Proust Goes Tech: The Hits Season 2


Welcome to the conclusion of Season 2 of our exclusive interview series Proust Goes Tech. This season we talked to drone enthusiasts, healthtech influencers, activists, fintech masters, founders changing the demographic landscape of tech, and more.

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Today, we’re bringing you the highlights. Take a look at our top and most common answers to some of our wonderful fourteen questions over the past sixteen weeks.

Enjoy. We certainly have.

What would Proust Goes Tech interviewees otherwise be doing right now?

Ed Zitron would either be staring at crypto exchanges or tweeting endlessly. (We feel you, Ed.) Mandela Schumacher Hodge Dixon would probably have Oprah Winfrey’s job (casual). And Olof Mathé would be having a nervous breakdown, Donatella-style.

Meanwhile, two of our founders would have found themselves on the medical track. Before finding a calling in her company Baloonr, Amanda Greenberg aimed to become the U.S. Surgeon General. Jon Stein of Betterment was interested in medicine, too, before he realized that he isn’t the biggest fan of blood.


This question really gets people. Olof Mathe, founder and CEO of Mixmax, put it best: “Well, this is like the inverse question of choosing which of your children you love the most.”

As it turns out, a lot of our founders struggle with patience and overworking themselves. Many feel they need to work on stopping to smell the roses. Others, like Hussam Hammo, think they worry too much, and still others are working on taking a step back and letting others learn in the process.

At the same time, our interviewees describe themselves as tenacious, scrappy, energetic, competitive, passionate, empathetic, and open-minded– all qualities that are good to have if you’re building a company from the ground up or running a division in a tech giant like eBay.

“You have these moments when you’re completely beaten down, though. As an entrepreneur you’re always going against the grain and people are telling you 9 times out of 10 that you’re wrong, that what you’re saying makes no sense, and that you’re crazy. So you’re always having to battle against that. ” – Prerna Gupta, Founder and CEO, Hooked. 

The quality they most desire in a tweet?

“Having an actual point.” –Sonya Passi, Founder and CEO, FreeFrom.

“Okay, there’s a gif of Kim Kardashian doing the grinch-like expression where you see her going from just a dead-eyed stare into a very troll-y, wry grin. So any tweet that makes me do that gif has my heart forever. And I think about those throughout the rest of the day.” –Laura Watkins, Leader of Strategic Partnerships, eBay.

“No one tweet is going to break Donald Trump.” –Ed Zitron, Founder and CEO, EZPR.

Exhausted buzzwords:

Are you #blessed? Maybe you’re a “PR Professional?” Or maybe you even think you’re “woke” and that your “machine learning” technology is on the “cutting edge” of tech. These founders, well, they kind of don’t want to hear it!

What is misery?

“I’m gluten free so I think my idea of misery, right now, would be a bakery in Paris with baguettes and pain au chocolat around me that I can’t eat.” –Anne Smart, VP Public Policy, Chargepoint.

“Living the same year a hundred years in a row.” –Brandon Carroll, Founder and CEO, Skyciscion.

“..not having the freedom to do what I want with my life.” –Mandela Schumacher Hodge Dixon, Founder, FounderGym.

“Having to eat sea meats. I hate seafood. I don’t eat any of it. But outside of that, I think it would be having to live in an over technologically engineered dystopia.” –Laura Watkins, Leader of Strategic Partnerships, eBay.

“Having been there, true isolation. Isolation is the coldest death one can have without actually dying.” –Ed Zitron, Founder and CEO, EZPR.

“Lack of emotional or physical discomfort.” –Sami Inkinen, Founder and CEO, Virta and Trulia.

“Anything involving being away or torn away from family. That’s probably the worst. There are also a few scenes on Game Of Thrones that I would classify as misery….” –Mor Assia, Founder of iAngels.

Books that had an impact on our interviewees: 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand inspired Sami Inkinen and his wife to “row across the Pacific Ocean—California to Hawaii—in a rowing boat, unsupported, in 2014. It took 45 days and three hours.” We’d call that impactful.

And if you’re trying to beef up your reading list, here are the rest!

What did our Proust Goes Tech leaders think tech is failing to solve?

Whether it was loneliness and relationships, empathy and diversity, expanding technical development outside of Silicon Valley or curbing mass hysteria, the founders and leaders that we interviewed are at once wary of the consequences and gaps in technology, but also optimistic about its ability to improve.

“Leaders at tech companies have a fiscal responsibility to have diverse teams with women in the leadership because diverse teams are smarter. When women are involved at the executive level companies perform better. That’s true for startups and that’s true for Fortune 100 companies.” Alaina Percival, Founder and CEO, Women Who Code

It has been one whirlwind of a season. And while we’ll be taking a short break from Proust Goes Tech for the next couple of weeks, we’ll be back with another season filled with insights into the personal outlooks, thoughts, hopes, and fears of more of the current leaders in tech and venture!

In the meantime, take a look at all of our past interviews in our Proust Archives!

Illustration Credit: Li Anne Dias

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