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Creative Constraints as a Tool for Discovery and Innovation - David Rogier + Allie Miller

David Rogier
CEO & Co-Founder at MasterClass
+ 1 speaker
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2020 Startup Grind Global Conference
February 12, 2020, Redwood City, CA, USA
2020 Startup Grind Global Conference
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Creative Constraints as a Tool for Discovery and Innovation - David Rogier + Allie Miller
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About speakers

David Rogier
CEO & Co-Founder at MasterClass
Allie Miller
Head of AI Growth, Startups and Venture Capital at Amazon

David Rogier is the co-founder and CEO of MasterClass, where he is leading the company’s re-imagination of online education. Based in San Francisco, MasterClass is the platform that makes it possible for anyone to learn from the best.

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About the talk

A Fireside chat with David Rogier, Co-founder + CEO of MasterClass talking about How to Leverage your Creative Restraints as a Tool for Discovery and Innovation. Interviewed by Allie Miller, Head of AI Growth, Startups and Venture Capital at Amazon.


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Comfy very comfy cute the audience that people know how you and I can't even sit next to each other, which is that a year ago. I tweeted about how much I was loving master class. And you said that's awesome. And then we started a friendship that only lives on Twitter and then about 40 minutes ago. We met in person for the first time. Do you guys are witnessing the Friendship Blossom honored to be here with you today masterclasses just one of those platforms. It's really taking over the world.

And you know, I have over 80 instructors you really building up his future of education and I want us to focus on what the topic of today is, which is creative constraints with refusing that has a few all four discoveries for Innovation. So, can you talk to me a bit about the constraints that masterclass is really working within and maybe for the earlier side when you were building up a company what does constraints were? The heart the most difficult stage for me was the stage that I was trying to think of what I wanted to start. I knew I want to start something.

I was honestly not sure what and so I started the process. I started thinking of what are the needs that I have wood or Trends are happening in the world and somebody gave me a really great constraint. She said choose something that that even if its Tail's you are going to be proud of it that to me was a really great constraints cuz then all the ideas of optimizing a supply chain or whatever those were went out the window and I knew it was going to be about

is going to be on education. Amazing and so do you feel like when you really started out you didn't care about anything other than education did that really come through? After I got that constraint, yeah. Yeah. And the reason why was I was in part raised by my grandmother? And I remember I was in second grade in her house asked her house. She made me like a little snack, which I still loved and I was complaining about all the math homework grade your I don't know 8 or 9 years old jobs, you like don't have a lot of math homework and she told me that she has a story to tell me which is

like the last thing that you want to hear at like age 8 and she touched she tells she tells me this ridiculous story. So my grandmother was 18 years old or just turned 18 and was living in Krakow Poland her and her mom went on a family vacation. Dad was supposed to join to stay home a couple extra couple days to finish some work. While they're on vacation the Nazis invaded they took everything and killed her father. She flees to New York City only job her and her mom get is on a factory floor. And there they are

they are in a production line helping a stamp things and my grandma decides she wants to become a doctor every medical school in the state of NC State apply for all of them all by hand and you get to know from every single one. She keeps working in factories. You play it again the next year get to know from every single one. She starts calling and asking why am I not getting in they'll hang up on her except for one who says I'll be honest. You have three strikes against you you're a woman you're an immigrant and you're Jewish hangs up the phone the fact that person felt felt

safe to say those things says a lot to keep her in the factory. She applies again next year. She gets into one school and becomes a doctor now I'm staring at her cuz it age 8. This is heavy. Get to be hearing for just complain about like math homework while you're eating sliced apples. And that's all you care about is the only thing that stopped that a person can take away from you and that's stuck with me. And I realize I wanted to build something that's people can't take away from others. Wish Neighbor Care

are holding entity that's named after her so our paychecks come from her in some way cuz that's the pay stub. So that was the big constraint for us that name is Bianca Bianca. It sounds like maybe she probably instilled this work ethic in you the ability to make a thousand calls and finally make something happen. Yeah, and that life is fragile and can go like that and I didn't want to be on my deathbed hopefully long time and thinks that I didn't least try to make the world a bit a tie a tie a tiny

bit better. Wow, who knew that we'd start on such a heavy enough. But this is I mean, you're you're really wanted the faces of the future of education and so can you talk to me a bit about you. Sounds like a lot of what put you forward was that work ethic and having that Vision? How did you come up with that Northstar and maybe if you were to give advice to others about how to come up with their Northstar what might you and part on them? starting a company's when the hardest things like I've ever done and

you have to find that thing that's going to drive you and is going to drive you eat in those dark and really hard times and then in those really and then it bakes the great fantastic times even stronger for me it was and I know the sound like ridiculous and big like I actually want to change lives. I don't know how to do it all the time. Right and I'm bad at it most of the time but we actually have a Northstar that we actually pull and ask people if we changed your life and like the answer started low. It's now about

25% of our users say that but like I wanted to be a 100 very high honor prevent. I don't know any other organization that like that. Is there a Northstar but that is like our Northstar NPS is not like did you like clicking on the thing? It's is your entire life moving forward totally different than it was. Yes. It okay. Good metric like it's going to start low and it is low right and I want to get higher than anything over 0% You see the number go up. How does it literally feel?

I think I can't process it. Like I have a bit of imposter send it like imposter syndrome. So I got I think I keep focusing on like what I do need to like improving effects of not on like holy shit. That's cool. That's the way my highs what were just at the onset or some of those biggest hopes, but also biggest fears. How many you here are in the process of trying to start something? How many of you have heard from somebody else that your idea is not going to work? Yeah. Same people.

Yeah, I heard that all the time and you're never going to get any of these people actually teach that you're never be able to afford to get them at each even if you can get them at each they are going to be good at it. Nobody's don't want to sign up for it. Any big company can just come in and squash you and I'm coming change my but my view on startups. I think in our society of societal Norm that we've been trained from a very early age is to get Acceptance in price. If it's from friends from your parents from school teachers, and

we become like that. That is yuca told you today. You got told you you're doing great and we try we almost learn how to be alert, and I only expect those things but to actually get good at achieving those things. A startup is the rejection of those Norms a start of an inherently is the belief that I can make a thing happen that other people think is impossible. or believe that idea I have is pasta where everybody else is impossible to start to start a company is literally believing in the impossible which means along the way everybody's going to tell you that and you keep pushing through that is

not only the least idea but is that belief that you and a small group of people can make the impossible actually happen that is terrified because that is a rejection of everything that you've been trained your entire life up to that point and Up to the day that it is a success. There's a nagging fear in my head that everybody else was right. And so I think to me the biggest fear is like that I was wrong in that right would help me along that process was choosing something to be proud of even if we're going to fail because then at least I failed I was

going to be proud of making that's why and so do you think instead of opening this with praising you and praising master class? I should have said it's not good enough work harder twice as many instructors. No, because I think the other thing that happened occurs is that and I'm sure this is true for Holy Smokes in this room is after a couple years of that you actually start. Tune that stuff out and what you starts with at least for me is is there still I want to hear the parts of somebody doubts just to make sure I'm

thinking about that and I don't plan for that. But now you're this is one of best friendship right to the con is the fear the the the the I lost friends. I put on weight. I slept less. I cry. Try those are all the cost of starting a company the pros are The impact that you realize you can have is much more than you ever thought and the the idea now that when somebody critiques or thinks isn't going to work. I actually see that as opportunities because now I know

I have a belief that other people think it's impossible which means other people aren't in that space and I don't see the world the same way and that's why I should run towards so I think the wood now somebody has doubt or critique. It does have the same effect as it is very early on a little secret that you have. Yeah, and you start being like I don't care because I know I can make an impact in this world got it. The one thing we talked about is that users surrounded yourself with other entrepreneurs that maybe you could share best practices. You could talk about your experiences. You

sure just how you he's informed that that Posse. That's why I'd sure I think you need help as a Founder is Gary. I've been scared you feel alone of times having a co-founders great having great sex is great. I also found being able to confide in other people's 40 bent Gordy been there. I got a I got a therapist who is great. That's like my my number one piece of advice. If you don't have a therapist, you should get it right therapist, but I'm sure you can order and also integrating that coach was really

helpful was getting a group of other Founders that are staged or two ahead of you because they've been there before and we'll have advice and you can learn and prevents some of those mistakes and you also hear some the stuff that you're doing that you're like, oh shit. I'm really scared about this and be like, oh no I would have been there. It's actually okay. So, you know for me, I've got an advice and help from lots of people from work from work for Marco the CEO of thumbtack. Aaron seal box Kevin the CEO of Instagram of the sounds of

thunder ridge Grand former CEO and I was trying to look for the founders and CEOs were one step ahead of me or two steps ahead of me because they're going to have already been through that pasta. I now need to figure out how to get through the question on everyone's mind after hearing those names. It's how on Earth do you reach out to them? How do you say hello founder of Instagram? Help me? I mean, honestly, I just it's cold emails and suck. Sometimes you see you have a friend in common or something like that. If you build something that

you're proud of and something that you're proud of even if it failed the altar other people are going to think it's cool to because planes that they care about right so we want to make it possible for anybody in the world to learn from the absolute best. Well, that's an idea that land for some people right? And so some people are glad to help out with Kevin friend introduced us when he heard what we are working on Marco and Arenado ask him if I cold email that you share investors and then you called him but other Founders. I love me

other Founders and trying to help them in the same way that they've helped me. So cold email is great. How often do I hear. Which is the cold start problem, which is not nothing take you back to that dark time. You got no content. No product. Maybe some funding Earth. Did you how did you like take me into that meeting? How did you convince the first instructor to be like in? You try to make it not a cold start or how you try to make it seem like it's not a cold start.

We did lots of testing what I mean by that is how can I show the first doctor's the people want to learn from them? Okay. Well, I can like do polls right? I can get some stats for them. I can lock things up so they can see what it looks like. I can get as advisors people that they're going to respect and Trust so, you know, the first truck series filmed was the author James Patterson. He's a best-selling he is the best-selling author in the country. I think like a hundred and eighteen best sellers. He

does 16 books a year. I mean like he is a machine wanted him. I don't know James and cold emailed. Everybody can find. I made Jackson show staff how much you want to wear from my weed Motley Motley Motley matzav up. I got a director who is well-known. I was able to get him to sign up as an as an advisor and I didn't hear anything. I'm back home in Los Angeles seen I was seeing my family and I'm walking like down the street. I got a phone call from a number. I don't recognize

most the time like you should not answer those calls. I answer that call and the voice of a phone goes. Hi, this is Jim. This is Jim Patterson how to spell on smooth. I was like the author And he goes, yeah, I don't like I'm like really surprised to hear from you. He's like He's like what I saw your I saw your proposals at the timing works. I would love to me and I would like to teach on this and I'm like the first thought that goes through my head was how do I know? I know it sounds like Fritos Law Firm

was like why you did you respond to this? And he's like, I've always wanted to teach but I want I didn't know if you guys were real and I looked at who you guys had his advisers and I know some of them and so I want to talk about it and you're like it take somebody was okay with more risk, but that was really that was for now. We save notes to get the first charger from the hardest things. It took me a year to get the first ones now we say no tonight. but

We're all very excited about who's coming out next and I'm not going to give any away, but it sounds like you're saying no denying the ones you are saying yes to her once we should be pretty excited about. Yes. Alright, so okay, Jimmy calls you I called him Jimmy. I don't know. I don't know. I'm we're going to call Jimmy called you but you're working on it for a year. I know that you was founded the company you would have that idea and then you didn't launch until about a year-and-a-half later. Tell me it like what is happening in that year and a half. I'm assuming relatively stress-free

time. What are some things that are coming up in that year and 1/2 in and what you know, what would you wish could have been different? What would you have done differently in the pre-launch? They just like really hard it's hard for most recent one is you have this hope that it's going to work in this like belief, but you're not a hundred percent. Sure. Everybody is asking you what are you working on and like you're deciding to you? Do you say it or not? And if you say if people like I don't think it's going to work and like I don't know about you guys there's only a certain amount of that

every day I could take at that time and I don't want to hear any more about that, right? There was an approach I still think it exists in the valley of like MVP. Just you just need to get a thing out there that's true for a lot of businesses. That's not true for all businesses. And I think it's actually a curse that somebody is it I push very hard and great investment. Great idea great back quickly. The reason is I knew it had to be high-quality. I knew I had to launch with a couple of large name folks because I wanted to build a brand around the best in the

world. That wasn't just in one area. I had to make sure it was really high-quality film me because otherwise I would never get a doctor's right and so I wanted to I needed to wait until is really high quality and it was hard to sign these folks and a half after we got funding for lunch. That's a long time. But the result was we launched with James Patterson, Serena Williams. Annie Leibovitz Usher, right and so like it until it was a great and Dustin Hoffman. So it's like a grapefruit really launched with and then all the

sudden you're like, there's not a brand about just a class in writing or tennis. It's like, oh my God, these are like the best in the world and the first day that we launched. I was like a fantastic huge sales day, cuz it's not a huge sales pressed not we are fuct day one sales was not a big sales day. I actually went home and I actually cried and I called my parents was like embarrassing things admit to all of you. I was like, what am I going to do? Like Serena Williams? I told her this was going to work. This was going to be the next big thing in education

and fuck a my parents knowing I don't have to feel sure you guys whenever things are rough. They're very supportive. David is going to be okay what what else they're going to tell you if I didn't like it's going to be okay. So next day get to work. We have a small team then I don't want to show this so trying to hurry up and we had a guy who ran are paid and marketing team and he came up to me and I saw a big smile on his face and I'm like, why is he smiling? And so I was like Hey Reed, how's it going? This is going to

be a huge business and I was like, really and he's like, have you seen our cats? This is this I can blow this out and we're going to make tons of money order to make money. Folks are loving this ranchers in it and our day to sales were above our day once house and a three Tails above are they to self is the curve is like this forces like this. This is going to work and how amazing that you even in the face of Serena Williams telling you that this I mean this is what she

wants to do, but you just kept pushing for it and if he is watching this, I always knew it was going to be a hit. We got we got one thing that that I want to close on which is and I and I got to take advantage of the fact that you know, you are a CEO masterclass what you do is teach and so let's transport ourselves into that filming Studio that you put all of the other instructors in this is your master class on entrepreneurship cameras on what do you what wisdom of Entrepreneurship? Would you want to impart on not only that every person including Serena

Williams watching the live stream? We are out of time actually so chicken skin. Okay. on the spot number one understanding that's going to be the hardest thing that you ever going to do you like. My number one piece of advice is don't do it because you are going to put it you're going to you're going to gain you're going to put your going to eat badly. You're not going to sleep while you're going to gain weight or lose friends your to be stressed out. Number two, if

you still want to do it, it's a most awesome thing you're ever going to do you're going to never understand the potential you have that you've never understood before you're going to meet people that you've never met before you're going to have an impact in the world that like that. Hi and that I'm getting Goosebumps and chills when it's something I've never felt before number 3 a great therapist. Number for testing you can test tons of things for cheap before doing it. Number 5 your number one job is to never run out of money. And like that's your number one job

as a CEO and founder. I took that from our CEO of who's a close friend. And now in Dumb and Dumber 6. Last one is pick something that even if it fails you are and you're proud of it. I love that number one number to do it. Love it. Thank you so much.

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