguous building in Long Island City and he has a photograph in the permanent collection at the MoMa. Listen to this week's fascinating episode to learn about Amol's journey and current work on Halo Neuroscience, a company developing easy to use, novel, and effective neuroscience-based technology for improving brain performance in the healthy and impaired.
  • Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
  • Interview with Adam Tishman, Co-Founder of Helix Sleep

    Have you ever wanted to tear your hair out while trying to find the perfect mattress? Adam Tishman and his 2 co-founders feel your pain. After several horrible mattress purchase experiences, they decided to start a company that focuses on optimizing mattress constructions based on body types and sleeping preferences. Once a customer fills out a questionnaire about their sleeping preferences, Helix uses proprietary technology to create the perfect customized mattress, compress it, and ship it in a box directly to their customers' doorsteps. In this episode Adam chats with Jeremy about the fragmented mattress industry and his experiences launching Helix Sleep.
  • Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
  • Conversation with Daniel McRorie, Owner & Operations Manager of Knickerbocker MFG

    In this episode of Smart People Should Build Things, Jeremy chats with Daniel McRorie, Owner and Operations Manager at Knickerbocker MFG, a private label manufacturing company operating out of a 60 year old warehouse in Bushwick, New York, attempting to recreate the American manufacturing model by combining new and old techniques, machinery, and technology.

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