Episodes

  • Thank you so much for listening to How Things Grow! I’ve been truly humbled by the feedback and response that you guys have shared about the show and the episodes thus far.   The last 9 episodes have not only been a blast, but they’ve also been incredibly instructive learning experiences for me.    How Things Grow will take a short break, simply because each episode takes many many weeks to prepare and make.    I’ve already started working on the next season of episodes - and I have some amazing interviewees lined up. I’m truly excited to bring these new episodes to you very very soon.   I hope to see you guys around soon.

  • In this episode, we talk about the phenomenon of co-living, and how it's changing urban housing and community. We go behind the scenes of the tremendous growth of the co-living company Common. My guest today is Brad Hargreaves, the CEO and founder of Common and co-founder of General Assembly. Brad was separately recommended by two of the guests on How Things Grow - Jay Weintraub and Adam Lovallo. The more I researched Brad, the more fascinated I was by everything he’s done in a wild variety of industries. Brad is perhaps among the very few people I’ve spoken to who’ve grown digital businesses as well as non-digital ones - and this is why I was keen on having him on the show. I certainly learnt a ton from his unique outlook on business & life. We talk about Brad’s early beginnings in gaming to his experiences running a furniture business to challenges growing General Assembly to his current business that is changing the housing and rental industry. I’m particularly fascinated by Brad’s thinking around Common, Brad's co-living business that recently raised a $40 million round of funding. We dive into how he thinks about growing a business that’s firmly rooted in the offline world. I particularly love how he thinks about the 'real' world and the digital space as seamless experiences that influence each other - and how this worldview has indeed helped Common and co-living grow dramatically.  This episode gives you a peek into an emerging yet dramatically growing real world phenomenon - and I'm excited to bring this to you today.  

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  • This episode is the second part of a two part story - and it features the story of New York City - and how it went from a wilderness island in 1600 to the metropolis that we know it as today. If you havent yet listened to part 1, you can check out the interview I did with historian Russell Shorto on HowThingsGrow.co/episodes My guest today is Sam Roberts. Sam is a journalist who has written for the New York Times since 1983 - and is the host of the NY1 show The New York Times Close Up. Sam is considered one of the foremost authorities on the history of New York City. He is the author of four books - including ‘Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America’ and ‘A History of New York in 101 Objects.’ Sam was kind enough to host me in the fabled offices of the New York Times for this interview. In the last episode, we talked about New York’s transformation from a wilderness to the trading town of New Amsterdam under the Dutch to the town of New York under the British. This episode picks up from where the last one left off - and talks about the city’s history under the British and afterwards. We talk about the devastation New York experienced during the American revolution - and the big engineering project of the early 19th century that led New York to not only overtake Philadelphia, which was the leading city in America at the time, but also become a contender for one of the world’s leading cities. We talk about how transportation and immigration fueled some dramatic growth for this city. We talk about New York’s transformation from a trading city to an industrial manufacturing city - and then into a financial center and metropolis that it is today. Sam gives some remarkable insights into what drove these tremendous changes - and he manages to distill the key turning points from over 200 years of history in a 30 minute conversation.

  • Today’s episode is a special one. Past episodes of How Things Grow have told the stories of how technologies and companies have taken off. Today’s episode tells the improbable story of the rise of a physical ecosystem. This episode is the first of a two part story. This episode features the story of New York City - and how it went from a wilderness island in 1600 to the burgeoning trading town of New Amsterdam that was renamed New York. In our next episode, we'll talk about New York's story from the British rule in the 17th century to today. Before I moved from Bangalore, India to New York City for the first time, I knew nothing about this metropolis. As I Googled and poked around online about the city and its origins from a faraway land, one book kept showing up time and again. This book was ‘The island at the center of the world’ - and the author Russell Shorto, is my guest for today. Russell is an author, historian and journalist. The NYT Books Review has said: “Masterly…. A new foundation myth….. Shorto writes at all times with passion, verve, nuance and considerable humor.” He’s written six books. His most recent book ‘Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom’ was released in 2017. This is the first of a two part series that covers the time period from before Manhattan’s prehistory to its annexation by the British in 1664, the point when its name changed from New Amsterdam to New York. We talk about Henry Hudson’s attempts to reach Japan through the center of North America. We talk about why the Dutch colonized this wilderness island to expand their trading empire, and how the Dutch West India Company’s corporate failures led to the explosion of trade in New York City. We’ll go into how power, money and geography prompted the British to capture the city from the Dutch. We’ll conclude this episode in the late 18th century at the point of time when the British took over the city and changed its name from New Amsterdam to New York. We'll pick up New York’s story from the British rule to the present day in next week’s episode.  

  • In this episode, we talk about how technology & gamification have dramatically eased the process of language learning. We go behind the scenes of the meteoric growth of the language learning app Duolingo. My guest today is Gina Gotthilf, the VP of Growth at Duolingo.Duolingo has had a dramatic growth trajectory over the last few years. It’s gone from 3 million installs to 200 million installs, doing very little paid marketing or advertising. Gina and her team drove much of this growth. Gina is, without doubt, one of the most engaging and smart people I’ve known. I recently introduced a friend to Gina. Immediately after my friend met Gina for coffee, my friend wrote me an email with the subject line ‘Gina is awesome.’ In this episode, Gina talks about how she began her career as a philosophy major with almost no background in the hard sciences. We talk about Gina’s very unconventional strategies for growing Tumblr and then Duolingo - by leveraging press and media coverage. We go into how she transitioned from working on PR and media outreach to working on the product and experimentation - and how she and her team engineered Duolingo so as to make language learning easy. This is not only an incredibly instructive episode, but also a very fun one that I'm excited to bring to you today.

  • In this episode of How Things Grow, we revisit the early days or ridesharing - and look at how bikesharing is beginning to evolve. My guest today is my good friend Dan Riaz. Dan’s had a checkered career and an interesting life. Dan managed mobile acquisition at Zynga just when Zynga started to shift its business from web to mobile. He then joined Lyft when they were in just 4 cities to head up their mobile user acquisition. At Lyft, he saw from close up the ascension of the ridesharing industry - and its emergence as the widespread mass market phenomenon it is today. Subsequently, while he was at 500 startups, he worked with Grab Taxi in South East Asia, and catalysed the growth of ridesharing in South East Asia. Afterward, he worked with the bikesharing company Limebike, where he helped drive the early adoption of bikesharing.   Dan has been close to the action from the early days of ridesharing and bikesharing. He brings some amazing stories from the time ridesharing was practically at risk of being shut down by the law - to its rapid growth to being an integral part of our lives today. Dan brings a rare level of insight into the very many non-obvious forces that drive the economics of transportation that moves our world today. I’m very excited to bring to you this amazing interview with Dan!

  •     Welcome to this week’s episode of How Things Grow! In this episode we explore the business of conferences, and of bringing people together. My guest today is Jay Weintraub, who is a true master of the art of the conference. Jay is a man who has started and grown 5 conferences in wildly different industries - mobile apps, call marketing, HR, lead generation and insurance. His conferences are such well-oiled machines and attended by thousands of people - and I’ve always wanted to sit down with him to ask him about what makes conference-businesses tick. Irrespective of whether you’ve attended conferences yourself - or merely passed by a trade show or a convention center and wondered why these halls seem packed to the gills, you’ll learn what goes on behind the scenes in a business that is structured around bringing people together. More importantly, Jay will talk about his own journey from being a first-time conference organizer to his second act to where he is now, organizing 5 conferences a year. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that Jay is also an angel investor with over 30 investments and 5 exits. Jay is indeed a man of many parts - and one big reason I brought him on was simply to showcase the clarity of his thinking and his inner monologue during some of his biggest inflection points.

  • Welcome to this week’s episode of How Things Grow! In this episode we dive into the mechanics of ‘invite a friend’ flows - or referral marketing, testing ideas quickly and much much more. My guest today is the amazing Dominic 'DistroDom' Coryell. Dom founded his first company GarmentValet while he was still in college. He then founded the Talkable, which is one of the leading referral marketing companies in the world. He then became a partner at 500 startups, in which capacity he advised hundreds of startups on their growth. In his most recent role, he works as the VP Growth for the global shopping platform Grabr. Every time I meet him, he’s working on multiple new ideas and projects. In today’s episode, we talk about so much. We dive into how Dom recommends testing ideas quickly with minimal engineering effort. Dom gives some great examples, including one where he nonchalantly started a food delivery business over a weekend. We talk extensively about referral marketing - the ‘invite a friend’ offers that you see all over the internet and on your phones. We explore why the ‘invite-a-friend’ offers work, and how some of the smartest companies in the world structure their invite-a-friend referral programs so as to make a dramatic difference in their businesses. This is very much a masterclass on referrals - or invite-a-friend flows, which can often be innocuous yet very powerful parts of most digital businesses today.

  • Welcome to this week’s episode of How Things Grow! In this episode we dive into the nuances of how products go viral, about how companies and cultures are built for the long term - and much much more. My guest today is the amazing and wise Selina Tobaccowala, one of the most respected leaders in the Silicon Valley. She’s had an uncanny knack of reinventing herself, starting over and succeeding time and again. Selina co-founded Evite right after she graduated from Stanford, which was acquired by IAC. She then worked as the SVP of Product & Technology at Ticketmaster Europe. In her next role she joined SurveyMonkey as President & CTO when it was a 20 person team - and helped grow its revenues over 10x in the next 5 years. She is now a co-founder at her most recent venture Gixo. In today’s episode, we talk about it was like during the first internet boom when Selina started her first business Evite. We dive into the nuances of virality and freemium models. We also talk quite a bit about Dave Goldberg, the former CEO of SurveyMonkey who was a mentor to Selina. We go into health, the psychology of fitness - and how Selina’s new startup Gixo leverages both consumer psychology and technology to help people get fit.  This is a wide-ranging, in-depth conversation that I'm excited to bring to you this week!

  •   It's finally here! After months of procrastination and fantasizing - and many more months of eventual research, reachouts, edits and agonizing.... the first episode of the How Things Grow podcast is here! My guest today is a man whom I’ve admired for a long time. Adam Lovallo runs some of the best-attended conferences in the mobile apps space.But before Adam started his first conference, he cut his teeth in the whirlwind that was the daily deals space. He worked at LivingSocial, where he came in as an intern - and grew to be the Head of User Acquisition & Growth, managing 9 figure budgets and a team of 15 people. He saw the company grow from 4 people to 5000 people. He saw from close up the meteoric rise, slowdown, crash and steady-state settling of the daily deals space. We dive into so many things - including, surprisingly, the hyper-viral growth of early Facebook apps. Keep listening to find out why we go there. :).

  • How Things Grow tells the stories of the people who help companies, technologies and economic systems take off.  Each episode features an interview with one of the leading growth practitioners, entrepreneurs, experts or historians in the world today.   How Things Grow is presented by Shamanth Rao, mobile growth leader and writer. Shamanth is the VP of Growth at FreshPlanet, and led or managed growth leading up to two acquisitions in the past. He also was the travel editor of Mint Lounge(formerly partner newspaper of Wall Street Journal in India) - and has produced many acclaimed feature-length pieces as a writer.