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The Art of Manufacturing

Business & Economics Podcasts

Manufacturing is sexy. Sounds crazy? Just wait! Every Thursday, Z Holly takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at how people who make stuff are trying to ‘make it’ in their industries. Get a sneak peek inside these risk-takers’ factories and studios — and most of all, their minds. If you’ve ever wondered how to build a brand, a business, or just a better mousetrap, tune in and enjoy. (More here:


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Manufacturing is sexy. Sounds crazy? Just wait! Every Thursday, Z Holly takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at how people who make stuff are trying to ‘make it’ in their industries. Get a sneak peek inside these risk-takers’ factories and studios — and most of all, their minds. If you’ve ever wondered how to build a brand, a business, or just a better mousetrap, tune in and enjoy. (More here:





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James Webb Space Telescope: Krystal Puga and Scott Willoughby

$9 billion and a million miles away: we get a special behind-the-scenes tour of NASA’s most ambitious and risky project ever. The James Webb Space Telescope will let us to look billions of years back in time and look at exoplanets in other galaxies. It’s pushing the boundaries of what is technologically possible. When you think of manufacturing, you probably imagine mass production, but this project is one-of-a-kind. And because it’s headed a million miles away into orbit past the moon, if something breaks, it can’t be fixed. As the vice president and program manager of the whole project, Scott Willoughby has one shot at getting it right. I was curious: how can you take risks and innovate when you’re working on something so high stakes and under such big scrutiny? So I went to Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, the prime contractor, to find out. We start with a special behind-the-scenes tour of the telescope from systems engineer Krystal Puga. And then, Scott joins us as we talk about the risks and rewards and what’s next for the program. We also learn about Scott and Krystal’s backgrounds, which will probably surprise you! Links and social handles: The James Webb Space Telescope home page: “Seeing Beyond” video (14:02): NASA’s FAQ: Northrop Grumman’s site for the JWST: The JWST on Wikipedia: Facebook Instagram: @NASAWebb Twitter: @NASAWebb Northrop Grumman: Facebook Twitter: @northropgrumman Instagram: @northropgrumman LinkedIn: #NorthropGrumman #Webb #JWST #JamesWebbSpaceTelescope #nasa For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Hydroswarm: Preeti Battacharyya

An underwater roboticist is determined to map the 70% of our globe covered in water. Everyone’s talking about space these days, but the most promising uncharted frontier might be under the sea. And exploring our oceans is much harder than you think. Preeti Battacharyya is a 30-year-old entrepreneur who fought tradition back in India and moved to the US. She received a PhD from MIT before launching her company, HydroSwarm. They’re building a network of autonomous underwater vehicles that can map the oceans and communicate with each other. I was curious what is holding back ocean exploration. What are the challenges of building robots that can work under the sea? It turns out its way harder than rocket science! We learn the difference between ROVs and AUVs, and why they matter. We also learn about Preeti’s path from small town girl in Kolkata to an underwater roboticist with experience with particle accelerators and nuclear reactors starting an ambitious venture. Links and social handles: Website: Twitter: Video of a hydrone: More on cyberclones: For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Knock Knock: Jen Bilik

Comedy isn’t always easy: this entrepreneur has learned some tough lessons manufacturing irreverent gifts that don’t meet everyone’s tastes. This week we’re speaking with Jen Bilik, the founder and CEO of Knock Knock. With a name like that, you might guess there is some humor involved—and you’d be right. Knock Knock is known for their funny and often blue gifts and books. But she has to deal with risk-averse retailers and easily offended consumers. Not to mention the pot-smoking hippie manufacturing broker that bilked them out of millions of dollars in their early years. And crying employees. Jen started out as a “reluctant businesswoman” and she’s very candid about her mistakes. She shares some useful lessons about growing a company and bringing a little humor into your business. Links and social handles: Website for all three companies (Who’s There Group): This is [NOT] L.A. book: Knock Knock on Instagram and Twitter: @knockknock Also, follow Jen on Instagram @jenbilik (mostly pictures of her dog, Paco), on Twitter @JenBilik (to which she never posts), and on Facebook. For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Lumi: Jesse Genet [encore]

Packaging should be your secret weapon, and this serial entrepreneur will show you how. Some of you might remember our episode a year ago, with Jesse Genet from Lumi. They recently raised $9M, so we’re checking in with Jesse to get an update. We talk about how they’ve evolved their strategy and what she learned raising venture capital. We also get tips for finding suppliers, and the advantages of offering a platform that gives customers unprecedented control to tinker with their packaging. We’re starting with the original interview. If you want to skip ahead to our more recent conversation, it starts at 1:07:30. At age 15, Jesse started her first business printing t-shirts in Detroit. Over the next year she followed her curiosity, tracked down an obscure invention, and next thing she knew her new company Inkodye ended up on Shark Tank and participated in the prestigious incubator Y-Combinator. Through becoming a manufacturing entrepreneur, she learned how easy it was on the digital side to start a business, but on the physical side it was the complete opposite. That’s when their big idea hit: why don’t they create a whole platform for startups to handle packaging and fulfillment? And Lumi was born. Jesse tells horror stories and practical advice about packaging and logistics. She gives insights into new ecommerce trends like direct-to-consumer retail and Vertical Commerce Brands that make your packaging more important than ever before. And she also shares her real-life experiences and perspectives on being an entrepreneur. (Her stories about stalking the original owner of the Inkodye technology, turning down Mark Cuban, and what happened as she was about to walk onto the set of Shark Tank are pretty hilarious.) She’s energetic, nerdy, and unapologetically quirky, and she has some great advice you won’t want to miss. Links and social handles: (note if the embedded hyperlinks don’t work, scroll down for explicit ones) Lumi Home Page Lumi Twitter Lumi Instagram Lumi Facebook Jesse’s Twitter Jesse’s Instagram Lumi on Fast Company Jesse Genet’s MAKE IT talk on YouTube “Digitally-Native Vertical Commerce Brands,” by Andy Dunn Marshall Goldsmith: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There on Audible Marshall Goldsmith: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There on Amazon For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Desktop Metal: Ric Fulop, Jonah Myerberg & Andy Roberts

Meet the 3D printing company that might totally change how we manufacture, design, and even develop products. When you hear the words 3D printing, what do you imagine? Do you think about those cheesy, plastic parts? Desktop Metal has raised $270M to change all that. Unlike other metal 3D printers, which are ridiculously expensive, incredibly dangerous, and slow, their first product is a machine that will print metal parts on the desktop. And they’re about to launch a new production-level machine that will pump out parts as fast as using traditional manufacturing processes like casting and machining. The CEO Ric Fulop is an old buddy of mine from my days at MIT, so when I was visiting Boston a few weeks ago, I went to go visit and get a tour. And I sat down with Ric and two of his executives, Chief Technology Officer Jonah Meyerberg and Senior Software Engineer Andy Roberts, to learn more. We nerd out on their technology and what it means for the future of manufacturing. But what I was especially curious about is how metal 3D printing will change the game around what we make, and the way we design and innovate in the future. If you’ve been skeptical about additive manufacturing until now, this episode will change your mind. Links and social handles: Website: On Twitter: @DesktopMetal, @ricfulop Video of Live Parts growth example: For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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SmartyPants Vitamins: Courtney Nichols Gould [encore]

Amazon is eating the world! A wellness entrepreneur shares her secrets to launching a consumer product in today’s complex retail environment. This week we’re going to the vault to play one of our favorite past episodes. We’re speaking with Courtney Nichols Gould, the co-founder and CEO of SmartyPants Vitamins. She had a really successful career in tech before launching a consumer packaged goods company. Before this venture, she was the Chief Operating Officer of a very complex business called Clear, the first fast pass for airport security. I was curious what her path has been like, from tech entrepreneur to a maker of things, and what we can learn from the process. What surprised me most was the importance of getting the product launch process right, and how hard it is to succeed in today’s complex retail environment. But they’re kicking butt, and she has tons of war stories and tips for the rest of us. Everything from protecting IP to picking your manufacturing partners, cultivating your first customers to thriving on Amazon, negotiating with brick and mortar to being pioneers in the early wellness industry. She’s mission-driven but doesn’t flaunt it. At one point, she goes deep about her awkward early years, before she finally discovered her identity as a successful CEO, and we broach the touchy subject of starting a business and then falling in love with your co-founder. We hear about that and a whole lot more on this week’s episode of the Art of Manufacturing. A year ago, when I spoke with Courtney, I was really curious how they could be so successful launching their products in a time when Amazon seemed to be eating the world. And the episode is as relevant as ever. Since the episode first dropped, Amazon acquired Whole Foods, nine massive retailers disappeared in the “great retail meltdown of 2017,” and they now have a foothold in every corner of your home, too, with Echo Dot and Ring. There’s no doubt Amazon is a bigger force than ever to be reckoned with. Earlier this year, I wrote a Forbes column that the biggest tech trend of the year wasn’t going to be a technology per se, but it was Amazon as a company. They’ll have a vast impact on so many other aspects of how we live, and how we work and collaborate, and even how our cities might be designed in the future. This goes beyond their more obvious impacts on the retail industry. Just the new expectation of on-demand has transformed business models across the board. With their 100,000+ industrial robots, they are pioneering new leadership approaches in an environment where humans must collaborate with robots. The purpose of shopping malls is getting totally reimagined, and in an age of on-demand delivery, warehouses are playing a more integral role in our cities. Yet I wondered when on-demand delivery would turn to custom, on-demand, local manufacturing. But I digress. Whether your entrepreneurial dreams start with launching on Amazon or end on brick and mortar retail shelves, listen to this episode first. Links and social handles: Website: Forbes article on Amazon: Instagram: Twitter: For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Tulip Interfaces: Rony Kubat & Erik Mirandette

Digitizing the factory isn’t always easy. A former counter-intelligence officer and former reality TV star talk about how they hope to bring modern data tools, IoT, and Lean Manufacturing to every factory floor. Manufacturing technologies have been changing fast. And it’s amazing what you can make custom and on-demand, and how you can iterate in the physical world. But transforming a factory to digital manufacturing is not so easy. And that’s where this week’s guests come in. Rony Kubat and Erik Mirandette are from Tulip Interfaces, a company spun out of the MIT Media Lab. Through their work with lab sponsors, they realized how hard it was to digitize a factory. And so they set out to change that. A company can get started with no programming experience and as little as $3,500. I was a little skeptical at whether some techies can just waltz in and transform a factory. So I was eager to see how it works and hear about what they learned along the way. We hear their lessons learned about implementing lean manufacturing and removing paper and pen from the factory floor. They also tell stories about riding motorcycles across Africa, surviving civil wars, counter-intelligence missions, and being on reality TV. Links and social handles: Website: Social Media: @tulipinterfaces Linkedin: For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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David Charlot: Charlot Biosciences

A bioengineering startup tries to commercialize a new tool that might totally change the way we identify and treat disease. We have tools to look inside the body without killing the patient, so why should we have to kill cells to understand disease? It’s hard to believe that only a hundred years ago, scientists mostly studied disease by dissecting cadavers. Doctors didn’t have tools like blood tests, imaging, molecular biology, and other diagnostics to see what was going on inside a body while a person was living. So our knowledge of anatomy and our ability to identify illness was limited to the dead body. That seems incredibly primitive today, but that’s what we’ve been doing at the cellular level until now. David Charlot and his startup Charlot Biosciences is changing that. I was curious to learn more about their technology and what that means for the future of diagnosing and treating disease. Also, since I’m definitely not an expert in the life sciences, I wanted to learn about the existing techniques we hear a lot about, like flow cytometry, PCR, gene sequencing, immunotherapy, and the latest hot thing, CRISPR. It’s exciting to see him in action at the cusp of growing the business. We talk about commercializing university research, and he shares his lessons learned, which are transferrable to a broad range of businesses. Links and social handles: Website: Facebook: @cbiosciences Twitter: @c_biosciences LinkedIn: @cbiosciences For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Wiivv: Shamil Hargovan and Chris Bellamy

A startup builds custom, on-demand 3D printed shoes and gives a glimpse of what innovation might look like in the future. Recently, I took a little road trip to meet some manufacturers. And this week we’re visiting Wiivv, a startup shoe factory just north of San Diego that’s bringing modern digital manufacturing to the consumer. Imagine taking pictures of your feet with your smartphone, and getting custom-molded sandals delivered to your door within 10 days. While I visited Wiivv’s factory in San Diego, I sat down with their co-founder and CEO Shamil Hargovan and their senior engineer Chris Bellamy. I wanted to hear what it’s like to start a company delivering custom, on-demand products. I was curious about their production process, which combines digital manufacturing (like 3D printing) with more traditional approaches. We start off the conversation with a story from Chris about how he ended up running the marathon in a pair of their flip-flops! And we get some really interesting insights into how the trend towards digital manufacturing might change the way we live, work, and play. Links: Instagram: @wiivvit Twitter: @wiivvit Twitter: @shamilhargovan Twitter: @CWBellamy Instagram: @c.w.bellamy For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Micki Krimmel: Superfit Hero

Roller derby inspires a body-positive athletic fashion brand that’s just hitting a tipping point. Though finding a factory that will take her business has gotten easier, the real challenges have just begun! Micki Krimmel is the founder of an emerging apparel brand called Superfit Hero. She has some serious startup chops, but if you had told her she’d have anything to do with athletics, fashion, or business a decade ago she would have laughed. She grew up a drama nerd who never did sports until she discovered roller derby. And then her whole life changed. I’ve gotten to know Micki’s new company, Superfit Hero, since she joined MAKE IT IN LA’s Catalyst program, which is building a diverse community of creatives that manufacture in LA. It’s so hard to differentiate an apparel brand these days, but she’s doing it by being at the forefront of the new body positive movement. It’s exciting to watch Superfit Hero hit an inflection point. Her business is just taking off. But… ironically, her challenges are just beginning. Links: Superfit Hero website: Social: @superfithero @mickipedia For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at About Micki Krimmel Micki Krimmel is a serial entreprenuer, athlete, and loud-mouthed feminist. Micki was inspired by her experience as a competitive roller derby player to create Superfit Hero, a body positive, size inclusive fitness brand with a mission to empower women. Micki has 15 years experience with technology and entertainment startups. Superfit Hero marks her first foray into manufacturing. With no fashion background, Micki was able to deliver a stellar fashion product by following the principles of customer discovery championed by the tech industry. With a tested and approved product sample, Micki funded her initial production with the help of her roller derby community via Kickstarter. Two and a half years later, Superfit Hero has been featured in Forbes Magazine, Buzzfeed, Refinery29, SHAPE, and many other publications. Micki's goal is to establish Superfit Hero as the go-to brand for the body positive fitness movement. In her spare time, Micki enjoys lifting weights and riding motorcycles. Her newest hobby is wrenching on her 2004 KTM dirtbike.


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Should I make it in the USA? [live]

Four experts explore the dilemma of where to do your manufacturing. It’s is an important question to ask yourself when you are launching a company, and most people assume they need to go to China or elsewhere overseas. We’ve heard a lot about Made in America and retaining manufacturing jobs over the years. But is locally-made just a nice thing to talk about? Or are there times when it makes better business sense to make it here? We speak with Michael Corr, CEO of Durolabs, formerly head of engineering at several hardware startups in the US and China; Sean Scott, CEO of COMUNITY, formerly of VANS, ASICS, Nike, and TOMS; Clarissa Redwine who heads up Kickstarter’s hardware community on the West coast; and Jaleh Factor, who brings her accounting background to her role as founder and CEO of Sourcing Theory, an apparel factory in DTLA. The conversation was recorded live at the LA Cleantech Incubator, at an event co-hosted by MAKE IT IN LA, ArtCenter College of Design, Supplyframe, Kickstarter, and Califia Farms. I was curious how to model your expenses, how to assess the risks, and how to consider the hidden costs of manufacturing overseas. We discuss the ethical and sustainability considerations, which aren’t as simple as they seem. We talk about how to find your suppliers. And we hear some horror stories from the trenches. This episode is not meant as a sales pitch for local manufacturing. Every company needs to do what’s right for their business. But, as I suspected, the decision isn’t as obvious as people make it out to be. This week’s guests give some surprising answers. Links mentioned: Cost calculator: Tyranny of Small Decisions: Episode with Jesse Genet of Lumi: Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck: Nomiku - sous vide cooker: Turntouch - wooden remote: Wood Thumb – woodworking makerspace: PODO Labs – the first stick and shoot camera: Sourcing Theory: Kickstarter: Durolabs: COMUNITY: For more information, bios, and links, check out the show notes at


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Meredith Perry: uBeam

Pioneering wireless power: a rare interview from the charismatic and controversial founder of an L.A.-based startup that everyone thought would fail. Meredith Perry founded uBeam back in 2011. Mark Cuban invested in the company and called it the next zillion-dollar idea. In 2015 Fortune called her “brilliant” and asked if she might be the next Elon Musk. But less than a year later, a key employee left the company in 2016 and skepticism grew about her company’s ability to deliver on its technical milestones. One can understand why Meredith isn’t keen on speaking with the media. For six years, her team has been quietly plugging away at the technology, and she’s only made herself visible again recently, to demo the technology actually working. A couple of months ago, while she was wrapping up a $20 million raise, I came to her office bearing margaritas. I was hoping to get her to speak candidly about her journey—and she did. I have to admit, I’ve been skeptical about the technology myself, so I was curious to learn how it works and the challenges she’s faced along the way. I wanted to learn what it’s been like to bounce back from her PR nightmare, and she humbly shares some of her lessons learned as a brainy young CEO managing a team for the first time in a high-stakes environment. We talk about geek chic, astrobiology, the no a-hole rule, and the struggles of trying to do something no one thinks is possible. For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at More Links: uBeam website: Social Media: @meredithperry @ubeam About Meredith Perry Meredith Perry is the inventor of uBeam, a technology that uses ultrasound to transmit power over the air to charge electronic devices wirelessly. Using a patented system, uBeam is a wireless power system that can safely charge multiple electronic devices wirelessly at a distance. Meredith founded uBeam in 2011 while studying at the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, Meredith served as a student ambassador for NASA, where she worked on technology to detect life on Mars, experimented in zero gravity and researched and published papers in astrobiology and medicine. She graduated in 2011 with a degree in paleobiology. Meredith has been included in Fortune’s “40 Under 40” Mobilizers, Forbes’ “30 Under 30” and Vanity Fair’s “The New Establishment.” She has also been recognized as one of Fast Company’s “Most Creative People” and is the recipient of Elle Magazine’s Genius Award.


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Taboo! Julia Rose of VaGenie and Melanie Cristol of Lorals

Two brave women build businesses that might make you blush. What is it like to launch a product that you can’t talk about in “polite company”? Meet Julia Rose, founder of VaGenie, and Melanie Cristol, founder of Lorals. They’ve developed products for women’s health and pleasure, one a high tech “wearable” game and the other a special kind of apparel. We talk about what it’s like to raise money, find manufacturing partners, and market a “taboo” product. Further, Melanie has Tourette Syndrome; we explore how it’s had a positive impact on her path to founding and running her business. Julia and Melanie didn’t know each other before today’s conversation, so it’s fun to share notes on their common experiences. Neither one of them have an engineering or product background. We learn how an actor and a lawyer became manufacturers: the inspiration, the steps they followed, and the surprises they met along the way. It’s not always easy, but they are making it happen. Learn more:, @myvagenie, @mylorals, @melcristol For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at Melanie Cristol, founder & CEO of Lorals, is a former consumer-products and healthcare attorney and a Columbia Law School graduate. She is a passionate advocate for sexual health, having worked with Lambda Legal, the Columbia Sexual Violence Response Team, and the National LGBT Task Force. Melanie's expertise in this sector has earned her international attention and accolades, and she has been featured in various media outlets speaking about tech, manufacturing, and sexual health. With a strong international perspective, a background in marketing and entertainment, and passion for women’s health issues, Julia Rose and her team at Kalikha Inc. are creating the VaGenie, a smart biofeedback pelvic floor muscle trainer and menstrual cycle tracking solution destined to break taboos around a vital health concern that effects 2 in 3 women worldwide: weakened pelvic floors. A combination device and app, the VaGenie helps women strengthen their pelvic floors by allowing them to play video games controlled by pelvic muscle exercises (Kegels). In addition, armed with a mission to normalize conversations around women's health, Julia uses tools such as her "VaGenie Martini Party" events as well as VaGenie's "Free the V" community to bring awareness to a variety of critical women's issues. Julia is the mother of 2 young boys and lives in Los Angeles, CA. She received her degree in Diplomatic History from the University of Pennsylvania.


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Tim O’Reilly: WTF! [live]

What’s the Future? The “Oracle of Silicon Valley” shares his contrarian thoughts about technology, capitalism, and preparing for the big shifts on the horizon. This week we’re talking with futurist and author of the book “WTF: What’s the Future?” Tim O’Reilly. Although he’s not a manufacturer himself, his insightful perspectives are useful for anyone who wants to be prepared for a future driven by technology trends. You might not have heard Tim’s name before, but you probably know his work. He popularized terms like open source and Web 2.0. As an early evangelist for the maker movement, he and his firm O’Reilly Media started Make Magazine and Maker Faire. And he’s been an early champion of the Internet of Things. Going way back, he wrote about the world wide web before most of us ever heard about it, back in 1994. I was curious, given Tim’s superpowers in identifying trends, where he thinks technology is going today and how it will impact the future of work and business. We talk about his thoughts on the role of capitalism and Silicon Valley. He also shares ideas from his book and many others (links below). I ask Tim how to predict the future, and he tells me that’s the wrong question. But, he gives us excellent tips for identifying trends and some really provocative ideas about our role as entrepreneurs in developing a just and abundant world for everyone. He’s a deep thinker, and it’s no surprise he’s been called The Oracle of Silicon Valley. This conversation was recorded live at Cross Campus in Downtown LA, as part of the LiveTalks: Business series. Books mentioned: WTF: What’s the Future – Tim O’Reilly Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu Who Gets What and Why – Alvin Ross Why Nations Fail – Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson Murder in the Cathedral – TS Eliot Quotes: “The future is here, just not evenly distributed” – William Gibson “Social Responsibility of a business is to Increase its Profits” – Milton Friedman Learn more: @timoreilly Tim O’Reilly has a history of convening conversations that reshape the computer industry. If you’ve heard the term “open source software” or “web 2.0” or “the Maker movement” or “government as a platform” or “the WTF economy,” he’s had a hand in framing each of those big ideas. He is the founder, CEO, and Chairman of O’Reilly Media, and a partner at early stage venture firm O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV). He is also on the boards of Maker Media (which was spun out from O’Reilly Media in 2012), Code for America, PeerJ, Civis Analytics, and PopVox. His book, WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us, was released by Harper Collins in October 2017. For more information, check out the show notes at


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Lidia Yan: NEXT Trucking

There’s a shortage of 50,000 truck drivers impacting manufacturing in America, and demand keeps growing. Last week, we spoke about some pretty futuristic transportation ideas. This week we’re talking with a serial entrepreneur who is trying to beat the odds and make transportation and logistics work better today. Lidia Yan is the founder and CEO of NEXT Trucking, a portal for matching shippers with carriers. Although Lidia isn’t a manufacturer herself currently, her past entrepreneurial experiences made her realize how critical truck drivers are to the manufacturing and delivery of physical goods. Especially in today’s world of complex supply chains and consumers that want instant gratification and products on-demand. I was curious to learn more about how the shipping ecosystem works, and how Lidia’s software makes the process work more smoothly. I wanted to understand how autonomous vehicles and automation play a role in logistics, and why several tech companies that have tried to automate the matching process (including Uber) have struggled. I wanted to understand the pitfalls and how NEXT Trucking has managed to be profitable so far. Plus, we get Lidia’s tips on logistics and shipping for emerging brands and manufacturers. For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at Lidia Yan is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder at NEXT Trucking, an ambitious Sequoia-backed startup that develops technology to address lack of capacity for the growing volume from global shippers and underutilization in the U.S. trucking industry. Through NEXT Trucking, Lidia brings together her expertise in product development, marketing and operations. Prior to NEXT Trucking, Lidia was a marketing executive at top 10 ecommerce retailer, Newegg. At Newegg, Lidia managed a $22 million marketing budget while keeping the cost of overall sales under one percent. Before Newegg, she founded 9luxe, a leading flash sale site in China. Lidia launched 9luxe without any venture funding, managed the distribution of over 40 luxury brands, and led the company to profitability within its first six months. Lidia holds an M.A. in Communications from the University of Southern California. She grew up in Shanghai, China, and now calls Southern California home. When she isn’t busy managing her company and mentoring employees, Lidia enjoys relaxing at home with her husband, parents and her three-year-old Border Collie, Toby. Web: Twitter: @nexttrucking @lidiayan2012 LinkedIn:


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Dr. Anita Sengupta: Virgin Hyperloop One [live]

(recorded live) Speeding through tubes at nearly the speed of sound; a former NASA systems engineer is helping make the future of transportation a reality. When Elon Musk first proposed the Hyperloop in 2012, most people fell into two camps: enthusiastic or skeptical. Imagine if you could accelerate pods to twice the speed of an airplane, using a technology that was immune to weather and collision free, with low power consumption, using near-vacuum-filled tubes and linear motors. The idea itself is actually more than two hundred years old, but it never made headway until Elon’s announcement, and since then, several startups have run with the idea. And contrary to common wisdom, he has no direct involvement in any of them. One of these companies, headquartered in Downtown LA, attracted a huge investment from Richard Branson recently. They’re now called Virgin Hyperloop One, and they were the first to demonstrate the concept, on a test track near Las Vegas. And this week we’re talking with their Senior VP of Systems Engineering. Dr. Anita Sengupta started her career working for NASA, on pioneering space projects like the Mars Rover and the Cold Atom Laboratory. And then, Hyperloop One tapped her to coordinate all of the pieces for their very complex engineering puzzle. This episode was recorded live at the ArtCenter College of Design’s BOLD conference. I was curious to hear the variety of challenges she’s up against as they bring a once crazy idea to a full production system. I also wanted to learn what it was like to go from a very large, governmental organization like NASA, to a startup environment like Hyperloop. And we talk about what the innovator of the future might look like, and what we all should do to prepare. For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at


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Brent Bushnell and Eric Gradman: Two Bit Circus

Two clowns reimagine entertainment through micro-amusement parks. They use technology, a bit of showmanship, and a unique process of innovation to develop their immersive social games. What does the circus have to do with manufacturing? Well, the founders of Two Bit Circus are planning to build micro-amusements around the world. To do so, they’re learning how to go from prototype to production on their unique games. They’re about to open their first park in DTLA this summer, so I wanted a sneak peek at the new experiences they have in store. In the process we learn about their process of developing their crazy ideas. We talk about tinkering, iteration, scale, immersive experiences, and social gaming. Brent and Eric bring unique backgrounds to the company. Brent once ran a web hosting company and an automotive salvage business. He’s also the son of Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and Chuck E Cheese. Eric is the Mad Inventor and makes others see technology as magic. He has a colorful history as a circus performer, professional whistler & roboticist. For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at


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Julio Ruiz: LiquidSky Sports

A skydiver with an unusual past shares how his business delivers custom apparel for action athletes and Hollywood by adopting new digital design and manufacturing technologies. Julio Ruiz had a career in Puerto Rico shoeing horses and inseminating cows before he decided to become a manufacturer. It was Julio’s passion in skydiving and mad skills in graphic design that gave him the idea to start his action sports apparel company, LiquidSky. LiquidSky specializes in custom apparel, and I was curious how he minimizes the lead times behind making custom gear when he’s such a small business with uneven demand. I also wanted to learn what kind of technologies Julio uses to make customization easier, like computer aided pattern-making and digital manufacturing, and how a small business like his makes the decision how to adopt these technologies. We also hear some fun stories about working with some big-name celebrities and some of my skydiving heroes. LiquidSky is definitely not a typical apparel company. For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at


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Natasha Case & Freya Estreller: Coolhaus

Cult favorite ice cream brand Coolhaus started in a broken down postal truck at the Coachella music festival. While growing their ice cream brand over nearly a decade, Natasha Case and Freya Estreller, have many stories to tell, through marriage, two funding rounds, brick and mortar scoop shops, and fast growth wholesaling around the country. They explain how they’ve stayed true to their quirky past while scaling with manufacturing partners and keeping their marriage intact. I was curious how they manage to constantly innovate, with such wacky flavors as balsamic fig mascarpone or buttered French toast, while they work with more traditional contract manufacturers to do the production. We get some invaluable tips for working with these co-packers, as they’re called in the food biz. I also wanted to hear their origin story, how their relationship blossomed as their company grew, and how Freya decided to leave the company with Natasha at the helm. Celebrities like John Legend and Kumail Nanjiani are big fans and are willing to go to the Twitter mat over their product. But although it might seem like Coolhaus has made the big leagues, we hear about some of their challenges behind the scenes; being a founder never stops throwing you curveballs. We get a taste test of some of their most popular flavors, with a big side of great entrepreneurship and leadership advice to go along with it. For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at


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Felix Ejeckam: Akash Systems

Space! Diamonds! Startups! Cubesats could soon be streaming live video of anywhere on earth and beaming broadband data to the last three billion people around the globe. Thanks to the rapidly dropping price of launching these tiny satellites, that somewhat creepy—yet also very exciting—future might very soon be here. And this week’s guest, Felix Ejeckam, is the founder and CEO of Akash Systems, whose special diamond composite technology is helping fuel this trend. I was curious to learn about this gold rush into space, from a layperson’s point of view. Why now? And what are the killer applications? I wanted to learn more about their technology, and why his advanced material might be the key to getting massive bandwidth through satellites. But we don’t just talk about technology. He shares his insights from founding three venture-backed startups. And my favorite part of the conversation comes later, when we explore the source of his confidence. What drives someone to take on such an ambitious mission to reach the final three billion? And is it possible to be too ambitious? I learn how his time growing up in Nigeria and his immigrant parents’ unconventional attitudes might have influenced him in ways I totally didn’t expect. For more information, photos, and links, check out the show notes at