Chitra Ragavan

Founders Stories

James Boyd Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSS Ep. 7 — A pudgy British youth gives up a life of wealth and privilege to enlist for a punishing stint in the U.S. Special Forces / James Boyd, CEO and Co-Founder of Adyton In this episode, software entrepreneur James Boyd describes how he spent his childhood cocooned in wealth and privilege, frittering his time away in expensive schools and shuttling between homes in London and California. But the September 11, 2001 attacks happened on Boyd’s first week at Stanford University and shocked him out of his complacency. Boyd shares how he made the decision to give up his British citizenship and enlist in the U.S. Special Forces. He talks about the rigors of serving in the Army’s elite and demanding Green Beret 18X (18 X-Ray) program and the leadership lessons he learned along the way. Transcript Download the PDF Chitra:   Hello and welcome to When It Mattered. I’m Chitra Ragavan. On this episode we will be talking to James Boyd. He is CEO and co-founder of the tech startup Adyton. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happened in Boyd’s first week at Stanford university and led him upon graduating with honors to enlist in the elite army special forces Green Beret 18 X-ray program. As a Green Beret, Boyd was deployed in multiple counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations. James, welcome to the podcast. James:   Good morning, Chitra. Chitra:   Good morning. Was there anything in your childhood or youth that showed a predisposition for a physically punishing career like joining the US Special Forces? James:   I think it would be the absolute opposite. When I think back to my 11 year old self, I was frankly a rich kid living a comfortable life, going to a good school, and I spent a little bit more time eating pizza and eating candy and watching TV than I probably should have. And I think my parents, they tried to get me to go get some exercise. They tried to get me to stop playing around with the computer. And it was definitely, it was a comfortable lifestyle for an 11 year old to just have toys and games and all the candy you could want. Chitra:   I imagine you weren’t particularly physically fit either. James:   No, absolutely not. I was a little bit pudgy as an 11 year old. in fact, I think I remember my dad had asked one of my teachers, he’s like, “Hey, is this going to burn off at some point?” And he would take me on cycling trips. And so there was this sort of a push to try and get a little bit more exercise as a pudgy 11 year old. Chitra:   So what happened next? James:   Well, I remember at one point I was going through this great school. It was a feeder into one of the top high schools in the country, and you’re around a whole bunch of other smart kids, and it was very competitive to get into it. But I was coasting, we had all of these fantastic courses available to us, study Latin and Greek and things like that. And I was kind of shooting for about middle of the road on things, getting fairly average to below average scores. And one day my mother saw my report card and she was absolutely livid and she told me that if you aim for 70 you’re going to get a 60 and she threw me out of the house. And this was before school. So I remember sitting on the steps of my house in London at 11 years old. I have been told that what I was doing was not good enough. I sort of wondered what I’m supposed to do next. And that was a very, very visceral moment that let me know that I was wasting what was in front of me. Chitra:   And you were living in London, but you had dual homes, you had a wealthy lifestyle. Your mom was American, your dad British. So you were going between countries, between homes, and it was just amazing till you had that realization. James:   Absolutely. I think my parents had met in California and so we actually had a house in California and a house in London, and able to spend vacations in California and there was nothing that we wanted for. And so it was really a position of tremendous comfort and tremendous privilege to be in that. And I think the takeaway was that I was probably wasting it. Chitra:   So did anything change right away when you realized that or did you continue with your 11 year old self forward a little bit? James:   Well, I can tell you that as an 11 year old when you get kicked out of the house and told it’s not good enough, that sort of is a little bit of a kick in the pants and again, the privilege continued. And so I started after school tutoring and working with teachers and so my parents would pay on top of these existing school fees. They would pay extra money so that I could spend extra time with teachers. And it helped tremendously academically. So it turned things around. And really it was just trying, it was applying myself and not just coasting through things. And so really that sort of transformed the academic side of my performance Chitra:   And what happened next? James:   Well, I was fortunate to get into a school called St Paul’s. It was probably top three schools in the country at the time. And this is a fantastic school where kids go on to be government ministers and run banks and hedge funds and things like that. And so this is where tremendously successful people send the kids to go get into Oxford and Cambridge. And a fantastic opportunity. And I remember there was one day, I was

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Aaron Warner Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSS Ep. 5 — A Dangerous Biker Bar Encounter Teaches a Teenage Musician a Lesson for the Boardroom / Aaron Warner, Founder and CEO, ProCircular In this episode, Aaron Warner, Founder and CEO of ProCircular describes how he and his teen metal band inadvertently provoked a bunch of drunk bikers to violence with an ill-chosen song.  Warner shares how the band defused the scary stand-off and how the decision they made in the face of danger taught them an invaluable lesson on what it takes to succeed in the corporate world and in life.  And he describes what that experience taught him about risk management and how it has helped shape his career in cyber security. Transcript Download the PDF Chitra:    Hello and welcome to When it Mattered. I’m your host, Chitra Ragavan. I’m also the founder and CEO of Goodstory Consulting, an advisory firm helping technology startups find their narrative. Chitra:   On this weekly podcast, we invite leaders from around the world to share one personal story that changed the course of their life and work and how they lead and deal with adversity. Chitra:   Through these stories, we take you behind the scenes to get an inside perspective of some of the most eventful moments of our time. Chitra:   On this episode we will be talking to Aaron Warner, the Founder and CEO of ProCircular. The Iowa-based cyber security firm helps companies confidently manage their cybersecurity risks. Aaron started ProCircular after a 22-year background as a CIO and CTO in the biotech world. Chitra:   Aaron, welcome to the podcast. Aaron:   Thank you, Chitra. Chitra:   You have a really fun job. Basically, companies pay you to hack into their systems so that you can show them the holes in their security fabric and then you help patch up those holes. It’s a bit of an edgy counterculture type of job. How did you get into it? Aaron:   That’s a good question, Chitra. I actually come from a very academic family. There are a number of different people in our family that have PhDs and this, that and the other thing. Aaron:   My grandfather actually was one of the people who was involved in creating standardized testing at the University of Iowa, so the work that they did led to things like the SAT and the ACT. Aaron:   I actually went sort of a different direction. I spent a lot of time as a kid on my Commodore 64. I never really went the academic direction. In fact, the fact that I don’t have my doctorate, my grandfather sort of went to his grave disappointed about. Aaron:   I was always interested in computing. I’m always interested in music. Ended up in high school playing in a metal band, actually. Found ourselves as the sort of house band for a biker bar before bikers were all lawyers and hedge fund managers. It led to some really interesting situations. I learned a lot from some of those experiences. Chitra:   Tell us about, what was your band called, first of all, and what were some of the experiences you had, and what convinced you to create a metal band of all things? Aaron:   The naming of the band actually was one of the things that I’ve carried into business world and that’s a really bad name, if you don’t think it through, can follow you for the rest of your career. Aaron:   So our band was called Noise Ordinance. The group actually went a variety of different directions. My guitar player’s now the president at a global biotech firm, drummer is a professor of optometry, other guitar player works for a fairly large food organization on the East Coast, and our bass player went on to the Marines and then ended up working in the defense intelligence world. So they’re pretty nontraditional approach, our band. Aaron:   So Noise Ordinance, we were this house band at a bar in a very small town in Riverside, Iowa, called the Iron Horse. The first night that we played, I was 16 years old. I don’t know what my parents were thinking, letting me go to this bar in the first place, but somehow we talked them into it. Aaron:   We got together and thought, “What’s our target audience? What’s the group that we’re really trying to speak to?” Did a little bit of homework and discovered that the bikers all sort of held out a Born To Be Wild. That was a song that we were going to knock out of the park. Aaron:   I will, to this day, never forget the last four chords of that song. When we finished, the crowd was silent. The bikers were very clearly angry with us, and some of them were sort of reaching to their bottle upside down so that they could throw these things at us. They were looking at us trying to figure out whether they could physically throw us out of the bar. Aaron:   And then I looked over to the guitar player and said, “You know, we’re going to die. We’re in physical risk right now.” Chitra:   Why were they angry with you? Aaron:   Well, as it turns out, that song, especially with bikers in the ’70s, is something of an anthem, and we didn’t realize this at the time, but for a bunch of 16-year-old kids to get up and play their song and try and take it on as their own, none of us even own motorcycles, so it was sort of treading on their territory and they made it abundantly clear that we’d crossed the line. Aaron:   But I guess the lesson learned, if you have failed in front of a bunch of bikers like that, if you’re in physical risk for your life, any boardroom that you walk into, any meeting with a customer or meeting with a lawyer, and none of those things

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Jonathon Morgan Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSS Ep. 4 — A Single Dad’s Quest for Parenting Advice Positions him to Expose Russian Interference in U.S. Elections / Jonathon Morgan, CEO and Co-Founder, New Knowledge In this episode, Jonathon Morgan, CEO and Co-Founder of New Knowledge describes how the social media skills he acquired as a young single dad on the quest for parenting advice and online community gave him the skills and tools 15 years later to uncover the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections.  Morgan talks about the difficult period in his life when he and his cyber security company were accused — he says mischaracterized — of using social media manipulation tactics similar to the Russians, to influence 650,000 likely voters in an Alabama Senate election to vote in favor of the democratic candidate. And he shares what that experience taught him about leadership.  And Morgan looks at what it will take for society to move from what he describes as online mob rule towards an authentic Internet and the price society will pay if we fail in those efforts. Transcript Download the PDF Chitra:   Hello and welcome to When it Mattered. I’m your host, Chitra Ragavan. I’m also the founder and CEO of Good Story Consulting an advisory firm helping technology startups find their narrative. On this weekly podcast, we invite leaders from around the world to share one personal story that changed the course of their life and work and how they lead and deal with adversity. Through these stories, we take you behind the scenes to get an inside perspective of some of the most eventful moments of our time. Chitra:   On this episode, we will be talking to Jonathon Morgan. He is CEO and co-founder of New Knowledge, one of the first organizations outside the US intelligence community to identify Russia systematic campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election a social media and counter terrorism expert. Jonathon has advised the State Department and Congress and he and his team produced the Senate intelligence committees extensive report that revealed the scope of Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 elections. Jonathon, welcome to the podcast. Jonathon:   Thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here. Chitra:   Tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you first became involved in social media and understanding its importance. Jonathon:   Well, I mean I guess it goes back kind of a long way. So when I, I lived outside the US when I was younger, especially in high school. And one of the ways that I stayed in touch with all the friends that I had back home was this was the early days. So this was AOL Instant Messenger and it was kind of like a social network at the time. And it really got me into, I don’t know, just how much personal connection people could make online and then got into coding and building websites and it’s kind of really early days. I was a super geeky. I mean this was almost 20 years ago now, and then I think ultimately I thought my career was going to go a different direction, but kind of stumbled back into social media in the early days of online communities. Like just kind of pre Twitter to properly date myself in early adulthood, kind of right after I’d had a had a baby. Chitra:   So how old were you then? Jonathon:   Well, so it would have been 21 which was daunting at the time, and actually I think that was, that was a big part of it. I think that’s why, again, I was kind of in a weird situation where I had a kid at a really young age. For me anyway, very unexpected, it was an odd time. I think now it’s pretty commonplace for young parents to retain some sense of their identity that’s like outside of being a parent. There was that whole, you know, hipster parenting movement 10 years ago. And so now it’s kind of normal. But I think at the time it was, it still felt to me like the only model that I had for parenting was, was my parents, which again, at 21 felt really weird. Jonathon:    It’s like, Oh, am I done? Like am I done being cool? Am I, am I done being relevant? Like is now the, the idea that I just, you know, kind of get a job and act like an old person, which, and now as a, as a parent with a 15 year old, I look back at the way that I used to think about parenting and I’m super embarrassed. But nevertheless, there I was at the time. Jonathon:   But yeah, and so the way that I found I, I kind of needed the connect with other parents who were parenting differently or parenting in a way that kind of felt right to me and I just didn’t know that many people where I lived. And so building, it was the early days of parent blogging when the first couple parents were starting to talk about their experiences online and they’re really kind of real and vulnerable way. And it was a great, just insight into how other people thought about it and how they were going through the process. And I’ve built a really strong community of parents who were going through some of the same stuff as I was. Chitra:   So you’re, when your daughter was a baby 15 years ago, in a strange way, social media and social media influencing and building community using social media was also in its infancy. And so as she grew, so did your knowledge of and sophistication about social media. So, so how did that happen? What, what was your next career move and how did that shape your, your understanding of social media? Jonathon:   Well, weirdly the two

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Mick Ebeling Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Email | RSS Ep. 2 – From an L.A. Art Benefit to a Refugee Camp in Sudan / Mick Ebeling, Founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs In this episode, Mick Ebeling describes how a date night with his wife at a  Los Angeles gala for a graffiti artist with Lou Gehrig’s disease convinced him to coalesce technology warriors from around the world to help the artist, known as Tempt, draw again. He then shifts his focus from his thriving production company to start Not Impossible Labs and dedicate his life to building technology to help those with disabilities. Ebeling reveals how this shift ultimately took him from the comfort of his home in Venice, California to the refugee camps of Sudan to build prosthetic arms using 3-D printers for a young boy named Daniel wounded in the civil war. He shares what he learned about leading both in the process of helping Tempt get back in touch with his artistry and as he undertook the Sudan mission to help Daniel regain his mobility and independence. Ebeling shares his insights through those anecdotes about the power of narrative to change the world.  Transcript Download the PDF Chitra:    Hello, and welcome to When it Mattered. I’m your host, Chitra Ragavan. I’m also the founder and CEO of Goodstory consulting, an advisory firm helping technology startups find their narrative. Chitra:    On this weekly podcast we invite leaders from around the world to share one personal story that changed the course of their life and work, and how they lead and deal with adversity. Through these stories we take you behind the scenes to get an inside perspective of some of the most eventful moments of our time. Chitra:    On this episode, we will be talking to Mick Ebeling, founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, and author of the book Not Impossible. Mick was most recently named one of Fortune Magazine’s world’s greatest leaders. He’s a recipient of the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award, and he’s listed as one of the world’s most influential creative people by the Creative 50s. Chitra:    Mick, welcome to the show. Mick:    Thank you so much. Chitra:    Tell us a little bit more about yourself. Mick:    Well, Not Impossible Labs, I think, like a lot of things in this world, was launched on accident. It wasn’t something that I had intended to do, and it was a byproduct of my wife and I had a date night, and on date night a friend hijacked our date, and took us to an art benefit, and we were exposed to an incredible artist, graffiti and street artist, named Tony Tempt Quan, that we had never met or heard of before, but we learned at this event had Lou Gehrig’s disease. Mick:    He had ALS, and the event was a benefit of his family and friends coming together to support him, and help to pay for his hospital bills, because he didn’t have health insurance. Mick:    And it was one of those incredible nights that had this echo effect on my life, essentially, because at the time I ran a production company. We made television commercials and films. We had just done the James Bond main title sequence, and things were going incredible. Mick:    But then this night happened, and it just left this impression on us, and we found out that this artist was unable to talk, and unable to communicate, except through a piece of paper that had the alphabet on it, and people would run their finger along it, and when peoples’ finger would get to a letter, he would blink, and then they would write it down. Mick:    And for us that was just, that was absurd. We didn’t, just, that didn’t make any sense. And so I said all right, well, that makes no sense. I live in Los Angeles. We have a GMP greater than most developing nations, 13 miles away from where I live in Venice Beach there’s a dude who’s having to talk through a piece of paper because he doesn’t have health insurance. Mick:    And I know, through videos, and commercials, and things that I’ve read about Steven Hawking, I know that there’s a device that people can use where they can move their eyes and talk, but he can’t have it because he doesn’t have insurance? That’s absurd. That doesn’t make sense. Mick:    So, using, you know, the muscles that you have and you build as a producer, you assemble teams. And so, I assembled this team of hackers, and makers, and programmers, and geniuses at my house. Mick:    My wife and kids and I moved out, they all moved in, we pushed the tables and chairs against the wall, and two and a half weeks later we had a device called the Eyewriter, which is a cheap pair of sunglasses from the Venice Beach Boardwalk, a coat hangar that we duct taped to the side. We bent it around to the front. We zip tied a web camera to the front of that, and then that web camera would track the pupil, and that pupil essentially was the tip of the pencil, if you will, that allowed him to draw again. Mick:    So, the creation of that allowed him to draw. It was this incredible moment, it was this incredible night, and our plan was we just wanted to help this one guy do this, and then we were going to release it open source so other people have access to it. Mick:    And we did, and the thing just went bonkers. It blew up. We were getting emails from all over the world, and stories of how this had changed people’s lives, and I kind of looked around and said wait a second, this is, we just wanted

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