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October 6, 2020 83 mins

Our new hyperconnected lifestyles have revealed weaknesses in the technology we use every day. But new problems lead to new solutions. That’s where innovation comes from. Phil Libin is probably best known as the co-founder and former CEO of Evernote. These days he heads up a company called All Turtles, whose latest project mmhmm wants to save us all from the Zoom-apocalypse and revolutionize how we will work in the future. Phil sets a high ethical bar for the creators of new technology, including himself: It’s their responsibility to think about the intentional and unintentional impact of their products, he says. Not just the impact on the technology’s users, but also on people who don’t use it at all…


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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
First Contact with Lori Siegel is a production of Dot
Dot Dot Media and I Heart Radio. It's very natural
whenever something like this happens to focus on the negative
because there's so much negative. It's actually much harder, but
I think ultimately more productive to also focus on what's
better than it's ever been, and how do we how

do we lean into that, how do we fix the problems,
but also how do we just like lean into the
stuff that's already better and make it exponentially better. That's
where that innovation comes from. So much of the innovation
comes from taking advantage and further exploring the things that
are possible now for the first time ever. I think

we all kind of cringe these days when we hear
the word unprecedented, but there really is no better way
to say it. We're living in unprecedented times. And while
it's easy to get hung up on a lot of
the negativity around us, Phil Livin also sees opportunity. Our
new hyper connected lifestyles have revealed weaknesses in the tech

we use every day, but new problems lead to new solutions.
That's where renovation comes from. Phil is probably best known
as the co founder and former CEO of ever Note.
These days, he heads up a company called All Turtles,
whose latest project, yes that's right, it's called wants to
save us all from the zoom Apocalypse. But before we

get to Phil, I want to tell you about something
new from dot dot dot. It's something I am really
excited about. It's our first newsletter called The Gray Area.
Each month, The Gray Area confronts the complex issues facing
technology and humanity, issues that aren't black and white, and
each edition of the newsletter will feature an unfiltered opinion
from a big name in tech. Our first contributor is

not so coincidentally, today's guest on the show, Phil Livin.
And if you're listening to this, it's out right now,
so don't miss out. Sign up at dot dot dot
media dot com slash newsletter. Okay, so let's start the show.
I'm Laura Siegel and this is first contact. I'm excited
to interview. You're a longtime entrepreneur, serial entrepreneur, as they

say in the business right you are a co founder
of ever Know you now co founded All Turtles, which
we'll get into and we have which is I'm not
just saying that for our listeners. That's that's a part
of all turtles, and we'll get into that too. But
you're just a fascinating entrepreneur and interesting voice. And I've
known you throughout the years, and we always start these

interviews with our first contact and how we first met.
And I am racking my brain to try to remember
how we first met. Do you remember that? I'm don't,
but I was probably I want to say that it
was like at some conference, probably overseas somewhere, but I
don't don't know why I think that. And it must
have been, I mean, it must have been when you
were full time too with ever know because I always

knew you as Phil from ever Knowe. You created ever Note,
which you know was very successful and and was huge
for productivity. So I think that's It's always interesting to
see founders do very different things throughout their careers too,
because you're in our whole different stage of your career
now too. Uh yeah, yeah, it's um. I think I

started my first company in inn so I guess I've
been doing this for twenty three years. That math right, Yeah,
I did that math right, twenty three years. I'm old. Yeah,
fight startup standards, that's significant. Yeah, what was your first company.
It was called Engine five because there was originally gonna

be five of us, but then two people chickened out.
We already bought the domain name, so we just kept
it as Engine five. We were one of the first
kind of dot com companies. I remember walking around saying
dot com, dot com a lot. We built, like shopping
cards for some of the first e commerce sites, Like
we worked for e Toys and Barnes and Noball and
stuff like that back in the beginning of the of

the kind of commercial Internet. And honestly, it feels it
feels like we're going through a similar thing right now
with kind of the emergence of video as a fundamental
thing for everyone. Yeah, I'm always fascinated by and we
can get into this these moments of disruption and how
it certainly seems like there's so much change happening right

now because of the pandemic, because we're all kind of
glue to our screens. To some degree, it certainly feels
like there's a lot of disruption, which is part of
why you're doing kind of what you're doing. But going back,
I read something about when you were younger, you grew
up in New York and the Bronx, and you said
something about how you just got into computers you weren't
cool enough to hang out with the games or something

like things wouldn't have me. I also, like, I want
because people can't actually see you, so I want them
to envision you right now, like you're just like this.
I mean, I don't want to say nerdy, but like
you have like lass you can say, you know, like
you're kind of like a nerdy guy, I like with glasses.
Like so that was a very funny statement to to
be coming out of your mouth. Can you tell where
did you come from? What was it like like and

and how did you get into this idea of computers
as a kid who just couldn't be accepted by the
gangs in the Bronx. Yeah. Well, so I was born
in in what used to be the Soviet Union, in
a city that used to be called Leningrad and St.
Petersburg and came over as refugees with my family in
nineteen seventy nine, that was eight I think. And yeah,

we settled in the Bronx and the right in the
middle of it a place called Parchester, which was pretty
you know, it's a pretty pretty rough neighborhood back then,
and yeah, I think I just got lucky. I remember
kind of begging my parents for my first computer, you
know when I was I think I saw my first
computer in junior high school and then probably got one

when I was you know, eleven or twelve or something
like that, and it's like an old Atari four hundred
and that was it. And then you know, for the
next however many decades it's been, I've been a dedicated
indoorsman sitting at home hacking around than my on my computer.
And it definitely let me survive the Bronx because it
would have been tough otherwise. Why what was I mean, God,

it must have been extraordinary to come to New York
during that time, like nine, right, like that just must
have been a really interesting time. I can't even imagine.
Yeah it was. It was. I mean it was so
different obviously from what I was used to, but you know,
at that age, like at eight, like, it's easy to
adopt to anything, so I didn't really don't think too
much about it, but yeah, it was. It was fascinating.
The neighborhood was, you know, it was extremely diverse. Um,

you know, school was very unpleasant, until I got to
until I got to high school, because basically, you know,
I barely spoke in English. I was I'm kind of
as a kid, I was very like punchable, you know,
like I was kind of I was like I think, well,
I had a combination of being of thinking of myself
as being smart, and so I was probably pretty smarty

and pretty condescending. But I also didn't speak English pretty well,
and it also very physically uncoordinated. Was exactly the kind
of kid that would like trip over my own shoelaces.
And we were poor, so I didn't have like, you know,
it was easy to kind of make fun of, you know,
whatever clothes I was wearing or something. So it's just
like a combination of things. The school was very much
not great, but you know, I had a computer, I

had a few really nerdy friends, and yeah, that was
that was good enough. And then by time I got
to high school, I went to Bronx Science, which is
kind of this like nerd magnet school, and so things
started things started getting a little bit better. After that.
I kind of followed the you know, the typical nerd
trajectory had a lot of good luck. What was it
about computers or what was it about that world that

was interesting to you. I remember it being like the
idea that I could write something and it did something
was kind of amazing. I'd like, just like learning to
program when I was you know, a little kid like that,
it literally felt like magic, right, It literally felt like
casting a spell, like I would like say these words

and write these symbols and then like stuff happened. It
was like the feeling of agency that I could actually
like make things happen. Was was was you know, pretty
significant and really really pretty good addictive, and of course
at that time, like no one really knew what they
were doing, so it was easy to like be a
teenager and know how to program and do it more

or less as well as professional programmers of the times
that they were like relatively with you. And so you know,
I was able to like get part time jobs pretty quickly.
And it was just a very very fortuitous thing. Like
if it wasn't for I have literally, like had I
been born fifty years earlier, I have no idea what
it could have possibly been doing. And you went on
to I mean I think I said, you've sold your
first company for like five dollars and something when you

were when you were really when you were very young,
very very Yeah. That was yeah in high school, and
that was before Engine five. So like in high school,
I started a company and we called it. We called
the Percest Data Systems because we took out the Dungeson Dragons,
Deities and Demigod's Book and we just kind of flipped pages.
We were going to call it Herme's first because Hermes

is fast, but then we're like, no, that doesn't sound right.
Harmies sounds sketchy. So we decided Percy's Data Systems was
the name. But yeah, we sold that for five hundred
five big ones were just five ones. But like in
high school, that's a really big deal, Like you must
have seen, like wow, like I'm onto something pretty big,
because five for an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley now is
like nothing, but like five d dollars in high school

is a pretty big deal. Yeah. I mean I was
working up Carvel ice Cream at the time of my
my you know, my summer job or like my part
time job was like scooping ice cream at carl and
I got fired from that. I couldn't. I wasn't I
was not competent enough. Why did you get fired? Would
you do well? I couldn't make the I lacked the
physical dexterity to make the soft serve cones, because you know,

when you're making the soft surf cones, you have to,
like you've got the cone, you've got the soft surf machine.
But you can't just like put the ice cream down
the middle of the cone, because then you wind up
giving away too much ice cream. You have to like
twist the cone in an angle so the ice cream
just goes around the edge but doesn't go inside the cone.
You're kind of cheating the customers out of they think
they're getting the full cone, but they're not. And I

just I lacked the physical dexterity to like turn it
in time. So I resld up like giving away twice
as much ice cream, and I got fired over that.
But I pretended in my brain I resigned for for
ethical reasons because I wasn't cool with like cheating people
out of half their phones. So that's what I told myself.
I'm like, no, this is this is unethical. I'm out
of here. But really I got fired because I just couldn't.
I couldn't do it. That's amazing. City constellation. I was

like the worst waitress ever in high school. So but yeah,
it looks like you went on to accomplish some pretty
pretty great things. So let's let's move on. Yeah, yeah,
great things. So you went on and you you co
founded ever Note, And I want to get to kind
of the whole disruption happening in media right now. And
while you have a cool background and all that kind
of stuff, but what year did you launch ever Note? Uh,

two thousand and eight. So ever Note was there was
two companies. I had just sold my second company, or
with similar process of selling my second company. If we
were in Boston with my and we sat around trying
to figure out what we wanted to do, and we
decided we wanted to We actually had this really good
discussion about this. We we said my first company was

this e commerce company, and then with the same team,
we after we sold that, we started the second company,
which was a security company that sold to like big
banks and governments. And we were we were sitting around
in two thousand seven saying, I'm tired of thinking about
what the customer wants, Like I just don't care. I
don't care what banks want. I don't care what governments want.
I don't care what e commerce stores want. I want
to make something for ourselves, Like what do we want?

So we just made a list. This is the same
co founders, and someone said, oh, we like video games,
we should make a video game company, and we got
excited about that, but then I was like, ah, there's
already so many great video games and I already don't
have time to play them, Like I don't think we
really need more video games, Like that's not our role.
Then somebody said, oh, we really like this new social
media stuff, and I remember getting excited about making a

social media company, but then I said, oh, but there's
already my Space and no one can beat my Space,
Like we just we're too late. So we decided not
to do that at And then he said, well, what
about productivity. We like like feeling productive, and like existing
productivity was basically Microsoft Office and it hadn't changed in
thirty years and it wasn't on smartphones, and so we thought, okay, yeah,
that's that's that's good. So we started working on in
Boston and there was this other team in California led

by step On Pachikov, who was this brilliant Russian American
kind of an entrepreneur in mentor, and he had a
team of people working on this like cognitive Presthesius idea.
So there were two companies and we kind of lauded
him together in two thousand seven and relaunched kind of
what what was the modern ever note. It's always interesting
to hear how these things come about, right, because you're right,

we have like a hero narrative and it's all this
kind of stuff. But it's like you guys are sitting
in a room being like, all right, we're sick of
hearing what banks want. We're sick of hearing what you know,
other people want, Like what can we do? And you're
sitting here being like, well, no one can compete with
my space. Let's do productivity, right, Like I know that's
you know, like in some in some way, shape or form,
like that's kind of the birth of every note is

like you couldn't compete with my space, you know, totally. Yeah,
we were like, no one, no one's going to beat
my space. That's too right, which like technically like wasn't
really true. I mean actually not technically that wasn't true.
Facebook came along and like annihilated my space. But yeah,
like in a few months, yeah, like a few months later.
But aren't you I mean, but technically, are you glad
that you didn't You didn't create like Facebook, they have

all sorts of issues, but or maybe who knows, you
could have created the next Facebook. But but every Note
ended up being a pretty interesting app. But a pretty
interesting time because two thousand and eight was a fascinating
time for for startups in tech. And I feel very
near and dear to two thousand because that's around when
I started covering technology, and it was such an interesting
time for technology and and you know, because I think

we were in a recession. There was a lot of constraint.
It wasn't really that cool to go to Wall Street.
And there were a lot of creative people, I would say,
like yourself, who were having to who were doing different things,
and who were seeing that there were a lot of
broken systems to some degree. And I think a lot
of interesting a lot of interesting things came about at
that time. And it seems like ever Note something that

kind of popped out of that time. A lot of
different technology came out of that time. Yeah, it was
I think, you know, technology follows these s curves. Something
big happens, is a big disruption, and then there's like
a ton of activity and a ton of investment and
huge amounts of innovation, and then things kind of slow
down and people start talking about, oh is the innovation over,

and you know, and things kind of get get to
a flatter point, and then right away there's like some
other new distruction and it kind of follows these patterns.
I can definitely trace those facts. You know. I started
working probably like the mid nineties, like four and there's
been a few of those cycles. Like first it was PCs,
just computers. Then it was the Internet, then it was mobile,

you know, then it was AI, and now it's all
of this. It's it's the hybrid world, it's video, it's
the post pandemic reality. That's what you think it'll be,
I mean, and so let's break that down. I mean,
you know, mobile, I remember mobile was such a big thing,
Like you know, two thousand eight, we had the recession.
You had the iPhone had come out, the App store
had launched, you had a bunch of entrepreneurs creating all

these ideas and encoding them into the hands of millions
of people, and that was such an extraordinary thing. And
then we've heard a lot about AI and where it's
going to go and whatnot, and you think the next
iteration really is is video and and some capacity and
how we're communicating with each other. Like right now, people
can't see us, but we're looking at each other over Zoom.

And you have a cool background, but that's much cooler
than my background, which is my staircase. But you have
like a cool virtual background that's not one of the
Zoom backgrounds. It's it's through your your company that we'll
talk about. But but you think that's kind of the
next area of disruption, because out of these periods come
of disruption. Yeah. Well, first of all, your real background

is much cooler than my real background because I'm just
sitting in my like tiny apartment, like in front of
a green sheet. Uh so yeah, And I'm kind of
glad people can't see us because it's like close to
a hundred degrees in San Francisco and we can't open
windows because Arizon fire. So I'm definitely not looking my
best right now. But but yeah, I think it's exactly right.

I think you get these massive disruptions and everything changes
It's very natural whenever something like this happens to focus
on the negative, because there's so much negative, and to
focus on the problems, and to to think about how
we how we might be able to get close to
what we used to have before. And it's actually much harder,

but I think ultimately more more productive to also focus
on what's better than it's ever been and how do
we how do we lean into that? Well, what are
the superpowers that we were all just given because of
the pandemic and the emergence of video And obviously there's
a lot of problems, but there's also some glimmers, there's
some things that are better than they've ever been. How
do we fix the problems? But but also how do

we just like lean into the stuff that's already better
and make it make it exponentially better? Like that's where
that innovation comes from. So much of the innovation comes
from taking advantage and further exploring the things that are
possible now for the sign ever. And it's just like
examples of that, Like, once once I started thinking about
it in those terms, I can see examples everywhere, and
then yeah, we could just we just double down on

the ones that we think are going to be the
biggest More from Phil after the break, and make sure
you sign up for a newsletter. It's called The Gray
Area and it's out today. Go to dot dot dot
media dot com slash newsletter to make sure you don't
miss it. I want to go back to finishing off

every note, you know, because I think we do tell
a bit of a hero story, right, and with every note,
I mean, you know, I just I always hate to
to interview people like you who are on paper pretty successful,
very successful in in Silicon Valley and moderately successful like whatever.
You're successful in Silicon Valley standards and and I you know,

and part of the inside baseball crew, and and people
come and and pitch you ideas for funding, and you're
doing all sorts of different things. But you know, being
an entrepreneur is really really hard and very difficult, and
they are all sorts of problems that come along with it.
Um So before we get into kind of the disruption
that's happening. Now you're a much more seasoned entrepreneur. Now,

what would you go back and say to yourself back then?
What do you wish you knew then? Well, I certainly
didn't create everythought. I created it with with several other
really really brilliant people, and I was very very privileged
to be part of that crew for a long time. Um,
I think seasoned entrepreneur is an interesting way of of

of putting it. And I only realized this very recently,
and I wish I'd realize it sooner. Imagine, like, let's
just say that you're a skier. Let's say you're great
at skiing. I'm clearly not, like I skied once in
my life and never again. But let's just say you're,
you know, you're a great skier, and you're like in
your twenties and you know you're skiing. I don't know, moguls,

is that a skiing thing? By the way, I skied
once in my life too. I'm you're not in You're
in a safe company here, Okay. But let's say, like,
you know, we all have friends who are good skiers
and they're, you know, let's just say in their twenties.
They're they're like going all out and they're they're doing
their jumping and they're doing kind of crazy things, and
you know they kind of know that they're, yeah, they're
sort of screwing up their knees a little bit, but
you know it's worth it because you know it's it's

it's fun and they're really good at it, and you
know you've gotta be a little bit careful. But um,
no one expects it by a time they're in their
forties or fifties, that they're skiing the same because people
are like, well, yeah, like, knees are hardware, so of
course there's going to be wear and tear, and they're
gonna you know, like, yeah, by the time you've been
skiing for thirty years, you know, maybe you're fifty, you're
a much more experienced skier. You've got thirty years of experience,

but you're just not gonna be as good. You're not
gonna be able to do the same stuff. It's just
physically you've kind of been banging up your knees for
thirty years. And that doesn't surprise people because they get
people think that knees are hardware, But somehow people think
that your brain is software, right. They think like, oh, well,
if you're running a company and you're doing all this
extreme stuff and you're an entrepreneur and it's all high
stress and it's endless days and you're doing it in

your twenties, Like sure, now, now if you're doing it
at twenty years later, like it must be easier because
your experience, right, well, yeah, it's your more experience, but
you've also been beating up your brain for twenty or
thirty years, and you know your brain is is also hardware,
just like your needs are and the stress and the
damage your cruise and you have to and and there's

ways to mitigate it, but you have to be very
intentional about mitigating it. And you can't do the same
things as an entrepreneur in your in your thirties and
your forties and your fifties as you could do, you know,
in your twenties. It just doesn't it doesn't work the
same way. And we're no one has taught that, Like
we're sort of taught to assume that, like no, no, no,
this is this is what you do. You go all

out and you know it's a it's a it's a
completely all encompassing pursuit, you know, being a startup founder
and yeah, and if you're on your fifth company. I'm
currently on my fifth startup. M is my fifth one.
It's like, oh, yeah, you've done all this before, so
it should be easier, and in some sense it is
because I've done a lot of it before, so I
kind of know, you know where the ski jumps are.

But a lot of it is harder because I'm you know,
three years older than the first time I did it. Uh.
And I didn't realize that. I didn't think of it
like that. I didn't think of the like the brain
is no more you know, software than your knees are
until until pretty recently. And I kind of wish I
would have and I think then I would have, you know,
I would have just been more mindful about what am
I doing to take care of my brain? And how

do I know? How am I managing stress and relationships
and everything else kind of on a more on a
more day to day basis. And I think a lot
of founders don't do that. Uh. And I think I
would have been a better CEO and a better founder
had I taken that seriously earlier and not been quite
so cavalier about what my limits were. So how do
you do that asking for a friend? Well, not very

well yet. Uh. You know, I guess the first step
is just being aware of it and like not brush
it off because I very much used to brush it off.
I'm very much like, yeah, that's that's not a thing
like work life balance, like what the hell's uh so
just being aware of it is important and then uh,
you know, look, I'm in San Francisco. A few years

ago there was a law pass that required all CEOs
and vcs to get into meditation. Like we've had those,
like a mindfulness bill. It was like strict penalties were
not meditating. So you know, I followed a law, I
started meditating, I became you know, more mindful. A few
years ago, I decided to take my health seriously. I
think when we first met, I was probably ninety pounds
heavier than I am now. Um, so you know what

I had to do. I had to start taking that
seriously and figure out how to how to get into
again some some some amount of mindfulness and amount wellness
and amount of you know, fitness, and just doing things
that I never considered important before because I never cared
about myself and I still don't care about myself that much.
I'm still primarily motivated by the impact. But what I

didn't realize before is that, like the impact I can
have is directly based on what kind of shape I'm in,
and if I don't care about myself, I'm just going
to be in very bad shape because like running a company,
especially startup, is very much physically damaging, and so unless
you take care of yourself, it's just it's it's it's
not it's not the way to maximize srint back. So

I guess if I had everything to do all over again,
I would have I would have had that realization when
I was twenty five, not when I was twenty five.
But then it's interesting. I actually think like the pandemic
has caused me to professionally adopt all sorts of behaviors
that I've never had before, which I am hopeful will
last post pandemic because they think they've been really useful.
Like um okay, so like, well, this is in the

spirit of like not focusing on what's not as good,
focusing what was better. So I thought, okay, man, um
I make this is gonna suck working, you know, remotely,
because I make so many important decisions, just like going
on a serendipitous coffeewalk, Like I'll run to someone at
the office and I'll be like, let's go, let's will
walk for coffee and then we'll walk for coffee and
it makes some important decisions. And I was very much

like an in person person impromptu like that, and I
can't do that anymore, how like how things? How are
things gonna operate? And I really miss that. And then
what I realized just in the past few months is
why I can't do that anymore, because I'm not physically
around people to go for coffee walks, but actually making
important decisions by randomly running into someone and then walking
for coffee is not a great way to make decisions

because like everyone else feels out of the loop and
it's not properly documented, and the people who don't happen
to be remote aren't like full citizens. And so the
fact that we couldn't do that forced me to say,
all right, well, I guess I have to like communicate
much more in writing over slack, over video. We have
to like make plans, you have to stick to plans.
I can't. I can't rely on the people who I like. Therefore,

there are the people that I go coffee walking with,
you know, like that can't be the the like I
have to I have to be able to work with
and make decisions with people who I wouldn't normally go
for a walk with just because you know, it just
didn't mesh as well. And that's harder. It's like harder
for me because I've had to change you know, twenty
whatever years of management style. But it's so much better,

right because obviously, like if like forcing myself to do
this right is much more scalable habits. And hopefully even
after the pandemic, like I'm going to be doing a
lot more you know, written plans and thinking about how
to communicate and stuff like that, because it's clearly a
cult water on a company. Yeah, we all to some
degree become more accountable and writing and and you know

in this form of communication to some degree, like um,
you know we live in Figma now. It's like a
love Figma. It's like my favorite part about you know,
going to work every day. It is like getting on Figma,
seeing everyone's doing, seeing what everyone's done from the night before.
Like it's great. And we have a lot of like
creative meetings in Figma. And at first I thought, man,
this isn't gonna be as good because we used to

do a lot of like brainstorming in person, would like
cram into a conference room and we like put put
you know, sticky notes on on whiteboards and like do
all sort of stuff like that, do that enigma, or
we can do something similar. But I thought, like the
creative brainstorming isn't going to be as good because we're
just gonna miss that like in person five. And and
it's true, we miss the in person five. But what

I noticed is like, all of a sudden, oh man,
I'm getting a lot more out of like the relatively
shy employees this way, because I guess it turns out
that like I can be an overbearing ass in an
in person meeting, and it's and I'm not quite know
that's harder to do when we're like enfigma and voting

on things by putting dots and so all of a sudden,
like I'm noticing the contribution of people who were frankly
like wallflowers before, and like that's amazing, right, because like
it turns out their talent and their productivity is not
correlated to like how willing they are to interrupt me
the CEO in person and say no, I think that's wrong.
So you know, we've like put it put up a
structure to allow that and all of a sudden like yeah,

I just feel like a productivity is just gone like
way up. So like that's good, that's a that's a
positive effect of this world. So how do we how
do we do more of that? So all sorts of
things like that. In fact, I think my my work style,
I've never had a period of this much change. I
think the vast majority of it has been for the better. Well,
that's um, that's great. I feel like I'm medium, Like

I think it's it's actually kind of dot dot to
be to be determined right on on my end, right
It's it's a it's a constant struggle. Sometimes I'm like,
this is amazing, and sometimes I'm like, well, you know,
not on precincure, because especially in the creative world, it's
e sometimes rely on those in person interactions. And so
I think that's it's probably a good way to segue
into what you're doing now, because it's you know, it
certainly feels like the way of like traditional video and

how we interact and this idea of remote work it
seems to some degree broken. If the future is remote work,
and I'm not I'm not sure what the future of
remote work is I think to some degree we're all
gonna want human connection when things open up again. But
will things ever go back to nor quote normal? You know,
I don't know if we will have a quote normal.

We've really seen that we can do a lot of
things easier over video and whatnot, and I think that's
kind of the premise for what you're launching, um with
right that I say it correctly, So you know, so
first of all, tell us tell us a little bit
what it is, and it's under the umbrella of all turtles,
which is you know, something that you launched a while back,

which which I love that you kind of compared it
to to Netflix, right, this idea of like the Netflix model. Um,
so that's a lot to kind of pack in there.
So so maybe we start with with all turtles. And
and it's this idea that you know, if we're looking
at technology, um, you kind of talk about tech being
a little bit broken and how they do things, and

you kind of like the Hollywood model, and that's how
your your next iteration of all turtles kind of came
about and is under that. So let's let's start with
all turtles. Well, uh, yeah, so we started all turtles
about three and a half or four years ago. Um
so basically after every note, I thought I was gonna
semi retire, and so I became a v C. I
became an a managing director of General Catalyst, which is

an amazing fund. But I realized after about two years
that I just wasn't like it. She wasn't very good
at being a professional investor. I didn't enjoy it very much.
But I think I didn't enjoy it because I wasn't
particularly good at it, and basically because like people would
pitch me and I would get excited about the idea,
and him on my partner at a General Catalyst at
one point, took me aside right in the beginning and

he's like, the mistake you're making is you hear these
pitches and you're excited about what you would do with
this idea. But that's like a terrible way to make
investment decisions about it, because you're not going to do
anything with this idea. You've got to get excited about
what these founders are going to do. And I was like, yeah,
that's actually totally true, because as the CEO, like I
hear a good idea and like I don't really care
who proposed it, like I can, like I can think

of all sorts of things. I can like assign people
to work on stuff, but totally not a venture works.
Of that and other reasons, it wasn't that good at it.
So I started All Turtles, which is a product studio,
and the idea was, we just want to build worthwhile
products for the world with as little nonsense as possible,
as little of the nonsense that the Silicon Valley style
like VC startup treadmill produces. There's just a lot, you know,

a lot of the myths that go around it don't
actually make any sense, Like what because can we just
talk about all of them right now? There's so many myths,
Like you know, I feel like there's just a lot
of stuff that just gets said and thrown around and
then people just start believing it and it's just like
a self fulfilling prophecy. So just name a couple, yeah,
and and and you know, because the conventional wisdom doesn't

get to be isn't true, right, It didn't get to
be conventional because it's true. The conventional wisdom like gets
to be conventional because like it's easy to repeat while
sounding smart. So there's like no no correlation between like
how often people say something and how true it is exactly.
Sometimes it's it's what's your least favorite one? Just get conils,
like what's your which which one do you hate the most? Uh? Well,

there's a whole category that I call focus. Uh, And
like focus is a thing that only existists like in hindsight. Like,
if you're successful, you've achieved exactly the perfect amount of focus.
If you're not successful, then either oh, man, you just
didn't do enough. You were like too narrowly focused and
you're like the tam the total addressful market wasn't big

enough in what you were doing, or oh it's like
too diffuse, you did too much stuff, and so like
you can only have the right amount of focus in hindsight.
Yet the most common advice visas give entrepreneurs is to focus.
And I'm like, oh, that is such a not useful
piece of advance because like unless you're coming back from
you know, ten years in the future telling me like
it's just not useful right now, you know. Another one

is um typically it's hard to invest in anything unless
you think it could be a multibillion dollar idea, and
so entrepreneurs are very much incentive to pretend that all
of their ideas could be multibillion dollar ideas. Otherwise it's
you know, it's hard to get investment. And that's weird, right,
Why why should that be the case. Why should it
be that the only worthwhile ideas are once that might

be worth many, many billions of dollars um. It makes
sense for vcs, like the way that VC math works.
That totally makes sense. But that's not good for the world.
That's not good for founders. You know, I did I
did this back of the envelope math when I was
starting Old Turtles. I did this back to the envelope
math and I looked at Now, this was back in
like two thousand seventeen, so it's changed a little bit
since then. The industry has gotten a little bit better,

but not not buy much probably. But I did a
little bit of math, and I said, Okay, what makes
you likely to get a top tier Silicon Valley series
A round done like just you know, just top tier vcs,
you know, the top twenty or thirty of them, top
tier A round? What does it take? And I did
a little bit of math, and it turns out there
was basically six factors that like contributed that predicted like

how likely you were to get a good, a good
a round from a tech VC and Silk Valley. So
if you were male, white, or South Asian between the
ages of seven, with a computer science degree or engineering
like basically with a Pewter degree from Stanford, and you

still lived within fifty miles of Stanford, if you were
those six things, you have like some some odds, let's
just normalize have to say one like some Obviously it's
still really hard and there's nothing wrong with being those things.
But like, if you were all six of those things,
let's just say your your odds are normalized at one.
For every one of those six things that you weren't,
your odds dropped off by an order of magnitude by

by by two to ten x for each thing. For
each of the six things. So a lot of the
deals that wound up getting done all six things were true.
And you know, sometimes pretty often it would be five
out of six, sometimes four out of six, almost never
less than that, Like the number of deals that only
three out of those things things things are true or

fewer very low. So if you were a you know,
forty year old woman in Tokyo that has studied architecture.
You know, you could be a Mozart level genius, but
you're not. You know, you're not getting into the to
the start up ecosystem. And there's a lot more people
like that than there are the people that meet these

six things. And so that's like a massive, massive, massive inefficiency.
And again I'm not like faulting the VC industry for
focusing on that, and a lot of them are getting
a lot better now because it makes sense, like you can,
you can, you can make a lot of money, and
there's a lot of great innovation that comes out of
those things. But how could that possibly more than one
tenth of one percent of the total possible important innovation
in the world. So yeah, so we basically made a

studio to try to not have that kind of lens,
to try to take a much broader lens. And uh,
we're working at it for about almost four years. It's
been really hard because it's a new model. But you know,
now now we're starting to see some successes. So it's
starting to feel pretty good right now. And yeah, is
our second spin out, So we work on things that
we don't when we started, we don't really care about
is it going to become a startup or is a

big company going to own it or whatever, Like, we
don't we don't focus on the legal and entity of
the product. First. I just want to make the product.
But then some things will then become individual startups and
spin out, and we've done a couple of those. Now
who is the latest, Well, it is interesting you talk
about those numbers are staggering, unfortunately, Like I could act shocked,
and I wish I had like more of like an
appalled whatever, but it's just like, you know, you covered

this stuff and it isn't even surprising, right, and you
know which is which is which is upsetting, but it's
just not even surprising, and it's interesting, you know, And
there's a lot loss because the types of products that
are developed just aren't as interesting and and aren't as
widespread and you know, won't impact I think the world
in the in the same way when they're developed by
the same people. And I think it's interesting when I

was looking through the portfolio of the folks on under
all Turtles, like I think replicas under there. We've done
a lot on on replica Um, which was founded by
Eugenia Kudia, who's fascinating entrepreneur from from Russia who is
creating these AI chat bots that people are befriending and
they're helping with mental health and there's all these interesting
ethical issues, but it's such a fascinating, fascinating, um use

of technology that could not be more human that I
almost feel like it would take such a different type
of entrepreneur, you know, and she's the exact type of entrepreneur.
I think that that is so interesting and so I
it was cool to see that in your in the
portfolio under there. And I do think what you're talking
about with the Netflix model was was interesting of giving
people the ability to just go kind of create and

looking at almost like Hollywood as the model for you know,
helping people create different companies. Yeah, we kind of thought
about it like this, like let's say thought experiment. Let's
say that you are one of the most naturally gifted
and talented musicians in the world, Like you are a
most art level genius musician, you know what, literally, like

you know, one in a million right now? Well, um,
what do you You don't have to make a music company? Yeah,
you just play and the platforms exist like YouTube and
others where if you're really like multiple level genius, like yeah,
your music will reach you know, billions of people and
you can focus on what you're amazingly good at. Let's

say you're one of these, like again, one in a million,
super brilliant you know, writers, you don't have to like
start a publishing company. You can write and a platforms
exist where you're gonna be able to to get to
a big audience. But if you're like a most art
level one in a million genius, like product creator, you
have to start a company first, Like we tell you, like,

oh yeah, that's a great idea. Here's the Wikipedia page,
and how to start a startup. Here's what a foreignite
evaluation is. Go raise some money, uh, and like first
become a mediocre CEO of this like fragile little thing
called a startup, and then we'll talk about your product idea.
What the hell? Like why why why would that be
the way that that we want to make things in
the world. You know, it would be like Stanford saying, like,

if you want to work in the physics department at Stanford,
you have to be a world class brilliant physicist. But
you also have to like play the clarinet at like
a professional orchestra level. Them's the rules, and like, you know,
if we did that, we would get a lot of
a mayor using physicists at Stanford were also world class
clarinet players. Because there are people like that, but like

not most of them. So why do we just why
do we like glomb these two totally unrelated things together.
Some people are great at being early stage CEOs and
are brilliant a product people, but for the most part,
those are not directly connected. So yeah, so so when
we said Netflix model, that's what we meant. It's like,
if you're one of the world's most brilliant like filmmakers.
Let's say you just graduated from you know, film school

and you're really gifted filmmaker and you want to make
a movie, You're not like, okay, right, so what do
we do? So first we have to start a film company,
and we have to get some money from seed investors,
and then we have to like hire an HR team
and then like we can like start making a movie. Right.
That's not not like what you're thinking is like, Okay,
I gotta pitch this to Netflix. I want my movie
made at Netflix or at HBO, and so that like

these full stack studios attract by far the best talent.
They make really creative stuff. It's not like they're making
drive with cookie cutter things. I mean, of course they are,
but also they make really ovision of stuff totally globally,
totally worldwide, like every in every like in in dozens
of countries in the world. And we just wanted to
do the same thing. We wanted to like, we wanted
to do that, but not for movies and TV shows.
We wanted to do that for tech products, which is

really interesting and and also kind of gave birth to
I say it again, so talk to me about It's
let's set the scene. It's um March maybe April, you know,
and we all start communicating and having to switch to
remote work. And it happened almost abruptly, and it was

clumsy and weird, and we had a lot of feelings,
and we're all battling our mental health and and you know,
and and things are getting lost in context, and we're
all having to deal with this kind of new way
of work, and the zoom apocalypse is upon us, and
and half the population figures out what Zoom is for
the first time and all these things are beginning to happen, um,

and then what is going on in your head? We
don't have to make this the perspective story, but like
the aha moment for you is what. Yeah, so we
were you know, we sent everyone home and went into
quarantine in early March. And at that point, I think
we had eight or nine things going on at all Turtles,
and you know, the world's falling apart, economies in free fall,

and we had an all hands meeting, which we never
really used to do before, but we decided, okay, well
now we're working over video, so let's do all hands.
So we did an all hands meeting, and I said, look, um,
my priority right now is not to fire anyone. Like
what I'm going to optimize for is I don't want
to lay anyone off. Like I just don't want to
lay anyone off during the pandemic. And like that's very
much not the advice that a lot of you know,
entrepreneurs are getting back then. But I'm like, and I

get it. I get that sometimes the right thing to
do is to immediately lay people off because you're gonna
have to survive. Like I get it. I just don't
feel like it. I don't feel like doing it. I'm like,
I'm like I'm old enough, I've done this enough. Like
you know, we had very little money, but I'm just
going to try to optimize for not laying people off.
And you know, it kind of got the team around
that and said, I said, look, these are the things
we're working on. Let's figure out what to double down on,

what to pivot. We can't assume that we can't get
any more investment, so assume that investment markets are totally done.
So basically we have to get to profitability. And then
we just all go heads down. And you know, the
team does really well on a bunch of different projects
or the teams and we're just working were just heads
down every day and it's it's hard, it's tedious. Everyone's
got different you know, life circumstances obviously. But we spent

a few months doing that, and then in early May,
I think I'm just sitting around just bored because of
how tedious living on video is. It's just like I'm
so tired and everyone looks so crappy, and it's like
and had this green towel camping towel at a green
camping towel, Like it's pretty small, and so I just
hung it up in the wall behind me. You didn't

cover the whole frame. We just had like a had
a stupid towel hanging behind me. And I just started
experimenting projecting like in Zoom, just like using the Zoom
green screen functionality to just put like different pictures on
this camp towel behind me, just to like liven up
the meetings a little bit. I think the first thing
I ever had there was like the like the super
frowny picture of Anthony Fauci glaring at that over my
shoulder as I would talk, and you know, and like

I started having meetings with this and I would show
art back there and people would like it and they
would laugh. And then I got Steve, who's one of
our engineers and our co founder at and we just
started hacking around with it, and pretty quickly it just
became obvious that like this was this was the thing.
So within a few weeks it went from you know,
the two of us kind of part time hacking around
like really as a joke, so kind of being like no,

I think actually, like everyone who sees it really wants
it and asks like, well, what are you doing? How
can I start doing it? And so we decided to
make it into into a product and it took from there.
But yeah, it's been really really fast. Yeah, and describe
exactly what it is, because you did a demo from me,
which is kind of cool and it's kind of like
this interactive experience of all the things were frustrated with

with Zoom kind of trying to optimize to make it
seem a little bit better. Is that a safe way
to say it. I feel like it's downplaying it, so
so you do a better job of it. I mean,
like the one the one second pages, it's it's it's
like instant weekend update. It just lets you very quickly
do this uh, very familiar style of you know, being
like John Oliver or like the dcaster or like somebody

on on s n L. So it just lets you
choose what room you're in, like your your your your
your physical room, and you have like lots of different options.
I'm sitting in this like little cartoon paperworld with cute
ducks and you know, clouds and trees, but you know
I can be uh, I could be in something that's
a lot more kind of fancy and realistic if I
want to have a fancy bookcase, or I know I

should say like for our listeners, like, first of all,
you just had like the weekend update kind of box
that like we see on s n L. And then
now you're you look like you're in like you know,
people have like these zoom backgrounds where their heads disappear
and it's like kind of upsetting in the middle of
like a presentation and no one wants to say anything,
but like you seem like you're in like a beautiful
apartment that like none of us could afford a New
York City. Right now, that's kind of like what I

would describe it as. This is like a fun game.
I feel like every background I can just describe it
to our listeners or something you just wanted. Oh no, um,
you look like you're like a grateful Dead fan. Yeah yeah,
this one, this one is maybe not not not for
early in the or you look like I mean, what
this looks like the smart drug phase of Silicon Valley
and your background right, um, it's kind of like a

A yeah, I don't like staying glass church windows with
a little psychedelic effect. How is that that's that's quite good. Yeah,
thank you should get you like write the descriptions for
these things, you know, creator storyteller done the last all right,
yeah yeah, okay. Second, basically I can choose you know,
I can choose backgrounds. This is a scrolling kind of

Game of Throne style, you know, paper map or something like.
I think this one is my favorite. Like this one
is like nice and calm, just paper waves. Uh. And
then I and then just have a screen and the
screen behind me. I can just show kind of whatever
I want to show. I can choose where you know,
where it goes, what side it's in. Uh. And I
can do presentations like this. So if I am um,

you know, if I want to present a slide, rather
than having to share my screen, I can just you know,
I can shrink and I can fly around the screen.
I can you point to things you know this way. Um.
So it just makes it really easy to um make
this really visually compelling communication. And I can do that
by myself. We have a copilot modes of two people

can do this kind of at the same time. I
can make recordings that are interactive and so it's a
it's a it's a way to liven up everyone's performance
over video, either like in a zoom call or or
you know, in a video call, or when making content,
when making videos, or as a replacement for sending boring
power points slides around. Yeah, that's the that's the main idea.

You know what's interesting is it's not cheesy if that
makes sense, right, Like you know, to to some degree,
Like you talk about your shrinking and people might not
know what that looks like, but it seems pretty seamless.
Like this sounds like geeky to describe over like a podcast,
but there is friction when you're sharing your screen and
everyone's awkward and in these video boxes, and I think
maybe the tech person or the tech journalists and me

kind of always says like, okay, something's broken here, Like
everyone's awkwardly waiting. People are hoping that they don't share
anything awkward on their screen, right, And when you do that,
it certainly looks like you're experiencing something different, right and new?
And can you do that in a seamless way so
I can understand, you know, the point behind it, And
so I think it's interesting to see all the things
you can do with it, right, And and this idea

of like I Zoom is going to be the future
to some degree, and who knows if once this is
all over, if we're gonna be on Zoom at all,
but I have a feeling that will be on Zoom
to some degree. Um, you know what is the upgraded
version of media and interactivity? And and that seems to
be what you guys believe that that which I want
to get into why you named it because Phil, I

I don't know why. I just feel awkward saying like
into the mic many times. But um, but you know why,
you guys believe that this is kind of the future
of how we interact with each other in the remote environment, right, Yeah,
I think that the initial idea and like the very
first product, like what exists now is basically it's really
it's really simple. Most people who are good at their

jobs in many many industries are also good performers. So
you know, if you think about like the best teachers
you've ever had, like those teachers like knew that they
were performers, and we're good at performing, and like the
best doctors are performers, and obviously the best journalists are
also performers, right, Like the best bankers or the best.
You know, entrepreneurs, like all of us have to perform, right,

all of us have these, like multiple times a day,
these like little micro performances where we say, like, hey,
like look at me, I'm doing a bit over here.
Maybe we're just doing it for our kids or our
friends or or our boss or whatever. And what's happened
is now that we were all forced suddenly to do
it over video. None of us knows how to perform anymore,
and so we've just lost a lot of the effectiveness

of everything because you lose the basic like showmanship and
the basic personality. If you're just an anonymous head in
a box on video and you know, like you're the
gestures don't quite work the same way, and you can't
like point if you're like showing slides. If you're doing
it in person, you can, like you can like practice
like how to how to point to things and then
how to like shrug. But if you're performing over zoom

and you're like just doing a presentation people, you're either
asking people to choose between looking at you or looking
at your slides and not both at the same time,
So you just lose like all of that basic showmanship capabilities,
and they just made everything worse, like shockingly worse, because
all of a sudden, we went from a world where
people who were kind of at the top of the
game inherently knew how to be somewhat memorable to none

of us know how to do this now, And so
we were just trying to fix that. We were just
kind of trying to say, like, there's actually no reason
that stuff over video needs to be boring. In fact,
like obviously we have TV, right, we have Saturday Night Live,
we have movies. There's a whole industry is the people
that know how to be quite entertaining over video. It's
just that the rest of us don't. And actually those
those people don't either over zoom because it's a very

different tool set. So can we just improve people's performance?
Can we just reinject some personality into this? And so
we we thought, you know, we thought a lot about
and what you did in the product. We were like
and we decided specifically, like we are not a communication product.
We're not a collaboration product. We're not like where your
team gathers to do work. Like we're not trying to

replace Figma or Slack or any of these other things.
We improve your performance, Like what what you do is
you perform, you have a micro performance, and we're very
focused on that, and there's just not a lot of
people doing that. Surprisingly, I think there's gonna be now,
so that that's that's it. Like that's the basic idea, right,
is like we were all boring on video, but we

and and and being boring is bad because it makes
us ineffective in our jobs as part of why you know,
online learning is so difficult, But there's no reason that
that education over video has to be boring. Like I was,
you know, back back in the real world. I was
on the speaking circuit once in a while, through some
poor set of decisions, people would pay to go and
give a talk about something, usually entrepreneurship or something something right,

and you know, I'm okay at it, like I was.
I was an okay professional speaker and uh I was
talking to my speaking bureau a few months ago and
they're like, man, yeah, like online, like the whole industry
is just dead. Like no one wants to pay for
people to give speeches online because they're like they're boring
and it's like they're not engaging, and like you can't
compete with like people's kids running around and you can't

hold their interests. And I'm like I can, like you
you can't because you suck at speaking over video, but
like when I do it, it's okay. And like, you know,
those people had the same kids running around last year
when they were watching the final season of Game of
Thrones and they had no problem, like HBO had no
problem holding their attention. So let's just like, let's just

not try to replicate the old style. Let's do something
native to this medium, and it could be quite good.
And when I give a speech now about you know,
naming or branding or whatever, like, it's much better than
I used to do it in person because I can
like fly around the screen and point that they with
my head and show graphs and I couldn't do these
things in person before. So so that was really the idea.
It's just like, let's just make people entertaining again so

that the world can start being effective and not like dreary.
And then from there it obviously became a much bigger
thing because I think you're right. I think this is
a once in a generation transformation of the entire world.
So what does that mean for how we communicate. When
you say this is a once in a generation transformation
of the world, what, as a tech entrepreneur do you

think will be completely transformed? Well, um, so I think
the main change is this, right, is that everything is hybrid.
And you know, for your listeners, I just put up
a slide that says everything is hybrid, very literal. So
everything is hybrid from now on, and really hybrid. I
think like this, I imagine the spectrum of in person

who online. Right, there's like some stuff that's in person
and some stuff that's online, and then there's a different
dimension of law ver super recorded. So if you kind
of cross these two things, you get a you get
a two by two. You get four quadrants right in person, live,
online and recorded. And in the before times, you know,
eight months ago, almost every experience fit neatly into just
one of these quadrants. Right, So for example, like music

concerts were in person and live what and like doctors
visits were in person and live, but like YouTube videos
were online and prerecorded. And it was pretty rare for
something to exist in more than one box once in
a while, but pretty rare. And the big change now
is because we're doing so much stuff over video. The
boundaries between these boxes is melting away, and we can

rebuild every single experience as a combination of live plus
in person plus prerecorded plus online. We can like we
could remix each of those things. And this is a
massive transformation and it will continue after we emerged back,
you know, blinking into the sun, because it's better than
it everyone was before. Like, for example, for healthcare, right,

like if I had to you know, make an appointment
to see a doctor before, you know, eight months ago,
I'd have to like pick up the phone and like
be on hold and then like schedule an appointment and
then drive to a doctor's office and then sit in
the in the lobby and wait and then like finally
get in person and and talk with the doctor who
was like trying to get me to get rid of
me as quickly asponsible because you have to see you know,

fifty more patients. Why, Like I'm never doing that again, right,
It's obviously much better to just be able to like
hop in online and not drive and you know, not
have to wait and you know, get a lot more attention, uh,
and have things explained to me kind of correctly. And
also like the doctor doesn't have to explain everything to
me live. I can just you know, click around and
do stuff myself. And if I need to come in

person for some you know, lab test or something, then
I can do that. Otherwise things give me out to
my house. Like that is the hybrid experience. And it's
better than the than the only in person experience. And
I think the same thing is true for education, and
for sales and for all of these other things. It's better, right,
It's better if you and still maintain some sense of humanity.
Because what I think we all struggle with right now is, um,

you know this, this experience right now, Um this is
great because we have the things in the background and
I can see you more animated and whatnot. But man,
if I were able to see you in person, wouldn't
be extraordinary. We haven't seen each other in so long,
you know. And and so how do you replicate and
not replicate because you talk about not wanting to replicate that, right,
But how do you recreate a new experience that feels

rewarding and human and how do you utilize technology to
do that? Because right now, I think and and we've
I've talked about this for a long time. But technology
does make us and we were in a moment where technology,
we're all questioning, does make us feel lonelier, worse. You know,
we're we're looking at this information, we are looking at
like a time where kind of the pendulum have swung

one way and we are at a moment in the
pandemic where we're relying on a lot of these these
platforms to make us feel better and they're not necessarily
bringing us more human action, and if anything, it's kind
of quite the opposite. Yeah, I think I think it's right.
I think there's um, I think there's kind of two
really important philosophical concepts of what you just said. One is, yeah,

you're totally right, Like it's not about replicating the old reality.
That's that's a really big thing, right, If you think
about replicating the old reality and with a new set
of limitations and technologies, like, it's always going to be
disappointing because the old reality was built using the old
technology and limitations, and you can't replicate it. So if
you if if your success is like how close can

you get to the old reality, You're always going to fail.
So you can't replicate it. You have to. You have
to redesign it right, you have to do it native
to the new reality. The example here is um imagine
some of the very first movies ever made, like the
earliest films, you know, from the teens and twenties and twenties.
They had film cameras, but they hadn't invented anything else

about movies, and so what they knew was theater, and
so they were just trying to replicate the the old reality,
which is actors on the stage, and so they were
just like film actors on the stage. And early films
are really weird because that's all they knew. They hadn't
invented like close ups and two camera shots and cutaways
and editing. But a few decades later you had the
first like native to cinema, you know, directors, and they

invented all the stuff, and we had movies, and movies
were a totally different thing than theater. But for a
while people were thinking of them as like, oh, it's
a very poor substitute for theater. I used to go
to plays here, and like now they converted it to
to a movie theater and they show these movies and
it's just an inferior version of theater. Well, yeah, because
they were just trying to replicate theater. Took a while

for it to become a totally new thing. And the
same thing happened with television, and obviously the same thing
happened with you know, with with smartphones. Right, So when
we started Every Note smartphones, we were a new thing
in existing companies knew how to make desktop apps, so
like Microsoft knew how to make Microsoft Word, and so
the first generation of smartphone apps were like a shrunken
down version of Microsoft Word to fit on a smaller screen.

But obviously, like that's not that isn't what anyone wanted.
So it took a few years for things like every
Note and Dropbox in Uber and Airbnb to come around
to be like, these are native. We're not trying to
replicate computer PC applications on your phone. We're trying to
make a totally new thing that couldn't be done before.
The same thing is happening with video, right, like zoom
saying okay, so meetings, right, meetings were a bunch of

boring people sitting in a boring room together for an
hour with an agenda, and they can't all be in
the same room together, how do we get as close
as possible to a bunch of boring people sitting in
a boring room, but with computers, And yeah, like it's
never going to be as good, But that's that's the
wrong design goal, right. You have to be like, well,
what the hell were the meetings there for in the
first place? How do we how do we reimagine them

totally differently? So this is always the fristion, right, Like,
it's never going to be as good as it was before,
and we're always going to feel sadness for the things
we've lost, and that's fine, that's supposed to be that way.
At the same time, in many ways, you're going to
be better than it's ever been. But those ways are
different and we need to like lean into those. Something

can be great and terrible at the same time, Like
great and terrible are not opposites. Good and bad are
not opposites, right, Like, something could be very good and
very bad. They don't average out, they don't cancel each
other out. And like the world we're living in right
now is very bad and also kind of good in
some ways, but not like not in a way that
you can average and come up with like an average score.

And so it's both so like, yeah, like I miss
seeing you in person, and I hope that we do
see each other in person, you know, at some point
when when we can come back out into the real world.
But I also think that this conversation right now we're
video is maybe the best conversation we've had so like
it's it's it's both good and bad. More from Phil

after the break, and make sure to subscribe to First
Contact wherever you listen to your podcast, see don't miss
an episode. When we look to the future, um, even

of this platform, right you're you're absolutely right, Like I
think maybe when we think about disruptive technology to some degree,
we have two mourn what we lost and then think
about all the amazing things that can come. And and
so I'll take this two ways. First, where will we
see this go? Right like, because this can be sure
for remote work, but as even a journalist or as

someone who was on CNN for a decade, right like,
I could see people building a channel over this. I
have a friend who's a magician who's doing zoom magic
right now, I could see that. I mean, like, where
where are you seeing? This is in beta? It's closed
beta right now, but people can sign up to be
a part of it. But but where do you see
this going? You know, this layer that you're building on

top of video, Like, where do you see the promise
of this? I think, um, I think for people, for
for for individuals, for consumers. I think we're kind of
creating this big new industry that we're calling a PvP
for personal video presence. The idea is, um, if you think,
you know eight months ago, how many of us had

to conduct important part of our days over video, It
was pretty very few people. But now just about everyone
has to do like something important over video just about
every day. And that's going to continue even after we
come out of lockdown, because these hybrid experiences are going
to be better, right, So there's always going to be
something that we're doing on video and like elevates that

we we make your performance over video better. We we're
the thing that sits between my face and the rest
of the world during those times where I'm interacting with
the rest of the world over video, and I think
that's going to be a ubiquitous thing. Everyone is going
to be doing this at least a certain amount of
the time, and hopefully not just as a substitute for
in the real world, because right now it's a substitute

because we can't see each other in person. But hopefully
over time it won't be a substitute, will be in
addition to because it's better and for for companies, for organizations.
I think it's an even more profound transformation. I never
like using the word disruption. I don't know, I don't
know why. It just feels because like everyone instilic at valleys,
is it right, I guess so, yeah, yeah, But it's

it's an even bigger transformation, which is uh, we're still
calling it PvP, but instead of personal video presence, we
think it's professional video presence. And and this is like
similar to you know, where we started this conversation, like
when I when I made when we when we started
my first company, Engine five and right, we were figuring
out like what percentage of companies would be on the
internet and some people said, you know, so people said

two percent and we said, you know, probably, And the
same thing is happening now right like eight months ago
and before times what percentage of every like school, Jim restaurant,
you know, club business store, like what percentage of all
the organizations had to conduct themselves over video at least
some of the time. It's like a very very few,

but now close to And so just like in the
late nineties and early two thousands, we went from one
percent of like organizations being on the internet to we're
going to go from like one percent of the organizations
being on video to very soon. And it's going to
change everything. It's going to change again the way that

we get healthcare, in the way that we have meetings,
and some of the changes will make us miss the
before times, and some of the changes will be ridiculously
better than they were before. Because of the way the
human brain works, we tend to focus much more on
like the feeling of missing something, such a moment for

an estalgia too exactly definitely, like those of us who
remember it will definitely miss like the good old days,
and we'll remember them as having been better than they
really were. Yeah, but we'll also like very gratefully accept
all of the improvements and like those will pretty much
go without comment. Well all of the all of the
stuff that's better will be just be like automatic. You know,
I remember being in in the newsroom and being part

of the before I even started covering technology. I was
doing breaking news at CNN, and I remember the I
Report days and when Twitter was beginning to get big.
And it was amazing because there's two thousand and two
nine and everyone was able to be their own news
reporter to some degree. And it was the democratization of information.
And it was just such an incredible time. You know,
the plane went down to the Hudson and and someone

tweeted that infamous image of people walking across the plane
in the Hudson and getting to safety and and and
these were the days where we saw the power of
disruptive technology to let us all be journalists to some degree.
And and so when you when you talk about, you know,
letting us all be professional video folks, right, my head
goes to, wow, this is incredible because you know, we

can all to some degree be professional when when it
comes to zoom and when it comes to being able
to represent ourselves better and be more professional and almost
like I I think to like almost have like a
news channel or in my background and and look much
more slick, you know. I I also go to the
unintended consequence, right, and I think about, okay, so what
are the things you're thinking about as you're building out.

You know, it's not necessarily like a platform, it's software
to go on the platform, right, But you know, I
just did a did a whole investigation into q and
on right and spent a lot of time in the community,
went to the rally and and you know, really it's
these are folks who believe in that they are the news.
And so not to say worst worst case scenario, you
have these folks who have these millions and millions and

millions of people online who are getting kicked off of
Facebook and Twitter who decided to create their own, you know,
their own zoom channels, and they're using slickly produced software
from you guys to to look even more relevant as
they're putting out conspiracies that aren't true. But you know,
so so this is where I play devil's advocate and
asking you know, what what are you guys doing and

what are you guys thinking about as you're building this
early on, knowing all we know now about what tech
companies have struggled with over the last you know, five
ten years, with the rise of misinformation and with you
know that these um these struggles over free speech and
hate speech and the spread of conspiracies and all that
kind of stuff. I'm sure you're having conversations about it, Yeah,

a lot of them. I think the important thing is technology.
If we don't we don't know yet. We don't have
all the answers, but we do have a particular point
of view, and we have we've at least identified the questions.
And one thing that I'm really committed to is I
hate this notion that technology is neutral. That technology, Oh,

technology is neutral. It could be used for good, it
could be used for bad. I don't buy it. I
think that's that's kind of lazy. I think it's you know,
it's passing the book. But I also think that's a
big deal that you say that. And I say that
as someone who's talked to many different founders throughout the years,
like as long as I've covered tech, like you talk
to entrepreneurs who are building platforms and they say tech
is neutral, can be used for good or bad. It's
a reflection about humans, like you know, and they build

platforms on this we're just the pipes, and and that's
you building something saying like, hey, that's lazy, like that's
a I don't know, that's like a pretty big deal
to to kind of come out in a strong way
and say that, I mean, I maybe it's it's it's
how I've felt for a long time, and it's how
I think a lot of the people that that I

work with feel. So it's certainly not new to that
to the ethos of all turtles of of kind of
how we started it. The whole point is, look, technology, Okay,
fire is neutral. Right when it occurs in nature, it's neutral,
it's just fire. As soon as you like make a
product that uses fire, that's not neutral anymore. You've expressed
an opinion about how you want fire used in the world. Right, Like,

technology is not a naturally occurring thing. It's a it's
a very intentionally built thing. And whenever you do something intentionally,
you have a point of view. You can try to
conceal that point of view, you can try not to
think through it enough because you maybe don't care. But
like you have a point of view, you have an
actual effect. Right. Any technology that's been high impact by

definition has like moved the world in some way, and
it's absolutely the responsibility of the creators of that technology
to say what direction do they want the world to
move in by releasing this product of this technology intentionally,
Like what do they want? And then how do they
know if it's doing that? And how do they know
if it's doing something else that's you know, maybe unintentional,

But it's their responsibility. It's it's our responsibility as technologists
to worry about the intentional and unintentional uses and the
effects of our products, not just on the people who
use our products, but just as much of the people
who don't use our products. So, like when you're in
the closed door meetings with like, what are you thinking about?

Is like the unintentional use of the software that you're building? Like,
what what is the jam session of worst case scenario? Well,
I mean the one that's top of mind is exactly
what you said, right, It's like, how do we what
if people start using this for really harmful things like
spreading for the division, intolerance, you know, conspiracy theories, things

that are you know, bad for science, bad for society.
I mean, that's the that's the that's the easy one
to think of. Um, there's probably lots of other things
that we don't know about that we haven't thought of.
So the question isn't just to like identify the things
that we think might go wrong and try to prevent them.
But how do we have a structure so that we
can identify things that go wrong that maybe we haven't
thought of? I have a time. It's the I call

it the digital canary. You know, it's like the canary
in the coal mine, right, Like, how do we how
do we build digital canaries that are the early warning
signals for something is happening as a result of our
product that that we don't like, And then how do
you do how do we stop it? So we've well,
so we made some rules. We started with with kind

of three rules, because you know, three is a good
number to kind of guide us in this. They're similar
to the rules and I ever, note I published are
three rules of data protection. These are similar. We're just
going to rEFInd them a little bit that basically they're
all written to be tautologies. They're all written to sound
like very obvious, like A equals a eight, because I
think like the whole point is all of these rules
are very obvious, and the fact that not every company

does them is kind of the problem, Like they should
be really obvious. Um, So the first one is is
just your data is your data. They're all written like
this are all A equals A. So your data is
your data, which means that it's not our data, it's
your data. So you entrust us to hold down to
your data for some amount of time to run the
service or whatever. We have to treat it as this
like valuable thing that you have trusted us with, but

it's not ours. We don't own it. It's not up
to us what we do with it. It's up to you,
which basically means that we're gonna try everything possible to
keep you data private. We're gonna try everything possible to
keep your data safe because it is a valuable thing
that you have entrusted to our care for a temporary
amount of time. The second rule is the product is
the product? Right, I thinking this sounds it's almost stupid sounding,

right to say the product is the product? Yeah, because
for so many companies you don't know what the product is. Uh.
And you know, there's a common saying where like if
you're not sure what the product is, then like maybe
you're the product. And what we're saying is like, no,
our our users aren't our product. Our product is our product,
which basically means that we'll never sell your data and
we only allow for it everything we do at all turtles,
it's only direct revenue. We don't have anything that we're

monetizing your data. We were selling advertising, not that there's
inherently something wrong with that, but that every time you
do that the product is something other than your product,
you wind up with these structural business model conflicts. Like
Facebook makes money because it wants you to stick around
long enough to click on things. And the way to

get you to stick around longer is to get you
into a heightened emotional state. And the easiest heightened emotional
state to generate algorithmically is outrage. It is much easier
to like algorithmically generate you know, tribal outrage than it
is to generate you know, love and a feeling of
like blissful joy. So the business model is like keeping

you in a heightened emotional state. Therefore, there's just gonna
be a lot of a lot of ships spread around.
That's like very negative because of this fundamental conflict. Right,
Whereas like Wikipedia doesn't have that as a business objective,
Like they don't care how long you stick around. They
just want you to like learn something and of course
it's a vastly different experience. And remember when Wikipedia came out,
we would all like laugh about like, oh, I can

remember Stephen Colbert doing jokes about how like, how is
anyone going to trust this, like anyone connected? Right, But
it turns out it's like the most trusted side in
the Internet, even though it's like anyone connected. You would
think it's totally susceptible to to all of the manipulation
that happens at Facebook and Twitter because it's like much smaller.
Like I'm going to say something that I have no
idea if it's a true statement, but it sounds really good,

So it's very very that's very twenty funny if it's
any consolation. Yeah, but I'm admitting that this is I
have no basis for this other than it's I'm going
to say that Facebook like spends more money on or
at least used to before the pandemic, like spends more
money on office snacks than like Wikipedia's entire operating budget. Um.

And yeah, like, we don't have this confirmed to our listeners,
we don't have this confirmed, but okay, okay, it might
be true. It sounds like it's true. M I had
get there, and they do have lots of good snacks.
You know, they have great snacks. Go ahead. My brother
used to work for Google in the mid two thousands.
I had so much food and oh my god. Um uh. Right.

But like Wikipedia, because it doesn't have the structural conflict,
manages to be one of the most trustworthy sites around.
So so that's the second rule, right, the product is
the product. And then the third rule is our community
is our community, which basically means that it is our responsibility,
Like we are inviting people in, it is our responsibility
to make sure that people are using us for the

stuff that we want in the world, and not the
stuff that we don't. And here the ideas. We have
to have a strong point of view about what we want,
and we have to spend a ton of money and
time and resources promoting and highlighting and sponsoring and curating
the stuff we want. Like, we want to spend a
hundred times the amount of resources on making sure that

there's worthwhile, beautiful, important things made and shared with Like
we have to actively spend money and time on that.
And I want to spend a hundred times more on
that than I do on getting rid of the stuff
we don't want, but that's also equally important, Like we
also have to like get rid of the stuff we
want because it's our community. So does that mean you
won't let uh, there are people on the no list?

Like that means as people begin to sign up, as
you begin to open up, it's automatic no if you
find out there in you and on community or they
are you know, members neo Nazi is it is there
a point you talk about having a point of view
early on? So what does that actually mean? Yeah, I
hate your Nazis and I'm not going to let them
on the platform. If it's in any way possible to

do it. You don't have to get more complicated, right,
Sometimes we can't prevent it obviously, right, Like you're not
especially like if you're just using the way that you
and I are using it, which is we're just on
a zoom call, right and I'm using it like because
of rule number one, your data to data, we're not
spying on that, right, So we don't see what everyone
is doing like internally, So if you know Nazis want

to use it on their you know, internal zoom calls,
we're not going to find out about that, you know,
we'll we'll make it against the terms of service. So
you know, if they want to follow the law, they
for that. But as soon as the someone post something
publicly or shares it, or we find out about it,
then if if at all possible, we will stop it.
But you know, it's not it's not a magic solution.
But we're also not going to pretend that we owe
freedom of speach to the Nazis. We don't. And I mean,

but then there's also I mean, the technology is run
into problems, like even look at you now, there's a
lot of gray area here, right of like what is
acceptable and what's not, you know, what crosses the line
and what doesn't. I think this is where tech companies
are running into trouble. I think Facebook got into a
lot of trouble for not cracking down early on, and
then technically some of the stuff didn't fall into the

wheelhouse of against their terms of service. Right. Yeah, but look,
let's just say there's always gray areas. But I often
think the gray are is a little bit exaggerated. So
let's say you know you're having you're having a house party,
You've invited people to come to your house, You're having
a house party, and you haven't set like that many
rules about what people are allowed to do and what
they aren't because like you know, there's gray areas. Who's

to say. But then you find out that there's this
like one guy like in the house and they're doing
some like really depraved ship whatever, use your imagination, but
it's clearly not cool, and you're like, yeah, I didn't
make any rules, but I'm clearly not cool with us.
So you're gonna throw that that person out and you're
not gonna be like, well, I didn't specify ahead of
time exactly what it wasn't what it wasn't, and maybe
next time you'll have like better rules. But of course

there's going to be gray areas, and of course there's
going to be some edge case where we could go
either way, but there's a lot of things that can't
go either way that are very clear. And if you're
hosting a party, it is very much your ethical and
legal responsibility to be accountable for what's there. Right if
you're driving a car, you are legally responsible for like
the activity of your passengers. You don't get to say, like,

well it's it's a gray area. Well yeah it is,
but you're driving the car, so you're responsible, and so
a part of it is just that step, right, is
so the technologists acknowledging their responsibility for the community that
they make, like very specifically and not pretending that we
don't have responsibility for it. Do have responsibility for it.

And yes, we're going to get it wrong sometimes because
there are gray areas, but if we acknowledge our responsibility,
we can at least get it right most of the time.
And so I think that's like a big part of it,
and I think Facebook is starting to do a lot
better with that. But it didn't start out because there
was all sorts of like libertarian nonsense. But uh uh,

I can go on a long ramp about it funny,
but it is. It is. It is super funny because
it I mean, what you're trying to say or what
but it sounds like you're saying, is like, take responsibility.
If you don't think it should be on there, you don't,
don't put it on there, don't hide behind the fine print,
is what you're saying. To some degree. Yeah, and don't
then don't pretend that you can't even take responsibility, because
how could you even imagine ahead of time, what people

are gonna do, like just take the responsibility and and
But the flip side of that is that the rest
of the world shouldn't expect perfect performance from you. Of
course you're gonna sometimes get things wrong, but you've taken responsibility,
You've done absolutely the best you can, and you've got
to be serious about that. Then to play devil's advocate.
There's the whole other side of this, right, which is
these the Silicon Valley folks, they just have too much

power to decide what stays and what goes. So what
say you to that? I mean, yeah, that is the
other side, And I find that side much less compelling,
just because I don't think that's responsible for nearly as
much of the problems with the world. I'm all in
favor of governments wanted to legislate stuff, then they would
supersed what the tech founders do. But you know, frankly, like,

if I'm running a private company and I'm staying within
the laws, then it's going to be up to me
what who I allow and who I don't based on
my ethical and moral responsibilities to the world. And if
somebody doesn't agree with my moral and ethical responsibilities and
hopefully there's like lots of other options. But yeah, I
get that argument, but I kind of called Bulson on it.
But but that's just step one, like acknowledging the responsibilities,

just step one, step two, which I think Facebook also
didn't do that much of in the beginning, and they're
still kind of lame about this. I think is Facebook
didn't spend billions of dollars putting out the things that
they wanted, like like making sure they didn't have a
strong point of view about this is what we want
to see on Facebook and like here, let us let

us spotlight it, let us create it, let us sponsor it,
like this is the stuff that's good. You know. Instagram
actually wound up doing that pretty well. And in the beginning, right,
Instagram said like we want to be the place really
beautiful photography, and they spotlighted and they curated it, and
they spend money making it. And that's why, like in
the beginning at least, Instagram was like a lot of
really high quality beautiful stuff where it's like Flicker and

everything else just became like a cesspit of you know,
ugly images. But you know, and they didn't they didn't
keep up with it. Very much, but they at least,
you know, tried so. So the second step is, like,
you know, again, I'm hosting this party. I have an
opinion about the vibe that I want, and it's my
responsibility as the host to like to push it in
that direction. I'm not going to be like, Okay, everyone
do whatever they want. No, Like I I wanted a

particular theme to this party, I'm gonna I'm gonna like
highlight the things. I'm gonna like buy some of the food.
I'm gonna you know, I'm gonna like do whatever is
necessary to get the vibe in the right direction. And
I think I think that companies ought to spend again
a hundred times more on that than on the negative,
because what you spotlight is what you get. If you

set the tone of this as a place that is
not for neo Nazis, you're gonna get fewer neo Nazis
just because like they don't want to hang out a
party that's very much not well dreamings with them either.
So that's that's also part of it. And it's just like, yeah,
it's your responsibility. Make sure you don't have a business
model that contradicts that responsibility. By Oh yeah, yeah, I say,

I don't want conflict what I make money when there's conflict,
Like if there's ever a disconnect between the way you
make money and what your values are in your for
profit company, like your values don't matter. It's always going
to go towards how you make money. So make sure
there's no conflict. And then, you know, make sure we
actually promote the stuff that we want to see. And

the last thing is to get rid of the stuff
that we don't want to see, which hopefully we won't
have to spend billions of dollars a year on because
we've done all the other things correctly, but we have to,
we have to. Well that's super interesting. I'm glad we
got into it because I've been saying and in an
awkward way for a long time. So, like, tell me,
you are a naming person. I feel like you do
brand stuff very well. Where on Earth did come from? Well,

you know, it came out of All Turtles as the studio,
And for years people would ask me like, did you
call it Ald Turtles? It's such a strange name. Why
is it called Old Hurtles? And I was like, hold,
like I just wanted I wanted a name that would
make people stop asking me about why old turtles is
such a strange name. So so we came up with
and total success. No one's asked me about old turtles,
you know since then. Um. Look, the real reason is, um,

it's it's actually kind of exactly what you said. It's
a it's a word that everyone can say unintentionally, everyone
can say without thinking about it, but if you try
to say it intentionally, it's actually this friction. Like even
I have to like pause for a second and consider
like how I'm going to pronounce it and which syllable
am I gonna inflect, And so it's almost like every
time I say the name, it's like a little micro performance.

I have to perform it. And the app is for performing.
It's for improving your performance, and so like to get
you started, Like just thinking of the name is little performance,
and I think it's kind of beautiful. So that's why
we named it that. For more from dot dot dot,

sign up for the Gray Area at dot dot dot
media dot com slash newsletter. If you're listening to this,
the very first edition is out today, and follow along
on our social media. I'm at Lorie Siegel on Twitter
and Instagram and the show is at First Contact Podcast
on Instagram, on Twitter, We're at First Contact Pod And
if you like what you heard, leave us a review

on Apple podcast or wherever you listen. We really appreciate it.
First Contact is a production of Dot dot Dot Media,
Executive produced by Lorie Siegel and Derek Dodge. This episode
was produced and edited by Sabine Jansen and Jack Reagan.
The original theme music is by Xander Sangh. First Contact

with Lorie Siegel is a production of Dot dot Dot
Media and I Heart Radio.
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