The SIP: Season 2, Episode 5 Transcript

Ericka Jones (2011), Jason Feldman (1990), and Sue Suh (1992)

Learn more about The SIP and its fifth episode of the second season, When Spit Saves the World (and Builds a Business) with Jason Feldman (1990), here.

Intro music

Jason Feldman:

I cannot get over how fast any time just flies. I don’t know what happened. Everyday I wake up, I think, well, it was March just a minute ago and now it’s not.

Sue Suh:

Totally.

Ericka Jones:

Hi, Coke Scholar family and friends. Welcome to season two of The SIP, the podcast that shares a taste of the Coke Scholars around the world who are igniting positive change. My name is Ericka Jones and I’m a proud 2011 Coca-Cola Scholar originally from Los Angeles and now finishing up my final year of ministry school in Northern California. I’m an actor, a poet, a storyteller, but most importantly, a lover of people. For those of you who are listening and may not be a Coca-Cola Scholar. Welcome, we are glad to have you. To give you a little background, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is the largest achievement based and corporate sponsored Scholarship program in the country. Each year, it awards $20,000 to 150 high school students across the country. We share a unique passion for service and leadership. It’s a competitive program to get into, but once you’re a Coke Scholar, the benefits go far beyond the money for college. You become a part of this bigger family for life. If you want to learn more, you can visit their website at coca-colaScholarsfoundation.org.

Welcome back to The SIP. In today’s episode, 1992 Scholar, Sue Suh will be talking with 1990 Scholar, Jason Feldman, co-founder of Vault Health. They’re going to be diving into how Jason has started a men’s health company in the middle of a pandemic and how the company is helping with the COVID-19 crisis. Sue Suh serves as the first chief people officer for Time. Before joining Time Sue’s career spanned philanthropy and public service, including jobs with the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and Bangkok, as well as with the US Departments of State and Defense in Washington DC, New York and Tripoli, Libya. She was honored to be named a 2019 Folio 100 member in the C-suite category. Outside of media, Sue serves on the boards of the Classical Theater of Harlem and Special Olympics Asia Pacific. Recently, Sue served on the board of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Sue graduated from Princeton University and Columbia University, and was grateful to earn a Fulbright award to South Korea and a Presidential Management Fellowship with the US federal government.

Sue will be talking with Jason Feldman, CEO and co-founder of Vault Health. After noticing that many of his male friends were reluctant to seek care for certain issues, Jason co-founded Vault Health in 2018 to provide specialized at-home care for men. Some men may be shy about seeking medical help, but Feldman’s start-up is getting some attention in bringing transformation to men everywhere. Earlier this year, it raised $30 million to expand its reach. The company services include personalized treatment plans for sexual health, hair loss, prescriptions, house calls from providers and telemedicine services. In May, the company took its at-home proposition to a whole new level offering a federally approved at-home saliva test kit for COVID-19. Before launching Vault Health, Feldman was the head of Amazon Prime Video Direct, and there is so much more to his story which you are about to hear. Without further ado here are Sue and Jason.

Sue Suh:

Actually, it was so interesting, Jason. I loved meeting you through the Coke Scholars Network, but I was like, let me just refresh myself on your career. If you looked at a glance on paper, what your resume said, you might be like, wow, how does this even connect? But something I wanted to ask you about was, I feel like whether it was at The Home Depot or Body Shop or Hanes or Amazon, something you’ve always focused on is the customer experience. Like how you are engaging with the human who is engaging with the product or the services that you are representing. And I just feel like that to me, what’s more personal than health. And for you to have landed in health, I mean, I would love just to hear how you’ve built on the experiences that you had in your career and what’s guided that board game.

Jason Feldman:

Your words are kind. My life is a board game. It’s like Chutes and Ladders, I think. I wish it was a bit more like Monopoly, but it’s Chutes and Ladders. I think that from my probably young child self, it was not understanding or not being able to define it, but now at this age, at next month, 49…

Sue Suh:

Happy birthday.

Jason Feldman:

Thanks. I am a very mission-driven individual. I just am. And I always have been. And I remember at the youngest of young ages, I wanted to be a surgeon. That’s what I wanted to be. I can remember having stuffed animals from being a baby that were in my room most of my childhood and I operated on them. I did. I figured out a way to have a scalpel and a sewing kit that I found and I was trying to operate on them. It sounds a little masochistic now, but that’s what I was doing to my stuffed animals.

Sue Suh:

I’m sure they all healed beautifully. They all recovered 100%.

Jason Feldman:

And the life that I lived didn’t really go that way. I didn’t become a surgeon. I wanted to be a doctor. Actually, there were two things. It was completely diametrically opposed to mission-driven when I also thought, well, maybe a career in Hollywood would be fun too somewhere along the way. But anyway, and those two stories intersected. But the idea being mission-driven was really, I wanted to do things for other people. That’s what I felt like I needed to do in my life. And then I got to 10th grade and got to geometry and figured out that that wasn’t going to be my thing, but that stuck with me and what it turned into, what it really morphed into was this idea of serving others. And so that became my thing. So I found myself very quickly realizing that retail was the drug that made me feel like I could really do something.

It wasn’t really where I started. That was just high school. I thought, all right, there’s got to be something that I could feel like I’m doing something really great. Selling clothes or ice cream or the things that I did were semi-fulfilling, but I started to develop that idea that if I could do something really great and make people smile and make people feel good, that was awesome. So I went to school in Washington, DC. And I wanted to go to George Washington University because it was right next door to the State Department and right across the street from the White House. And that’s where I wanted to go to school. I knew it. That’s where I wanted to go and that’s where I went. As soon as I got to school, I got a job at the State Department.

I was willing to do anything at all. I worked for the labor union for the foreign service. Not by choice, but it was because the first person that called me back got me excited and that’s where I went. And I started feeling like this was going to be my thing. I was going to be in public service for the rest of my life. And I learned fortunately that that was not what I wanted to do at a young age. But those experiences led me on and on and on through my career. And always what I found myself, when I was at my peak, it was because I was doing something that felt larger than life and very mission-driven. So it happened that after school, I went to go work for The Home Depot and the founders of The Home Depot were if nothing, customer obsessed and they would do things that were just obscene.

You couldn’t even imagine how they would treat customers. If somebody came in and said that they had had a bad experience, the company at that time would have built them a new house. I mean, the exaggeration of that was just what it was like every day. And I thought, this is what I need to do. This is how I want to be. And throughout the course of my career, I’ve always found that. My favorite, favorite, favorite job was really at, until now, was really at L’Oreal at The Body Shop, because it was a mission-driven company that had been founded by a woman, Anita Roddick, who loved to do good and felt that the flywheel of doing good, it would actually do better for humanity by making money, by running a business and being successful. She had the opportunity of actually being able to make a profit and then invest back into people and communities and causes that she cared about.

And when I got there, the cause was stopping sex trafficking of young women and girls. And I realized I could actually make money for the business. The business was in deep distress, it needed to be turned around and we did that, but we could also do good. And I felt like I was finally at my place. That was the moment where I thought, this is what the world should be like. You get to do good, make a profit, and because you made a profit, do more good. And that was pivotal for me because I recognized in myself that that mission was going to be what made me happy. So by the time I got to Amazon, which is, it’s the black box of all the things you think it would be. It’s fascinating, it’s incredibly organized and structured.

And yet it’s completely off the cliff in terms of just what imagination can bring to humanity if you have the money and the resources and just really smart people to do it. But their mission is to just sort of dominate the world. I mean, help people find better value, but at the end of the day it wasn’t a mission that really struck me. It wasn’t exciting for me. I mean, it was cool and I’m a huge fan of the company. And I’m a great customer, God knows, but I just didn’t feel inspired. And what I wanted was to go back into healthcare. Almost from the minute I got to Amazon, and I thought, why doesn’t Amazon get into healthcare and they’re doing it now. But for the entire time I was there, I just couldn’t find a way and they were still struggling to figure it out.

And so I was asked to go be the CEO of Jenny Craig. That was going to be my bridge into healthcare. It’s funny as I think about it now. That was not going to be a good move. But I was thinking that would be how I’d get back into healthcare and do good. And fortunately, I was still with Amazon. I was in New York and somebody called me and said, “Hey, would you meet this venture capital studio? They really want to know you. They’ve heard about you doing something that I was doing.” And I said, “No, I have zero interest. I’m moving to California.” They talked me into going and having just a 45 minute, hello, shake hands. I was doing it as a favor. I walked in and these people told me this idea of this business that they were creating called Vault Health.

And they told me that it was going to be a men’s health care business. And they told me that 70% of men don’t get consistent healthcare and as a consequence are dying five years younger than women because of cardiovascular disease mostly. That’s the number one cause of death for men, which is entirely preventable. And they showed me the business plan and I laughed. And I said I would do this in a totally different way. Guys don’t go to the doctor. You have to go to guys if you want to take care of them. And clearly the data tells you that they don’t get healthcare. So if you did it from a virtual perspective, you did it with telehealth, you go to their home and you take care of them, that’d be good.

And they’re like, “Well, that’s a great idea. Would you put a plan together and share that with us?” And I laughed and said, “No”, and I left. And then they called and asked me to put a plan together again. And they said, we’re really serious. We really thought you were great. You challenged when nobody else really ever challenged. Would you be willing to at least just tell us how you might do it? If nothing else, just tell us how you would do it. Just give us a head start. And I did. And then they said, would you just run this thing? And a year and a half later, here we are. So that’s it. I’m back to my mission-driven life of healthcare. That’s what I’m doing.

Sue Suh:

It’s so funny you go into meetings where the stakes are lower for you. Sometimes that’s the most liberating, right? You’re like, you know what, I am going to speak my mind on this and here’s what I think. And at the end of the day, I think that’s what people are looking for. They want someone with a point of view, who’s going to really tell it like it is. I’m sure that’s why they were like, we got to get this guy.

Jason Feldman:

They don’t know what they bargained for, I can tell you that. Even to this day, my board says, oh my gosh, what did you do? This is a crazy world. I am obsessed about finding talent. I’ve never in my career, no matter what I’ve ever done it, I am fully and realistically aware at all times that my successes have been at the absolute inspiration of others around me. The people that I find that work with me and are my partners are stunningly brilliant and run faster and run harder and think smarter and do all the things that I am inspired by. And their efforts and inspiration are what ultimately makes me more inspired to think bigger and run harder and deliver more. And that I think is what, in any form of inspiration, when you’re obsessed about taking care of a customer, when you can get other people to feel the same way, it’s a fun place to be. It’s the place you want to go everyday. And so that’s what I’m doing now. And that’s what I hope everybody in some ways is able to go to work and think that I’m really lucky to work with this person. I’m really lucky this person chose to work with me.

Sue Suh:

Yes. Exactly. Like, how do you honor that choice? You’ve chosen them, they’ve chosen you. I mean, how do you honor that every single moment of everyday? And I think what you said about being so relentlessly obsessed about how do we help our customers feel really like human beings. And it goes back, it’s not rocket science, right? Like, how do you make people feel like you would love to be embraced and treated and respected?

Jason Feldman:

There are a lot of people that made it possible for me to do the cool things that I’ve gotten to do because they put themselves out there and did it on behalf of my leadership to be great. And that was the thing that I guess struck me as an early on point of view that as a leader you will always be better if you bring other people along with you.

Sue Suh:

Definitely. That was so well said. People are the greatest investment. And everyone is a walking example of that. The Coke Scholars Foundation does that brilliantly. Right. I mean, it’s been bringing everyone together. And it’s funny, like a few minutes ago, you mentioned that, you know what, I dipped a toe into public service and realized I was moving on to something else. But I have to say everything that you’ve just said about how you show up in the world and what you do right now, I can’t think of a greater public service in terms of investing in people and investing in people’s health. I mean, I’d love to hear for those who are listening, we all have our Zoom background, the Zoom background behind Jason right now is the coronavirus.

Jason Feldman:

Yeah. It’s not a sexy background.

Sue Suh:

Totally. And something, obviously that was not your Zoom background at the beginning of 2020, nor did you probably have a Zoom background at the beginning of 2020. And so I’d love to hear more about, I mean, Vault Health, that mission of really serving men’s health and how you’ve pivoted and the real strides that you’ve been taking. I’ve been watching the headlines even just this week about working with airlines and working with Aruba. So would love to hear how that journey has been.

Jason Feldman:

It has been a strange and surprising and pretty cool journey. We started this company last year in February. It was started as a proof of concept like I was describing for men’s health. And then we started building what I really wanted to build, which was that healthcare platform. And by the way, while men’s health is something we’re very passionate about and I never thought I was going to become a guy-necologist, the G-U-Y-necologist, but that’s how we started building this business. What I was really interested in doing was building a platform and platforms are what the world really spins on. So they’re durable, they’re scalable, the mechanisms that are built into a platform allow you to do lots of cool things. And so that was my dream.

And I said, look gang, to the team, if we can actually do something that is scalable for men, then really women who look for healthcare will love this. So men will be the Trojan horse for this business, but we’re going to build a healthcare platform. So never forget, while we’re serving men for now, we’re building a healthcare platform. So anyway, we started building this platform and we were only doing business in New York, we were only helping men. And then by about this time, so this is November. About this time last year, we started launching into South Florida because I thought New York is just so myopic. We’re only going to do it for New Yorkers. This can’t make sense. We’ve got to go to Florida and try this business. The website looked like from the 1970s. It was so embarrassing. I mean, it was called Vault.

It was so embarrassing. So I finally said, let’s hire an agency. It’s going to cost us a ton of money and we don’t have a ton of money, but let’s do it and let’s make the brand look better. And so we did that. And between January and March, in fact, it was March 12th, we were going to relaunch Vault 2.0. We made the brand look like we wanted it to be. We built this platform. We built a telehealth capability. We were going to be able to handle 150 visits a week. March 12th, we’re going to launch the brand. The PR team, just to indulge me, I’d always wanted to go to the floor of the stock exchange. I had missed my chance multiple times in different iterations of my career to go to the New York Stock Exchange, to be on the floor. And the PR team, just because they thought it’d be a fun surprise for me, set up an interview with Cheddar, I think, on the floor of the exchange. Right.

So I’m going down there with our chief medical officer and I, and we get down and we’re waiting to do our first interview and the market crashes. It literally crashes. So here I am, I’m ready to take my little selfie in front of the bell, just for fun, and the market crashes and people actually are very, very, very concerned. You can see it. I mean, visibly concerned. They’re saying things, they are swearing. This is not a good day. And this is right before COVID really kills 12,000 or 13,000 people in New York on the first go round. And so we go back to the office and suffice it to say, we’re thinking, all right, what are we going to do, what are we going to do? Immediately I stopped spending all of our money. We don’t launch the brand.

I quickly said to everybody, all right, we’re going to launch every product we had in our roadmap for 2020. We’re going to launch it all now, like now. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty… Just launch it. If this is going to be a sinking ship, let’s not waste any time, bring everything from below deck on deck and let’s do it. The only thing the federal government in my estimation did right in all of this COVID period was building a telehealth capability across states where the Medicare patients, mostly in this country, would be able to have better access to telehealth. And so, because of that, I saw what that did for deregulation. And we immediately launched 34 more states. So now we’re national and I said, let’s just do this. And we’re going to try to figure out how we’re going to make this work.

And lo and behold, we did that. But I was really still concerned that we were going to be able to make this business successful. So I started looking for ways that we could grow through this crisis. And I had no idea. But our friends at Rutgers University, we were working with their genomics lab on a fertility program for men, and I saw that they had a COVID test that they were developing using saliva. And I thought, this is awesome. This has got to be better than those horrible nasal pharyngeal brain ticklers that are being used and no one in America meantime knows how to get a test anyway. So I went to them, I said, “All right, we want to use our new telehealth platform to launch a testing product at home. Everybody in America could do this at home.” And they said, “That would be a great idea, Jason, except the FDA just shut down all at-home testing. So you can’t do that.”

And I said, “You must’ve misunderstood me. What I really meant to say was, I want to launch a diagnostic test prescribed by a doctor that could occur maybe at somebody’s home.” And they thought about it, and they were like, “Well, that sounds better. That might get through the FDA.” And so that’s what we did. I then told my team, we have two choices. I went to my board and I told them, this is what I want to do. My board looked at me like I was out of my mind. I went to every employee in the company on a big Zoom call because at that point we were going to work from home. New York was shutting down and I said, here’s the deal. We can do something good for the country. And we can help unless anybody knows how to sew any PPE or make masks, this is what I got.

They all started crying saying, let’s do it. Let’s try to do this. And I told them, it’s going to be really hard. We’re all going to have to work nonstop because our whole 2021 roadmap is what I want to build in two weeks. And they said, let’s do it. And so by the time the FDA approved Rutgers to launch that test, which was on a Friday night, late in the middle of April. By that Monday, we launched a national testing business. We were 43 people. Our revenue for this year might have been, if we had been successful doing what we were doing with men’s health, it might’ve been $1 million or $2 million. And by the way, not profitable. When we launched the testing business, nobody came, nobody bought a test. You know why? Everybody was in quarantine. Didn’t see that one coming. But I started looking around. Oh, this is not going to be good, this is not going to be good.

And about three or four weeks later, I figured out that the PGA was in the news. They were trying to bring their golfers back. Very social distanced sports, and they wanted to come back. So I said, I want to go get the PGA to buy tests from us, and they did. And we started working with the PGA every week. And then all of a sudden the NHL heard about us and they wanted to bring hockey players back to the ice. And so they started working with us and then the MLS, the soccer leagues came and they wanted to work with us. By the way, I don’t even know what these sports are. I’m not a sports guy. And the next thing the NBA calls us and said, we want to get a bubble in Orlando going, can you help us?

And the NFL and the MLB, and all of a sudden we were testing all the pro sports leagues in America. And then college sports teams needed to come back. And they started seeing the pro sports athletes using our tests. And so they asked us, can you help us bring college sports back? And we did. And then the colleges wanted to bring kids back in August to school. And so we brought back just under a million students in August to come back to school. Meantime, when I told Rutgers that we had a telehealth platform that could handle telehealth visits, we were handling baby maybe 150 a week then, back in March. By this time, we’re now handling 15,000 to 20,000 calls a day. And we started testing corporate America because they wanted to bring employees back. And the next thing, governors started calling and asking us to help them with their states.

Well, today, in the middle of November, we’re now 1,200 people and a few hundred million dollars in business. We’re very humble about it. We understand that we’ve built this business on the back of a pretty aggressively horrible pandemic, but it’s taught us how to help people. It’s taught us how to work at massive scale. We know that we’re helping people stay safe and we know we’re helping to save lives. We’re helping to make sure people who don’t recognize that they’re sick can stay home and be safe. And likewise, we’re keeping families where they need to be, at home. So it’s been an exciting and thrilling ride. We’re very much still a men’s health business and we’re actually expanding now to three other kinds of businesses around health care because of this platform that we built. And we’re going to scale to some pretty cool heights in the coming year. It’s truly exciting.

Sue Suh:

I mean, that’s extraordinary, Jason, and the fact that you were able to accelerate and galvanize your team. A lot of it, I mean, going back to humans, right? It’s humans who are going to make this happen to save other humans and really move this forward. It’s extraordinary.

Jason Feldman:

It’s certainly not government. This feeds my earlier point. I know at some point in my life I’ll want to go teach or go back into public service. But you know what, what I’ve learned in all of this is that public and private service together is far more powerful because government, oftentimes, as we all know, and it’s sometimes cliche, can’t get out of its own way and for its own good as we’re seeing now, unfortunately. But what we did learn is that when government is really pressed and when all things are desperate, what helps government do better, business. And business is for all the reasons we know, it’s enterprising, it’s about profitability. It’s all of those things, but when government can do good because business can also do good and vice versa, you get results. And that is what I’m the most proud of, is that we’ve figured out how to help humanity by trying to do something for the public good together. And that has to be a lesson. And I don’t think that lesson will be written until one day none of us are wearing masks and finally hugging each other and doing the things we love to do before March. But for a while now, we’ve started to learn the lesson that if we don’t do this together, we’re going to clearly end up in a much worse place.

Sue Suh:

Definitely. And I think all of the people you’ve been working with, whether that’s huge sports leagues or people trying to send their kids to school, I mean, it hits every single aspect of your life. I mean, you have three kids of your own, right? And how has being a dad of teenagers during this time informed how you’re approaching anything?

Jason Feldman:

I’m running away from them. They are 18 years old. I’ve got triplets, two boys and a girl, Ben, Maddie and Sebastian. You know what happened? Actually, I was very frustrated when school, back in March school came to a grinding halt for lots of kids. And I put them to work. I said, “Well, this is just unacceptable. You’re not going to stay at home and have virtual school,” which clearly didn’t look very real anyway. “You’re going to work. You’re all going to have jobs.” And they’re like, they look at me, “Dad, we don’t have to go to school.” I was like, “No, you don’t have to go to school, but you are definitely going to work.” And so they came to work for Vault and they all have jobs. And to this day, it is a Saturday morning and two of them are actually at a COVID testing center in Passaic County, New Jersey. They run testing centers.

The other one runs our state reporting operation with a team of people that have to report every single day. The millions of people that we test have to be reported to state and local government. And he helped build some of our systems. And they actually all work for us in an aggressive way, where they are having to keep up on a daily basis with not only their schoolwork now, but also their work work. Because I want them to understand, first of all, there’s no free ride in this house, but secondly, I want them to have some money for college because they are getting out of here one way or another.

Sue Suh:

That’s amazing, when you’re able to have the gift of having your children to work with you in the work that is so mission-driven and gets you up in the morning and actually is doing social good. Kind of the best thing ever, right? I mean, just really being able to do that together, serving that mission together and really helping people together. I mean, I imagine this experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Jason Feldman:

It’s indelible and you know what, if it makes them, and I think it will, if it makes them more confident people at a young age. And so I can only do what I can do for my own kids, but I want them, if they can’t have the classroom experience, I want them to have the practical experience of being able to learn how to interact and find ways to lead and do things that are good. Look, they’re going to find their path. Life’s going to be good for them one way or another. These are pretty privileged kids. They’ve had the ability to grow up. Haven’t wanted for food, haven’t needed to worry about where they were going to get the next pair of shoes. These are pretty stable kids, but I really wanted them, and I still want them, and on behalf of their friends who they’re trying to now start to interact with, I want them all to understand that it’s up to them to do better.

Because clearly, we look at our leaders today, particularly those in federal government and it doesn’t matter what politics are, it’s just the way that federal government and ultimately even state government has been so stunted at figuring out how to help us get back to work, get back to school, get back to play, get back to whatever. And if we want this to change and frankly it isn’t going to go away unless we do something and take a leadership role to make it change, then it’s going to be up to us. And I want my kids to recognize this is the moment, whether it’s COVID in 2020, or it’s going to be something else that makes life tough somewhere down the road, 10 years from now, that this moment where they helped to make a difference is going to be the exact same situation. Hopefully not COVID or another pandemic, where they will find themselves at some point, whether for themselves or for the benefit of others, where they can work together to make a better place for all of us.

Sue Suh:

The world is going to be okay and it’s going to be a great place with them leading the way.

Jason Feldman:

Oh, it will be okay.

Sue Suh:

Absolutely. And now we’re getting to the part of this podcast that’s called the Fast Five, Jason. And so we’re going to go with this. And the first question is a question that, when we were 17, no one was asking this question and the question is, what are the two apps or websites that you can’t live without?

Jason Feldman:

Two apps or websites I can’t live without? Okay. Google for sure is one. And gosh. I touch so many different apps. I think I’m going to have to say… This is going to make me sound so old. This is so not cool, Tableau.

Sue Suh:

[inaudible 00:28:07] Tableau.

Jason Feldman:

I’m getting obsessed right now.

Sue Suh:

Tableau is amazing.

Jason Feldman:

It’s data obsession right now.

Sue Suh:

Are you kidding? Tableau is all about data visualization.

Jason Feldman:

It is.

Sue Suh:

It is that is driving the world. You’re super cool, Jason. I love it. Next question. If I looked at the music on your phone right now, or wherever you keep your music compilation, what would most surprise me?

Jason Feldman:

I have a secret fascination with music from other countries. I have a whole bunch of Spanish music on my phone right now and then Madonna. She’s always with me.

Sue Suh:

Ah, love it. Madonna was the first… Speaking of questions that we didn’t have, this is a question that today’s 17 year olds don’t get. But like, what was your first cassette tape that you bought? Madonna was my first cassette tape!

Jason Feldman:

I had Cindy Lauper. Yup. I still have them. Yup. Duran Duran.

Sue Suh:

So next question. What is your favorite book or a piece of music or art that has helped or inspired you in life?

Jason Feldman:

I read everything all the time. I love art in general. I like culture. Gosh, you’re asking me the toughest question of all.

Sue Suh:

I’m going to put all this data in Tableau, Jason, and then…

Jason Feldman:

Yeah. That’s what it is. And I’ll see it.

Sue Suh:

I’m going to send it to you.

Jason Feldman:

Do you mind if I just change the question and tell you the most recent? Because I have to tell you when I go to look at what’s on my phone and particularly what audio books and stuff I’m listening to, I just listened to Michael Eisner’s autobiography, which was pretty cool for me. I think that’s what I like in general. I like reading autobiographies. I like learning from how other people see the world.

Sue Suh:

I think autobiographies is true to your brand because you’ve been focused on humans and what’s a greater emblem of the human story than autobiographies.

Jason Feldman:

That’s where I am. Yeah. I’m also very obsessed with podcasts too, by the way. I love podcasts.

Sue Suh:

What’s your favorite? What are some of the podcasts you’re listening to?

Jason Feldman:

Well, actually I have a podcast called Get It Up, with two doctors. It’s about men’s health is pretty funny, but maybe some people –

Sue Suh:

I love that name.

Jason Feldman:

I love how it was made and that podcast in particular was pretty fun for me. How I Built This is what it’s called, sorry, with Guy Raz. And David Rubinstein, who’s one of my investors actually has a great one on Bloomberg that’s a lot of fun to listen to.

Sue Suh:

I love it. One more of these questions, then I’ll get to another one. But do you have a quote or a motto that you live by other than read all the autobiographies that you can?

Jason Feldman:

That I live by? I do have one that I really live by. It’s, take people as you find them, like them for what they are, don’t despise them for what they aren’t. I really think that when you accept who the world is because of the people that are in it, and you don’t find reasons to dislike people or hate people or criticize people, then life could be pretty happy. It’s a lot less stressful when you don’t find reasons to dislike the other side. And I think more now than ever. And if great leaders really capture our loyalty by the way they make us feel about ourselves, then that is what I want to be able to do. So I think that’s probably the one that I stand by the most.

Sue Suh:

That’s really well said. And if we all showed up for each other, taking people as they are, and really meeting them with that empathy, I think we could go a long way.

Jason Feldman:

My daughter’s favorite one is, everyone is entitled to her opinion. That’s her favorite.

Sue Suh:

There’s a kid focused answer to that that would be slightly different. I’m super cheesy too. But in all genuineness, the reason we know each other and the reason we’re doing this is because of the Coke Scholars Network, which is extraordinary and talk about investing in people. And to you, what makes a Coke Scholars Program and Network in your experience? What makes that all unique?

Jason Feldman:

To this day when I tell people what it is, and my simple answer is always Coke gave me a Scholarship to go to school and people say, oh, that’s nice. I say, Coke has also, and I tell them the story of the number of people that I have in my friendship circle, the number of Coke Scholars that I’ve hired or gotten to work with over the course of time. In fact, my technical advisor has come to work with us over the last few months at Vault is Wendi Adelson, another Coke Scholar.

Sue Suh:

Oh my gosh.

Jason Feldman:

Yup. Wendi and I are together every single day, seven days a week, all hours of the day. Wendi gets to know what’s going on in my brain more than any other person on earth. And likewise, I get to know what she’s thinking. And she helps me actually do better.

Sue Suh:

What a fantastic partnership.

Jason Feldman:

Isn’t it cool?

Sue Suh:

Phenomenal.

Jason Feldman:

She is phenomenal and lots of other Coke Scholars over time have come to work for me, or I’ve been able to hire them and help them get their career started or given advice or whatever. This is a network that has never ceased to amaze me. Every time another class comes out and I read their accomplishments, I think I would have never been a Coke Scholar in 2020. It would have been impossible. I can’t even half the time understand the vocabulary that comes out of these kids’ mouths, but you know what, what it consistently demonstrates to me now especially because I think I’m the second class from 1990. When I look at my colleagues, my peers that I grew up with and even the classes behind and what people are doing and the fact that we know each other and the fact that people are placed in such unique opportunities in life, jobs, passion projects, charities, et cetera, I always think first, who can I call from Coke when I need to crack open something?

Because it will be so much easier to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, this is Jason, I’m a 1990 Scholar and I need a favor, or I need you to tell me something.” I know it is an instant door opener that doesn’t even cause the other end of that call, whoever it is to question who I am. It doesn’t even matter if they know who I am. It’s just like, okay, Coke Scholar, I know I can help you. And it has never ever ceased to amaze me how much faster I’m able to take care of business or friendships or whatever, because of this network. It is a part of my fabric and fiber. And it is one that I am delighted. And hopefully one of my children will eventually have a chance to maybe become a Coke Scholar. We’ll see.

Sue Suh:

It is truly the exponential world changer. It really is. I mean, whether it’s literal doors opening or now virtual doors. I mean, it has changed my life and it’s changed yours. And for everyone who’s listening, I imagine it’s changed yours in some way too. And so it is such a gift to connect with you again, Jason, and really just wishing you all the wind beneath your wings as you carry this work forward and continue to save lives. And I hope that if you’re looking for that pop, for that song…

Jason Feldman:

It’s going to be stuck in my head all day now. You know that.

Sue Suh:

Exactly. I know. Totally. And I hope that sometime soon your zoom back will turn into something that has really moved the needle forward and that everyone who is managing anything related to the coronavirus, I really hope that you’re all taking care of yourselves and staying well and staying healthy and really being with the ones that you love and in the best way right now. And so I just can’t thank you enough, Jason, for everything that you’re doing. And I look forward to continuing to cheer you on.

Jason Feldman:

Sue, I hope we have a chance to turn the tables and I get to ask you about your thrilling, exciting and multi-dimensional life at some point in the future. Hint, hint, hint, but it has been my pleasure, my delight to spend a Saturday morning with you. I think it’s very cool. You have humbled me again. I continue to remind myself that I’m great at one thing, which is trying really hard to not blush right now, because you say too many good things, but I I’m grateful for your time. Thank you for sharing and thanks for having the opportunity to spend some time together with me.

Sue Suh:

Thanks, Jason. And thanks everyone in the Coke Scholars network wishing you all well and happy holidays.

Ericka Jones:

We hope you enjoyed this episode between Sue Suh and Jason Feldman. For links to Vault Health and other things they discussed check out our show notes or coca-colaScholarsfoundation.org. And if you have an extra minute, we’d love for you to rate the show or to leave us a review. Join us in three weeks for our next episode, after the holidays when 2000 Scholar, Kevin Shen will interview 2013 Scholar, Joe English, the founder and executive director of Hope in a Box, a national nonprofit that helps educators create safe, welcoming, and inclusive classrooms for LGBTQ students. See you next time on The SIP and happy holidays.