TIP 027 | Foursquare

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Serial entrepreneur Dennis Crowley built some of the most social technology ever made for phones. His design approach and creative processes has earned him the title of Mayor countless times. Discover the most important lessons he learned and how he struggled with difficult decisions along the way.

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Fun And Games with The Founder And Chairman Of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley

Welcome back, listeners. Today, for those of you who figured out who Dennis is, you know we have literally a legend of the tech industry. Dennis, could you introduce yourself please.

My name is Dennis Crowley. I am the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of a technology company called Foursquare. I’m also the Founder and Chairman of a semi-professional soccer team called Stockade FC up in the Hudson Valley of New York.

There’s a lot going on in that description because it sounds like both things have something to do with sports but really only one of them is in athletic endeavor. When people discover that you were the Co-Founder of Foursquare and you also ran it for many years, what’s the most common question they ask you?

There’s a lot of people that have super fond memories of the super early versions of Foursquare, where checking in was brand new and points and mayors and badges and stuff really captured people’s imagination. A lot of people ask now, “What are you doing? What’s the company doing now?” We still have our apps, people love to use them. We have the City Guide app that helps people find stuff. We have the Swarm app where you can check-in and get stickers and still play these games. What we’ve done over the last couple of years is we’ve gotten really good at understanding all the data that comes into Foursquare so we can do really interesting predictive things. Imagine if you knew where tens of millions of phones were going, what you could do with that type of data. That’s the data that we have.

We used it to make cool city guides but then we also use it to help companies figure out what neighborhoods are going to be trending? What are the really interesting things that are happening in these neighborhoods? There are some folks that use some of our data to try to make predictions on the stock market. Did more people go to The Gap this quarter than they did the last quarter? There are lots of really interesting use cases for a lot of the data that we generate as a company. It’s been really fun to pull a lot of that stuff to work. We always think of it as like we get to invent the future of a lot of the stuff and that’s pretty fun.

I remember hearing at one point you were better at predicting the popularity of the next iPhone, how many units would sell, than all the experts and pundits.

TIP 027 | Foursquare

What is this company Foursquare that has this secret pot of data that allows them to predict the future in certain ways?

It was one of the first superhero moments for us as a company or superpower moments, I guess I should say. I think it was the iPhone 6. This was a couple cycles ago. All the analyst were trying to guess, “Apple doesn’t release their sales numbers but this is how many phones we think they’ll sell.” We were sitting in the lunch room here at Foursquare one day and someone had this idea, “Why don’t we just look at the foot traffic data? We can understand people moving in and out of these different places. Let’s compare that data to the old iPhone launches and the sales numbers that were released and then make a bet for this one.” We thought, “Will it be accurate? Should we do that? Let’s just try. Let’s just see what happens.” We made a prediction and we went on TV and we talked about it and we almost nailed exactly the number of iPhones that were sold. A lot of the financial analysts started looking at us, “What is this company Foursquare that has this secret pot of data that allows them to predict the future in certain ways? We thought they were just the check-in app.” That is a really pivotal moment for the company where we started flexing what we could do with all the data that we have and our understanding of the world.

It’s absolutely incredible to me because you came from the pre-app world. Your first version of a location-based app, Dodgeball, was completely based on texting because it was in a pre-app world. You managed to not only go from the pre-app world through the iPhone, iPhone creation of the App Store, because you had mentioned the first version of the iPhone had no App Store, to the world of big data and really just create critical moments all throughout.

Now the iPhone X is around the corner, you think, “Look at all that we’ve done over this huge period of time.” That’s one of the fun parts about running a company. First of all, it’s a real pain in the ass to run a company but once you get it working and you’ve got a lot of people, they’re broken into teams, and you have ideas of things that you want to do, there’s really no one stopping you from building this stuff. One of the core values of the company is in this idea of invent the future. This is what we were trying to do back in grad school, “Let’s just make this stuff that we wish existed today but no one else has made yet.” Sometimes people haven’t made it because the technology isn’t mainstream or maybe it doesn’t exist or maybe you have to make the technology or maybe you have to fake it until you make it. We’ve been doing that since grad school through Dodgeball, through our days at Google, through after Google, and early days of Foursquare and then now. Just make the things that you wish existed in the world. Then sometimes when you’re first to that space, you get lucky. You get successful at it.

I’m going to take us on a flashback to the early days of Foursquare. It was incredible and simultaneously like the Wild West. You created the entire category of check-ins. I remember people would literally battle over mayorships. They would go to locations ten times in a week just to make sure that they could own the mayorship of that place or people would invent locations like another person so you could check-in to that person and be the mayor of that human being.

We made a sandbox for people. We defined the rules of the game and said, “You check-in at coffee shops, bars and restaurants and you earn badges and you get points and mayorships and stuff.” People went and they changed the rules on us. People would check-in to TV shows and people would check-in to snow storms and they would check-in to other people.

The snowpocalypse, I remember that one.

This is the classic rule of social systems. You design something thinking you know what people are going to use it for and then the people will always end up surprising you and they’ll find unexpected ways. What we did is we just rolled it there, “You want to check-in to snowpocalypse? Go for it. Here’s the mayor of snowpocalypse.” We just kept building and building and building trying to make these things that were not just fun to check-in to, but trying to build these services that would return value to people. “These are the most trending places in New York. These are the five places that you should go to in Barcelona since you’ve been to these other places in San Francisco.” That was an extension of the build the version of the things that you want that don’t yet exist. It’s like, “Let’s make a city guide that changes based off of where you take it.”

What’s really interesting to me is when I look at Foursquare and I look at you, it makes perfect sense because it seems the confluence of somebody who’s spent years developing relationships. You had countless friends across the industry, you had that critical audience that trusted you. When you said, “I’m creating this game.” People were like, “It’s Dennis. I’ll do this.”

I think it was part of the first pop that the app had at South by Southwest. We had this Dodgeball app that people really liked and then when we sold it to Google and they eventually turned it off. When they turned it off it’s like, “We’re going to make another one. We’re going to make it because we know people still enjoy this but we’re going to make it so weird with all this game stuff that you can’t really ignore it. You at least got to try it out.” We didn’t know if any of this stuff is going to work. We were just throwing spaghetti against the wall. Could you make a game that was based off of the places that you go to?” That was a big idea at the time. Can you make a piece of software that encourages you to go to a new bar or restaurant? Can you make a piece of software that encourages you to try a new neighborhood? To get in the cab and go to Brooklyn because you’ll get a piece of digital candy, a badge, if you go. We didn’t know if that was going to work but that seemed it was a fun thing to explore and it turned out it worked really, really well. I think Foursquare kicked off a lot of the stuff that you see in location-based games, which is great. It’s fun to be involved in that stuff so early on that it inspires other people to build amazing things.

For young entrepreneurs looking to create something, it’s really clear that you suggest, “Create what it is that you want to exist in the world.” Are there few other tips you can give them to really drive their success?

The one I give people all the time is you can’t let people tell you that your ideas are dumb or stupid. I’ve had a lot of ideas over the course of my career and you would tell someone, “I want to do this thing.” They’re like, “That’s a stupid idea,” and you’re like, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I won’t to do that then.” I think a lot of good ideas just don’t see the light of day because other people shut them down. The rule that we’ve always had is, why don’t you just build the thing anyway and then prove to yourself that it’s a dumb idea? If it’s a dumb idea, then you can stop working on it because you’ve figured out why it’s dumb. But maybe it’s not dumb. Maybe you build something and they’re like, “This is interesting. Let me take a left turn here and then take a right turn and now I’ve made something really interesting.” Sometimes you don’t get to those moments of inflection unless you take the chance and you build the wacky thing to begin with. Don’t let other people tell you that the things that you’re thinking about are dumb. Just go find a way to get those things built and then decide for yourself what you want to do with them.

At what point do you finally decide that something is dumb?

TIP 027 | Foursquare

You can’t let people tell you that your ideas are dumb or stupid.

I built a lots of stuff and I’ve showed it to my friends and they’re like, “I wouldn’t use this. This isn’t interesting. I don’t understand it. It’s too hard to use. I’ll never remember to use this.” You go back to the drawing board. I was just telling this story here at Foursquare. We all take it for granted that we have these game mechanics that we’ve had forever, “You get points or coins or you get stickers or badges, you become the mayor.” That was months and months of iterating on things before you found mechanics that were really, really sticky with people. That was eight years ago. There was a lot of R&D that went into that. At first, people were like, “It seems like a dumb idea but let’s build it. Let’s build it and see if it turns into something fun.” The first version wasn’t fun and the fifth version wasn’t fun. By the time we made twenty versions of it, it’s like, “This is starting to make some sense.”

I remember hearing, I don’t know how widely used it still is, but Groupon was just one feature of a larger site. They had some twenty different products and that was the only that actually hit it.

You just try on a bunch of stuff and you try to figure out what works. If you find something that works, you’re just going to follow that direction.

What’s something nobody talks about in your industry, like an open secret?

I think how hard it is. This is a pet peeve of mine for sure. I think a lot of the tech press, they glamorize founders and the story and the journey a little bit. You only see charts that go up into the right and you see the same successful faces on magazines all the time. Nobody ever talks about parts of the journey that were really hard. There were parts where I cried at work and there were parts where we almost threw in the towel and there were parts where people quit in frustration. There were parts where we didn’t think it would ever work or we went months thinking we were totally doomed. No one ever talks about that stuff.

Every single startup has had moments of like, “We’re done.” Whether it’s Foursquare or whether you’re Twitter or whether you’re Facebook or whether you’re Snapchat or Friendster or whatever, there are always moments of peaks and valleys and plateaus. It’s in those moments that you really learn about how to do this job and how to manage your own emotions. A lot of people, after they get through those periods, they don’t want to talk about them, never part of the actual stories. I like to talk to entrepreneurs about that stuff. This job isn’t easy, 80% of it sucks. You will go through big chunks of time where you question what you’re doing and whether it will be successful or not. Hidden throughout the journey are pockets of awesomeness. If you can ride it out long enough and if you can make the right decisions along the way, you can get through a lot of the stuff. A lot of it is just managing your own psychology and managing your own emotions.

There’s that really phenomenal book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, the Ben Horowitz book. It’s the only book that I know about entrepreneurialism that really is like, “No. It’s terrible. You have to fire people. The economy will turn. You have to do anything you can to keep things alive. Sometimes you don’t even know what to do and you just stay up all night.” I thought it was incredible how honest it was and gave a real perspective.

Ben’s on our board. I learned a lot of this from him. I think some of those stories in that book are probably based off of some of the stuff that we went through as did a lot of his other portfolio companies. That’s the thing. To be really honest about shit is on fire all of the time and everything is falling apart all of the time. It’s just how you roll with it and manage it. No company is ever perfect on the inside. Everyone’s got their own little problems but that’s just how it works. Ben wrote this awesome blog post, it was specifically the psychology of being a CEO, managing your own psychology. I used to have that thing bookmarked at the very top of my browser. I’d read it once a week through the toughest parts of Foursquare. It’s one of the things that really kept us going.

After taking over and being the hottest app in the world for a while, eventually you decided to now tackle the real world with a real sport. You’ve gotten from a virtual game called Foursquare to an actual game called soccer.

I was CEO of Foursquare for seven years. Around the time, my wife and I were going to have our first kid. I knew I didn’t want to be a CEO forever. To be honest, I didn’t think I was really great at the CEO job, especially as the company was evolving from being primarily a consumer apps company into more of an enterprise data company. I handed the role of CEO to our existing COO, Jeff Glueck. He became CEO and I became Executive Chairman. That freed up some time at work for me, allowed me to take a paternity leave and had a great time. Then as part of that I was like, “I want to do this side project which is start a soccer team from scratch and do it up in the Hudson Valley,” which is two hours north of New York. To be honest, I was telling my friends about this, “This is a crazy idea. It’s not going to work. It’s a dumb idea.” I was getting the same type of feedback that I would get when I pitched people on Dodgeball or Foursquare. I was like, “No. I think there’s something interesting here. Let me just try it.”

We got a group of people together. We held tryouts. We hired a coach. We rented a stadium. We made t-shirts and it turns out that we build something pretty great. Kingston is a small town, probably 20,000 people. At the end of this season, which is our second season, we have 1,400 people that showed up in our last game. You can’t go to the supermarket without seeing people wearing hats and t-shirts. That’s a point of pride for the community. We won our conference championship and we made a pretty good playoff run this year. It’s a super rewarding project because everyone in the town rallies behind it. It gives the players, all local guys, an opportunity to be seen and have people coming out and cheering for them. It inspires the kids. The kids want to all play for the team someday. It’s so much different than what we’ve been doing in the past which is, “You’re building things on screens.” Now, we’re building infrastructure that exist in the community that the community appreciates and that’s a lot of fun.

It’s so consistent with this trend of yours of having something incredibly social and doing something crazy.

The classic line about, “It all makes sense in hindsight.” It’s very easy to pick out the similarities between the Stockade Soccer project and the stuff that has made Foursquare really successful and what made Dodgeball work in the early days. You’re totally right. It’s bringing people together. It’s shared experiences that they end up having. It’s adding some surprise and delight to the real world in a certain way. They’re definitely all linked even though they’re totally different projects. The skillset that’s required to make the soccer stuff work, it isn’t really that different than the skills that’s required to make Foursquare work. You have to have a vision for what you want to do and it’s a lot of work. You have to be ready to go through it all. There are certainly good days and there are bad days. You just have to power through them and you build a great team around you and things start to come together.

I want to dive into what it is that really inspires you and has really influenced you. I know you mentioned the article by Ben Horowitz. Is there a certain book that’s really had a big impact on you?

TIP 027 | Foursquare

Being Digital; Book by Nicholas Negroponte

There was a book I got to read in high school. It is called Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte. He was the guy that started the MIT Media Lab. I read that book and I was like, “I want to be this guy when I grow up. I want to work in a place that is like where this guy works. I want to be around these types of people.” The inventing the future, this is cutting edge stuff. We don’t even know why we’re making it, we don’t know if it’s going to work but this is what we’re building. That inspired me more than anything else. I spent my time in college being like, “How do I get to one of these places?” I jumped around different internships. I had a job as a research analyst and then my first job at a startup. That first job at a startup was the one I was like, “There are 30 people here making software for PalmPilots and the guys that started the company are just a couple years older than I am.” I remember being, “Someday, I want to be these guys. Someday, I want to do this.” It just comes from surrounding yourself with those people.

Who’s your hero? Who do you look up to the most?

It’s my parents. That’s tough because there are all these people that I admire and all these people that I’ve gotten to meet that are great. My dad was an entrepreneur. He had his own his business. He was the first guy I ever met that was like, “This guy is the boss. I could be the boss someday.” The see it to be it type of thing. Now that I have a kid and now that I have another kid on the way, we have a pretty tight knit family. I got a younger brother and a younger sister. We all have kids of our own. Our family is super tight.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you guys in fact compete together on a game show?

Yeah. We didn’t just compete on Family Feud but we destroyed the Family Feud. By destroyed, I mean we won the fast money bonus round. We won the individual game three times. We eventually lost to a family in LA but we went on quite a run. This was years ago.

That’s such a random fun fact.

My parents did a great job raising us and making a great family. I want the same thing for me and my kids and for my brother and sister and their families.

Imagine you get a random email from a complete stranger, and the person is asking you not to cook them dinner like I did, but to meet them for coffee. I’m sure you get tons of emails and people being like, “My buddy likes to talk to you and get your advice.” What would actually have you accept the invitation?

If they can articulate what they need help with. I do this stuff all the time. I like doing this because I’ve done enough with these coffee meetings where someone comes up to me in a conference like, “You’re not going to remember this but you took time out of your day to have coffee with me seven years ago and now I’m doing this awesome thing because you gave me the pat in the back and the right direction.” I’m like, “Really? Sweet, that’s great.” I’ve got enough feedback from people that that is occasionally helpful. If I can be helpful to someone and it’s going to take 30 minutes of my time, that is a good 30 minutes well spent. When we were doing Dodgeball back in the day when we were NYU grad students, we didn’t have anyone to ask for help. How do you make a pitch deck? How do you raise money? How should we talk to people about this? Are we doing it the right way?

You were flying blind and it’s shocking. It’s like the early days of human evolution. It’s shocking that we survived as a species and it was shocking that any company actually made it.

In New York, there wasn’t a lot of VCs. There wasn’t a lot of people doing this stuff. There wasn’t people that had exits that had gone back into it to help people out. Now, that’s what’s different this time around. That’s why tech is here to stay in New York. There’s an ecosystem of people that have done this once, twice, three times and they’re here to help people. There are mentors. Even if you don’t identify with being a mentor, you’re like, “I’m around to answer questions over coffee.” Good, then you are contributing positively to the ecosystem. I feel I can set a good example by doing that. I feel the people that may have benefited in some way from I spent some time with them, they will probably go and pay it forward to someone else. I think that is just the way that it works.

From a human perspective, what’s something you’re really passionate about or committed to? You care about bringing people together and it’s obvious that mentorship and support is a big deal for you. Is there a certain non-profit organization you support or something that you do?

It changes every couple of years or so. My wife and I will always find an opportunity to do a raise or something or raise some money for a cause that is important to a friend of ours. Our nephew has diabetes. We’ve done some stuff for the JDRF. Take the Stockade stuff for example, there’s no one charity that that is helping but I feel it’s community building in an area that is benefiting from lots of people doing community building. I think that’s really cool. Personally, I feel like when you can spend some time with someone, if you can just give them enough of a pat on the back to give them the confidence to do the thing that they want to do, that is the most valuable contribution you can make somewhere.

I feel with a lot of the stuff that we do and some of that influence invisibility that we had, we can do that over and over again. I see this happening with the soccer team right now. There are so many people who are like, “Who cares? This is a stupid soccer team.” No. We made this thing and the community really cares about it. We published all the documents on how to do it. I talk to one team a week that’s trying to get started somewhere else in the country. They might be in Phoenix. They might be in Nevada, whatever. They reached out and they email me like, “Can you walk me through some of this?” I’m like, “Sure.” The fact that we did it and we wrote some documents and some blog posts on how to do it, it is enough of a pat on the back to inspire them to try it on their own. That’s amazing. I know that we’ve done that stuff with Foursquare and I know that we’re doing it with the soccer stuff now and that really inspires me. That is the stuff that really gets me going.

One of the things I love to ask my guests is to share something really human, personal or a really embarrassing moment just to show how similar we all are. Some people have shared how they peed their pants in front of Justin Timberlake while recording TRL; the host of TRL did it. Some people have shared that they suffered anxiety and that it can be debilitating sometimes for them. What’s something you feel comfortable sharing? We do love embarrassing stories so if you have one of those that would be great.

I have tons of embarrassing stories. I don’t think it sounds really relevant. I get panic attacks all the time. I get them on stage. I’ve gotten them on live TV. For a long time, I didn’t know how to control it. I’ve been on stage where I had it so bad that the person next to me who is Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter at the time, this was before he did Twitter and right when we were doing Dodgeball, he was like, “Are you alright? Do you need a doctor?” I didn’t know how to control that stuff. I can sense when they’re coming on. I just get anxious. I get this crazy anxiety. People are like, “You’re so natural on stage. You can do the TV stuff.” I’m like, “That scares the shit out of me a lot of times.” It’s just something that you learn to manage.

When I was in grad school, I was a kid that’s almost too afraid to raise my hand because I would get too anxious to speak up in public. I took a class at NYU that required you to make a PowerPoint presentation and present it every week. It scared the shit out of me but we did it. That is what got me over some of the stuff. Now, I’m better at it but I still get super anxious. I still get panic attacks. I still screw up a lot of this stuff all the time.

If you could meet any three people for dinner, they must be living, who would you want to sit down with?

Off the top of my head, I’m going to get my grandmother because I haven’t seen her in a bit. She recently hasn’t been doing super well. I’m going to get Mark Zuckerberg at the same table so that my grandmother can ask Mark Zuckerberg to fix a printer, “You’re good at Facebook, can you fix it on my iPad? It’s not working.” I’ve been reading a lot about what Alphabet has been doing with some of the research labs, and Sidewalk Labs and this thing called Jigsaw and all the ways that Google is going back to their roots of inventing the future and doing good. I think that would be an interesting discussion and then my grandmother can operate it after Mark fixes the iPad. I’m going to go down to Florida. I’m going to go visit my wife’s parents. My wife is pregnant so we’ll not be able to go down there for Thanksgiving but we’re going to go a little bit early. I know I got a good six hours of technical support duty. I got to do cleaning up iClouds, fixing non-syncing iPhones, which is part of the duty of the husband that works at a tech company.

Dennis, I want to thank you so much for coming on. I want to thank you for shaping the entire way we actually relate to apps and technology. It’s so funny I doubt you ever thought that what was going to happen when you were a teenager scared to lift your hand in a classroom. I look forward to having almost the same conversation in about four or five years when you’ve changed the landscape of athletics. That will be super fun. Thanks a ton for coming on.

 

If the listeners want to find more information about you, is there a website for you, your team? Obviously, they can go to any App Store and download Foursquare but where can they follow you, Twitter, so on and so forth?

On Twitter, I’m pretty easy to get in touch with, I’m just @Dens. The club is the soccer team, Stockade FC and so we’re @StockadeFC on Twitter and Instagram and StockadeFC.com.

Listeners, stay tuned for the next portion and see if you can figure out who it is.

 

About Dennis Crowley

TIP 027 | FoursquareDennis Crowley is the co-founder and Executive Chairman of Foursquare, the location intelligence company that powers products used by more than 50 million people every month across 100 countries. Previously, he founded Dodgeball, one of the first location- based mobile social services (acquired by Google in 2005) and help to build early location- based games PacManhattan (2004) and ConQwest (2004). Dennis is also the founder and Chairman of the Kingston Stockade Football Club, a semi-professional soccer team out of Hudson Valley, NY that competes in the 4th division of the US Soccer Pyramid.

 

Anonymous Guest Interview

Listeners, now for the game. Let’s see if you can figure out who my friend Nicky is. Nicky, thanks for coming on. I’m really excited to be interviewing you. This is going to be so much fun for the listeners. Let’s start off with some simple questions. Where did you grow up?

Beaumont, Texas.

Of course, where all great scientists come from. Was there an incident or a teacher, experience that really pushed you to go into your field of research?

Oddly, despite an unusual field of research, I happen to be in the only part of the country where that work is done in the US. As soon as I had exposure to it, I was hooked and I rapidly dove in headfirst.

California is the only place that they do research on, what do we call it?

Sexual psychophysiology. There is only one center that studies that in the US. There are a couple of labs scattered around that do pieces of it but those are individual people. In the US, there’s only one center and that’s Kinsey Institute. They are no more. Their lab shut in 2016.

In an actual movie, who do you think would play you?

Who is the driest German scientist on television? We need humorless. We need number-focused. Who is that? I think that’s who we’d be looking for.

Considering your field of research, there’s probably already the non-real movie version of it out there. There’s the one that you find in the dark places on the internet. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done that has led to your success in research or the strangest thing that you’ve done?

Probably one of our demos. In the research that we do in sexual psychophys, I have been in some strange situations. The one that’s coming to mind is get asked to give a talk with a demonstration and didn’t think through exactly what that meant at the time. It ended up with me in New York and on a stage beside me on a table was a woman who is having her vulva stroked by a man. We were projecting her brainwaves onto a large screen beside me while I attempted to talk through live processing of her brain response to the sexual stimulation to an audience of maybe 100 somewhat folks. I just remember at the time I was employed at university and I thought, “When my plane touches down, I’m fired. This is it.” It ended up that was what people needed to see concretely what we were talking about when we said, “This is how to do it. This is how we get the type of the answers that you have questions about.” That demonstration just made things very concrete in a way that needed to be done because it’s just too weird of a method to talk through or try and get someone to imagine because it doesn’t exist anywhere. You really at some point have to get to brass tacks and show what it looks like, so maybe that.

Was there a moment or experience that made you feel you had arrived to some degree in your industry, that you had gotten to a certain status point?

TIP 027 | Foursquare

Am I advancing what we’re providing the people and providing good information that corrects problems and provides opportunities?

I usually judge my success by undergraduate advisor I had. I have been very motivated by clinical science movement, which is the broad idea that the services that we provide to people as psychologists, therapists should be supported by research. One of my mentors was Dick McFall who helped lead and found the movement in clinical science. I’ve always said my success I judge against his approval. One of my strong feelings was we had published some work that debunked myths around sex as being addicting. I was just getting attacked and touching base with Dick and saying, “How do you do this, Dr. McFall? You have faced this for decades,” and him saying, “You are fighting the good fight. Just remember, as long as the data are there, this is exactly what we have to do to hold the field accountable to advance the science.” I said, “I got this.” It really comes down to that, “What would Dick McFall do? Am I living up to that standard?” I’ve had some better publications that I’m proud of but in this case, it really comes down to, “Am I serving the ultimate purpose of my training? Am I advancing what we’re providing the people and providing good information that corrects problems and provides opportunities?”

What’s an accomplishment in your career you’re most proud of?

Probably the thing I’m most proud of is a paper that finally linked some our laboratory work to real world behaviors and sexuality. That’s broadly this idea that as we labor and toil in the laboratory and look at brain responses and do all these fancy statistics, what does that mean for anyone? Who cares? No one had really done work before to link what the laboratory responses meant to real world behaviors and especially sexual behaviors. As far as I know, we are the first to both link brain responses to the number of sexual partners someone’s had and then also to prospectively predict how many orgasms you would have in the coming weekend based on brain responses. That moving the lab work into real consequential activities that people care about was an important step for our field I think. I’m glad to have made those connections in a way that suggest our work is more than masturbatory in the lab.

Listeners, I think you have plenty to go on to figure out who Nicky is. If you can, you can win an invitation to The Salon by Influencers. Good luck.