19 episodes

CEOs talk candidly about their business and reveal insights you won't find anywhere else. Join a niche audience of C-suite executives, investors, and entrepreneurs from around the planet.

The Eccentric CEO Aman Y. Agarwal

    • Business

CEOs talk candidly about their business and reveal insights you won't find anywhere else. Join a niche audience of C-suite executives, investors, and entrepreneurs from around the planet.

    Skyrocketing America's Math Grades with Video Games — Dr. AnnMaria De Mars

    Skyrocketing America's Math Grades with Video Games — Dr. AnnMaria De Mars

    Today's guest is a tough, tough badass — in the realest definition of the word.

    She was the first American to win the Judo world championship (1984) — which involved coming out on top over her Japanese, Korean, and Eastern European counterparts, who trained full-time as professional athletes — while she had a full-time job as an industrial engineer, a baby daughter, and... get this... a non-functional leg that had been operated upon.

    Fast forward to today, she's on a crusade to improve the way math and sciences are taught to kids in the USA (and beyond).

    Only 25% of people who graduate from high school in the USA are considered "proficient" in math — a surprisingly large number have trouble even doing basic multiplication and division. And the standards are still going down — the average kid would have easily flunked 10 years ago for what they get As and Bs today.

    But as it turns out, the American schooling system is quite complicated. Every state has their own rules, and so does every district.

    So how do you build a profitable, mission-driven company in a highly regulated, chaotic industry (filled with bureaucrats on top) where every penny is hard to squeeze, and kids are involved?

    And how do you do it while making it "harder" (devoting a significant amount of resources on reforming low-income districts who need it the most — but which most ed-tech companies ignore)?

    Well, I guess you just go ahead and do it.

    Dr. De Mars is the Founder and President of 7 Generation Games, which has solved a multitude of problems one at a time:


    First, building a smashing product that kids, teachers, and parents unanimously love. Her company makes interactive video games that use real-world, culturally rich problem examples (from the life of an Aztec diplomat, or a Sioux hunter, or fisherman, etc) to teach math — raising average grades by a 30%.
    Second, they solved distribution — taking the games both directly to consumers, as well as building a partnership/B2B channel such that schools can deploy them for every student en mass, and using an innovative mix of private and public funding to finance it.
    Third, they also built the software platforms needed to churn out high-quality educational games in quick succession, in any language — enabling them to both move faster and scale at the same time.

    In this episode, we discuss:


     There's a Judoka who's never been injured??!
    The REAL problem with math education in the USA, and how to fix it
    Why focusing on affluent kids is, counter-intuitively, a bad business decision
    Competing with the Microsofts and Pearsons of the education industry
    Where does most ed-tech funding go?
    Why most "math games" don't actually teach you math
    Their big fight with Apple about... the Aztec smallpox pandemic?
    Building the "Wordpress for educational games"

     

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Time Travel Through Japan's Business Landscape: 1980s to 2020s — with Terrie Lloyd

    Time Travel Through Japan's Business Landscape: 1980s to 2020s — with Terrie Lloyd

    I seem to have a weird fascination with Japan. But not in a "weird" way of course. (I've been around weebs and realized I'm not one of them.)

    I find Japan especially interesting from a business person's perspective. They were the biggest success story after WW2 — not only the second biggest economy in the world after the USA, but also the most technologically advanced, having had bullet trains since the freaking 60s. And all this despite having no natural resources to speak of.

    But recently, Japan's competitiveness has shown signs of wavering, with an aging population, abysmal birth rates, and a general lack of technology proliferation.

    To understand what it means for international entrepreneurs, I invited Terrie Lloyd, CEO of Japan Travel (and founder of several other companies), a rare serial entrepreneur based in Japan for over 35 years. Terrie is probably the foremost authority in the world for any foreigner thinking about Japan as a business location.

    We cover:

    01:30 – Why Terrie is the #1 voice among all foreign entrepreneurs in Japan

    04:17 – A secret office romance, translation company, and selling submarine parts

    8:00 – How the US' jealous move overturned Japanese currency overnight

    10:36 – Why Japanese banks can be hard to deal with

    14:50 – Hiring foreigners in Japan: then and now

    16:39 – The sad state of English teaching in Japan

    18:15 – How Tokyo's skies turned from grey to blue

    22:00 – Step one in hiring network engineers: bail your recruiter out of prison?!

    27:00 – The bubble pops

    34:12 – Why are Japanese business valuations so low?

    45:11 – The roots of Masayoshi Son's "street fighter" mentality

    52:00 – Why Japan has so few unicorns

    57:00 – The PLUS points of starting a business in Japan

    62:00 – The annoying problem of IP theft in China

    65:00 – Terrie's M&A business

    • 1 hr 9 min
    The Next Revolution in Fast Food and Drive Thrus — Steve Bigari

    The Next Revolution in Fast Food and Drive Thrus — Steve Bigari

    There's a fast-food "apocalypse" going on. The average fast-food franchise owner 20 years ago made more money with fewer locations than they do today.

    How did this happen, how can operators avoid the "culling," and how is this landscape changing with new technologies? That's the focus of this episode.

    My guest was Steve Bigari, who is a longtime pioneer in the fast food industry in the USA, and the first person to introduce digital order-taking at McDonalds' drive-thrus back in 2002, which he was featured in the New York Times for. Today he's the CEO of Synq3 Solutions which provides digital customer service and AI tools to restaurant brands:

    9:55 - What is "drive-thru 1.0"?
    15:00 - The economics of fast food drive-thrus
    20:30 - Why fast food profits have DECLINED dramatically over the years
    29:30 - Robots that run commercial kitchens and REPAIR themselves
    40:35 - The simplest way to improve restaurant profitability
    45:00 - Why Steve still believes in independent restaurant operators, not just big chains
    50:00 - Why convenience and value for money trumps every other thing
    1:01:55 - How Synq3 helps restaurants digitize customer service

    "Tech Fluent CEO": https://aman-agarwal.com/tfc

    • 1 hr 12 min
    Owning the World's Best Restaurants as a Billionaire Hobby — Lars Seier

    Owning the World's Best Restaurants as a Billionaire Hobby — Lars Seier

    You've heard of Michelin star restaurants, and you may even have eaten at some of them. And today, you'll meet a person who owns two of the BEST among them – as a hobby.

    Lars Seier Christensen is a Danish billionaire, who was the Founder and CEO of Saxo Bank. But while he's most well known as an industry leader in finance and technology, he's also a man of refined tastes who owns many lifestyle businesses on the side, from football clubs to aqua parks, as well as two of the best restaurants in the world: Geranium (3 stars) and Alchemist (2 stars), both in Copenhagen.

    Lars and I talk at length about elite Michelin restaurants, the controversies surrounding them, as well the larger landscape of different kinds of "luxury." We hold nothing back, and as always, I promise you won’t find a more insightful conversation like in this episode anywhere else:

    0:31: How his restaurant deals with having 35,000 people on its waiting list
    1:51: Lars' portfolio of luxury and entertainment businesses
    4:00: Lars' philosophy on choosing people to work with, and who he considers the funniest person he's ever worked with
    7:55: Why Michelin restaurants are more value for money than other luxury experiences
    16:11: The pressure of earning and keeping stars, and why some chefs refuse them
    22:05: Why Lars didn't allow a single employee to be laid off during the pandemic
    25:00: The financial struggles of great restaurants
    30:01: The different tiers of the "luxury" market, and Lars' view of empire builders like Robuchon and Ducasse
    37:34: The challenge of differentiating yourself from other high-end restaurants
    43:00: Why you'll never find a Michelin restaurant deal on Groupon
    49:10: Lars' opinion of food critics
    52:00: How Lars is very different from most restaurant investors

    *At 35:10, Aman mixes up the names of Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse (they're both famous French chefs)

    For the full episode and transcript, visit https://aman-agarwal.com/ecceo

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Secrets of Running a World-Class, Profitable Bar — Yangdup Lama

    Secrets of Running a World-Class, Profitable Bar — Yangdup Lama

    What makes a bar succeed, and what makes it fail?


    How do you build a WORLD-CLASS bar, and how do you run it profitably?


    I don’t drink alcohol (honest!), but I’ve always been fascinated with the business and culture of drinking (especially watching friends get drunk, but we digress).


    Yangdup Lama is the Co-Founder of Sidecar, ranked among the 50 best bars across the WORLD, and a Partner at the Drinks India Company through which he runs 2 more successful bars. He himself is renowned as the TOP BARTENDER in INDIA since 1996.


    Talk about an “eccentric” CEO!


    We dissect the operations of his unique bar as he walks me through his thought process about its various aspects, from inventory management to how cute the floors are.


    This is a very SPECIAL episode because even though I’m from India, it took me 15 episodes to bring my first Indian guest on the pod.


    As always, I promise you won’t find a more insightful conversation like this one anywhere else online:


    01:00 - A bartender’s perspective on alcohol as a commodity
    06:30 - Smart alcohol management: what it really looks like
    14:40 - Profitability of different types of bars
    19:00 - Failure and success rates in bars as a high-risk business
    26:40 - Metrics to track and optimize while running a bar
    32:00 - Why the “rotation of liquors” is so important
    37:41 - How to extract actionable insights from a bar’s sales numbers
    40:00 - Signature cocktails vs the classics
    43:25 - A bar’s “discovery rate” and “return rate,” and how they vary
    48:14 - Fundraising and financial planning for bars
    56:50 - The most difficult part of running 2 bars
    59:01 - Sidecar's vision and future plans

    • 1 hr
    The Delicate Craft of Managing >$500M of Other People’s Money — Chad Willardson

    The Delicate Craft of Managing >$500M of Other People’s Money — Chad Willardson

    Managing other people’s money is a delicate position — a lot of things can go wrong.


    Do you ever think about the people who actually MANAGE the taxes you pay to your government? Do you know how to choose the right financial advisor, and how to tell if they’re legit or not?


    As an entrepreneur, I always wanted to dive into the unique “fiduciary industry,” which includes financial advisors, financial planners and the like. (Specific to the USA.)


    Today I interview Chad Willardson, the Founder and President of Pacific Capital — an independent financial advisory firm based in California. What’s especially interesting about Chad is that he not only manages money for high net-worth individuals but also his city’s entire portfolio of $400M (yes, 400 million USD).


    As usual, being the best business podcast in the world, I bring to you the most insightful discussion of the subject available anywhere:


    Strange truths about managing $400M of taxpayer’s money for the government in America

    Differences between managing the money of an individual versus an entire city

    What a city CAN and CANNOT invest its money

    The “nutritionist at the butcher shop”: Why more than 95% of financial advisors and planners make more money if they lie to you

    How to tell legit fiduciaries from imposters

    Shocking inside stories from Merill Lynch and other banks

    Ways how the company acquire customers and market their services

    Pacific capital’s framework for inspecting clients’ finances and deciding on a plan


     

    • 45 min

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