Acquired

By Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal

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Subscribers: 689
Reviews: 1

Zak
 Jan 20, 2021
Excellent detail and storytelling on what you want to know about.

Description

Every company has a story. Learn the playbooks that built the world’s greatest companies — and how you can apply them as a founder, operator, or investor.

Episode Date
Standard Oil Part II
02:20:22

We bring the epic saga of Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller to a close (for now) with two of history's greatest second acts: Rockefeller's pioneering of modern philanthropy (and really modern life itself), and perhaps the single greatest shareholder value "unlock" of all-time in the breakup of Standard Oil. And like any great American saga, of course the good guys win in the end. The only question is... just who were the good guys??

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and access for live events and discussions with episode guests. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thank you to Pilot for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 9! Pilot takes care of startups' bookkeeping, tax and CFO services so busy founders can focus on what matters. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos's AWS analogy: bookkeeping and tax don't make your product any better — so you should let Pilot handle them for you. Pilot is in fact backed by Bezos himself, along with other all-star investors including Sequoia, Index, and Stripe. They are truly the gold standard for startup bookkeeping, and many of the companies we work with run on them. You can get in touch with Pilot here: https://bit.ly/acquiredfmpilot , and Acquired listeners get 20% off their first 6 months! (use the link above)
  • Thank you as well to PitchBook and to Nord Security. You can learn more about them at:


Links:


Carve Outs:

‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

Oct 18, 2021
Michael Mauboussin Master Class — Moats, Skill, Luck, Decision Making and a Whole Lot More
01:24:45

We sit down with the one & only Michael Mauboussin to dive deep into his incredible body of work: untangling skill and luck, measuring moats, persistence of returns in venture capital, decision making and — particularly timely — expectations investing and how to think about valuations in the current 2021 market environment. (!!) Michael's work is maybe our most frequent carve out on Acquired, so we're pumped to finally have a chance to interview the man himself. Big thank you to Patrick O'Shaughnessy and Brent Beshore for introducing us all at Capital Camp this year!

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

Sponsors:

Jobs!

  • Big news — we now have a full Acquired Job Board! It's a one-stop-shop with all the very best opportunities from the amazing companies in the Acquired community, including folks like Solana, Italic, Pilot, RabbitHole, Modern Treasury, Vouch, Zapier, Levels and more. AND, if you're more casually open to opportunities, we have a form you can fill out and we'll handpick the best ones and personally send to you as they come up. Check it out at https://www.acquired.fm/jobs

Links:


‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

Oct 05, 2021
Standard Oil Part I
02:12:23

It's time. We dive into the *original* American capitalist mega winner, Standard Oil, and its legendary founder John D. Rockefeller. This company and man almost defy characterization -- Elon, Bezos, Gates, Buffett... they've got nothing on old John D. Not only was Rockefeller the wealthiest person in modern human history, his company wrote the blueprint for today's corporations and everything we now know about business and capitalism. Pull up a chair and get ready to hear how this hillbilly, nobody kid from the sticks grew up to became the richest person in the world, creating a legend along the way that would become the American Dream...


If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and access for live events and discussions with episode guests. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thank you to Pilot for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 9! Pilot takes care of startups' bookkeeping, tax and CFO services so busy founders can focus on what matters. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos's AWS analogy: bookkeeping and tax don't make your product any better -- so you should let Pilot handle them for you. Pilot is in fact backed by Bezos himself, along with other all-star investors including Sequoia, Index, and Stripe. They are truly the gold standard for startup bookkeeping, and many of the companies we work with run on them. You can get in touch with Pilot here: https://bit.ly/acquiredfmpilot, and Acquired listeners get 20% off their first 6 months! (use the link above)
  • Thank you as well to PitchBook and to Nord Security. You can learn more about them at:


Links:


Carve Outs:


‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

Sep 22, 2021
TSMC
02:33:44

It's time. We dive into the unbelievable history behind the quietest technology giant of them all — and as of recording the world's 9th (!) most valuable company — the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. This story checks every box in the Acquired pantheon of greatness: China, America, MIT, Don Valentine, Silicon Valley, "real men" looking silly, and... moats literally built by lasers. We're not kidding. Pull up a seat and settle in for a great one!

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

Sponsors:

  • Thank you to Pilot for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 9! Pilot takes care of startups' bookkeeping, tax and CFO services so busy founders can focus on what matters. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos's AWS analogy: bookkeeping and tax don't make your product any better — so you should let Pilot handle them for you. Pilot is in fact backed by Bezos himself, along with other all-star investors including Sequoia, Index, and Stripe. They are truly the gold standard for startup bookkeeping, and many of the companies we work with run on them. You can get in touch with Pilot here: https://bit.ly/acquiredfmpilot , and Acquired listeners get 20% off their first 6 months! (use the link above)
  • Thank you as well to PitchBook and to Nord Security. You can learn more about them at:


Links:


Carve Outs:

Sep 07, 2021
Kevin Rose from Web 2.0 to Web3
01:40:06

We sit down with the one and only Kevin Rose to talk about his journey from pioneering Web 2.0 with Digg to leading the charge on Web3 and NFT + DeFi investing as a partner at True Ventures and his new show Modern Finance. We cover it all -- TechTV, Digg's true origin story, Milk, Hodinkee, interviewing Beeple and where MoFi goes from here. This was an episode we’ve been wanting to do forever, and Kevin was truly a blast to hang out with. Tune in and then go check out everything he’s building now over at Modern Finance!

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:


Links:

Aug 30, 2021
Andreessen Horowitz Part II
02:52:05

Alright, backstory's out of the way, and Acquired is rolling three hours deep on the venture firm that changed the game for everyone — a16z.

  • VC marketing? Check.
  • "Founder-friendly?" Check.
  • Platform services? Check.
  • Huge valuations and massive fund sizes? Check and check.

We dissect it all in glorious detail, right down to the famous office library (located next to the Rosewood on Sand Hill, natch). The story of modern venture capital starts here. Let's Go!!!


If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and access for live events and discussions with episode guests. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thank you to Pilot for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 9! Pilot takes care of startups' bookkeeping, tax and CFO services so busy founders can focus on what matters. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos's AWS analogy: bookkeeping and tax don't make your product any better — so you should let Pilot handle them for you. Pilot is in fact backed by Bezos himself, along with other all-star investors including Sequoia, Index, and Stripe. They are truly the gold standard for startup bookkeeping, and many of the companies we work with run on them. You can get in touch with Pilot here: https://bit.ly/acquiredfmpilot , and Acquired listeners get 20% off their first 6 months! (use the link above)
  • Thank you as well to Pitchbook and to Nord Security. You can learn more about them at:


Links:


Carve Outs:

Aug 10, 2021
Andreessen Horowitz Part I
02:05:47

We kick off Season 9 with a classic: Part I of the a16z story. How did this brand new venture firm charge out of the gates in 2009, going from zero to disrupting the entire venture industry overnight? You probably know Marc & Ben's history with Netscape and Loudcloud/Opsware... but what about the Black Panthers, Nintendo 64, Al Gore, Doug Leone, Masayoshi Son, and an epic feud with Benchmark Capital that became Silicon Valley's version of the Hatfields and the McCoys? Buckle up, Acquired's got the truth.

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thank you to Pilot for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 9! Pilot takes care of startups' bookkeeping, tax and CFO services so busy founders can focus on what matters, which is building the company. To paraphrase Jeff Bezos's famous AWS analogy: bookkeeping and tax don't make your product any better — so you should let Pilot handle them for you. In fact Pilot is backed by Bezos himself via Bezos Expeditions, along with an all-star roster of other investors including Sequoia, Index, and Stripe. They are truly the gold standard for startup bookkeeping, and many of the companies we work with run on them. You can get in touch with Pilot here: https://bit.ly/acquiredfmpilot , and Acquired listeners get 20% off their first 6 months! (use the link above)
  • Thank you as well to Pitchbook and to Nord Security. You can learn more about them at:


Links:


Carve Outs:

Ben:

David:

Jul 27, 2021
Special: Solana (with CEO Anatoly Yakovenko)
01:14:44

We sit down with the hottest new protocol layer in crypto today: Solana, and its cofounder Anatoly Yakovenko, who is the CEO of Solana Labs. If you listened to our Ethereum episode or follow crypto even at a cursory level, you've likely heard of Solana and its ability to scale transactions thousands of times higher than Ethereum. And, unlike other so-called "ETH killers", Solana is doing so in production today with large and real applications. We dive into the project's history coming out of the 2017-18 crypto winter, how it works and what's ahead now that they've recently raised $314m (yes that is Pi $million) from a16z and Polychain Capital, with their native SOL tokens currently trading at a market cap around $10B (!).

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like our Book Clubs. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:


Topics covered:

  • Anatoly's background as a wireless engineer at Qualcomm, and how it led to a fundamental discovery of how to improve crypto system scalability
  • Solana's role in the crypto protocol ecosystem and why there's a need for it (and why it can and will exist) alongside Ethereum versus "killing" it
  • Starting Solana during the 2017-18 crypto winter, and how it forced them to focus just on building and shipping versus raising and posturing
  • Bootstrapping adoption with the mining community (Solana's "true believers") and the early and ardent support they provided
  • Where Solana falls on the Vitalik "Scalability - Security - Decentralization" trilemma, and why Solana's superpower of maintaining composability is so attractive


Links:


Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

Jul 19, 2021
Special: Solana (with CEO Anatoly Yakovenko)

We sit down with the hottest new protocol layer in crypto today: Solana, and its cofounder and CEO Anatoly Yakovenko. If you listened to our Ethereum episode or follow crypto even at a cursory level, you've likely heard of Solana and its ability to scale transactions thousands of times higher than Ethereum. And, unlike other so-called "ETH killers", Solana is doing so in production today with large and real applications. We dive into the project's history coming out of the 2017-18 crypto winter, how it works and what's ahead now that they've recently raised $314m (yes that is Pi $million) from a16z and Polychain Capital, with their native SOL tokens currently trading at a market cap around $10B (!).

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like our Book Clubs. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:


Topics covered:

  • Anatoly's background as a wireless engineer at Qualcomm, and how it led to a fundamental discovery of how to improve crypto system scalability
  • Solana's role in the crypto protocol ecosystem and why there's a need for it (and why it can and will exist) alongside Ethereum versus "killing" it
  • Starting Solana during the 2017-18 crypto winter, and how it forced them to focus just on building and shipping versus raising and posturing
  • Bootstrapping adoption with the mining community (Solana's "true believers") and the early and ardent support they provided
  • Where Solana falls on the Vitalik "Scalability - Security - Decentralization" trilemma, and why Solana's superpower of maintaining composability is so attractive


Links:


Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

Jul 19, 2021
Ethereum
03:01:08

We close out Season 8 with the most ambitious organization we've ever covered on Acquired: Ethereum, and it's celebrity wunderkind founder Vitalik Buterin. If you thought Mark Zuckerberg IPO-ing Facebook at $100B by age 27 was something, just wait until you hear the story of this high school junior creating $500B (!!) of market cap by the same age — and oh yeah, maybe seeding the future dethroning of Facebook, Google, Amazon and all of big tech in the process. Regardless whether you're a crypto neophyte, a die-hard bull, or a skeptical bear, this is a story you need to hear, and Ethereum is an innovation you need to understand. Buckle in for a wild ride... and some special surprises from a few Acquired friends. :)

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors: 

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:


Links:


Carve Outs:


Episode Sources
:

Jul 06, 2021
Special: Ho Nam from Altos Ventures — A Different Approach to VC
01:49:45

What do you get when you combine Berkshire Hathaway's approach with early-stage venture capital? Altos Ventures. We're joined by Altos's wonderful Ho Nam to discuss their highly unusual approach to VC, which has resulted in them becoming significant shareholders in great companies like Roblox, Coupang, Woowa Brothers and Krafton (makers of PUBG). This episode is an absolute must-listen for anyone in our industry — Ho is one of the best and most under-the-radar thinkers in Silicon Valley, and has many lessons to offer us all!

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like our Book Clubs. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thanks to MITIMCo for being our presenting sponsor for this special episode. They are truly some of the best and most well-known investors in the LP community, and their investment performance supports MIT's cutting-edge research, and world-class education. If you or someone you know is starting a fund or recently launched, or if you are interested in learning about the MITIMCo team, you can email them at partnership@mitimco.org and learn more at https://mitimco.org/emerging-managers/. Just tell them that you heard about MITIMCo on Acquired.
  • Thank you as well to Masterworks and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:


Topics covered:

  • Altos's 13-year+ journey with Roblox, and how they deployed over $400m into the company out of an $86m fund
  • Altos's heritage in Jack McDonald's Investments class at Stanford GSB, and the influence of Jack, Phil Fisher and Warren & Charlie
  • How Altos successfully "value invests" in venture capital, and reconciling cashflow potential with growth
  • "Good fundraisers" vs. "bad fundraisers" and correlation with returns
  • Altos's unique fund structure and how they're architected to stay with companies longer than a typical venture capital firm
  • Ho's Twitter presence and how (and why) he went from de minimus followers to one of the top FinTwit accounts in a few months


Links:

Jun 21, 2021
Berkshire Hathaway Part III
02:54:59

It's time. We wrap our Berkshire Hathaway trilogy with Warren and Charlie entering a new era: the age of the internet. Can they and Berkshire adapt to this brave new world? We find out. And, after 9+ hours, we render our final judgments on Berkshire and Warren's career. Is "Never bet against America" still the right longterm approach? Or is there another, even bigger Snowball out there that Warren may be missing?

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like our recent Book Club event with Brad Stone. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors: 

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — something they're so dedicated to, they even make and sell bronze busts of Warren & Charlie online! if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Just like Berkshire, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny and find their Berkshire Nerds store here: http://bit.ly/acquiredbrknerds
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:


The Berkshire Hathaway Playbook:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/berkshire-hathaway-part-iii )

1. The Berkshire Hathaway "Culture"

  • Berkshire Hathaway really only has three key cultural tenants that stretch across its huge array of operating businesses and investments:
    1. Don't put Berkshire's reputation at risk (i.e., don't be Salomon Brothers).
    2. Don't take money out of the business (i.e., re-invest and avoid or defer paying tax whenever possible).
    3. Funnel all excess cash back to Omaha for re-allocation (i.e., if you can't find a good use for excess cash, give it back to Warren).

2. You need different strategies at different company scales and points in time.

  • Berkshire's greatest longterm strength has been its ability to adapt and employ different strategies as it and the world has changed. From the transition from cigar butts to wonderful businesses as we saw in our last episode, to diluting the equity portfolio with fixed income assets from Gen Re before the internet bubble crash, to focusing on preferred equity during the financial crisis and ultimately making a non-controlling stake Apple the largest asset in the whole Berkshire portfolio, Warren and Charlie have demonstrated remarkable flexibility during their investing careers.

3. There are huge advantages to a company structure where one person makes all decisions.

  • Warren's ability to make $10 billion+ decisions on his own and within an hour (usually with input from Charlie) is truly unique in the global history of business, and allows Berkshire the flexibility to capitalize on opportunities that no one else can act upon, like the financial crisis. At the same time this setup obviously carries risk — not so much in Warren making bad decisions (cough, airlines), but in missing other opportunities simply due to lack of diversity in thought. Which leads us to our last playbook theme...

4. Never Bet Against The Internet. (aka the "Rosenthal doctrine")

  • Andrew Marks of TQ Ventures perhaps sums up Warren's career best: he's the greatest "status quo investor" that's ever lived, as embodied in his "never bet against America" philosophy. As long as the future looks mostly like the present, nobody is better than Warren at handicapping probabilities and picking winners. But that's no longer the world we live in today. As Doug Leone laid out in our Sequoia Part II episode, we now live in a world of accelerating change: what works today is unlikely to keep working tomorrow. And where is that dynamic baked into the very fabric of existence? The Internet. Never bet against it.


Links:


Carve Outs:


Episode Sources
:

 

Jun 07, 2021
Special: Amazon Unbound (with Brad Stone)
01:16:42

Brad Stone joins us to discuss the making of the modern Amazon, and how it's morphed from the "flywheel company" of The Everything Store into a set of interlocking and self-reinforcing businesses that extended both wider and deeper into the global economy than anyone ever imagined. (except perhaps Jeff Bezos) Is Amazon the Standard Oil of our time, or maybe something much, much bigger? Tune in as we dive in!

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events including upcoming Book Clubs like these! We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Kevel for being our presenting sponsor for this special episode. Kevel provides API infrastructure to quickly build custom ad platforms for sponsored listings, internal promotions, native ads, and more — customers include Yelp, Rappi, OfferUp, Mozilla, Strava, and many other large apps and platforms. In true Acquired fashion, Kevel and CEO James Avery have put together a fun page showcasing the company's "history & facts", which you can find here: http://bit.ly/acquiredkevel !
  • Thank you as well to Masterworks and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:


Topics covered:

  • When and why Brad decided The Everything Store needed a sequel
  • The process of writing the book and access he got at Amazon, including S-Team executives like Dave Clark
  • The evolution of Amazon's core strategy from the flywheel into a set of "interlocking and self-reinforcing businesses", and how Brad landed on that as the key theme for the book
  • Amazon's culture and the evolution from "Jeff-bots", and its embodiment in S-team members and company leaders beyond
  • Amazon's investments in Video and why Bezos was ahead of the pack in realizing its strategic importance (including the rumored as-of-recording MGM deal)
  • Amazon's secretive "Campfire" event and why Amazon does it despite its very un-Amazon price tag
  • Brad's take on the future of three major Amazon business lines: Video, International and Marketplace / 3rd Party Sellers
  • Amazon and Bezos's intense focus on competitors, despite the "theater" of their mantra to only focus on customers
  • The Bezos "lapses of judgment" in 2018-19 and what it was like reporting on all the craziness around it
  • Tracking down the "voice of Alexa" Nina Rolle, and Bezos's relationship with Elon!


Links:

May 27, 2021
Berkshire Hathaway Part II
02:59:37

In Part II of our Berkshire Hathaway Trilogy (!), we pick up the story with Warren wandering in the woods of Omaha, searching for his life's next chapter after retiring from the professional investing business at the top of his game at age 39. How does he emerge from those woods anew, transforming from Ben Graham's cigar-butt cocoon into the butterfly collector of Berkshire's wonderful businesses? (Spoiler: Charlie Munger.) And how did one rotten-to-the-core business nearly bring it all down — everything he'd ever worked for — in the span of one terrible week? Tune in!

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like our upcoming Book Club event with Brad Stone. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — something they're so dedicated to, they even make and sell bronze busts of Warren & Charlie online! if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Just like Berkshire, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny and find their Berkshire Nerds store here: http://bit.ly/acquiredbrknerds
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:


The Charlie Munger Playbook: 
(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/berkshire-hathaway-part-ii )


1. Change your mind. Evolve. Reinvent.

  • Without Charlie's influence, Warren may have stuck to chasing cigar butts his entire career, and missed out on wonderful businesses like See's Candy, The Washington Post, Capital Cities, Geico (for the longterm) and Coca-Cola.
  • Charlie's life experience taught him that the world can change on a dime, and what worked in the past won't necessarily work in the future. To succeed over the longterm you have to be a constant learning machine — which sounds obvious, but the difficult part is being willing to question your own deeply held assumptions and beliefs, and then discard them when they no longer fit reality.

2. Focus on getting a few simple things right — and the rest takes care of itself.

  • Adapting his beloved grandfather's motto ("Concentrate on the task immediately in front of you, and control your spending."), Charlie learned early on that there are only a few bedrock sort of things in life that never change — and that if you just focus on getting those right, you'll do well. Find a great spouse who makes you better in life; buy wonderful businesses at fair prices; never get into a position where you're over-extended; be philanthropic when you can; have fun along the way. It's hard to argue much else matters.
  • Reflecting back on his and Warren's success, Charlie says, "It isn't that we were so good at doing things that were difficult. We were good at avoiding things that were difficult — finding things that are easy."

3. Risk ≠ volatility. Risk = chance of going out of business.

  • The Efficient Market Hypothesists of the 1970s-80s proposed that all investing risk could be reduced to "beta", or volatility relative to the market. This led to the 1980s' explosion of debt, derivatives and other "weapons of mass financial destruction" which people believed "riskless" because their volatility was hedged. Charlie and Warren recognized before anyone else that to the contrary, these instruments greatly ratcheted risk in the system! Operating with so much leverage, a single small but unexpected event could topple the whole house of cards. Unfortunately Warren and Charlie didn't listen to their own advice when entering the Salomon Brothers saga...

4. Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

  • Some people (and companies or even whole industries) are addicted to "getting dirty" — deceiving, betraying, evading, cheating, belittling, and generally pursuing their own self-interest above all else. It can be tempting to engage with such people, because they often have or promise great financial rewards. But you can't win in the long run. As the saying goes — you'll both get dirty, and the pig will like it. Unfortunately again, Warren and Charlie didn't always listen to their own advice...


Links:


Carve Outs:


Episode Sources:

May 12, 2021
Special: 2021 China Tech Trends (with Tech Buzz China)
01:17:57

We team up with two of the very best English-language analysts covering China tech today, Rui Ma and Ying Lu from the Tech Buzz China podcast, to talk about the big trends happening on the ground in China right now. We've had Rui and Ying's episodes on repeat in our own podcast players for many years as we researched our Meituan, PDD, Tencent and Alibaba episodes, and we're so excited to have them finally join us live. We had a blast and learned much more about what's actually happening in the world's largest market than the relative trickle of news Western audiences normally receive. Tune in!


LP Book Club Announcement!

The Acquired LP Book Club is officially returning! We are super excited to have Brad Stone join us on May 21st to discuss his sequel to the Everything Store, Amazon Unbound. We'll be interviewing Brad on Zoom with Acquired LPs “live in the audience”, and Q+A to follow. You can join and become an LP here: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Kevel for being our presenting sponsor for this special episode. Kevel provides API infrastructure to quickly build custom ad platforms for sponsored listings, internal promotions, native ads, and more — customers include Yelp, Rappi, OfferUp, Mozilla, Strava, and many other large apps and platforms. In true Acquired fashion, Kevel and CEO James Avery have put together a fun page showcasing the company's "history & facts", which you can find here: http://bit.ly/acquiredkevel !
  • Thank you as well to Masterworks and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:


Topics and trends covered:

  • How Rui and Ying stay on top of trends in China tech remotely from the US
  • The rise of “tech company like” CPG and other consumer brands in China and extremely fast product development and iteration: e.g., Genki Forest, Perfect Diary and Shein
  • Community group buying and the reinvention of commerce in rural China (along with an eye-opening discussion of what qualifies as “rural” in China... which is very different from the West!)
  • Autonomous and electric vehicle design and production in China (which is the world's largest car market), and the government's push for China to become a global leader in both
  • The current state of anti-trust in China and why investors and operators on the ground in China are optimistic about recent developments


Links:

May 05, 2021
Berkshire Hathaway Part I
03:11:10

It's time. After 150+ episodes on great companies, we tackle the granddaddy of them all — Berkshire Hathaway. One episode alone isn't nearly enough to do Warren and Poor Charlie justice, so today we present Part I: Warren's story. How did a folksy, middle-class kid from Omaha become the single greatest capitalist of all-time? Why, like Jordan, did he retire (twice!) at the top of his game, only to reinvent himself and come back stronger than ever? As always, we dive in. Let's dance.

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors: 

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — something they're so dedicated to, they even make and sell bronze busts of Warren & Charlie online! if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Just like Berkshire, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny and find their Berkshire Nerds store here: http://bit.ly/acquiredbrknerds
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:


The Warren Buffett Playbook:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/berkshire-hathaway-part-i )

1. Money can create more money. (aka "Compounding")

  • Very early in life, Warren figured out something most people never truly grasp: money can be used to generate more money. It's sounds simple, but once you fully internalize this concept, you'll never see the world the same again. A given sum no longer represents what you could buy with it — a coffee, a phone, a car, a house, etc — but rather what it could grow to become over time. At the extreme, people like Warren are "cursed", seeing prices for goods not as whatever the sticker says, but 5x, 10x, 20x higher — because that's what the opportunity cost of parting with the capital represents.
  • If you own an asset that's compounding at a high rate with no obvious reason it will stop... dear lord do not interrupt it!! Most people are tempted to meddle: lock in gains, cover other losses, actively trade, or otherwise "manage" their investments. In the long run these actions are almost assuredly all value-destructive behaviors if you own truly great businesses.

2. Align incentives: be a doctor, not a prescriptionist.

  • Warren likened stockbrokers — who got paid based on volume of trades placed, not investment performance — to "prescriptionist" doctors who were paid by their number and type of pills prescribed, versus actual patient outcomes. Once Warren created his investment partnerships (and then later transformed Berkshire Hathaway into something similar), he not only unlocked hugely better outcomes for his"patients", but allowed created a path to pursue his own dream and become fabulously wealthy in the process.

3. You can't expect to control other people's emotions around money (or anything else).

  • However with the right "ground rules", you can mitigate the impact of others on your business and decision making — and even use them to your advantage.
  • Warren's early partnerships had a few ground rules and norms: partners will not know what securities are held, trading in/out is allowed only 1 day / year, and Warren will consistently set low expectations (leaving himself ample room to over-deliver). These set the stage for nearly complete freedom for Warren to operate as he saw fit — to the immense gain of his limited partners.

4. Sins of omission (selling or passing) nearly always cost more than sins of commission (buying).

  • Warren is almost without doubt the greatest investor of all time. However even he made three incredibly stupid "unforced errors" early in his career that cost hundreds of billions in future gains: selling GEICO, selling American Express, and passing on the opportunity to invest in Intel with Arthur Rock.
  • That said, Warren's fourth great mistake (and in his estimation his greatest) was certainly a sin of commission: buying Berkshire Hathaway itself. Warren estimates this single blunder totaled $200B+ in opportunity cost over his lifetime.


Carve Outs:


Episode Sources
:

Apr 21, 2021
Special: "Why Now" for Digital Health (with Levels founder Josh Clemente)
01:25:27

We dive into the fast-changing world of direct-to-consumer digital health, with perhaps the best person in the world: Levels founder Josh Clemente. (Shoutout to Ben Grynol and Michael Mizrahi from our LP community for introducing us!) Levels is on a mission to make consumers everywhere aware of their metabolic health by enabling anyone to track blood glucose levels with a continuous glucose monitor. Josh has had an incredible career, working as an early engineer at SpaceX and later at Hyperloop One before founding Levels out of a very real personal need. Join our conversation as we cover everything from Josh's time at SpaceX to why the market has changed for consumer digital health, and what the future holds for Levels.

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Kevel for being our presenting sponsor for this special episode. Kevel provides API infrastructure to quickly build custom ad platforms for sponsored listings, internal promotions, native ads, and more — customers include Yelp, Rappi, OfferUp, Mozilla, Strava, and many other large apps and platforms. In true Acquired fashion, Kevel and CEO James Avery have put together a fun page showcasing the company's "history & facts", which you can find here: http://bit.ly/acquiredkevel !
  • Thank you as well to Masterworks and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

The Levels / Digital Health Playbook:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/special-why-now-for-digital-health-with-levels-founder-josh-clemente )

  1. High risk, high return - having a mentality of "we have nothing to lose" can create the high risk tolerance necessary to achieving high returns.
    • SpaceX had a "we have nothing to lose" mentality for all of its early days. Elon always reminded SpaceX employees that everyone had to personally have to succeed, or "2,000 people including you will lose their jobs."
  2. Internet-based prescription workflows have unlocked a key business model innovation for direct-to-consumer digital health.
    • The unlocking of therapeutic devices and drugs for direct to consumer cases, as pioneered by Hims/Hers, Roman, etc, has created a new age for digital health. This paradigm has shift has allowed businesses to reach patients directly without spending years (and millions of dollars) negotiating agreements with payers to get a coveted "billing code" from insurance.
  3. Often the best startup opportunities come from personal experience.
    • The story of how Josh came to found Levels illustrates the power of being patient zero of the problem you want to solve. Josh didn't start out looking for a company to start, but by self-experiments simply because he had a problem and was curious.
  4. In new categories, starting as a premium product and moving down market as costs come down is often the best strategy.
    • Tesla's "master plan" illustrates this perfectly: start absurdly expensive & impractical (Roadster), then still expensive but more practical (Model S/X), then mass-market viability (Model 3/Y).
  5. Data, data, data.
    • If you listened to our Meituan episode, you'll remember us discussing the power of Meituan's review data. Similarly, Levels moat lies in its data. Amazingly Levels already owns the world's largest collective dataset of non-diabetic glucose monitoring data, and the company is still in beta! As they amass more and more data, they'll be able to generate more personalized insights and health/lifestyle recommendations for customers.

Links:

Apr 06, 2021
Rec Room Part II (with CEO Nick Fajt)
01:53:29

Last Acquired left the plucky Rec Room crew in our 2018 "Part I" episode, they were a seed stage startup making a VR game that users loved but grew slowly and barely monetized. Fast forward to today, and they're now a multi-platform social "place" with millions of active users, 500%+ YoY growth and hosting a robust creator economy that's rivaled only by their oft-compared metaverse cousin Roblox in dynamics and efficiency. And oh yeah, they're now a $1B+ company after a new $100m fundraise from existing investors Sequoia and Index, which they're announcing today. We figured it was high time to revisit Nick & crew for a Part II...

 

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsors: 

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:

 

The Rec Room Playbook:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/rec-room-part-ii-with-ceo-nick-fajt )

1. It's ok not to have a grand plan from the beginning.

  • As Nick says, company founding stories tend to get romanticized in retrospect. (Guilty as charged here at Acquired!) As a founder it can feel like there's so much pressure on you to "have it all figured out" from day one. But the reality of most great company beginnings is nothing so grand: often it's just founders who have an inkling about something interesting and the combination of courage + right life circumstances to jump into the unknown and learn as they go. Things change quickly in new or evolving markets, and if you're too wedded to a master plan you're likely to miss more opportunities than you seize.

2. Don't let early (or even just recent) success blind you if potential headwinds are on the horizon.

  • Rec Room experienced "explosive" growth during the 2017 holiday season with the launch of Playstation VR. However this was a classic "wiggle of false hope" (in Paul Graham parlance), not real product-market fit. It would have been easy to ignore the very real warning signs (e.g., that VR adoption as a whole was slowing) and plow full steam ahead. Instead the team realized they probably needed to step back from the temporary momentum and diversify out of solely focusing on VR to find new avenues for growth.

3. Build your company into a robust organism.

  • Startups constantly face existential risks: what if the market shifts? What if we make wrong strategic decisions? How can you architect your business as a system so that "you" (either you personally or the company management as a whole) doesn't need to always be right in order to succeed? For Rec Room this has meant investing deeply into UGC and letting creators lead growth. Any room or piece of content might be no more likely to breakout than another — but in aggregate across now millions of creators, Rec Room is almost guaranteed a constant stream of "hits".

4. UGC is a flywheel that's difficult to start, but creates incredible business dynamics once spinning.

  • Like any flywheel, UGC requires a ton of effort to get moving in the beginning. (E.g., why should people bother to create? What tools do they need? How do you get the incentives right?) But once momentum takes over, it can become an incredible virtuous cycle where users' creativity inspires more users both to consume and create themselves, which compounds faster and faster over time.
  • Furthermore, once a UGC flywheel is spinning, the underlying platform's unit economics get pretty fast: costs to produce content go down (or to zero), cost to acquire users go down (or to zero), and retention, engagement and monetization all spike up. In previous eras Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch rode to this dynamic to incredible success. Today Roblox, Rec Room, TikTok and others are following the same playbook.

5. When operating a "metaverse", the best business dynamics result from having everything on a single platform (vs. siloing users based on devices/geos/etc)

  • Having all users able to interact on one platform not only maximizes liquidity across the creator-consumer marketplace, but affords the company more power across brand (e.g. Rec Room is the sole brand, not "Rec Room on xbox/steam/VR/etc") and central economic control.

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

Mar 24, 2021
Meituan
02:20:18

We dive into the history behind Meituan, the juggernaut Chinese "super-app" which dominates China's services economy, offering consumers everything from food delivery, restaurant reviews, travel booking, bike-sharing, movie ticketing, and countless other entertainment and lifestyle services all at the touch of a button. Already China's 3rd largest tech company by market cap (behind just Tencent and Alibaba), Meituan did $15 billion in net revenue in FY2019 and continues to grow rapidly. What makes it so special, and how were they able to become the market leader in such a competitive space? This story is packed with lessons that apply equally beyond China tech to high-growth company building and investing everywhere.

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:


The Meituan Playbook:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/meituan )

1. Adding product offerings (post initial product-market fit) isn't losing focus. It's smart business.

  • A huge part of Meituan's success and longterm defensibility versus its literally thousands of past competitors is its ability to cross-sell customers across many different product lines. Meituan can afford to spend much more on acquiring and retaining a new user who'll end up purchasing food delivery, groceries, hotels, travel and more through the platform vs. standalone competitors in each vertical. Most western companies woefully misunderstand this dynamic. (Amazon being a notable exception)
  • Meituan enjoys an average of 26 transactions per user per year (vs e.g. Airbnb users which book an average of 0.5 transactions/year). With each additional offering, Meituan increases the number of revenue streams it can amortize its CAC over, while also offering superior experiences to customers.
  • Key to making this strategy work is having the discipline to follow the same playbook as any startup: launch new initiatives quickly, test and improve based on real customer feedback, don't let perfect be the enemy of shipped, and kill what's not working and move on. Meituan and Amazon's new initiatives often lack polish — but they either quickly bring in $billions of revenue, or they die and the company goes on to the next one. Again with few exceptions, western tech companies completely misunderstand how to execute this playbook effectively.

2. When you spot a market that's both large and growing fast — ride that wave!!

  • Chinese e-commerce was a 20% saturation industry in 2017 and still growing nicely. However real world services was only 5% online, and poised to grow even faster. Staying nimble to capitalize on this online to offline (or "O2O") trend allowed Meituan to accelerate while Alibaba was caught flat-footed. Today Meituan (along with its fellow Tencent portfolio company Pinduoduo) represents probably the biggest threat Alibaba has faced in its entire history.

3. Many still don't realize what a powerful moat (trusted) reviews provide in online platforms.

  • Once it merged with Dianping, review data became Meituan's biggest competitive advantage vs other food delivery (and other product line) competitors. A deep database of reviews creates an incredible barrier to entry: any competitor can standup a set of listings, but without trusted reviews those listings are just "flat". This same dynamic helped Airbnb successfully defend against European clones early in its life.

4. Old news, but always worth repeating: the days of China simply cloning American tech companies are long gone. Today it's China, not the US, that's leading innovation on mobile and the internet more broadly across many categories.

  • Ironically, Meituan's founder Wang Xing started his career as perhaps China's top Web 2.0 company cloner, and Meituan itself began as a Groupon knockoff. But to say the the tables have turned today is a massiveunderstatement, haha.

5. Meituan capitalized on the secular trend of China's growing middle class and mobile-first economy.

  • Meituan's growth followed the growth of China's middle class. They were able to capitalize on the emergence of Tier 2 and 3 cities that provided newly addressable populations.
  • Meituan was smart to pay attention to these non-Tier 1 cities from the very beginning. Founder Wang Xing realized that smaller cities where people were beginning to access the internet via mobile phones and internet cafes were a good fit for their initial group-discount platform.


Links:


Carve Outs:


Episode Sources:

Mar 10, 2021
The New York Times Company
03:04:33

For the entire 20th Century, you’d be hard pressed to find a better business than an American newspaper — Warren Buffett famously described them as “franchises” — and no American newspaper stood taller than the New York Times. Controlled by a single family bound by a legal oath “to maintain the editorial independence and integrity of The New York Times and to continue it as an independent newspaper, entirely fearless, free of ulterior influence and unselfishly devoted to the public welfare”, the Times served as the paper of record for generations of Americans and people around the world. But no good thing lasts forever, and the dawn of the 21st Century saw both the Times and this once-mighty industry devastated by the dual disruptive forces of the internet and the 2008 financial crisis. And yet by 2021, The Times, essentially alone of its former peers, has reemerged from the American newspaper wreckage and transformed itself into a thriving digital business with an order of magnitude more subscribers than its print heyday. Curious how it all happened? We dive into 170 years of history to find out!

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:

 

The New York Times Company Playbook:
(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/the-new-york-times-company )

1. When you find yourself sitting in front of a big approaching demand wave... ride it!!

  • The New York (Daily) Times was founded during the newspaper boom of the 1850s, and similarly Adolph Ochs took over the local Chattanooga paper at the start of that city’s mining boom.
  • The NYT made huge investments in its reporting during the two World Wars as the public’s appetite for news exploded, while its rivals missed the ball worrying over preserving advertising space. Likewise NYT launched The Daily (which would become the biggest podcast in the world) immediately following Trump’s inauguration in early 2017.
  • Arguably NYT’s biggest business mistake was missing the cable wave -- which Rupert Murdoch leveraged brilliantly to build Fox News into the most valuable news media franchise in the world.

2. Where there’s an entrepreneurial will, there’s an entrepreneurial way.

  • Adolph Ochs bought the Chattanooga Times with $250 and sellers’ notes, and then acquired The New York Times out of bankruptcy with no personal money down and $100k of real estate debt. And turned them both into successes on a level no one (even himself at times) believed possible.

3. Recurring Acquired theme: the media business is still the second-best business of all time, behind technology.

  • Media’s ability to generate dual revenue streams (advertising and subscription) from the same content product generates enormous leverage on investment, AND most of those costs are fixed vs. variable (especially in a digital environment).

4. This is why “content is king” has always been true in the media industry.

  • NYT’s version of this strategy has always been to invest more in high-quality journalism than any of its peers. It was true in 1896 when Ochs took over, true during the World Wars and the Pentagon Papers, and perhaps has never been more true than today when NYT employs 1,700 journalists around the world and pays them an average of >2x the rest of the industry.

5. That said, distribution is critical as well. To build a world-class media organization you must be great at both content AND distribution.

  • In the old media landscape, NYT built great distribution through its printing and delivery operations, as well as savvy investments like the Index which led to libraries and researchers across the country relying on the Times as the “paper of record”.
  • However in today’s media landscape, the task of building great distribution falls on the newsroom and journalists themselves. The job is no longer finished once you hit publish -- reporters and editors must own the responsibility of getting their work in front of readers via social media and shareable story elements.

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

Ben:

David:

 

Episode Sources:

Feb 18, 2021
Special: Sequoia Capital's Investment Playbook (with Alfred Lin)
54:54

We cover Sequoia Capital a lot on this show. Not only across our now four(!) dedicated episodes, but across a stunning nearly 50% of recent season companies where Sequoia was a primary or only investor — the most of any venture firm by an enormous margin. Today in this very special episode, we dive into the principles that have led to the firm's 49 years of unparalleled success in venture, and the playbook behind how they identify markets and companies that create outcomes worthy of the firm's namesake tree.


If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thanks to MITIMCo for being our presenting sponsor for this special episode. They are truly some of the best and most well-known investors in the LP communit, and their investment performance supports MIT's cutting-edge research, and world-class education. If you or someone you know is starting a fund or recently launched, get in touch with them at: http://bit.ly/acquiredmitimco , and tell them that you heard about MITIMCo on Acquired.
  • Thank you as well to Masterworks and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:


The Sequoia Capital Playbook:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/special-sequoia-capitals-investment-playbook-with-alfred-lin )

1. Bring a prepared mind.

  • Founders (as they should) typically think more about solving a problem in the world, and less about the market context around what they're doing. Sequoia has always focused on the market — which allows them to bring a prepared mind to conversations with founders both pre and post investment. Great partnerships and great investments lie at the intersection of these two perspectives.
  • Focusing on the market takes many forms at Sequoia. It includes building and maintaining market landscapes, constantly looking for white spaces, and convening quarterly "blue sky" sessions within the firm.

2. The two questions that matter are "Why now?" and "Who cares?".

  • Early-stage is different from other forms of investing. As Don would say, it's predicated on investing in markets undergoing significant change: today's solutions are wrong for tomorrow. A good answer to "why now" upends the Warren Buffet quote about reputations of businesses with bad economics surviving intact. For example, DoorDash and Instacart had great “why now's” (ability to access a whole new class of labor through mobile devices), whereas Webvan (also a Sequoia investment) did not.
  • Similarly, the key to evaluating market size in the context of early-stage venture is to focus on the opportunity size tomorrow, not today. "Who cares" is a great lens to predict and distill this: if this new solution were widely known and available who (how many people/customers, what segments, with what buying power) will care (how much will it improve their lives or businesses)?

3. The goal is not buying low and selling high. The goal is compounding capital.

  • In a compounding environment, gains from the next few years will always dwarf all cumulative gains from years prior. The goal is to invest in companies that are able to become compounders, help them do so, and enjoy the returns as long as possible.
  • Identifying compounding (and whether it will continue) is hard to get right. The question Sequoia asks is whether the future for a given market, company or investment looks brighter than today. When the answer is yes: 💎🙌

4. Venture is a humbling business.

  • You can make money even if you get the investment thesis wrong, lose money even if you get the investment thesis right, and you realize your losses many years before your gains. (Alfred has been at Sequoia for over 10 years and only just had his first two IPOs: Airbnb and DoorDash.)
  • To succeed in venture over the long run you need all three of high IQ, high EQ, and hustle. (We would also add high patience to the list!) What you don't need are specific qualifications: Michael Moritz was a journalist, Roelof Botha was an actuary, Don and Doug were sales guys and Alfred was a COO. Greatness can come from anywhere.
  • There will always be too much capital chasing too few good deals. It's true today, it was true when Alfred started 10 years ago, and it was true when Michael Moritz started 20 years before that. But the winning companies will always generate outsized returns by using that capital to their unfair advantage. Your job as a VC is very simple, but devilishly hard: invest in those companies.


Links:

Feb 01, 2021
Bitcoin
03:12:11

We had to do it. After 12 years and 3,000,000x appreciation, we kick off Season 8 with the best investment of all-time and our biggest episode ever: Bitcoin. From the first bitcoin transaction of 10k for two Papa John's pizzas (worth about $350m today!!) to $40k+ BTC and maybe the moon beyond, we cover the whole crazy, improbable journey of how a single 8-page PDF document changed the world of money — and perhaps the world itself — forever.

If you love Acquired and want more, join our LP Community for access to over 50 LP-only episodes, monthly Zoom calls, and live access for big events like emergency pods and book club discussions with authors. We can't wait to see you there. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 8. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://bit.ly/acquiredtiny
  • Thank you as well to Vouch and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:


The Bitcoin Playbook:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/bitcoin )

1. Technological paradigm shifts are ideal opportunities for attacking incumbents.

  • The traditional finance system worked fantastically well for 500 years, but it wasn't built for the internet. The fact that sharing your bank account or credit card number is required in order to transact, but there's no really robust way to protect against fraud when doing so, provided the perfect seam for a new entrant. Bitcoin and its creators saw this shortcoming and created a new form of money that worked like email.

2. In the early days of a network-effect system, usage matters more than use-cases.

  • Because the value of a network grows as a function of Metcalfe's Law (value = # of engaged participants squared), in the early days simply growing the number of engaged participants matters more than the specifics of what those participants are actually doing. As the network's value grows, it will become attractive to successively more groups of users and use cases.
  • Bitcoin started as the domain of researchers and fringe libertarians, then illicit transactions (Silk Road), then speculation (the ICO boom) before finally reaching adoption by the mainstream investment community. Each wave built enough monetary value in the network to make it attractive to the next set of users. Similarly Facebook went from sharing photos of attractive undergrads to how billions communicate, and Airbnb went from ratty airbeds to ~10x larger than any hotel chain, all within a few short years.

3. Distributing network value out to its participants creates large incentives for adoption.

  • Rewarding miners with bitcoin itself created a huge incentive for participants to join and stay in the Bitcoin network. Although this dynamic got a bad rap during the ICO bubble when it was overused and overpromised by grifters and scammers, it remains a powerful strategy and will likely be used more going forward.
  • Perhaps most excitingly, this incentive unlocks massive new potential for open-source software development: people who work on open-source software (or provide other functions) can now receive direct value for their contributions, without being employed in any traditional sense.

4. Just HODL, baby. (aka let your winners run)

  • You can get rich quickly by getting in early on a winning investment. But you can only get really rich by holding a compounding asset for an extended period of time. Sequoia learned this lesson painfully with its Apple investment in the 1970's: selling its entire position for just a ~$6m profit within a few years. Similarly, anyone who bought 1,000 bitcoin for $10 a piece in 2012 could have sold them for $1m four years later in 2016. But four years on from that, they're now worth $35 million. If you continue to believe Bitcoin has a bright longterm future (which, to be fair, you may not!), what could they be worth in 2024?

5. We're only just realizing the implications of digital scarcity.

  • For its entire existence before Bitcoin, computing and the internet was all about turning scarcity into abundance. (via infinitely replicable + easily distributable software and other digital goods) For the first time in history, Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain have introduced the opposite: scarce, non-replicable digital assets. Native digital currency (Bitcoin) and smart contracts (Ethereum) are the first big outcomes of this advancement, but there may be many more seismic shifts to come.


Links:


Episode Sources:

Jan 19, 2021
Special: Acquired x Indie Hackers
01:49:04

As regular listeners know, we typically cover some of the biggest companies who often receive the most media attention (see Airbnb and DoorDash). But today's episode is a little different. In our conversation with Courtland Allen of Indie Hackers, the largest community of startup founders, we dive into the stories of underdogs. What happens when there are millions of people doing small business entrepreneurship? How does anyone having access to the globally addressable market of 3 billion internet users open the door for the niche-est of products? We tell the story of Courtland’s own “Indie Hacker” journey, how he came to found Indie Hackers itself, and the lessons learned along the way.

 

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsors: 

  • This episode is supported by Teamistry, a great new podcast from Atlassian that tells the stories of teams who work together in new and unexpected ways to achieve remarkable things. It's one of our best new podcast discoveries in 2020 and we think Acquired listeners are going to love it. Our thanks to Teamistry for their support, and you can listen here: https://link.chtbl.com/teamistry?sid=podcast.acquired
  • Thank you as well to Kevel and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/special-acquired-x-indie-hackers )

1. As long as you don't quit your journey, you're still in the act of succeeding.

  • Indie Hackers was Courtland's seventh company. Before it, Courtland had started six other companies, each with a few thousand dollars in revenue but never as big as he wanted it to be. Looking back, Courtland has realized that everyone has a certain number of companies they need to start before they succeed: for some, that number may be one, for others, 36. For him, that number was 7. So his advice? All you have to do is not quit before you get to that number.

2. The journey is as important as the destination.

  • While Courtland was working on some of his earlier companies, he was miserable. A few of those working years felt like a complete blur. But sometime before he started Indie Hackers, he realized that in order to keep going until you succeed (see playbook #1), you must structure your life so that it's easy for you to not quit. In other words, you have to make the journey fun — almost like the emotional counterpart to Paul Graham’s famous “default alive” concept. With this reframe, Courtland began to enjoy the journey — enjoying the new people he met and the new things he learned. This mindset helped him level up as a person. Instead of worrying and asking "am I there yet?" he was able to enjoy the building journey.

3. Stories are always paramount.

  • As we discuss so often on Acquired, stories can be an incredibly powerful force, and their value is one of the core theses/value propositions of Indie Hackers. One insight Courtland came to from Hacker News was that people didn't want to just read comments about people who didn't succeed. They wanted high quality, verified stories that were trustable in some way.
  • Indie Hackers sends a survey out to users 6 months after they join the community. One of the questions the survey asks is, "would you have started your company if not for Indie Hackers?" 15-20% say they would not have started without some story or interaction on Indie Hackers!

4. Don't try to create budgets — sell to people that already have them.

  • Courtland originally tried to monetize Indie Hackers via advertising, and shared advertisement opportunities with the Indie Hacker community. But he soon realized that these smaller businesses weren't exactly the best customers to sell to. Eventually, he transitioned to selling to enterprises, and was pleasantly surprised by how much easier it was to sell.
  • The sales process simplified is: educate, then win. If you're selling to someone with a budget, you essentially bypass the education step.

5. Utilizing platforms, like everything in business, has tradeoffs.

  • There are no hard or fast rules in business. Everything has tradeoffs. Platforms may help with distribution but make it harder to build a brand and also create risks and dependencies. For Courtland, it was important for Indie Hackers to have its own brand. Additionally, he already had a distribution strategy (Hacker News). Hence, it made sense for Indie Hackers to be its own site, as there were many risks but few benefits to using some other platform like Medium.

6. Trust and mission alignment are critical in acquisitions.

  • Acquisition terms are about much more than just the purchase price. Sometimes, other considerations are more advantageous than cash (e.g. equity), and there are creative ways to align their incentives.
  • For Courtland, it was crucial that he retain freedom over his time and control over the direction of Indie Hackers. Hence, it was — and still remains — key that Patrick and Courtland's relationship have a high degree of trust.

7. Acquisitions can enable established brands to take bigger risks.

  • “Intra-preneurship” can be difficult because the initiative is constrained by internal processes and standards as well as external expectations. Hence, you can often take bigger risks through an acquisition. Google video versus YouTube is a great example of this.

8. There is an infinite number of "indie hacker" opportunities.

  • There is no end to the number of niche problems that can be identified and served. Big businesses and platforms create massive opportunities to go for the long tail. New businesses can build on top of these platforms or build for these platforms, creating tools to help people use them. For example, there are thriving tools business ecosystems today for Stripe, Shopify, WordPress, and still many more use cases yet to be addressed.

 

Links:

Dec 17, 2020
Airbnb
02:37:14

Over 13 years after its founding, one of the defining startup companies of the past decade finally makes its public debut — and boy was it a big one. But for all the hype (and all the legitimately great things Airbnb has accomplished), this is a company that looks very different today than in the past. Even before COVID, Airbnb's once-exponential bookings growth had declined to linear levels while the company's costs continued to balloon at accelerating rates. What’s going on here? Are public investors smart to bet on a permanent shift in travel behavior coming out of the pandemic? Or is this a case of unrealistic expectations? As always, we dive in.

 

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/airbnb )

1. If you can create value for all sides in a market ("expand the efficient frontier"), you really can’t help but be successful.

  • Born out of the 2008 financial crisis, Airbnb was able to fundamentally change the nature of the travel market and provide guests with more quality for less money, while also enabling hosts to earn meaningful extra income during a very difficult economic period. This led to incredible market adoption of the service, at times almost despite the company's own actions and activities.

2. When you create a market, you have an opportunity to set the terms.

  • By virtue of creating a whole new class of supply that had never participated in the travel market before, Airbnb was able to enact much more platform-favorable payment terms versus the hotel industry. Unlike Booking.com and the OTAs, guests pay Airbnb at the time of booking, and Airbnb keeps that cash (including fees) until after check-in — which could occur weeks or even months later.
  • This created an enormously beneficial cashflow dynamic for Airbnb that allowed them to grow while burning much less cash than otherwise would have been required.

3. When you don't fly low to the ground, you aren't forced to operate at the lowest level of detail.

  • Unlike DoorDash which needed to create an enormously efficient operational machine just in order to survive, Airbnb's capital-light business model, low operational intensity and favorable cashflow dynamics meant they've never had to operate in a particularly cost-disciplined or product-focused manner. While the core business has been insulated from competition due to its global network effects, the company has missed or poorly executed on Amazon-like opportunities to expand into adjacent markets and services that could have continued to drive new growth.

4. Relying solely direct/organic traffic is both a gift and a curse.

  • Undeniably, direct/organic customer acquisition is a wonderful goal for any business to strive for. Who wouldn't want to acquire customers without paying for them? However, if you don't also build the muscle for profitable and reliable growth through paid channels, you can be left vulnerable vulnerable when organic growth slows, as it inevitably will.

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sources: 

 

Dec 11, 2020
DoorDash
02:58:27

Live from the scene of its blockbuster IPO, we recount the crazy, roller coaster journey of this "Palo Alto delivery company". From Sand Hill darling during their Series A and B fundraises to all but left-for-dead during the great unicorn massacre of 2015/16, DoorDash has clawed their way back from the brink and emerged as America's dominant meal delivery service, and its only unit-economic positive standalone logistics player. Is this the dawn of the next great Amazon-like story, or is the company simply benefiting from temporary tailwinds due to the pandemic? As always, we dive DEEP to find out.

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsors: 

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/doordash )

1. Sometimes winner-take-all markets DO tip.

  • The end-state that Uber (and its global peers) spent the past decade chasing — that eventually it would outrun its competitors, tip entire markets in their favor, add multiple product lines and turn massively cashflow positive — has thus far proved elusive, leading many to believe that any such undertaking is a false dream. But, since 2018 China's Meituan appears to be doing just that, all while operating in an even more competitive environment than Uber. DoorDash may now be on a similar trajectory in the US.
  • That said, it's almost impossible to predict in advance how much time and capital it will take to get there, let alone any one company's odds of success. DoorDash benefitted immensely from their competitors' relative difficulties accessing capital post-2016, and was willing to sacrifice enormous dilution to outlast them. If you're going to play the winner-take-all game, you need to be willing to go all-in when others blink.

2. If you're going to fly low to the ground, you also need to operate at the lowest level of detail.

  • Flying low to the ground (i.e., sacrificing higher margins in order to share more value back to your customers and suppliers) is a great recipe for success in highly competitive markets like e-commerce and on-demand services. However when you do so, you need to be maniacal about squeezing every last drop of efficiency out of your platform: every 1% improvement in margins could mean a 20%, 30% or even 50% profitability increase and the difference between life (for you) and death (for your competitors). DoorDash clearly gets this and has embedded this ethos in everything they do at the company.

3. Focus on what you can control.

  • DoorDash had the capital markets turn against them HARD early on in the company's life. It would have been easy to lose focus, sell or give up, as did many of their competitors. To Tony and the entire company's credit, they kept moving forward and made decisions each step of the way that kept the company alive — even when those decisions came at a high cost. As a result they outlasted nearly all competition and were in a position to IPO at one of the highest market caps of all-time, all as an only 7 year old company.

4. "Why now" matters.

  • DoorDash had one of the best "why now" answers of all-time: mass-market smartphone adoption (not just high-end) made 3 things true that were never possible before: 1. average consumers could order online conveniently, 2. couriers could plug into the network via their own devices, and 3. restaurants (most of whom didn't have wifi or desk staff) could accept orders online. Before 2013 a business like this would simply have been impossible to build.

 

Carve Outs:

David:

Ben:

Sources:

 

Dec 10, 2020
Slack + Salesforce Emergency Pod with Packy McCormick of Not Boring
01:24:52

Acquired is live on the scene covering Salesforce's blockbuster $27.7B acquisition of Slack, with the help of the internet's #1 Slack bull (and top internet analyst in his own right), Packy McCormick of Not Boring. We dissect the deal itself, Slack's relatively short life as a public company, the impact of Microsoft and Teams, and most importantly what this means for enterprise SaaS startups broadly. And oh yeah — we have a ton of fun too. :)

Note: you can find our full June 2019 episode on Slack's history and their DPO here: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/the-slack-dpo

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/slack-salesforce-emergency-pod-with-packy-mccormick-of-not-boring )

1. Distribution is still key when it comes to selling enterprise products at the highest levels.

  • SaaS startups can (and do!) land deals with big companies all the time now through the bottoms-up motion of individual teams adopting the product and paying by credit card. And they also can (and do!) expand those deals into large, enterprise-wide contracts. But the massive power of Microsoft, Salesforce, and to a lesser-degree Oracle and Google's salesforces + bundling distribution abilities enables deals to happen at a scale that most independent companies find difficult to match.

2. Enterprise products are like icebergs — 90% of the work is below the surface.

  • This is true both at the tactical level (integrations, permissions, security, etc) and the strategic: providing seamless connective tissue between work apps inside and across organizations is what makes Microsoft so powerful as an enterprise player — not necessarily because their products are better.
  • This is why Slack Connect was such an important initiative for Slack, and why Microsoft trained the full firepower of its Teams marketing against it, while mostly ignoring Zoom even though Zoom is much more directly competitive on the product feature front.

3. Telling your story well always matters, no matter how big you get.

  • Perhaps the biggest reason Slack "failed" as a public company was its inability to effectively communicate what it did that was special, why that was important, and why it was defensible enough to withstand the assault from Teams. Arguably, great answers existed to all of those questions — and the company kept posting impressive numbers to back them up — but Wall Street never bought the story Slack sold.

4. Enterprise collaboration is moving deeper into work apps themselves.

  • Today's native SaaS tools like Figma, Coda, Notion and others are embedding collaboration and chat natively into apps themselves — which reduces the primacy of a centralized platform like Slack, Teams or Discord. While on the one hand this is a threat to dedicated collaboration platforms, it also presents a massive opportunity: if they (or someone else) can decouple the core "collaboration layer" service from their own dedicated apps and also embed it directly into those work apps via APIs, it exponentially increases the surface area of workplace productivity that they can address.

5. The "Outsiders playbook" of growing through acquisition once your original product approaches market saturation works just as well in tech as it did in other sectors like media and industrials.

  • As Will Thorndike outlined in The Outsiders, many of the best CEO capital allocators of all-time utilized the grow-through-acquisition strategy very effectively. Salesforce (and other big tech companies like Facebook) are clearly adopting the same approach.

 

Links:

Dec 02, 2020
Virgin Galactic
01:45:11

Live from the 2020 ASCEND Space Conference, Acquired covers the full story behind the most "out there" technology story of the past few years: Virgin Galactic. How did this space tourism company grow out of the winning X Prize team, and catch the eyes and fancy of billionaires like Paul Allen, Sir Richard Branson, and, most recently, company chairman Chamath Palihapitiya who took it public via the first "modern" technology SPAC transaction in history? Tune in to find out!!

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsors: 

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

(also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/virgin-galactic )

1. Prizes can be a great way to generate leverage on innovation. If done right, the X Prize and other industry prizes like it (e.g., Netflix Prize, DARPA Challenge, etc) can bring an order of magnitude more talent to bear on a challenge than what the same dollars alone could hire.

  • The challenge is to create a prize that inspires and draws in a large enough pool of contributors. The aerospace industry’s “cool” factor may be what allowed the X Prize to succeed and explain why prizes aren't employed as often in other sectors.

2. When trying new things, most people want to go second — but those willing to go first get the best returns.Being first into new markets carries high risk (including/especially reputational), but often also offers asymmetric upside. Investing in a new frontier when others think it’s crazy is a recipe for success — if you’re both contrarian and right.

  • Chamath took a huge turn from the traditional VC playbook when he created his first SPAC in 2017, years before they went mainstream. He and his investors have generated over $1B in profits from that vehicle (which is now merged with Virgin Galactic), and have since used those proceeds to launch five more.

3. The best time to invest was yesterday, the next best time is today. Great investors don’t miss the chance to invest in big markets because they’ve passed on it before. Sir Richard Branson passed on investing in the X Prize twice before partnering with Burt Rutan's winning team to build Virgin Galactic.

4. Whenever a market's prices aren't being set by supply and demand, there's probably an opportunity to disrupt that market. The traditional IPO pricing process is managed by third parties (investment banks) that represent both sides of the transaction, and also have their own economic interests at play. It's the equivalent of a real estate agent representing both the buyer and seller. As a result, many technology IPOs have left hundreds of millions or billions of dollars on the table. SPACs and direct listings are now solving that problem. Any other market with this dynamic should represent fertile ground for entrepreneurs.

 

Links:

 

Sources:

Nov 23, 2020
Special: Superhuman Part II - Designing Software to Feel like a Game (with Rahul Vohra)
53:41

Superstar past guest and Superhuman CEO Rahul Vorha joins us for a deep dive on how Superhuman applies concepts from game design to building productivity software. We're not talking points and badges — we mean hardcore, Unreal Engine-style technical innovations and Fortnite-level understanding of fun and mastery. It's a topic where Rahul has serious cred: before Superhuman and Rapportive, he worked as a game designer on RuneScape, the pioneering browser-based MMORPG. This is a topic every founder, engineer, product and even sales person should listen to. Tune in!

You can listen to Part I of our Superhuman story with Rahul here: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/superhuman

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our new live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/


Sponsors:

  • This episode is supported by Teamistry, a great new podcast from Atlassian that tells the stories of teams who work together in new and unexpected ways to achieve remarkable things. It's one of our best new podcast discoveries in 2020 and we think Acquired listeners are going to love it. Our thanks to Teamistry for their support, and you can listen here: https://link.chtbl.com/teamistry?sid=podcast.acquired
  • Thank you as well to Lemon.io. You can learn more about Lemon at: https://lemon.io/acquired/


Playbook Themes from this Episode:
Also available on our website at https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/special-superhuman-part-ii-designing-software-to-feel-like-a-game-with-rahul-vohra )

1. Game Design not Gamification. Good games nurture intrinsic motivation in players, in part because they’re fun. “Gamification” instead uses external motivators like badges, levels, and points to goad users into interacting with the product.

  • Game design combines goals and objectives, intentional emotional design, and the psychological phenomenon of flow. It forces the designer to consider, what is fun? To which Rahul’s answer is “pleasant surprise”.
  • Great game design creates intrinsic motivation: “doing things because they are inherently interesting and satisfying.” Adding extrinsic motivation like points or rewards can actually erode the desire to do a task.
  • Rahul’s Advice for product designers: “Pull back from user wants and user needs. Instead, design for fun.”

2. It's more important to consider how your product makes customers feel than what it functionally does for them. When designing any product, interaction, or experience, identifying the exact desired user emotions can be incredibly powerful.

  • How do you do this? Find opportunities where the product naturally delights, surprises, or gives users a sense of accomplishment - and find light-touch ways to amplify it.
  • Example: Inbox 0. Superhuman found that reaching Inbox 0 is one of the most emotionally resonant moments in someone’s interaction with their email. To amplify that moment, Superhuman uses beautiful imagery as a reward to trigger specific emotions when a user empties their inbox.

3. Democratizing powerful tools that were previously reserved for an elite class is a recipe success. Superhuman moved mountains to create that “10x better” experience before launching. Even when starved for resources, it can pay off in a big way for a startup to expend massive engineering effort to build a better foundation than the competition.

  • The team at Superhuman faced a challenge: How can we deliver the same speed and power that developers have in code editors to ordinary people in their email inboxes? To solve it, they spent 2 years re-writing large parts of Chrome to make everything faster. Now the Superhuman browser app is faster than any standalone email app experience and provides sub-100 ms results. The result: users don’t have time to break flow state.

4. Storytelling is everything. Don Valentine used to say “Money flows as a function of the story.” Storytelling matters across all dimensions of a startup: pitching investors, recruiting talent, selling products, building a cult-like following. On the podcast, Rahul ties rich detail and visuals to his core points.

  • When racing Lamborghinis: “you see the landscape rip by, you hear the scream of the engine, you taste burning rubber.”
  • When pitching his co-founder on joining: “I could see as the gears turned in his mind as he’s munching this pizza, increasingly slowly until his mouth ground to a halt.”
  • When describing engineers coding in flow state: “our fingers dance across a keyboard like we’re playing a piano.”
Nov 12, 2020
Twitter (with Dick Costolo)
01:22:39

A week before the 2020 US Presidential election, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo joins us to tell the story of a company that has impacted all of our lives (political and otherwise) like none other. While it's easy to forget now, a very viable alternate history exists where it's Twitter, not Facebook, who owns Instagram, and Vine, not TikTok, that's the global platform for mobile video. We dive into it all on this episode — and of course while we had Dick, we also had to discuss his controversial recent deleted tweet.

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

New! We're codifying our own Playbook notes and takeaways from each episode, and posting them here in the show notes and on our website. You can read them below or at: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/twitter-with-dick-costolo

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

  1. Sometimes early advantages matter. A lot. In a network economy industry (like social media), it's almost impossible to chase down someone with an established lead. The only way you can hope to compete is by changing the game. And even that is a long shot.
    • Once Facebook — and then Instagram within Facebook — had established a meaningful active user lead over Twitter, there was no "down the middle" play Twitter could run to catch up. Twitter recognized this and attempted all sorts of orthogonal strategies: video (Vine), live (Periscope), music (Twitter Music), syndication (Moments), exclusive content (the NFL deal). In each case either Facebook was able to copy and co-opt the innovation, or the attempt simply failed.
  2. Sometimes reach matters. A lot. If you're operating in a network economy, your service MUST deliver a first-class experience on every platform that matters.
    • Vine launched on iOS and immediately went to #1 in the App Store. But they didn't get a good Android experience out fast enough, which fractured the social graph that users could share across. Instagram was able to respond aggressively with a first-class video experience across both iOS and Android before Vine could stop the bleeding — and the rest is history.
  3. Network Resiliency. Some network graphs are more inherently defensible than others. How easy it is to "rehydrate" your network somewhere else should drive how closely you guard it.
    • Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp all have relatively low defensible networks — if you were to exfiltrate their graphs, you could recreate their value quickly. This is why all of those companies / products significantly restrict connection exporting, and also why they were able to bootstrap quickly in the early days by importing users' address books.
    • By contrast, the Twitter graph is about interest, not social connections. Even if you exfiltrated all its connections, it'd be very difficult to recreate Twitter (people have tried). This dynamic made it more difficult for Twitter to scale quickly, but also has made it more resilient over time. The core Twitter product is just as robust — if not more — today than it was in 2010... the same can't be said for the blue Facebook product, which has bled out to Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok, Snap, iMessage, etc.
  4. Balancing forest fires and forestry management. As a leader of a rapidly growing organization, you face two types of challenges: "forest fires" (this crazy thing just happened and we need to respond), and "forestry management" (this set of crazy things will keep happening until we figure out a solution that scales). You need a different mental state to approach each, and balancing between the two is incredibly difficult when you're see-sawing back and forth every day.

Links:

Carve Outs:

Oct 28, 2020
Special: Invest Like the Best on Acquired
01:44:48

On this special episode of Acquired, we're joined by a master interviewer himself, Patrick O'Shaughnessy from Invest Like the Best. We turn the tables and cover the most fascinating story he's never told on ILTB... his own! What is O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, and how are they bringing "AWS-level" innovation to the sleepy wealth management industry? How did he go from Notre Dame philosophy major to quant researcher to (arguably) technology CEO and now also an early-stage venture investor... all while simultaneously building one of the world's top new business media empires? Acquired is here to explore it all.

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our new live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

Sponsor:

  • This episode is supported by Teamistry, a great podcast from Atlassian that tells the stories of teams who work together in new and unexpected ways to achieve remarkable things. It's one of our best new podcast discoveries in 2020 and we honestly think Acquired listeners are going to love it. (business + history + space!) Click the link below to listen, and our thanks to Teamistry for their support.
  • https://link.chtbl.com/teamistry?sid=podcast.acquired

 

Playbook Special! Patrick’s Favorite Themes from 5 Years of ILTB:

 

Links:

Oct 07, 2020
The NBA
02:44:25

On the eve of the 2020 NBA Finals, we dive DEEP into the history and business model of the league behind the world's 2nd largest and fastest growing major sport. How did the NBA grow from merely an excuse to monetize hockey arena off-nights into a global powerhouse with more reach and influence and reach than any other American sport? Tune in!!

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our new live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

New! We're codifying our own Playbook notes and takeaways from each episode, and posting them here in the show notes and on our website. You can read them below or at: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/the-nba

 

Sponsors: 

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

1. Distribution. Great product-market fit is necessary but not sufficient for outsized success; you also need great distribution.

  • Basketball had great product-market fit from the beginning — it was an indoor sport that could be played in any weather, didn't require lots of specialized equipment or setup, was relatively safe and provided a great player and spectator experience.
  • However basketball's rapid dissemination was helped enormously by its origin within the missionary context of the YMCA organization, which quickly spread the new game to its branches around North America and the world (including and especially China) — all 50 years before the NBA's founding.

2. Hobbies. A corollary to Paul Graham's idea that great markets start as toys: finding the right business model to professionalize an amateur or "hobby" market with a large or rabid fan base can yield massive business opportunities.

  • Basketball was hugely popular for decades before the NBA came along. College and independent professional teams (like the Harlem Globetrotters and New York Rens) proved people would pay to watch great talent; the NBA simply provided the right league structure and real estate to serve that demand at scale.
  • Other examples: personal computers and Apple, electric cars and Tesla, video game streaming and Twitch, bitcoin and Coinbase, etc.

3. Influence = Power. The NBA's strategy to "make the players the stars" has succeeded tremendously, and stands in stark contrast to the other major American sports leagues.

  • NBA players both individually and as a whole have an order of magnitude more social followers than other major American athletes and, relatedly, have also accumulated an order of magnitude more wealth: 7 current and former NBA players have ~half billion wealth or more, compared to only 1 from all other American team sports.
  • Nike's Jordan deal + creation of the Air Jordan brand wrote the blueprint for the modern influencer endorsement (pre-Oprah!), and is perhaps the most successful non-acquisition deal of all-time.
  • Social influence is a compounding network economy: because NBA players have more followers, they win over more fans (and especially young fans) and aspiring athletes than other sports leagues, which leads to new players and stars getting more influence, which repeats the cycle and widens the lead over other sports.

4. Internationalization. The world is a big place. Much more potential talent and customers exist outside any country's borders than inside. The wider you cast your net, the greater rewards you can reap.

  • Starting with the Dream Team in 1992, the NBA embarked on a deliberate campaign to internationalize its image, both with players and fans. The result is this past season 1 billion people watched the NBA (the vast minority of whom were Americans), and 25% of NBA rosters (and probably 50%+ of its young stars) are international. No other major American sport is anywhere close.
  • Regular Acquired mega-theme reminder: China is ALWAYS bigger and more important than you think it is. 600m people in China watch basketball and 300m people play basketball. That's an entire Unites States' worth of developing players, and two US's worth of fans. Whether the future value of those players and fans accrues to the NBA or the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) will shape everything about the game going forward.

5. Cinematic Universes. The best media properties create and support whole ecosystems around the core product and across mediums.

  • Non-game content like All-Star Weekend and the Slam Dunk Contest, as well as short-form and behind-the-scenes access like SportsCenter highlights, Inside the NBA, etc. provide the NBA with additional compelling (and monetizable) content, all while building the game's reach and deepening fan relationships.
  • Unsurprisingly, this echoes the core of the Disney flywheel. Technology only amplifies this dynamic: social media, over-the-top distribution and direct fan relationships provide more opportunities for the best properties to increase their share of customers' attention.

6. Younger customers = More Future Cashflows.

  • 57% of US 13-17 year-olds list the NBA as their favorite sports league, compared to 13% for the NFL and 4% for MLB. Assuming those numbers hold for this cohort (and younger), the impact on relative future cash flows (and valuations) for the respective sports is enormous.

7. Beachfront property. That said, valuations in any market aren't just driven by the discounted sum of future cashflows; scarcity also matters. Nowhere is this better exhibited than NBA team valuations.

  • Average NBA team valuations have risen 600% in the past decade. Part of this is due to the League's incredible growth. But perhaps as much or more is simply because lots of people want to buy NBA franchises (see e.g., Ballmer) but there are only 30 properties, and ~0-2 are available for purchase at any given time.

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

David:

Ben:

 

Sources:

Sep 30, 2020
Special: Acquired x My First Million
01:31:35

Acquired teams up with the My First Million podcast for a “best of both worlds” crossover episode. First we go deep, “Acquired style”, on the wild story of MFM host Shaan Puri’s bought, sold, and then bought-again OG social networking site Bebo, and then we turn the tables and brainstorm startup ideas and investing themes “MFM style”. This episode was frankly a blast to do. We hope you have as much fun listening as we did recording!

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Quaestor for sponsoring this special episode. Quaestor is an investor relations platform for startups that gives every company and their investors the same level of tools and transparency as large public companies, regardless of their size and without a dedicated team of IR professionals. You can learn more and sign up for early access at: https://quaestor.com

Links:

Sep 09, 2020
Epic Games
02:24:52

We go deep behind the "epic" story of a plucky game developer from Cary, North Carolina (by way of Potomac, Maryland) which, after bootstrapping for its first 22 years, has quietly morphed into an $18b juggernaut that may become the most important technology company for the next evolution of the internet. And oh yeah, its founder, CEO and controlling shareholder? He cares more about land conservation than he does about money, he's beholden to no one and has the firepower of China's biggest internet giant behind him, and he's willing to stare down Apple, Google and anyone else who doesn't support his vision of an open and equal-opportunity internet future in a fight to the death. You'll want to buckle your seats for this one!!

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our new Book Club live sessions with authors like Hamilton Helmer of 7 Powers and Will Thorndike of The Outsiders. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/ 

 

New! We're codifying our own Playbook notes and takeaways from each episode, and posting them here in the show notes and on our website. You can read them below or at: www.acquired.fm/episodes/epic-games

 

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook:

  • Good companies find gold in a rush. Great companies sell jeans and pickaxes to everyone who pans. The best companies sell jeans, pickaxes AND find more gold than anyone else.
    • Epic's two-part business model of the Unreal Engine plus Fortnite (and other games and experiences) is like AWS plus Amazon's consumer facing businesses: not only do they create and sell the infrastructure that powers a whole industry, but as their own "first and best" customers they can use its features most effectively and inform their own future roadmap of what to build.
  • "Games as a Service" (embodied by titles like Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, League of Legends and Honor of Kings, etc) is a revolution that's unlocking value on the same order of magnitude that SaaS did for software.
    • Much like SaaS apps, GaaS experiences can be built by small teams with a creative insight, in a capital-light fashion on open, best-in-class infrastructure that's cheap to rent (Unreal Engine or Unity). They can be designed to address initially small or niche-seeming use cases and desires (e.g. Battle Royale), but then adapt and scale elastically when they strike a rich vein. And perhaps most importantly they monetize via ongoing subscription and virtual economy revenue that aligns with actual user engagement, vs one-time upfront fees on boxed software.
  • Zero (or low) marginal cost businesses are special opportunities.
    • Anytime you can sell something for a significant price that costs you little/nothing to create incremental copies of — e.g. Fortnite skins — you have the potentially to do very, very well.
    • People sometimes forget, but this dynamic also existed before the internet: the media business (both content and distribution) was perhaps the best and most consistent industry of the 20th century from a Return on Capital perspective. There's a reason Warren Buffet called Tom Murphy and Dan Burke of Capital Cities the best capital allocation team of all-time — they were playing on a field tilted in their advantage.
    • That said, the internet has brought this dynamic to MANY more sectors of the economy, and its next iteration (the metaverse) will extend it to even more.
  • Capital scarcity creates a forcing function for disciplined and effective capital allocation. Capital abundance often leads to undisciplined and ineffective capital allocation.
    • Epic created immense value during its 22 years as a bootstrapped company. While its first $330m capital raise from Tencent in 2012 has ultimately led to even more value creation, the first ~4-5 years post-investment saw the company almost lose its way with multiple long, costly and undisciplined game projects for which actual market demand was unclear.
    • When the company ultimately re-captured its mojo with Fortnite, it was by going back to its roots with a fast-follow project built by a small team in response to clear market demand — with a unique twist that made it special.
  • Retaining "control" — over your distribution, your margins, your product decisions and ultimately your company — allows you to build the biggest possible platform in the long run.
    • The old saying that "you can't build a really big company on someone else's platform" is usually true. Multiple times along its journey, Epic and Tim chose to go the harder, longer, and riskier "independent" route vs. relying on publishers, retailers or (now) app stores.
  • Iteration is the in-practice implementation of compounding.
    • Iteration is a standard dogma in startups and engineering (e.g. "agile", etc.), and compounding is a standard dogma in (value) investing. In practice they're two sides of the same coin: the small iterations that Epic does year in and year out — on both the Unreal Engine and Fortnite + other GaaS experiences — compound to create extraordinary value. Or put another way, within operating businesses like Epic, dollars don't just compound on their own. Retained earnings need to be re-deployed every day to build that next feature or service that future developers (and non-developers!) can build on top of.

 

Links:

Carve Outs:

 

Sources: (also available on Journal at https://usejournal.com/app/space/journal:space:project/7efa6d43-a601-4784-8e36-1edda2b1b451 )

Sep 02, 2020
Eventbrite (with Julia & Kevin Hartz)
01:30:53

We're joined by two very special guests, Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz and her cofounder, spouse and Eventbrite Chairman Kevin Hartz, to tell their story of building Eventbrite together (along with their lives and family) from the PayPal diaspora to bootstrapped business, unicorn status, IPO and now starting all over again in the wake of COVID with both a tragedy and a huge new opportunity in front of them as public company.

If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show (including the episode with Kevin on SPACs), the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our new Book Club live sessions with authors like Hamilton Helmer of 7 Powers and Will Thorndike of The Outsiders. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/

 

New! We're codifying our own Playbook notes and takeaways from each episode, and posting them here in the show notes and on our website. You can read them below or at: www.acquired.fm/episodes/eventbrite

 

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at:

 

Playbook

  • Seeing the next technology wave before others do is rare. It provides a roadmap for what to build and invest in if you're willing to bet on that knowledge.
    • Kevin worked at Silicon Graphics in the mid 90's. This led him to realize that internet services like PayPal, YouTube, and many others would be possible long before others (similar to Don Valentine realizing computers would penetrate every industry from his time at Fairchild).
  • PayPal and its subsequent "mafia" was successful in part because of rapid experimentation. They observed what got used by customers and then doubled down.
    • PayPal's "core" use case on eBay started as an experiment. International money transfer (Xoom) and event ticketing (Eventbrite) also initially started as experiments on the PayPal API before the eBay acquisition — and went on to become large companies.
    • Julia, Kevin, and their cofounder Renaud had a prototype of Eventbrite running and serving customers even before starting the company — which gave them the confidence to do what seemed crazy on paper, but was actually "de-risked": start a company as an engaged couple, have a remote technical cofounder, bootstrap for 2 years after being turned down by VCs, etc.
    • When a company is experiencing explosive growth, they often need to leave other huge opportunities on the table. PayPal knew international remittances could be huge, but didn't build it internally because of the need to focus on eBay merchants.
  • The TAM for bringing an offline behavior offline is often WAY bigger than anything you can calculate beforehand. The range and size of what were previously niche or impossible use cases will often expand dramatically with easy-to-use online tools. This is especially true in long-tail use cases that can only be aggregated by self-serve internet-based software.
    • One early encouraging sign for Eventbrite was its use to host speed dating events in New York. Before Eventbrite, it was nearly impossible to organize, promote, and charge for something like that. Now, organizers could suddenly become entrepreneurs and make real money hosting events like this. Most VCs ignored or were confused by this data (~"Call us when you attack Ticketmaster."), but they missed that it unlocked a massive new market which previously operated only through word-of-mouth and cash transactions (if at all).
    • All three major dislocations of the 21st century — the tech bubble bursting in 2001, the financial crisis in 2008, and now COVID in 2020 — have only accelerated offline behaviors to online. COVID is unlocking a new wave of online event entrepreneurs for Eventbrite in the same way the financial crisis unlocked a wave of in-person event entrepreneurs in 2008-10.
  • Starting with just one niche can be incredibly powerful; often your customers will then lead you to more.
    • Before the speed-dating in New York (which was fully inbound), Eventbrite was used to organize tech meetups in the then-smaller tech community in SF. It was even used for the first TechCrunch Disrupt!
  • Too much capital (and too little accountability) can hurt a company much more than help it. Capital covers up problems, distracts focus from customers, and leads to poor resource allocation.
    • Kevin: "The periods where we had raised the most money privately were the hardest and most difficult for me, because we were really fighting this gravity of overspending and creating inefficiency. And it took us away from our roots as a capital-efficient, highly-effective perpetual motion machine [that we'd had as a bootstrapped company]."
  • Being a public company not only instills more capital allocation discipline, but can ALSO afford a degree of financial flexibility that just isn't possible as a private company.
    • Within weeks of COVID hitting, Eventbrite dramatically shrunk the size and scope of the company AND raised $375m in new capital from new and longterm shareholders. Both actions would have been difficult to impossible as a private company with a static valuation (and associated anti-dilution, ratchet terms, etc) that no longer reflected the reality of the current situation.
Aug 25, 2020
Pinduoduo
01:51:46

We kick off Season 7 with a bang: Pinduoduo, the incredible five year-old Chinese mashup of "Costco and Disneyland" (as self-described in their IPO prospectus) which recently became the fastest company ever to pass $100B market capitalization. What makes PDD so special, and how were they able to enter a market that everyone considered "already won" and disrupt massive entrenched competitors Alibaba and JD.com? This story is chock-full of lessons that apply not only to China tech, but to high-growth company building and investing everywhere.

Want more Acquired, including access to the LP Show, LP Calls and the Book Club? Join the Limited Partner program at: https://glow.fm/acquired/

Links:

Carve Outs

Sponsors:

  • Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.com
  • Thank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at: https://growwithbamboo.com and https://www.perkinscoie.com/

Sources:

Jul 16, 2020
LP Show Preview: Consumer Investing Master Class with Sarah Tavel, General Partner at Benchmark
14:50

On this preview of our most recent LP Show episode, Benchmark General Partner Sarah Tavel joins us for a master class on consumer investing. We start with why invest in consumer at all (given the inherent risks of its "hit-driven nature"), then deep dive on marketplace investing and wrap up with social, gaming and consumer transactional businesses. Big thank you to Sarah for sharing her immense knowledge on this topic, and to her partner (and fellow Acquired "master class lecturer" on enterprise investing) Chetan Puttagunta for introducing us and for making it happen!

 

This episode is a preview of the hour-long LP-only show. You can sign up to become an LP and get access to the full episode (and much more) at: https://glow.fm/acquired/

 

Links to Sarah's blog posts:

Jul 07, 2020
Oprah (Harpo Studios)
02:08:22

We close out Season 6 with the story of perhaps the single most successful media entrepreneur of all-time: Oprah Winfrey, and her juggernaut conglomerate Harpo Studios. Born to a poor single mother in the segregated 1950's deep south, Oprah's rise from terrible adversity to wealthiest Black woman in the world ranks among the very greatest American success stories. And oh yeah — along the way she single-handedly created the entire influencer economy, rewrote the blueprint of a modern power broker, and set the world record for most cars given away at one time (276). Sit back, listen and get ready to live your best life.

 

Want more Acquired, including access to the LP Show, LP Calls and the full Acquired Book Club? Join the Acquired Limited Partner program at: https://glow.fm/acquired/

Survey link!: http://acquired.fm/survey

 

Carveouts:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/

Sources:

Jun 25, 2020
SpaceX
02:39:35

On the eve of SpaceX's historic scheduled launch of its first human spaceflight mission — both the first ever by a private company, and the first to take place on American soil in nearly a decade — we tell the incredible story of its rise from ragtag rocket jocks to the most disruptive and advanced force in aerospace today. While much of the Musk spotlight has shone on Tesla in recent years, is SpaceX actually the company that will have the greatest impact on our world's future, and perhaps even other worlds beyond? All of a sudden that idea seems a little less crazy...

Want more Acquired? Join thousands of other founders, CEOs, VCs, product people and engineers learning in the Limited Partner Program: https://glow.fm/acquired/

Links:

Carveouts:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini — you can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/

Sources:

May 26, 2020
Adapting Episode 3: Intel
01:18:44

Want more Acquired? Join thousands of other founders, CEOs, VCs, product people and engineers learning in the Acquired Limited Partner Program: https://glow.fm/acquired/

When you think of Intel today, you probably think of the microprocessor company. Maybe you also think about about 'Intel Inside' and their famous jingle. You might even think "big, stable, boring public company". But for the first two decades of Intel's life, absolutely none of those things were true. Today we tell the incredible story of how the company that started it all in Silicon Valley clawed back from a crisis that brought them to the brink of death, and of one man who rose as the ultimate survivor to become their leader and a legend even in his own time: the late, great Andy Grove.

Note: This episode originally aired as part of Podapalooza, a podcast festival organized by our friends at Glow to benefit COVID relief. Find out more and support the cause at https://www.plza.org

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Adapting and Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/impact
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/

Sources:

May 12, 2020
Special Episode: Jason Calacanis
01:31:53

Want an edge in your business like Jason? Join thousands of other founders, CEOs, VCs, product people and engineers learning in the Acquired Limited Partner program at: http://glow.fm/acquired


We're joined by the one and only Jason Calacanis for this very special episode, wherein we chronicle Jason's journey from a kid porter in the barrooms of Brooklyn to building the largest independent media business in tech, becoming the "3rd or 4th greatest seed investor of all-time" (and the original Sequoia Scout), launching one of the top accelerators in the world, and constructing a one-man empire that may just disrupt the entire capital stack in our industry. We dive into how it all ties together, and where the money and power is shifting in the ever changing sands of Silicon Valley...

For the second half of this extended conversation, join the Acquired LP program at https://glow.fm/acquired/

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Adapting and Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/impact
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/
Apr 29, 2020
Podapalooza Announcement: Intel
05:26

Missing Acquired? We are too. But the world's not done adapting just yet, and neither are we. So get ready for (in the immortal words of Sammy Hagar) the best of both worlds: an Acquired + Adapting crossover lollapalooza... at Podapalooza 2020! We'll be covering the mother of all adaptations, Intel's abandonment of the memory business in favor of microprocessors in the mid-1980's.

What is Podapalooza? It's a charity podcast festival that our friends over at Glow are putting on next weekend, April 25-26, and we're really excited to be part of it. Dozens of the best podcasters on the internet (e.g., Patrick at Invest Like the Best, Levar Burton, Cory Doctorow, J.D. Vance, etc.) are creating exclusive content for the festival, with all proceeds going to COVID-19 relief. As Glow puts it, Podapalooza is the 2020 version of Live-Aid: podcast hosts instead of rockers, pajamas at home instead of big hair on stage, but still the same purpose of supporting relief for the most important cause of this moment. We think it's a really great idea -- we've already bought our tickets and hope you do too. You can sign up at: https://www.podapalooza.org

Apr 15, 2020
Adapting Episode 2: Sequoia’s Black Swan Memo (with Roelof Botha)
36:56

On March 5th 2020, Sequoia Capital published a Medium post entitled ‘Coronavirus: The Black Swan of 2020’. The memo minces no words, admonishing founders & CEOs to “question every assumption about your business”, and portends that “as Darwin surmised, those who [will] survive ‘are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.’” We’re joined by longtime Sequoia partner and head of the firm’s US business Roelof Botha to discuss on what Sequoia saw leading up to the memo and why they decided to publish it, how they and their portfolio companies are adapting to the new world it warned of, and what lasting changes might come to Sequoia itself from this moment. For anyone facing hard decisions and/or looking for ways to think about opportunity, this is not one to miss.



Want more Adapting/Acquired? You can join the Acquired Limited Partner program at: https://glow.fm/acquired/


Links:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Adapting and Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/
Mar 31, 2020
Adapting Episode 1: Canlis
43:14

The world has changed. Acquired is changing too: we’re taking a pause from our normal episodes. The world doesn’t need stories of M&A and IPOs right now. But it does still need stories of great companies and great leaders. So we’re taking everything that we’ve put into Acquired - our format, our infrastructure, and the way we can reach all of you - and launching Adapting. Adapting is a series all about doing just that -- changing to fit what the world needs right now, not what it needed last week.

Our first episode starts on the front lines of change: the local restaurant industry. Mark Canlis joins us to discuss how the world-renowned Canlis restaurant in Seattle is adapting by simultaneously closing their 70 year old dining room service, and launching three brand new, no-contact concept restaurants in just one week to keep their staff employed and the city fed:

"Pretty quickly we realized that it would be just as risky to do nothing as it would to do something really radical. And if we were gonna live into our values, every once and awhile that’s really going to cost you something."

This conversation is an incredible inspiration to us all, and a reminder of the vast power of the human spirit during challenging times. 

Want more Adapting/Acquired? You can join the Acquired Limited Partner program at: https://glow.fm/acquired/

Sponsor:

•Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Adapting and Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next

•Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/

Mar 20, 2020
The Top 10 Acquisitions of All-Time
01:44:50

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

5 years and 100+ episodes into Acquired, there’s been one question we get asked more than any other: what are the best acquisitions of all-time, and what can we learn from them? We thought it was time to formalize our answers. So here it is, the Acquired Greatest Hits album. :)

We also put together an accompanying blog post, which goes into greater detail on the numbers and methodology behind out rankings. You can find it here: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/acquired-top-ten-the-best-acquisitions-of-all-time

Feel free to share with your friends or on social media!

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/
Mar 17, 2020
LP Show Preview: Remote Work, No-Code, and Products that Sell Themselves (w/ Zapier CEO Wade Foster)
15:35

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

We're joined by Wade Foster, cofounder & CEO of Zapier, a company that basically hasn’t raised capital, doesn’t have an office, doesn’t have salespeople, and whose product consists solely of connecting other people’s products. And yet today they are doing well over $50M in profitable ARR, have hundreds of employees and thousands of hyper-passionate customers, and are one of the most interesting private SaaS companies in the world. We’re super excited for Wade to join us and dive into the full story of this came to be!

This episode is a preview of the hour-long LP-only show.

Mar 05, 2020
Sequoia Capital Part II (with Doug Leone)
01:01:20

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

The wait is over. Acquired returns with a very special Part II of the Sequoia Capital story, joined by the very best person in the world to help us tell it - Doug Leone. Since 1996, Doug has served as Sequoia’s Global Managing Partner, in charge of overseeing the firm’s incredible expansion from a single, $150m early-stage fund focused on Northern California to the multi-billion dollar global powerhouse it is today. Doug is incredibly candid and insightful about all that has gone into building the modern Sequoia: from winning Google and missing Facebook, to the enormous (and enormously successful) bet on decentralized expansion in China and India, to the firm’s “proudest moment” at the depth of the dot com bust. This episode is an absolute must-listen for anyone in the tech, startup and venture ecosystems today. Thank you to Doug and all of the Sequoia team for joining us to make it happen!

 

Note:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/

 

Sources:

Feb 18, 2020
WhatsApp
01:46:20

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

We kick off Season 6 with a long-awaited Acquired Classic: Facebook’s $22B purchase of WhatsApp in 2014, which still ranks as the largest acquisition of a private VC-backed startup in history. Yet despite that enormous pricetag and all its associated fanfare, as we sit here 5+ years later WhatsApp actually generates LESS revenue than the meager ~$20m it was bringing in at the time of acquisition. Was this this worst acquisition of all-time, or a brilliant strategic chess move by Mark Zuckerberg & co? Tune in as we render Acquired’s judgement! 

Note: Unfortunately David’s audio quality in this episode was impacted by a technical glitch which we didn’t discover until after recording. Our editors worked super hard to fix in post-production, but it’s still not totally perfect. We hope you’ll give it a listen regardless, and we’re working on getting a transcript made ASAP, which we’ll post to the website when it’s ready. Thanks for bearing with us,

-Ben & David

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for being our banner sponsor for Acquired Season 6. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next
  • Thank you as well to Wilson Sonsini - You can learn more about WSGR at: https://www.wsgr.com/ 

 

Sources:

Jan 29, 2020
The Lean Startup and the Long-Term Stock Exchange (with Eric Ries)
01:19:03

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile) 
You can hear a preview of our most recent LP show, an interview with Webflow cofounder and CEO Vlad Magdalin, at the end of this episode. To get access to the rest of that conversation and many more with top founders, operators and investors, click the link to subscribe and become an Acquired LP.
 

Season 5, Episode 10: The Lean Startup and the Long-Term Stock Exchange (with Eric Ries)

Acquired closes out Season 5 and 2019 with a radical look into both the past and future decades of startup company building, investing and - yes, exiting - in conversation with legendary Lean Startup author Eric Ries. Nine years on from pioneering the now-canonical concepts of product-market fit, minimum viable products, and pivots during the aftermath of the financial crisis, Eric’s new venture at the Long-Term Stock Exchange represents an equally ambitious attempt to rewrite the orthodoxy of how companies and their investors manage liquidity, governance and alignment around longterm value creation. Like Lean Startup a decade before it, can LTSE help address some of the endemic problems in this generation’s startup ecosystem — excessive capital raising, stay-private-longer, dual-class founder hegemony, extreme illiquidity and quarterly earnings myopia? Tune in to find out!

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 5. You can get in touch with Lewis Hower, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here: http://bit.ly/2SCsbbs
Dec 30, 2019
Convoy (with CEO Dan Lewis)
01:34:58

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Coming to you live from the University of Washington, Ben and David are joined by hundreds of awesome Seattle listeners (and a few non-Seattle listeners!) to cover the meteoric rise of trucking industry disruptor and hometown hero Convoy. How did Dan and Convoy go from nervously conducting market research at truck stops on I-5 to one of the largest logistics companies and fastest-growing startups in the world in just four short years, raising over $650m (not a typo) along the way? Tune in to find out!

Special thank you to the Paul Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington and to Pioneer Square Labs for generously sponsoring the show venue. 

 

Carveouts: 

Sponsor: 

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 5. You can get in touch with Minh Le, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here: http://bit.ly/2txmq4e
Dec 19, 2019
TikTok
01:36:58

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

We take Acquired to the Old Town Road to cover the amazing story behind the biggest global sensation of 2019 — and the highest valued private startup in the world — TikTok. How did a mid-30 year old UX architect at enterprise software giant SAP wind up creating Gen Z’s favorite social app that’s now rivaling Instagram in global MAU? Why is a 2017 merger of two Chinese companies being branded a US national security threat and retroactively placed under review by CFIUS? And perhaps most importantly, why is TikTok such an important product & technology innovation that all of us should be learning from? Tune in for all the answers!

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 5. You can get in touch with Dan Hardman, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here: http://bit.ly/35yIrNH

 

Sources:

Dec 09, 2019
Disney, Plus
02:12:20

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Attend the Seattle Live Show with Dan Lewis, Co-Founder and CEO of Convoy! http://acquired.fm/liveshow

 

The Flywheel is strong with this one. We dive deep into the origins of one of the boldest business strategy decisions of our time: Disney CEO Bob Iger’s attempt to buck the Innovator’s Dilemma - and forego billions of dollars in cashflow from Netflix and pay TV providers - in order to establish a direct distribution relationship with its customers for the first time in the company’s history. Is this the force awakening within the house that Walt built, or a phantom menace that will drag Disney to the dark side of unprofitability? Tune in to find out!

 

Links:

 

Sources: 

 

Carveouts: 

 

Sponsor: 

Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 5. You can get in touch with Dan Hardman, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here: http://bit.ly/35yIrNH

Nov 25, 2019
Seattle Live Show Announcement: Convoy!
02:18

We're loading up the Acquired live experience and trucking north (for David at least) for our first independent live show in Seattle! Hot on the heels of the company's recent $400m fundraise at a $2.7B valuation, we'll be joined by Convoy CEO Dan Lewis to dive deep into the origins of this massive transportation logistics disruptor. 

Register to attend here: http://acquired.fm/liveshow

Date: December 17th, 2019
Time: 5:00-8:00pm (subject to change)
Location: TBD, Seattle

Hope to see many of you there!
-Ben & David

Nov 18, 2019
LP Show Preview: Chetan Puttagunta, General Partner at Benchmark
08:45

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

On this episode of the Limited Partner bonus show, we are joined by Chetan Puttagunta, General Partner on Benchmark, talking his investment philosophies, enterprise technology trends, and the uniqueness of Benchmark. How is this firm with only five partners and no associates so repeatably successful? Chetan shares the story of his very first investment, MongoDB, and lessons learned from his other investments and board positions in Elastic, Sketch, Duffel, Mulesoft, and many others.

Chetan also helps us understand how he balances staying open-minded enough to let founders shape his vision of the future (and not the other way around), while staying educated on areas where he thinks the future is bright.

This episode is a preview of the hour-long LP-only show.

Nov 11, 2019
The WeWork “Acquisition” (with Dan Primack)
01:34:32

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

It’s an IPO, it’s a bailout, it’s an... acquisition? We’re joined by the one and only Dan Primack from Axios to recount the epic saga of the We Company in all its tragic glory. How did this business somehow go from chopping up commercial real estate to elevating global consciousness to rewarding its ousted CEO with a $1.7B “platinum parachute”, all while the company can’t afford severance for thousands of soon-to-be laid-off employees? Where did it all go wrong? And most importantly, who gets the Gulfstream G650??

 

Sponsor: 

Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 5. You can get in touch with Claire Lee, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here: http://bit.ly/2pPSyy2 and read 2019’s Startup Outlook report here: https://www.svb.com/startup-outlook-report-2019 and take this year’s survey here: http://bit.ly/2BFneEK 

Oct 25, 2019
Season 5, Episode 5: Atari (with Nolan Bushnell)
01:35:29

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

We’re joined by the legendary Nolan Bushnell, founder not only of Atari, but also the only person ever to hire Steve Jobs, the recipient of Sequoia Capital’s first-ever investment, and the creator of Chuck E. Cheese, the canonical GPS navigation arrow, and a little project that would go on to become Pixar. We cover it all in this special episode!

 

Links:

 

Sponsor:

Oct 15, 2019
Sequoia Capital (Part 1)
01:45:55

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

Acquired dives into the history behind storied venture firm Sequoia Capital and its legendary founder, Don Valentine. Part 1 tells Don’s story, starting from humble beginnings born to uneducated parents in Yonkers, NY, through shaping the fabric of Silicon Valley first as head of Sales & Marketing at both Fairchild and National Semiconductor, and then for generations to come via his pioneering concept of “company building” at Sequoia Capital. No matter where you sit in the ecosystem today, Don and the companies he helped build laid the foundation for nearly everything technology has become over the past 60 years.

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring Acquired Season 5. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next

 

Sources:

Sep 26, 2019
San Francisco Meetup Announcement!
02:27

Special announcement: we're hosting a meetup in San Francisco! It's been too long and and we can't wait to see many of you. It will be Wednesday, September 25 2019, exact time and location TBD but likely starting at 6pm. You can register at https://www.acquired.fm/meetup 

The event is free, but space will be limited so please only register if you know you can make it. 

Hope to see many of you there!

-Ben and David 

Sep 13, 2019
Google Maps
01:35:27

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

Ben and David cover the series of three 2004 Google acquisitions that formed the core of Google Maps as we know and love it today: Where 2 Technologies, Keyhole and ZipDash. From nearly zero adoption between the three companies at the time of acquisition to well over 1 billion users today, does Google Maps merit admission to the hallowed Acquired A+ pantheon? Tune in to find out!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring Acquired Season 5. You can learn more about SVB here: https://www.svb.com/next and get in touch with Matt Trotter here: https://www.svb.com/profile/matt-trotter

Aug 26, 2019
The Shopify IPO
01:24:37

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

  

Ben and David head north of the border to Ottawa, Canada to cover perhaps one of the greatest IPO success stories of the past 5 years, Shopify. From humble beginnings as a “lifestyle business” hawking hipster snowboard gear online to now routinely mentioned in the same breath as Amazon, the tale of Shopify and its incredible CEO Tobi Lütke’s ascent is not one to miss!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring Acquired Season 5. You can learn more about SVB at: https://www.svb.com/next

 

Editor's note: Shopify actually powered $41b of sales, not $14b, in 2018, as discussed toward the end of the episode. $14b was the fourth-quarter number. While this changes the analysis of value captured at the end of the episode (Shopify only captures 2.5% of merchant sales as their own revenue, not 7%, which is admittedly very different), it doesn’t change overall sentiment on the company discussed in the episode.

Aug 06, 2019
Huawei
01:02:50

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

  

For our first episode of Season 5, Acquired returns to Shenzhen to cover another Chinese technology giant, this one slightly... different from our past subjects: Huawei. From a backwater importer of PBX switches to the world’s second largest handset manufacturer and near-undisputed leader in 5G infrastructure technology, Huawei’s ascent over the past 30 years has been nothing short of spectacular, equaled only by the spectacular fireworks of recent events surrounding the company. What’s the story behind this global telecom giant, and what does its future portend for global tech and US - China relations? We dive in.

 

Links

 

Carve Outs

 

Sponsor

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring Acquired Season 5. You can get in touch with Andy Tsao, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here: https://www.svb.com/profile/andy-tsao
Jul 22, 2019
Superhuman (with CEO Rahul Vohra)
01:16:43

Please take the 2019 Acquired Survey. It takes 5-10 minutes, helps us immensely, and you may win a pair of new AirPods or a free 1-year subscription to the LP show! http://acquired.fm/survey

 

We wrap up Season 4 with a very special (and accidental!) episode, a conversation with the CEO of Superhuman, the red hot email productivity app which just announced their $33m Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz. While originally intended as an LP episode, we felt Superhuman would provide the perfect bookend to our “modern enterprise productivity trilogy” following our Zoom and Slack episodes. We hope you enjoy the conversation with Rahul as much as we did, and we’ll see you later this summer for Season 5!

 

Links

 

Sponsor

 

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Jun 27, 2019
The Slack DPO
01:55:24

Please take the 2019 Acquired Survey. It takes 5-10 minutes, helps us immensely, and you may win a pair of new AirPods or a free 1-year subscription to the LP show! http://acquired.fm/survey

 

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an... enterprise software company? We give the full Acquired treatment to newly-public Slack, one of the most extreme and successful pivots of all-time. From a log cabin in Canada to a never-ending game and back again, Slack’s journey has more twists and turns than a Hobbit’s tale. Tune in for one APLUSS story you don’t want to miss!

 

Links

 

Carve Outs

 

Sponsor

 

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Jun 25, 2019
The Zoom IPO (with Santi Subotovsky)
01:16:07

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

Zoom board member (and general partner at Emergence Capital) Santi Subotovsky joins us to tell the true underdog story behind the hottest IPO of 2019. Together we trace founder Eric Yuan’s incredible journey from immigrant software developer, who didn’t speak any English upon arriving in Silicon Valley in 1997, to Glassdoor’s #1 rated CEO in America in 2018. In an age where border walls have replaced open doors in Washington, and burn rates and privacy scandals have sidelined Silicon Valley’s pretense of making the world a better place, there is no better reminder than Zoom of everything that can be great about our country and our industry.

 

Links

 

Carve Outs

 

Sponsor

Jun 19, 2019
The Electronic Arts IPO (with Trip Hawkins)
01:57:57

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

Acquired looks back at a monumental IPO from a *much* different era: Electronic Arts. We’re joined by EA’s founder Trip Hawkins to tell the incredible story of how he built the company that made video games mainstream. Starting from his high school years as both a geek and a jock, to then working for Steve Jobs as one of Apple Computer’s first employees and later completely changing the world of sports with John Madden Football, Trip always had a clear vision for what EA could become and what magic could happen at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts.

 

Sponsor

May 27, 2019
The Uber IPO
02:20:11

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

Welcome to the big one. On the day of its IPO, we tell the story of Uber. It’s a story whose roots stretch back 130 years, but whose impact reverberates perhaps more powerfully on our current world than any other. A story that, in all of its greatness and in all of its ugliness, may just be the story of our time.

 

Links

 

Sponsor

May 11, 2019
The Pinterest IPO
01:37:56

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

In the second episode of our APLUSS(Z!) IPO saga, we dive into the history behind the planet’s largest non-social social network, Pinterest. From The Pirates of Silicon Valley to the bloggers of Salt Lake City, the creation story behind this “productivity tool for planning your dreams” is far from your typical unicorn journey. Once labelled as the “next Facebook” by investors and press, ten years later both Pinterest-the-product and Pinterest-the-company are in fact anything but. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing… tune in to find out!

  

Links

 

Carve Outs

 

Sponsor

Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 4. You can get in touch with Kara Tatman, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, at https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/kara-e-tatman.html

Apr 24, 2019
The Lyft IPO
02:16:03

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

Call it the playoffs. Call it the Olympics. Call it March Madness. No matter which sports analogy you borrow, it falls short of capturing what Lyft's IPO yesterday kicked off in the tech world. A generational changing of the guard from the FAANG to the APLUSS (Airbnb, Pinterest, Lyft, Uber, Slack, Stripe). A breaking of the liquidity dam that's kept capital, technology and talent locked up in a small number of Silicon Valley winners for longer than ever in history. And most importantly, a public market avenue for investing in the largest single market created since the advent of the internet. Acquired is live on the scene recounting and analyzing the history of Lyft (and ridesharing broadly) in every exquisite detail!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

Mar 30, 2019
LP sneak peek: How to build a successful SaaS company (with Jake Saper, Partner at Emergence Capital)
15:29

Hey Acquired listeners, our latest LP guest conversation was so good, we wanted to share some of it with everyone. We dove deep into the gritty details of SaaS investing and company building with the best in the business, Jake Saper from Emergence Capital. Emergence has been around since the beginning of SaaS and — uniquely for a venture firm — is entirely focused on early-stage investing within it. They were early investors in major successes like Salesforce, Veeva, SuccessFactors, Box and Yammer, and more recently Gusto, Zoom and many more. This episode is a must-listen for anyone investing in, operating in or thinking about modern SaaS companies!

If you liked this conversation and want to hear more, you can join the Acquired Limited Partner program at https://glow.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

You can also sign up for Emergence's regular email newsletter on SaaS topics at: eepurl.com/c1IPvf

Mar 06, 2019
Season 4, Episode 3: Instagram Revisited (with Emily White)
01:10:41

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

We enter the wayback machine and revisit the subject of Acquired’s second ever episode, Facebook’s bombshell 2012 acquisition of Instagram — this time with the help of then-Facebook executive Emily White, who moved over post-acquisition to become Instagram’s first business head. Together with Kevin and Mike, Emily helped build Instagram's business model, which today accounts for nearly 1/4 of all of Facebook’s revenue. Is this still Acquired’s canonical A+ with an extra 3.5 years of hindsight? Spoiler alert: yes. 

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

Feb 26, 2019
Spotify + Gimlet/Anchor Quick Take + Worldwide Meetup Details!
40:30

Worldwide Meetup Details!

Join us on February 21, 2019 at 530pm PT (830pm ET) at https://zoom.us/j/196930784 for our first worldwide meetup! Ben and David will be live on video hanging out and taking questions on both Slack and Zoom.

 

Spotify + Gimlet/Anchor Quick Take!

We continue to experiment on Acquired, this time with a quick-take on Spotify’s bombshell dual-acquisition of Anchor and Gimlet Media. While we may give these deals the full Acquired treatment in the future, we wanted to share our quick thoughts with you all sooner rather than later while the Acquired research department (aka Ben & David’s free time) works through the current episode backlog. Let us know if you like this format and we’ll do more in the future!

 

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! (Apropos ;)  >https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Feb 19, 2019
Season 4, Episode 2: ARM & SoftBank
01:22:33

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

We dive into the crazy, little-known story of how this small, former PC-maker in Cambridge, England dethroned Intel, saved Apple from bankruptcy, became the blueprint for the largest investment fund in history, and of course now powers just about every device you use today. From Issac Newton to the Apple Newton, the Vision Fund and beyond, ARM has had an impact on the technology industry that cannot be overstated!

 

Meetup!

To celebrate passing 1m downloads, we’re hosting a worldwide meetup! Join us on February 21, 2019 at 530pm PT (830pm ET) on Zoom and Slack for our first worldwide meetup. Ben and David will be live on video hanging out and taking questions on both Slack and Zoom. Check Slack and our website for details and the Zoom link as we get closer!

 

Links:

 

Sponsor:

Feb 03, 2019
Season 4, Episode 1: ESPN
01:22:14

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! >https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Booyah! Acquired, the worldwide leader in acquisitions and IPOs, kicks off Season 4 with a classic: ESPN. How did a failed former TV weatherman end up building the world’s most valuable media company on top of a dump (quite literally) in Bristol, Connecticut? We follow the incredible entrepreneurial journey from Getty Oil diversification strategy to Berkshire Hathaway home run to Disney crown jewel. This Is Awesome, Baby!!

Links:

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

Jan 21, 2019
Season 3, Episode 10: Tencent
01:49:31

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

 

We close out Season 3 and our China mini-series with a monster episode on Tencent, the Shenzhen-based social networking and entertainment powerhouse. We dive deep into the story of Pony Ma and his cofounders’ incredible journey from making software for pagers(!) to QQ, WeChat, League of Legends, Fortnite, Snapchat and even Tesla. This is one finale you don’t want to miss!

 

Carve Outs:

  • Ben: President Obama’s OG podcast! https://bit.ly/2BqXxHJ
  • David: Kara Swisher’s interview with the Google Walkout organizers: https://bit.ly/2RwuskZ
  • David (bonus!): Allen Iverson on the Players’ Tribune: https://bit.ly/2EkrRHQ

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to our great partners Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3! You can get in touch with SVB here: https://www.svb.com
Dec 17, 2018
LP Show Preview: Product-Market Fit
01:04:23

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! (works best on mobile)

https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/

We often get asked, “what type of content is on the Limited Partner Bonus Shows?” Well, we figure an episode is worth a thousand words (er, something like that), so we’re releasing one of our LP bonus shows in the main feed.

On this episode, we dive into the most elusive aspect of early-stage investing and company building: finding product-market fit.

We’ll be back next week with our regularly scheduled programming: the Season 3 finale on Tencent!

Dec 10, 2018
Season 3, Episode 9: Netflix (Part 2)
01:24:29

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/(works best on mobile)

 

We complete our two-part Netflix special with the company’s bold transition to streaming, including of course the most (in)famous spin-out in business history. Rising from the ashes of Qwikster, we chronicle Netflix’s rebirth as a media company and long journey back to the top of the FAANG mountaintop!

 

Links:

  • Netflix’s Qwikster apology video: https://youtu.be/c8Tn8n5CIPk
  • SNL parody of the apology video: https://bit.ly/2PWEyyZ
  • Evolution of Netflix home page: https://read.bi/2KvHdte
  • The Chaos Monkey: https://bit.ly/1qkqDxZ 
  • Benedict Evans’ chart of FAANG stocks: https://bit.ly/2r3D72A

 

Carve Outs:

  • Ben: Kevin Rose interviews Matthew Walker on sleep: https://bit.ly/2LpIl5v
  • David: Justin O’Beirne on Apple’s new Maps: https://bit.ly/2zrQ76Z

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Al Guerrero, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here: https://bit.ly/2AjQZtJ , and read his Medium post here: https://bit.ly/2zpibb3
Nov 25, 2018
Season 3, Episode 8: Netflix (Part 1)
01:26:14

Join the Acquired Limited Parter program! (works best on mobile)

 

In a world ravaged by late fees and lack of rewinding, one man two men from a sleepy California beach town make a stand against tyranny, daringly dethrone an evil empire and… oh who are we kidding, they just copied Amazon’s business plan for books and applied it to movie rentals. But as always there is much more to the story than that! We dive into the fascinating, true, and oft-untold history of Netflix in our first two-part special on Acquired. Part 1 covers Netflix’s original DVD rental business from founding to 2009, and next time on Part 2 we’ll cover the (rocky) transition to streaming from 2010 to present. Buckle up for a wild ride!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Theron McCollough, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Nov 12, 2018
Acquired Season 3 Episode 7: Venmo (live with Andrew Kortina)
01:08:52

Our latest experiment! Become an Acquired Limited Partner and get access to LP-only bonus content: http://kimberlite.fm/acquired

————

Ben & David are joined by special guest and Venmo cofounder Andrew Kortina for our first-ever SF live show! In front of a packed house we chronicle the journey of how two freshman-year roommates from Penn turned a healthy obsession with Craigslist and a fake podcast into an app that facilitated $17B of payments last quarter alone, producing not one but two landmark acquisitions along the way!

Note: the audio quality is a little rough due to some A/V issues at the live show. We apologize!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Reetika Grewal, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Oct 29, 2018
Season 3, Episode 6: Behance (with Scott Belsky)
01:11:41

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Ben and David are joined by Adobe’s Chief Product Officer, Behance founder, Benchmark partner, author, and product luminary, Scott Belsky, to tell the story of Adobe Systems’ 2012 acquisition of Behance. We dive into the role it played in of one of the greatest (and least well-known) pivots of all time: Adobe’s transition from packaged software to services, which over the past 6 years has generated an astounding $100B+ in market cap and nearly 10x growth in Adobe’s share price!

 

Announcement: We're super excited to announce our first SF live show on October 24th, 2018! We have an amazing story and guest lined up who we can’t wait to share with you all. :) Tickets are very limited due to space constraints: please register early at http://acquired.fm/liveshow

 

Links:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Adam Millsom, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Oct 02, 2018
Season 3, Episode 5: Alibaba
01:33:57

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

We continue our China Tech series with perhaps the most incredible entrepreneurial journey in history: Alibaba and its indefatigable founder, Jack Ma. How did an unknown 30 year-old English teacher from a second tier Chinese city build the world’s 7th largest company by market cap (and the largest in China) in just 20 short years? This is one story you don’t want to miss.

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Eric Zhou, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Sep 24, 2018
Season 3, Episode 4: Recode (with Kara Swisher)
01:23:43

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

In this special episode Ben & David head to Recode’s SF office and sit down in the red chair with the one & only Kara Swisher! Kara tells the story of Recode, from the beginnings of her partnership with Walt Mossberg in the late 90’s at WSJ to the launch of the D Conference and the All Things D blog, to starting Recode and ultimately being acquired by Vox Media in 2015. Kara is someone we’ve long looked up to at Acquired, and it was really special to have her join us on the show. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

 

Links:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Jeremy Shure, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Sep 11, 2018
Season 3, Episode 3: The Sonos IPO
01:34:33

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Ben and David are (almost) live on the scene covering the plucky Southern California “camera company”… uh wait, wrong episode… we mean *speaker* company’s IPO! Continuing the long Acquired tradition of analyzing companies at the intersection of music, tech and business, we discuss the past, present and future of Sonos in world where speakers actually now… speak! 

Links:

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Rob Freelen, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Aug 20, 2018
Season 3, Episode 2: The Xiaomi IPO
01:13:23

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Acquired kicks off our China tech mini-series by teaming up with the best in the business: Hans and Zara from GGV’s 996 Podcast! Together we cover the largest technology IPO in the world since fellow China tech giant Alibaba in 2014: Xiaomi, where Hans has been an investor and board member from the very beginning. This episode is chock full of history and insight on both Xiaomi and what’s happening in China tech more broadly, and why we all should be paying attention. No matter where you live, this is definitely not one to miss!

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Steven Pipp, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Aug 06, 2018
Season 3, Episode 1: Tesla
01:59:19

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Acquired kicks off Season 3 with a gangbuster two-hour extravaganza on America’s most successful automotive startup since The Ford Motor Company: Tesla. We cover everything, from founding to its 2010 IPO to all that’s happened since, including the question on the minds of superhero fans everywhere: who came first, Elon Musk or Tony Stark? (Spoiler: Elon)

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring Acquired Season 3. You can get in touch with Jordan Kanis, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Jul 17, 2018
Season 2, Episode 10: The Rover-DogVacay Merger (with Rover CEO Aaron Easterly)
01:07:55

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Please click here to take the 2018 Acquired Survey. It takes 5-10 minutes, helps us immensely, and you may win a pair of AirPods or equivalent Android-friendly listening accessory (woo!)

Acquired wraps up Season 2 with our first “elusive” private-private merger: Rover.com and its 2017 combination with rival pet care marketplace DogVacay. We’re joined by Rover CEO Aaron Easterly to dive into the full history of how the crazy idea of “Airbnb for dogs” not only became a billion-dollar company, but also brought our heroes together for the first time and led to the founding of Acquired!

 

Links:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Gina Eiben, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Jun 18, 2018
Season 2, Episode 9: GitHub
01:23:46

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We’re live on the scene the day following the biggest announcement in the open source software world since well, open source software: Microsoft acquiring GitHub for $7.5B in stock. How did we get here? What does it mean for software developers going forward? And most importantly, why is there a creepy half-cat / half-octopus plastered all over everything? As always, Acquired has the answers. 

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Lee Schindler, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Jun 06, 2018
Season 2, Episode 8: T-Mobile / Sprint
01:21:15

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If you thought the telecom business was boring, think again! Acquired brings you an episode packed with more drama than an entire season of Game of Thrones. Starting with a death in the family, we follow a tale of fortunes lost and rebuilt, bitter battles between rivals who once worked for each other, and at the center of it all, a lesson in the power of stable cashflow businesses. This is one call you don’t want to drop!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Gina Eiben, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
May 21, 2018
Season 2, Episode 7: PowerPoint
01:14:12

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Acquired returns with a classic, delving into Microsoft’s first acquisition ever: Forethought Inc, the makers of PowerPoint. Hate it or love it, you can’t deny the combined companies’ impact: by the early 90’s PowerPoint had transformed the way businesses, educators and governments communicate, ensuring job security for pointy-haired Dilbert bosses everywhere.

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Gina Eiben, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
May 04, 2018
Season 2, Episode 6: Spotify’s Direct Listing
01:44:38

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Acquired wraps up a big few weeks of coverage with not an IPO or an M&A or a fundraising round, but what’s still the largest tech exit in recent memory: Spotify’s $30B direct public listing. We dive into what it all means and how we got here: from Napster to iTunes to Facebook (and even some Justin Timberlake thrown in for good measure). Acquired FM is on the scene and spinning all the hits from this new wave music industry titan! 

 

Note: We incorrectly described Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s ownership stake in Spotify as 25%+; that is actually his voting control. His economic ownership is 9.3%, and cofounder Martin Lorentzon’s is 12.4%. We apologize for the error!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Lee Schindler, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Apr 06, 2018
Season 2, Episode 5: The Dropbox IPO
01:37:33

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Acquired is live on the scene following Dropbox’s public market debut. From playing a central role in the early days of Y Combinator, to having Steve Jobs famously label the company a “feature not a product”, to pivoting from consumers to enterprise to developers and back again, the silicon valley history runs deep with this one. What twists and turns lie ahead for Dropbox as a public company? We speculate!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Lee Schindler, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Mar 26, 2018
Season 2, Episode 4: SoftBank, Fortress and the Vision Fund
01:28:04

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Acquired dives into the topic on the minds and lips of just about every VC and founder these days: SoftBank’s $93B+ Vision Fund, and its seemingly-overnight rewriting of the rules of venture capital and startup fundraising. Where did this new 800lbs gorilla come from, what are its goals, and what does it mean for the future of silicon valley and the global tech ecosystem? The answer, it turns out, starts with an acquisition, and unfolds into a story no one has yet told and few yet understand. Luckily our heroes are on the case!

 

Links:

 

Carve Outs:

  • Ben: eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work
  • David: Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (starting with The Three-Body Problem)
  • Bonus: shout out to Brian McCullough’s new podcast the Ride Home, in partnership with TechMeme!

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Lee Schindler, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Mar 23, 2018
Season 2, Episode 3: Nest
01:32:43

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Acquired brings it all back home—to the smart home that is—with Google’s 2014 acquisition of Nest for $3.2B. From Nest cofounder Tony Fadell’s first job at General Magic (alongside future Android founder Andy Rubin) to his days as “father of the iPod” under Steve Jobs at Apple, the Silicon Valley history runs deep with this one. But did that make the acquisition a good move for Google in the coming battle with Amazon’s “Lady A” for control over consumers’ homes? We dive in! 

Links:

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Gina Eiben, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Feb 20, 2018
Season 2, Episode 2: Raising a Seed Round with Against Gravity CEO Nick Fajt
01:14:19

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We launch mini-series on Acquired with a subject near & dear to our heroes’ hearts: startup fundraising! This has been one of our most-requested new topics, and we’re excited to kick things off with makers of the popular Rec Room social VR app, Against Gravity, which raised one of Seattle’s hottest venture rounds in recent history: a $4m seed led by Sequoia Capital in 2016. CEO Nick Fajt joins to tell the story from company inception to building and shipping the initial product, fundraising as a first-time CEO, what they’ve been able to accomplish with the capital and their vision for the future. We had a blast touching on many classic Acquired themes for the first time “in-action” with a young, growing company, and hope you all enjoy the discussion as much as we did. Let us know what you think in the Slack!

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Gina Eiben, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Feb 07, 2018
Season 2, Episode 1: Zappos (with Alfred Lin)
01:12:38

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Former Zappos Chairman & COO (and current Partner at Sequoia Capital) Alfred Lin joins our heroes to kick off Season 2 with a classic: Amazon’s 2009 acquisition of the internet’s quirkiest online retailer for $1.2B in stock. How did three Harvard undergrads go from delivering pizza to their dorm to delivering happiness to the world — and become in the process one of the few companies ever to compete successfully head-to-head against Amazon in commerce? Tune in to find out! 

 

Note: Unfortunately the quality of David and Alfred’s audio tracks in this episode were significantly impacted by a processor issue on David’s computer, which we didn’t discover until after recording. We’ve worked hard to fix in post-production, but it’s still far from perfect. Still, the content from Alfred is so good, we felt we had to put this episode out there even though the audio quality isn’t up to par. We hope you’ll give it a listen regardless, and we’re working on getting a transcript made ASAP as well. 

-Ben & David 

 

Carve Outs:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Jan 23, 2018
Episode 51: 2017 Holiday Special
01:16:09

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Acquired cozies up to the fire and looks back on the year in tech. How wildly off were we on last year’s predictions? What does the next year have in store? Most importantly, what price will Bitcoin be trading at in December 2018??? Pour yourself a glass of your favorite holiday beverage and kick back with us.

 

SF Acquired Meetup!

  • Mark your calendars: we’ll be hosting an Acquired Meetup in SF the evening of January 18, 2018. More details coming soon—check Slack or Acquired.fm

 

Links

 

2017 Carve Outs of the Year:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Dec 18, 2017
Episode 50: Apple - Beats
01:15:14

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Acquired crosses the half-century mark with an instant classic: Apple’s 2014 purchase of Beats, its largest acquisition ever. If you knew Beats as just another headphone company, think again—the history on this one will keep your heads ringin’.

SF Acquired Meetup!
* Mark your calendars: we’ll be hosting an Acquired Meetup in SF the evening of January 18, 2018. More details to come soon.

Carve Outs:
* Ben: HQ
* David: Wooden on Leadership

Sponsor:
* Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Nick Ferrer, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Dec 11, 2017
Episode 49: The Stitch Fix IPO
01:11:09

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Ben and David dive into the most talked-about tech IPO of 4Q 2017: Stitch Fix. After downsizing the offering and pricing below the range, does this signal a warning that public markets won’t value high-flying silicon valley “disruptors” as high as VCs hope? Or is this a textbook example of a great return for a disciplined management team and well-run company? Most importantly, what happens next? Tune in for our heroes’ take. 

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Dec 04, 2017
Episode 48: Qualcomm - Broadcom
51:33

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Ben & David cover the proposed largest tech M&A deal of all time, and in the process dive into the evolving dynamics of the industry that started everything in Silicon Valley—silicon. Just when VCs thought innovation was dead in semiconductors, a new wave of startups and large companies are redrawing the lines of competition in an industry dominated for a half-century by the “Wintel” duopoly of Intel and Microsoft.

Topics Covered Include:

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Nick Ferrer, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Nov 20, 2017
Episode 47: The Atlassian IPO
01:05:04

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Ben & David venture to the land down under (and reunite in-person!) to tell the story of the granddaddy of all bootstrapped tech success stories, collaboration software company Atlassian. How did two plucky college grads from Sydney, Australia go from just trying to escape working for the man to becoming two of the top 10 wealthiest people in the entire country, all without raising a dollar of venture capital? We dive in. 

Topics Covered Include:

  • How Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar met in college at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and their decision to bootstrap a startup as an alternative to finding a “real job” after graduation
  • Atlassian’s “no sales” model, and the resultant efficiency of their sales & marketing spend relative to other SAAS companies 
  • Organic product growth and acquisitions over the years, starting with Jira and later adding Confluence, BitBucket, HipChat / Stride, Jira Service Desk and Trello
  • Rapid revenue growth and the decision to continue as a bootstrapped company, only raising secondary capital prior to going public
  • The IPO in November 2015 and subsequent stock performance (spoiler: it’s been good)

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Nov 07, 2017
Episode 46: Blue Bottle Coffee
01:02:42

Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)

Today our heroes cover a deal that might have more impact on life in Silicon Valley than AI, wearables and AR/VR combined… Nestle’s acquisition of Blue Bottle Coffee. Will hipster entrepreneurs and the VCs who love/need them continue to line up around the block for their minimalist coffee experience of choice, now that it’s owned by the Nesquik Bunny? Is this the beginning of Blue Bottle pod machines filling the empty counter space left by Juicero’s demise in VC offices throughout South Park? We investigate. 

 

Topics Covered Include:

  • The rise of “Third Wave” coffee
  • Blue Bottle founder James Freeman’s “classical” (music) influences 
  • Venture capital and the coffee business 
  • Achieving liquidity when companies and founders’ don’t want to go public, and don’t want to sell their stakes 
  • Nestle’s position in single-serve coffee market and potential brand impact of Blue Bottle

 

The Carve Out:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jeff Beuche, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Oct 08, 2017
Episode 45: HTC, Google and the Future of Mobile
01:19:27
Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)
 
Acquired is back and live on the scene! After months of speculation, Google announces today their acquisition (err, "Cooperation Agreement”) of a large portion of HTC’s hardware division. What does this mean for the future of mobile? Can Google transform itself into a vertically integrated device company and compete directly with Apple? Most importantly, when will we see more Beats Android handsets??? (We hope never)
 
Topics Covered Include:
  • The origins of HTC as a Taiwanese OEM, dating back to the Compaq iPAQ and Palm Treo 650!
  • HTC’s long history with Google, starting as the manufacturer of the first Android phone, the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1
  • HTC’s ownership of Beats, for a hot minute
  • Google’s own winding history in hardware, with its Motorola acquisition in 2011 and divestiture in 2014
  • Google & HTC’s joint work on the Pixel smartphones in 2016
  • And much analysis and speculation on what this means for Google, Apple, Samsung, vertical vs horizontal business models and more!
 
The Carve Out:
 
Sponsor:
  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jeff Beuche, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Sep 21, 2017
Episode 44: AOL - Time Warner (with the Internet History Podcast)
01:41:34
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On this extra-long episode of Acquired, Brian McCullough from the Internet History Podcast returns to discuss perhaps the most (in)famous merger of all time: AOL - Time Warner. Who doesn’t remember the soothing sounds of 56k modems and the timeless phrase, “You’ve Got Mail”? Join us all as we unpack how one of the biggest ISP’s of the 90’s tried to take over the world… and fell far short.
 
Topics Covered Include:
  • AOL’s status in the 90’s / early 00’s
  • Explaining just what it is that AOL did at the height of their popularity
  • How AOL pioneered a number of internet paradigms
  • AOL’s persistent money troubles and bailouts from other companies
  • Steve Case foreseeing the coming era of broadband, inspiring AOL to pursue working with a cable company
  • Ebay vs. Time Warner in a down-to-the-wire war for a merger with AOL
  • Why the money dried up for AOL after their merger with Time Warner
  • AOL and its value in the post-Time-Warner era
  • Speculating about what would have happened had AOL and others stayed independent businesses
  • And much discussion on how to grade this one…
 
The Carve Out:
 
Sponsor:
  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jeff Beuche, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Sep 18, 2017
Episode 43: The Square IPO
01:15:31

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Unicorns and ratchets and lawsuits, oh my! Our heroes dive into the history of Jack Dorsey’s famous “other” company, Square. Was the Square IPO a canary in the coal mine signaling doom & gloom for the so-called unicorn companies of the early 2010’s, or a mispriced and misunderstood diamond in the rough? Acquired weighs in.

 

Topics Covered Include:

  • Square’s deep origins in the early 90’s in St. Louis, MO with the initial meeting of its co-founders, Jack Dorsey & Jim McKelvey
  • McKelvey’s side glass blowing business and the “inspiration” for Square that came much later in the late 2000’s
  • The complicated involvement of Washington University (in St. Louis) professor Robert Morley, who had worked for years developing payment card reading technology
  • The company’s early meeting with Scott Forstall at Apple, and its “significant” impact on the its name and design
  • The real disruptive innovation of Square and its business model (hint: not just building a mobile card reader)
  • Square’s massive payments deal with Starbucks in 2012 and its impact on the company
  • The evolution of Square’s business from a simple card reader to cloud-based Point of Sale (PoS) system and entire suite of merchant tools & business management services
  • The drama leading up to Square’s IPO (including at Jack Dorsey’s “other” company, Twitter), dynamics and narratives affecting its pricing, the effect of IPO “ratchets”, and the company’s performance over the ~2 years since

 

The Carve Out:

 

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Buddy Arnheim, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.
Aug 16, 2017
Episode 42: Opsware (with special guest Michel Feaster)
01:13:57
Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)
 
Acquired dives into the legendary acquisition of Ben Horowitz & Marc Andreessen’s “second act” software company Opsware, from a perspective never before heard—HP’s side of the story! Our heroes are joined by Michel Feaster, who led both the acquisition for HP and then the Opsware product as part of the integrated company afterward under Ben Horowitz. Today the tables have turned: Michel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Seattle-based startup Usermind, and Ben Horowitz sits on her board on behalf of A16Z. This episode is not one to miss!
 
Topics covered include:
  • Opsware’s early history and origins as Loudcloud, the “second act” of internet wunderkind Marc Andreessen and Netscape product manager Ben Horowitz
  • Ben’s first person telling of the Loudcloud/Opsware history in The Hard Thing about Hard Things, as well as the great Wired "period piece” covering Loudcloud’s launch in August 2000
  • The importance of timing, and Loudcloud’s too-early vision of—essentially—AWS before AWS (including eerie parallels between the metaphor Andreessen used to describe Loudcloud during the company’s first press briefing, and Jeff Bezos’s description of AWS at YC nearly a decade later)
  • Creation of the “Opsware” tool inside of Loudcloud to automate deploying and configuring servers within Loudcloud’s data centers
  • Loudcloud's meteoric rise, crash following the burst of the internet bubble, and hard pivot as a public company into Opsware—now an enterprise software company selling datacenter tools 
  • Michel’s role in HP’s evaluation of the company as an acquisition target, and process leading to its $1.6B acquisition in July 2007
  • Integration of the company into HP’s culture and sales channel
  • The creation of Ben & Marc’s “third act”, the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, and what it’s like for Michel now having Ben as an investor on her board at Usermind 
 
The Carve Out:
Aug 05, 2017
Episode 41: Booking.com with Jetsetter & Room 77 CEO Drew Patterson
01:14:53
Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)
 
Acquired trains its lens on the “second or third best acquisition of all-time”, Priceline’s 2005 purchase of Booking.com. Our heroes are joined by friend-of-the-show and former Jetsetter & Room 77 CEO Drew Patterson to help understand how this little-known startup from The Netherlands grew into the largest travel company in the world, with nearly $8B in annual revenue. Was this deal even better than Instagram??? We debate, hotly. 
 
Topics covered include:
  • The biggest startup you’ve never heard of (in the US), Booking.com, and its parent company Priceline (yes, the William Shatner Priceline)
  • Booking’s founding in Amsterdam in late 1996: by recent college graduate Geert-Jan Bruinsma
  • Skift.com’s Definitive Oral History of Online Travel 
  • The travel industry's GDS's (“Global Distribution Systems”) and the development of Sabre 
  • How Bruinsma raised the initial money for Booking: by emailing anyone he know who had an email address 
  • OTAs ("Online Travel Agencies”) and how they operate; the "merchant model" versus the “agency model"
  • The role of search in online travel 
  • Bill Gurley on Conversion: The Most Important Internet Metric of All
  • Expedia’s early flirtation with Booking, and decision not to acquire the company
  • Priceline head of M&A Glenn Fogel’s vision for how powerful the agency model for OTAs could become in Europe
  • Priceline and Glenn's 2004 acquisition of Active Hotels in the UK, followed by the 2005 acquisition of Booking for $133M and the combination of the two businesses into Booking.com 
  • Booking’s incredible growth in the decade since the acquisition, from less than 20M room-nights to over 500M, and $7.8B in revenue in 2016
 
The Carve Out:
 
Sponsor:
  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring this episode. If you'd like to learn more or start a banking relationship, you can get in touch with Shai Goldman here.
Jul 26, 2017
Episode 40: Activision Blizzard
01:13:58
Join the Acquired Limited Partner program! https://kimberlite.fm/acquired/ (works best on mobile)
 
Ben & David cover the creation of the gaming world’s equivalent of the 70’s rock supergroup: the 2008 merger of Blizzard and Activision. We tell the story from the Blizzard perspective, tracing the history of one of the most innovative companies in the business from humble beginnings at the hands of UCLA undergrads, to surviving multiple acquisition rollups (including at one point being owned by the French national water company), to joining ultimately with Activision to form the largest gaming company in the world, all while inventing multiple game genres that define the industry as we know it today.
 
 
 
 
Topics covered include:
  • Blizzard’s founding in 1991 as "Silicon & Synapse” by recent UCLA grads Allen Adham, Frank Pearce, and Mike Morhaime
  • The team’s first projects making ports for other games, including Battle Chess on the Commodore 64
  • Early success on the Super Nintendo with Rock & Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings
  • Origin of the Real-Time Strategy game genre (“RTS”) and Blizzard’s fist mega-hit, Warcraft 
  • Blizzard’s crazy corporate ownership changes over the years
  • Development of further legendary game franchises like Diablo and Starcraft, along with sequels to Warcraft and the rise of the rise of player modding
  • Emergence of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre (“MOBA”) from the Warcraft III modding community, and its growth into one of the biggest sectors in the games and esports industries today
  • Blizzard’s role in developing the concept of online gaming, from early hacks to play against friends to World of Warcraft and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (“MMORPG’s”)
  • The 2008 merger with storied gaming company Activision 
  • Growth and success since the merger, including the launch of new game franchises Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch
 
The Carve Out:
 
Sponsor:
  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring this episode. If you'd like to learn more or start a banking relationship, you can get in touch with Shai Goldman here.
Jul 13, 2017
Acquired Episode 39: Whole Foods Market
01:11:57

Ben and David are once again live on the scene, this time covering the biggest disruption in grocery since… well, sliced bread: Amazon’s $13.7B purchase of Whole Foods Market. We place this deal in context by diving deep into the long, intertwining history of grocery, tech and Amazon, from the infamous dotcom flameout Webvan (domain name now owned by Amazon) to its much more successful progeny Kiva Systems (acquired by Amazon in 2012) to current Silicon Valley unicorn Instacart (founded by former Amazon logistics engineer Apoorva Mehta). One thing is clear: for Amazon and Jeff Bezos, realizing the longterm vision of the Everything Store truly means building the everything store.

Topics covered include:

Followups:

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

Jun 21, 2017
"About Acquired" on the Anchor Podcast of the Day
20:15

Ben and David are guests on Anchor's Podcast of the Day, discussing Acquired's origin story, show structure, and how the show gets made. If you're new to the show and looking for a primer, this is a great place to jump in!

Jun 11, 2017
Acquired Episode 38: SoundJam (iTunes)
01:15:17
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Ben & David revisit the birth of the digital music revolution and Steve Jobs' "digital hub" strategy, with Apple's 2000 acquisition of the Mac music player SoundJam MP, which would go on to become iTunes. We relive the 90's with brushed metal interfaces, music visualizers and of course, software sold in (physical) boxes.

 

 

Thanks to this episode's sponsor, Silicon Valley Bank. You can learn more about SVB, or reach out to Marshall Hawks directly (who's voice you'll recognize on the show) here: https://www.svb.com/profile/Marshall-Hawks/

May 31, 2017
Episode 37: BAMTech, Disney and "the Biggest Media Company You've Never Heard Of”
01:14:40
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Ben and David continue Acquired’s “tech and sports” mini-series with Disney’s 2016 acquisition of a minority stake (with the right to purchase a majority stake at a later date) in BAMTech, the internet streaming company originally founded as part of Major League Baseball in the early 2000’s. However the importance of this story goes deeper than just sports, with major ramifications for nearly every major technology company from Amazon to YouTube. Even if you’re not not sure if baseball’s played on a diamond or a gridiron, tune in as we swing for the fences in predicting the future of TV! 
 
Topics covered include:
  • What is BAMTech, and why is it, according to The Verge, "the future of television”?
  • BAMTech’s origins as part of Major League Baseball's Advanced Media division ("MLBAM)”)
  • MLBAM’s founding CEO Bob Bowman’s decidedly “non-tech” background, and growth into one of the most important tech leaders of the past 15 years
  • Initial technology struggles and learnings from early streaming efforts (including a botched audio package of Ichiro Suzuki’s games with the Mariners for fans in Japan)
  • Landing on a streaming model that works with the launch of MLB.tv in 2002/2003—three years before YouTube is founded! 
  • Improvement of the MLB.tv service and MLBAM’s streaming expertise over the next ten years through the rise of mobile, and simultaneous growth of MLBAM’s revenues to over $1B annually
  • MLBAM’s initial deals to expand its streaming services beyond baseball, starting with ESPN in 2010, then WWE, the PGA, HBO and the NHL
  • The importance of media rights, and MLBAM’s transition from a simple tech/infrastructure provider to a full-fledged media company 
  • The decision to initiate a spin-off process for BAMTech from MLB in August 2015, and Disney’s $1B investment into the newly created spin-out company in August 2016
  • Disney’s subsequent announcement that they’ll be working with BAMTech to create a direct-to-consumer ESPN streaming service
  • BAMTech’s $300M deal with Riot Games in December 2016 for the media rights to League of Legends eSports content 
  • Bob Bowman’s announcement in February 2017 that he’ll be stepping back to from a day to day role, and hiring of former Amazon VP of Video Michael Paull as BAMTech’s new CEO
 
Followups & Hot Takes:
 
The Carve Out:
May 10, 2017
Episode 36: The LA Clippers
01:05:03
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In honor of start of NBA playoffs, Ben & David venture off the beaten path to explore one of Steve Ballmer’s most famous acquisitions, his 2014 purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise. Was this landmark purchase a steal or a turnover for the former Microsoft CEO? We speculate wildly!
 
Topics covered include:
  • The Clippers’ founding in 1970 as the NBA expansion team the Buffalo Braves
  • Early ownership changes and the move west to San Diego in 1981
  • Acquisition in 1981 by LA lawyer and real estate developer Donald Sterling for $12.5M
  • Sterling's relocation of the Clippers to LA in 1984 against NBA rules
  • Struggles over the next 25 years as the "worst franchise in professional sports” according to ESPN 
  • Turnaround beginning in early 2010s led by Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Paul
  • The bombshell in April 2014, reported by TMZ, of a taped conversation between Sterling and his mistress where Sterling makes hugely offensive and racist comments, directed in particular toward former Lakers point guard Magic Johnson
  • Fallout from the comments, resulting in a lifetime ban from NBA for Sterling, and a forced sale of the team to former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer for $2B
  • Impact of the landmark sale price on NBA and other sports franchise valuations 
  • Clippers performance post-sale, and  prospects for the future 
  • The opportunity for technology and business model innovation in the NBA, and professional sports in general
 
Followups:
 
The Carve Out:
Apr 24, 2017
Episode 35: Oculus
01:17:24
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Ben & David transcend the barriers of “real” reality, and dive into Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s geek-eutpoia vision of the future of gaming, social, and maybe even the entire internet: strapping goofy-looking goggles to your face. Is VR for real this time or are we living through another Virtual Boy moment? Tune in to find out!
 
Topics covered include:
  • Oculus’s origins in 2010 as a twinkle in the eye of the then-17 year old VR wunderkind, Palmer Luckey, who started by prototyping VR headsets in his parents’ garage in Southern California 
  • Palmer’s time interning at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, and chronicling of his own VR efforts in the Meant to be Seen 3D internet forums
  • Legendary game developer John Carmack’s own interest in virtual reality, his intersection with Palmer on the MTBS3D forums, and how he acquired and popularized one of Palmer's first early prototypes of the Oculus Rift (which was literally held together with duct tape!) by demonstrating it onstage at E3 2012 
  • How former Scaleform cofounders Brendan Iribe and Michael Antonov teamed up with Palmer after E3 to create the company Oculus VR
  • The newly-formed Oculus’s wildly successful August 2012 Kickstarter campaign, including video endorsements from both Carmack and Valve founder Gabe Newell
  • Oculus’s subsequent venture capital fundraisings, and catching the attention of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg 
  • Facebook’s acquisition of the company in March 2014 for $2.3B
  • The Zenimax lawsuit filed against Oculus and Facebook following the acquisition 
  • Valve (home of the most incredible company handbook of all-time) and Gabe Newell’s subsequent pivot from supporting Oculus to launching their own competing VR efforts with the Vive 
  • Team changes at Oculus post-acquisition 
 
Followups:
 
Hot Takes:
 
The Carve Out:
Apr 11, 2017
Episode 34: The Starbucks IPO with Dan Levitan
01:19:23

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Ben & David "pour over" the 1992 IPO of the legendary Seattle coffee company with the help of Dan Levitan, who served as lead investment banker on the IPO and who would later co-found the venture capital firm Maveron with Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz. 

Topics covered include:

  • The original Starbucks’ founding as a coffee bean roaster, started by three disciples of the legendary coffee roaster Alfred Peet
  • Howard Schultz’s introduction to Starbucks, his joining the team as director of marketing, and inspiration behind his “third place” coffee shop vision
  • Howard’s departure from the original Starbucks, founding of Il Giornale, and subsequent of acquisition the Seattle Starbucks stores
  • Starbucks’ incredible growth following the acquisition and expansion beyond Seattle
  • The state of raising private capital in the 1980’s/90’s, and the decision to go public (link to the S-1)
  • Howard’s ambitious goals for the roadshow and investor participation, and subsequent stock performance after the IPO
  • The narrative and evolution of Starbucks as a technology company, or a consumer company that leverages technology very effectively

The Carve Out:

Apr 03, 2017
Episode 33: Overture (with the Internet History Podcast!)
01:27:11
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Episode 33: Overture (with the Internet History Podcast!) 
 
Ben & David dive deep into the early days of internet search, with the help of the best in the internet history business: Brian McCullough from the Internet History Podcast! We are huge fans of IHP at Acquired, so this was a real treat to collaborate with Brian and the great work he does over there. In this episode we cover the story of how a small incubator in Southern California spawned perhaps the greatest tech business model of all-time, Yahoo!’s fumbling of that golden opportunity, and Google’s recovery of that fumble to cross into the end zone of tech history behind the biggest moat ever constructed on the internet. 
 
Topics covered include:
  • Overture’s origins as part of the Idealab incubator run by famed early internet entrepreneur Bill Gross
  • Invention of the paid search business model… initially by returning ADS ONLY in response to search queries
  • The eventual marrying of Overture’s paid search (ads) with organic search results via syndication on other properties like Yahoo!
  • Revenue from Overture’s ad partnership saving Yahoo!’s business after the internet bubble burst 
  • Yahoo!’s eventual acquisition of Overture for $1.4B in 2003 
  • But… the really interesting story here: Overture’s 'inspiration' of Google’s business model and the creation of "the greatest advertising machine in the history of the world"
  • The original (pre-Overture) Google business model: selling a box
  • Google’s differentiation vs Overture: focusing on the long tailad quality scores, and an advertiser-friendly auction structure
  • Google’s first major search syndication victory over Overture: AOL
  • Yahoo!’s failed attempt to buy Google for $3B in 2002, leading it to settle for acquiring Overture instead the following year
  • Project Panama” at Yahoo!, and its impact on the tech and internet history
  • Overture's (and later Yahoo!’s) lawsuit against Google for stealing the paid search business model— "the O.G. version of Snapchat and Instagram”
  • Paul Graham’s take on "What Happened to Yahoo?”
  • Perhaps the most important technology to come out of this whole episode: Hadoop
  • The power of incentive alignment in marketplaces— and creating the widest and deepest moats on the internet
 
The Carve Out:
Mar 13, 2017
Episode 32: The Snap Inc. IPO
01:23:13
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Snap! Acquired is live on the scene reporting from the "Super Bowl" of 2017 tech events: Snap Inc's hugely anticipated (and just plain huge) IPO. What does the future hold for this plucky “camera company”? Will Snap's IPO endure as tech's most important picture-frame since the 2012 debut of Facebook, or is it destined to fade as just another snapshot? We debate! 
 
Topics covered include:
 
The Carve Out:
Mar 04, 2017
Episode 31: The Uber - Didi Chuxing Merger with Brad Stone, author of The Upstarts & The Everything Store
01:09:54
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Topics covered include:
  • The global surge in 2012 of entrepreneurs starting ridesharing companies, nowhere moreso than China 
  • Didi CEO Cheng Wei and investor Wang Gang’s backgrounds at Alibaba, first entrepreneurial effort in Momo, and Momo’s pivot to Didi Dache
  • The culling of the ridesharing herd in China down to Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache through brutal competition and involvement of the “big three” Chinese internet companies 
  • Rise of the Chinese messaging apps and associated mobile payments, and their impact on ridesharing
  • The 2015 merger between Didi and Kuaidi, brokered in part by Russian VC Yuri Milner
  • Uber’s decision to enter the Chinese market, and early success with investment and support from Baidu
  • The first meeting between Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Cheng Wei in 2015—which does not go well
  • Subsequent “scorched earth” competition between Didi and Uber throughout 2015-16
  • Negotiating an armistice: Uber’s agreement to sell its Chinese operations to Didi in late 2016
  • End of the war, or just the beginning? January 2017: Didi invests $100M in Brazilian Uber competitor 99
  • Sustainable growth, and building moats versus scorching earth
 
Followups:
  • Stay tuned for real-time coverage of the Snap IPO coming here on Acquired! 
 
The Carve Out:
Mar 01, 2017
Episode 30: P.A. Semi + AuthenTec
01:07:51
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Topics covered include:
 
Followups:
 
The Carve Out:
Jan 24, 2017
Episode 29: Special—2016 Review and 2017 Predictions
01:11:43
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Ben & David wrap up 2016 with a review of the top tech themes we discussed on the show this year, and look forward to which themes we think will be relevant in the coming year. Can our hosts predict the future? Tune-in in 2018 to find out! 
 
Note: we apologize for the less-than-amazing audio quality on this one. We’re still working on tuning our remote recording setup!
 
Topics covered include:
  • Our top tech themes of 2016, including the first annual Acquired "Theme of the Year”: Aggregation Theory (surprise, surprise)
  • Themes we think will be most relevant as we head into 2017
  • Extended Carve Outs!
 
The Carve Out(s):
Jan 11, 2017
Episode 28: The Amazon IPO with original Amazon Board Member Tom Alberg
01:06:31
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Ben & David welcome very special guest Tom Alberg, board member and first lead investor in Amazon.com, to cover the IPO of "earth’s most customer-centric company". From longterm thinking to flywheels to riding big waves, this episode is chock full of lessons and stories from the journey of building one of tech’s most iconic franchises. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we did recording it! 
 
Topics covered include:
  • Tom’s “prolific” bio from the Amazon S-1
  • Jeff Bezos’s journey from a Vice President at the New York hedge fund D. E. Shaw to founding Amazon in a Bellevue, WA garage in the summer of 1994
  • Jeff’s longterm thinking as evident in the early days of Amazon, and his approach that "failure is ok, but not trying things is not ok” 
  • Raising the seed money for Amazon before product launch, how Tom met Jeff and decided to invest despite the “high” valuation
  • Tom's (and Jeff’s) focus on the power of targeting large and growing markets 
  • Amazon’s actual overnight success after launching the website: according to Tom at the time, "By the second or third week… It was clear there was a trend here.”
  • How Amazon’s venture round, led by John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins, came together in the spring of 1996 
  • Amazon’s torrid growth through 1996, Jeff’s mantra of “get big fast” to win the land grab of online book selling, and the board’s decision to prepare for a public offering in the spring of 1997 
  • How Frank Quattrone and Bill Gurley, then of Deutsche Bank, won the lead position for the Amazon IPO, beating out more storied firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley 
  • Development of the flywheel concept within Amazon, as an outgrowth of maniacal focus on creating superior customer experience
  • Amazon's public offering on May 15, 1997 at $18 per share (effectively $1.50 relative to today’s stock price after splits), raising $54M at a market capitalization of $438M — and subsequently trading down during the first few months following the IPO  
  • Amazon and Jeff’s management of investor perceptions of the company, and ability to sell the longterm vision over short term profits — “you get the investors you ask for” 
  • The creation of the first annual letter to Amazon shareholders included in the company’s 1997 annual report (and republished every year since), and then-CFO Joy Covey’s role and contributions to it 
  • Raising convertible debt just before the peak of the dotcom bubble and subsequent ability to survive the burst, and the impact of the downturn on Amazon culture
 
The Carve Out:
Dec 31, 2016
Episode 27: Special—A Conversation with Microsoft's Head of Strategic Investments Brian Schultz
01:10:17
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Topics covered include:
  • Brian’s history working across “both sides of the aisle” as both a startup founder and corporate development leader at a big company, how perspective from each informs the other, and the importance of learning “customer empathy” 
  • How Microsoft approaches M&A from an organizational perspective, and the importance of fit with the company’s product roadmap 
  • How Brian approaches strategic investments at Microsoft, and the evolution over time of the Microsoft (and large technology companies as a whole) perspective on investing in other companies
  • Balancing the tension between partnering and investing, and what criteria Brian thinks about when evaluating companies 
  • Microsoft’s investment in Facebook in 2007 (at a then-crazy-seeming $15B valuation), and more recently Foursquare, Mesosphere, CloudFlare and others
  • The current state of the tech M&A landscape, and the emergence of private equity as tech company acquirers 
  • Potentially changing corporate and foreign tax structures and how they impact acquirers’ thinking around deals (or not!) 
  • How Microsoft tracks and evaluates success of acquisitions over time, and lessons learned from successes and failures 
  • The increasing number of operating companies (technology and otherwise) looking to invest in startups, and how that landscape has evolved over time 
 
Followups:
  • Snap Inc.’s rumored IPO filing — and bonus discussion of how VC’s and other investors think about “exiting” their investments in companies that have gone public
 
Hot Takes:
 
The Carve Out:
Dec 16, 2016
Episode 26: Marvel
01:18:26
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Topics covered include:
  • Marvel’s corporate origins as "Timely Publications”, created in 1939 by pulp magazine publisher Martin Goodman in NYC, with the publication of Marvel Comics #1
  • Creation of enduring characters such as Captain America, the Fantastic 4, Spider Man, The X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and more
  • Adoption in 1961 of the "Marvel Comics” brand, and writer-editor Stan Lee’s transition of the company towards focusing on edgier characters and stories targeted at older audiences 
  • Marvel’s first sale in 1968 to the Perfect Film and Chemical Corporation (later Cadence Industries)
  • The company’s “turbulent” corporate history through the 1980’s and associated mergers, acquisitions and lawsuits
  • Marvel’s reinvention as a film-focused media company in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with the launch of Marvel Studios
  • Disney’s ultimate acquisition of the company for $4.2 billion in August 2009, during the depth of the great recession 
  • Marvel's—and in particular Marvel Studios’—performance since the acquisition 
 
Followups:
 
Hot Takes:
 
The Carve Out:
Dec 05, 2016
Episode 25: The Facebook IPO
01:20:42

Hey Acquired listeners. A note about this show: we recorded this episode the night before the 2016 Election Day in the US. At the time, the biggest change we saw coming was adding a new type of content to Acquired in analyzing IPO’s, which we introduce in this episode. Two days later, we woke up to a very different world than the one we were expecting.

Reflecting on what’s happened, and the past few months of our show, we wanted to say two things:

First, we want to apologize for our cavalier attitude toward this election cycle, and our glossing over the clearly very real problems and deep divide in America that it represented. In the Skype episode, David pretty glibly compared the AT&T - Time Warner merger to "Make America Great Again", arguing that any reactionary force is “on the wrong side of history” and cannot be relevant in a changing world. That was wrong, the sentiment behind it was wrong, and it was insensitive to the very real pain a lot of people are feeling out there on both sides.

Second, looking back on this particular episode about the Facebook IPO, we think it actually might present a relevant parable for our country right now and--we hope--some important lessons for the technology industry going forward. For all the wonderful aspects of the tech industry that we celebrate on this show, there is no doubt that it also bears a great deal of responsibility for the current divide in America, and especially in its contribution to wealth inequality. Likewise, for all the wonderful aspects to the Facebook IPO story, as told in this episode, there is a very dark side as well: Facebook shareholders, investment banks and institutional investors raked in billions of dollars at the expense of individual retail investors who lost their shirts.

At the same time, Facebook’s perseverance through their “broken IPO", and their determination in overcoming with incredible speed the massive, existential challenge to their business model posed by mobile, is something we think *can be* an inspiration to us all on how to move forward even when that seems hard. We hope you’ll listen to this episode with that in mind and think about how you, we, and the technology industry as a whole can do better in serving everyone in this country and in the world.

Thanks for being on this journey with us. We’re sorry for our shortcomings, and we’re going to keep working hard to do better. 

-Ben & David

 

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Topics covered include:

Followups:

Hot Takes:

The Carve Out:

Nov 11, 2016
Episode 24: Skype
01:18:25
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An acquisition so wild and crazy, they had to do it again. And again. Ben & David cover tech’s perhaps most-traded asset, Skype (which also happens to be a fantastic business). How do we even know which deal to grade? Tune in to find out… 
 
Topics covered include:
 
Followups:
 
Hot Takes:
 
The Carve Out:
Nov 02, 2016
Episode 23: NeXT (Live show at the GeekWire Summit)
01:02:29
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Ben & David broadcast live from the 2016 GeekWire Summit covering one of the all-time greats, Apple’s 1996 acquisition of NeXT. This episode has it all: the Steve Jobs hero story, Apple, I.M. Pei, Ross Perot, Aaron Sorkin, Nobel Laureates and… Gil Amelio? Does NeXT rank atop the best acquisitions ever? Our own heroes cast their votes. 
 
Topics covered include:
 
The Carve Out:
Oct 23, 2016
Episode 22: Zillow + Trulia (with Zillow Group CFO Kathleen Philips)
01:10:46
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CFO of Zillow Group Kathleen Philips joins Ben and David to cover the show’s first true “merger” versus “acquisition" (only took 22 episodes!), Zillow’s 2015 combination with Trulia to form Zillow Group. 
 
Note: our audio glitches unfortunately continued on this episode, and quality is rough. We recommend listening on speakers vs headphones if you’re able. We apologize and will be back to normal quality next time!
 
Topics covered include:
  • Zillow and Trulia’s beginnings during the “Web 2.0” era in the mid-2000’s 
  • Zillow, Trulia and other online players’ place within the massive US real estate market
  • The lengthy “dance" between Zillow and Trulia and earlier aborted merger talks between the two
  • The difficulty of "true mergers” among private companies and why the path is easier for public companies 
  • Public company shareholders’ influence and role in M&A transactions 
  • Details of the blazingly fast negotiations (27 days start to finish!) per disclosures in the SEC filings (scroll down to "Background of the Mergers”)
  • Structuring the deal and incentivizing Trulia and Zillow mangers to stay and continue growing as separate brands
  • Trulia cofounder Sami Inkinen’s whereabouts during the merger negotiations 
  • The experience going through a lengthy FTC review of the merger, and defining what the relevant “market” is the FTC should be considering
  • Introducing our new acquisition category: a “timeline acquisition” ;) (h/t Kathleen)
  • Zillow Group’s overall approach to acquisitions, folding into its broader HR strategy 
  • Zillow founder Rich Barton’s startup thesis of searching for "What piece of marketplace information do people crave and don’t have?"
 
Followups:
 
Hot Takes:
 
The Carve Out:
Oct 14, 2016
Episode 21: Inside the M&A Press with Bloomberg's Alex Sherman
01:18:15
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Ben and David go inside the M&A press with Bloomberg’s technology M&A reporter and host of the Deal of the Week Podcast, Alex Sherman. If you’ve ever wondered how stories about big deals get broken or what “according to people familiar with the matter” really means, tune in for the behind-the-scenes scoop! 
 
Note: A technical glitch with our recording setup created occasional short silences between Alex’s comments and Ben & David’s. It shouldn’t impact listenability, but we apologize for the awkward pauses!
 
Topics covered include:
  • Bloomberg’s own fascinating “history & facts” and origins following the acquisition of storied Wall Street firm Salomon Brothers 
  • Bloomberg’s core as a highly profitable technology business (selling terminals to Wall Street firms), with a large media empire built on top of it
  • The tradable value of breaking M&A news & information to Bloomberg’s terminal customers, and competing on speed
  • How “sources" work — and industry standard that sources be directly within the companies involved in a deal
  • The coded language of M&A reporting and gleaning where information is coming from based on a story’s structure and phrasing
  • The lifecycle of a story—steps from sourcing to writing to release, and reasons (or lack thereof) for why stories run when they do
  • Internal & external PR resources companies use for M&A 
  • How Alex prioritizes his time researching and creating stories, and who he’s meeting with to hear about what deals are in the works 
  • The difference between ‘news' and ‘analysis', and why news dominates the majority of stories versus deeper analysis
  • Media and social media business models, their evolution in the messenger world, and speculation on Twitter’s future
  • How entrepreneurs can think about interacting with the press and building relationships with the right reporters for their stage and space
  • Apple’s ‘unique’ approach to press relations 
 
Followups:
 
Hot Takes:
 
The Carve Out:
Sep 27, 2016
Episode 20: Android
01:13:48
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Ben & David examine Google’s 2005 purchase of Android for a rumored $50M, undeniably one of the best technology acquisitions of all time. But will it top the list of these tough graders? Tune in to find out.
 
Topics covered include:
  • Welcome new listeners! We quickly review the show format for newbies. 
  • Community spotlight: Patagonia on a Budget from community member Matt Morgante (@mattm on Slack)
  • Andy Rubin’s career trajectory and what made him “born to start Android"
  • The undeniable “cool factor” of the Danger Sidekick in the early/mid-2000’s, including fans such as Larry Page, Sergey Brin and… Turtle from Entourage 
  • Android’s original ambition to build an operating system for… digital cameras
  • WebTV founder Steve Perlman is pretty much the best friend ever 
  • Google’s own perspective on Android as their “best deal ever"
  • The Android team’s reaction to Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone in January 2007, and redesigning the initial launch hardware 
  • Announcing Android and—equally importantly—the Open Handset Alliance (“OHA”)
  • The much-talked-about "mobile holy wars", between Android’s “open” platform and Apple’s “closed” platform 
  • The less-talked-about US carrier wars with the iPhone + AT&T in one camp, and everyone else in the Google / OHA camp (including “Droid Does”)
  • A quirk of history: HTC at one point acquires a majority share in Beats, resulting a short-lived period of Beats-branded Android phones (still available on Amazon!)
  • The real battleground for Google in the mobile platform wars: the economics of “default search” (briefly known thanks to the Oracle/Java lawsuit against Google
  • Google’s detour into smartphone hardware with the acquisition (and subsequent divestiture) of Motorola 
  • The “fork-ability” of Android via the Android Open Source Project (versus “Google Android”), and the rise of Xiaomi, Cyanogen, Kindle Fire and other platforms
  • The ecosystem economics of the Android business for Google 
  • “Defensive” versus “offensive” acquisitions, and protecting Google’s core search business 
  • Could (or would) Google have built an Android-like platform without acquiring Android the company (or having Andy Rubin)?
  • Framing the technology world’s shift to mobile within (surprise) Ben Thompson’s Aggregation Theory
  • The current “moving up the stack” of the competitive playing field as the mobile landscape matures 
  • Grading: Android versus Instagram?
 
Followups:
 
Hot Takes:
  • The iPhone 7 (and AirPods) announcement 
 
The Carve Out:
Sep 16, 2016
Episode 19: Jet
01:05:05
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Ben & David break down Jet.com’s meteoric rise, culminating in Walmart’s blockbuster $3B+ acquisition of the company just two years after its founding. Will we look back on this deal as an ‘Instagram-like’ bargain or a ‘Pets.com'-sized blunder? And most importantly, can *anyone* compete with Amazon going forward? We speculate wildly.
 
Topics covered include:
 
Followups:
 
New section: Hot Takes! (thank you @cteitzel on Slack for the idea)
 
The Carve Out
Aug 29, 2016
Episode 18: Special—An Acquirer’s View into M&A with Taylor Barada, head of Corp Dev at Adobe
01:03:47
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Ben & David are joined by special guest Taylor Barada, VP and Head of Corporate Development & Strategic Partnerships at Adobe, to discuss how large tech acquirers approach buying companies. This episode is full of great insights for startups & entrepreneurs who might find themselves navigating the M&A process, as well as anyone curious about the craft of dealmaking and the strategic approach of large acquirers. 
 
Topics covered include:
  • How conversations begin between startups and acquirers
  • The importance of building a relationship with acquirers over time and "investing in lines, not dots” (just like raising VC)
  • The often under-appreciated role of culture fit between acquirers and acquisition targets 
  • How entrepreneurs should evaluate acquirers throughout the M&A process 
  • Two examples of successful acquisitions Taylor completed at Yahoo in Citizen Sports and IntoNow
  • The M&A process at large technology acquirers, from initial conversations to LOI, due diligence and the definitive merger agreement 
  • The relative roles of Corp Dev, business/product owners and executive sponsors in the M&A process
  • Common mistakes startups (and VC’s) often make in the M&A process
  • Different “categories” of M&A that acquirers think about, and the relative risks & opportunities of “core" acquisitions vs transformative new businesses 
  • What percentage of deals Adobe looks at actually happen, and the importance of being willing to say no
  • M&A as a tool for strategy, and the different M&A cultures & approaches at different companies 
  • Tech themes Taylor and Adobe think about as part of their M&A strategy
  • Evaluating the longterm success of deals and the importance of the M&A integration function 
 
Followups:
 
The Carve Out
Aug 22, 2016
Acquired Episode 17: Waze
01:00:30
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Topics covered include:
 
The Carve Out
 
Followups:
Aug 03, 2016
Acquired Episode 16: Midroll + Stitcher (acquired by Scripps)
55:34
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The meta show: Ben and David turn their gaze inward and examine the podcasting industry through E. W. Scripps’ recent acquisitions of the Midroll podcast advertising network and Stitcher podcast client. Featuring discussion of our own product process and metrics at Acquired. 
 
Announcements:
  • We’re pivoting! (not really) Our new show description: A Podcast About Technology Acquisitions That Actually Went Well
  • But we are launching a new feature! Since so many of you, our listeners, are also tech and startup folks and/or other builders, we wanted to create a space to feature cool products, companies and side projects you’re working on. Thus we’re adding a "Community Showcase” section to the show. If you’d like to be included just send us a Slack message or email, and we’ll choose one submission to feature on each show. This episode we’re highlighting BESTR, from community member David Resnick (aka @the_rezonator in Slack), which is an online platform to share lists of great things. Check it out and let David know what you think. 
 
Topics covered include:
  • Top Google search results for “acquired podcast"
  • Midroll’s origins in the comedy podcast Comedy Bang Bang (now an tv show on IFC) and exit last year to Scripps 
  • The structural challenges inherent to podcasting as a medium and the gap between audience size/engagement and industry revenues
  • Opportunities for independent podcasters and our own audience and business metrics at Acquired 
  • Stitcher’s long corporate history as a venture backed company, first acquisition by French music company Deezer, and now second acquisition from Deezer by Scripps
  • Problems with Stitcher as a product and industry reaction to the acquisition including John Gruber's response, Ben Thompson’s article on Stratechery, and Ben & James Allworth's discussion on their excellent podcast Exponent
  • Handicapping Stitcher+Midroll’s chances for success within Scripps, and opportunities for new startups & innovation in the podcasting space
  • Pioneer Square Labs’ own past efforts in the podcasting space and their process for evaluating potential new company ideas 
  • Shoutout to Pocket Casts and our listeners down under 
 
Followups:
 
The Carve Out
Jul 12, 2016
Acquired Episode 15: ExactTarget (acquired by Salesforce) with Scott Dorsey
01:09:12
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Ben and David return to make their first foray into enterprise software, covering Salesforce’s $2.5B acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013 with the help of special guest and ExactTarget cofounder & CEO, Scott Dorsey
 
Technical note: due to an issue we didn’t catch during recording, audio quality is significantly lower than usual for this episode (especially David’s voice). We apologize but hope you’ll give it a chance anyway— Scott offers great wisdom & insights, and the ExactTarget success story is a inspiring one underdog entrepreneurs, especially (but not limited to!) anyone located in the Midwest or elsewhere outside of traditional "Silicon Valley-style” tech hubs.
 
Topics covered include:
  • The decision to start ExactTarget post-internet bubble and in Indianapolis, with zero software experience between Scott and cofounders Chris Baggott & Peter McCormick
  • Raising initial money from friends & family, followed by early investment and mentoring from Indianapolis venture pioneer Bob Compton
  • Building and scaling a great sales organization within a technology company
  • The importance of focusing early on a clearly defined target market (SMBs in the case of ExactTarget), and then “stair-stepping” up as the product and business scale grow over time
  • ExactTarget’s unsuccessful first IPO filing during the financial crisis
  • Building a "capital-efficient” early stage company, and the value of raising growth capital at the right time to step on the accelerator
  • The value of “secondary” investments allowing founders, employees & early investors to “stay hungry” by achieving some liquidity along the way
  • When and how to expand internationally and the importance of strategic resellers
  • ExactTarget’s second successful IPO filing and life as a public company with quarterly financial reporting to Wall Street
  • How the acquisition process played out with Salesforce and other bidders (including reference to ExactTarget’s incredible SEC filing detailing the entire negotiationscroll down to "Background and Reasons for the ExactTarget Board’s Recommendation”, starting at the bottom of page 13)
  • Approaching the difficult task of integrating a major acquisition involving thousands of people
  • The fun story of ExactTarget’s winning Microsoft as a large customer—including actual sledgehammers
  • Scott’s new Indianapolis-based venture studio, High Alpha
  • Plus as always the "hard hitting" analysis across acquisition category, what would have happened otherwise, tech themes—and final grading
 
The Carve Out
 
Followups:
  • Instagram’s incredible user numbers announcement: 500M monthly active users / 300M daily active users
Jul 05, 2016
Episode 14: LinkedIn
01:01:03

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Ben and David cover the 3-day-old acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft for $26.2 billion. They cover LinkedIn’s founding story by Reid Hoffman, break down their core businesses, analyze recent stock behavior, and speculate on the future of the company inside Microsoft. The big question - were they worth the price tag?

Items Mentioned On The Show:

The Carve Out:

Jun 16, 2016
Episode 13: Push Pop Press (Facebook Instant Articles) with Todd Bishop
56:37

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Ben and David are joined by Todd Bishop, technology reporter and co-founder of GeekWire, to discuss Facebook's 2011 acquisition of Push Pop Press. Highlights include:

  • The founding story of Push Pop Press by Kimon Tsinteris and Mike Matas.
  • The evolution of Facebook Creative Labs, Facebook Paper, and eventually, Facebook Instant Articles.
  • Facebook's role in the changing media landscape today.
  • GeekWire's experiments with Facebook Instant Articles, Google Accelerated Mobile Pages, and live video.

The Carve Out

Jun 06, 2016
Episode 12: Snapchat
56:00

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Ben and David tackle their first failed acquisition: Facebook's 2013 offer to buy Snapchat. They cover the fascinating story of Snapchat's creation and growth, their blossoming business model, how it would be different inside of Facebook, and what the future holds.

Items mentioned in the show:

The Inside Story Of Snapchat: The World's Hottest App Or A $3 Billion Disappearing Act?

Inside Evan Spiegel's very private Snapchat Story

May 23, 2016
Episode 11: PayPal
52:05

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Ben and David return to technology acquisitions by examining a classic: eBay's 2002 purchase of PayPal. 

Items mentioned in the show: 

How the 'PayPal Mafia' redefined success in Silicon Valley  - Tech Republic

Instagram Will Be a $3 Billion Business This Year: Analyst

President Obama and Bill Simmons: The GQ Interview

"The Carve Out":

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder - 

The Bill Simmons Podcast - Chris Sacca

May 09, 2016
Acquired Episode 10: Virgin America
48:13

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Ben and David deviate entirely from the stated purpose of the show, tackling this non-technology acquisition that is so recent, we have no idea if it went well yet. But, the April 2016 acquisition of Virgin America by Alaska Airlines was so fascinating, we had to do it! 

 

Items mentioned in the show: 

Louis C.K. - Everything is Amazing and Nobody is Happy

 

Alaska Acquires Virgin America Investor Deck

 

“Measuring The Moat” Paper - Michael J. Mauboussin

 

Business Adventures - Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street

 

 

"The Carve Out":

Michael Mauboussin: "The Success Equation:Untangling Skill and Luck" | Talks at Google

 

Apr 27, 2016
Episode 9: Writely (Google Docs)
42:34

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Ben and David continue the cloud productivity saga with Google Docs. They examine the suite of acquisitions made by Google with a focus on Writely in 2006. They tackle:

  • The nuts and bolts of the Upstartle (company behind Writely) acquisition, founded by Sam Schillace, Steve Newman and Claudia Carpenter.
  • SaaS offerings in cloud productivity today.
  • Was this a good idea for Google?
  • Google's future bets.
  • A new section: The Carve Out!
Mar 29, 2016
Episode 8: Acompli, Sunrise, and Wunderlist (w/ Kurt DelBene)
56:04

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Ben and David have special guest Kurt DelBene on to discuss Microsoft's acquisition of Acompli, Sunrise, and Wunderlist. Kurt is the EVP of Corporate Strategy and Planning at Microsoft, and joins to discuss Microsoft’s cloud-first, mobile-first strategy, and the importance of being cross-platform in the modern era. They cover:

  • How the app of Outlook Mobile on iPhone and Android came to be.
  • How to decide whether to build vs. buy, and how it plays into the strategy for Office.
  • How to preserve a culture and a team, and how Javier Soltero came to run all of Outlook at Microsoft.
  • The origin of Outlook on the PC, originally led by Brian MacDonald as “Ren”.
  • How to balance a business with competing priorities, and a decision-making framework for acquisitions in a large company.
  • How to measure the success of an acquisition, and how sometimes, it’s not by measuring revenue at all.
Feb 29, 2016
Episode 7: YouTube
44:10

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Ben and David test the widely-held belief that YouTube was one of the most successful tech acquisitions of all time. In today's world of next-generation video platforms, mobile video, streaming, and chord-cutting, was it actually a great purchase by Google?

As discussed in the show, here is Sequoia's original YouTube investment memo - a rarely-shared gold mine for anyone interested in startup investing.

Feb 03, 2016
Episode 6: Lucasfilm
33:41

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Riding closely on the tails of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ben and David cover Disney's 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm. In the episode, they mention Walt Disney's original flywheel diagram, seen below.

Jan 19, 2016
Episode 5: Siri
37:46

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In the last episode of 2015, Ben and David discuss Apple's acquisition of Siri. Notable topics include:

  • The founding of Siri by Dag Kittlau, Adam Cheyer, and Chris Brigham.
  • Scott Forstall on the Apple side, and the end of his time at the company.
  • The other Apple acquisitions around Siri, including Topsy, Novauris Technologies, OttoCat.
  • Cue, Spotsetter, VocalIQ, and Perceptio.
  • The team Apple built around Siri post-acquisition, including Alex Acero from Microsoft Research.
  • Speculation on the future of voice and its role in everyday computing.
Dec 14, 2015
Episode 4: Bungie (with Xbox Co-Founder Ed Fries)
01:00:45

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Ben and David are joined by Former Microsoft VP and Co-Founder of Xbox, Ed Fries, to discuss the Bungie acquisition and the development of Halo. Highlights include:

  • Ed’s call with Steve Jobs after the acquisition, and sharing the stage with Steve and Bungie Co-Founder Alex Seropian at the Macworld Keynote.
  • Bungie today, and the unlikely path to get there led by Harold Ryan.
  • How to find something that all parties want to get a deal done, the creation Peter Tamte’s spin-out Mac gaming studio, and orchestrating the division of current Bungie projects and assets with Take-Two, led by Ryan Brandt.
  • Saving a project that’s off schedule and missing the mark, and how Jason Jones led the effort to make Halo 2 a hit at launch.
 
Nov 30, 2015
Episode 3: Twitch
46:48

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Ben and David discuss Amazon's acquisition of Twitch in 2014. Unlike previous episodes, this recent acquisition still has a lot of open questions, and Amazon hasn't publicly reported growth of Twitch since the purchase. Ben and David talk about Justin Kan's original product with Justin.tv, and the transformation into the Twitch that Emmett Shear is running today.

Nov 16, 2015
Episode 2: Instagram
35:55

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Ben and David discuss Facebook's acquisition of Instagram in 2012. Was it a success? If so, what are the criteria that made it work? What lessons can be learned for other acquisitions in the future?

 

Nov 01, 2015
Episode 1: Pixar
31:10

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Ben and David discuss Disney's acquisition of Pixar in 2006. Was it a success? If so, what are the criteria that made it work? What lessons can be learned for other acquisitions in the future?

 

Oct 15, 2015