Masters of Scale

Jul 25, 2017

Hosted by LinkedIn co-founder and investor Reid Hoffman, "Masters of Scale" is an original series in which Hoffman tests his theories about how companies grow from zero to a gazillion. In conversation with famous founders, Hoffman connects the dots between fascinating disparate stories with the aim of illuminating big concepts and simple hacks that can change everything.

Hear these episodes through the end of August on WRVO.

Handcrafted/The Money Episode | Sunday, July 30 at 7 p.m.

If you want your company to truly scale, you first have to do things that don't scale. Hand-craft the core experience. Get your hands dirty. Serve your customers one-by-one. And don't stop until you know exactly what they want. That's what Brian Chesky did. As CEO of Airbnb, his early work was more akin to a travelling salesman. He takes us back to his lean years — when he went door-to-door, meeting Airbnb hosts in person.

Then, think you've raised enough money for your startup? Think again. You have to run through a minefield of unexpected expenses as an entrepreneur. And you never know where the big opportunity will come from. So always, always raise more money than you think you need.

Mariam Naficy, founder and CEO of Minted, speaking with Reid Hoffman for "Masters of Scale."
Credit Jacqui Ipp / Wait What LLC

Mariam Naficy shares her white-knuckle experiences founding startups that survived two financial crashes -- online cosmetic company Eve.com in the 90s, and founder and designer boutique Minted.com today.

The Beauty of a Bad Idea/Imperfect is Perfect | Sunday, August 6 at 7 p.m.

The best business ideas often seem laughable at first glance. So if you’re hearing a chorus of “no’s” it may actually be a good sign… Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb -- they all sounded crazy before they scaled spectacularly. So don’t be discouraged by rejection. Instead, learn to hear the nuance between the different kinds of “no.” That’s what Tristan Walker did. After stints at two successful startups, he launched out on his own with Walker & Company, makers of the Bevel razor -- and learned to navigate the entrepreneurial minefield of investors who may or may not share your vision.

Mark Zuckerberg on "Masters of Scale."
Credit Jacqui Ipp / Wait What LLC

Then, if you’re Steve Jobs, you can wait for your product to be perfect. But there are almost no Steve Jobs’ in the world. Most entrepreneurs create great products through a tight feedback loop with real customers using a real product. So don’t fear imperfections; they won’t make or break your company. What will make or break you is speed. And no one knows this better than Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. He shares the origin story of his famous mantra, “move fast and break things” and how this ethos applied as Facebook evolved from student project to tech giant.

Lead, Lead Again/Innovation = Managed Chaos | Sunday, August 13 at 7 p.m.

In just 6 years, Facebook grew to 2 billion users and 14,000 employees. How? Well first, they hired COO Sheryl Sandberg. And she knew that to lead a fast-changing organization, you have to be as skilled at breaking plans as you are at making them. Great scale leaders know how to pivot. Every day, there are new competitors, new threats, new opportunities. There’s no simple, straightforward set of marching orders. It’s more like a dogfight. You and your team will be flying upside down and at an angle sometimes. Sandberg shares her practical, tactical on-the-ground lessons she learned at both Google and Facebook — everything from hiring people for roles that never existed before, celebrating birthdays for an enormous team, and navigating make-or-break crises as a management team. She also reveals the slow, professional courtship of Mark Zuckerberg.

Then, Google has succeeded by innovating again and again. Not just search, but Gmail and GoogleDocs and even self-driving cars. Their secret? They don’t tell their employees how to innovate; they manage the chaos. Eric Schmidt -- CEO of Google since 2001 and now Chairman of parent company Alphabet -- shares the controversial management techniques he created to cultivate an environment of free-flowing ideas plus disciplined decision making that lead to breakthrough ideas. He reveals the hidden secret in Google’s famous “20% time” policy, their approach to hiring smart creatives, and the parallels between leading Google and piloting small airplanes. Plus, his “roommate” at Google, and the decision he made to support a crazy idea that he was certain would bankrupt the company.

Grit Happens/Culture Shock | Sunday, August 20 at 7 p.m.

Nancy Lublin has had success scaling three successful not-for-profits: Dress for Success, DoSomething.org and Crisis Text Line.
Credit Christopher Schodt / Wait What LLC

To succeed, entrepreneurs need a good idea, timing, money, luck. But more than anything, they need grit. Don’t confuse grit with sheer persistence; it’s not about charging up the same hill, again and again. The sort of grit you need to scale a business is less reliant on brute force. It’s actually one part determination and one part ingenuity -- the ability to generate an endless supply of Plans B. And Nancy Lublin has a boundless supply of grit, which fueled her success scaling three successful not-for-profits: Dress for Success, DoSomething.org and Crisis Text Line. With practical wisdom and wicked humor, she shares the innovative approach to technology, financing, volunteers and staff development that have given her organizations such scale. If you think the for-profit world has a monopoly on scale thinking, think again.

Then, Hoffman believe strong company cultures only emerge when every employee feels they own the culture -- and this begins even before the first job interview. CEO Reed Hastings has built an adaptive, high-performing culture at Netflix by being unabashedly upfront about who they are and who they aren’t. The company’s famous “culture deck” offers a 100-slide description of how Netflix sees itself -- not a “family” but a high performing sports team. It won’t appeal to everyone -- and that’s the point. If you can define your culture tightly, while also resonating deeply with a diverse group of employee, you have a winning formula.

Burn, Baby Burn/And the Next Silicon Valley Is? | August 27 at 7 p.m.

What’s the secret to Silicon Valley? And can any other region nurture such a thriving startup scene? Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor, makes the case that a startup culture can be nurtured almost anywhere, so long as you have the raw ingredients -- namely, a few initial entrepreneurs with access to capital and a willingness to pay it forward.

Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor, and host Reid Hoffman.
Credit Kien Nguyen / Wait What LLC

Bear in mind that Silicon Valley is so much more than an archipelago of thriving tech companies. It’s actually an ecosystem -- one that’s deeply interconnected and self-reinforcing. Silicon Valley companies constantly swap talent -- investors, entrepreneurs, hackers and managers -- as they grow from seedlings to huge proportions. And any up-and-comer would have to do the same. Today, no region can match Silicon Valley’s collective wisdom for scaling a business. But -- from Buenos Aires to Boston, Tel Aviv to Shenzen -- there are fledgling startup scenes that could ultimately give Silicon Valley a run for its money.

You can find more from "Masters of Scale" on iTunes.

"Masters of Scale" is featured during our Public Radio Presents slot through the end of August. You can listen each Sunday at 7 p.m. on WRVO.