Robert Reffkin had a hard time fitting in when he was growing up: raised by a single mom in Berkeley California, he was both bi-racial and Jewish, and had to learn to "feel comfortable with being uncomfortable." Even though he was a self-described C student, he was admitted to Columbia and landed a series of prestigious investment banking jobs, but often felt like he was failing. Then in 2012, Robert was tasked with writing a business plan as part of a job interview, but the plan was so intriguing that he was encouraged to launch it as an actual business. So with a partner, Robert launched Compass, a real estate company that focused on building technology to make agents' jobs easier. Less than ten years after launch, Compass is a publicly traded real estate brokerage with about 20,000 agents, valued at around $6 billion.
Our second episode from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit is from our innovation panel with Payal Kadakia of ClassPass, Tristan Walker of Walker and Company, and Perry Chen of Kickstarter. In this live conversation with Guy, the panel talks about how innovation doesn't require newness, but rather, authenticity. We'll be releasing more episodes from the Summit, so keep checking your podcast feed.
Bobbi Brown started out as a makeup artist in New York City, but hated the gaudy color palette of the 1980s. She eventually shook up the industry by introducing "nude makeup" with neutral colors and a natural tone. In 1995, Estée Lauder acquired Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and Bobbi remained there for 22 years, until she realized the brand was no longer the one she had built.
In the late 1990s, Ben Chestnut was a struggling young designer interning at an appliance company, when somebody suggested that he try designing for the internet instead. A few years later, Ben and two co-founders launched a web design agency, only to discover that the service they'd included almost as an afterthought—email marketing—was taking off among their small-business clients. The founders named that service Mailchimp and pivoted to it full-time in 2007, choosing a winking monkey as their mascot, and stumbling onto the Freemium model before it became mainstream. But their most impeccable timing came in 2014, when they decided to sponsor a new podcast called Serial, a move that catapulted the winking monkey into popular culture. Over the years, despite management jitters and a public reckoning over office culture, Mailchimp has remained profitable and self-funded, with revenue of $800 million in 2020.
When they were in their 20s, Reem Hassani and her brother Ahmed Rahim were not the kind of people you'd expect to launch a multi-million dollar business. Reem was a California artist moonlighting as a substitute teacher, and Ahmed had been living the bohemian life of a photojournalist in Europe. But these two children of immigrants from Iraq had an idea: to introduce the dried lime tea they remembered from their childhood to the U.S. Working out of Reem's 600-square-foot apartment in Oakland, the siblings learned all about the challenges of lining up importers, packagers, and retailers to launch a premium loose-leaf tea brand—meant to be slowly steeped and savored. More than twenty years after it's launch in 1999, Numi Organic Tea is a privately held B Corporation that sells tens of millions of dollars of Fair Trade, organic tea every year.
In the early 2000's, Philip Krim launched an e-commerce business out of his college dorm, selling everything from window blinds to eczema cream to yes, mattresses. Years later, inspired by online successes like Warby Parker and Harry's, Philip and his partners launched Casper, a DTC company that designed its own mattresses, compressed them into boxes, and helped turn a mundane purchase into an Instagrammable adventure. Within months, sales began to take off; and soon, copycat brands crowded into the DTC mattress space, creating competition and buzz in a previously sleepy sector. (Pun unavoidable) Despite these challenges, Casper's valuation soared to $1 billion in 2019, only to shrink by half for its 2020 IPO. Today, Philip says he's focused on the future, with ambitions to build Casper into a one-stop-brand for all things sleep-related.
Our first episode from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit is from our leadership panel with Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, Chieh Huang, CEO and co-founder of Boxed, and Sadie Lincoln, CEO and co-founder of Barre3. In this conversation with Guy, the panel talks about the importance of showing vulnerability, and how leaders can build trust within their teams. We'll be releasing more episodes from the Summit, so keep checking your podcast feed.
By her early thirties, Ava DuVernay was already a successful entrepreneur, having founded her own film publicity agency in Los Angeles. But after years of watching other people make films, she started to get an itch to tell her own stories onscreen. Ava's first films were rooted in deeply personal experiences: growing up with her sisters in Compton, performing Hip Hop at Open Mic Night at the Good Life Café in L.A. Her self-funded and self-distributed projects began to draw attention, and in 2012, Ava won the award for best directing at the Sundance Film Festival. She went on to direct powerful projects like Selma, 13th, and When They See Us; and through her production and distribution company ARRAY, she's created a movement that is helping change how movies are made—and who gets to make them.
In the early 90s, Rich Barton arrived to work at Microsoft just as the world wide web was taking off. He wound up pitching Bill Gates on an idea that was transformative at the time: to let everyday travelers book their own flights and hotels by giving them online access to previously hidden reservation systems. Expedia launched from inside Microsoft but was so successful at transforming the travel industry that it was spun out into a public company with Rich as CEO. Then in 2005, Rich moved on to a new idea with some Expedia colleagues, co-founding Zillow as a way to "turn on all the lights" in another sprawling industry: real estate. When the site launched in 2006, so many people tried to look up their home-value "Zestimates" that the site crashed within hours. By 2020, pandemic-era interest in housing saw Zillow accessed almost 10 billion times.
Carla Bartolucci grew up in an Italian-American household, eating fresh gnocchi and ravioli made by her mother, and lobster caught by her father. She met her husband Rodolfo while studying abroad in Italy; and by the early 1990's, the two of them were running a small sandwich shop in Mystic, Connecticut. They eventually partnered with the Italian company Bionaturae to sell whole wheat pastas, sauces and olive oil in the U.S. When that partnership ended in a lawsuit, Carla decided to launch her own brand of pasta, made from gluten-free grains and a prehistoric wheat called Einkorn. Jovial Foods has since grown into a multi-million dollar brand that includes organic tomatoes, olive oil, and snacks.
Very sadly, Carla passed away unexpectedly last month after a brief illness. We're sharing this interview in celebration of her remarkable life and career.
In the mid-90s, David Neeleman wanted to launch a new airline. He had already co-created a regional airline out of Salt Lake City that was acquired by Southwest. And despite his admiration of Southwest's business model, Neeleman felt there was a market for a different kind of budget airline. He envisioned flights to cities other budget airlines avoided and excellent customer service, with high-tech amenities. In 2000, he launched JetBlue and in its first year, the company flew over 1 million people, and cultivated a loyal customer following. Then came the 2007 Valentine's Day ice storm.
As a part of the 2021 How I Built This Summit (At Home) we have selected 10 Fellows, and we'd like to introduce you to all of them. In this episode: Dinesh Tadepalli is the co-founder of Incredible Eats, which he hopes will reduce plastic use, and reinvent the way we eat. Also, Jennifer Zeitler founded Let's Goat Buffalo, to offer a natural alternative to harmful chemicals and heavy machinery for land management; that solution: goats.
Some of the world's biggest industries sell products that we all need...but don't want to think about. That's what drew Jennifer Fitzgerald to insurance: she wanted to help people understand the often bewildering world of protecting themselves in case of emergencies. In 2013, she and her partner Francois de Lame left their stable and lucrative consulting jobs to create Policygenius, an online marketplace for insurance that lets consumers compare rates and learn everything they need to know to make informed decisions about their financial future. At the beginning, Jennifer couldn't convince investors to take a chance on the company, and faced rejection after rejection as she tried to hold on to a handful of customers. But by building a relationship with the financial blogging community—and leaning in to a few well-placed financial technology puns—Policygenius got a foot in the door. By 2020, Jennifer and her team had raised over $100 million, and the company now has more than 30 million users.
As a part of the 2021 How I Built This Summit (At Home) we have selected 10 Fellows, and we'd like to introduce you to each of them. In this episode: Kaitlin McGreyes founded Be Her Village to be a gift registry for expectant families that provides more than just...stuff. And Nicole Argüelles founded Alli to address period poverty and provide easy access to personal care and hygiene products in public spaces.
As a part of the 2021 How I Built This Summit (At Home) we have selected 10 Fellows, and we'd like to introduce you to each of them. In this episode: Mark Atlan co-founded ZappCare to help make sure that people living on tribal lands have access to health and medical services close to their homes. And Zach Correa hopes to connect users of lemonGRAFT to the people in their own neighborhood that grow fresh produce.
Around 2003, after forays into banking, baseball cards, and—believe it or not—bobsledding, Marc Lore landed on an idea for an e-commerce business: a website to make it simple for parents to order diapers. The only problem, as he quickly discovered, was that it's impossible to make money selling diapers on the internet. But Marc and his co-founder had a strategy: they'd lose money on diapers, but make it up by selling other baby products. By 2010, Diapers.com was such a competitive threat that Amazon acquired the company for over $500 million. In 2015, Marc launched another e-commerce venture and Amazon competitor called Jet.com. Walmart bought Jet.com less than a year later in a deal valued at $3.3 billion.
As a part of the 2021 How I Built This Summit (At Home) we have selected 10 Fellows, and we'd like to introduce you to them over the next couple weeks. In this episode: Katie Mitchell and her mother Katherine opened a book shop in Atlanta called Good Books, that centers Black authors and brings books into the community. And in Washington, D.C., Celena Gill and her three sons, Collin, Ryan, and Austin, started the home fragrance and candle company, Frères Branchiaux.
As a part of the 2021 How I Built This Summit (At Home) we have selected 10 Fellows, and we'd like to introduce you to them over the next couple weeks. In this episode: Pierre Paul, founder of a company called We Hear You that's developing a sign language translator that turns American Sign Language into audible speech and vice versa. Also, Toby Egbuna, co-founder of Chezie, a platform for job seekers aimed at creating career opportunities for people from under-represented groups.
In the pre-Internet 1970's, Sandy Lerner was part of a loosely-knit group of programmers that was trying to get computers to talk to each other. Eventually, she and Len Bosack launched Cisco Systems, making the routing technology that helped forge the plumbing of the Internet. But when things turned sour at the company, she was forced to leave, giving her the chance to start something entirely new: an edgy line of cosmetics called Urban Decay.
After selling both of their social app companies and rethinking their day jobs, Paul Davison and Rohan Seth knew they should not get into the volatile business of social media again. Despite exploring more practical ideas in other industries, they were found themselves drawn to the potential of live social audio, and decided they had to build another social app. What they didn't know was that, as they launched Clubhouse in March 2020, a global pandemic would create a new market of people looking for virtual spaces to connect. Today, despite issues with chat moderation, an invitation-only launch and increasing competition from established media companies, Clubhouse has continued to grow and now has over 10 million users. This interview was recorded live as part of a virtual event in April 2021.