a16z Podcast

Heroes & Myths in Entrepreneurship — with Guy Raz

Guy Raz and Sonal Chokshi

Posted September 12, 2020

“I’m in a movie, but it’s the wrong movie.”

For better or for worse, we tell the story of entrepreneurs as one of the mythical hero’s journey: that’s there’s a call, a test (multiple tests!), a destination… But nothing truly follows such a clean, linear, storytelling arc. Stories of success and resilience are messy and full of “sleepless nights, anxiety-ridden fears, moments of real despair and failure”, observes Guy Raz — who is the host, co-creator, and editorial director of three NPR programs, including the popular podcast “How I Built This” — and has a new book (coming out this week) on How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs.

But in sharing these stories, are we also indulging in “failure porn”? Where do (and don’t) debates about optimism vs. pessimism come in; does this really squelch the appetite for building? What happens when “unexpected paths” are actually things like a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic? Editor in chief (and showrunner of the a16z podcasts) Sonal Chokshi probes Raz on these questions and more, while also pulling the threads of how storytelling IS business — whether it’s a company or a community or a product or a movement. So what’s the difference between “building buzz” and “engineering word of mouth”? And how do the stories we tell ourselves, and others, actually move things?

Raz is also an entrepreneur with his own production company; has won numerous awards and accolades; co-created a podcast for kids (Wow In The World); and is hosting a music interview show for Spotify, not to mention his NPR shows. So what’s his best interview tip? And how does his story also thread into this broader sea of stories, along with the story of the podcasting industry, and even the story (and history) of the Bay Area? This episode is for anyone wanting to figure out how to rewrite their own story… it’s really for everyone.