Top TED talks

Just when you’re looking for that extra motivation or when you’re looking to enhance your skill set there happens to be a plethora of really great (and many not so great) TED talks.

Here are my top 8, need 2 more suggestions to get to 10 (that’s on you to suggest!):

Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, Tim Urban:

The Puzzle of Motivation, Dan Pink:

The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain:

How to Speak so People want to Listen, Julian Treasure:

Grit the Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Lee Duckworth:

The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown:

How to get better at the things you care about, Eduardo Briceno:

How great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek:

What are your two additions to get me to 10?!

I’m Regrowing!

I love living in California. Ever since moving here full time in 2015, the entire family has thoroughly embraced the majesty of being outside, more active, and explicitly appreciative of nature and how important it is to live in symmetry with it. There’s also a dark side to California, being surrounded by nature has also revealed its accelerating decline. The cold reality of climate change picking up momentum year after year.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m drawn to not only building teams that do amazing things, but, especially recently, being a part of companies that have a real chance of changing the world in the process. When all is said and done in my career, I want to look back and be proud of the impact I was able to make on the world. What’s the footprint I would leave?

So when setting out for something new after Sama, I wanted to specifically find that rare gem of a company that is a technology company with AI at its core, has clear product differentiation and is driving real change for the world. There’s arguably no bigger change the world needs than to reverse climate change. I’ve found something not only will fight climate change but help reverse it, something that is blazing a trail in a new category of technology in the bourgeoning AgTech space and something that can potentially help create a new commodity in the carbon offsets / insets market.

I’m excited to announce that I’m joining Regrow as their Chief Revenue Officer. Regrow is a global enterprise technology company that has products to Enable Ecosystem Markets, Drive down Carbon Emissions, and Build Yield Resistance that help the world’s biggest CPG, Retailers, Producers, Developers and Growers realize their net-zero milestones over the next 10-30 years through Regenerative Agriculture. My hope in writing this is not to deliver a beat my chest version of “my next move” but to truly seek to educate those that may be like me, looking for exciting new movements that are looking not only to lessen climate change but reverse it.

Ultimately, while I was fortunate enough to be evaluating multiple opportunities to move my career into next, I was thoroughly captured by the Regenerative Agriculture movement, its power to reverse climate change and after diving in, I couldn’t find enough energy to stop thinking about it and how much I wanted to be a part of it. It is a classic triple-win situation. Consumers can receive healthier foods, farmers can have a more secure and prosperous future and the planet will benefit because regenerative agriculture provides it a better chance to heal and restore itself.

In addition to the research, it was the company that stood out. The leadership of the brilliant Anastasia Volkova who is looking to truly change the world and the opportunity to build out a GTM organization that has already made tremendous traction. As much as there has been lay offs happening out there, there are also companies urgently hiring bright minds across the world, Regrow is one of them and for me, stands out from the rest. If you see what I see, please reach out. We’re hiring!

If you’d like to find my notes on Regenerative Agriculture, I’ve included it here in a separate post.

Regenerative Agriculture – the movement

If you’re curious like I was on researching this market, I’ve tried to compile my own understanding of Regenerative Agriculture to help further educate folks on this important movement. Aside from research, I’d also suggest saying “Regenerative Agriculture” three times fast, if you can make it through five iterations – congrats – you’ve already surpassed my best efforts thus far.

So what’s Regenerative Agriculture? Before I dive into describing this, it’s better to first walk through the problem facing modern agriculture today and what it’s doing to our environment.

The Problem with Modern Agriculture

Modern agriculture, for all its advanced abilities to sustain a planet of 8 billion people, is also contributing to its rapid decline. The more people to feed, the more agriculture ramps up to produce. Because of this accerlated ramp, current practices employed by most industrialized farms are unsustainable, particularly when it comes to climate.

Farming and food production are estimated to contribute from 21-37 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, depending on exactly what’s being measured. Those emissions include carbon dioxide, largely from energy usage, nitrous oxide from nitrogen fertilizer use on cropped and grazed soils, and methane from livestock. Black carbon is another powerful climate pollutant, emitted from diesel-operated equipment and trucking, and agricultural burning.

In addition to climate pollutant emissions, agricultural soils have been degraded by widespread tillage practices, resulting in lower levels of carbon naturally stored in the ground. The exploding population and demand for ever-higher crop yields have contributed to this soil degradation through chemical-heavy farming techniques, as well as deforestation to clear more land. Put simply, the more our population grows and the need to quickly produce food, clothing and supplies that turn a profit, the more our agricultural practices have created shortcuts to meet the demand of the population and investors.

Regenerative Agriculture

At its most basic level, regenerative agriculture is a more nature-friendly way of farming. It can be thought of as the next step beyond organic and sustainability. Although I can’t find a universally official agreed-upon definition, regenerative agriculture employs farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil, improve biodiversity among pollinators (especially bees and butterflies) and increase carbon capture in the soil to create long-lasting environmental benefits.  

If “organic” food is better for people’s health, think of regenerative agriculture as being better for both people’s health and the health of the planet. More specifically, regenerative agriculture seeks to move away from synthetic fertilizers, monoculture crops and industrial production methods to techniques that minimize chemical use and enhance the health of both water and soil. The end result is that regenerative agriculture produces healthier food while also serving to increase yields and profits for the farmer.

As farms increasingly employ regenerative techniques, the land is gradually restored to a more natural state, making possible some incredibly beneficial outcomes. Beyond preventing soil from eroding, the regenerative agriculture movement is also focused on nurturing soil health. What I didn’t realize prior to diving head first into researching this, is that there is much more to fertile soil than just dirt; every teaspoon of soil contains millions of microorganisms that assist in the breakdown of organic matter and help plants absorb water and nutrients. Harsh chemicals and constant soil disturbance can strip the soil of these beneficial qualities and make it less productive. By stripping these destructive practices, the regen ag movement helps build soil health without the need for chemicals.

Ultimately, as the name “regenerative” suggests, these and other techniques help the soil (and thus the farm) continue to sustain itself through an ongoing cycle of give and take. And, as an extremely important side benefit, the land becomes a more effective carbon sink. In this way, the widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture can do more than reduce greenhouse gas emissions; theoretically, it can actually undo some of the damage that’s already been done.

Good for Farmers, good for Everyone

Regenerative agriculture is good for the environment and a win for farmers, too. Regenerative techniques require far fewer inputs such as seed, fertilizer, and pesticides, which means farmers can reduce their operating costs dramatically. Results are mixed on whether regenerative farms see higher or lower yields, but studies have shown that even in cases where yields declined, the farms’ profitability increased.

In fact, major companies like Cargill are paying top dollar for farmers that become a part of their Regen Connect program and pay the farmer per ton for soil carbon sequestered (OR payment for positive environmental outcomes). In order to validate this, they utilize Regrow’s MRV platform which will offer verified data that measures the impact of the collective regenerative practices. Regrow’s soil model validation and process has been verified with the Climate Action Reserve, science and technology are aligned with programs approved by SustainCERT and in the approval process with multiple standards and markets including the American Carbon Registry and Verra.

It is a classic triple-win situation. Consumers can receive healthier foods, farmers can have a more secure and prosperous future and the planet will benefit because regenerative agriculture provides it a better chance to heal and restore itself. This is why I jumped head first into Regrow.

Scale Up by the Numbers

Whether you’re the CEO of Startup or a Scale Up, a CRO/CCO or Rev Ops leader who wants to learn more about what investors care about, or are just curious about SaaS GTM, take a read. This is from Insight Partners and frankly, refreshing that every business doesn’t necessarily have the some unit economics and they need very different investments / divestments based on the revenue story.

Here’s the link for the report.

What’s your Thinking Style?

As we head into the end of the year and turn to the next, it’s a great time to think through your “thinking style” and equally important the “thinking styles” of your team. Team meaning: leadership team, your direct team of peers, the team you lead, the team of people you surround yourself with outside of work and your family team.

Resist the temptation to change anything suddenly, just use these next few months of 2022 to observe and note what’s working / what’s not, so you can inform your early 2023 self on how to be even better.

Image from Adam Grant

Old Man and the Sea and the Sharks of the Startup World

I find inspiration for sales and leadership outside of most business books. Don’t get me wrong, I have an extensive list of great business books that have influenced me over the years but if you don’t balance it out with novels or biographies, you can miss a more wholistic perspective to understand business and most importantly, yourself even deeper.

My latest inspiration came from The Old Man and the Sea. I read this back in college when I was feverishly studying Hemingway’s writing style for my journalism classes at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. More specifically, how he uses few words, yet each word carries a power to make the reader complete the thought and how that same approach is game changing for journalism. After recently re-reading Old Man, it offered up an entirely new perspective on where my life is at today; specifically, how the book relates to startup businesses. There were several themes that stood out, but the ones that resonated are as follows:

Resistance to Defeat

As a fisherman who hasn’t caught anything for the last 84 days, the Old Man is fighting against defeat. He never gives in. Instead, he sails further into the ocean than ever before, hoping to land a fish. He finds the largest fish he’s ever seen, hooks the marlin and for three days / nights, despite immense physical pain and mental exhaustion, he continues to push. Then, after finally killing the marlin, the Old Man fights off the sharks even though the battle against them seems hopeless.

“But man isn’t made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

In other words, victory over the inevitable is not what defines us. Rather, it is our struggle against the inevitable, even when we know it is, that defines us. The more difficult the struggle, the more worthy the opponent, the more you can define your strength to persevere and ultimately, your identity.

Pride, Respect and Mastery

Pride is often depicted as a negative attribute that causes people to reach too far and as highlighted in another terrific book not about business Sway, can lead to people making irrational decisions to save their own pride. In Old Man and the Sea, Pride acts like a prime motivator. After killing the first shark that was eating his marlin, the Old Man wonders if the sin of pride was responsible for the shark attack because it caused him to go out further in the ocean, beyond the usual boundaries that fisherman observe. It was pride in his diminishing reputation that caused him to go alone to prove himself as a great fisherman once again.

The Old Man’s pride is portrayed as the single motivating force that spurs him to greatness. It is his pride that pushes him to survive three grueling days at sea, battling the marlin and then the sharks, and finally it’s his pride that pushes him to return alive with the carcass of the marlin intact to display his accomplishment to his peers.

When relating to the greatness his hero Joe DiMaggio show on mastering the craft of baseball, the Old Man draws parallels to his own craft of fishing and if he can be offer the same dominence to fishing as Joe D has on baseball. In addition, the Old Man relates to the pain that Joe D has with bone spurs to his ailing hands as he fights cramping from holding the line for so long.

Finally, there’s a respect the Old Man shows nature, the marlin during the 3-day fight, and the ocean itself. The old man doesn’t see the marlin as just an advisary that had the potential to outlast him but as a friend. The Old man shows a deep admiration for the marlin and hints that the law of nature is what unites us as humans.

“Come on and kill me. I do not care who kills who.”

When you push the boundaries, go out further than anyone else has, find your marlin and finally after a tireless battle, the sharks pick your marlin apart, only for you to outlast and defeat all of them in the process, this is the biggest parallel that I draw in building, scaling and winning as a startup. Is it crazy? Yep. Is it pride that drives us? Could be. The mantra of anything worth doing will always be difficult and as you face its challenges hold true. Because in the actual overcoming of these challenges is what truly defines us our character and continues to test our strength so that you can look back at your story and say with pride:

“I did that.”

Then you say.

“What’s next?”

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

The Wisdom of the Dog Whisperer and Sales Leadership


Having a Golden Retriever and two kids, I naturally watch a lot of dog training shows. 🙂 Dog training shows can teach you a ton about parenting and leadership. Before you think I’m completely degrading my kids or employees, there are a ton of great examples of how Cesar Millan ‘s lessons in “The Dog Whisperer” can translate peaks to being a great leader. It’s about the importance of rewarding the right behavior and the discipline of good habits. The most important factor in these rules is being consistent with the rules.

If you are not consistent with the rules, (i.e. when the same behavior is sometimes rewarded and sometimes punished) the dog becomes stressed, confused, and starts to take no commands at all.

I’ve seen this dynamic more often than not with sales managers. It’s very common in new managers but it’s very concerning when you see it in a VP of Sales – how long have you been leading this way and how did you get to this position?

An example of this would be celebrating the deal more than the process of getting a deal closed. Closing a deal is the result of the fuel you put in every day, the prospecting, the check in calls, the nurturing angles, the business cases, the art of a good proposal, the buyer call, and more importantly – the “pick yourself up, dust off and do it again” side of sales. In fact, the best sales people make losing look like winning because they did everything necessary to close the deal, but instead of closing the deal they found a way to get a win in other areas. If you pay attention to this process, the little wins during the process and celebrate the execution of it, the more deals will come – that’s predictable success. Most importantly, this practice focuses on all of the finger prints needed to close a deal, learn how you won / why you lost and makes you adapt for the next set.

If everyone on the team feels like they had a successful day and accomplished something, then they are more inspired to to do it again the next day. Setting the right expectation on a daily basis will help your folks understand whether their day was a success or not.

As an example for front end sales:

Did you send out 20 emails, connect with 10 people, write two new posts within your LinkedIn groups that are knowledgeable, share 3 times and comment twice on twitter posts from your network in a positive way and end the day with a clear definition of what the plan to achieve your ultimate goal the next day.

Sales is unpredictable, but this is predictable – if you do it every day than you can predict success. Create the right habits and do them every day, this will lead to success.

If sales folks aren’t putting in the effort on a daily basis to fuel and influence their pipe, then you have to either look at yourself to figure out whether you acknowledge the fuel in the first place or, if you do, tell the person who isn’t putting in the effort what’s expected – if they don’t perform the basics they will never master the art of sales.

If done well, you will lead a culture of predictable success but if done poorly and celebrate the deals that didn’t follow any process or rhyme, you run the risk of dismantling everything at the expense of celebrating a victory. If you don’t know what led to the success than how can you expect to repeat it?

We’re no different than dogs, we like routine, structure and direction which will open up what is possible within every sales person. Set the tone that success starts and ends with consistency. If every day’s success weighs on whether or not deals are coming through than your team will only be focused on pressure tactics to close business (the wrong way) as opposed to nurturing, challenging and selling solutions (the right way). If everyone is anxious about the consequences of not closing a deal every day, they won’t pay attention to what actually closes business – the process.

How Poverty can teach Resiliency

I’ve been running the same run since I moved back to San Francisco in 2015. There have been variations in the route, longer and shorter distances but the main route to the waterfall right underneath the Park Presidio and back has been the mainstay, the core of the run. I reflected during a most recent run how my life has evolved during each run. The original runs with my Golden Retriever (Jinx), the next set of runs with my oldest (Addie) learning how to ride her bike, with my youngest (Audra) reading books loudly in the stroller, with both my kids on bikes and me frantically trying to keep up, and now ones with my new puppy (Soda) who only runs in certain weather conditions. When I’m solo, I think a lot during my runs, and it’s truly a helpful release. Today I thought about my most recent experience, visiting Kenya.

I joined Sama (then Samasource) during the pandemic, so in office visits were not a thing let alone hopping on a plane to East Africa. After working almost 2 yrs at a company, I finally visited our offices in Kenya and saw first hand the impact Sama makes. I speak constantly to customers on the importance of data accuracy in models, how a dedicated workforce is essential for scaling and how you can do all of this in an ethical way, but seeing the work first hand was eye opening on so many levels. To connect the world’s most innovative Computer Vision work that’s happening all around us today with meaningful, digital work with people in the slums of East Africa is quite the mental model to jump through. Yet it exists! Every time you put on a Oculus to experience Virtual Reality, use social media filters on Instagram using Augmented Reality, are exposed to Smart Robots that are revolutionizing farming or vacuuming your floors, or Autonomous vehicles that are just starting to ride driverless, you’re experiencing the work product from people that have been, in Sama’s case, provided a unique opportunity to transform themselves by getting meaningful work in communities where opportunities are not as plentiful. I knew when I visited Kenya I would gain more context on this perspective, but I wasn’t ready for the perspective I actually experienced.

Walking down a mud road during my visit to Kibera neighborhood

One of the first things that altered my perspective was that Sama is a massive company! So many people work on amazing projects for our customers. I had gotten caught up in my own expanding bubble of close to 200 folks that make up the US / EU team, I wasn’t ready to see thousands of people getting to work because of the business our clients give us. Incredibly fulfilling to see this first hand, our customer’s data on screens being annotated. It made me feel connected in a different way to folks that share such a different story than my own that live across the globe but are somehow connected in the same journey together. Powerful.

Movie theater in Kibera

I took a tour of Kibera, Kenya, (the largest slum in Africa and largest neighborhood in Nairobi) where Sama sources the majority of our workforce, and what I experienced was much different than I thought I’d experience. I saw poverty, no doubt, but it was different from the poverty I’ve been exposed to in the US. There was an infectious vibe to this community and an incredible resourcefulness that was inspiring. There wasn’t any evidence of drug use or depression but instead, everyone had an incredibly positive outlook and were thankful for any gains they’ve received. When people heard I worked at Sama, I instantly felt the gratitude in return and it was completely genuine.They had an entrepreneurial spirit to them that inspired me to employ a similar perspective in my own life, and I’m a pretty positive spirit. 

I was wrong about the level of impact Sama makes. I was under the impression that when Sama “Gives Work”, it’s lifting / rescuing individuals out of the slum and putting them into a lifestyle I’m more familiar with. Yet the more I asked, the more I gained a perspective that in providing Digital Work above living wage, this allowed young individuals to make a difference in their own community. They referenced the old generation in their community being lazy and not seizing the opportunities to make their community thrive, but with digital work that we provide, this new generation is investing back into their community and making it better. When giving someone opportunity, it’s essentially giving them the consistency to live they way they want, and what I witnessed was that these people chose to invest in their community. Instead of moving away from poverty, these incredible individuals are instead seeking to improve living conditions, roads, water, electricity along with their families living conditions within the community.

Kibera is called “chocolate” city because of the mud and the rusted tin roofs

So when I reflected on this during my last run, I thought about a company’s own “runs” through different economic conditions, and in Sama’s case: non-profit to for-profit, Series A to Series B, B Corp certification, a pandemic that forced us to adopt a new WFH model and actually house people in luxurious hotels. The run is the mission and if the mission is strong enough, the central route shouldn’t change even though there will be obstacles that force you to weave toward the destination. Yet the main lesson I gained was by Giving Work, you provide individuals in communities limitless options on how to make their own footprint, their own impact. Isn’t that the entire point of living? To make your difference how you choose? To make your footprint in the areas you want to be remembered. 

Inspiring to think of what my home town of San Francisco could be if everyone adopted the same mentality as the people who live in Kibera. Giving work unlocks opportunity, which in turn can make a community thrive, but that’s your choice as an individual as to what impact you make, where your footprint stands and who you impact along your own journey.