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How do you share a story that's never been told before?


Editor’s Note:  Peter Pham is the Founder of Science Inc.

As a venture capitalist, producer, and prolific dancer, Peter has a unique view of life, entrepreneurship, character, psychology,  confidence, and everything in between.

I had the chance to unpack what drives Peter, how he decides what investments to make, and what founders to back. But, most importantly, I got an inside look at the making of jeen-yuhs and how this incredible documentary came to life.

This interview’s been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full version here.

On Peter's Life Philosophy

Cornelius McGrath
Peter Pham. Welcome to the Junto.

It's great to start a chilly Friday morning in LA with you.

Peter Pham
Thanks for having me, man.

Yeah, it's great to meet you. I wanted to start with a peculiar question. I heard you just picked up some cowboy boots in Austin. So I'm curious how you chose?

Let's see. I bought my first pair of cowboy boots six years ago at SXSW at Heritage Boots on South Congress in Austin. It's awesome. It's all handmade boots from Mexico, all unique designs. Allen boots weren't my thing. Too standard.

They just had nicer quality and just different designs. And so my first pair was a pair of ostrich. My second pair were ostrich. And so when I went this time, I guess they just sold the shop to some new owners, designed some new boots, and had these arrows on them—some black boots with some white arrows. And I don't know, they looked different, looked cool. They were super comfortable. And I got black boots with white arrows on them.

It takes a special type of man to rock cowboy boots. So I tip my hat to you.

Thanks. Well, you know, that and I'm Asian. How many Asians do you know with cowboy boots? I wore cowboy boots last night.

Amazing. Well, look, it's great to have you with us. Super excited to have you on the show, and I'm interested in talking about the variety of projects that you're involved with. I think it's safe to say most people know you traditionally as an investor. But Molly connected us through the lens of storytelling and filmmaking. And I know you were one of the co-exec producers of jeen-yuhs, which honestly was just a formidable Netflix show on the story of Kanye West.

But before we get into that, I ask everybody the same question to begin Junto podcasts. Who the fuck is Peter Pham?. And how does he think about the world?

My number one passion is dancing. I love it. You'll see it in my bios. I'm always the first to start on the dance floor. I find that it lets me express and let go and show everyone else that it's okay to kind of... can we cuss on the show?

Yeah, you can cuss.

Don't give any fucks. Don't look for affirmations from others; enjoy life, live a little in the present and don't be so concerned about what people think about you. And so I kind of live life that way. I live very presently mostly because of a terrible memory. I'm ADHD diagnosed. I was also diagnosed with bottom 16 percentile memory. I think I realized that I focus so much on the now because I want to enjoy it, knowing that I probably won't remember it later if that makes sense.


And so I take opportunities. I love connecting with people, working with them, giving them this energy and helping them become the best version of themselves down the path that I think they should be. So a lot of what I do is finding entrepreneurs, incubating companies with them, and just watching what I see now bloom into what the world will eventually see in this great, amazing founder. And it's been that way for a long time.

So I run Science, a venture incubator studio, whatever you want to call it. We've been around for ten years here in Santa Monica. And we work closely with founders, probably come and move into their office and figure out what we do today, this week, this month, this quarter. And we usually go with some crazy ideas.

It's been ten years. One of our first investments was Dollar Shave Club. Michael Dubin. I remember meeting him for the first time, thinking this guy's like Richard Branson, but like 30 years early and taking what was a crazy idea and building a billion-dollar company in four and a half years and selling it. That's the type of stuff I like working on.

Recently it's been companies like PlayVS with Delane Parnell. Raising $100M, building an eSports platform for high school students across America. To liquid death, which, if you haven't had one yet, will murder your thirst. It is water in a can. In a tall boy. That's built a brand that people love. And this circles back to jeen-yuhs and meeting Coodie and Chike, the directors. I had met Coodie at an event, at a party, where I was dancing. I was the only person dancing, and I walked up and started shit-talking. And that's how it all started.

On Liquid Death

Amazing. So I had my first liquid death last Tuesday.

Where have you been?

It was my first gig since the pandemic.

You've got to get out more.

What's the take on Liquid Death?

Well, it's the fastest-growing beverage of all time right now. We're in like 40,000 stores, hopefully, double by the end of the year. Hit 2 million followers on TikTok. 800K on Instagram. I think some 300 people have got tattoos. We did an NFT drop and sold out in four hours—a couple of million dollars in NFTs. I mean, it's the community and the brand of people who love to be part of a couple of things.

The first is #DeathToPlastic. So how do we make something cool so that you stop doing something else? Tesla's done it for electric cars and combustion engines. It's like you make something cool so you can don't do the other thing versus preaching not to do the other thing.

Don't drink plastic water bottles. But it's harder to get the masses to do that. So let me give you something cool and super fun. It also just happens not to be plastic and gets you vibing on that feeling of why it's so much better than not plastic.

And yeah, it's not alcohol. It's not heavy sugar. It's not bad for you. We have flat and sparkling. It's not tap water crap. It's all mountain water. We just came out with three flavours, mango, chainsaw, severed lime, and berry it alive. And it's only got 3 grams of agave and 20 calories. So it's all healthy, but it looks fantastic. It makes people feel confident when they're drinking. It gives them something to talk about. People like the brand. It's really about the brand.

Are you a fan of natural wine by chance?

I don't drink. I have been allergic to alcohol my whole life. I tried drinking in college a couple of times after that but doesn't end well for me. So I don't need it. It's nothing. I wouldn't say I like the taste because I think I know the reaction I get, which is I get severely sick.

It's fascinating with natural wine. It's only 3% of the total wine market. I've been running a natural wine club now for about a year.

What is natural wine?

It's just fermented grapes. There are 200 things legally you can add to wine in the USA.

Oh, natural wine is just no additives. I've been to a couple of wineries where they make natural wine. I didn't know they added stuff that's not natural.

You wanna hear something crazy?

What's that?

Wine Spectator, which is almost like the Forbes list of wines, was based on one guy's palette, and he was a smoker.

Huh? I always thought they'd have to use a sommelier.

It's one guy's pallet.

So wine is not natural?

Well, wine is natural, but it got commercialized. Anyway, that's what I've been drinking when I've been out. And I think it's going to explode.

I think we're going to move in a direction where we all realize like alcohol's terrible for us.

I would say move to psychedelics and natural things known not to be harmful, but I think culturally, we'll get there. Right?

On Discovering Talent.

What's the consilience point between science, jeen-yuhs, and your dancing?

I think it's a culmination of movement and expression, and feeling. I move through the world 24/7 loving what I do, which is working on ideas with founders, investing in companies, and just interacting with people, trying to get the best out of them. So when I'm on the dance floor, my favourite thing is to convince that person standing on the side of the dancefloor just to step another six inches of a foot in and let go. And there's this instant kind of smile when you get them. That moment when you are dancing, your song drops, and you smile. And you're like, "yeah!" That's addicting. So I love seeing that.

Last night there were a couple of great NFT events. I think Golden DAO is one of the only Asian communities out there that have been promoting media representation in entrepreneurship. It's been one of those kinds of long-needed organizations.

There was a party last night. And I started at the dance floor, and it was awesome to see slowly, but surely they got two people, five people. 10, 20, 30, 40, and it just went. It's leading by example, showing people what they're capable of doing. And when they can let go, they can be themselves and do something special. And I do that with founders.

I love finding founders that just aren't there yet. Or they have some insecurities or are very confident, but nobody else believes in them. And saying, "I believe in you." jeen-yuhs falls in that category. Coodie said when I met him, "I've been filming Kanye for 20-plus years." And I said, "what do you mean?"

He's like, "I got bag fulls, duffle bags of old tapes of us hanging out." And I said, "what are you going to do with it?" He said, "well, we were going to do a documentary. But we just never did it. And we kinda lost shots for a couple of years."

He was heading out to Sunday service the next day, and I just turned to him. And I was like, "let's make a movie. Let's do it now. Now is the time." This was a little over two and a half years ago, in November of 2-19, right before the pandemic shut everything down. And I texted a good buddy of mine, Nick Tran, who was at the time at Hulu. I said, "I met this guy." He's the nicest guy I know. I just instantly met and felt his energy." And if you've seen him, you saw him in the documentary. Yeah. You get his vibe.

He's a great narrator.

Oh, man. He's all pure love. He exudes his love of being and what God put him here to do. He's very religious. And that just was, I don't know, something that instantly struck me. And I said, "how are you not big?" He had just done the 30 for 30 segments for ESPN. He just finished the Steven segments documentary: Kid from Coney island. He shot many music videos, but it was like, "How do I not know you? Why aren't you directing big blockbuster movies yet?"

I was like, "I want this to be big because I want him, Chike, to be big." I want the world to discover these two amazing directors who also happen to be black and very underrepresented in the space of movie making. And I think that's been something that I enjoy being part of, helping a lot of underrepresented folks who never got the chance. Just let the world see what they are capable of doing.

I love that. So much to unpack there. So tell me, you meet them on the dance floor. You text Nick. But tell the story from there. I'm sure there are a ton of steps between that and Netflix.

From there, we pulled in two other friends. Kevin Thomas is his manager. And so Kevin and Coodie met there. We start chatting about, "what are we going to  need to get this done?" And I have no experience making movies. I've been asked many times, but I've always thought, "hell no!" The number one rule is you don't make money making movies, is what I've been told. I'm sure you've heard this. For me, it wasn't about money at all. It was again this idea of this guy. The reality is I thought to myself, "there's no way this doesn't work, or I lose all our money, or I lose much money." But this could be something really important culturally.

And I want to be a part of it, which surrounds and connects to what I do for a living. , which to build and invest in internet companies, consumer internet companies that understand the culture. So for me, it was partially my own journey, like, "can I be part of something that I think is gonna be a really important part of the culture?" So Ross Martin, Ken Schireson, Nick Tran, and I funded it. And we partnered up with Time Inc. Time Media spun out and sold to Benioff. And they now have Time Media and Time Studios. So they provided all the studio time, editing, staff and team to help produce the movie. And then, all of a sudden, we're on Zoom calls about how to make a movie, what it will look like. It turns out that going through 267 hours of content is...

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