A Podcast Network by SANDOW

Amanda Schneider, President of ThinkLab

Pod meets pod on this episode of BTE as we’re joined by the host of Design Nerds Anonymous on the SURROUND podcast network, and President of ThinkLab, Amanda Schneider.  Amanda knows her stuff and has the data to back it up, so the gang does their best to keep up in a wide-ranging and fast-paced discussion where we cover everything from the future of the design industry’s workforce to the metaverse hype cycle and beyond to the merits of decaffeinated coffee.

Connect with Amanda Schneider on LinkedIn!

Moments to check out:

– “How to survive on decaf” – (starts at 3:14)

– The benefits of being a first mover industry – (starts at 7:11)

– Next generations designers & Gen Z talents – (starts at 19:25)

– Hype cycle vs Utility – (starts at 24:51)

– Podcast Plug-a-palooza – (starts at 35:09)

Connect with our hosts on LinkedIn;

Bobby Bonett

Tessa Bain

Andrew Lane


 

References and resources:

 

Discover more shows from SURROUND at surroundpodcasts.com. This episode of Barriers to Entry was produced and edited by SANDOW Design Group. Special thanks to the podcast production team: Hannah Viti, Wize Grazette, Kasey Campbell and Samantha Sager.

00;00;05;05 – 00;00;29;03

Amanda Schneider

Instead of thinking about the show as the destination, we would think about what’s best for that physical realm, what’s best for that digital realm. And by separating them, we can actually imagine them optimized for each format, whether it’s face to face, whether it’s human remote, whether it’s totally self-serve in some kind of digital format. And I think by separating those, we can actually imagine them for the purpose they’re optimized for.

 

00;00;30;08 – 00;00;55;04

Bobby Bonett

Welcome to episode five of Barriers to Entry. The show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. I’m your host, Bobby Bonett, with my co-hosts, as always, Tess and Andrew. From Digby, we’re chatting with the thought leaders, the provocateurs, the researchers, the designers, the manufacturers who are burgeoning experts in the world of Web3, or curious about the world of Web3 and just trying to make sense of it all.

 

00;00;55;05 – 00;01;16;22

Bobby Bonett

By the way, I forgot to mention how lovely my co-hosts are. I’m supposed to use an adjective when I introduce Tess and Andrew so I do have to mention they’re lovely. And today we have a guest from another SANDOW design group brand ThinkLab, president of ThinkLab, Amanda Schneider, a researcher who thinks like a designer. A designer who thinks like a researcher, a podcast host of Design Nerds Anonymous.

 

00;01;17;07 – 00;01;51;02

Bobby Bonett

Another show on the SURROUND Podcast Network, if you will. When you’re finished listening to this episode of Barriers to Entry, go slam on the follow button for Design Nerds Anonymous. But today’s conversation is all about ‘what if’ and the hypothetical ‘What should we’s?’ What I’m excited about for our conversation with Amanda is obviously she takes that research approach, so she’s very inquisitive and thoughtful about trying to unpack and give advice to our colleagues in the architecture and design industry as it relates to what should they be doing in 2023 to connect with younger designers and to take advantage of these technologies?

 

00;01;51;07 – 00;02;17;29

Tessa Bain

In my previous roles that I’ve had, where I’ve had the opportunity to work as a dealer rep or as an agent, a multi-line rep, or working even on behalf of manufacturers, I just find everything she does is so fascinating, the speed of which she delivers information. I love her pace and actually I thought the funniest part about the episode is I learned that she drinks decaf coffee, which I thought, as someone who needs caffeinated coffee, I thought that is really interesting too.

 

00;02;18;05 – 00;02;38;01

Bobby Bonett

I also think you mentioned test the speed and prolificness. at which Amanda’s able to share information. She’s got like Long Island pacing, but with Midwest poise. It’s really fascinating to listen to her and she makes everything so understandable. Whereas when I’m talking fast, I’m just told, Slow down, Bobby. I get notes from Sam, our executive producer, all the time.

 

00;02;38;03 – 00;02;47;27

Bobby Bonett

Slow down, Bobby with Amanda, it’s a positive characteristic and I’m excited about how much information will be able to pack in to a nice 30 minute interview for fans and listeners to enjoy on today’s.

 

00;02;47;27 – 00;02;55;19

Andrew Lane

And I also feel like Long Island pacing with Midwest poise needs like merch. Is that a bumper sticker? Yeah. Is that a t-shirt? Yeah. What is.

 

00;02;55;19 – 00;03;12;24

Bobby Bonett

That? That’s a good point. We got to get our merchandizing department on the horn real quick to churn out a t-shirt. So let’s get into our conversation with Amanda. All right. Put your thinking caps on, everybody. We’re joined today by Fabio of R&D. Amanda Schneider, welcome to our studio. Welcome to the closet. Welcome.

 

00;03;13;25 – 00;03;14;22

Amanda Schneider

Thank you.

 

00;03;14;23 – 00;03;24;21

Bobby Bonett

I mean, the first question I need to ask because I’m as you can probably tell on my third cup of coffee today is how you survive on decaf, considering your schedule, how busy you are and everything you have on your plate.

 

00;03;24;21 – 00;03;43;16

Amanda Schneider

Well, what’s really funny is if you hear how fast I talk on decaf, you’ll understand why I don’t drink caffeine. I listen to podcasts on 1.5 X, depending on who’s talking, sometimes even faster. So if you ever listen to me at that level, I sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Not recommended, but you’ll thank me later that I am drinking decaf here.

 

00;03;43;27 – 00;03;58;21

Andrew Lane

Now. I don’t even drink coffee at all. And I’m about 1.5 x myself. Not just for listening, but for audio to my own. But how is it that you came to love the taste of coffee enough to drink exclusively decaf? Because I just can’t wrap my mouth around the flavor.

 

00;03;59;01 – 00;04;00;29

Amanda Schneider

You get over it, you get over it eventually.

 

00;04;01;01 – 00;04;04;14

Andrew Lane

And so it’s like a social thing or it’s like I’m drinking coffee. I’m just not getting the sense.

 

00;04;04;14 – 00;04;11;05

Amanda Schneider

It’s like a mood thing. It’s like just holding the mug. I think it’s just somehow a cozy thing. It’s a ritual. There you.

 

00;04;11;05 – 00;04;25;21

Bobby Bonett

Go. So, Amanda, you founded Contract Consulting Group in 2011 and then joined the SANDOW design group Family in 2018. At which point you rebranded to ThinkLab. Can you tell us about what ThinkLab is providing to the in the industry?

 

00;04;25;21 – 00;04;58;23

Amanda Schneider

Absolutely. My background is really as a product designer, and I think that’s the foundation for what has become ThinkLab. My passion is really helping product manufacturers understand how to navigate the world of AD. Now, since our acquisition in 2018, we get to leverage the reach and breadth of stand out to the design industry with brands like Interior Design Metropolis and all the other great media brands to harness the power of research to really drive better decision making from our manufacturers and better tools for our designers so we can really knit the worlds of industrial and interior design together.

 

00;04;58;24 – 00;05;18;27

Andrew Lane

That’s awesome. You know, and given what we’re about to get into quite more deeply today, you were at Huffington Post, which is also I think it really interesting piece of context that you were looking at storytelling and content in new ways at that time. Maybe you talk a little bit about that and how that experience is more of the web to early digital publishing era really prepared you for the kind of innovation that we’re starting to see now?

 

00;05;18;28 – 00;05;46;12

Amanda Schneider

Mm hmm. I think one of the exciting things about what has happened over the last couple of decades is really just access and having these platforms. So I, along with 10,000 of my closest friends, a contributor on the Huffington Post, and I have to say we originally incorporated in 2015 as contract consulting group. That’s when it went from me to we and we really were kind of a conglomerate of consultants and we effectively doubled our revenue year over year 100% by word of mouth.

 

00;05;46;27 – 00;06;21;11

Amanda Schneider

And the key way that we did that without any official salespeople was through our contributions to platforms like the Huffington Post. It was also really interesting as a blogger for the Huffington Post, that is not industry focus. I think our industry historically sees itself as as different and unique and niche, and by being on the Huffington Post, we often had to soften our language and make it more digestible, maybe not to the level of our grandmothers and mothers like we were talking about in the intro here, but really kind of soften some of the industry language we use to simplify it so that a broader audience could understand it.

 

00;06;21;12 – 00;06;40;28

Amanda Schneider

You know, this was really in those days even pre LinkedIn contributor platform in the way that it is today. So it really gave me kind of a voice. It’s amazing what people will say to you. You probably know this from podcasting on a podcast as a blogger, as a journalist, you know, if I was just to call them up, they wouldn’t have said nearly as much as they would have to me.

 

00;06;40;28 – 00;06;53;03

Amanda Schneider

So it was a really great way to not only share our position and our thoughts and insights with the world, but also really gather opinions and get people to say things that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise said to you.

 

00;06;53;05 – 00;07;10;24

Andrew Lane

I think the other really exciting thing about those early days at the Huffington Post as they were really carving out what is so ubiquitous now, which is this content marketing category, it makes a lot of sense that you are able to have such a dramatic impact on your business by adopting that platform early and really seeing the benefit of it when the landscape wasn’t as cluttered.

 

00;07;11;04 – 00;07;23;10

Andrew Lane

Can you draw some parallels to that in terms of what early adopters might have an opportunity to explore and sort of benefit from looking at some of these Web3 technologies before they’re really as mainstream as we believe they will become?

 

00;07;23;10 – 00;07;46;14

Amanda Schneider

Yeah, I think there’s a lot of benefit to being a first mover. We’ve definitely pioneered that in this podcasting channel for the design industry as well. It’s a lot easier to carve out a unique niche when there is not so many voices in the crowd. We were doing that for Huffington Post. You know, we’ve done that in the podcasting channel, and I think by moving early, you can really learn things ahead of your competitors really if you’re trying to go that way.

 

00;07;46;24 – 00;07;54;24

Amanda Schneider

And there’s a lot more room for a unique stance that everyone else then has to follow or catch up to. If you’re a first mover.

 

00;07;55;08 – 00;08;14;13

Bobby Bonett

It also allows you to have conversations you might not have expected to have. Forget about like the way in which somebody’s willing to share on a podcast or back in the days of Clubhouse or today on LinkedIn Live and other channels. But I’m sure you’ve had some really interesting conversations with folks you might not have had a conversation with otherwise if you weren’t embracing some of these technologies.

 

00;08;14;18 – 00;08;31;02

Amanda Schneider

Absolutely in this digital era. And I think that that’s one of the interesting things is just the frequency with which you’re able to have some of these conversations. In one era, let’s say even ten years ago, it might have been really weird to say, let’s meet on a Zoom, let’s meet in the metaverse, let’s meet on a clubhouse and exist.

 

00;08;31;02 – 00;08;52;24

Amanda Schneider

You know, we probably wouldn’t have done that. But once you show people how it’s done and you can kind of demonstrate that, you know, if you’re not familiar with LinkedIn live, we’ve been doing these live audio sessions about every other week where it really gives you a platform, I think, that makes other people comfortable enough to come on and share because they can listen in first and they can tiptoe in and then they can dive in when they’re ready.

 

00;08;52;24 – 00;09;00;17

Amanda Schneider

You can be a first mover and be one of the ones to really show people how it’s done and establish some of those norms. I think that’s another real benefit to a brand.

 

00;09;00;26 – 00;09;19;05

Bobby Bonett

So in these chance conversations, whether it’s happening in a public forum or in a greenroom before a conversation starts, what are you starting to hear in your ear from the A&D industry as it relates to the adoption of and how folks might leverage or think about leveraging Web3 and its technologies for good and for bad?

 

00;09;19;08 – 00;09;47;01

Amanda Schneider

I mean, I think we’re hearing a lot of mixed messages right now, if I’m perfectly honest. I just read a consumer study that says today about 33% or roughly a third of this broad survey don’t quite get the concept of the metaverse. So I think a lot of people see it as this big out there conversation. Some of Facebook’s rebranding to Meta and some of these things have not necessarily helped in really understanding tangible and practical uses of it.

 

00;09;47;01 – 00;10;07;21

Amanda Schneider

So I think that there is a small group that is bought in and understands it and is really diving in. But the broader world I think feels like this is really far away. But I think it’s going to really take some first movers to come in and show people ways that make sense. There’s a lot of things that maybe don’t make sense to me that I’m struggling to picture how that’s going to take shape in our industry.

 

00;10;07;21 – 00;10;25;01

Amanda Schneider

But there are some really tangible, practical ways that I think both for the manufacturers side of the industry and for the design side of the industry that are starting to happen and really do make sense for our world.

 

Tessa Bain

So I mean, is there anything specifically that you’re seeing that the industry is sort of directed towards or is it still up in the air?

 

00;10;25;01 – 00;10;49;26

Amanda Schneider

I mean, I would say definitely it’s still up in the air. I think our industry is still very ripe for a real shift in mindset when it comes to this digital world. I think a lot of people are taking what we would do in the physical world and putting it online, and I think that makes a lot of people that visit those spaces online feel like they were invited to someone else’s birthday party, like a omnipotent observer, rather than really being optimized for what they want to do.

 

00;10;49;27 – 00;11;09;23

Amanda Schneider

You know, one of the areas that we’ve gone into pretty deeply in our exploration is around the future of showrooms. You know, over the last two years during the pandemic showrooms really have not been utilized. I’m based out of Chicago, so if you come to the Merchandise Mart only for Neocon the rest of the year, that space a lot of those showrooms in and outside of the mart look very different than they do during that show.

 

00;11;09;23 – 00;11;40;18

Amanda Schneider

And I think we have seen some real creative brands that are starting to kind of explore what the metaverse might look like for the future of showrooms. I think we’ve seen a little bit of exploration, even in physical space, how you can take less physical space and expand into the digital world. I won’t say Metaverse because I think that narrows it or maybe triggers different things for people, but how can you maybe take less space and leverage digital tools to expand the usefulness of that physical space is one way that I’m seeing some of our leading brands take a stand there.

 

00;11;40;19 – 00;12;00;29

Amanda Schneider

You know, if you listen to one of our episodes of the Design Nerds Anonymous podcast, it’s called The Future of Showrooms. And in that we interview a company that is really exploring digital twins like digital showrooms. And I’ve seen some exciting things there, and I think it’s got a lot of application, especially on the Resi side of our business.

 

00;12;00;29 – 00;12;21;27

Amanda Schneider

If you think about the way that residential designers quote unquote shop just to know where they want to take clients or to be able to meet them somewhere digitally, you know, I know I’ve even been sitting on my couch in the evening and sending furniture back and forth, text with my husband, check out the site, whatever. Imagine you could virtually shop with someone, whether it’s your designer or your spouse or a roommate with good taste.

 

00;12;21;28 – 00;12;44;15

Amanda Schneider

You know, I think that there’s some ways that could work. I think one of the biggest shifts we’re going to see in our industry, specifically on the manufacturer side, is the shift from physical to digital to really optimizing for digital. And then making those physical spaces make those digital experience has come to life in a new way. So from physical, digital to digital, physical, if that makes sense.

 

00;12;44;18 – 00;12;48;19

Andrew Lane

So for those counting at home or up to two plugs for Amanda’s podcast so far, yeah.

 

00;12;49;20 – 00;12;51;02

Amanda Schneider

Well, make this a drinking game.

 

00;12;51;03 – 00;13;14;22

Andrew Lane

So again, by the end, well, hopefully we all get too drunk this afternoon. There were some really interesting examples of Metaverse, but you still shied away from the word a little bit. And I think what’s really a hurdle for some people a barrier to plug our own podcast on our podcast is that people see the metaverse as this defined place, Decentraland or Fortnite or something like that.

 

00;13;14;25 – 00;13;36;04

Andrew Lane

But really what you’re talking about are immersive 3D spatial examples where people are trying to drive a particular outcome. Given the conversations that you have with people, do you have any insight or any thoughts around why that is such a difficult idea for people to leap over top of? To understand that the metaverse doesn’t have to be a defined place, but really a tool?

 

00;13;36;09 – 00;14;00;02

Amanda Schneider

Yeah, I guess. I don’t think I actually hate to counter that. I don’t think that most people think of the metaverse as decentraland or a specific place. I think the term itself is just so overwhelming and I think it’s maybe misrepresented when you see ads like on CNN for Meta with a lion that’s clearly not real running through a jungle that I’m never going to work in.

 

00;14;00;02 – 00;14;17;15

Amanda Schneider

Like I think that people really struggle to make that leap. And I think it’s become such a buzz word that I absolutely avoid that term, because I think that it triggers something in a lot of people. And sometimes it’s insecurity because I don’t know what I’m talking about and it makes me feel like I don’t know what that’s going to be.

 

00;14;17;27 – 00;14;51;11

Amanda Schneider

Now, the one thing that I think is different about the metaverse per se, is that interactivity. So this is more than doing a 3D show room tour by yourself in some kind of alternate reality. And it’s more about how do we bring the interactivity that we miss in a 2D web world of that human interaction? Again, as I talked about, like I could shop with my spouse, like a shop with my best friend, I could shop with my designer in the metaverse where I can experience things and be able to speak with them, talk with them, see things maybe as a precursor to seeing it in real life.

 

00;14;51;11 – 00;15;06;25

Amanda Schneider

So I’m not wasting my time driving 30 minutes, 45 minutes to a showroom, only to discover there’s nothing there that I really want to see anyway. So I feel like it’s that interactive element that makes it maybe more unique than other things. But I think the term metaverse is really triggering for a lot of people.

 

00;15;06;25 – 00;15;29;25

Bobby Bonett

So, Amanda, when you’re chatting with somebody about the overarching idea of Web3 and you’re trying to get at the heart of where there might be experiences, beneficial experiences or utility for a manufacturer, what’s your and what’s the verbiage you’re using to disarm somebody and make them feel more comfortable, to, to explore what the future of a showroom might look like?

 

00;15;29;25 – 00;15;57;04

Amanda Schneider

We use this awful word called phygital, which is physical plus digital. We’ve also called it the online, offline, online experience. So really finding ways to help people feel comfortable that this is not going to be some dystopian ‘ready, player, one universe’ where the metaverse is so much greater than our actual reality that we’re never going to meet in person anymore and we’re not going to have cocktails and everything’s going to be over Zoom and with avatars and things like that.

 

00;15;57;04 – 00;16;14;13

Amanda Schneider

So I think using words that kind of combine the world we know with one that is tangible with examples and practical ways that we can actually imagine ourselves, you know, using it. I think, makes it easier for people to join you in that conversation rather than getting triggered and shutting down.

 

00;16;14;29 – 00;16;29;22

Bobby Bonett

If you were a showroom manager for a showroom at the Merchandise Mart, getting ready for Neocon 2023, what would you be doing to create this phygital experience either for folks who are attending in person or for people who are instead watching from afar?

 

00;16;30;29 – 00;16;52;29

Amanda Schneider

Yeah, first of all, it’s probably not going to be the showroom manager. It’s going to be their strategic marketing team that’s probably thinking about this. But one of the biggest things that I think about is we have often thought about shows like Neocon as the destination. And so I would encourage people in that type of role to think of shows like Neocon and these human interactions as the fuel, not the gas station.

 

00;16;53;00 – 00;17;10;12

Amanda Schneider

No one wakes up and says, I want to go to the gas station today. I know you think I need gas, so I’m going to swing by there on my way to something else. And I think that if more brands thought about it as the fuel, not the gas station, that we would start to think about our marketing messages and really what we want to get across to people in bigger ways.

 

00;17;10;22 – 00;17;35;21

Amanda Schneider

And then instead of thinking about the show as the destination, we would think about what’s best for that physical realm, what’s best for that digital realm. And by separating them, we can actually imagine them optimize for each format, whether it’s face to face, whether it’s human remote, whether it’s totally self-serve and some kind of digital format. And I think by separating those, we can actually imagine them for the purpose they’re optimized for, if that makes sense.

 

00;17;36;10 – 00;17;54;14

Andrew Lane

So when we think about all this, we look forward to what we’ll call tradeshow season in 2023. From an exhibitor standpoint, from the standpoint of the trade shows themselves, like what are the influences that we’re going to see from all of this? Is it going to be dramatically different than 2022? How much change can we really realistically expect to see any years time?

 

00;17;56;01 – 00;18;12;16

Amanda Schneider

You rarely have conversations with me where you don’t leave with the podcast or a book or something else that you need to listen to. But there’s a guy named Marco Ghiberti who wrote a book called Reinventing Live the Always on Future of Events. And in that book he describes a lot of some of the concepts that I’ve talked about.

 

00;18;12;16 – 00;18;43;24

Amanda Schneider

That’s really how trade shows and events have not felt enough pain to really be a force to rethink how they’re revenue models, what participants could do at the show. And we all know that buyers buy to avoid pain. So not necessarily because to gain pleasure or something like that. So I think if we think about that, like there’s a lot of clues in that book that are really fascinating about where we could potentially push our trade shows and events in total and what participants and attendees should demand from these events.

 

00;18;43;24 – 00;19;03;26

Amanda Schneider

I know that I’ve heard from a lot of colleagues as the world is reopening now and these events are coming back and they’re really not any different than they were before. And a lot of what I’m hearing is, ‘Hey, y’all, can’t we do better?’ It seems like we should be able to have more meaningful conversations. There is this concept of the flipped classroom, which is the idea of a listen to a lecture in advance.

 

00;19;03;26 – 00;19;20;20

Amanda Schneider

And when we come together, we get to really discuss it. And a lot of times at these events, what happens is we spend so much time listening to experts on the stage that we really don’t get as much time as maybe we would like to connect with the other peers in the room that are there as experts on the same topics that we really want to collaborate with.

 

00;19;21;00 – 00;19;24;22

Amanda Schneider

So that was a long winded way of saying, read Marco’s book. That’s super fascinating.

 

00;19;25;19 – 00;19;41;15

Bobby Bonett

So going from next generation of trade show and showrooms to next generation of designer, I know you and the ThinkLab team Amanda have been working a lot with Gen Z research lately. How are they framing Web3 in their conversations and in their expectations for the future of the industry?

 

00;19;42;21 – 00;19;45;06

Amanda Schneider

Yeah, I think that’s I don’t know. You’re a millennial, right, baby?

 

00;19;45;07 – 00;19;46;10

Bobby Bonett

I am an elder millennial.

 

00;19;46;10 – 00;19;54;28

Amanda Schneider

I think an elder millennial. Okay, so that was a very elder millennial way to ask you that. And I would say that I’m an X’er. I’m an X’er, so I’m older. When you talk.

 

00;19;54;28 – 00;19;57;21

Andrew Lane

About age on the show and that’s my personal.

 

00;19;57;21 – 00;20;19;08

Amanda Schneider

Role. I think one of the interesting things our next hackathon is going to be really focused on Gen Z and really understanding Gen Z as an arrow to the future, as in what their perceptions and norms are that are going to ripple up to all other generations. And how that might affect the design industry and to your design has been having these 30 under 30 events and I’ve been hosting what we’re calling a design confessional.

 

00;20;19;21 – 00;20;37;18

Amanda Schneider

So like any good reality TV show has those little confessional booths where you talk to the video, we’re taking all of our podcasting equipment and inviting these Gen Zers to really talk to us about what they love, what they hate about the industry, what would make them leave the industry, really their perceptions and what they wish this industry would learn or maybe do a little bit differently.

 

00;20;37;18 – 00;20;57;07

Amanda Schneider

And what’s fascinating about their attitudes is all of this is incorporated. They’re not. I wish they would adopt Web3. I wish they would adopt the metaverse and do this. It’s almost like an inherent expectation that’s just woven into the fabric of how they speak of these things. So I think while Gen Xers and older millennials think of this as a big change and a big difference, it just is to them.

 

00;20;57;07 – 00;21;00;15

Amanda Schneider

And that’s really apparent even in these little design confessionals.

 

00;21;02;07 – 00;21;23;29

Andrew Lane

I think that this such an interesting paradigm shift when you think about older millennials and Gen Xers who like did things like write papers in high school where they actually like wrote them with pen, I used to go into magazines and cut out pictures and tape them into my like little grade six presentations and things like that, because you couldn’t embed an image into a digital file if you grew up with all of that.

 

00;21;23;29 – 00;21;50;25

Andrew Lane

But your expectation that technology’s always getting better is just at a different level than people who grew up without technology and then suddenly were gifted it so I think that’s just a general societal paradigm shift that we’re going to be seeing. But the interesting thing then starts to become like, how does that impact the way that you think about attracting the next generation of talent into the industry or the way that they’re thinking about themselves in the context of a professional role as, let’s say, a designer?

 

00;21;51;02 – 00;21;59;23

Andrew Lane

Are you hearing from them about what their expectations are as far as that fluidity between technical and non-technical, between physical and digital?

 

00;22;01;07 – 00;22;16;22

Amanda Schneider

I’m actually surprised in these conversations about and I’ve only had, let’s say, a dozen of them, we’re doing these quick ten minute interviews. So we’ve had two of these events. I’ve done a little over a dozen interviews. First of all, I’ll say that these Gen Z ers are absolutely fearless. There’s no concern about what should I say that?

 

00;22;16;22 – 00;22;33;13

Amanda Schneider

Shouldn’t I say that? Is it okay? Is it not like they’re on the record and there is no hesitation whatsoever? So that’s one thing. And they’re not afraid to really speak their mind. Of course, we feed them some alcohol first, I think as part of this happy hour before I get to them. So it’s part of a great part of a great design confessional, Right?

 

00;22;33;13 – 00;22;55;11

Amanda Schneider

So I would say that is one piece of it. But I’m also surprised at how quickly they I don’t want to say assimilate, but how quickly they learn the way that things are done in this industry. And I actually was surprised at how much I had to push some of them, not all of them, some of them to really challenge that.

 

00;22;55;11 – 00;23;18;15

Amanda Schneider

This doesn’t have to be this way. Could you think differently? And it’s interesting because a lot of the generational experts now are saying the typical generation would span 15 years, and that’s a pretty broad range. Even millennials, there’s a reason they call you geriatric millennials, older millennials, because they’re starting as technology is moving faster and faster to break generations down into even smaller segment.

 

00;23;18;15 – 00;23;38;06

Amanda Schneider

So I can tell you one of the things that we’re going to be doing as we collect this research is really definitely looking at generations. But one of our fears is that those generations are too broad. And as I think back to even this dozen interviews that I’ve done, there’s a pretty big difference in what people are saying that graduated 2015, 2016, that are still attending the 30 under 30 event.

 

00;23;38;06 – 00;23;51;28

Amanda Schneider

Right. Versus those that graduated 2019 2020 and what their experiences and therefore expectations have been like. So I think it’s really breaking down those generations even further to understand the nuances of what normal looks like to them.

 

00;23;53;05 – 00;23;59;15

Bobby Bonett

Another reason it’s important to be first to market because maybe there’s less patience amongst your future clientele if you’re not willing to adapt.

 

00;23;59;15 – 00;24;16;09

Amanda Schneider

And an interesting stat you guys are probably heard this one, but by 2025, 27% of the workforce will be Gen Z, the earliest of whom graduated in 2019. You know, that’s a quarter of the workforce and presumably a lot of our quote unquote buyers. So really interesting to put that in that context.

 

00;24;17;18 – 00;24;37;25

Andrew Lane

And the baby boomer retirement, that’s really just starting into full effect right now. So I’m sure that percentage shoots up pretty quickly and probably the 5 to 10 years following that as well. So it’s definitely coming. All of this is coming on the edge of a pretty large paradigm shift to a group of people, regardless if you want to call them X-ennials or millennials or Gen X or whatever.

 

00;24;38;06 – 00;24;40;01

Amanda Schneider

They hate labels.

 

00;24;40;01 – 00;24;51;28

Andrew Lane

Yeah, whatever. We choose to label them out for our own comfort. The reality is they understand digital and they’re going to be looking for places where they can take advantage of that or at least benefit from the comforts of their familiarity.

 

00;24;51;28 – 00;25;06;17

Bobby Bonett

Amanda I’m interested as a researcher, what tools you’re leveraging to gain an understanding on how the metaverse and web3 is being leveraged in a strategic way by the industry. Obviously, conversations are one of those tools, but what else do you do? Where else do you look to, to become more comfortable?

 

00;25;06;28 – 00;25;31;15

Amanda Schneider

I think we’re all my whole team is just avid readers, listeners, watchers, really making sure that we are taking in all accounts. So there are ways that you can research things that in some ways research is backwards looking, right? Like you’re measuring perceptions on things people can understand. So really to put on our futurist hats, we have to go into realms that we’re maybe not comfortable with that a lot of people don’t understand.

 

00;25;31;15 – 00;25;57;18

Amanda Schneider

So a lot of that for sure is just reading. But I think the number one source of that is having conversations with people that understand it, that can make us smarter, and oftentimes having conversations with people that don’t understand it, which sounds a little bit counterintuitive. Donald Miller talks about the bias of knowledge, and it’s why storytelling is so hard, because when you become experts in it, you do things like, say, triggering words that makes people fearful.

 

00;25;57;18 – 00;26;17;26

Amanda Schneider

And I’m going to bring in the example of this Burberry. If you’ve seen the Burberry Minecraft launch, that just a timestamp. This recording here happened this week that I think most people that watch that are like these people are off their rockers, you know, and Hunger Games where they have all the crazy wigs and there’s the haves and have nots.

 

00;26;17;26 – 00;26;36;28

Amanda Schneider

And yeah, it’s like I look at that Burberry and Minecraft thing and it’s as crazy as people like eating so much that then they have to puke so they can eat some more. That happens in The Hunger Games. Like, I think it’s just it’s so ludicrous that I think average people can’t understand it. And I think that actually diverts people from joining this metaverse.

 

00;26;36;28 – 00;26;41;17

Amanda Schneider

Web3 conversation because it seems so far fetched from reality today.

 

00;26;41;29 – 00;26;53;17

Bobby Bonett

So Amanda calls it ludicrous. What’s Andrew and Tess, what’s your read on it? What’s the reaction look like from the communities that you follow and interact with on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter?

 

00;26;54;07 – 00;27;17;17

Tessa Bain

I think the biggest disconnect of what we see is when a brand like a luxury brand like Burberry launches something like this in a metaverse and the graphics and the detail, the designs are just not what we’re used to for some of these brands to be putting out. And I think that’s a big part of the disconnect, that consistency between what we know as luxury in the real world and then luxury in this digital space.

 

00;27;17;17 – 00;27;38;27

Andrew Lane

I think that the other thing that’s at play here is just the way media works. The recipe that’s cooked up when you put a major brand doing something experimental out there is pretty irresistible in a 24 hour news cycle. And so I think we’ve seen a critical mass of that in the last several months of this year that really resembles what we saw on the NFT front about ten months ago.

 

00;27;39;11 – 00;27;58;05

Andrew Lane

I think what we’re going through right now is hype cycles. And so we’re in a metaverse hype cycle now, which followed our NFT hype cycle from the year before. All of these things are normalizing and the people who are on the back bench is talking about utility. Their voices become clearer as those hype cycles fade away and you start to get into conversations about the types of applications you were talking about earlier.

 

00;27;58;05 – 00;28;11;01

Andrew Lane

Amanda Where they’re really practical and they’re focused and they’re not just about grabbing onto the hype cycle. And we’re going to see the real builders and the real winners start to emerge in the aftermath of the people who are just staking the early claim.

 

00;28;11;02 – 00;28;28;27

Amanda Schneider

I love that you said that about the hype cycle, because I think that’s true. And I think that’s something that whether you’re a metaverse expert, that is one of those builders like you all are, or someone like me that’s just trying to translate all of this to the layperson will say that hype cycle definitely makes sense. Can I read you a LinkedIn note that I got from posting this the other day?

 

00;28;28;28 – 00;28;49;02

Amanda Schneider

This was a reaction. I’m going to leave the person who sent it anonymously. But she says, ‘I want to react to your post today about Burberry and Minecraft. This is creepy. Something about the uncanny Valley avatars and the idea of late stage capitalism, indoctrination of kids with a luxury fashion in a video game is just so off putting to me.

 

00;28;49;02 – 00;29;02;28

Amanda Schneider

I could write a whole novel about what I find disconcerting about the metaverse in general, but this is an example of the worst use.’ She also calls this hold on devoid of humanity and just misses the mark on all the ways the metaverse should be making spaces accessible.

 

00;29;03;03 – 00;29;26;13

Bobby Bonett

It’s a review of our podcast devoid of Humanity. What that anonymous commenter and then I was talking about the dinner I got with my mom the other night, their perspective of what the worst possible is of the metaverse is exactly what Web two is. When you scroll through an Instagram feed, it’s all about status and it’s all about the image of myself that I want to create in this in this iPhone.

 

00;29;26;21 – 00;29;46;08

Bobby Bonett

I think that’s a threshold for which, when people think about lifecycle, how to drive headlines is around, around status, around luxury, around something that clickbait. Exactly So that’s that’s the point we’re on right now is a scarf on somebody walking through a minecraft universe is what’s going to get people excited. And for if you’re a marketer, that’s probably a good story.

 

00;29;46;10 – 00;29;47;19

Bobby Bonett

Now no press is bad press.

 

00;29;47;20 – 00;30;08;22

Tessa Bain

Amanda and our pre call. You’ve spoken to us before about boundaryless connectivity and how this technology is going to potentially see us rethinking regionality in our business. Can you go a little further into what you’re seeing emerge in that area?

 

 Amanda-Yeah, I love that you asked this one actually, because this is another kind of bold prediction that we have that I’m already seeing early inklings of this happening.

 

00;30;08;25 – 00;30;39;16

Amanda Schneider

If we look especially on the manufacturer and distributor side of our industry, we are still very geographically bound. But following what’s happened over the last couple of years and by geographically bound ‘X’ distributor covers this region and that region. And what’s happened in a downturn is there’s lots of acquisitions and expansions. And I think on the furniture side alone, we counted 30 different either acquisitions, expansions, deal or flips to new at the beginning of this year, and that’s only accelerated as a lot of these issues have continued on.

 

00;30;39;16 – 00;30;58;15

Amanda Schneider

But as we look at some of our think labs that say that three out of four firms intend to exist somewhere on the hybrid spectrum moving forward, and we’ve definitely seen that so accelerated by these last few years where it was already happening before, especially with some of these large architecture design firms where they’re assembling the best team of people from where those skillsets are.

 

00;30;58;24 – 00;31;19;26

Amanda Schneider

You may have a designer in New York, designer in L.A., and maybe one in Chicago working together because they have the best background in history for that particular client project. So we’ve always studied the origin of spec, but if you have a design team working across three very disparate geographies, maybe you throw in someone from Europe in there, where is the origin of spec and how are we defining who gets quote unquote credit?

 

00;31;19;26 – 00;31;42;04

Amanda Schneider

I think as we move into this virtual era, one of our predictions is that a lot of these folks are going to have to rethink regions. And I would say this has been echoed in our design confessionals. There’s a stat that’s out there widely that says Gen Zers feel more connected to appear in another country than they do to their own grandmother because of their life experiences, their connectivity.

 

00;31;42;04 – 00;31;58;22

Amanda Schneider

They also have grown up in this era of social media where you can connect and meet people and trust people, sometimes more then the awkwardness of meeting them in person and some of that. So, you know, we’re hearing some of those inklings from these younger generations that says, you know what, I had to travel to New York last week.

 

00;31;58;22 – 00;32;16;07

Amanda Schneider

I really like to get connected with the design community there. I want to know who my reps are. I want to know where are the ‘it scenes’? How do I get connected to like minded peers when I go to these other cities? And our industry is really not set up for that today. I would say maybe for some larger manufacturers there is connectivity between reps in different markets.

 

00;32;16;07 – 00;32;31;06

Amanda Schneider

But you know, we see rather than depending on social media from the broader corporate entity, they’re parsing it out so that they make it relevant to their local market. I think that we’re really going to be forced to rethink regions and connect some of these areas and new ways in the very, very near future.

 

00;32;31;06 – 00;32;42;13

Andrew Lane

Back to our earlier conversation about the evolution and the speed of change. It’ll be interesting to see kind of what the very new future pans out to be given all those forces that are coming together. It’s really interesting.

 

00;32;42;13 – 00;32;52;29

Bobby Bonett

A great place to start Amanda, is you mentioned earlier this concept of a hackathon. Can you tell us a little bit about what ThinkLab has created in the sense of a design hackathon and what you have up your sleeve next?

 

00;32;53;03 – 00;33;17;27

Amanda Schneider

So we’ve been doing hackathons. This is a once a year big project and I think you hear the term hackathon, and especially as techies on this conversation, probably many are thinking that’s just for tech companies, but that is basically a design thinking process for some of the industry’s biggest, hairiest challenges. So what we do in a design hackathon is we bring together disparate entities that wouldn’t normally talk about the same problem from their different points of view.

 

00;33;18;09 – 00;33;43;05

Amanda Schneider

And through a six month research process that starts with more qualitative research, gets into a big survey with quantitative, we do some brainstorming or what we call generative research and ends and what we call a playbook. So this will be our fourth annual hackathon. We started this actually in 2020, in the heart of the pandemic, when business development in an analog industry went from completely analog to almost wholly digital nearly overnight.

 

00;33;43;06 – 00;33;58;27

Amanda Schneider

So we said, what might that look like? That’s different. And the end result of that was a playbook called 100 Ways to Revolutionize the B2B sale. We moved on to product specification and a hybrid era. How that’s going to change, and that’s a lot of what you’ll hear to plug our podcast. Again, for anyone who’s playing the drinking game,.

 

00;33;58;27 – 00;33;59;27

Andrew Lane

We’re at three now. Yeah, thanks.

 

00;33;59;27 – 00;34;19;13

Amanda Schneider

And there you go. There you go. Three shots. We’re still everyone’s still walking. But that looks at where maybe manufacturers should be investing to enter this phygital world in a new way. Our most recent one that just launched is our the industry’s first ever persona study, really looking specifically at who selects products and how that might look different in the future.

 

00;34;19;23 – 00;34;44;15

Amanda Schneider

And we’re going to be building on that with our next hackathon that’s going to focus on Gen Z. So in that persona study, we estimate that today around 60% of the industry really operates on what I would consider a very traditional model. That’s two of our five personas that the other three personas actually had the highest prominence of Gen Z and were very different than what our industry has historically served in terms of how we create that buyer that specify your journey.

 

00;34;44;28 – 00;34;53;21

Amanda Schneider

So our next hackathon is really going to dive into that a little bit deeper and look at this Gen Z ripple up effect and how they might really drive change overall in our industry.

 

00;34;53;28 – 00;35;04;10

Bobby Bonett

We’ve talked about Design Nerds Anonymous three times by our count, but you haven’t given us a good, hearty sort of overview of what the podcast is all about. And right now I know we’re mid-season for the latest season of DNA.

 

00;35;04;10 – 00;35;07;08

Amanda Schneider

We actually have three podcasts, so I don’t know if I can plug all three of them before.

 

00;35;07;17 – 00;35;09;04

Andrew Lane

I know how many shots to do.

 

00;35;09;04 – 00;35;33;28

Amanda Schneider

Now. I know, right? You should be three for this. So our inaugural podcast is Design Nerds Anonymous, which you can’t really say without giggling a little bit, but this is really designed to be inspiration for your business. So this is really where we look at A&D and the ecosystem that surrounds. So from commercial real estate to product manufacturers ERS to architects and designers to distributors, we’re really trying to talk to the whole ecosystem about the biggest hairiest issues.

 

00;35;33;28 – 00;36;02;17

Amanda Schneider

So typically Design Nerds Anonymous kind of starts to drip out the tip of the iceberg from all of our hackathons and speaks to the whole ecosystem. We also just earlier this year launched the Learning Objective, which is the industry’s first ever CEU accredited podcast. So that is really targeted to our design audience. And then we also launched a little bit later this year Mpowered, which is our a venture in conjunction with Material Bank, really a digital pioneer in this industry, trying to really connect that human element.

 

00;36;02;17 – 00;36;23;05

Amanda Schneider

So as we talk about our digital journey, this is really focused on those human reps. And in each episode it’s a five minute short form podcast designed to upskill that B2B wrap for this Phygital era. So 5 minutes long, we answer one question in each episode with a ThinkLab stat and three really tangible, actionable ideas about how they can really put that insight into action.

 

00;36;23;05 – 00;36;28;12

Amanda Schneider

So three different podcasts really focus on different audiences, but hopefully your listeners find something in one of them.

 

00;36;29;16 – 00;36;31;17

Bobby Bonett

Discover them on SURROUND podcasts.

 

00;36;31;17 – 00;36;34;00

Amanda Schneider

Dot com, good plug Bobby. Thank you.

 

00;36;34;05 – 00;36;37;13

Andrew Lane

Wow. This is the plug iest podcast that I think we’ve had.

 

00;36;37;24 – 00;36;58;27

Tessa Bain

Amanda What advice would you give or resources that you could share with our listeners who are looking to get into this space or even understand it a little bit better?

 

 Amanda – Yeah, I would say I probably have three pieces of advice there. I love everything in threes. I have three sons, so we’ll keep at odd here. Number one, I would say connect with Gen Z, you’ll learn a lot just hearing what’s normal and rolls off their tongue like it’s always been.

 

00;36;58;27 – 00;37;23;10

Amanda Schneider

One of my favorite sayings as a fish doesn’t know what’s in water, it just swims. So really visit with some of these kids and understand what is normal to them. The second one I would say start reading. If you’re not an avid reader, if you’re not listening to podcasts, if you’re not voraciously consuming, what’s happening? One of my favorite platforms is LinkedIn, just because it really is a curated feed of things that apply to you and your interest by who you follow.

 

00;37;23;10 – 00;37;44;26

Amanda Schneider

Other people are posting news articles, things like that. So if you’re reading, post it there, people are going to agree with you, people are going to disagree with you. And I think in that agreement and disagreement is where we really get the gems. And then my third piece of advice would be really look outside the industry that you’re in, whatever piece of the industry that is, look outside of the A&D industry, the design industry, who’s doing it well?

 

00;37;44;26 – 00;38;05;18

Amanda Schneider

Who’s doing it differently? What can we learn from there? We do this a lot in our Design Nerds Anonymous podcast. Go ahead. Another drink where we we had Zappos on. Zappos has nothing to do with the A&D industry. We had Carvana on the last one and I’m always surprised at the parallels that we can draw. I think it pushes our creativity to a new level when we get inspired from kind of outside of the echo chamber.

 

00;38;05;18 – 00;38;22;11

Andrew Lane

I think there’s even an opportunity to learn from the people who are maybe putting out products that aren’t going to succeed given our early stage where we are right now too. And we’ve talked about a couple of potential ins to watch and I think in the last little while here. So thanks, Amanda, so much for coming on and sharing all your insights.

 

00;38;22;11 – 00;38;32;07

Andrew Lane

And we’re really excited to go and binge listen to a number of podcasts. Now. It’s really, really drilled home with those plugs, but thanks again and hopefully we’ll have the chance to catch up again soon.

 

00;38;32;09 – 00;38;32;29

Amanda Schneider

Thanks, guys.

 

00;38;34;20 – 00;39;02;23

Andrew Lane

Wow. Long Island pacing with Midwest poise delivered special guests from the Design Nerds Anonymous podcast. If you’re not smashing those follow buttons now, I don’t know what will make you, but love that conversation with Amanda so much to take away. She’s so well informed, having so many interesting conversations, just as a function of what it is that she does every day for the SANDOW family and, you know, have the opportunity to get to know her better just through having her on the podcast.

 

00;39;02;23 – 00;39;15;07

Andrew Lane

And beyond that, I’m just always impressed by the way in which she’s ready to deliver the right information for the right moment and always so steeped in insight. What’s it like working alongside someone like that?

 

00;39;15;07 – 00;39;51;07

Bobby Bonett

Bobby, Amanda is like the scoop master in architecture and design. She’s got all of the connections, has her finger on the pulse of hearts and minds of data, and then she’s able to unpack that and digest it and share it out in a way that that folks can action on. When I think about 2023 and I think about the trade shows will be, you know, moving on toward in Q2 and Q3 and thinking about and looking at what the activations might look like, Amanda is going to be having all the key conversations with folks and she’ll be the first one to come back to us and say, here’s what I’m hearing from showroom managers and

 

00;39;51;07 – 00;40;04;11

Bobby Bonett

here’s what I’m hearing from designers walking the halls of these showrooms about how the experience could be uplifted and then what we want to do and we want to talk with folks about is how might the metaverse or how might Web3 enhance and enable experiences to be made better?

 

00;40;04;23 – 00;40;24;02

Tessa Bain

I just can’t seem to get enough of Amanda’s content across all platforms. Having that opportunity to have that initial conversation with her on the podcast. And then, of course, you know, listening more to Design NerdsAnonymous. And then we had the opportunity to join her on a LinkedIn live, which took really interesting turns, you know, when the community was able to give their live time feedback.

 

00;40;24;14 – 00;40;36;06

Tessa Bain

I just can’t seem to get enough of everything that she’s saying. I mean, she certainly has her finger on the pulse. And so every time we have an opportunity to speak with her, it’s something new and something really exciting. And so I never take those moments for granted.

 

00;40;36;09 – 00;41;03;14

Andrew Lane

Is that a plug for her being the first ever two time guest to various entry? Because that could be cool. I’m personally really interested in hearing how her continuing work with Gen Z nets out like that’s a big focus for ThinkLab early in the year. It’s obviously a huge consideration when we talk about Web3 because now we’re starting to talk about people who are digital natives, people who never grew up handwriting papers in high school like some of us on the podcast did.

 

00;41;03;26 – 00;41;27;11

Andrew Lane

But you know, that generational shift is going to mean an awful lot of things for firms in the industry in terms of how they attract and retain talent, in terms of how they acquire customers, in terms of the experiences that they deliver to those customers. So I just think there’s so much to follow there and so much that’s really relevant to the changing tastes and behaviors of the key stakeholders of the industry.

 

00;41;27;21 – 00;41;41;04

Andrew Lane

That is just going to be something that if we’re not on the pulse of, it’s going to be problematic. And I think it’s honestly in lockstep with everything we’re saying around the opportunities that the metaverse and that web3 and blockchain and all of these technologies are bringing.

 

00;41;41;04 – 00;41;53;01

Bobby Bonett

As the Barriers to Entry plugs guy, I should make sure that our audience knows that there’s an episode of Design Nerds Anonymous. The most recent season of DNA that talks all about Gen Z designers who.

 

00;41;53;04 – 00;41;57;25

Andrew Lane

Bobby, Bobby, Do you know who any of the guests on that episode might happen to be?

 

00;41;58;11 – 00;42;06;13

Bobby Bonett

So I know Ryan Jenkins opened the episode. There was an effervescent, esteemed, exceptional, would you say love?

 

00;42;06;13 – 00;42;07;13

Andrew Lane

Would you say lovely?

 

00;42;08;10 – 00;42;11;27

Bobby Bonett

A lovely millennial on the back half of the episode myself. Bobby Bonett.

 

00;42;12;06 – 00;42;26;13

Andrew Lane

You got to go get and download that episode and give it a listen because it just goes even deeper into this Gen Z trend. Some incredible insights in there. So I think that fills our plug quota for today’s episode. But know, maybe we can send it home. You know.

 

00;42;26;25 – 00;42;40;05

Bobby Bonett

We do have one last recurring segment which is Tess. You know what it is? What is Andrew’s New Year’s resolution? So do you want to share with us this week, Andrew? Have you landed on that yet or are we still mulling it all weeks? It’s only 17 days into the new year.

 

00;42;40;24 – 00;43;00;24

Andrew Lane

So unfortunately, Chat GPT was down earlier today. So I was not able to get it to generate a New Year’s resolution for me yet. Check back in with me next pod. And I might have something directional that I’m focusing my life on for the next 320 some odd days.

 

00;43;01;17 – 00;43;04;28

Bobby Bonett

We’ll start we’ll start the Miro board collectibles test. You want to take us home?

 

00;43;05;25 – 00;43;39;14

Tessa Bain

I will say it was a wonderful conversation with Amanda. Of course, we learned a ton, as usual with her. She’s fascinating and so intelligent. But we really owe a big thank you to our production team that Sam, Wize, Hannah and the studio by SANDOW. Barriers to Entry is part of the SURROUND Podcast Network. Make sure you go to SURROUND podcast dot com and that is podcast with an S and of course as always we’ll never forget the S, but most importantly, please do not forget to smash the follow button.

 

00;43;39;18 – 00;43;41;15

Andrew Lane

And ‘s’ is for smash exactly.

 

00;43;42;12 – 00;43;47;23

Bobby Bonett

With all of the might of your arm and the pointer finger hit the follow on.

 

00;43;47;23 – 00;44;01;29

Andrew Lane

Please, and then that will set you up in a great position to join us next time as we continue to break down the barriers to entry.

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Andrew Lane Host profile picture

Andrew Lane

Andrew Lane is Co-founder of digby, co-founder of Interior Design Magazine’s (MAD) Awards and co-host of the podcast Barriers to Entry.

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Bobby Bonnett Host profile picture

Bobby Bonett

Bobby Bonett is EVP of Digital and strategic growth at SANDOW Design Group and co-host of the podcast Barriers to Entry.

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Tessa Bain Host profile picture

Tessa Bain

Tessa Bain is a digby co-founder, co-founder of Interior Design Magazine’s MAD Awards and also co-host of Barriers to Entry.

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