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Lisa Jackson (Ben Margot / AP); Sebastian Thrun (Rick Bowmer / AP); Sam Altman (YouTube)

Company founders can suffer from tunnel vision, so here's a collection of questions executives at companies like Facebook, Apple, and Y Combinator (and Kevin Durant's investment firm) posed during their interviews on the main stage of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017.

Why this matters: Knowing the answers can help entrepreneurs steer their companies from good to great.

  • Sam Altman, founder of Y Combinator: As you grow your company, and its impact increases upon its city, its nation, and the world: will it be a force for good? Some companies aren't meant to grow past a certain size. The sooner you know how big your company should be, the better you'll be at leading it.
  • Lisa P. Jackson, VP of environment, policy and social initiatives at Apple: What does your product say about your values? If you look closely at the launch keynote slide for the iPhone 8 and X, you'll find the words low carbon process. "If we care about something, it shows up in our products," she said. "This new "low carbon process" is not going to be the headline like the camera, but it's there."
  • Luke Woods, head of product design at Facebook: Are you more of an artist or a designer? "I don't think of myself as an artist. The difference between an artist and a designer is the designer is more focused on people." As an entrepreneur, your job is to solve problems for real people. This question is a self-check to make sure you're actually designing something and not just expressing yourself for your own gratification.
  • Shawn Carolan, managing director at Menlo Ventures: If there was one job your product can do that you can't do with any other existing solution, what would it be? During a Battlefield session pitch, a project-organizing app index came across as general and helpful but not as critical or necessary. Carolan's question hit upon the importance of focus and niche-targeting. If you can't answer his question simply, your vision may need work.
  • Richard Klein, partner at The Durant Company: Can you distill your pitch into one sentence? Klein communicates investment opportunities to Kevin Durant in one sentence pitches. "I put it quick to him," said Klein. "In one sentence. And if I get the reaction —  his eyes open up and he has this excited look on his face  —  that's the first line of defense."
  • Sebastian Thrun, founder and CEO of Udacity: What limitations have you left unchallenged in your problem-solving approach? "I'm not in Hyperloop because of the cost of infrastructure. Digging is expensive." Instead, he said, "The air is so free and unused compared to the ground." Don't let anything hold you down. Even gravity.

Go deeper

12 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.