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This is Your Life in Silicon Valley on Smash Notes

This is Your Life in Silicon Valley podcast.

December 28, 2019

Do you love HBO's Silicon Valley? Do you like reading about the latest technology trends? Then you'll love this show. Think of us as the real world/explain-it-how-it-is podcast for anyone with a Silicon Valley fetish. The Bay Area, San Francisco, and California in general are undergoing massive political and social change. We tackle issues like homelessness, the housing crisis, dating in the age of technology, startups, and other things you care about. How will it affect your life? It doesn't matter whether you live in New York, Texas, Arkansas, Bulgaria or Latvia - you will find something applicable to your day-to-day life from this show.

And love it, or hate it the Silicon Valley/The Bay Area/California are the center of the technology universe right now. Insiders, and Valley apologists liken the Silicon Valley to Rome during the Renaissance. Others are more skeptical of the people in the Valley and their intentions. We examine life in the Valley by interviewing some of its most prominent insiders - both apologists and skeptics. We discuss the cultural quirks of living here, what to legitimately fear, what to feel excited about, and what is just plain weird.

(Image credit: Irina Blok, Producer: Max Savage (

Episodes with Smash Notes

Lisa Fetterman is here to tell it like it is. She's a gifted entrepreneur and inventor, and she cannot understand why Silicon Valley doesn't care about female founders. This is a must-listen edition of the show featuring some great insight on how to fix the diversity problem in tech.

Updated on June 24

Special episode alert! Techcrunch reporter Kate Clark sent a tweet out about how she hates Philz Coffee. We decided to bring her on the show with Philz CEO Jacob Jaber to convince her otherwise. Hilarity ensued.

Updated on May 19

Dave Pell is the Founder of NextDraft - one of the most popular newsletters on the Internet. He also has an opinion or two on tech, politics, and the current state of our country. We deep-dive with Dave on numerous subjects, including BLM, the state of media, and what we can be optimistic about at the moment. 

We recorded this interview shortly after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests. Dave talks about the protests that took place in Marin County (where he lives) and what his take was on how effective they were. We ask Dave about Marin in general, and the perception that it is not a 'safe place' for minorities. 

Dave provides his take on the destruction of media and our lack of faith in it as an institution. And how Trump played a role, but was one part of the destruction of media. We ask Dave about NextDraft - his popular newsletter - and some of the hate mail he's received over the years. 

We learn a bit about Dave's ancestors and their perception of Trump. We have an extensive conversation with Dave about the future and the election, and how things could potentially play out. This is a 'heavy', but pithy episode of This is Your Life in Silicon Valley, which we hope you enjoy. Dave is one of the smartest and strongest voices on the Internet. 

Semil Shah is the Founder of Haystack - an early-stage venture fund. He's also one of Silicon Valley's most interesting personalities - he's been a chef, a media maven, and just about everything in-between. In a wide-ranging interview, we ask Semil about the future of media and the future of tech. 

We talk about quarantine life with Semil, and what he enjoys cooking most while sheltered in place (and what it's like to be sheltered in place with a full house). We talk about the gradual opening up of the economy and taking more risks like meetings with friends - and the overall sustainability of remaining in closed quarters constantly. 

Semil is a Twitter celebrity of sorts, so we talk about the role of Twitter in breaking news about the pandemic. Particularly the role of Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis) in sharing early news about the pandemic with people on Twitter. And whether he deserves an award for doing so.

Semil provides candid feedback to people in the media world about what the industry will need to do to survive. Semil has written for Techcrunch, run a show for them, and written for various other outlets so he has a unique take on the subject. You don't want to miss today's episode of This is Your Life in Silicon Valley. 

Amelia Lin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Saga. She's a career technologist and is solving a very timely problem during the age of COVID - how - during a time we can't interact with our loved ones - can we share and preserve their memories? 

We talk to Amelia about her journey through the tech world, including her experience in online education (which has obviously seen an enormous boom in the past few months). We ask whether it's really possible for people to receive the same quality of education online, and whether online learning is really the great equalizer. We talk about credentialing and whether the social skills you get from colleges really matter right now. 

Amelia talks about her current project, Saga, which exploded overnight. Saga helps our older relatives document their history in a user friendly way, and essentially recreate it in podcast form. 

We talk about the products' potential applications. Is there a possible future where AI can recreate how our loved ones interact? What if 50 years from now you could chat with your grandmother or grandfather as if you were having a conversation with them live today? Amelia talks about this and more during this very cool edition of TIYLISV. 

Dawoon Kang is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Coffee Meets Bagel. She knows a thing or two about building a successful business, and finding love during the age of COVID. So how have relationships changed as a result of the pandemic? We dig into this and much more during this Zoom-edition of the podcast. 

We learn more about the origins of Coffee Meets Bagel, which is one of the most successful dating apps on the planet. We learn how hard it is to start a business with family, but some of the rewards that come alongside it. 

We ask Dawoon the magic question - how will dating change during Coronavirus? Will human relationships fundamentally change forever, and if so how? Dawoon provides insightful answers to how she's seeing dating change, and whether if you're looking it's actually a good time.

We talk about video dating, Zoom fatigue and whether it's even possible to build meaningful connections during this time. And what things may be like when we re-open. Enjoy today's episode of the show. 

Jenn Takahashi is a San Francisco-based PR and Comms professional. She also started a viral social media account entitled 'Best of Next Door'. We talk to Jenn about how she started Best of Next Door, the future of online dating, and much much more. 

Jenn starts off the interview talking a bit about dating during the pandemic. We ask what the future may hold for interpersonal relationships post COVID, and what it's like going on a 'Zoom' date. Jenn provides some pretty good insight and ideas for those looking to continue to remain on the dating pool during shelter-in-place.

We ask Jenn about Best of Next Door, which she is now very famous for. Best of Next Door started as a social media account with a small following, but grew immensely popular. What were the origin stories of Best of Next Door and how does Nextdoor vary by neighborhood (we dig into SOMA specifically). 

We ask Jenn about the Seattle cannon, how she sources posts for Best of Next Door, and much much more. If you're looking for a pandemic project and want to start something that goes viral, you definitely do not want to miss this episode of TIYLISV. Enjoy our first Zoom podcast episode! 

Gina Fromer is the CEO of the Children's Council of San Francisco. She is also a 6th generation San Franciscan. She has seen a lot of change over the years to the city and its surrounding environment. What keeps her 'addicted' to San Francisco, and what is the *true* cost of living here these days? We talk about that and more in today's episode of TISLISV. 

Gina talks about her childhood in San Francisco and some of the adversity she and her family faced growing up in the city. She talks about her first encounter with the Children's Council of SF. Childcare is expensive and essentially unaffordable for most people in San Francisco. We talk about what Gina and the Children's Council are doing to get women back to work. 

Gina talks about the interconnectedness of the city and the importance of community. And how it is important for the tech community to remain engaged in community in order to ultimately make the city a better place. And to keep people in San Francisco. 

The city will lose out if we can't figure out how to get middle class families the help they need to afford to live in the Bay Area. Gina makes this point in an incredibly eloquent and poignant way. You don't want to miss today's episode of TISLISV. 

Austen Allred is the Founder/CEO of Lambda School - a company pioneering the ISA model (Income Share Agreement) wherein students only pay for their education after they successfully land employment. Austen is also a prolific Tweeter and thought leader in Silicon Valley. We discuss the future of Lambda, the future of journalism and more in this wide ranging interview. 

Austen is spending quarantine in Southern Utah - we talk to him a bit about his perspective on how long things will last, and how life is in Utah, away from Silicon Valley. We talk to Austen about differences between peoples' online personalities and offline personalities. Notably, Austen does throw in a controversial tweet here and there - we ask him about his thought process before tweeting and what his expected responses generally are.

Austen share his perspective on the future of education, shares his thoughts on why some consider the model of Lambda to be controversial, and the potential unbundling of education. 

We talk to Austen about the growing rift between technology and technology journalism and whether there is a 'path' to resolve conflict amongst both sides. We ask Austen about journalists he respects and follows on a regular basis.

All in all this is an incredibly lively interview with lots of fun tidbits about education, tech, VC and everything in-between. Enjoy the latest episode and apologies for audio issues - we recorded this remotely with two people joining via phone

David Pierce is the Editor-at-Large of Protocol - a new publication covering technology in a similar way Politico covers politics (with the same owner). We recorded this episode in January pre-COVID-19 - and asked David at the time - why was there increasing tension between technologists and journalists? 

David was clearly highly concerned about COVID-19 a couple of months ago - we dig in on why at the time he was concerned, which is a unique snapshot in time as to what we were all thinking just a few weeks ago. 

David talks about tension between founders and journalists. And how both sides can continue to do better. In an authentic moment, David recounts some of his own mistakes in covering companies and individuals and what he might have done differently. 

We talk about Protocol - the new publication David is working on and what it's like working on a publication during what many perceive to be a time where media is dying. David talks about the investment in great people and great content as a competitive advantage.

David talks about life in the Bay, including his horrendous commute. We cover a wide range of topics in this very interesting, and constantly engaging interview with David Pierce - enjoy! 

Tony Hale is a world-famous actor known for his roles in Arrested Development (Buster Bluth) and Veep (Gary Walsh). You would think someone who has won numerous awards and performs in front of people for a living would feel comfortable in crowds. You might be wrong. We talk to Tony about his struggles with anxiety, and a bunch of other subjects in this can't miss edition of TIYLISV. 

Tony talks about his temporary move to San Francisco for a play with the American Conservatory Theater and what it was like to adjust to life up here. We learn about what Tony did for outings, how he passed the time, and most important - his motivation behind doing the play to begin with (which might surprise you). 

We talk about Arrested Development and how it was one of the first shows everyone 'binge watched'. 

Tony talks about growing up in Florida and how that affected his view of the world. Tony currently resides in LA, so we talked about his Instagram and social media usage, and what people usually do when they recognize him on the street. Overall - if you're looking to limit social media use, you should take a page out of Tony's book. 

We ask Tony about fame, anxiety, technology and what apps he'd recommend to people. You'll love this episode if you're into pop culture. 

Cory Weinberg is a reporter for The Information, covering the intersection of tech and cities.  We wanted to bring Cory on the show to talk about San Franicsco housing policy, Coronavirus, and of course AirBnb. You won't want to miss this one if you're thinking about the housing crisis, or the looming AirBnb IPO. 

We learn a bit about Cory's background and why he emigrated to San Francisco. Cory talks a bit about his status as possibly one of the foremost experts in the Bay Area on the housing crisis. We ask Cory whether he's going to use the reporting platform he has to write a book an AirBnB (not to dissimilar to what Eliot Brown did with WeWork, or Mike Isaac with Uber). Cory  plays it cool. 

We ask about the affect of Coronavirus on Airbnb business and whether it's decimating enough to actually postpone their projected IPO. Cory explains some technical dynamics which may explain why they have to IPO soon despite having a (presumably) bad quarter post COVID-19. 

We ask Cory about his favorite social follows and who some of his favorite local reporters are. This is an awesome episode you won't want to miss. 

Justin Forsett is a former NFL Running Back who hailed from a small town in Florida. Justin's NFL career hit its pinnacle when he made the Pro Bowl. Prior to the NFL, Justin shared the backfield at Cal with Marshawn 'Beast Mode' Lynch. But what is life like after hitting the absolute pinnacle of professional sports? Justin talks about his second act as an entrepreneur. 

Justin talks about his days at Cal, and what it was like moving from Florida to Berkeley and the culture shock that ensued. Justin talked about his experience as a student athlete at Cal, which commands both high performance in academia, and high performance on the field.  Justin came from abject poverty, and he talks about life in FL, where he was homeless for parts of his childhood. 

We talk to Justin about his second act post NFL as an entrepreneur and the Founder of Hustle and Clean - a direct to consumer brand. Justin talks about his motivation behind starting the company while he was still in the NFL. 

We hear Justin's take on life in the NFL and what it's like to travel with a team full of athletes who have to keep a curfew. We ask Justin his honest take on whether Jimmy G can help the 49ers win a Super Bowl, and who the toughest guys in the NFL are. 

You don't want to miss this special episode of This is Your Life in Silicon Valley. If your'e an entrepreneur, a sports fan, or just a fan of hearing stories about people 'making it' after huge amounts of adversity, this one is for you. 

Prakash Janakiraman is the Co-Founder and CTO of Nextdoor - the 'other' social network that we all use, but rarely discuss publicly. Nextdoor has quietly amassed a huge userbase across multiple countries and is growing in influence. But are people using Nextdoor for more than just crime alerts? We explore this and more on today's episode of TIYLISV. 

We talk to Prakash about his time growing up in Hayward, CA and his HS mascot. Prakash talks about his time at Berkeley during Jason Kidd's tenure in Cal Sports, and the influence tech had on his life from a young age. He talks about living at home in college and joining Cal as a 16 year old. 

Prakash talks about his early career, and the first dot com boom. Prakash talks about the original idea that pivoted into Nextdoor - focused on sports. And how it morphed into ND based on the power of a NYT column from Charles Blow. 

We learn what people use Nextdoor for, and whether people use it for just crime alerts or more. It turns out the number one use case is not what you'd expect. We talk about competition in the space, and how FB and Amazon may be thinking about communities. 

We discuss Bay Area sports and whether Andrew Wiggins would make a great Warrior. Or whether Kyle Shanahan should have just run the ball in the 4th quarter. You'll enjoy this fun episode of the pod. 

Kate Clark is a technology reporter for The Information - a well-reputed publication read by tech industry insiders. In our first solo episode in a while - Sunil sits down with Kate to ask her about the state of journalism and tech. Are reporters inherently biased against tech companies? 

We talk to Kate about her transition from Techcrunch to The Information, and she dives deep into her first story - about Lambda School. Kate explains what Lambda is, and explains the concept of ISAs (Income Share Agreements). 

Kate talks about her beat - Venture Capital - and what about VC makes it worth covering. We ask Kate whether she thinks things have veered too far in an 'anti tech' direction, to which she provides a thoughtful response. 

Kate talks about Philz Coffee vs. Starbucks, what the future holds for her, and does a great job in her 2nd appearance on the show. If you're interested in tech companies and venture capital, this episode is for you. 

Adam Mosseri is the CEO of Instagram - which is arguably the most important social network on the planet at the moment. Adam also ran Facebook's News Feed product. In short, Adam has been influential in your life without you even knowing it - the decisions he's made have influenced how you've viewed your social media feeds over the past decade. 

We talk to Adam about how he wound up in San Francisco from New York - and what role a bad relationship my have planed. We ask him about his outlook on San Francisco overall - and whether government can fix the problems that ail the city at the moment. Adam voted for Mayor Breed over other choices and talks about that for a bit. 

We asked Adam about big product decisions he may have coming up over the next year, and he talks about the potential for election interference perhaps even over Instagram. This is a must-listen interview that covers a great deal of ground. 

We even asked Adam what his favorite startups are, and Lambda School made an appearance. 

How will the 2010s be remembered in Silicon Valley? So much happened - between the rise of Instagram, Facebook's dominance, Teslas everywhere, tech going from beloved to reviled... And the 2020s should bring even more fun. We have the return of two previous podcast guests - Molly Wood and Antonio Garcia Martinez - to discuss some of the decade's biggest milestones. 

We discuss whether the 2010s will be the decade that will be remembered for killing off love through dating apps. AGM and Molly talk about their own experiences both with dating apps and covering the whole concept of 'swipe dating' as journalists.

We discuss some of YouTube's most popular videos - including the streams of cabs from Russia. And Rebecca Black's Friday. We talk about the whole concept of celebrity in general in the 2010s and the short and long term effects on media. 

We make some predictions on what the largest companies in the world will be 10 years from now, and speculate on Facebook's position over that period. We talk about cultural artifacts of San Francisco and some popular trends. 

It was a short amount of time, but we did our best to cover as much ground as we could. 

When you look back on the decade in tech, one of the biggest stories will be the rise and fall of WeWork. And while the company is still around, it has shed around $40B in valuation in the past few months. At the forefront of the story is the mercurial Founder of WeWork - Adam Neumann. And a Wall Street Journal Reporter named Eliot Brown - who broke some of the now-infamous stories about the company. Today, we hosted Eliot as a guest on This is Your Life in Silicon Valley.

Tiffani Bell is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur working on a not-for-profit funded by Y Combinator. Tiffani's mission? Help people pay their water bills. The consequences are direr, and the stakes are much higher than you'd think.

We hosted our second live show in San Francisco featuring Amanda Bradford - the Founder/CEO of The League. We asked Amanda about why online dating is broken, what she thinks of all the major dating websites, and how The League's approach differs. We invite audience members to share crazy online dating stories at the end of this episode - it's a must-listen.

Tim Kendall is a Silicon Valley OG. Tim ran monetization at Facebook, and later became Head of Product At Pinterest (and eventually President). Tim is responsible for thinking through products that impact our lives on a daily basis. His latest mission is to get people to use their smartphones less through an app called Moment.

Susan MacTavish Best is a San Francisco cultural icon. Originally from Scotland and Canada, MacTavish worked in the PR business and got to know some of technology's top executives since the 90s. MacTavish now splits time between San Francisco, New York and London, and has a starkly unique perspective on how life in the Bay Area has changed in recent decades.

The podcast is growing. So we decided to take it to the next level by hosting our first ever live event - in San Francisco - where we hosted Oakland's charismatic mayor Libby Schaaf. We were nervous that we'd screw up somehow and forget to hit the 'record' button, but thankfully the conversation is intact. Mayor Schaaf is a great, great interview - for longtime listeners - or first-time listeners - this episode is a great place to start on our podcast. We cover a lot of ground - including homelessness, the 2020 Presidential Race, Sports, and more.

Pam MacKinnon is a Tony Award-winning Director. She's spent decades atop the theater world, directing shows on and off-Broadway. Andy Donald is a west-coast native but has spent recent years on the East Coast as an artistic director. Both are now part of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco (as Artistic Director and Associate Artistic Director respectively). But what is it like running a high profile theater in the technology epicenter of the universe?

Jessica Powell ran communications at Google. She's now a bestselling author. We asked Jessica - who has seen her fair share of PR crises over the years - how she would handle communications issues facing some of the top tech companies in the world. You might be surprised where she stands on various issues plaguing some of technology's top players.

Christina Stembel is from a small town in Indiana. She's now the CEO and Founder of Farmgirl Flowers - a popular flower company that gained notoriety as part of the 'Instagram generation' of brands. But Christina's story isn't very typical of Silicon Valley - she completely debunks typical Founder mythology.

Dennis Herrera is the elected City Attorney of San Francisco. He's also a straight shooter. In this can't-miss episode, we talk to Dennis about which company is the most harmful to San Francisco (we get a surprisingly candid answer). We also ask him about the growing divide between tech and government.

Mike Isaac is in charge of covering Uber for the New York Times. He’s covered the company extensively for the past several years and is publishing what will be considered the definitive book on the company. He’s also hilarious on Twitter.

Kara Swisher needs no introduction. She is one of the top business journalists and covers technology for various outlets. More recently, Swisher became a contributor for the New York Times Opinion section - and she has a lot to say about Facebook.

David White is a San Francisco legend. He is the CEO of Ne Timeas Restaurant Group, which owns Flour + Water, Central Kitchen and Trick Dog. He also has a knack for telling it how it is. In the latest episode of 'This is Your Life in Silicon Valley', we sat down with David to ask him about the restaurant industry in San Francisco, social media, and... did Steve Jobs really get turned away at Flour + Water?

Suhas Patil is a Silicon Valley legend, and an immigrant. He is a multiple-time successful Founder, and created the largest networking organization in the Valley - The Indus Entrepreneurs. Like father, like son - DJ - Suhas' son, is one of the most influential figures in technology today. We learn a bit more about Suhas' legacy, and how he paved the way for the success for generations to come.

Veronica Belmont is an Internet superstar and San Francisco resident. She also just got a tattoo. We talk to Veronica about everything San Francisco - from scooters to philanthropy to who our benevolent dictator should be.

Molly Wood is one of the top journalists in the Bay Area. We talk to Molly about her journey here from Montana, who it's absolutely impossible to cover, and whether tech billionaires are just like 'regular people'.

Patti Stanger is internationally famous - she is Bravo's 'Millionaire Matchmaker'. In part 2 of our series on 'matchmaking' in Silicon Valley, Patti explains why it's so hard to find love in the Bay Area.

Sam Lessin is one of the top minds in the technology world. He was VP of Product at Facebook, where he was instrumental in building the Facebook timeline. He's now working on a new company called Fin. But Sam is also a San Francisco resident, and has given a lot of thought as to whether the city can be fixed (and where it's headed).

Amy Andersen is the Founder of Linx dating and a legend in Silicon Valley lore. Amy was profiled in Vanity Fair Magazine in a now-famous article about 'Cougar Night' at The Rosewood Hotel. What you don't know about Amy is that she is one of the smartest entrepreneurs you will ever meet.

Antonio García Martínez is no stranger to controversy. He sold a company, was a key architect of Facebook's advertising products, wrote a bestselling book (which was critical of some of his old colleagues), and now lives in a yurt in Washington. Put lightly, he has some strong opinions.

Keith Spencer is a cover editor, and Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. They took vastly different paths to get to San Francisco, and have some strong perspectives on how the city can be saved.

Rick Marini moved to San Francisco from the East Coast and is living the Silicon Valley dream. He's a successful entrepreneur who has built a great life in a beautiful city. But the City is far from perfect. Rick talks about his views on San Francisco politics, what it's like to be a homeowner in a city where home ownership is unattainable by many, and what the future holds for San Francisco.

James Currier is a serial entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley. When you hear words like 'virality' and 'network effects' thrown around my tech companies and employees - keep in mind that James pioneered many of these concepts. So how in James' eyes has the Valley changed with the onset of celebrity culture? What has he seen through boom and bust cycles here?

Jessica Alter woke up on Wednesday Morning, the 9th of November 2016, and did not take a 'mental health day'. She got to work. What started as a Google Doc to organize like-minded individuals ended up becoming a large scale progressive movement called Tech For Campaigns.

Aarti Shahani has one of the most famous voices in Silicon Valley. She joins us for this week's edition to talk about her experience moving from New York to San Francisco, and some of the ins and outs of covering the tech scene here.

Broke Ass Stuart is a famous San Franciscan from San Diego. How did he make his way here, and why did he end up running for mayor against Ed Lee?

Hunter Walk is a Venture Capitalist and successful operator. He's perhaps best known for being the Head of Product at a little company called Youtube. So is everything Youtube accomplished good? We talk to Hunter about that and more.

World famous photographer, entrepreneur and investor Chris Michel talks about the changes San Francisco has endured over the past couple of decades - through his lens (literally).

Alexia Tsotsis is an entrepreneur, writer and was the former Editor-in-Chief of Techcrunch. What was it like being part of one of the publication that effectively created the hype machine around the tech industry?

We interview Eileen Rinaldi, the CEO of Ritual Coffee, about her journey into coffee culture.