Chris Yeh | Blitzscaling, Scaling in a Pandemic, and How to Friend a Billionaire

Chris Yeh is the Co-founder of the Global Scaling Academy which teaches individuals and organizations how to plan for and execute hyper growth in their business. He is also the co-founder of Blitzscaling Ventures which invests in the world’s fastest growing startups. He has founded, advised, and invested in over 100 high tech startups since 1995, including nine-figure companies like Ustream and UserTesting. 

Chris also co-authored the books Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies which he wrote with Reid Hoffman, and the New York Bestseller, The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age which he wrote with Ben Casnocha and Reid Hoffman. He has degrees from Stanford University with distinction and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Chris Yeh, the Co-founder of the Global Scaling Academy, about building key relationships and scaling a business during a pandemic. Chris also shares his experience studying at Stanford and the relationships he built there, how he met and got to co-author a book with Reid Hoffman, and what they do at Global Scaling Academy.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Chris Yeh shares how got into entrepreneurship and what it was like to graduate from Stanford University in 1994 in the cusp of the early days of the internet.
  • Why the Blitzscaling framework is still relevant during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Which industries are thriving and which ones have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • What led to the growth and success of LinkedIn compared to SocialNet, Friendster, and
  • How Chris met Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, and how he got to co-author books with them.
  • Chris talks about running the alumni group of Harvard Business School for tech people in the Bay area and how it impacted his network in Silicon Valley.
  • The story behind Blitzscaling and the secret behind the success of Silicon Valley companies.
  • How The Global Scaling Academy came about and what it does.
  • The people Chris acknowledges for his achievements and success.
  • Where to learn more about Chris Yeh and the Global Scaling Academy.

Resources Mentioned:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14  

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.


John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran. Here. I’m the host of this show. And you probably heard my story before, but I’m a recovering political hack and recovering lawyer. I spent years working in politics, including as a speechwriter stints at the California Clinton White House, California Governor as well. I spent years practicing law in Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay Area. 10 years ago, I discovered this medium of podcasting and I’ve been doing it ever since because I get to talk to smart people like my guest here today. And over 10 years of hosting this show, I’ve had the privilege to talk with top CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs of all kinds of different companies and organizations. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help b2b businesses with the strategy and the production that they need to create a podcast and content marketing that produces tremendous ROI and connects them with their ideal prospects and referral partners. And I’m excited because my guest today, Chris Yeh, is the co-founder of the Global Scaling Academy, which teaches individuals and organizations how to plan for and execute on hyper growth. He’s also the co-founder of Blitzscaling Ventures, which invests in the world’s fastest growing startups. He has founded, advised and invested in over 100 high tech startups since 1995, including nine figure companies like Ustream and UserTesting. He is also the co-author with someone you’ve probably heard of before, Reid Hoffman, of Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies and the co-author again, along with Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha. I think I said that right of the…

Chris Yeh 2:06  

Casnocha, but it’s a really hard one. It’s a very unusual name.


John Corcoran  2:09  

It is a tough one Casnocha, thank you. …of the New York Times bestseller The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age. He has a couple of degrees from Stanford University with distinction in both and also an MBA from Harvard Business School, which you may have heard of as well. First, before we get into this interview with Chris, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. We specialize in helping b2b businesses with high client lifetime value. So if you want to learn more and get more inspiration ideas, you can go to, or email us at [email protected] All right, Chris, I’m super excited to interview you here today. But I like to start sometimes and ask people about how they first got into entrepreneurship. Were you the kind of kid that was, you know, at age 10, you’re going out on the weekend, dragging your parents out to go do a lemonade stand or, you know, is this something that came kind of as you reach adulthood.


Chris Yeh 3:04  

Entrepreneurship was definitely something I came later towards, which is interesting, because I actually had a role model, my dad had started a couple of companies along the way. He has a degree and a PhD in electrical engineering and has started a couple of companies not always successful. That’s the nature of these things. But I saw him working hard on weekends, he would have a traditional job and also be starting up a new company building new technologies. But that never convinced me to be an entrepreneur. In fact, when I was growing up, I always imagined that someday I would be a writer. I’d be writing books and going around signing copies and giving speeches and things like that. So that was always what I imagined myself being. But I came to entrepreneurship, after I got to Stanford, because as you know, Stanford is a place which is really built around entrepreneurship, many of the great alumni like Hewlett and Packard and then shortly after I graduated, people like de phylo, Jerry Yang, and then of course, Larry and Sergey over at Google, all these incredible companies got started there. And so being at Stanford, I basically took in some of this information like, Huh, this internet thing seems like it’s gonna be big. And that’s how I ended up deviating from the path of authorship into the business world, although I did manage to make it back at the end.


John Corcoran  4:19  

And well, it’s kind of funny because it looked at your LinkedIn profile here, and your degrees in both product design and creative writing. So you kind of have the interest in both right from the get go and you graduate 94, which is right stepping into as the internet was really starting to come into the public consciousness. What was it like graduating from Stanford 94?


Chris Yeh 4:39  

Well, it was very interesting, because the early 1990s had been a time of great economic turmoil. There was a very deep and grinding recession. That’s one of the reasons why Bill Clinton won election in 1992. And as we got into 1994, things were starting to perk up. So during my early college years, people were just really concerned about having jobs but by the time I graduated, people were To get excited about this new internet thing now, it was still very early on at that point in time, I’m not even sure if Netscape that came out yet. So actually, I remember in 1994, shortly after graduation, playing around with something called gopher from the University of Minnesota that was the precursor to the internet, Netscape and everything like that. And I was already online looking at different resources. So I was very firmly convinced the internet was going to be huge. And that’s why instead of either pursuing an MFA, a masters of Fine Arts at a creative writing school, or doing a master’s in engineering, or even just working as an engineer, I ended up going into the startup business. So I ended up joining a company called D.E. Shaw and Co., probably most famous is the company Jeff Bezos worked for before he started Amazon. And before you ask, he left about 18 months before I got there. So I don’t actually know Jeff, unfortunately. But it was something where I said, you know what I wanted to get in on this internet startup stuff. I really want to understand this world. It’s brand new to me, but let me just dive on it.


John Corcoran  6:02  

Hmm. And what was that like in the early days?


Chris Yeh 6:06  

Well, what was good, it was very exciting. So you can imagine this was a time when most people have not even heard of the internet. And if they had heard of it, they heard of it as this is the thing you access with AOL, America Online. And so things were growing, you know, triple digits, practically every month, things were going nuts. And we were working at de Sha which was an investment bank and hedge fund run by computer scientists. So very Google, like, in many ways, and we are on the cutting edge, we had the best internet connectivity, we had the best hardware software, you name it. So it was a great time to be into that. And I had a great run at de Shaw, got involved with a couple of different projects, got to experience an IPO as a matter of fact, which is very cool. And then I left for Harvard Business School, because I realized, you know, where I am right now, this is not the real world, I want to understand how more of the world works, I think that it’s going to be valuable not just to understand the technology, but to understand the business practices as they exist today, and understand how they’re going to be transformed. So that’s how I ended up at business school.


John Corcoran  7:08  

So you’ve been around a while and you’ve been ill advised to so many different companies. We’re recording this in October of 2020. You know, we’re about seven months into this global pandemic. What has it been like going around talking about Blitzscaling, which obviously came out a couple of years ago before the pandemic? You know, do you feel like it’s still relevant for many companies? Or do you feel like right now, it’s, it’s a different time and a different era? Do you look back on the framework and think like, Oh, we didn’t anticipate this? What are your thoughts on the general framework?


Chris Yeh 7:46  

Yeah, so one of the interesting things, of course, about Blitzscaling is it’s really something that’s highly dependent on your context. And if we look at what’s happened during this pandemic, it’s been a terrible, terrible economic blow in many places. But in other places, it has produced incredible growth. If we look at companies like zoom, of course, which we’re using right now to record this, they grew 300% in the first, I don’t know, a month of the pandemic and kept growing from there. Other companies like Roblox, or video game companies saw incredible growth. I was talking to somebody who runs one of the major PC manufacturers, and they were saying, Yeah, PC demand is through the roof, we’re backlog, we can’t get enough things out the door, because everyone needs more hardware to do remote learning. So there’s been tremendous opportunity as a result of this. But what I’ve done during the pandemic is I’ve tried to emphasize to people, the most important thing you can do during this time, is to be adaptable. because things are constantly changing. We hear this in the political discourse, Oh, don’t use masks do use masks, hey, they deceive us. No, it’s just that things change, right? Things are changing, we’re adapting based on the best information we have. And so if you keep yourself very light and agile on your feet, and you can change quickly, and you use the techniques of Blitzscaling, to increase your speed, then you’re in a better position. Now, of course, I think that if you’re going to talk about Blitzscaling, as in growing three x four x a year, you’ve got to be in one of these industries, which are actually being accelerated by the pandemic, rather than one of the ones that’s being decimated. But I still think that it is highly relevant. On the other hand, I do think it’s also important to note that if you are in one of these decimated industries, you have to think about what do we do in order to position ourselves to rebound from this because we’re going to have to do a lot of rebuilding.


John Corcoran  9:30  

Yeah, it is interesting, isn’t it? Like, you know, I know someone we interviewed someone on the podcast, who was a caterer and her business went down by 95%, about three weeks at the beginning of all this and she just decided to put that business on hold and switch entirely to something completely different. Talk about you mentioned different industries, what industries are exciting and growing and what industries Do you think just don’t have much of a future right now, or at least in the time being.


Chris Yeh 9:56  

So I’ll give you a couple of examples: one industry which has been accelerated by probably at least a decade by the pandemic is telemedicine and telehealth, it just in general, there were all these things that were essentially being held back by two things. One was the force of habit and inertia. And the other was the regulatory environment. Because people would say, Well, I can’t possibly imagine doing a doctor’s appointment via video call, or we can’t possibly allow this information to be gathered this way. It’s got to be done in person. And what we discovered as a result of the pandemic is all that was bullshit, right? People, once they had the necessity of doing these things, suddenly did them very differently. And all of a sudden, you thought to yourself, hey, maybe I don’t need to go drive to a doctor’s office, wait there for 45 minutes with a bunch of sick people in order to get a prescription when we can just do it via a video call, just like that. And so I think that there’s a permanent shift in telemedicine, that is a huge, huge area, a giant part of our economy, as of course, but also previously one of the most inefficient elements of our economy. And so I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. I think if you look at the other side, obviously, one of the things that’s really problematic right now is you heard catering, but also restaurants, traditional hospitality and travel. And that’s where you really just have to adapt and adjust. So you look at something like Airbnb, for example, where their business also went down 95% in the first three weeks, and they pivoted very quickly to focusing on longer term stays and renting out whole houses. And all of a sudden, people who are working from home say, I’m sick of being home, or I’m sick of being here in Manhattan, I’m gonna go ahead and rent a place in upstate New York for three months, and their business is actually higher than it was before the pandemic. So it’s that adaptability that is the key. And of course, you need a little luck as well.


John Corcoran  11:42  

Yeah, I heard an interview with one of the founders of Airbnb talking about that, that it was down so dramatically in the beginning, but now it’s just people renting, that they’re just renting closer to home, they’re not going to Paris, they’re going within 100 mile radius of their hometown. So it didn’t require a wholesale change, really, to their business, although they have diversified in an interesting way into experiences beyond. So they weren’t just dependent. I don’t know if that was, you know, they were making a decision that we wouldn’t want. We didn’t want all eggs in one basket in terms of hospitality. But they had made that change. Yeah, so


Chris Yeh 12:16  

I think that the experiences occurred because of several things. One is, I think it really was a passion on the part of Brian Chesky, the founder over there, they really viewed Airbnb, not just as providing the ability to rent rooms. But as a whole part of your experience. And this wonderful storyboard, if you ever go to Airbnb s offices, they have a storyboard on the wall of the entire experience of tourism from the point at which you’re planning a vacation to the point at which you get back home. And their thought was always we’re going to expand it, the more of these things, and we really want you to feel like you’re staying and living like a local. So this is something that’s a sincere belief on their part. And it also provided some diversification. The interesting thing is, during the early stages of the pandemic, they actually cut back severely on the experiences team, that’s one of the areas where they cut back the personnel, even though they did have more of these experiences, these sort of virtual tours going on, they probably grew from a very small base, the core business has been the thing that’s actually driven the recovery as opposed to the experience. And so I’ve served, they’re still very hopeful that they’ll be able to drive experiences in the future.


John Corcoran  13:17  

Right. Now, you know, one of my things we focus on with this podcast is relationships. And one of the curiosities listeners have is how do you build key relationships with clients, referral partners, strategic partners, that sort of thing. And a key relationship for you is your co-author, Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, big influence, all across Silicon Valley, through his VC involvement, investment, that kind of thing really kind of became, in many ways, an expert across the industry? How did that relationship first develop? But how did you guys end up writing a book together?


Chris Yeh 13:53  

That’s an excellent question. And it’s an answer that stretches back a long period of time. So I’ll go and start at the very beginning, and then sort of build up to it from there. So the beginning even before Reid and I met each other, it really began with Stanford. So both Reid and I went to Stanford, although we went there five years apart. So Rita graduated by the time I got there. And we actually did the same program. We were Stanford in a program called structured liberal education or sleep, which is a very intensive history, philosophy, literature, humanities concentration, it basically takes up half of your time you live in a dorm, you study with people who are studying the same thing. So you have discussions in the dormitories itself, and it’s a really intense experience. It’s for people who are really focused on the intellectual life. And this is a program that we’re both part of. We had some of the same instructors and went through many of the same experiences. Then we both went off into the world not expecting to be business people. Reid went on to get a degree in philosophy, a master’s in philosophy from Oxford University in England. And it was only after that, that he realized, you know what, I feel like I can have more of an impact in this world. By focusing on business as opposed to being an academic, same sort of thing for me, as you heard earlier, I didn’t have any intention of going into the business world or being an entrepreneur. But it just so happened, I got really excited about this internet thing that was really taking off. And that pivoted my life into this. Now the way we eventually came back together is because I had been at Stanford at the same time as Peter teal, I was following the story of PayPal from afar, because I’d met Peter a couple of times, obviously, a really smart guy, unusual guy, but really smart guy,


John Corcoran  15:32  

We could probably do a lot of long episodes on him alone.


Chris Yeh 15:35  

Oh, absolutely. And I actually was one of PayPal’s partners as far as a company that my first startup actually worked together with PayPal in terms of the payment system. So we fed people into the payment system, we actually got something like three or $400,000 in referral fees from PayPal alone, well over the course of our company, and so I was actually technically working with three dead even though I didn’t realize


John Corcoran  16:01  

And of course, you know, that wasn’t the only famous name who was there in the early days. Elon Musk was there as well and his brother Kimball, Musk, what was it ? You knew the whole PayPal mafia then?


Chris Yeh 16:12  

So not so not that well, let me emphasize Okay, so Peter, I knew from when he was at Stanford, okay, Ilan and Kimball, actually, I ended up meeting for the first time at a dinner party, after PayPal was sold to eBay. So I met Ilan and Kimball with a bunch of other folks at a dinner just here in Silicon Valley. And some of the other PayPal co-founders I knew and Reid, I only met years later, he was probably the last person out of that bunch that I met, which is an odd thing, considering how much we work together now. Yeah. So what ended up happening is, you know, PayPal, of course, was very successful, went public. And Reid was then able to go and work on his next thing, which was LinkedIn. And LinkedIn is a reflection of something Reid’s believed in a long time, which is the power of networks. He actually created a previous social network called social that we’ve occasionally written about as one of the companies that Reid started that actually failed. But SocialNet was a social network where you join you, create a handle or a name, and then you connect with other people by it. And I’m actually one of the few people in the world who signed up for SocialNet. So even without realizing I was working with Reid, again, there. It was funny when we realized that later is like, Whoa, really.


John Corcoran  17:25  

But with a small trickle of people signing up to be recognized there were not


Chris Yeh 17:29  

a lot of people. It was not a successful company. I read and learn from it. The key difference between social net LinkedIn social net was not focused. It was for just about any purpose that you heard the general purpose social, sort of like that


John Corcoran  17:40  

was it. Friendster was the pre Friendster? Really, that was very early. Yeah.


Chris Yeh 17:46  

Yeah. So SocialNet was 1998-1999. And Friendster is more like 2002. And in fact, Jonathan Abrams, who’s the founder of Friendster is another guy I know. And actually, that is the reason why I ended up back around meeting Reid. So when Friendster first came out, I’d met Jonathan, we were both volunteers. That organization called the software development forum, then became St. forum then became SV forum for Silicon Valley forum. Jonathan and I met and he asked him, What are you working on the job? So I’m working on this thing. It’s called Friendster. And he explained it to me as Wow, that’s a brilliant concept, this social networking thing, I see a lot of reasons why the business model really works. And so I was following Friendster very closely. And Friendster and LinkedIn and tribe, which is Mark Pincus, his social network all launched it exactly the same time. And most people forget as well, as Mark Pincus likes to say, I’m the guy who started a social network and lost money doing it. I think that we need to cry for Mark Pincus, that Mark has done pretty well for himself, the founder of Zynga, among other things, yeah. And when they came out, I saw that LinkedIn came out and I was like, wow, this is the one for me. Because Friendster is really something for single people looking for dates, tribe is something for people who are in a motorcycle gang or into polyamory or something like that. And LinkedIn was the decade


John Corcoran  19:10  

I don’t know how it didn’t take off. I have no idea.


Chris Yeh 19:12  

Who knows, who knows. But you know, LinkedIn is, is this network for people who want to make business connections, who believe in networking and the power of networks, which is something I believe in, I want those weirdos who had, you know, thousands of entries in my Microsoft Outlook, in terms of contacts that would keep notes on people and how I knew them and what was happening in their lives, where they worked, and so on and so forth. And then I saw LinkedIn, like, Oh, great, I don’t have to do this anymore. Someone else is gonna do this for me. So I was one of Lincoln’s first 3000 users to sign up. And I saw where can


John Corcoran  19:44  

you look that up because I was probably signed up in 2005 or something like that. I don’t know if that was the first 3000. But I feel like it was pretty rare. So


Chris Yeh 19:52  

you may. There is a way that there is a way to look it up. You’d have to Google it and find it, but there was a way to look it up and I looked it up And I remember one day I told Reid, you know, I think I was a user about 5000 or so he said, Well, actually your user 3000 because the first 2000 world test accounts.


John Corcoran  20:08  

No, wow, he was super early on. Yeah, I remember the early days of LinkedIn being like, I’m not quite sure how to use this, but I’ll set up, set it up. Anyways, my friend, Abby invited me to join it, I joined it. And I was like, maybe we’ll come around, then, you know, eventually. Now. I love it.


Chris Yeh 20:24  

Exactly. And that’s, again, that’s a testament to Reid’s strategic brilliance. But when I saw that the LinkedIn founding team were all Stanford folks, it just reached out to them. And I got to know them. And primarily, I got to know one of Reid’s co-founders Contstantine but I also met and read through that. And then one day, when LinkedIn was launching, I was actually running a club, an alumni club for Harvard Business School for alumni in the technology industry out here in Silicon Valley. And I said, Well, you know, why don’t we hold an event where you can talk about LinkedIn and explain to these Harvard Business School alumni why they should sign up. So we actually did this. We held an event, Reid came and spoke back then he wasn’t famous. He and his team came in. And that’s the first time I actually met each other face to face. Wow, really cool.


John Corcoran  21:13  

Very cool. So you, you have this, it always helps to, you know, be friends with the billionaire before they become a billionaire. For sure. How did the idea of doing Blitzscaling come around? Because initially it was a presentation you did at Stanford, right?


Chris Yeh 21:27  

Yeah, so I’ll explain how that went. Why just give a little bit more credit to our co-author, Ben Casnocha as well, because that’s how I ended up writing a book with Reid. So independent. So I met Reid and I knew Reid primarily through his startup activities, and eight as an angel investor, and is the founder and CEO of LinkedIn. And so Reid and I were friendly as a result of that we co invest in a couple deals together. But I wasn’t involved with the book writing side. Now, my friend Ben Casnocha, whom I met when he was 15 year old, commented on the same blogs that he was Brad Feld blog or something like that. Ben and I became friends. And we did things like hold intellectual, intellectual discussion, society together, and various other things. And then one day, Ben comes to me and says, Hey, do you know Reid Hoffman? I’m like, Yeah, of course. I know Reid meets a great guy. I’ve known him for many years. And Ben said, well, Reid was saying that he wanted to write a book with me, because, you know, Ben had previously written a book, his memoir, which he wrote at the age of 19, which is always very funny, but was a successful book and it was very well written. And he said, you know, Reid wants to write a book with me, but I don’t think I’m gonna do it. Oh, really been why you say it’s like, well, yeah, I don’t know if I want to be pigeonholed as an author. And I said, Well, then, you know, let me ask you over the past year or so how many sort of living legends or the smartest people in Silicon Valley happened to have asked you to write a book with them? And it’s like, well, this is actually the only such instance in the past 12 months. I’m like, you know, I don’t think it’s a coincidence, I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that happens very often, I think I should take advantage of this opportunity. So I don’t know if that was the decision that convinced Ben I’m sure he weighed many people’s inputs. But they worked on a book called The star review together. And I was consulting that book, helping them figure out the right structure and contributing some interviews and things to the book. And then it was after that, that they said, Hey, this book came out. It’s been successful. I’m like, Yes, I know. It’s very exciting. And they’re like, do you want to work on something else with us, because you know, we want to do more in the future. It’s a lot of work, and you write faster than anyone else we know. And that’s how it happened. It was a series of personal relationships that have been built up over many years. And they happen to come together in a very convenient way that happened to allow me to become a best selling author seemingly overnight. Because as I like to tell people, you know, one of the easiest ways to become a best selling author is to go and find a world famous billionaire who wants to be your co-author. And if you do that, everything gets much easier.


John Corcoran  23:56  

For sure. That’s funny. I wanted to ask you, so the, oh, you skipped over one thing, which I thought was a key point, you ran the alumni group. For the university, you are MBA from having to be Harvard, for people who are interested in technology in the Bay Area. And that’s such a brilliant strategy. You don’t By the way, anyone listening to this, you don’t have to go to Harvard in order to employ this strategy. You know, reaching back out to your alumni group is a great way to do it. Talk a little bit about the impact that had on your networking around Silicon Valley.


Chris Yeh 24:32  

I’m really glad that you mentioned it, because I think it’s something that’s underappreciated. I give this advice to many people, most of them don’t listen, but hopefully because I’m giving it here on your podcast and our credibility. Exactly. It’s gonna make a huge difference.


John Corcoran  24:45  

They’re like either it’s that sounds like a lot of work. I’m gonna try and make friends with a billionaire. I like that. That tip. That’s a good one.


Chris Yeh 24:51  

Hey, you know what, it’s a great strategy. If you could pull it off either one, this other one, this other one will help you do that, right? So because if you remember this strategy helped me reconnect with Reid and meet him for the first time, even though there were all these things that we didn’t realize connected us, the first time we consciously connected was because of the strategy. So the basic principle here is this. If you want to build relationships, the most important thing is to have the right pretext for the relationship. And it’s just one of these funny things, right? It’s hard to go up to people and say, Hey, you, I think you’re cool, can we have a relationship, it makes you seem kind of weird and scary. And they’re not going to say yes. And so having a pretext for the relationship is really critical. And I think the alumni relationship is a great one. I’ve always been very focused on building good relationships with my fellow Stanford alumni, my fellow HBS alums, and it’s an incredibly powerful network. But you don’t have to have gone to one of these hyper expensive schools or to do this. Every school has great, brilliant alumni. And you can also do it even if you never went to college, there’s lots of professional associations, where they’re always desperate for someone to help organize and pull things together. Like most people are lazy. What they want to do is they want to get an email that says, hey, there’s an event going on, do you want to attend and they click Yes. Now Meanwhile, someone in the background has had to spend all this time figuring out okay, when can we schedule the event? How do we get the venue? How, which speakers are we going to get? Okay, now we’re going to rehearse with the speakers to make sure they understand we’re going to be talking about Okay, how do we promote the event, okay, who’s going to manage registration the day up all this work, it’s a lot of work. But doing that work gives you the ability to have that pretext. I call it being a privateer. So a privateer is a pirate, but the government says it’s okay. And so when you’re a privateer, you get something that’s called a letter of marque, and they are qu E, which says, I can loot and pillage as long as the bad guys. And so for me, I tell people, listen, you should follow a strategy with your alumni, or with some sort of professional association that basically gives you a letter of marque, because instead of Chris gay, or John Corcoran saying, hey, famous person, I would like you to come and speak at event, it’s, hey, famous person, Harvard Business School would like you to come and speak at an event, or Silicon Valley forum would like to honor you. And all of a sudden, all these things open up. And so I built many of these relationships. As a result of this. I mentioned how Jonathan Abrams I met because he and I were both volunteers in the Silicon Valley forum. And that’s how I ended up following social networking more closely and ended up reconnecting with Reid through an indirect means, but plenty of other things as well come out of that Harvard Business School Alumni Association, or the very Stanford alumni things I’ve done or just about any sort of thing where you’re going to connect with a group of smart, interesting people.


John Corcoran  27:44  

Yeah, it’s great, it’s a brilliant strategy you get in ordinary results, by actually being the person to organize the event, rather than just being one of 500 people who shows up at the event at the last minute, so I love that strategy. I read a book about networking a couple years ago, where the author said they really wanted to meet Brett Farve of the Green Bay Packers at the time was on the Packers. So they actually created an award. And they didn’t know the whole award ceremony just as an excuse to meet him. And he came down, of course, to receive the award. I always think that’s such a brilliant idea. All right, I want to circle back to something we talked about earlier, which was how Blitzscaling started the idea. I think it was a Stanford course, which you did first, and then you did it. And then by the way, you can watch this on YouTube. Now, the original, I watched it a while back. So it was a course you did at Stanford, correct?


Chris Yeh 28:34  

That’s correct. So the story is that after the Alliance came out, it was very successful. We were figuring out what we were going to do next. And we started researching different book concepts. And we were going down the path of looking at examining how CEOs actually do their job when Reid said, oh, I’ve got something else I want to talk about Michael, what is he saying? Well, you know, it was over at this event in the UK. And people were saying, Well, what is the secret Silicon Valley? Why are there so many great companies starting here? And I listen to the answers people give. And I thought they all sucked. And I want to figure out what it is that actually makes this place different. And we’re like, Ooh, that’s interesting. And so we started looking into it and playing around with the ideas. And that was where the idea of Blitzscaling came about, we were like, what really seems to set these companies apart is they’re going after a winner take most market. And they’re able to be the first to scale. So they capture the leadership position of this winner and take most of the market, and that gives them enormous power, allows them to create enormous economic value and allows them to actually generate enormous profits. And so we’re like, wow, this is really interesting. And what we said was, well, you know, is it going to be a good book or not? I don’t know. But before we write the book, why don’t we do this, we’ll teach a class at Stanford. Now we’re getting to the letter of the marque thing. So obviously, we’re in a good position already with Reid, like Reid can get access to most people relatively easily. But you know, you might have to ask them for a favor and Will they come in time? And how structured will it be? But if you tell them, Hey, we’re teaching a class at Stanford University, and you’re going to be the featured star for a class session for a bunch of Stanford students, and it’s going to be recorded and part of Stanford’s course offering, and it’s going to be on YouTube forever. All of a sudden, people are very eager to say yes. And so for that class, and again, as you pointed out, John, it’s available on YouTube. They’re an incredible set of guests. Eric Schmidt is a guest, Brian Chesky is a guest, Reed Hastings of Netflix is a guest. All these people came on Jeff Weiner came up, of course, he had to come on because he’s the CEO of like, employees, boss, but everyone else they came on, because it was a huge opportunity to give back to the students and many of them were themselves Stanford alum. So it was a great example of using that principle to our advantage. Yeah,


John Corcoran  30:52  

yeah, I want to ask you about, you know, the Global Scaling Academy. So tell us about how that came about. And the new version that you just unveiled a week ago, actually.


Chris Yeh 31:03  

So the Global Scaling Academy came about because of Blitzscaling. So with Blitzscaling, as I was working on the ideas, one of the things I realized is, wow, you know, this book comes out and it’s successful, people are going to want to follow up, they’re going to want more than just the book, the book is going to be great. But as you know, people then try to put things into practice, and it may be difficult for them. So we actually set up the Global Scaling Academy take care of that I found a great entrepreneur, a guy named Jeff Abbott, who had previously run accelerators at Arizona State University had taught at universities around the world, including in the tech of Monterey, which is the top university in Mexico, and himself was a veteran corporate strategy guy, GE, Whirlpool, done things in the online world, just incredible all around guy. And he got really excited about the Blitzscaling framework. And we said, let’s create the Global Scaling Academy. Now initially, Global Scaling Academy was focused around traditional in person education and programs. So we did these high end boot camps around the world, South America, the Middle East, Europe, you name it, we went there. And we gathered together incredible entrepreneurs and investors in this community. And we would have events where we would spread the word of Blitzscaling, and also learn from what other people were doing around the world. And this was fantastic. And I got to travel to all these different continents and speak in all these places, visit the pyramids, all that kind of stuff, it was great. And then all of a sudden, this year, it all comes crashing to a halt. Because guess what, you know, now all of a sudden, we can’t travel anywhere, all these people, they want us to come back like nope, everything’s pushed off a year. So like, what are we going to do? And you know, we’d always talked about doing an online community. And Jeff said, now is our chance, people are starving for this, they’re going to be deprived of this because we can’t go around the world. Let’s create a Global Scaling Academy community. And it really is a culmination of everything we’ve been working on everything I’ve been working on for the past 25 years. Because now all of a sudden, it’s like the same strategy I followed with the alumni group, or with Silicon Valley form or anything else. I’m creating the community I want, and I can be at the center of it, I can meet all these cool people, I’ve invited all these friends I’ve met along the way. And now I have a home, on the internet and in virtual space, where every day I can interact with people who are interested in the same things that I am, whether it’s entrepreneurs who are looking to build unicorn companies, corporate innovators, who are trying to bring innovation and new initiatives to their big companies, or investors, we’re trying to find the best things to invest in. Everyone’s focused on the same stuff, and I get to preside over it, and bring all these incredible people in, we should invite you, we should get you on John, you should be a part of this.


John Corcoran  33:41  

I’d love to sound great. I’d love to come in and do it. But not that different from what you were doing. You know, 1520 years ago with the Harvard alumni group, right? You kind of you’re at the center, you’re bringing popped out the erode there, there we go. You’re kind of at the center. And you’re you’re you know, you’re building this community where people will come for the community, they’ll come for that exposure. So that’s, that’s great that you’re using these principles over and over again. Well, this is great. We’ve been going long, and I want to be respectful of your time, because I’m already disrespectful. So I apologize for that. But we will wrap things up with the question I was asked, which is, let’s pretend we’re at an awards banquet, much like the Oscars of the Emmys. And you’re receiving the word for Lifetime Achievement, Chris. You know, of course, in addition to family, friends, who do you think were the people that you would acknowledge in your remarks?


Chris Yeh 34:26  

Well, first, of course, I’d like to thank the academy for this incredible recognition. I have always dreamed of this day from the day I was a young boy. And I want to thank just a few of the people along the way, who really believed in me and helped me along the way. First and foremost, of course, I have to begin with my parents who have always encouraged me who have helped me along the way who’ve supported me financially and otherwise through many different challenges. And I’m so glad they could be here tonight and that they can see this day. I hope that they’re feeling very proud. I also want to thank some of the mentors I had along the way some of the teachers missing Berkeley blatz of Santa Monica high school who really encouraged me to build out my love of reading and writing Mrs. Barrett, my first grade teacher who really recognized and shy kid who like to read books if there was something special, and the late great Harold Connelly, three time Olympic gold medalist and the vice principal of my high school who took a chance and let me start High School two years early, which got me off on a great head, start doing all these things, of course, want to thank the other people who have helped me along the way, I want to thank my very first co-founder, Thomas Levitt, for our company, target first, as long with Albert Lin, who was one of my dorm mates at Stanford University. That was the first company I ever started. It didn’t work out the way we wanted it. But we’ve learned so much along the way. I think my investor Han Wong, who believed in me even after I lost half a million dollars of his money and asked me to run marketing for his next startup, which really got me back on my feet. And of course, I want to thank my co-author and collaborator, Reid Hoffman, who has been a phenomenal partner and friend for many years, I can’t imagine how we could have accomplished all these things without him. And then of course, I want to thank my collaborator, Jeff Abbott, who has helped build the Global Scaling Academy into what it is today, who has helped bring me to so many places around the world to meet so many incredible people, Jeff, my horizons have been so expanded thanks to what you’ve done. And then of course, finally, besides thinking all of my friends and other colleagues, I want to thank my wife, Alicia, my children, Jason, and Marisa, my dog, Misty, who have put up with so much over the years, I hope that everyone can see it’s all been worth it. And I’m just so proud to be here at this moment. And thank you, everyone, so very much.


John Corcoran  36:43  

Awesome. That was really good. That was probably the best one I’ve ever had. Honestly, they took it very seriously, which I would expect nothing less of you. Chris, where can people go to learn more about you and about the GSA?


Chris Yeh 36:55  

Well, John, there are a couple of places they should go. First of all, they can go to It’s spelled just the way it sounds, you can find out more information about different levels of membership, you can get a trial, you can take a look at some of our contents. And I think you’re going to enjoy it. If you’re interested in the stuff I work on. In particular, you can go to, that’s You can sign up for my newsletter, you can read my blog, you can find episodes of my podcast, you can learn about the stuff that I’m going on, on almost any social media platform. If you’re looking for me, you can generally finally just at Chris gay again, that’s Chris Yeh, and I hope that you enjoy and get something out of the things that you find there. And then finally, of course, I want to remind you, you can always pick up copies of the book in written or Kindle or audible form. And that’s Blitzscaling and the Alliance.


John Corcoran  37:47  

Excellent. All right, Chris. Thanks so much.


Chris Yeh   37:49  

John, it’s been such a pleasure.


Outro  37:51  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.

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