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.
1 hr 7 min
While 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.
1 hr 17 min
Paul English is a perpetual founder. Since high school, he's started 3 philanthropies and 8 companies—ranging from e-commerce, to gaming, to GetHuman, a site that helps users access human customer support. His best-known venture is probably KAYAK, a travel website launched in 2004 over two gin-and-tonics with co-founder Steve Hafner. Using a simple interface, KAYAK specialized in search; and it made partners out of potential rivals like Orbitz and Expedia by charging them a fee to send users to their sites. Eventually KAYAK became one of the most-searched "K" words on Google, and in 2012, it sold to Priceline for $1.8 billion. A few years later, Paul started yet another company, Lola.com—and says he plans to launch many more.
1 hr 13 min
As Texas A&M students in the mid 2000's, Cory Cotton, Tyler Toney and their housemates spent countless hours playing hockey in the living room and attempting trick shots in the backyard. A spontaneous bet over a sandwich led the guys to make a video montage of outrageous basketball shots, which they titled Dude Perfect and posted on a new site called YouTube. After that first video wound up on Good Morning America, the five Dudes challenged themselves to even more outrageous stunts: an impossible shot from the third tier of a stadium, a here-goes-nothing lob from the door of a flying plane. But despite their growing popularity, the group spent five grueling years trying to build ad revenue and brand deals while juggling day jobs and commuting weekly across Texas. In 2014, they finally committed fulltime to building Dude Perfect into a robust entertainment platform, which today includes books, TV, live events, and a YouTube channel that has more subscribers than the NBA, NFL, and NHL combined. Take the listener survey at: http://npr.org/builtsurvey
1 hr 30 min
After more than 20 years working in the shoe business, Wayne Edy decided to strike out on his own, risking most of his savings to launch his own brand. Knowing he was entering a crowded field, he focused on a niche sport—trail running—and developed a lightweight shoe with a rubber-cleat sole, well-suited to the terrain near his home in England's Lake District. The unusual design raised eyebrows at first, but after inov-8's launch in 2003, the shoe quickly grew a following among elite trail-runners, which raised its profile and helped the brand expand into CrossFit and hiking. After selling inov-8 and then buying it back, Wayne still leads a multi-million dollar business that's headquartered in a tiny English town, while outfitting athletes from around the world.
After falling in love with the first Apple Mac computer in 1984, Lynda Weinman found a new career: using the new technology to teach web graphics. She published a best-selling book on the topic, and then—along with her husband Bruce Heavin—decided to host a web design workshop in the small town of Ojai, California. When the class sold out, the partners realized their straightforward approach to digital design was in high demand. Despite having no business background, Lynda and Bruce continued to expand their vision, eventually offering instructional videos on a range of topics through their streaming platform, Lynda.com. In 2015, the company sold to LinkedIn for 1.5 billion dollars.
1 hr 15 min
In the late 1980s, a New Zealand engineer named Keith Alexander wanted to buy a trampoline for his kids. After his wife said they were too dangerous, Keith set out to design his own—a safer trampoline, without metal springs. He tinkered with and perfected the design over the course of a decade. But he was daunted by the challenge of bringing his invention to market; and he almost gave up. At that point Steve Holmes, a Canadian businessman, bought the patent to Keith's trampoline, and took a big risk to commercialize it. Since the start of the pandemic, sales of Springfree Trampolines doubled, and since their launch, the company has sold nearly 500,000 trampolines worldwide.
We have our final main stage event from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit, and it's Guy's conversation with Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change, the nation's largest leading racial justice organization. In this live interview, Rashad talks about finding strength and purpose through activism—an initiative that has no clear end. According to Rashad, activism does not have to center around sadness and tragedy; activism is about the power of the people, recognizing victories, celebrating moments of joy, and implementing self and community care.
In the 1970s, Roxanne Quimby was trying to live a simpler life – one that rejected the pursuit of material comforts. She moved to Maine, built a cabin in the woods, and lived off the grid. By the mid-80s, she met a recluse beekeeper named Burt Shavitz and offered to help him tend to his bees. As partners, Roxanne and Burt soon began selling their "Pure Maine Honey" at local markets, which evolved into candles made out of beeswax, and eventually lip balm and skin care products. Today, Burt's Bees can be found in thousands of grocery stores and drugstores around the U.S.
We have another episode from the 2021 How I Built This Virtual Summit, and it's Guy's interview with organizational psychology professor and author Adam Grant. He's known for his books Think Again, Give and Take and Originals. Adam is also the host of the podcast WorkLife. In this live conversation, Adam explains why entrepreneurs should take a scientific approach to decision-making and why admitting you're wrong goes a long way to learning what's right. We'll be releasing more episodes from the Summit throughout the month of August, so keep checking your podcast feed.