Word of Mouth Presents: Masters of Scale
Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman explores theories about scale that are bold, new and sometimes contrarian. It’s a series that easily jumps fields, connecting the dots between seemingly disparate stories, all with the aim of illuminating big concepts and simple hacks that can change everything. Much more than an interview program, Masters of Scale is a genre-defining series on how to think boldly and differently about the world.
Each episode includes a surprising open that provides the perfect set-up for a theory Reid has had about scaling. It then unfolds like a detective story as he explores and tests the idea with other masters of scale. There’ll be an anchoring conversation with an iconic CEO, and some of the best-known figures in technology and other industries will make up the guest list. At key moments, the interviews will freeze for a sort of “Notes to Self” section in order to step inside Reid’s mind and hear his thoughts. By the end of the episode, listeners will come full circle with a notion, a theory, or hunch that starts to make a lot sense. They’ll have new practical insights and new ways of conceptualizing the challenges they face in business or elsewhere.
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On this episode of Masters of Scale, Reid Hoffman explains that, if you want your company to truly scale, 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, Brian shares the imaginative route he took to crafting what he calls an "11-star experience.” And Mariam Naficy shares her white-knuckle experiences founding startups that survived two financial crashes — She helps illustrate Reid's theory that entrepreneurs should always raise more money than you think you need.
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.
If you’re Steve Jobs, you can wait for your product to be perfect. But there are almost no Steve Jobs’ in the world. For the rest of us, if you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released it too late. Imperfect is perfect. Why? Because your assumptions about what people want are never exactly right. 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.
In just 6 years, Facebook grew to 2 billion users and 14,000 employees. How? Well first, they hired COO Sheryl Sandberg. She knew that to lead a fast-changing organization, you have to be as skilled at breaking plans as you are at making them. And Google has succeeded by innovating again and again. 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 Alphabet—shares techniques he created to cultivate an environment of free-flowing ideas plus disciplined decision making that lead to breakthrough ideas.
To succeed, entrepreneurs need a good idea, timing, money, luck. But more than anything, they need grit. 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 that has given her organizations such scale. And we talk to Reed Hastings, CEO and Founder of Netflix about how a winning company culture only emerges when every employee feels they personally own it.
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. And, if you try to put out every fire, you’ll only burn yourself out. The best entrepreneurs? They let fires burn. Knowing which problems not to solve is just as critical as knowing which problems must be solved.