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Acquired

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.

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The New York Times Company

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: https://bit.ly/acquired-vouch http://bit.ly/acquiredcapchase

 

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:

The 2014 NYT Innovation Report: https://archive.org/details/pdfy-59s-4-I2qSvG6MnA/mode/2up Mine Safety Disclosures? NYT presentation: https://minesafetydisclosures.com/blog/newyorktimes

 

Carve Outs:

Ben:

Titan by Ron Chernow: https://www.amazon.com/Titan-Life-John-Rockefeller-Sr-ebook/dp/B000XUDGHG Iteratively: https://iterative.ly

David:

Sabaa Tahir?s Ember in the Ashes series: https://www.amazon.com/Ember-Ashes-3-Book/dp/B074VDZB17

 

Episode Sources:

http://www.internethistorypodcast.com/2015/10/martin-nisenholtz-on-bringing-the-new-york-times-online/ https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/99/09/19/daily/092299tifft-book-review.html?module=inline https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0312.html https://archive.org/details/pdfy-59s-4-I2qSvG6MnA/mode/2up https://archives.cjr.org/cover_story/sulzberger_at_the_barricades.php https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolph_Ochs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Hays_Sulzberger https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fort_Sumter https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Ellsberg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dotdash https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_D._Morgan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Jones_(publisher) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Jarvis_Raymond https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iphigene_Ochs_Sulzberger https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assets_owned_by_The_New_York_Times_Company#Television_stations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_New_York_Times_employees https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Nisenholtz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times_Building https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_York_Times_Company https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism https://fintel.io/so/us/nyt https://media.foxcorporation.com/wp-content/uploads/prod/2019/09/18223214/Fox-Annual-Report-2019_Mid.pdf https://minesafetydisclosures.com/blog/newyorktimes https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2015/08/new-york-times-heirs.html https://nymag.com/news/features/40647/index4.html https://nymag.com/news/media/51015/ https://nytco-assets.nytimes.com/2021/02/Press-Release-12.27.2020-Final-for-posting.pdf https://stratechery.com/2020/an-interview-with-buzzfeed-ceo-jonah-peretti/?utm_source=Memberful&utm_campaign=f14650dd37-daily_update_2020_11_24&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d4c7fece27-f14650dd37-110888309 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0058Z4NOQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0316836311/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=86354f1b322a4ec2a548e58ac3e83d49 https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2012/05/11/new-york-times-sells-its-remaining-stake-boston-red-sox/ey4kwU4m6Xn2PYfcblrMcL/story.html https://www.enwoven.com/collections/view/1277/timeline https://www.fool.com/earnings/call-transcripts/2021/02/04/new-york-times-co-nyt-q4-2020-earnings-call-transc/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanberr/2020/09/30/failing-new-york-times-stock-is-on-a-tear/?sh=57459cfd6247 https://www.library.illinois.edu/hpnl/tutorials/antebellum-newspapers-city/ https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/NYT/new-york-times/revenuehttps://www.presscouncil.org.au/uploads/52321/ufiles/The_New_York_Times_Innovation_Report_-_March_2014.pdf https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/05/15/312850571/a-complicated-first-a-black-editor-takes-the-helm-at-the-gray-lady https://www.nytco.com/company/history/our-history/ https://www.nytco.com/person/a-g-sulzberger/ https://www.nytco.com/person/joseph-kahn/ https://www.nytco.com/person/kathleen-kingsbury/ https://www.nytco.com/person/meredith-kopit-levien/ https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/25/weekinreview/the-public-editor-paper-of-record-no-way-no-reason-no-thanks.html https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/business/media/20times.html https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/opinion/nocera-how-punch-protected-the-times.html https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/business/media/new-york-times-reinstates-managing-editor-role-appoints-joseph-kahn.html https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/22/reader-center/ag-sulzberger-publisher-reader-questions.html https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/insider/times-womens-section-female-reporters.html https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/28/business/media/ben-smith-buzzfeed-new-york-times.html https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/01/business/media/ben-smith-journalism-news-publishers-local.html https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/opinion/editorialboard.htmlhttps://www.nytco.com/person/dean-baquet/ https://www.quora.com/Why-is-The-New-York-Times-called-the-gray-lady https://www.scribd.com/doc/224608514/The-Full-New-York-Times-Innovation-Report?campaign=SkimbitLtd&ad_group=1025X1162200X86792d9062cfc602c27b4a78b6a20b8f&keyword=660149026&source=hp_affiliate&medium=affiliate https://www.statista.com/statistics/315041/new-york-times-company-digital-subscribers/ https://www.wsj.com/articles/american-history-and-the-new-york-times-11602093219 https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB123660214438270341 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVH0Yz0OMT0
2021-02-18
Link to episode

Special: Sequoia Capital's Investment Playbook (with Alfred Lin)

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: http://bit.ly/acquiredmasterworks (use code ?Acquired? to skip the waitlist) http://bit.ly/acquiredperkins


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:

Our two-part Sequoia history: Part I: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/sequoia-capital-part-1 Part II: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/sequoia-capital-part-ii-with-doug-leone Don Valentine's talk at Stanford GSB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKN-abRJMEw&t=2555s Our conversation about Sequoia's Black Swan Memo with Roelof Botha: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/sequoias-black-swan-memo
2021-02-01
Link to episode

Bitcoin

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: https://bit.ly/acquired-vouch http://bit.ly/acquiredcapchase


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:

Satoshi's Whitepaper: https://www.bitcoin.com/bitcoin.pdf Matt Huang's "Bitcoin for the Open-Minded Skeptic": https://www.paradigm.xyz/Bitcoin_For_The_Open_Minded_Skeptic.pdf Nellie Bowles's "Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You?re Not": https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/13/style/bitcoin-millionaires.html Square?s $50m investment in BTC: https://images.ctfassets.net/2d5q1td6cyxq/5sXNrlEh2mEnTvvhgtYOm2/737bcfdc15e2a1c3cbd9b9451710ce54/Square_Inc._Bitcoin_Investment_Whitepaper.pdf


Episode Sources:

Full list of episode sources available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/16QCDNm2qzG3Bn5h1j1KXisxL_JGT7egDx7czX9ThHLY/edit?usp=sharing 
2021-01-19
Link to episode

Special: Acquired x Indie Hackers

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: https://www.kevel.co https://www.capchase.com

 

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:

Indie Hackers: https://www.indiehackers.com
2020-12-17
Link to episode

Airbnb

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

 

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:

David ? San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker: https://www.sfballet.org/productions/nutcracker-online/

Ben ? Star Wars Lofi HipHop: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5iu1sp3UBb1rjf8KNKETtJ?si=WxPdJcRpSnelHN9qh0xYSw

 

 

Sources: 

http://www.critbuns.com/index.html http://www.paulgraham.com/airbnb.html https://avc.com/2011/03/airbnb/ https://diff.substack.com/p/understanding-airbnb https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbnb https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Chesky https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CouchSurfing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Gebbia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Airbnb https://gadgets.ndtv.com/internet/features/airbnb-ipo-ceo-brian-chesky-nasdaq-december-debut-stock-market-2328441 https://growthhackers.com/growth-studies/airbnb https://hbr.org/2019/04/research-when-airbnb-listings-in-a-city-increase-so-do-rent-prices https://medium.com/traveltechmedia/airbnb-vs-booking-holdings-51e79b8cc489 https://news.airbnb.com/brian-cheskys-open-letter-to-the-airbnb-community-about-building-a-21st-century-company/ https://news.airbnb.com/designing-the-future-of-airbnb/ https://nextviewventures.com/blog/airbnb-s-1-part-1-so-how-profitable-is-this-thing-really/ https://thegeneralist.substack.com/p/airbnb-the-disaster-artist https://twitter.com/danprimack/status/1337101820007768064 https://www.amazon.com/Upstarts-Airbnb-Battle-Silicon-Valley/dp/0316388416/ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-09/airbnb-s-3-1-billion-ipo-hinges-on-hosts-who-make-rentals-feel-like-home https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/10/airbnb-gitlab-considering-direct-listings-and-bankers-coming-around.html https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/14/airbnb-raises-another-1-billion-in-debt.html https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/09/airbnb-sells-shares-at-68-in-ipo-pricing-above-range.html https://www.epi.org/publication/the-economic-costs-and-benefits-of-airbnb-no-reason-for-local-policymakers-to-let-airbnb-bypass-tax-or-regulatory-obligations/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidjeans/2020/11/16/airbnb-cofounders-own-nearly-42-of-covid-dented-business-ipo-filing-shows/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianchesky/ https://www.npr.org/2017/10/19/543035808/airbnb-joe-gebbia https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/technology/airbnb-employees-ipo-payouts.html https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/17/technology/airbnb-coronavirus-layoffs-.html https://www.phocuswire.com/booking-holdings-expedia-group-marketing-spend-2019 https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1559720/000119312520294801/d81668ds1.htm https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1559720/000119312520306257/d81668ds1a.htm https://www.theinformation.com/articles/10-questions-airbnbs-ipo-investors-should-ask https://www.theinformation.com/articles/airbnbs-biggest-ipo-winners?utm_content=article-5102&utm_campaign=article_email&utm_source=sg&utm_medium=email https://www.theinformation.com/video/313?utm_campaign=Live_Video_QA_Call_P&utm_content=565410&utm_medium=email&utm_source=cio&utm_term=197334 https://www.wsj.com/articles/airbnb-expected-to-price-ipo-above-56-to-60-a-share-range-11607527468?mod=hp_lead_pos5 https://www.wsj.com/articles/airbnb-operating-chief-to-step-down-join-board-11574439482?mod=article_inline https://www.wsj.com/articles/airbnb-paying-more-than-10-interest-on-1-billion-financing-announced-monday-11586297484?mod=rsswn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efNyRmTLbjQ https://www.linkedin.com/in/blecharczyk/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/jgebbia/ https://news.airbnb.com/brian-cheskys-open-letter-to-the-airbnb-community-about-building-a-21st-century-company/

 

2020-12-11
Link to episode

DoorDash

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

 

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:

Hades on the Nintendo Switch: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/hades-switch/

Ben:

Watchmen on HBO: https://www.hbo.com/watchmen

Succession on HBO: https://www.hbo.com/succession

Palm Springs: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9484998/

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DoorDash https://startupclass.samaltman.com/courses/lec08/ https://techcrunch.com/2013/09/30/door-dash-raises-2-4m/ https://medium.com/@DoorDash/the-doordash-story-b370c2bb1e5f https://vator.tv/news/2019-01-04-when-doordash-was-young-the-early-years https://medium.com/@DoorDash/the-red-shirts-are-in-boston-838b0ddf63de https://medium.com/@DoorDash/doordash-raises-40m-led-by-kleiner-perkins-caufield-byers-9be34d3480c1 https://medium.com/@DoorDash/with-doordash-the-colonel-now-delivers-609fe6e8d263 https://www.tmz.com/2015/11/11/in-n-out-lawsuit/ https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-doordash-restaurant-food-delivery-lawsuit-20180109-story.html https://medium.com/@DoorDash/2015-the-year-in-doordash-delivery-b40bd22738b9 https://medium.com/@DoorDash/127-million-more-ways-to-move-doordash-forward-e22d86739a56 https://www.wsj.com/articles/food-delivery-startup-doordash-is-raising-more-than-110-million-1455639655 https://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-DGB-44622 https://fortune.com/2018/08/16/doordash-raises-250m-at-4b-valuation/ https://qz.com/1549084/doordash-overtook-uber-eats-in-us-online-food-delivery-second-measure-finds/ https://fortune.com/2019/03/11/doordash-tops-grubhub-on-demand-food/ https://www.inquirer.com/news/virus-doordash-grubhand-profits-competition-sales-20200427.html https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/10/21287128/grubhub-just-eat-takeaway-merger-uber-deal-antitrust https://themargins.substack.com/p/doordash-and-pizza-arbitrage https://www.meritechcapital.com/blog/doordash-ipo-s-1-breakdown https://www.firehose.vc/p/firehose-181-dashing-to-ipo- https://medium.com/@DoorDash/live-más-on-demand-doordash-taco-bell-is-here-e94956306f9e https://blog.doordash.com/fueling-the-last-mile-3ae0a6b45ea0 https://www.wsj.com/articles/airbnb-doordash-aim-for-higher-than-expected-valuations-ahead-of-debuts-11606689243 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9KRJEAoqQ8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNfipjK3Gro https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1792789/000119312520292381/d752207ds1.htm https://thegeneralist.substack.com/p/doordash-the-value-of-speed https://www.linkedin.com/in/evanmoore/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/xutony/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/stanleytang/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/fangsterr/ https://medium.com/@DoorDash/doordash-raises-17-3-million-from-sequoia-capital-dc0d7aca1012 https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5ucHIub3JnLzUxMDMxMy9wb2RjYXN0LnhtbA/episode/MTc1NzVjMWQtYTFjNy00ZWJiLThmZTctYWE0MDc2NDFlYjg3 https://www.wsj.com/articles/doordash-poised-to-tap-torrid-ipo-market-11607442406 https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/postmates/company_financials https://blog.doordash.com/accelerating-our-unprecedented-growth-e5c9eb343ce8 https://nextbn.ggvc.com/opinions/meituan-dianpings-path-towards-profitability/ https://www.meritechcapital.com/blog/doordash-ipo-s-1-breakdown https://tanay.substack.com/p/doordash-and-profitable-food-delivery https://www.firehose.vc/p/firehose-181-dashing-to-ipo- https://themargins.substack.com/p/doordash-and-societal-arbitrage https://twitter.com/micapital2/status/1328491576109068289 https://twitter.com/Jer_Diamond/status/1329187739762184192 https://medium.com/@JeremyDiamond/feeding-the-rebels-6d748b8cfc58 https://thegeneralist.substack.com/p/doordash-the-value-of-speed https://www.ft.com/content/53e32708-59ea-11ea-a528-dd0f971febbc https://twitter.com/michaelxbloch/status/1335608288008941570 https://www.wsj.com/video/series/in-the-elevator-with/in-the-elevator-with-the-ceo-shaking-up-the-bra-industry/2BA23DB1-114C-489B-BA1A-A7346DE99136 https://www.vox.com/2019/1/9/18174556/doordash-tony-xu-christopher-payne-food-delivery-shopping-recode-decode-kara-swisher-podcast https://theflywheel.substack.com/p/doordash-flywheel-teardown https://www.wsj.com/articles/doordash-ipo-filing-shows-a-profitable-quarter-11605276373

 

2020-12-10
Link to episode

Slack + Salesforce Emergency Pod with Packy McCormick of Not Boring

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

 

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:

Not Boring: https://notboring.substack.com Packy on Twitter: https://twitter.com/packyM Packy's bull thesis on Slack from November 2020: https://notboring.substack.com/p/slack-the-bulls-are-typing
2020-12-02
Link to episode

Virgin Galactic

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

 

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:

Virgin Galactic's "One Small Step" reservation program: https://www.virgingalactic.com/smallstep/ The November 2020 launch delay: https://www.virgingalactic.com/articles/virgin-galactic-adjusts-test-flight-schedule-in-response-to-new-state-government-covid-19-restrictions/

 

Sources:

Black Sky Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cikmdTVFPig How to Make a Spaceship: https://www.amazon.com/How-Make-Spaceship-Renegades-Spaceflight/dp/1101980494/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= http://d18rn0p25nwr6d.cloudfront.net/CIK-0001706946/362d3eae-199a-4995-ab78-232a09ced07d.pdf http://www.agent4stars.com/virgin-galactic-passenger-list/ https://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=8191703 https://abcnews.go.com/Business/virgin-galactic-resume-selling-tickets-space-reports-skyrocketing/story?id=69229936 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Galactic https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burt_Rutan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Branson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaled_Composites https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spaceship_Company https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Galactic https://investors.virgingalactic.com/news/news-details/2020/Virgin-Galactic-Adjusts-Test-Flight-Schedule-in-Response-to-New-State-Government-COVID-19-Restrictions/default.aspx https://investors.virgingalactic.com/news/news-details/2020/Virgin-Galactic-Announces-Third-Quarter-2020-Financial-Results/default.aspx https://open.spotify.com/episode/63gIP0UcvBUyhuf0qz1Rza https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5mZWVkYnVybmVyLmNvbS9wcm8tcmF0YQ/episode/OTc4MDliM2MtYTI1NS0xMWU5LWJhZjMtMmYxYWQyZTM2ZmM0 https://sifted.eu/articles/fund-fintech-secret-ian-osborne/ https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/16/cant-stop-wont-stop-social-capital-hedosophia-just-filed-for-its-fourth-spac-says-new-report/ https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/aerospace/2007-08-28/northrop-grumman-seals-scaled-composites-deal https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-11-05/virgin-galactic-sees-new-ticket-sales-after-branson-s-space-trip https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20121005005907/en/Virgin-Galactic-Acquires-Full-Ownership-Spaceship-Company#.VFvXsPnF98E https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddawkins/2020/09/06/inside-virgin-orbit-richard-bransons-small-satellite-bid-to-match-musk-and-bezos-in-the-billionaire-space-race/?sh=1d880f577ab9 https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/industry-focus/cg-virgin-galactic-prepares-wOHokI4mM06/ https://www.marketwatch.com/story/abu-dhabis-aabar-boosts-virgin-galactic-stake-2011-10-19 https://www.renaissancecapital.com/IPO-Center/News/65718/The-Space-SPAC-Everything-You-Need-to-Know-about-Virgin-Galactic https://www.renaissancecapital.com/IPO-Center/News/72123/Palihapitiya-and-Osbornes-fifth-SPAC-Social-Capital-Hedosophia-Holdings-V-p https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1706946/000114420417044783/v473766_s1.htm https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1706946/000119312519215509/d785777ds4.htm https://www.space.com/31993-stephen-hawking-virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-unity.html https://www.spacedaily.com/upi/2004/0831-091100-us-spacerace2-cashprize.html https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/oct/09/virgin-galactic-space-tourism-richard-branson-george-whitesides https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/13/17967954/virgin-galactic-richard-branson-saudi-arabia-jamal-khashoggi https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2018/05/29/amazons-jeff-bezos-says-we-need-leave-earth-survive/651715002/?fbclid=IwAR0E2z5cBtry3Zy0sNRs9jRFKjE_b-T7N-kN0TQO7MDbWJO-baZKw4ZMZGU https://www.wsj.com/articles/richard-bransons-virgin-orbit-seeks-1-billion-valuation-in-fundraising-11602403201?cx_testId=3&cx_testVariant=cx_2&cx_artPos=1#cxrecs_s https://www.wsj.com/articles/richard-bransons-virgin-raises-480-million-with-spac-11601642288
2020-11-23
Link to episode

Special: Superhuman Part II - Designing Software to Feel like a Game (with Rahul Vohra)

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.?
2020-11-12
Link to episode

Twitter (with Dick Costolo)

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

Playbook Themes from this Episode:

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. 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. 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. 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:

Ashish Goel at Stanford: https://web.stanford.edu/~ashishg/twitter.html Dick and Adam's new firm, 01 Advisors: https://01a.com/

Carve Outs:

Vote! https://www.vote.org
2020-10-28
Link to episode

Special: Invest Like the Best on Acquired

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:

Chetan Puttagunta (#1): Go slow to go fast ? http://investorfieldguide.com/chetan/ Chetan Puttagunta (#2): Open source isn?t about saving on R&D, it?s about building differentiated distribution among developers ? http://investorfieldguide.com/chetan-puttagunta-and-jeremiah-lowin-open-source-crash-course-invest-like-the-best-ep-188/ Bill Gurley: Healthy marketplace opportunities have increasing marginal value to demand from incremental supply penetration ? http://investorfieldguide.com/gurley/ Matthew Ball: The key to unlocking the Metaverse isn?t about building Ready Player One, it?s about creating interoperable systems that will move value and information between experiences ? http://investorfieldguide.com/matt-ball-the-future-of-media-movies-the-metaverse-and-more-invest-like-the-best-ep-185/ Charlie Songhurst: The best place to look for talent is in less-competitive markets ? http://investorfieldguide.com/songhurst/ Katrina Lake: The past of e-commerce was about price, convenience and selection; the future is about personalization and curation ? http://investorfieldguide.com/katrina-lake-the-next-wave-of-e-commerce-invest-like-the-best-ep-187/ Daniel Ek: Company scaling as ?seeing around corners? ? http://investorfieldguide.com/ek/ Kat Cole: Inversion as a tool to deal with difficult people ? http://investorfieldguide.com/kat-cole-how-to-operate-lessons-in-brand-distribution-and-leadership-invest-like-the-best-ep-184/ Sarah Tavel: Hierarchy as a framework ? http://investorfieldguide.com/tavel/ Josh Wolfe: The ?directional arrow of progress? and the simple power of extrapolating trend lines ? http://investorfieldguide.com/wolfe2/

 

Links:

Invest Like the Best: http://investorfieldguide.com/podcast/ Founder's Field Guide: http://investorfieldguide.com/founders-field-guide/ OSAM and Canvas: https://www.osam.com
2020-10-07
Link to episode

The NBA

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

 

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:

Our old LA Clippers episode: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/episode-36-the-la-clippers The Last Dance: https://www.netflix.com/title/80203144 Allen Iverson Players' Tribune piece: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/life-and-times-of-allen-iverson

 

Carve Outs:

David:

Phil Libin and Mmhmm on Joe Sweeny's Just Raised podcast: https://overcast.fm/+hJ7uJqHMA

Ben:

Meow Wolf + documentary https://meowwolf.com/explore/origin-story

 

Sources:

Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball: https://www.amazon.com/Book-Basketball-NBA-According-Sports/dp/0345520106 http://investorfieldguide.com/hinkie/ https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1039092-nba-revenue-sharing-small-market-teams-to-benefit-from-new-sharing-structure https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1554991-ranking-each-decade-of-nba-basketball-from-the-1960s-to-today https://cbabreakdown.com/salary-cap-overview https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABA?NBA_merger https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABA?NBA_merger https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basketball https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Russell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtics?Lakers_rivalry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Stern https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eligibility_for_the_NBA_draft https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem_Globetrotters https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kareem_Abdul-Jabbar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NBA_team_owners https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jordan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Basketball_Association https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Basketball_Players_Association https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_2K https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_Collective_Bargaining_Agreement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_dress_code https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_salary_cap https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Renaissance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacers?Pistons_brawl https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilt_Chamberlain https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_National_Basketball_Association https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yao_Ming https://fansided.com/2018/08/11/nba-reaches-30-million-instagram-followers/ https://globalsportmatters.com/business/2019/03/05/nba-realizing-the-power-of-new-markets-for-talent-and-revenue/ https://globalsportmatters.com/business/2019/03/07/tv-is-biggest-driver-in-global-sport-league-revenue/ https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-07-29/Tencent-NBA-extend-partnership-for-five-more-years-in-1-5-bln-deal-IJ0UB34uxq/index.html https://opendorse.com/blog/the-top-100-athletes-on-social-media-2019/ https://sabr.org/research/article/mlbs-annual-salary-leaders-since-1874/ https://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1632&context=sportslaw https://techcrunch.com/2019/10/08/chinese-firms-tencent-vivo-and-cctv-suspend-ties-with-the-nba-over-hong-kong-tweet/ https://thehustle.co/dont-even-go-there/ https://web.archive.org/web/20110811000133/http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/27/sports/la-sp-crowe-20100427 https://www.biography.com/scholar/james-a-naismith https://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/sports-news/the-25-richest-athletes-in-the-world-2020/ https://www.davemanuel.com/investor-dictionary/basketball-related-income/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/aliciajessop/2012/06/14/the-surge-of-the-nbas-international-viewership-and-popularity/#39a5149a79ef https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2019/10/09/the-nbas-soaring-franchise-value-growth-at-stake-with-china-feud/#7c83a48c4257 https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2020/02/11/nba-team-values-2020-lakers-and-warriors-join-knicks-in-rarefied-4-billion-club/#7fa5ff532032 https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2020/05/03/michael-jordans-1-billion-nike-endorsement-is-the-biggest-bargain-in-sports/#456253056136 https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2020/07/31/the-worlds-most-valuable-sports-teams-2020/#4c40b5d3c749 https://www.groovewallet.com/richest-athletes/ https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/070715/nbas-business-model.asp https://www.marketplace.org/2020/06/18/the-nba-hopes-to-recoup-revenue-in-the-bubble-at-disney-world/ https://www.nba.com/david-stern-looking-back-index https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-sports/how-david-sterns-nba-dress-code-changed-mens-fashion-104719/ https://www.sbnation.com/2014/10/5/6916597/nba-new-tv-deal-espn-turner-24-billion https://www.si.com/longform/2018/nba-international-oral-history/index.html https://www.si.com/nba/2019/06/27/yao-ming-nba-rockets-chinese-basketball-association-adam-silver https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/nba-could-see-400m-revenue-decline-in-china-this-season-57153753 https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2017/07/17/Research-and-Ratings/Social.aspx https://www.sportscasting.com/does-the-nba-own-the-wnba/ https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/02/from-mao-zedong-to-jeremy-lin-why-basketball-is-chinas-biggest-sport/253427/ https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/life-and-times-of-allen-iverson https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2019/10/09/nba-china-hong-kong-whats-at-stake/3912447002/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1983/03/15/nba-red-ink-and-a-bleak-future/198bd65f-4062-4372-95e4-388b22c77666/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/12/26/how-the-nba-went-global/?noredirect=on https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2017/12/26/how-the-nba-went-global/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fd1f9bd476e5 https://www.wsj.com/articles/yao-ming-the-7-foot-6-man-caught-between-the-nba-and-china-11570727998 https://www.yardbarker.com/nba/articles/nba_owners_from_oldest_to_youngest/s1__29844068#slide_30
2020-10-01
Link to episode

Special: Acquired x My First Million

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:

My First Million?s website: https://thehustle.co/my-first-million-podcast/
2020-09-09
Link to episode

Epic Games

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

 

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:

MTV Cribs, "Tim Sweeney Edition": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRGUKMKadJ8

Carve Outs:

Ben's "3 part carve out": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bErPsq5kPzE - original video demo of Unreal Engine for filmmaking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUnxzVOs3rk - Feb 2020, video on "The Volume" https://ascmag.com/articles/the-mandalorian David Asimov's Foundation Series: https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Asimovs-Foundation-Foundations-Prelude/dp/B01EFDEMS8

 

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliff_Bleszinski https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_Games https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Unreal_Engine_games#Unreal_Engine_4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Sweeney_(game_developer) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZZT https://forums.unrealengine.com/community/general-discussion/40293-does-epic-make-more-money-from-games-or-game-engines https://gamasutra.com/view/feature/132426/from_the_past_to_the_future_tim_.php https://kotaku.com/the-quiet-tinkerer-who-makes-games-beautiful-finally-ge-5865951 https://open.spotify.com/episode/0c8KkHc3lrHgGVyRVCo5B3 (Wizard & the Bruiser episode on Epic) https://overcast.fm/+aLde2gbYE https://overcast.fm/+JNncEontw https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/27/epic-fortnite-3-billion-profit/ https://twitter.com/sarahjeong/status/1298031302357082112?s=10 https://variety.com/2018/gaming/news/fortnite-epic-games-billion-dollar-decision-1202884194/ https://venturebeat.com/2018/04/26/superdata-fortnite-is-now-the-biggest-free-to-play-console-game-ever/ https://web.archive.org/web/20010519154729/http://www.gamespot.com/features/makeunreal/ https://www.appannie.com/en/apps/ios/top/united-states/games/iphone/ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-19/epic-games-fortnite-battle-with-apple-and-google-can-be-traced-to-nintendo-tax https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-made-360-million-from-fortnite- in-app-purchases-2020-8 https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/12/epic-games-company-behind-fortnite-was-founded-by-a-college-kid.html https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/14/the-reason-epic-landed-a-15-billion-valuation-is-not-fortnite-success.html https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/07/apple-app-store-had-estimated-gross-sales-of-50-billion-in-2019.html https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132426/from_the_past_to_the_f uture_tim_.php?print=1 https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-03-22-tencent-paid-usd330m-for-48-percent-share-in-epic-games https://www.gamespot.com/articles/chinese-internet-company-owns-40-percent-of-epic-games/1100-6405749/ https://www.gamesradar.com/the-epic-tradition/ https://www.ign.com/articles/1999/02/04/epic-sets-up-shop https://www.matthewball.vc/all/epicgamesprimermaster https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article238221784.html https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/technology/fortnite-creator-tim-sweeney-apple-google.html?referringSource=articleShare https://www.pcgamesn.com/steam-revenue-cut-tim-sweeney https://www.polygon.com/2012/10/1/3438196/better-with-age-a-history-of-epic-games https://www.polygon.com/2013/11/21/5128872/epic-classics-ships-last-copy-of-zzt https://www.polygon.com/a/epic-4-0 https://www.polygon.com/a/epic-4-0/the-four-lives-of-epic-games https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/2/21046920/fortnite-revenue-drop-superdata-nielsen-2019-earnings https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/17/21369460/apple-fortnite-app-store-services-business-model-epic-games https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-man-behind-fortnite-11560571201
2020-09-02
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Eventbrite (with Julia & Kevin Hartz)

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: https://growwithbamboo.com https://www.perkinscoie.com/

 

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.
2020-08-26
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Pinduoduo

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.

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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/

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Links:

Photo of 26 year-old Colin at lunch with Warren Buffett: https://thelowdown.momentum.asia/cv-of-pinduoduos-founder/ PDD users on mini-programs vs other Chinese e-commerce players: https://miro.medium.com/max/1080/0*39fpSP_JqhDaPhQ2.png

Carve Outs

How to Make a Spaceship https://www.amazon.com/How-Make-Spaceship-Renegades-Spaceflight/dp/1594206724 Creativity, Inc. https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Inc-Overcoming-Unseen-Inspiration/dp/0812993012/

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/

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Sources:

http://investor.pinduoduo.com/static-files/468b2c9f-9112-410d-84b3-2b22e07c7ee0 http://investor.pinduoduo.com/static-files/5539839d-0a1c-4d40-9bb7-bdb490e2370c https://analyse.asia/2018/08/09/episode-260-pinduoduo-their-upcoming-ipo-in-china-with-matthew-brennan/ https://analyse.asia/2020/06/28/pinduoduo-on-social-ecommerce-agriculture-with-xinyi-lim/ https://blog.ycombinator.com/pinduoduo-and-the-rise-of-social-e-commerce https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinduoduo#cite_note-8 https://hans.vc/pinduoduo/ https://medium.com/@clarkboyd/pinduoduo-everything-you-need-to-know-about-pdd-chinas-third-biggest-ecommerce-site-38ac42086e47 https://overcast.fm/+HWy7CWz34 https://overcast.fm/+I8dmHF4NU https://overcast.fm/+PLdRNCiCg https://overcast.fm/+TmYdC1VPQ https://overcast.fm/+TmYfSO3sc https://targetchina.com.au/article/how-pinduoduo-successfully-gained-market-share-through-social-commerce/ https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/26/the-incredible-rise-of-pinduoduo/ https://technode.com/2020/05/12/pinduoduo-growth-story-needs-a-new-chapter/ https://trendslates.substack.com/p/amazons-335bn-in-gmv-amazon-testing https://twitter.com/bgurley/status/1255172025053663232 https://www.businessinsider.com/fabulous-life-colin-huang-pinduoduo-2020-7 https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/22/what-is-pinduoduo-chinese-ecommerce-rival-to-alibaba.html https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/07/02/why-pinduoduo-stock-popped-today.aspx https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/07/07/4-tough-tasks-for-pinduoduos-new-ceo.aspx https://www.forbes.com/real-time-billionaires/#721870433d78 https://www.scmp.com/tech/e-commerce/article/3081078/pinduoduo-doubles-down-rural-china-five-year-us71-billion-e https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1737806/000104746918005204/a2236308z424b4.htm https://www.sec.gov/ix?doc=/Archives/edgar/data/1737806/000110465920051022/pdd-20191231x20f.htm https://www.techbuzzchina.com/episodes/ep-17-pinduoduo-from-zero-to-23b-in-three-years https://www.theinformation.com/articles/chinas-pinduoduo-is-nipping-at-alibabas-heels https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BidaQ22vWvM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqxtfOMMVFg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjLhCK8sUcw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zbskb0KMBUU&t=4s
2020-07-16
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LP Show Preview: Consumer Investing Master Class with Sarah Tavel, General Partner at Benchmark

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:

"Hierarchy of Marketplaces" posts: https://medium.com/@sarahtavel/the-hierarchy-of-marketplaces-introduction-and-level-1-983995aa218e "Hierarchy of Engagement" post: https://medium.com/@sarahtavel/the-hierarchy-of-engagement-expanded-648329d60804 Rocks, Sand, and Water Framework for Consumer Attention: https://medium.com/@sarahtavel/the-opportunity-and-risks-for-consumer-startups-in-a-social-distancing-world-a-framework-for-15f65e2fbdff
2020-07-07
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Oprah (Harpo Studios)

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:

David: The Dark Tower series by Stephen King https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07959YG1R? Ben: Reply All "Long Distance" https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/6nh3wk

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:

http://blackeconomics.co.uk/wp/oprahs-empire/ http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/the-oprah-winfrey-show-by-the-numbers-oprah-show-statistics/all http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/The-Oprah-Shows-Most-Shocking-Moments_1 https://diverseeducation.com/article/1205/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oprah_Winfrey https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oprah_Winfrey_Network https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WW_International https://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-oprah-regrets-famous-wagon-233648610.html https://freakonomics.com/2008/08/06/so-much-for-one-person-one-vote/ https://hbr.org/podcast/2018/01/black-business-leaders-series-oprahs-path-to-authentic-leadership https://stmuhistorymedia.org/from-rags-to-riches-the-story-of-oprah-winfrey/ https://www.amazon.com/Oprah-Biography-Kitty-Kelley/dp/0307394875 https://www.amazon.com/Ride-Lifetime-Lessons-Learned-Company/dp/0399592091 https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1998-09-25-9809260006-story.html https://www.cnn.com/ampstories/entertainment/how-oprah-winfrey-built-her-business-empire https://www.forbes.com/profile/oprah-winfrey/#c52ce3e5745f https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifereum/2014/09/29/how-oprah-went-from-talk-show-host-to-first-african-american-woman-billionaire/#7f21cfb76163 https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/oprah-gives-away-nearly-300-new-cars https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/you-get-a-car-oprah-winfrey-giveaway-studio-audience-gift-tax-members-guests-pay-show-a8208051.html https://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/an-anxious-america-gets-set-for-life-after-oprah-2285528.html https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2001-feb-21-ca-27886-story.html https://www.npr.org/podcasts/500692140/making-beyonc https://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/12/news/jackson-interview-high-in-ratings.html https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/business/media/23carr.html https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/11/business/media/end-of-oprahs-show-tightens-races-for-tv-ratings.html https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/the-oprah-phenomenon-by-the-numbers https://www.robertfeder.com/2016/06/15/legendary-tv-exec-dennis-swanson-retires/ https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2017/05/13/oprah-winfrey-untold-story/ https://www.thebalancesmb.com/oprah-winfrey-entrepreneur-1200951 https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/jan/12/oprah-winfrey-unlikely-to-run-for-us-president-but-could-win-if-she-did https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/oprahs-last-show-averaged-8957-million-fewer-viewers-than-mash-finale/2011/06/08/AGD5AUMH_story.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cooRceBiE8E
2020-06-25
Link to episode

SpaceX

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:

The Tesla episode: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/season-3-episode-1tesla The Ascend Conference: https://www.ascend.events

Carveouts:

David: The Last Dance: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/28973557/the-last-dance-updates-untold-story-michael-jordan-chicago-bulls Ben: Michael Mauboussin on the Success Equation: https://youtu.be/1JLfqBsX5Lc

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:

Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance: https://www.amazon.com/Elon-Musk-SpaceX-Fantastic-Future/dp/006230125X https://timelines.issarice.com/wiki/Timeline_of_SpaceX https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/03/spacex-historic-falcon-9-re-flight-ses-10/ https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/wiki/economics https://www.space.com/40547-spacex-rocket-evolution.html https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/08/how-and-why-spacex-will-colonize-mars.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elon_Musk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_D._Griffin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Cantrell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Mueller https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwynne_Shotwell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_Orbital_Transportation_Services https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Act_Agreement https://www.spacex.com/mission/ https://venturebeat.com/2008/08/06/private-rocket-company-spacex-gets-20m-from-the-founders-fund/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_and_Falcon_Heavy_launches https://www.space.com/40547-spacex-rocket-evolution.html https://www.businessinsider.com/spacex-starlink-spacecraft-pictures-elon-musk-2018-2 https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/09/inside-the-eight-desperate-weeks-that-saved-spacex-from-ruin/ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/22/science/spacex-nasa-launch.html https://graphics.reuters.com/SPACE-EXPLORATION-SPACEX/010091Q82NF/index.html https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/31/elon-musk-spacex-is-now-worth-more-than-tesla.html https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-wins-launch-contract-egyptian-telecom-company/ https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-falcon-heavy-booster-overboard/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYocHwhfFDc https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/IG-18-016.pdf https://everydayastronaut.com/will-the-falcon-9-actually-be-reusable-or-just-refurbish-able-like-the-space-shuttle/
2020-05-26
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Adapting Episode 3: Intel

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:

Only the Paranoid Survive:  https://www.amazon.com/Only-Paranoid-Survive-Exploit-Challenge-ebook/dp/B0036S4B2G Swimming Across: https://www.amazon.com/Swimming-Across-Andrew-S-Grove-ebook/dp/B07CJRM4DX/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Grove https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Moore https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Noyce https://www.businessinsider.com/alan-patricof-greycroft-ipo-market-2011-1 https://anthonysmoak.com/2016/03/27/andy-grove-and-intels-move-from-memory-to-microprocessors/ http://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/text/Oral_History/Intel_386_Business_Strategy/102701962.05.01.pdf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_80386 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shockley https://www.inc.com/ilan-mochari/remembering-andy-grove-intel.html
2020-05-12
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Special Episode: Jason Calacanis

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/
2020-04-29
Link to episode

Podapalooza Announcement: Intel

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

2020-04-15
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Adapting Episode 2: Sequoia?s Black Swan Memo (with Roelof Botha)

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:

The Black Swan Memo: https://medium.com/sequoia-capital/coronavirus-the-black-swan-of-2020-7c72bdeb9753  The COVID-19 Decision Matrix: https://medium.com/sequoia-capital/the-matrix-for-covid-19-c25bd5195f46 

 

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/
2020-03-31
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Adapting Episode 1: Canlis

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/

2020-03-20
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The Top 10 Acquisitions of All-Time

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/
2020-03-17
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LP Show Preview: Remote Work, No-Code, and Products that Sell Themselves (w/ Zapier CEO Wade Foster)

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.

2020-03-05
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Sequoia Capital Part II (with Doug Leone)

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:

You can listen to Part I of our Sequoia story, which dives deep into the history and background of the firm, here: https://www.acquired.fm/episodes/sequoia-capital-part-1

 

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:

https://www.brunswickgroup.com/sequoia-capital-doug-leone-silicon-valley-i11786/ https://www.sequoiacap.com/people/doug-leone/ https://www.sequoiacap.com/newsletter/2018-06-20-doug-leone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Er4QcNdjVU https://www.linkedin.com/in/douglas-leone-a2714/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cl8X02Xd1I https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrJgwKiEpaI
2020-02-18
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WhatsApp

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:

Ben: Computer glasses: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=computer+glasses David: Reebok Floatrides: https://www.amazon.com/Reebok-Forever-Floatride-Energy-Black/dp/B07NYBRQ96/

 

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:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WhatsApp https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/02/19/exclusive-inside-story-how-jan-koum-built-whatsapp-into-facebooks-new-19-billion-baby/#64c1c94b2fa1 https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/03/04/inside-the-facebook-whatsapp-megadeal-the-courtship-the-secret-meetings-the-19-billion-poker-game/#63d8b5c4350f https://www.wired.com/2015/09/whatsapp-serves-900-million-users-50-engineers/ https://youtu.be/v6PbymjXsto https://youtu.be/X4YsJt4rIOI https://overcast.fm/+WorS9-a74 https://youtu.be/-2CAWS7M_0w https://youtu.be/X4YsJt4rIOI https://www.wired.co.uk/article/whats-app-owner-founder-jan-koum-facebook  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/whatsapp-brian-acton-delete-facebook-stanford-lecture  https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2018/09/26/exclusive-whatsapp-cofounder-brian-acton-gives-the-inside-story-on-deletefacebook-and-why-he-left-850-million-behind/#7475a0213f20  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-06-28/tencent-rules-china-the-problem-is-the-rest-of-the-world   https://techcrunch.com/2013/07/16/whatsapp-free/ http://allthingsd.com/tag/jan-koum/ http://allthingsd.com/20130510/whatsapp-ceo-jan-koum-hates-advertising-and-the-tech-rumor-mill-full-dive-video/  https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/31/whatsapp-hits-1-5-billion-monthly-users-19b-not-so-bad/ https://blog.whatsapp.com/10000633/Building-for-People-and-Now-Businesses https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/05/whatsapp-business-app/  https://techcrunch.com/2014/02/21/whatsapp/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/whatsapp-founder-plans-to-leave-after-broad-clashes-with-parent-facebook/2018/04/30/49448dd2-4ca9-11e8-84a0-458a1aa9ac0a_story.html https://www.wsj.com/articles/whatsapp-backs-off-controversial-plan-to-sell-ads-11579207682 https://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-the-messy-expensive-split-between-facebook-and-whatsapps-founders-1528208641?mod=article_inline  https://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/06/05/whatsapp-co-founder-stresses-independence-from-facebook/?mod=article_inline https://bgr.com/2020/01/17/whatsapp-ads-2020-facebook-canceled-plans-to-bring-ads-to-status-bar/ https://www.vox.com/2018/5/8/17329524/whatsapp-new-ceo-facebook-cofounder-jan-koum-departs https://www.linkedin.com/in/chdaniels/ https://www.linkedin.com/in/jkoum/
2020-01-29
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The Lean Startup and the Long-Term Stock Exchange (with Eric Ries)

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
2019-12-30
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Convoy (with CEO Dan Lewis)

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: 

Mystery: https://mystery.sh 

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
2019-12-19
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TikTok

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:

Ben: Track 34 on Ghosts IV by Nine Inch Nails: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF_ceFugJjQ  David: Nintendo Switch Lite https://www.nintendo.com/switch/lite/ and Knives Out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGqiHJTsRkQ 

 

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:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/18/technology/tiktok-alex-zhu-interview.html  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bytedance-tiktok-exclusive/exclusive-chinas-bytedance-moves-to-ringfence-its-tiktok-app-amid-u-s-probe-sources-idUSKBN1Y10OH  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/10/arts/TIK-TOK.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/19/style/high-school-tiktok-clubs.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/03/technology/tiktok-facebook-youtube.html?action=click&module=RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/business/china-toutiao-censorship.html https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/business/media/a-social-network-frequented-by-children-tests-the-limits-of-online-regulation.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTyg2E44pBA https://www.linkedin.com/in/keepsilence/ https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/12/10/18129126/tiktok-app-musically-meme-cringe https://www.theverge.com/tldr/2018/1/26/16937712/karma-is-a-bitch-riverdale-kreayshawn-meme https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/2/17644260/musically-rebrand-tiktok-bytedance-douyin https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/tiktok-video-app-growth-867587/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical.ly https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ByteDance  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TikTok https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-musically-2016-5  https://supchina.com/2017/09/13/can-pop-music-connect-teens-china-world-musical-ly-co-founder-louis-yang-wants-find/  https://supchina.com/podcast/ep-28-the-worlds-most-valuable-startup-bytedance-maker-of-tiktok-toutiao/ https://supchina.com/podcast/ep-55-kuaishou-the-anti-douyin-tiktok/ https://supchina.com/podcast/ep-56-not-just-tiktok-a-short-history-of-chinese-short-video-abroad/  https://supchina.com/2019/09/25/the-difference-between-tiktok-and-douyin/  https://pandaily.com/toutiaos-buy-1b-purchase-musical-ly/  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-internet-livestreaming-idUSKBN17E0EV  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTyg2E44pBA  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey15v81pwII  https://www.scmp.com/tech/big-tech/article/3038639/alex-zhus-journey-failed-startup-tiktok-chief  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/zuckerberg-musically-tiktok-china-facebook  https://techcrunch.com/2019/11/12/instagram-reels/  https://www.techinasia.com/douyin-rise-in-china  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptKqFafZgCk  https://technode.com/2017/05/17/kwai-kuaishou-chinas-biggest-social-video-sharing-app/  https://technode.com/2018/05/10/how-douyin-became-the-most-popular-app-in-the-world/  https://blog.ycombinator.com/the-hidden-forces-behind-toutiao-chinas-content-king/  https://www.techinasia.com/douyin-rise-in-china  https://www.oberlo.com/blog/tiktok-statistics  https://wallaroomedia.com/blog/social-media/tiktok-statistics/  http://money.com/money/5497929/how-tiktok-makes-money-tiktok-owner/ https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/104b-goliath-the-unknown-35-year-old-behind-the-world-s-most-valuable-startup-20181001-p5072r.html https://medium.com/@mattprd/how-tiktok-is-changing-the-world-and-youre-missing-it-fa283338649a https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bytedance-musically/chinas-bytedance-scrubs-musical-ly-brand-in-favor-of-tiktok-idUSKBN1KN0BW https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/10/25/is-snap-getting-too-cozy-with-bytedances-tiktok.aspx https://www.eugenewei.com/blog/2019/2/19/status-as-a-service https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/30/how-tiktok-holds-our-attention https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/10/style/what-is-tik-tok.html
2019-12-09
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Disney, Plus

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:

https://www.thewaltdisneycompany.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2018-Annual-Report.pdf https://www.thewaltdisneycompany.com/wp-content/uploads/q4-fy17-earnings-transcript.pdf https://www.thewaltdisneycompany.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/q4-fy19-earnings.pdf The Disney flywheel: https://kottke.org/15/06/walt-disneys-corporate-strategy-chart 

 

Sources: 

The Ride of a Lifetime by Bob Iger: https://www.amazon.com/Ride-Lifetime-Lessons-Learned-Company-ebook/dp/B07PF6XTD8 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/22/style/disney-bob-iger-book.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Iger https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/bob-iger-bets-company-hollywood-s-future-streaming-1247663  https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-kevin-mayer-deliver-the-future-of-disney-11573272027  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2019-11-07/inside-disney-bob-iger-on-star-wars-pixar-and-more  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bob-iger-the-ride-of-a-lifetime/id1264843400?i=1000451721143 

 

Carveouts: 

David: The Ride of a Lifetime Ben: The Imagineering Story on Disney+: https://www.disneyplus.com/series/the-imagineering-story/6ryoXv1e1rWW

 

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

2019-11-25
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Seattle Live Show Announcement: Convoy!

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

2019-11-18
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LP Show Preview: Chetan Puttagunta, General Partner at Benchmark

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.

2019-11-11
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The WeWork ?Acquisition? (with Dan Primack)

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 

2019-10-25
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Season 5, Episode 5: Atari (with Nolan Bushnell)

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:

Spacewar!, the first video game: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacewar!  The meaning of Atari: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/atari Nolan?s current project, St. Noire: https://www.amazon.com/St-Noire-Hosted-Cinematic-Exclusive/dp/B07P693BG1

 

Sponsor:

Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring all of Acquired Season 5. 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 posts on eSports here: https://medium.com/@alguerrero1111/why-venture-capital-is-flooding-into-esports-teams-ba179d9fc428 and mobile gaming here https://medium.com/@alguerrero1111/mobile-gaming-founders-blazing-new-trails-3ac12be54e36 
2019-10-15
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Sequoia Capital (Part 1)

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:

Silicon Valley?s ?Traitorous Eight?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traitorous_eight Don Valentine?s lecture at Stanford GSB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKN-abRJMEw&t=2555s Berkeley?s oral history with Don: http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/roho/ucb/text/valentine_donald.pdf

 

Carve Outs:

Ben: The Business Roundtable on The Daily: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/podcasts/the-daily/business-roundtable-corporate-responsibility.html David: Amazon Music on 25 years of ?Ready to Die?: https://youtu.be/Dsna1nIZzB4

 

Sponsor:

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

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traitorous_eight https://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/Silicon-Valley-Shockley-racist-semiconductor-lab-13164228.php https://signallake.com/innovation/Valentine101409.pdf http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/roho/ucb/text/valentine_donald.pdf https://www.amazon.com/dp/0875849385/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_ZB8IDb7NNAFAH https://www.amazon.com/Troublemakers-Silicon-Valleys-Coming-Age-ebook/dp/B06ZZ1YDTX/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= https://www.scaruffi.com/svhistory/arun3.html http://www.ianhathaway.org/blog/2019/7/31/vc-an-american-history https://www.axios.com/sequoia-capital-shakes-up-leadership-1513300220-7d255e34-f4bf-4178-af62-ec68023726e3.html https://www.slideshare.net/lebret/a-history-of-venture-capital-lebret-vers-11 https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=47240 https://www.inc.com/magazine/19850501/7289_pagen_5.html https://www.amazon.com/VC-American-History-Tom-Nicholas-ebook/dp/B07QV2YM3X/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKN-abRJMEw&t=2555s
2019-09-26
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San Francisco Meetup Announcement!

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 

2019-09-13
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Google Maps

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:

Bret Taylor on ?Satellite Mode?: https://twitter.com/btaylor/status/1099370126678253569?lang=en 

Justin O?Beirne?s great pieces on Apple vs Google maps: https://www.justinobeirne.com 

 

Carve Outs:

Ben: Marc Andreessen on The Moment with Brian Koppelman: https://overcast.fm/+BgXAjz54o

David: The Expanse books: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B077L6GJWW/ 

 

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

2019-08-26
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The Shopify IPO

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:

https://www.snowdevil.ca https://www.jadedpixel.com Citron?s ?research? report: https://citronresearch.com/citron-exposes-the-dark-side-of-shopify/

 

Carve Outs:

Ben: Moment smartphone camera lenses: https://www.shopmoment.com David: Quoteapro engineering and head of product roles ? DM @david in the Acquired Slack ; Bill Gurley on Invest like the Best: http://investorfieldguide.com/gurley/

 

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.

2019-08-06
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Huawei

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

Ren Zhengfei on Bloomberg TV: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-26/billionaire-huawei-founder-defiant-in-face-of-existential-threat Who owns Huawei? https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3372669

 

Carve Outs

Ben: Billions: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4270492/ David: Dune by Frank Herbert: https://www.amazon.com/Dune-Frank-Herbert-ebook/dp/B00B7NPRY8/ref=nodl

 

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
2019-07-22
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Superhuman (with CEO Rahul Vohra)

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

New York Times article announcing the fundraise: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/27/technology/superhuman-email.html  Rahul?s Medium post on acquisitions: https://medium.com/swlh/rip-mailbox-or-founders-how-to-stop-worrying-and-love-being-acquired-261da4f6d566 Rahul on finding product-market fit on First Round Review: https://firstround.com/review/how-superhuman-built-an-engine-to-find-product-market-fit/

 

Sponsor

Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 4. You can get in touch with Ned Prusse, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, at https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/ned-a-prusse.html

 

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

2019-06-27
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The Slack DPO

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

Kara Swisher?s Flipcam interview with Glitch: https://www.wsj.com/video/tiny-speck-stewart-butterfield-speaks/C51EAD27-FE8E-46AE-B785-6ECF1A9798B0.html Marc Andreessen on ?all will still end well...? https://twitter.com/patphelan/status/1142733251691405312 The Glitch public domain archive: https://www.glitchthegame.com Naming Slack: https://twitter.com/stewart/status/780906639301812225?s=21

 

Carve Outs

Ben: The Expanse on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/The-Expanse-Season-1/dp/B018BZ3SCM David: Give to any non-profit on Alma: https://alma.app/blog/1-4-million-reasons-to-love-alma-search 

 

Sponsor

Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 4. You can get in touch with Ned Prusse, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, at https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/ned-a-prusse.html

 

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

2019-06-25
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The Zoom IPO (with Santi Subotovsky)

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

Walt Mossberg?s review of Zoom in 2012: http://allthingsd.com/20120821/a-chance-to-call-15-friends-to-video-chat-in-high-def/

 

Carve Outs

Ben: General Magic https://www.generalmagicthemovie.com David: Dissect Season 4 https://dissectpodcast.com/subscribe-to-the-podcast/

 

Sponsor

Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 4. You can get in touch with Allison Handy, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, at https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/allison-c-handy.html
2019-06-19
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The Electronic Arts IPO (with Trip Hawkins)

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

Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 4. You can get in touch with Allison Handy, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, at https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/allison-c-handy.html
2019-05-27
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The Uber IPO

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

Austin Geidt?s incredible journey: https://youtu.be/-NjaqDMYNVs Travis?s self-introduction as ?the Wolf from Pulp Fiction?: https://youtu.be/VMvdvP02f-Y Travis interview on TWiST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=550X5OZVk7Y 

 

Sponsor

Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 4. You can get in touch with Allison Handy, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, at https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/allison-c-handy.html
2019-05-11
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The Pinterest IPO

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

Pinterest?s S-1: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1506293/000119312519083544/d674330ds1.htm Fun photos of the Pinterest early days from Leslie Kincaid: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/azy9xtxtq5l6r3y/AAC68OhprmVbauZreHPyLbn5a?dl=0 Pinterest financial summary on Seeking Alpha: https://seekingalpha.com/article/4255230-know-pinterest-ipo

 

Carve Outs

Ben: Eugene Wei on the Invest Like The Best Podcast: http://investorfieldguide.com/wei/ David: A-Rod interviews George Springer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOqgxmG4yc8

 

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

2019-04-24
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The Lyft IPO

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:

Lyft?s S-1: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1759509/000119312519059849/d633517ds1.htm Donate to Homobiles: http://bit.ly/2TM40nAÂ

 

Carve Outs:

Ben: Bill Gurley on "Runnin' Down a Dream" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmYekD6-PZ8 David: "Cricket Fever" on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80222770

 

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
2019-03-31
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LP sneak peek: How to build a successful SaaS company (with Jake Saper, Partner at Emergence Capital)

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

2019-03-06
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Season 4, Episode 3: Instagram Revisited (with Emily White)

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:

Ben: Sam Harris on the Joe Rogan Experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ5_hAEsLkU David: Boom Town by Sam Anderson: https://www.amazon.com/Boom-Town-Fantastical-Basketball-World-class-ebook/dp/B077RHYC4G

 

Sponsor:

Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 4. You can get in touch with Brian Eiting, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, at https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/brian-j-eiting.html
2019-02-26
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