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North Star Podcast


Jan 25, 2021

My guest today is Gagan Biyani, the current CEO of an education startup (where I’m both an investor and an advisor) that helps teachers run Cohort-Based Courses on the Internet and has students from around the world. Gagan also founded a multi-billion dollar online education platform called Udemy. Afterward, he founded Sprig, a food delivery platform that grew to a nine-digit valuation but eventually failed. So today, he has the distinct pleasure of being both the founder of a unicorn and the founder of a massive failure.

In this conversation, we talk about what he’s learned playing the Silicon Valley startup game. Then, we talk about our visions for the future of the online education industry, and how he's learned so much about cooking and restaurant operations. Please enjoy my conversation with Gagan Biyani.

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Show Notes

2:11 - How Gagan comes up with and develops his startup ideas.

7:38 - Why Gagan believes that the market is the best thing we have, but that it is still deeply random and flawed.

10:14 - The lessons we should be learning from Silicon Valley and what people in Silicon Valley need to learn themselves.

14:51 - The dogma and necessities of startups that Gagan has seen in Silicon Valley that are proven to be untrue.

21:17 - How the duality of total rationalization and going with your guy fits together.

25:18 - How the "soul" plays into optimizing our lives and why Gagan sees the future of human connection.

30:50 - What inspired Gagan to become fascinated and so knowledgeable about food.

35:58 - What changes when making food at scale and why recipes don't multiply easily.

43:01 - What Gagan looks for in determining whether a restaurant is worth going to.

47:41 - How lifelong learning changes the way you see the world.

52:22 - Why the way a company does one thing will show you how it does everything.

56:17 - Why knowledge should be something that is shared, not something that pushes people away.

1:02:54 - How the classical cohort-based learning model has evolved on the internet.

1:09:35 - How colleges and traditional institutions are adapting to the new learning paradigm.

1:11:03 - What Gagan envisions in an ideal future-thinking educational company.

1:22:45 - How cohort-based courses can be improved and where Gagan saw these flaws in his own and in other courses.

1:26:17 - What in Gagan's early life made him so driven and motivated to do what he wanted to do.

1:36:51 - Gagan's trip to the Amazon, and what he learned from the indigenous tribes that he visited.

1:43:01 - The infantilization of different ways of life, and why it is a more ethically dense topic than people realize.