Story In A Bottle Podcast

Unlike many of our guests, you won’t find Sam Kassoumeh on Twitter. In fact, you won’t find his profile on any social media sites. He removed them all before Snowden’s leaks, based on an inkling.

Growing up in ‘Ford Country’ he was surrounded by friends and family working in the automotive industry. It was assumed he would follow in their footsteps. At 14, he was drawn to a different path as he began ‘white hat’ hacking as he broke screenname rules on AOL 2.0. From these humble beginnings he began his career as a top internet security expert.

After graduating from The University of Michigan and a few corporate jobs that followed, he worked his way up the ranks, eventually helping build a military level security system at Gilt. He realized at this point how much the sphere of the internet needed better security as a whole and launched his company Security Scorecard. Over a bottle of Cotes du Rhone, we discussed his take on internet security and why it’s not that “people should be fearful, but with that being said, people need to be educated.” In the age of celebrity cell phone hacks and Ashley Madison data leaks, it should come as no surprise that 70% of breaches are due to third party intrusion. This statistic becomes more and more relevant as we become increasingly reliant on the cloud.

Our conversation was truly one of the most enlightening that we’ve had to date. With the knowledge that “a basic level breach costs a company $6 million and 2 years of remediation” it’s a conversation that could save companies both large and small.

Direct download: SIAB_SKassoumeh_v2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:30am EST

Much like many who found themselves in tech, Christina Lewis Halpern began her career in journalism. Unlike most though, it’s her first foray into tech from that world that is making the biggest splash.

From covering crime in Stamford, CT to grabbing quotes from Donald Trump on Wall Street, as well as the boom and bust of the real estate industry, she saw the true spectrum of wealth and humanity play out in the daily news. It left her wanting to help inspire change, much like her initial source of inspiration: her father. As the first African American to build a billion dollar company he sought (and succeeded) to bring diversity to some of the business world in the 1980s. It was his path that ultimately helped Christina find her calling with All Star Code.

As she says, "Tech is the engine of job growth and wealth creation... and if we don't have people from diverse backgrounds in tech we face many problems." With All Star Code she is helping to bring some much needed diversity to the world of coding. Over Sancerre provided by ABC Wine Company, we sat with her to discuss the evolution of tech and how it not only can, but desperately needs, to be more diverse in order to avoid a new economic crisis.

Direct download: SIAB_CHalpern_v3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:03pm EST

What if the games you played as a kid shaped your eventual career? Dennis Crowley grew up in a family that made everything into a game with the simple goal of adding an element of fun to everyday life. After graduating from Syracuse University he moved to New York where he nurtured his passion for creating, with stints at early tech companies (Jupiter Research, Vindigo) until the first dot com bubble burst. At that time, when it seemed like the fun was over for many in the industry, he set out to find those still passionate about tech and a bit of direction, leading him to the esteemed ITP program at New York University. It was there that he developed his thesis Dodgeball, which would later be purchased by Google, immediately immersing him in the world of big tech and startups. Whether it was a product that was ahead of its time or just lost in a large company without a clear plan, Dennis eventually saw the writing on the wall and painfully walked away from Dodgeball with Google pulling the plug shortly thereafter. Dennis was still convinced that making the mundane fun could be a reality and the ideas behind his grad school thesis were worth another shot. Foursquare was born.

As Foursquare evolved and the social media scene exploded, Dennis found himself at a crossroads. The original intention for the app was there, but user behavior was shifting and the company had to make major changes. Swarm, their most recent endeavor, is now in its second year. Over Keegan’s Mother’s Milk beer, we discuss the decision to pivot the Foursquare brand, the real reason behind it, and how following the path that’s been your guiding force since childhood can pay off in big ways.

Direct download: SIAB_DCrowley_v3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:55am EST

Alexandra Klasinski doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. As a Silicon Valley native, she grew up surrounded by technology and thought processes about innovation, but even immersed in the heart of it all, unsurprisingly veered away from the tech path and towards her passions: art, photography and doing the unexpected.. From managing a fast food restaurant to working with high profile comedy writers and eventually with musicians (and a stint in a band herself), she’s let all of her experiences stay true to her idea that every job offers the opportunity to do something new.

While conversing with us over boxed rosé spritzers (what she's coined "the douchebag"), she explained that as the music and arts spaces have evolved to be more digital centric, she has now found her way back into that space. Of course, on her own terms. When working with companies like Lomographic Society International and Edelman didn’t prove to suit her personal growth (the primary focus of all her pursuits) she didn’t let her deter her. Today, she sits very happily at the intersection of art and tech at 20x200 as the Director of Partnerships & Programming where she is able to bring art to the masses in a way that is both special and unique to the artists, especially herself.

To see her (and other great artists') work in action, check out 20x200. And adventures @alexandrak.

Direct download: SIAB_AKlasinski_v3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:13am EST

Mark Mangan is the cofounder of Flavorpill Media, a company he started 15 years ago as last ditch attempt to save a failing startup. He took one element of the existing business: an added value email newsletter, which, at the time (and even now) seemed like an impractical way to sustain a business. But, from this (at the time) unique offering of a list curated local, cultural events (with a harsh editorial guideline to maintain authenticity) the company grew to become a leading culture and lifestyle brand. And with every success, they expanded, eventually creating large custom events of their own such as the renowned First Fridays at Guggenheim, as well as expanding to many markets & content types, including noteworthy blog, Flavorwire. As the head of  their innovation lab, Mark won’t let the company rest on its laurels, as he continues to push the envelop to new platforms as media consumption evolves.

This position has not been without its challenges. Over 2 bottles of lambrusco, Mark shared his beginnings -- which actually start with him searching for the net (that’s right, it took a couple months for him to actually find it). Once he did he was scrappy in his approach, building websites which turned to companies, seeing the many successes and failures that can only be seen by someone who was pioneering virtually unchartered territory. The result was a personal realization: that as a founder, often times losing part of your team is more difficult than folding a company. The early insights also inspired his professional approach to begin early dialogue about freedom of speech on the web in a book he coauthored, which was noted by the New York Times as “required reading for anyone interested in free speech in modern society.”

For more from him, don’t go to Twitter (because he doesn’t tweet), but keep an eye on the upcoming innovations from Flavorpill.  

Direct download: SIAB_MMangan_v4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:09am EST