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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;...


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...


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...


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...


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...


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...


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...


Felix Ejeckam: Akash Systems

Cube Satellites could soon stream live video of anywhere on earth and get 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...


Ashley Crowder: VNTANA

Holograms and hardware: just one piece of VNTANA’s strategy to become the go-to platform for brands to engage with customers using AR and mixed reality. Augmented reality is a big buzzword these days. But most companies are focusing on creating content. Because of her deep technical background, Ashley and her company started with a portable holographic projection system, and they are now positioning themselves as the go-to platform for brands to leverage and capitalize on mixed reality...


Cat Chen: Skylar Body

Customer trust and deep supplier relationships are the foundation for The Honest Company’s former head of operations as she launches a new venture-backed company pioneering all natural fragrances sold online. Scents online? I was curious to learn how she pitched VCs on that idea! We delve into her journey leading her first startup. We also get insights from her prior experience at The Honest Company, where she managed a complex supply chain of hundreds of contract manufacturers (CMs) that...


Titan Gilroy: TITANS of CNC & 7 Myths, Busted

An ex-prisoner turned elite CNC machinist and TV personality, Titan Gilroy, talks about how to save American manufacturing and the joy of seeing something you created go to space. But first, Z rants a bit, and busts seven myths about manufacturing. Titan’s journey is a story of redemption. He started on a really rough path, growing up homeless with a single mom. He became a pro boxer and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. But he turned his life around because of manufacturing. Today,...


Kevin Czinger: Divergent 3D + Jeff Krause: SME

3D printing automotive micro-factories (not electric vehicles) might be the key to sustainability and innovation. We learn why, from the CEO of Divergent 3D. Plus, the head of SME gives some hints on what to expect at WESTEC next week! Sometimes we get trapped by a legacy way of doing things. We’ve built 2 billion vehicles in the last century, and some estimates project another 6 billion cars in the next 35 years. These cars will have an enormous impact on the environment. So, should we...


Courtney Nichols Gould: SmartyPants Vitamins

Launching a consumer product in a complex retail environment: For our season finale, we’re speaking with Courtney Nichols Gould, the co-founder and CEO of SmartyPants Vitamins. She and her partner Gordon Gould both had their own really successful careers 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...


Rodney Brooks: Rethink Robotics

We’re busting myths about the future of the workforce and robotics, with serial entrepreneur and AI visionary Rod Brooks. If you own a Roomba, you can thank Rod, because he’s the co-founder of iRobot. He launched the company almost three decades ago when he was a professor at MIT. Well, today, he's at it again. He’s trying to disrupt the world of industrial robotics with his new startup, Rethink Robotics. While I was in Boston a few weeks ago, I visited him at his home in Cambridge and...


Sonja Rasula: The Unique Empire

Connecting with customers to build a great business, with the creator of the weekend pop-up market. In 2008, Sonja Rasula, risked her entire 401k savings to start UNIQUE LA, a popup marketplace that features over 300 independent artists and designers. Over the years she has worked with thousands of artisans and entrepreneurs, and she built an agency to work with brands to develop content and social strategy. Her ambitions have expanded to a conference for entrepreneurs and a co-working...


Jeni Britton Bauer: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Gourmet ice cream that takes the whole state of Ohio to manufacture! This week we’re talking with Jeni Britton Bauer, the founder and CEO of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. She’s been a pioneer in gourmet ice cream since she started over two decades ago, and continues to innovate. I was curious about how she develops her inventive flavors and what it takes to make award-winning ice cream at scale. It turns out there’s a lot more art and science--and logistics—than I ever imagined. She shares...


Ben Horowitz: Andreessen Horowitz (live)

A legendary venture capitalist and entrepreneur shares leadership and startup lessons he learned the hard way. Imagine your startup is down to its last bit of cash, your investors won’t follow on, you’re sure you’re going bankrupt, and everyone tells you to give up. What do you do? You decide to take your company public--it’s dubbed by BusinessWeek as “The IPO from Hell.” That’s just one of many cold-sweat moments Ben Horowitz has experienced first-hand in his career. Ben took that...


Rodney Mullen: godfather of street skating

How do you rebel against rebellion? A skating legend keeps reinventing himself and his industry. In this episode, “the godfather of street skating” Rodney Mullen reveals his insights on the history and future of skateboarding. He invented most of the foundational tricks used today—including the flat-ground Ollie which allows skaters to pop their boards off the ground—and he co-founded the largest skateboard company in the world in the 1990’s. Despite his worldwide fame, Rodney is a bit of...


Litty Mathew: Greenbar Distillery

Becoming the largest organic spirits company in the world takes a careful balance between having a point of view and appealing to a broader market. And no one is as attuned to that dilemma as much as the founders of Greenbar Distillery. As craft distillers and immigrants, founders Litty Mathew and Melkon Khosrovian have learned to embrace the tension between being unique and fitting in. Litty—of South Indian descent, but born in Ethiopia and raised in Jamaica—met a sharply-dressed Armenian...


Bethany Shorb: Cyberoptix and Well Done Goods

A Detroit manufacturer tries retailing. But sometimes the hardest part about growing your business isn’t collapsing ceilings or managing inventory. It’s learning to let go. Bethany Shorb is the founder of Cyberoptix. Her fashionable and subversive ties have been a cult favorite for fans like retired Apollo astronauts and celebrities like Chris Hardwick and Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. And she just launched a retail store in Detroit called Well Done Goods. I was curious about the...