Doug Galen is the Co-Founder and CEO of Rippleworks. Founded in 2015, Rippleworks connects leading expertise from Silicon Valley and the larger US tech sector with rapidly scaling ventures for short-term, high-impact projects that unlock the ventures’ capacity for growth. To help social enterprises scale faster, Doug Galen works with CEOs to figure out their toughest challenges and connect them to leading Silicon Valley experts to gain startup and leadership skills.
In this episode, our guest discusses how entrepreneurs can make a difference in people’s lives and the world as a whole.
On what prompted him to start Rippleworks
00:00:42] Rippleworks started seven years ago. I had one of those moments in life. I was having a conversation with my daughter, who was turning 13, and we talked about how to make the world a better place. And I was building a mobile shopping app, which didn’t feel consistent with my purpose in life. So I made a big career change and started to explore how I might better use my time. And that’s how I founded Rippleworks.
How do you help social entrepreneurs scale their companies?
[00:2:42] How we do it is that we at Rippleworks, vet for the best ventures in the world. We work with the CEO to figure out their top three challenges so we know whatever we do will have an impact on them. We staff all the project managers called Venture Growth Managers who will sweat all the details. Then we bring in a Silicon Valley expert who has solved that problem before that the CEO is facing, with scrappy resources in their career, who will volunteer two to five hours a week for the next month to four months, working on this problem. You, as the expert, get that amazing feeling of leveraging your skillset to give back. You, as a venture, have that problem solved and you probably formed a new friendship and advisor for life.
On why he decided to get an MBA
[00:08:07] I had a moment in the mirror when I was staring at myself and talking with my daughter. I did not like the path I was on. I didn’t want to be a real estate broker. I didn’t feel like I was adding value. So business school was a chance for me to reevaluate if I am on the right path? And that’s a hundred percent why I went back. Didn’t matter that I was building a career. I was heading down a path that was not gonna make me feel good. And either I subconsciously, or maybe a little consciously, knew that. And I don’t believe in pursuing paths that aren’t consistent with what gets you excited.
On how Rippleworks select social ventures to work with
[00:24:01] We look at the impact of a venture and there’s three elements to the impact of a venture to pick who we’re gonna work with. The first is the depth of impact on a human being. If we’re helping a farmer in Northern Nigeria, how much are we increasing their income so they can move out of extreme poverty to poverty or poverty to lower middle class? So first is the depth of impact. The second is the breadth of impact. How many people are we impacting with that depth? And then the third is the target population. We are interested in helping people who are struggling with life.
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
[00:00:05] Chris Kim: Hello, and welcome to the OneHaas Alumni Podcast. I’m Chris Kim, and I’m here with our host Sean Li. Today, we have Doug Galen, Haas alum and CEO of Rippleworks. Rippleworks brings the practical support that social ventures need to scale faster and improve more lives. Doug, welcome, and great to have you on the show.
[00:00:24] Doug Galen: Thank you very much, Chris and Sean. A pleasure to be here. And of course, gotta start with two words: Go Bears!
[00:00:30] Chris Kim: Go Bears! Doug, it’s awesome to have you on the show today. Before we get into your bio and your background, could you share a bit about Rippleworks, what it is as an organization and what’s the mission of the organization as a whole?
[00:00:42] Doug Galen: Rippleworks started seven years ago. I had one of those moments in life, a moment in the mirror where I was working at a really cool startup, a VC backed by Kleiner and Greylock. We were building a mobile shopping app. Things were running off to the races, millions of users. And I was having a conversation with my daughter, who was turning 13, and we were talking about how to make the world a better place. And I was building a mobile shopping app, and that didn’t feel consistent with my purpose in life. So I made a big career change, which was my third career, and started to explore how might I better use my time? And that’s how I got to Rippleworks, how I founded Rippleworks.
[00:01:22] Chris Kim: That’s amazing. Could you share maybe a bit about what the organization does in terms of functions, and then how do you help social ventures to scale faster and improve more lives?
[00:01:32] Doug Galen: Yeah. So when I started that, I kind of started a walkabout, which is figuring out what I wanted to do. And two separate trends were going on at the same time. The first was people like me were trying to figure out how to give back. I love physical labor. I’m happy to dig ditches and build houses, but that’s not my skill. I have more skills than that. There are better carpenters out there than I ever will be. So that was one, a lot of people wanting to give back. The second thing that I noticed is, if you are lucky enough as an entrepreneur to find product-market fit if you’re a social entrepreneur and you’re scaling, there’s just not that many resources to help you scale, to figure out what are the challenges that you’re facing. And so, we created Rippleworks to be 100% focused on being the most pro-entrepreneur foundation on the planet.
And that means that we focus on the top challenges that a CEO is facing, and his social venture could be for-profit or not-for-profit. And we are gonna tackle that to the ground for the next four months. So that by the time that we’re done, we’ve not only solved the problem, but we’ve transferred knowledge to the organization so that they now can go, never have to deal with that problem again, that they figured it out. How we do it is that we at Rippleworks, vet for the best ventures in the world. We work with the CEO to figure out what’s their top three challenges are, so we know whatever we do will have an impact on them. We staff all the project managers called Venture Growth Managers, who will sweat all the details. And then we bring in a Silicon Valley expert who has solved that problem before that the CEO is facing with scrappy resources in their career who will volunteer two to five hours a week for the next month to four months, working on this problem. You, as the expert, get that amazing feeling of leveraging your skillset to give back. You, as a venture, have that problem solved. And you probably formed a new friendship and advisor for life.
[00:03:29] Chris Kim: That’s amazing. Wow. First of all, that’s just amazing. Could you share a bit about where you grew up and how you ended up at Cal, for my understanding is Cal for college? And did you have that idea growing up, or is it something that came much later?
[00:03:43] Doug Galen: The idea never in a million years could I guess that I would be doing this, not even close, and to make matters worse, I’m running a foundation that I didn’t plan to start. And I’m teaching at Stanford at the GSB. I never thought I would be doing that. I bleed blue and gold. Let’s just get this straight. I’m still a season ticket holder. I’m still enduring all the pain at Memorial Stadium. So anyway, you really want the truth of how I got to Cal? So I grew up in the shadows of Stanford. I grew up in Menlo Park. My dad’s hardcore alum. I’ve been to every big game since I was three years old as a Stanford fan. I was a ball boy for Stanford sporting events. I loved Stanford but Cal’s school I got into. I didn’t apply to many schools. I couldn’t afford a fancy school. You went to UC. So I got into Cal, I went to Cal. What a transition. Now I bleed blue and gold. My dad and I play pranks on each other. We debate games, the whole thing. It’s a whole house divided now.
[00:04:49] Chris Kim: That’s amazing. So when you first came to Cal, what was that experience like? You were an undergrad; eventually, you also came back for the business program, the MBA, but what was that like? And how did that maybe form kind of your early understanding of what it meant to be a leader and maybe to be an entrepreneur, maybe even a professional to that extent?
[00:05:07] Doug Galen: Yeah. Cal was instrumental for me. I went to a public high school. It was a highly diverse high school. No one gives you nothing. You gotta go get what you’re gonna get. And Cal, tough love, whatever you wanna call it. I took control of my life, and that was priceless. And it had so many different activities. I’m a jazz musician. I played in the Cal jazz band. I loved that. I was really interested in the government. I became an ASUC Senator and was really involved in government. Got involved with the jazz festival. And so I really got to enjoy Cal. Academics were tough for me, but I hung in there, and I loved everything else that Cal had to offer.
[00:05:48] Sean Li: I have to interject there. What instrument did you play?
[00:05:50] Doug Galen: Oh, trumpet, big band, jazz trumpet. Bring it.
[00:05:56] Chris Kim: That’s an amazing experience to be a Cal as undergrad. What did you do after school? And how did you decide to come back to Cal for the MBA?
[00:06:00] Doug Galen: Yeah, so the day after I graduated, I didn’t have a job. I was still figuring out what I wanted to do. My father worked in real estate, and I met someone literally the next week after I graduated at a local YMCA, where I worked out. And he offered me a chance to become a real estate broker in commercial real estate. So that means buying and selling office buildings, apartment buildings, things of that nature. Brutal job, hundred percent commission, we only sell a couple of buildings a year. I’m 21 years old; who the hell wants to sell a 3 million, 5 million piece of real estate through a 21-year-old broker? Really hard, ten months, not one deal. And fortunately, I had a roommate who was getting his Ph.D. at Stanford, and he helped me pay the bills and eat ramen together.
And then I ended up closing a couple of deals, and these deals pay a lot of money. So it funded my way to be able to go back to school if I wanted to. And I learned one critical lesson here, and I was an intermediary. I was a broker. Someone would say jump and I would have to say how high. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like being in the middle. And so, I wanted to go back to business school to figure out a better path and have more control in my future versus being in the middle as a broker. Haas was arguably maybe not even arguably the best school in real estate in the country. So I came back knowing I wanted to understand real estate as well as explore other things, just to make sure I wasn’t missing another opportunity.
[00:07:38] Chris Kim: It’s amazing. Doug, how did you think about going back to the MBA program? If you were starting to get some traction in the real estate side and making some deals, you’d already put so much effort into it. Why go back to school and change direction or change course?
[00:07:53] Doug Galen: I don’t think I realized until you just asked the question, but I do believe in moments in the mirror. You heard me talk about that at the beginning. I had a moment in the mirror when I was staring at myself and talking with my daughter. I did not like the path I was on. I didn’t want to be a real estate broker. I didn’t feel like I was adding value. I was just managing transactions. So business school was a chance for me to reevaluate am I on the right path? And that’s a hundred percent why I went back. It didn’t matter that I was building a career. I was heading down a path that was not gonna make me feel good. And either I subconsciously, or maybe a little consciously, knew that. And I don’t believe in pursuing paths that aren’t consistent with what gets you excited.
[00:08:39] Sean Li: Next natural question is how did building Rippleworks get you excited. Like how did that idea come about?
[00:08:46] Doug Galen: So Rippleworks has turned out to be my third career. My second career was building a bunch of startups and five different startups. Rippleworks is beyond anything I imagined. You know how you sometimes hear about people saying, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do this?’ The ultimate goal for all of us is to find what we do that we can actually say, ‘I cannot believe I get to do this for a living.’ First of all, Rippleworks is that. I spend every day working with entrepreneurs around the world who are actually trying to solve the world’s biggest problems. They’re not trying to build an ad network to be able to sell me something, and they’re actually trying to improve the climate or education or health care, or access to financial services. So the idea for Rippleworks came from two different places.
Place one was, I was looking for a way to give back, and I didn’t like the options that I saw. As I mentioned at the outset, I’m not a good carpenter, so building houses is not my highest and best use. I had no idea what organizations I might want to help if I want to volunteer my time. I don’t know who are the best social entrepreneurs in the world. I wanna make sure my work makes a difference. I don’t wanna work on any program. I want to work on something that matters to the organization. I honestly couldn’t find how I might do that. You know, there’s consultants at Haas or at Stanford or at Harvard or places like that, but they’re group projects. They are a little more PowerPoint than they are going in and getting under the hood and solving a problem. And I’m an operator at heart.
So that’s what I wanted to do. I also had a lesson; you know how those lessons that make the hair on the back of your neck go up, and those are the ones that stick with you the most? When I was at Shutterfly, one of those in that second career-building company, I got a chance to create and run our foundation before we went public. How cool is that? That gave me a really nice taste of what it was like. I remember being so proud of putting all of our employees on a bus, going into the Barrio and Redwood city to help a middle school with all of its challenges. Their IT system was a mess, and they had no social media; they didn’t have any fundraising. And we brought our IT experts. We brought our engineers and our marketers. We all came there to help the school. And this is my first event after creating the foundation. And we spent all day cleaning graffiti off the walls of their school and building a vegetable garden. And at the end of that day, the team, to their credit, said, “What the heck? This is our highest and best use.” And they were frustrated. And that gave me the moment that I tucked away and never forgot. There are a lot of people who would love to give back and do good if you can set it up for them. And that’s how Rippleworks came about.
[00:11:39] Chris Kim: Was that the first time that you ran a foundation? Because I know you mentioned postgrad, and eventually, you ended up being kind of a senior executive over at Shutterfly and a couple of other places, but somewhat familiar about s another company that folks may or may not know of called E-Loan. And I think that’s a place where you started making connections that ended up becoming what Rippleworks is today. Could you talk a little bit about that experience and how those experiences propelled you into those leadership roles actually to run the foundation as a standalone organization?
[00:12:11] Doug Galen: Yeah. So E-Loan was that growing-up experience. The first venture, most of us who are listening to this podcast, you’ve already been through a couple of companies. And if you’re lucky you had that one magical place that you worked, that you grew up professionally, personally, with the people around you, that was E-Loan for me. And that’s actually where I was, there were two co-founders, and I was employee three behind the two co-founders. One of them, Chris Larsen, is my friend, my co-founder of Rippleworks, a spin-out of Ripple, the blockchain company. So we can come back to that later, but E-Loan was my formative years of how to build a company. It set me up on how to think about how to build ventures. It built friends for life, and it built this enduring friendship with Chris Larsen that led me to fulfill my purpose at RippleWorks. Chris, did that answer your question, or do you want me to go somewhere else as it relates to E-Loan?
Chris Kim: [00:13:13] No, it definitely answers my question. I’d love to understand then if you bring us then Doug, we kind of said, Hey, you went through the undergrad experience where you learned to really be scrappy. You had that experience of working in real estate and went back to the MBA program and started just growing and scaling organizations, time and time again; once you got to that place where you were in Ripple and then moving on to Rippleworks, could you explain how that experience happens? Because I think for a lot of folks who listen to the podcasts and who are at Haas, being able to do a social venture enterprise, do something that’s both good, do well and do good is part of the ethos of a lot of folks. Could you explain that experience? How did that happen, and how did you transition from Ripple, the organization, into Rippleworks?
[00:13:59] Doug Galen: Yeah, it actually was a transition from ShopKick, which was that mobile shopping app backed by Greylock and Kleiner, Reid Hoffman’s on the board, we’re doing amazing things. And it was that moment in the mirror as a result of my conversation with Jessica, our daughter. And that was the scariest part of the whole journey. When I knew I wasn’t in line with what I should be doing on the A-list, I was building a great company. I’m in meetings with Reid Hoffman, who I consider to be legendary. And this was the scariest part of all, which is I was going to turn my back on it. And I thought that people were going to consider me a persona non grata because I’m no longer the cool kid. That was the hardest part. And I would say what got me over the edge to have the guts. And I say guts in quotes because it’s not that much courage for me.
I think I almost think of it as insecurity. I mean, it is insecurity. I should have just gone and done it, but I had a great partner, my wife, and we talked it out, and we literally had the money conversation. And for me, the money conversation gave me the courage to leap. How much do we need? What do we need to pay the bills? Do we think we can do that? Can we afford to take this risk? And that was really enlightening for me cause I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do. So step one was the money conversation, and we agreed we could make it work. Then it was, what am I going to do? And that’s what I mentioned. I started a walkabout, met with VCs, and met its social impact funders.
And that’s where I found out that CEOs of social ventures really didn’t have a lot of access to organizations to help the CEOs scale their social ventures. And that’s something I knew about. I’d done that five times and I knew a lot of people who could help with that. That got me the idea, but it was lunch at Yuba Boya gardens sitting there, a Mexican restaurant hanging out with just me and Chris Larsen. And we’re talking about this company that he’s building called Ripple, this blockchain thing. This was seven and a half years ago. I’m a baby part of an advisor to help him think things through, and we’re having this lunch, and he says, “Hey, I think I should create a foundation. I don’t know what to do. And let’s put a bunch of cryptocurrency into it.” And I started popping off with all these things that he should do because I’d been on this walkabout, I was wise, I was talking to VCs and foundations and the Gates Foundation and school foundation and all of these places.
And the next thing he says is, “Why don’t you do it?” And I said I didn’t wanna build a nonprofit. I’m a startup person. And then he said something that was darn wise, he said, build it the way that it should be built. Don’t build a nonprofit where you don’t pay people, right? Build it like a startup, create that energy, build it however you think a foundation or a nonprofit should go, break the mold. I liked that. I accepted that challenge. That was very cool. And we agreed. I went and did some thought that Rippleworks should be an independent organization whose sole focus is to make the world a better place and not necessarily focus on blockchain because seven and a half years ago, no one had heard a blockchain, and it didn’t make sense for Rippleworks to focus on blockchain. We just want to focus on doing good in the world. And by the way, our cryptocurrency was worthless at the time.
[00:17:18] Sean Li: Boy, did that change.
[00:17:20] Doug Galen: Yes. It did.
[00:17:20] Sean Li: This is going to be a really dumb question, but there might be listeners out there who have to clarify this for what is a social venture? How do you define a social venture? What do people think about social ventures? Because I had a startup, right? We have a podcasting startup that aims to really democratize podcasting and podcasting’s democratized, but success for podcasting, for podcasters to give them a voice, is not really democratized. In our opinion, when you look at the Apple top hundred charts, it’s, you know, everybody looks the same. Right? So in many ways, it is not democratized, but for example, what we’re building, a social venture, could it be a social venture? So we’ll love to hear how you guys define that.
[00:18:05] Doug Galen: Well, there’s kind of how Rippleworks defines it. And I could all potentially comment on how to think about it in general. Rippleworks defines a social venture as someone whose purpose is to make the world a better place. And so they exist because they’re either trying to improve climate, trying to help with education, trying to help the poor, or trying to help with healthcare or human rights. We don’t care if it’s a for-profit or not-for-profit; that’s just a tax code. But your purpose is to address one of these problems in the world. For those of us who may not be involved in something like that, there’s a lot of ways to think about social ventures or social impact. Some of us may not have the luxury from a purpose standpoint. So then it can be: what’s your product? Is it helping or hurting people?
What resources are you using for that product? So let me give you a couple of examples in the news right now, Facebook. Facebook did not set out to be an evil organization. Facebook did not set out to build a platform that would impact elections. Facebook did not start, nor did Instagram hurt teen girls. However, it has an unintended impact of what it’s doing. Now as leaders, what are you going to do? And so, for those of us in positions of leadership and organizations, when you learn of an unintended impact, what are you gonna do about it? And that’s a chance to have a social impact, right there Tom’s shoes, wonderful organization, social impact-oriented. Buy a pair of Toms, they give away a pair of Toms. It turns out that the idea of giving away a pair of Toms in emerging markets crushed and ruined the sneaker manufacturing market in those local markets.
So here’s Toms trying to do good by giving away sneakers. And it took away the livelihood of sneaker manufacturers. So what did Toms do? Their leadership acknowledged that and changed the program to start working with the manufacturers in those local towns and actually, instead of giving away shoes, produce shoes there. So we all have different ways on how we can think about social good. Hey, Bitcoin uses more electricity than most countries to validate its transactions. Bitcoin didn’t set out at the original to do that. So we have a lot of different ways we can think about impact.
[00:20:40] Sean Li: I think what you just shared there is so astute because it’s one of the things that have bothered me for quite a bit because there’s a story that I heard, my wife’s a pediatrician, and one of her colleagues I remember at a Christmas party told me the story of how they went to the Amazonian forest and to vaccinate all these kids and to do this good. And then five years later, they came back, and because they were vaccinated, the kids survived; the father has to leave the force and go work a job in the city just to provide for the family. And the moral of his story was, I don’t know if I did good or bad, but I think that’s the wrong mentality because that’s where his story ends. It didn’t have to end there. And that’s kind of what you’re saying is not just as a business, but even as individual actions have consequences that everything’s a double-edged sword, but what are you continuing to do better, to do more good. So that’s thank you so much for sharing that. I agree with that.
[00:21:37] Doug Galen: And I think each of us as leaders have an opportunity to create impact: Tom gives away shoes to try to help there’s unintended like Bitcoin using up electricity. What do you do on Facebook? What do you do when you’re faced with that? And all of us as leaders, whether we work at a social “social impact firm” or not, still have an opportunity to do good in the world. And I think that’s the new bar. The new bar is to consider the impact of your product or the resource that you use and be conscious about that. And if you’re not, you could end up a little bit like Facebook, which has put its head in the sand and is getting a lot of bad backlashes right now and is going to end up being regulated. Because I don’t know that while I know, they didn’t start out to be evil. There’s evil going on in their platform, and they’re not aggressively addressing it.
[00:22:29] Sean Li: Just bringing a relevant conversation from yesterday, one of my friends, a Haasie, actually messaged me and said he’s talking about a startup idea. You know, he’s been sitting on it, and he says, I don’t want to start it with the idea of how to make the most money. I want to make a difference. I said that’s the right order. That’s exactly the order you should be thinking about because money will come. If you solve problems, real problems. Come back to you, Chris.
[00:22:54] Chris Kim: Active on what a good social impact or even a good organization is, a great organization is from what you hear in the news or the media. It’s so different. It’s always, “Hey, let’s do what feels the best or what seems like a good thing to do.” But there’s so much there. How does that come into play when you’re looking at different organizations to select as part of Rippleworks or to partner with? We’d love to understand what are some of the things that you’re looking at when you’re looking at these social enterprises or social ventures in terms of what they are doing, right? And what are some of the things that they might want to avoid as they’re growing as an organization?
[00:23:28] Doug Galen: If there’s anyone listening in this podcasting who knows me, they know that I’m about to keep it simple, stupid. I’m always about how to make things easily understood because if you try to over quantify and overanalyze something that can’t be quantified and can’t be analyzed, you waste time. The impact is really hard. It’s not like EPS. It’s not like EBITDA. There is no one constant measure. So you have to come up with metrics that work that are reasonable in terms of what you can actually capture. We look at the impact of a venture, and there are three elements to the impact of a venture to pick who we’re going to work with.
The first is the depth of impact on a human being. If we’re helping a farmer in Northern Nigeria, how much are we increasing their income to move out of extreme poverty to poverty or poverty to the lower middle class? So first is the depth of impact. The second is the breadth of impact. How many people are we impacting with that depth? And then the third is the target population. We are interested in helping people who are struggling with life. We’re not interested in helping people in the upper-middle class who are trying to figure out which private tutor to go to. Wonderful problem, important to be solved. That’s just not us. So we look at the breadth of impact, depth of impact, target population to determine, do we believe in their impact if they’re having an impact on human beings. And then we look at the team and think that they have a shot to scale their impact, to help a lot of people. And that’s how we pick who we work with. We work right now with about a hundred organizations in 60 countries, but we’ve grown up quite a bit over the last six and a half years. We’ve done about 150 of those projects that I mentioned in 60 countries, 10 to 20% of the United States, everywhere else and then 59 other countries.
[00:25:32] Chris Kim: Doug, could you share maybe, one or two of the organizations you might typically partner with, and help us understand their impact? That it sounds like a huge amount of impact that these partner organizations are having. We’d love to hear if you have one or two examples.
[00:25:45] Doug Galen: One that comes to mind is Babban Gona. Babban Gona is in Nigeria, Northern Nigeria. In Northern Nigeria is something called Boko Haram. The worst of the worst in terms of people killing other people, terrorists, and they’re preying on the youth who have no hope. And it’s very hard to make a living in Northern Nigeria. Babban Gona helps farmers use technology that would be attractive to the youth to increase farmers’ income dramatically. They have increased the yield of those farmers 2x over the Nigerian average. That’s incredible. That is a complete change in someone’s livelihood. They came to us with the idea, they were growing so fast. They had already been serving tens of thousands of farmers, and they needed to serve hundreds of thousands with the goal of serving a million farmers by 2025. And they said one of the issues that they were facing is that the key to success is the first seven days of when you plant. Do you have enough water? Do you have too much water? Did you space the seeds right? And they would send someone out to every single farm in those first seven days to look at and provide recommendations on what needed to be done. Okay. As they’re approaching hundreds of thousands of farmers, that’s not scalable. So the CEO had this crazy idea. He’s not a technologist. He just said, what if we could take a picture, we could look at that picture, and we could advise what to do via SMS tech, simple phone. There are no smartphones in Northern Nigeria. And we said we could help. And we brought in, and we know how we say our projects are. We run all and sweat all the details. And then we bring in an expert who can help create something. And so we brought in Wiley Wang. Wiley Wang, I say with a smile because he’s amazing, Ph.D. in engineering. He did his work in his Ph.D. on image recognition. He is now the head of Machine Learning at an awesome startup called R-Zero. And he dedicated the next four months where he designed with Babban Gona the ability to take an image, which is not that simple because every image has to have the right scale. He had to figure out how to do that. Had to digest that in an environment that doesn’t always have cell coverage. And then incorporated machine learning to be able to analyze the state of that picture, to advise the farmer. Babban Gona is now reaching 280,000 farmers. People who would never now hopefully become a terrorist and create sustainable living. And they are going to hit their 1 million farmers by 2025. That’s just one of the 150 projects that we get to do.
[00:28:43] Sean Li: Now I see how you get up every morning.
[00:28:46] Doug Galen: I am the luckiest person ever.
[00:28:48] Sean Li: This is very inspiring. I’m building this company. These two companies, a production company, and a tech company, really remind me to put our mission, our impact at the forefront and not lose sight of that. You’re absolutely right. That is what gets me up in the morning, enabling more diverse voices around the world.
Doug Galen: [00:29:06] And we need those voices more than ever right now.
Chris Kim: [00:29:10] Hey Doug. That expert network really is, in many ways, part of that secret sauce, you know, as we see it for Rippleworks; how did you come up with that idea? And how did you come up with the like operationalizing bringing Silicon valley talent or experts really rock stars in their fields to help these organizations to have that scale of impact that goes from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands? That’s phenomenal in terms of growth and scale.
[00:29:37] Doug Galen: Well, the idea came from, remember that story I said, when I took all those Shutterfly people out to work at that school, and they were pissed at me because that’s the best we had to offer clean graffiti off of walls. And I told you the stories that stick with you when the hair on the back of your neck goes up. I knew that there were people who wanted to give back. And so, what was missing was a couple of key ingredients. I mean, this is a good old-fashioned product-market fit in human-centered design, which is you go talk to your users and what the experts wanted is I don’t know who are the good social and entrepreneurs in the world. So go vet them for me and find me the best entrepreneurs, make sure that I’m working on a project that matters.
So we only focus on the top three priorities of the CEO and I don’t have time to sweat all the details. I got a busy job at Google or Airbnb or wherever. And so I need someone to hold my hand on all the details. Those are the three ingredients that went into Rippleworks to attract experts. And now I think of Pablo. Pablo is a supply chain guru. We were working with an organization in Kenya called Twiga Foods. Twiga Foods was collapsing the food chain, there are six steps from farmer to human, and it increases the cost of 20% to get to the eater of the food finally. And 20% is the difference between food security and insecurity, and Twiga Foods needed a supply chain expert who was forward-thinking; there are not that many supply chain experts that are forward-thinking, but then it needed a grocery supply chain expert that was forward-thinking.
And then it needed a supply chain expert that was forward-thinking that was in grocery, that was imperishable groceries because that’s what Twiga Foods focused on. We didn’t know that we could find that person. How do you find someone like that? Then we started brainstorming. We’re like, oh wait a minute, companies like Blue Apron. So we found the head of the supply chain of Blue Apron: Pablo. And we called Pablo up and said, “Hey, how would you like to work on this project with TwigaFoods?” And Pablo stopped in the middle of the conversation literally and said, wait a minute. At Blue Apron, they like and respect me, but no one really cares about the supply chain. That’s the stuff that goes on behind the curtain. You’re saying I can be an important contributing member that may actually lead to food security for millions of people? I’m in. Of course, I will help. There are so many people who wanna help. We don’t have an issue because the world is basically good. There are lots of people. If you give them the right platform to help, they want to help others. We’ve got lots of high-quality experts because we put together a good program and people are basically good.
[00:32:17] Sean Li: Every listener walks away ten times more hopeful after this interview. The world is going to be fine, everybody; Doug Galen is in the house. Oh, I miss Chris’s face now because you usually get to see him smile, so it feels like just God talking to me right now.
[00:32:36] Doug Galen: I’ll definitely tell you. I’m not.
[00:32:39] Chris Kim: Doug, I had a question, is Rippleworks still sourcing social ventures? And are you also taking folks to join that expert network, or would love to kind of hear what you’re thinking there and the near-term future for what you and the organization are thinking?
[00:32:53] Doug Galen: Yeah. We used to launch two to three projects every month. Now we launch about five projects every month, and we’ll start launching seven to eight projects every month in the new year. So we’re always launching new projects and, uh, working with new ventures that we identify in the world. You want to talk about hope; do you want some hope? Think about organizations in Nigeria, Columbia, and Ghana who have one-tenth of the resources of probably every listener right now who don’t have the benefit of Haas. These people are addressing our world’s toughest challenges with no resources. It is so inspiring. So we’re always on the lookout for the next great venture that has a shot to deliver impact at scale. We are always on the lookout for great experts. And so we welcome that, should someone be looking for a way to give back.
[00:33:46] Chris Kim: Is there a specific type of profile? A lot of the folks in the Haas network might be interested in contributing or giving to these organizations. Is there a specific profile that you’re looking for, or is it a broad set of backgrounds of folks who could help?
[00:34:01] Doug Galen: Well, the cool thing is that social ventures face the same problems that we all face. It could be how to do A/B testing and marketing. It could be how to build a B2B Salesforce. It could be how to build a data science environment, could be how to deploy machine learning on photographs as we did with Babban Gona. So we have projects that hit just about every discipline. The experts that we work with are the best of breed in their discipline. They probably have done work internationally in some way, or they’re very culturally empathetic. You gotta want to be a player-coach. You’re not coming to solve everything yourself. You’re coming into work with the team to help them solve it, to transfer knowledge to them. But you still have to have dirt under the fingernails. You still have to be the one who’s rolling up your sleeve and can solve the problem. You just also have to be able to coach it with someone else because that’s the sign of success: A, solve the problem, B, help the organization be better set when you leave so that they can do it themselves.
[00:35:05] Sean Li: I guess, can people apply to be a mentor or an expert to follow up on that question?
[00:35:12] Doug Galen: Sure, absolutely. Just go to the website, go to rippleworks.org, contact us and reach out. And if it’s of interest, it’s about two to five hours a week. If you get assigned to a project, a project lasts around four months. So it’s like coaching a little league or working at your local church or whatever it might be. It’s another outlet, except it’s leveraging your skillset, but there are lots of different ways to help. I mean, I think the key is we all have an opportunity to be engaged and to make a difference. We can donate blood, pick up litter off the ground, or volunteer our expertise.
[00:35:52] Sean Li: I love that you mentioned picking up litter off the ground. When I’m walking around, I see litter, and just pick it up; it’s why I walk past it.
[00:36:00] Doug Galen: Totally, it’s not getting picked up by itself. It’s one of those pet peeves of mine. That’s so funny, Sean. Okay. We have another thing in common here. All right.
[00:36:07] Sean Li: Doug, we don’t thank you for being so generous with your time. Chris, do you have any other questions?
[00:36:11] Chris Kim: Just anything that, uh, excites you or anything that you’re looking forward to in the near future? I think, as Sean mentioned, you know, we feel like you have a ton of hope and a ton of awesome things happening, but we’d love to hear if there’s anything specifically that just gets you excited about what might be next.
[00:36:26] Doug Galen: I’m scared, and I’m excited about the climate. I think we’re all waking up a little bit more every day; every minute matters in terms of us waking up and figuring out what to do. There’s more and more work being spent on it, but we got to accelerate. So I am scared, but I’m also optimistic because there are some amazing brains working on it. And while there’s so much divisiveness going on in this country and around the world that just makes me want to scream, I just hope, and I know that those of us who want to make the world a better place and probably 100% of the people in the podcast listening right now do, we all can take little steps? And that has me optimistic because there’s a lot of people trying to figure out how to help.
[00:37:12] Sean Li: All right. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. It was a real pleasure having you with Chris and I.
[00:37:17] Doug Galen: Sean, Chris, thank you so much. The real pleasure is you can tell I bleed blue and gold. I love Haas and am so appreciative of the platform that it’s an opportunity it’s given me.
[00:37:27] Sean Li: So we have to close with our two words.
[00:37:30] Doug Galen: Go Bears!
[00:37:33] Sean Li: Go Bears. Thanks again for tuning in to this episode of the One Haas Podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please remember to hit that subscribe or follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate you giving us a five-star rating and review. If you are looking for more content, please check out our website at haas.fm, that’s spelled H-A-A-S dot FM. You can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some other Berkeley Haas podcasts. And until next time, Go Bears!