Views from the Top

Have you ever wanted to sit down with Airbnb’s Joe Gebbia and talk pivoting? Ever wonder how founder Lisa Price scaled a hobby into a major beauty business, Carol’s Daughter? And what about how Method co-founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry navigate the benefits and challenges of partnership? These are but a few of the entrepreneurs who have shared their experiences building companies, brands, and movements with Guy Raz on NPR’s chart-topping How I Built This podcast. Now, along with dozens of other veterans of the show, they will join Raz on the main stage for the inaugural How I Built This Summit, a one-day event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 16.

To Raz—who is the host, co-creator, and editorial director of both How I Built This and NPR’s TED Radio Hour, as well as the creator/co-host of NPR’s first podcast for kids, Wow in the World—a summit like this is in the true spirit of the now 2-year-old podcast. “I always thought of the show as building a community of entrepreneurs who listen,” Raz says of How I Built This. “What we realized was that entrepreneurs and people in business were just a part of our audience. It was a much bigger audience of people who may not be traditional entrepreneurs, but see a lot of parallels in the way they live their lives and the entrepreneurial things they do.”

With his distinct storyteller’s cadence, Raz describes talking through the initial idea with Anya Grundmann, Vice President for Programming and Audience Development at NPR: “Let’s gather some of these amazing entrepreneurs that we have had on the show and let’s take another dive with them. Let’s invite entrepreneurs and other people who are interested and give them a day of our meeting power to really bring in amazing, thoughtful, generous, kind, vulnerable people and leaders.”

“There was pretty much total consensus about doing it in San Francisco. There’s so much energy and there are so many innovators who live in the Bay Area.”

When it came to planning the summit’s itinerary, Raz and Grundmann also turned to topics and themes that often arise on the show. Raz points to imposter syndrome as an example—this idea that even industry leaders have to push through feelings of self-doubt in the pursuit of success. At the end of the day, it’s a vulnerable and very human experience (for Raz, too, he assures, despite 21 years in radio). “It’s designed for people to meet other people at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey,” he explains. “It’s designed for people to exchange ideas and connect and meet and talk about common experiences or common crises. It’s really designed to strengthen the community of listeners.”

Two break-out sessions will give experts and peers the opportunity to interact and also deliver practical tools and tactical skills related to everything from user acquisition and improving your pitch to when to raise money (and when not to). “All of these things are complicated and there’s not necessarily a right answer, but we wanted to gather the best minds in the country who could help people navigate those questions,” Raz says.

It was never a question, however, as to where this summit would kick off. “There was pretty much total consensus about doing it in San Francisco,” Raz says. “There’s so much energy and there are so many innovators who live in the Bay Area.” Raz himself can count himself in that company, having recently moved with his wife and two children to Berkeley. How I Built This now has a bicoastal presence as well, along with TED Radio Hour and Wow in the World.

Raz is as excited as anyone about the big day. “I can’t wait to meet people,” he says. “I’ll be there all day walking around.” As will other friends of the show like Lara Merriken of Lärabar, Sadie Lincoln of Barre3, and Brian Scudamore of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. “They are coming with joy and a spirit of generosity and just a really strong desire to help other people navigate their journeys,” Raz says.

The podcast will also air dispatches from the summit stages, fascinating additions to a growing archive of How I Built This interviews with innovators and idealists who, as it turns out, aren’t so different from you, or me, or Guy Raz. But it sure would be wonderful to get to sit down and talk with them.

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