Author Archive - minliu

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Alyssa Rapp, Founder and CEO of Bottlenotes

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

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Alyssa Rapp is the Founder and CEO of Bottlenotes, an online wine retail business that helps individuals discover and learn about wine. Alyssa started the company while at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she headed the school’s 500-person wine club. In this interview, Alyssa gives key insights on starting and running a hybrid online retail business, talks about her personal and entrepreneurial story for Bottlenotes, and gives leads to the most amazing wine regions in the world. Her goal for Bottlenotes, she says, is to create the “Pandora of wine”.
Alyssa earned a B.A. in Political Science and the History of Art from Yale University in 2000 and an M.B.A. from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2005. In between her first and second years in business school, she spearheaded the sales and marketing efforts at RO Imports, an importer of boutique New Zealand wines in New York.
Thanks to Julio, iinnovate emeritus, and Roger for contributing to this interview.
– Min Liu of iinnovate

John L. Hennessy, President of Stanford University

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

John L. Hennessy is the 10th President of Stanford University and a pioneer of computer architecture.

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John Hennessy started at Stanford as an associate professor in Electrical Engineering in 1977 and assumed Presidency in 2000. A technologist at the core, President Hennessy pioneered a computer assembly language called MIPS in 1981 and started a company, MIPS Computer Systems, in 1984. As Stanford’s 10th president, he oversees the University from various perspectives and sits at the intersection of academics, technology, and the corporate world.
In this interview, he talks about his role as the President, the early years of running a startup, current issues Stanford University faces, and the future of information technology. He also gives advice to prospective students and budding entrepreneurs.
He is currently on the board at Google, Cisco Systems, and Atheros Communications, and has written two foundational books on computer architecture and assembly language.
– Min Liu of iinnovate

iinnovate presents Hasso Plattner, Founder of SAP AG

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Hasso Plattner is the founder of SAP AG, the German enterprise software giant.

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I had an opportunity to catch up with Hasso Plattner at Stanford’s which he helped to start (its official name is the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford) and we talked about the experience of starting SAP and maintaining the company innovative edge as it grew to tens of thousands of employees worldwide.
Hasso has some interesting stories on employee engagement (soccer matches!) and on leaving IBM to start SAP. He also talks about what he’d do if he were starting another company today, thoughts on software as a service, and advice to those that have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.
Remember to join the iinnovate fan page on Facebook, and if you are interested in startup jobs and internships please e-mail Julio (Julio [at] iinnovatecast [dot] com).
Thanks for listening!

JULIO of iinnovate

iinnovate presents Barry McCarthy, Chief Financial Officer of Netflix

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Barry McCarthy joined Netflix as CFO when few were believed the company could rival the industry leader, Blockbuster. Today, Netflix is the biggest player in the video rental market and just finished its first billion-dollar sales year.

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Our guest in this podcast is Barry McCarthy, Chief Financial Officer of Netflix. For the past eight years, Barry has been responsible for all of Netflix’s legal and financial affairs. During his tenure at Netflix, Barry has helped the company grow from a few million dollars in sales to Netflix’s first billion dollar year in 2007. He played an integral role in the company’s initial public offering in 2002 and has helped the company become the most highly valued player in the video rental market.
Barry discusses with Nir the future of content delivery over the Internet and what technologies he sees as opportunities and threats. He also discusses how Netflix stayed nimble and aggressive in the face of powerful competitors. Barry also frankly talks about how he decided to bet on the Netflix business model even when few thought it would work.
Enjoy the podcast and let us know what you think!
-Nir of iinnovate

John Morgridge, Former President, CEO and Chairman of Cisco Systems

Friday, December 28th, 2007

John Morgridge is a Silicon Valley legend who led Cisco Systems through its rise from start-up to networking technology giant.

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John Morgridge was the 34th employee at Cisco Systems when he joined as President and CEO in 1988. Morgridge joined the company despite its notoriously toxic culture and revenue of only $5 million annually. By the time Morgridge concluded his tenure as CEO in 1995, he had grown sales to over $1 billion and 2,250 employees worldwide.
Morgridge transitioned to Chairman of the Board when John Chambers became CEO. During his term as Chairman, Cisco continued its meteoric rise to become the world leader in networking technology and grew to more than $25 billion in revenues and some 50,000 employees in 77 countries as of 2006. For a brief period in early 2000, at the height of the Internet bubble, Cisco was the most valuable company in the world, with a market cap of $500 billion.
Morgridge discusses his experiences and lessons learned at Cisco with Min Liu and Nir Eyal during this episode. He shares how he was able to pick the tiny start-up that would became Cisco and discusses the difficulty of having to ask the original founders of the company to step aside. He also discusses the personal sacrifices that he believes an executive must make to succeed.
Enjoy the interview and let us know what you think!
– Min Liu and Nir Eyal of iinnovate

Greg McAdoo, Partner at Sequoia Capital

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Greg McAdoo focuses on consumer internet, cleantech and systems investments as a partner at Sequoia Capital.

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In this interview, Greg speaks with Nir about what it takes to get noticed by a top-tier venture capital firm. Greg himself worked extensively with VCs before actually becoming one after 17 years of engineering and executive level management experience. Prior to joining Sequoia Capital in 2000, Greg served as President and CEO of Sentient Networks which was acquired by Cisco Systems in 1999.
Greg shares how entrepreneurs can increase their chances of closing a funding round with the right VC firm. He also discusses his involvement in Sequoia’s cleantech practice and shares his top picks for the next growth sectors.
Greg has led several high-profile investments while at Sequoia including Allegro, which was acquired by Cisco Systems, Isilon Systems, which had its IPO in December, Loopt, PowerFile and RockYou.

Thanks for listening!
– Nir of iinnovate

Martin Eberhard, Co-founder and President of Technology at Tesla Motors

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

Martin Eberhard is the Co-founder and President of Technology at Tesla Motors. Before Tesla, he was the Co-founder of Network Computing Devices and the CEO of NuvoMedia.

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“What keeps me up at night is the complexity of the problem,” Martin reflects upon engineering the Tesla Roadster.
After founding various successful startups in the computer and internet space, Martin took a departure and co-founded Tesla Motors with Marc Tarpenning. With a passion for cars going back to his childhood, his goal is to create a sleek, high-performance all-electric vehicle.
The highly anticipated Tesla Roadster will go from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds, drive 245mph on one charge, and will be powered by the equivalent of laptop batteries. Owners in the first shipment include Matt Damon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and of course, Martin himself.
We catch up with Martin at the Tesla Motors headquarters in San Carlos, CA. In this interview, check out what Martin has to say about creating a startup car company, his reflections on risk taking, and the engineering and market challenges in the electric car milieu.
Check out the Roadster!

A Roadster prototype at the San Carlos headquarters.
Thanks to Roger Gill for contributing to this podcast.
– Min Liu and Nir Eyal of iinnovate

Vinod Khosla, Co-founder of Sun Microsystems

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Vinod Khosla is the founding CEO of Sun Microsystems, formerly a partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, and partner at Khosla Ventures.

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In this interview Matt and Julio caught up with legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneur and “venture assistant” Vinod Khosla. Vinod was a co-founder of Sun Microsystems along with Scott McNealy, Andy Bechtolsheim, and Bill Joy.
After leaving Sun, Vinod made the shift to Sand Hill Road as a venture capitalist at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers until forming his own firm, Khosla Ventures, in 2004.
Today, Vinod is well-known for his investments in clean technology. Join us in this interview as Vinod shares early stories from Sun, his views on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, and his outlook on clean tech investing.
Check out the video of the full interview below:
Thanks for listening!
– Julio and Matt of iinnovate.

Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Thomas Keller is widely regarded as one of America’s finest chefs, and his restaurants French Laundry and Per Se have been named the best restaurants in America.

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Interviewing Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Yountville was a rare treat for two food fanatics like ourselves, and the great surprise that Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee whipped up for us in the kitchen post-interview was the icing on the cake.
Food allusions aside, we hope you enjoy this superb interview with Thomas. In our conversation we talked about his entrepreneurial success, how he picks new members for his team, expanding his personal brand, and, of course, food.
Check out this video of Thomas talking about the secret of success behind French Laundry as well as how to select a great team:
And as a special bonus here’s a video of Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee in the kitchen talking about his involvement with French Laundry. Click to hear what Corey’s answer to “if you were any food, what would you be?”
– Owen and Julio of iinnovate

Photowalking Stanford Photojournal

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

As a local alum, it’s great to make a visit back to campus every so often. When the Photowalking Stanford event came up, I couldn’t say no!
3:25pm: at work… gotta finish this deck! know it’s early but i can’t miss it.
3:40: zipping on El Camino Real (if there’s such a thing)
4:05: meet the Photowalking crew in Memorial Court, introduction to Burghers of Calais by Tom Seligman

4:30: a special treat, a trip up to the balcony in MemChu.. memories of tour guiding days return!

… and the details on the walls are always gorgeous..


A non web 2.0 project: Fog Creek Software’s Copilot

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

If I get out of the Silicon Valley facebook-Google-mobile world and take a peek at the tech space outside, I can safely say that yes, it is looking pretty good.
Tyler G. Hicks-Wright, with his M.S. in Computer Science and d.schooling (Firefox-eBay toolbar, Global Giving Champions) under his belt, has returned to NYC and joined forces with Fog Creek Software (run by Joel of Joel on Software) to develop some useful and usable applications.

He and his team have developed Copilot, a safe and lightweight remote assistance service that allows you to help a less tech-savvy friend or family member with their computer.
If you recall those frustrating conversations with your mom about accessing a file from the computer sitting at home, i.e. “okay, so do you see a box with a blue border open? yes, oh, yes I see it. what does it say? it says […] …okay, click on that…. Yea, you might want to give Copilot a spin.
They’re also giving away free Copilot passes to anyone with a .EDU email address. Alum addresses are fine, too.

Buyer’s remorse

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

my iPhone atop Half Dome
Steve Jobs’ announcement to give $100 back to iPhone buyers since 6/29 leaves a less than pleasing impression in my mind of the unfolding of the new iPhone price.
$100 Apple credit to buy something else. Sure, I can buy something small or partial with that. It’s not the whole $200 back, and it’s not a cash return. eh. whatev.
eh? whatev? If I were Steve Jobs, that’s exactly the kind of mentality I don’t want to hear from my most passionate consumers and early adopters. I’d rather hear someone say, “I don’t like your stuff at all” or “I LOVE your stuff” than apathy.


Matthew and Jessica Flannery, Founders of

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Matthew and Jessica Flannery are founders of, what the New York Times calls “D.I.Y. foreign aid

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Great things are afoot at Kiva, featured today on Oprah alongside Bill Clinton.
Kiva is a person-to-person microcredit lending platform which allows any individual in the world to be a banker to the poor: it does this by connecting the working poor with microloans from anyone in the world.
Kiva straddles innovative intersections, and does it well. By combining philanthropic motivations with the marketplace, Kiva is entrepreneurial, rigorous, capitalistic, and charitable all at once.
iinnovate caught up with Matt and Jessica Flannery for an insightful chat on how it all started, the experience of starting an endeavor as a husband-wife team, as well as Kiva’s challenges, successes, and future directions.
– Nir Eyal and Min Li Chan of iinnovate

Marissa Mayer, VP of Search Products and User Experience at Google

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Marissa Mayer is a key figure at Google and has much influence in the design, development, and usability of Google products we use every day, such as search and Gmail.

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When we asked what she thinks about each morning, Marissa said, “I think about the people here [at Google] and how great they are… The people here inspire me to such a level.”
Marissa plays a pivotal role in the development and launch of key Google products and serves as a key advisor to many of Google’s new talents. As the 20th hire (and the first female hire), she has and continues to set deep footprints in products such as Gmail and Google Desktop. Her demonstrated passion for consumer products and her engagement with the people she works with have made her one of the most influential figures in Silicon Valley. She has been written about in multiple publications, including Newsweek, Fortune, and Fast Company.
In this interview, Marissa talks about Google’s vision for search, ads, and apps, and personal experiences and lessons. Also find out how she identifies a great product during her “office hours”, which Google application spawned AdSense (a core multi-billion dollar business), and which San Francisco bakery she co-owns.
Many thanks to the Googlers who contributed to this interview. We will have the video version of this interview up shortly.
– Min Liu and Julio of iinnovate

Timothy Ferriss, Author of The 4-Hour Work Week

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Tim Ferriss is the author of “The Four Hour Work Week”

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Timothy Ferriss recommends you check email only once per week, don’t read the newspaper and don’t save for retirement. These are only a few of the taboo recommendations found in Tim’s book, “The 4-Hour Work Week.”

It would be easy to dismiss Tim’s advice as lunacy if it weren’t for his impressive list of achievements. Tim used his time-saving technique to learn six languages, become a National Chinese kickboxing champion, and a Guinness World Record holder in tango, all at 29. Tim now adds author of the #1 business book in America according to the Wall Street Journal to his long list of accomplishments.
Tim candidly discusses the contents of his book, his life philosophy and how he propelled his book to #1 using blog marketing. Tim’s ability to use technology to do more with less time and money is impressive and fresh.
– Nir