Sharon Salzberg – Metta Hour – Ep. 163 – Vlada Bortnik


For episode 163 of the Metta Hour Podcast, Sharon speaks with Vlada Bortnik.

Vlada is co-founder and CEO of Marco Polo, the popular video communication app that so many have relied on in this past year and a half of covid! Vlada is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, and her path to Silicon Valley has been one of determination and steadfast passion for making the world a happier place. Vlada’s approach to life as a busy mom and tech CEO is grounded in mindfulness and meditation.

The conversation starts with Vlada and Sharon discussing Marco Polo and how the app has connected folks, especially during COVID. Vlada shares her observations about how the development of email, text, and social media has changed the way that people connect in the last twenty years and how the evolution of public-facing connections has increased loneliness for so many. They talk about the Marco Polo app and the different features it offers to promote real connection. Vlada shares about her early life and how her family immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union. Sharon tells some stories about her covertly teaching meditation in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s with Joseph Goldstein. They talk about how Vlada came to meditation practice and how it has affected her life as a mother, her work life as a CEO, and the culture she has built at Marco Polo.

Authentic Communication

Sharon welcomes Vlada Bortnik to the Metta Hour podcast. Vlada shares the purpose and intention behind creating the Marco Polo platform. Vlada explains the mindful intent behind the communication app and the intimate lifeline of connection that technologies like this became during quarantine.

“To me, Marco Polo is not just an app. What we’re doing at Marco Polo is much more mission driven – we’re almost starting a movement to create technology that’s actually good for you, that doesn’t use dark design patterns, is ad-free, doesn’t sell your data, with the focus on authentic communication.” – Vlada Bortnik

For another Sharon podcast exploring the art and healing in authentic communication, tune into Ep. 86 of the Metta Hour
Immigration & Meditation (16:30)

After sharing the moving story of her early immigration from the Soviet Union to the United States, Vlada describes how she found the path and practice of meditation and how it informs her life today.

“We went and spent a day at Spirit Rock doing meditation. I think at that point it finally clicked that there’s no wrong way to do meditation. Just sitting, and the thoughts appearing, and being aware, ‘Oh, I’m lost in thought,’ is actually meditation.” – Vlada Bortnik

Dive into a deep exploration outlining the path of meditation, on Ep. 65 of Healing at the Edge
Happiness, Trauma, & Video Technology (38:45)

Speaking to the nuances of how events can impact our psyches differently based on the technology we learn about them through, Sharon asks Vlada to explore the intersection between video technology, trauma, happiness, deep connectivity and the fullness of emotionality. From this lens, Vlada talks about Marco Polo Channels – a video-coaching platform holding true to intimate, authentic connectivity.

“The mission is to listen, to help people feel close. Marco Polo Channels is about helping leaders who are passionate about helping people do that, while making money. We have people who are teaching parents how to be mindful, but we also have people who are teaching watercolor. Anybody can take an online course, but this is a way for them to help their clients live their best life.” – Vlada Bortnik

Uncover the brimming intersection of emotion and empathy with technology and A.I., on Ep. 393 of Mindrolling


Photo via Vlada Bortnik