RC Students Launch “Start HBS,” a Podcast to Learn from Entrepreneurial Journeys

Mike Cianelli, Contributor

RC Students start a podcast to have conversations with folks who have been on audacious journeys starting meaningful ventures, to get the “Story Behind the Story.” They’ve interviewed entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 CEOs and built a “Pod Family” along the way.

Alex Spencer and Bryce DeFigueiredo, both RCs, have earned a new nickname amongst folks on HBS campus: the “Pod Fathers.” Spencer and DeFigueiredo conceived the idea to create a student-run podcast called “Start HBS” at admitted students’ weekend.

Six weeks into their first RC semester, the podcast team has grown to a “Pod Family” with the addition of Isabel Yap (EC), Zeynep Yavuz (RC), and Joseph Lee (RC) to the team. Together, they have recorded seven podcasts. Guests have included Spencer Rascoff (former Zillow CEO), Joel Peterson (MBA ’72 and chairman of JetBlue Airways), and Matt Oppenheimer (MBA ’08 and founder of Remitly.com).

“The goal behind starting the podcast was to create a conduit for students to learn from and connect with alumni who have been where we’d like to go,” said Spencer. “The podcast creates an opportunity to have conversations we otherwise wouldn’t have—an opportunity to learn from entrepreneurs who have been on audacious journeys and started meaningful ventures. It has lived up to that. What I didn’t expect is how much fun the ‘Pod Family’ would have together while creating and recording podcasts.”

“We try to get the story behind the story of the success our guests have had,” said DeFigueiredo. “We’ve heard anecdotes from a CEO who once got fired, a business leader who ran a travel company during 9/11, a former Nike executive who has worked with athletes like Kobe Bryant, and a founder who sported a handlebar mustache for a good chunk of his RC year at HBS.”

“The best part of the podcast has been assembling a team of energetic folks,” says Spencer. “It has been a fun way to form relationships with like-minded entrepreneurial students.”

“We share the microphone,” said DeFigueiredo. “I have hosted three podcasts, and we’ve had five different students serve as hosts for our podcast.”

One conversation of particular interest was when Spencer interviewed former Zillow CEO, Spencer Rascoff. Rascoff was recommended by another guest of the podcast, Matt Oppenheimer (MBA ’08), to be a guest. As luck would have it, Rascoff was teaching an EC course on the HBS campus with Professor Rayport, and Rascoff agreed to be a guest on the podcast.

“Hearing Rascoff talk about his journey was impactful for me. I’ve reflected on our conversation quite a lot over the past few weeks since recording,” said Spencer.

Rascoff was an engaging, energetic guest. He was not afraid to talk about difficult moments—moments of dilemma—such as the time when his first company, hotwire.com, got into a difficult position after it sold airline tickets to the 9/11 hijackers. Or how his father’s career in music production shaped his thinking. He shared what it’s like to acquire a company for $2 billion and shared lessons he learned the hard way, both in business and personal life.

“He changed my viewpoint on how to build relationships with those I would most like to learn from,” said Spencer. “These moments of continual learning and connection are what make the podcast a fun and rewarding endeavor.”

Want to join the Pod Family? Email aspencer@mba2021.hbs.edu. For more details, visit www.starthbs.com. The podcast can be found at https://pod.link/1478535436, or search “Start HBS” on the Apple or Google Play Podcast app.

Mike Cianelli (MBA ’20) is a graduate of the US Naval Academy. Prior to HBS, Mike was a fighter pilot in the Navy and worked at Apple.