Joe Lonsdale: American Optimist

Joe Lonsdale: American Optimist

Welcome to American Optimist hosted by Joe Lonsdale, entrepreneur, investor, and founder of four multi-billion dollar companies and other mission-driven organizations. American Optimist is an alternative to the fear, cynicism, and zero-sum thinking in mainstream media. Learn from the innovators and leaders who are solving our nation’s most pressing challenges -- and doing it in a way that will lift everyone up. Hope should dominate our discourse, and American Optimist will show you why.

Episodes

August 9, 2022 31 mins

Sebastian Caliri is Partner at 8VC with a focus on healthcare investing. Previously, Sebastian spent four years at Palantir where he was responsible for growing its commercial healthcare business. In this episode, Sebastian diagnoses the core problems in U.S. healthcare and explains why traditional fee-for-service care misaligns incentives, resulting in rising costs and inferior health outcomes. He makes the case for new models lik...

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Tony Fadell is one of the great engineers, designers, and business leaders of our time, responsible for creating the iPod, iPhone, and Nest Thermostat. He runs the investment firm Future Shape and recently released his memoir titled “Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making." In this episode, he discusses the lessons he learned at General Magic (which was building the iPhone 15 years too early) and Philips Electroni...

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Joe Lonsdale sits down with Zach Latta, Founder of Hack Club, a non-profit network of high school coding clubs with over 15,000 members worldwide. At age 15, Zach helped design one of the most popular apps in the world. At 16, he dropped out of high school to become a programmer before founding Hack Club. He then received a Thiel Fellowship and decided to forgo college to build Hack Club full-time. In this episode, he talks about r...

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Gene Berdichevsky is the co-founder and CEO of Sila, a next-gen battery technology company. Previously, he was the seventh employee at Tesla, where he served as Principal Engineer on the Roadster battery and led the development of the world’s first mass-produced lithium-ion car battery. In this episode, he explains how Sila's new battery chemistry innovations can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and help electrify the future. He d...

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Francisco Gimenez is Partner at 8VC and focuses on Bio-IT investments. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford in Biomedical Informatics and B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley. In this episode, Francisco explains how breakthroughs in AI, gene editing, and cell therapies converged to jumpstart a new age in biology. He predicts that biomanufacturing platforms, armed with mountains of data and new tools,...

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Jacob DeWitte is the Co-Founder and CEO of Oklo, a nuclear energy startup building small advanced reactors that can reuse spent fuel from conventional reactors. In this episode, DeWitte explains how the regulatory state has stymied new reactor designs for decades, and how he's working to break through and bring game-changing nuclear power technology to market. Shortly after the initial conversation was filmed, the U.S. Nuclear Regu...

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Dr. Mark Esper served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2019 to 2020 and Secretary of the Army from 2017 to 2019. He's currently the Distinguished Chair of the Modern War Institute at West Point and sits on the Board of Directors of Epirus [a defense startup co-founded by Joe]. His forthcoming memoir is titled "A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times.” In this episode, he dissects Russia's mi...

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Judge Glock is the Director of Research and Policy at the Cicero Institute and an expert on housing and homelessness in the U.S. In this episode, Glock dissects the root causes of America's affordable housing shortage and explains how the right incentives can jumpstart development and bring down home costs for working-class families. He also exposes how policies like “Housing First” encourage the homeless to live and die on the str...

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Dr. Jeannette zu Fürstenberg is Co-Founder and General Partner of “La Famiglia”, a Berlin-based Venture Capital fund, and holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Entrepreneurship from the Free University of Berlin. She’s also a princess of one of Europe’s oldest royal families by marriage, as well as a thoughtful leader in the innovation and business world. In this episode, she traces the birth of entrepreneurship from the Renaissance and ...

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Jared Meyer is the Executive Director of Cicero Action. In this episode, Jared discusses how special interests stifle competition and why Cicero Action is using the special interests' playbook against them to promote innovative, bottom-up reforms.  He explains the government affairs strategy that creates real policy changes in states across the country, from expanding telehealth and improving parole and probation reforms, to realig...

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Thomas Chatterton Williams is a writer, cultural critic, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of two critically-acclaimed books on race in America, most recently "Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race."  In this episode, he discusses the dangers of Critical Race Theory and how to move beyond race-first, collectivist mindsets.  He also discusses his forthcoming book, "Nothing Was the Same," which trace...

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Hayes Barnard is the Founder and CEO of GoodLeap, one of the fastest-growing and largest financial technology companies in the renewable energy sector.  In 2008, Barnard founded Paramount Solar, which was later acquired by SolarCity and then Tesla.  Barnard discusses his role on the leading edge of America's solar energy expansion and what he learned working alongside Elon Musk.  He also highlights his non-profit GivePower and its ...

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Tyler Cowen is a professor, best-selling author, blogger, podcaster, and one of the most influential economists of this generation. In the early days of the pandemic, Cowen launched the Fast Grants program, which funded COVID-related science in less than 48 hours -- a remarkable feat in the medical sector. He discusses his efforts to accelerate innovation, including his work to transform how investors identify and back the next gen...

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Pano Kanelos is the President of the University of Austin (UATX), the most ambitious new university venture in America in decades. Recognizing the plight of America's higher education system, Pano stepped down as the President of St. John's College to build a new institution rooted in the pursuit of truth, open inquiry, and educating the next generation of American leaders. In this episode, Joe and Pano discuss the failures of mode...

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Ambassador Kelly Craft is a businesswoman, philanthropist, and former diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2019 to 2021 and U.S. ambassador to Canada from 2017 to 2019. She played an integral role in shaping major foreign policy decisions and achievements, such as the landmark Abraham Accords and the USMCA trade agreement. In this episode, she discusses some of the most pressing U.S. challenges abroad, ...

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Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, is one of the great business minds of our time. He grew a small engineering firm from $21 million in revenue to over 10,000 times the revenue. Yet in both his business and philanthropic work, he is first and foremost a philosopher. Koch explains how thinkers such as Abraham Maslow and Joseph Schumpeter shaped his outlook on the conditions for human flourishing, and why it's importa...

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Chris Sprowls is the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.  Under his leadership, Florida has set itself apart as one of the most innovative state legislatures in the country, slashing regulations that prop up entrenched interests and injecting true competition into the marketplace.  We discuss his strategy for successfully combatting cronyism in healthcare, pioneering the biggest school choice expansion in the country, ...

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Congressman Ro Khanna is the Democratic Congressman from California’s 17th District, which covers large swaths of Silicon Valley. A self-described "progressive capitalist," Khanna bucks the current political norms and works to advance meaningful bipartisan legislation. In this episode, we debate income inequality, wealth taxes, and other hot-button issues, but also find common ground on reasonable regulations for Big Tech, introduc...

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Dhani Jones spent 11 seasons in the NFL as a middle linebacker, the linchpin of the defensive unit. Since then, he has become a leader in other arenas: hosting TV shows, launching charities, and investing in startups.  His passion is bringing out the best in others.  In this episode, he pushes back against the notion of lowering standards to minimize disparities.  He explains why adversity, competition, and the pursuit of excellenc...

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Mike Reeser and Michael Bettersworth are the Chancellor and Chief Innovation Officer, respectively, at Texas State Technical College (TSTC). In 2014, TSTC became the FIRST college in the country to fully align its public funding with its students' future earnings. Since then, graduates have seen their earnings increase over 100 percent! Their success is an antidote to the crisis of bad incentives in education today and should inspi...

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