In the field of bio-tech, it can take 10 years and millions of dollars to see if an experimental idea might turn into a life-saving treatment—if it ever does. Noubar Afeyan fully understood those risks when he co-founded Moderna in 2010. He and his colleagues were looking for a way to deploy the messenger RNA molecule to tackle life-threatening diseases. In January of 2020, an urgent opportunity presented itself in the form of a deadly virus that was spreading across the globe. At a breathtaking pace, Moderna produced a prototype for a COVID-19 vaccine, partnered with the NIH to test it, and produced millions of doses, becoming part of the most rapid vaccine roll-out in human history. While Moderna is the best known of Noubar's companies, he has launched many others in the bio-tech space as part of Flagship Pioneering, his multi-billion dollar venture studio.
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Live Episode! Tofurky: Seth Tibbott (2019)
50:09Seth Tibbott may be the only founder in the world who grew his business while living in a barn, a teepee, and a treehouse. His off-the-grid lifestyle helped him save money as he started to sell tempeh, a protein made of fermented soybeans. Throughout the 1980s he barely scraped by, but things took a turn in 1995, when he discovered a stuffed tofu roast made in Portland, Oregon. Knowing vegetarians had few options at Thanksgiving, Seth named the roast Tofurky and started selling it at co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 25 years later, Tofurky sells plant-based protein around the world, and has estimated sales of $40 million a year. This show was recorded live at Revolution Hall in Portland, Oregon.
Stasher and Modern Twist: Kat Nouri
1:09:07As a mother of three, Kat Nouri was dismayed at the amount of single-use plastic she was using to pack her kids' school lunches. She had already launched a successful brand called Modern Twist, which sold placemats and baby bibs made of silicone. So Kat wondered: why not use silicone to make durable food storage bags, which—instead of being used once, could be used thousands of times? In 2016 she launched Stasher, and was soon persuading retailers that an $11 reusable bag was better for the planet—and ultimately, more cost-effective for the big-box shopper. Kat successfully sold the brand to S.C. Johnson just a few years after launch, but her short tenure at Stasher's helm was marked by growing pains and gnawing moments of anxiety, including an unexpected scuffle with the sharks on Shark Tank.
Coinbase: Brian Armstrong
1:25:02Brian Armstrong wanted to be a tech entrepreneur since he was in high school, but his first serious venture—a tutoring website—never quite took off. Around 2010, while looking to get a job in Silicon Valley, he stumbled across an intriguing idea for a peer-to-peer digital currency called Bitcoin, which quickly turned into his obsession. Brian's initial prototype for a hosted Bitcoin wallet got him accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator program, and he launched Coinbase soon thereafter. Many experts warned that cryptocurrency was no more reliable than Monopoly money, but the startup prevailed, surviving wild swings in the crypto market and steadily building a user base. Today, Coinbase is one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, with 7.4 million monthly users, 2,700 employees and over 80 cryptocurrencies traded on its platform.
Back to the Roots: Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez
1:21:02In 2009, Berkeley seniors Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez started to geek out over something they'd heard in a lecture: you can grow a healthy crop of mushrooms on used coffee grounds. Intrigued by the business potential, the pair set aside jobs in finance and consulting and became urban farmers: salvaging leaky bags of coffee grounds, planting mushroom spawn in an Oakland warehouse, and selling their crop to local grocers. Over time, the partners realized they could help others grow food for themselves, so they stopped farming fungus and took the leap into selling tabletop grow kits, seeds, and potting soil. Since launch, Back to the Roots has become the fastest-growing organic gardening brand in the U.S., with its products sold in 10,000 stores across the country.
Audible: Don Katz
1:17:22Before mp3 players came along in the mid 1990's, listening to audiobooks was a pain. The number of titles was tiny, narration was dull, and if you wanted to listen on the go, you had to juggle a bunch of clunky cassettes. Don Katz faced these frustrations every day while jogging. He was an accomplished writer who thought there was something special and intimate about hearing an author's words spoken aloud. He wondered: what if audiobooks could be purchased online and downloaded onto a dedicated player? At the time, the concept was so new that few people knew what he was talking about. But in 1997, with no direct experience in tech, Don and his partners launched the first digital player for audiobooks. Audible was slow to gain traction and took a beating during the dot-com bust; but its luck changed with the release of the iPod and a timely partnership with Apple. In 2008, Amazon purchased Audible for $300 million, and today Audible has the largest audiobook catalog in the world, with over 600,000 titles.
Wisdom From The Top: Bonus Episode
1:13:42This week, we thought we'd bring you a little bonus from another show that Guy hosts called Wisdom From The Top. After becoming the CEO of PepsiCo in 2006, Indra Nooyi became the first woman and immigrant to run a Fortune 50 company. From Chennai, India, to Yale's School of Management, Nooyi worked her way up from The Boston Consulting Group, Motorola, and ASEA Brown Boveri before eventually landing at PepsiCo, overseeing the global operation of its countless drinks, snacks, and restaurants. Nooyi's new memoir My Life in Full details her legendary career, exploring her extraordinary personal journey and the demands of being one of the most powerful women on the planet.
Live Episode! Milk Bar: Christina Tosi (2019)
1:07:05For Christina Tosi, baking wasn't just a delicious childhood hobby—it was a daily creative outlet and a way to blow off steam. After college, she went to culinary school and honed her pastry technique at high-end restaurants in NYC. But she also craved the opportunity to make unfussy, nostalgic desserts like the ones she grew up eating. So in 2008, Christina opened her first Milk Bar bakery in the East Village, with the help of her mentor, Momofuku chef David Chang. Soon, people from around the country were calling her up, begging for her gooey pies, confetti birthday cakes, and pretzel-potato-chip cookies. Today, Milk Bar has spread to 15 locations, and reportedly brings in tens of millions of dollars a year. This show was recorded live at The Town Hall in New York City.
Title Nine: Missy Park
1:24:48As an avid athlete and college basketball player, Missy Park was lucky to grow up during the early era of Title IX, the 1972 law that created new opportunities for young women to play sports. But in the years before Lululemon and Athleta, activewear for women was either ill-fitting or non-existent. So in 1989—with little experience in apparel or retail—Missy decided to launch a female version of Nike. She sent out a mail order catalog of running shorts, tights, and (at the last minute) sports bras; naming her company for the law that had opened doors for her to compete: Title Nine. Over the years, the company kept "hitting singles," eventually growing into a $100 million dollar business without ever taking outside investment. Today, Missy remains the sole owner.
Moderna and Flagship Pioneering: Noubar Afeyan
1:07:52In the field of bio-tech, it can take 10 years and millions of dollars to see if an experimental idea might turn into a life-saving treatment—if it ever does. Noubar Afeyan fully understood those risks when he co-founded Moderna in 2010. He and his colleagues were looking for a way to deploy the messenger RNA molecule to tackle life-threatening diseases. In January of 2020, an urgent opportunity presented itself in the form of a deadly virus that was spreading across the globe. At a breathtaking pace, Moderna produced a prototype for a COVID-19 vaccine, partnered with the NIH to test it, and produced millions of doses, becoming part of the most rapid vaccine roll-out in human history. While Moderna is the best known of Noubar's companies, he has launched many others in the bio-tech space as part of Flagship Pioneering, his multi-billion dollar venture studio.
Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey: Fawn Weaver
1:17:39While traveling abroad with her husband in 2016, Fawn Weaver became fixated on a New York Times article telling the little-known story of Nearest Green, a formerly enslaved man who taught Jack Daniel—yes, that Jack Daniel—how to make Tennessee whiskey. After diving deeper into the story, Fawn ended up purchasing the 300-acre farm in Lynchburg, Tennessee where Nearest had taught Jack how to distill; and she began meeting the descendants of both men. She initially thought of honoring Nearest's story with a book or movie, but decided the best way to preserve his legacy was with a bottle of the best Tennessee whiskey she could make. With no background in distilling, she threw herself into the insular world of spirit-making, an industry mostly dominated by white men and a few major corporations. In the five years since Fawn first discovered his story, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has become one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands in the world, and one of the most awarded American whiskeys.