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Joe Lonsdale: American Optimist

Joe Lonsdale

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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.
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Top 10 Joe Lonsdale: American Optimist Episodes

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In 1978, John Mackey co-founded his first natural foods store in Austin, Texas with only $45,000. Two years later, he and his business partners launched the first Whole Foods Market, which quickly became the nation's fastest-growing organic grocery store. In 2017, Amazon acquired the company for over $13 billion.


In this episode, the Whole Foods Founder and CEO discusses his journey from democratic socialism to "Conscious Capitalism" -- the title of his book in defense of free markets and how business, conducted properly, can elevate humanity. He also explains the cultural divide in America today as a clash of three worldviews - traditional, modern, and progressive - and describes how we can pull the best wisdom from each to bridge division and continue to move our society forward.


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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12/15/21 • 35 min

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Daniel Lubetzky is the founder of Peaceworks, the OneVoice Movement, and the multi-billion dollar snack company KIND. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Lubetzky’s upbringing inspired him to use business to bridge cultural and economic divides. In this episode, he explains America’s unique role in the world and why we must work together to repair our social fabric and break out of our tribal instincts. His newest venture, Starts With Us, does just that by instilling greater courage, curiosity, and empathy in our daily lives.


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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Over the past few decades, the U.S. military’s long-held advantages have waned. Today, we are reliant on outdated technologies and in jeopardy of falling behind China. Bo Marr, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Epirus, is bucking the trend. Marr and his team invented the world’s most powerful phased array, Leonidas, that can disable drones and other electronic systems from great distances. This modern force field fills a vital technological gap for the U.S. military as it prepares for 21st-century warfare and a new era of asymmetric threats. [Joe co-founded Epirus in 2018 with the Build Program of 8VC, the venture capital firm he founded and manages.]


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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08/18/21 • 28 min

Niall Ferguson is a renowned historian, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and prolific author of more than a dozen best-selling works on economics, culture, and politics. His newest book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe,” examines how our leaders and societies have dealt with disasters, including pandemics, and how we must learn from the past to better manage future crises.


In this episode, Ferguson explains why the rise and fall of civilizations do not fit into predictable patterns and cycles. He does not see American decline as inevitable and holds out that America’s best days may yet be ahead -- if it can stay on the right path. Ferguson also pulls back the curtain on the Chinese Communist Party, revealing the ways in which the CCP's strengths are exaggerated and why the United States’ support for smart policy and innovation will bolster its dominance in the years ahead.


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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The United States is the most prosperous and advanced nation in the history of humanity—but it's currently facing a crisis of happiness. What went wrong?


Arthur Brooks, Harvard professor, best-selling author, and renowned social scientist, has dedicated himself to tackling America's satisfaction deficit, and in this episode, he reveals his four keys to authentic happiness. (Not on the list: riches, power, or fame). Tempted to make a bucket list to get as much as possible out of life? Brooks shows how this, along with other popular ideas about how to feel more satisfied, can actually produce the opposite effect.


One of the biggest drags on happiness in society is poverty. Having spent years seeking the best way to combat this curse as former president of the American Enterprise Institute, Brooks shares insight on why America's War on Poverty has failed. Could the key to transforming lives lie in shifting our approach from making poverty bearable, to making it truly escapable?


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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Maleka Momand is the co-founder and CEO of Esper, a technology platform that transforms how governments oversee the regulatory process. In recent decades, the size of the administrative state has exploded. Yet, many regulators still operate via Word, Excel, and, in some cases, pen and paper! This has led to a lack of transparency and accountability, not to mention a morass of outdated, disjointed regulations. By applying data analytics and artificial intelligence to augment regulators and regulatory processes, Esper is improving how governments function and interact with the business community. [Joe and his wife Tayler are proud co-founders of Esper.]


NOTE: Esper currently has clients in 8 U.S state governments, not 11 as mentioned in the episode.


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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06/29/21 • 33 min

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More than 70 percent of child sex trafficking happens online. When Hollywood superstar Ashton Kutcher first heard this statistic, he knew he had to do something to stop it. His efforts took him to Silicon Valley—where, hoping to enlist leading tech entrepreneurs in the fight against online trafficking, he first met Joe. Through their work together, Kutcher's organization, Thorn, has built software and processes that have enabled governments to rescue thousands of children from sexual abuse. [Joe partnered with Ashton in Thorn’s early days to enlist talent, refine strategy, and reach scale, as well as serving on its board.]


Ashton is an innovative technology investor, an extraordinary family man, and a philanthropist. In this episode, he discusses the dangers that face children online, and makes the case for why tech companies should do more to help law enforcement protect the vulnerable. He also weighs in on the future of social media and explains how China could use TikTok to influence the minds of Americans in an anti-U.S. propaganda effort. Finally, he details how his upbringing, with its focus on hard work and perseverance, propelled him from modest origins to his career as a world-famous actor and model.


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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This week's episode features three talented and successful innovators behind many game-changing technologies and companies. First is Sal Churi, a former law professor who is now general partner at Trust Ventures -- an Austin-based venture capital firm. Churi helps founders overcome the collision points of innovation and regulation, and explains how 3D printed houses, small modular nuclear reactors, and other breakthroughs can transform our country if we fix the outdated laws holding them back.


Next is Keri Findley, a top innovator in the finance industry who was the first female partner at Third Point, a prominent New York-based hedge fund. She discusses how technology is changing the finance sector in ways that will help working-class Americans better manage and grow their money. Finally, Wesley Chan is an engineer turned venture capitalist who was an early employee at Google. He shares some fascinating insights on the early days at Google, including how Gmail became the world’s number one email service and why it pays to think big.


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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How do you transform a startup into a household name? Ask Sujay Jaswa. When he joined Dropbox in 2010, the company had 16 million users. By the time he left in 2015, hundreds of millions of people relied on Dropbox for their daily web storage needs. As head of the business side of Dropbox and later CFO, Jaswa had a leading role in this transformation, building the business team from scratch and raising over a billion dollars.


Today, Jaswa serves as Founder and Managing Partner at the investment firm WndrCo and lectures on entrepreneurship at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB). In this conversation, he discusses the keys to his success with Dropbox, Aura, and other winning ventures, while also reflecting on lessons learned from WndrCo's role with Quibi, a media venture led by his partner Jeffrey Katzenberg that raised over $1.75 billion but sold its assets after struggling to gain traction.


Jaswa also describes how the COVID vaccines are proof of American greatness, how he prefers to work with those with the courage to take intellectual risks, and why he believes affordable housing remains the biggest impediment to keeping Silicon Valley as the global tech hub. He speaks out against the top-down regulations that create artificial scarcity and calls for allowing denser housing to be built wherever possible, including in his own neighborhood.


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

2 Listeners

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Palmer Luckey is as close as it gets to a real-life Iron Man. As a teenager, he worked on virtual reality headsets until he eventually created the Oculus Rift, the most groundbreaking VR headset ever assembled. After single-handedly shaping the field of virtual reality, and selling Oculus to Facebook, he founded Anduril, one of the fastest-growing defense companies in America today.


While some American tech companies refuse to work with the U.S. military, Anduril is unabashed in its efforts to develop and deploy artificial intelligence, drone technology, and other advanced systems to defend America and its allies. In this conversation, Palmer discusses Anduril’s latest game-changing technologies, innovative ideas that can change the world, his favorite sci-fi novel — and the Fermi paradox! [Joe's venture capital firm is an investor in Anduril.]


This is a public episode. If you would like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit blog.joelonsdale.com

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