83. The Sky’s The Limit28:02Kirill Bigai, Preply CEO and co-founder, launched the company’s first set of values back in 2015, while participating in the Techstars Berlin program. But as the team has changed, so have the values.“It’s an evolution,” said Bigai, who involves his 650+ staff members in their development and incorporates the values into hiring, performance reviews, and operations. David Cohen agrees that fine tuning and articulating values is smart for business and for company culture. In this edition of Cohen’s Give First Podcast, he and Bigai dig into values, hiring practices, stubbornness and how, when the company expanded outside of the Ukraine, Bigai would call every single customer himself. Tune in for more. Books mentioned in episode: Who by Geoff Smart and Randy StreetNo Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin MeyerFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen
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82. The Perfect Storm with Elizabeth Kraus33:30For 20 years, Elizabeth Kraus was busy being an entrepreneur. So busy and stressed, she wasn’t eating well, had wild energy swings and barely slept despite training for, and tackling long-distance triathlons. A host of other medical challenges led to a thyroid and hormone imbalance diagnosis and medication which she said, “put a band aid solution on all these health issues.” Until the band aid ripped off. “It was the perfect storm of disaster,” said Kraus, the chief investment officer for MergeLane Venture Capital Fund. “My body completely shut down in 2023.”Listen as Kraus and David Cohen, longtime friends with frequent career intersections, discuss the breakdown, the warning signs and how she clawed her way back to, almost, normalcy. Kraus recently announced after eight years and investments in 54 female-led companies, MergeLane has made their final investment. Kraus plans to write a book and start a podcast. “I think lots of people who are earlier in their career just think, well, I'll deal with the health stuff later because I'm young. What could really go wrong?”A lot, as it turns out. Tune in for more. Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen
81. Using Your Dragonfly Eyes with Charles Conn26:44Charles Conn is a builder, a creator and an environmentalist. He’s managed to wed those three passions together by investing in the biotech space as the co-founder of Monograph Capital. “The most consistent thing you can do is work in this biology space because when humans have health security, they tend to look after the planet,” said Conn who has also been a member of the Patagonia board for 15 years, and chair for the last few. Patagonia recently transferred all its shares to The Patagonia Purpose Trust to fight climate change and species eradication. “That was an amazing journey and one that was also quite challenging,” said Conn. Conn recently released his second book, The Imperfectionist: Strategic Mindsets for Uncertain Times, a sister book to Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything. Listen in as Conn and Cohen discuss the idea that curiosity needs to be the founding point of strategy, and dynamic problem solving needs to be the key framework or mental model for developing strategy. “To creatively solve problems is maybe at the very heart of what it is to be a human,” said Conn. Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohen Listen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
80. Bottoms Up: A Conversation with Bevi CEO Sean Grundy34:20Sean Grundy, co-founder and CEO of Bevi, wouldn’t budge despite calls from, ironically, David Cohen, the GiveFirst podcast host. Cohen wanted Bevi smart water coolers in more places than just Boston. Grundy wanted to prioritize quality control and customer retention. “We wanted our mechanical engineers and electrical engineers close by so they could personally put their eyes on any errors, see what was going wrong and fix it,” said Grundy. That was back in 2014 just after participating in Techstars Boston. Grundy’s phased approach ethos worked then and still works today. In fact, Bevi not only survived the pandemic but recently raised $70 million in a series D funding round. “The pandemic was brutal,” said Sean Grundy. “It felt like running into a wall.”Listen in as Grundy and Cohen discuss taking a compassionate approach to crisis leadership, gradual recovery and redefining success … all with only a few liquid-related puns. Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
79. Startup Community Builder Chris Heivly and his Newest “Build the Fort” Book28:01Described as the foremost expert on how to build startup communities, Chris Heivly has written “Build the Fort: The Startup Community Builder's Field Guide.” Listen in as Chris and David talk about what Heivly discovered while writing and practical steps to take for anyone who wants to launch a startup community.From building a pipeline of founders to feeding that funnel continuously and storytelling, Heivly reminds listeners the first step is culture. “Connections are the lifeblood of a healthy community” said Heivly. “If the founders don’t have access to the frictionless network that exists to help them do something, they are going to go elsewhere.” The longtime colleagues also regale listeners with a few stories from their days raising money and starting businesses, including one incident that involved Heivly nursing a recent (and bloody) run in with a hockey puck. Buy the book now: AmazonFollow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenFollow Chris Heivly on Twitter @chrisheivlyListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.
78. Leading Through Crisis: 96 hours after the fall of SVB49:02The fall of SVB will go down in history as one of those ‘where were you when …’ moments. For David Cohen, he was sitting at a sporting event when his phone began buzzing incessantly. For Brad Feld, he was couch shopping with his wife.Feld is no stranger to crises and his instincts kicked in quickly.“I shifted into problem-solving mode,” says Feld.But then, almost as quickly, the government stepped in and money began flowing. Crisis averted. It was time to reflect.Listen as Feld and Cohen share insight into what they saw in the VC and startup community, how communication made all the difference and how many came together to support each other.They also tackle the looming question weighing heavy on founders’ minds: how will this affect the future of startups and fundraising rounds in process?As for the couch? Tune in to find out.
77. MeatoDoor Founders on Startups With Family— But Not A Family Business22:54Though many might shy away from working with their spouse, MeatoDoor Founders Ambreen Khan and Rashid Ahmed wouldn’t have it any other way. “We don't see that as a challenge in terms of running the company. We are both totally different individuals; we bring different skills to the table,” says Ambreen, who is also CEO of MeatoDoor. “In fact, we both complement each other so much that almost 60% of the skillset that is crucial for an early-stage company to have growth, we actually satisfy the needs.”Listen as Ambreen and Rashid describe how they blend their lives and their startup work, and why this Riyadh Techstars Accelerator startup is not a family business. Also, don’t miss David and MeatoDoor CFO Rashid talking about building a startup in the UAE, and expanding the business and the startup community to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Be advised, our non-meat-eating listeners: We also will be discussing sourcing and selling animal meat as it relates to supply chain challenges in the Middle East and the world. Follow David Cohen on Twitter @davidcohenListen & subscribe to the Give First podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more.