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a16z Podcast

a16z Podcast

The a16z Podcast discusses tech and culture trends, news, and the future ? especially as ?software eats the world?. It features industry experts, business leaders, and other interesting thinkers and voices from around the world. This podcast is produced by Andreessen Horowitz (aka ?a16z?), a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm. Multiple episodes are released every week; visit a16z.com for more details and to sign up for our newsletters and other content as well!

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Episodes

Boss Talk

Boss Talk is a  weekly live show on Clubhouse, where a16z cofounder Ben Horowitz and Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi discuss CEO stuff, leadership stuff, management stuff? you know, boss stuff. Here we share the second installment; in it, they explain Conway?s Law and shipping your org chart; how to transition from a boss to a boss of bosses; and their predictions for Silicon Valley post-pandemic.

For more episodes of Boss Talk and other conversations from a16z, check out our separate feed, a16z Live.

2021-02-28
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All About Ransomware

In just the last couple years, ransomware has grown into a multibillion dollar industry. It has evolved from taking systems and servers hostage to stealing data, and it has proven capable of shutting down global organizations. In recent months, ransomware groups directly shut down Kia Motors North American IT systems; indirectly may have contributed to the death of a patient due to hospital ransomware; and allegedly stole sensitive files from a law firm whose clients include former President Trump.

In this explainer episode, Tom Hofmann, the SVP of Intelligence at Flashpoint Intel (which monitors ransomware criminal syndicates and assists organizations with prevention and response) and a16z security operating partner cover: how ransomware works, from the anatomy of a hack to how the groups operate; the role of nation-states, insurers, and regulators; and what to do if your stuff is taken hostage.

For more on cybersecurity, check out our coverage of organized cybercrime and hacks and our 16 step guide to protecting your data.

2021-02-25
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One on One with Marc and Ben

On social audio app Clubhouse, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz are hosting a new live show called "One on One with A and Z", where they go deep on questions submitted via Twitter. The show is based in part by a newspaper column that Andy Grove did in the 80s, where readers sent in questions for him to answer in his column. 

In this mega-episode of the a16z Podcast, we've combined their first two episodes into almost three hours of discussion and debate about some of the most important topics in entrepreneurship, tech, and culture. Each of these episodes also initially aired on our new show, a16z Live, which captures and share many of the live discussions and events featuring, hosted, or co-hosted by a16z partners (with outside voices too) on Clubhouse and beyond. 

2021-02-17
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Amazon Narratives: Memos, Working Backwards from Release, More

When you hear stories about Amazon's "invention machine" -- which led to a company with not just one or two products but several successful diverse lines of business -- we often hear about things like: Memos, six pages exactly and no powerpoints at all!; or, the idea of just "work backwards from the press release"; and other such "best practices"... But what's often lost in hearing about these is the context and the details behind them -- the what, the how (as well as their origin stories) -- not to mention how they all fit together. Knowing this can give us insight into  how all companies and leaders, not just Amazon and Bezos, can define their cultures and ways especially as they scale. After all, Amazon was once a small startup, too.

So in this a16z Podcast with Sonal Chokshi -- the very first podcast for the new book Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon (out February 9) -- authors Colin Bryar and Bill Carr share not only how Amazon did it, but how other companies can do it, too, drawing on their combined 27 years of firsthand observations and experiences from being in "the room" where it happens. Bill was vice president of digital media, founded and led Amazon Music, Amazon Video, Amazon Studios; and Colin started out in the software group, was a technical vice president, and then, notably, was one of Jeff Bezos' earliest shadows -- the shadow before him was in fact Andy Jassy, president and CEO of Amazon Web Services (soon to be CEO of Amazon).

The two share not only the early inside stories behind (ultimately) big business moves like AWS, Kindle, Prime -- but more importantly, the leadership principles, decision making practices, AND operational processes that got them there. Because "working backwards" is much, much more than being obsessed with your customers, or having company values like "are right a lot?, "insist on the highest standards", "think big", "bias for action", and more. The discussion also touches on hot-topic debates like to lean-MVP-or-not-to-be; the internal API economy; do you even need a chief product officer; and if you need less, not more, coordination as you grow. Can startups really be like Amazon? Yes: and it comes down to how leaders, organizations, and people at all levels decide, build, invent... using the power of narratives and more.

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The views expressed here are those of the AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (?a16z?) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by a16z. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, a16z has not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. In addition, this content may include third-party advertisements; a16z has not reviewed such advertisements and does not endorse any advertising content contained therein.

This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by Andreessen Horowitz (excluding investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets) is available at https://a16z.com/investments/.

Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.

2021-02-08
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Anatomy of the SolarWinds Hack: Who What Where When How

In this special ?3x?-long episode of our (otherwise shortform) news analysis show 16 Minutes -- past such 2-3X explainer episodes have covered section 230, Tiktok, GPT-3, the opioid crisis, more -- we cover the SolarWinds hack, one of the largest (if not the largest!) publicly known hacks of all time... and the ripple effects are only now starting to be revealed. Just this week, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency shared (as reported in the Wall Street Journal) that approximately 30% of both private-sector and government victims linked to the hack had no direct connection to SolarWinds. So who was compromised, do they even know, can they even know?!

Because this hack is a supply-chain compromise involving various third-party software and services all connected together in a "chain of chains", the knock-on effects of it will be revealed (or not!) for years to come. So what do companies -- whether large enterprise, mid-sized startup, or small business -- do? What actually happened, and when does the timeline really begin? While first publicly revealed in December 2020 -- we first covered the news in episode #49 here when it first broke, and there have been countless headlines since (about early known government agency victims, company investigations, other tool investigations, debates over who and how and so on) -- the hack actually began not just a few months but years earlier, involving early tests, legit domains, and a very long game.

We help cut through the headline fatigue of it all, tease apart what's hype/ what's real, and do an "anatomy of a hack" step-by-step teardown -- the who, what, where, when, how; from the chess moves to technical details -- in an in-depth yet accessible way with Sonal Chokshi in conversation with a16z expert and former CSO Joel de la Garza and outside expert Steven Adair, founder and president of Volexity. The information security firm (which specializes in incident response, digital forensics/ memory analysis, network monitoring, and more) not only posted guidance for responding to such attacks, but also an analysis based on working three separate incidents involving the SolarWinds hackers. But how did they know it was the same group? And why was it not quite the perfect crime?

image: Heliophysics Systems Observatory spacecraft characterize, in the highest cadence, the constant stream of particles exploding from the sun affect Earth, the planets, and beyond via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr

2021-02-01
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Psychedelics: Striking a Balance Between Benefits and Side Effects

In recent years, there?s been a shift in how we think about psychedelics ? from drugs of abuse and recreation, to powerful drugs for treating neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression, addiction, and PTSD.  

But there?s still a lot we don't know about how they work, and how we can maximize their therapeutic benefits while minimizing their adverse side effects. So this episode of Journal Club discusses a method for striking that balance, from a paper published in Nature last month, ?A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential?... which could represent a major step forward in psychedelic medicine. 

This episode first appeared on Bio Eats World:
https://a16z.com/2021/01/21/journal-club-safer-psychedelic/

2021-01-23
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Developers as Creatives

The rise of developers -- as buyers, as influencers, as a creative class -- is a direct result of "software eating the world", and of key shifts in IT from on-prem to cloud & SaaS to the API economy, where application programming interfaces are essentially building blocks for innovation. Developers therefore not only play an outsized role in high-performing tech companies -- but managing and motivating them is actually critical in ALL companies, since every company is a tech company (whether they know it or not).

As every industry turns digital, and a company's interface to their customers IS software, "asking" one's developer is the key to solving business problems and to thriving not just surviving, argues Jeff Lawson, CEO and co-founder of cloud communications platform-as-a-service company Twilio, in his new book, Ask Your Developer: How to Harness the Power of Software Developers and Win in the 21st Century. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast in conversation with Sonal Chokshi and David Ulevitch (who previously argued "the developer's way" is the future of work), Lawson shares hard-earned lessons learned, mindsets, strategies, and tactics -- from "build vs. buy" to "build vs. die", to the art and science of small teams ("mitosis") -- for leaders and companies of all sizes.

But what does it mean to truly treat developers as creatives within an organization? What does it mean to be "developer first"? And how does this affect customers, product, go-to-market? All this and more in this episode.

2021-01-13
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Section 230: Everything You Need to Know -- Tweets, Free Speech, Beyond

All about section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- in what Wired senior writer (and host of the Get Wired podcast) described as "one of the clearest-but-still-nuanced explainers I've heard - worth listening to". 

So what does and doesn't it say? How does this law play out against broader questions and debates around platforms, content moderation, and free speech? This conversation between Mike Masnick (founder and editor in chief of Techdirt) and a16z editor in chief Sonal Chokshi was originally published on our show 16 Minutes, in the context of previous protests and presidential tweets (and an executive order then to prevent ?online censorship?)-- but is exactly as relevant today... perhaps now more than ever.

https://a16z.com/2020/05/31/16mins-section-230-communications-decency-act-content-moderation-free-speech-internet-past-present-future/

image: presidential tweet activity/ Wikimedia Commons

2021-01-09
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Baumol's Cost Disease, in Healthcare... and Where We Go Next

If software?s eating the world -- and more specifically, bringing costs down and increasing productivity through entire industries -- why have some industries, like healthcare, been so resistant? And what could the future look like once technology really gets in? 

With a16z co-founder -- and author of the now nearly decade-old thesis of ?software eating the world? -- Marc Andreessen, in conversation with a16z bio general partner Vijay Pande. This episode originally ran on our show Bio Eats World, but we?re sharing it here in the new year as it?s very relevant for ANYone interested in, well, the future of software eating the world;)  

https://a16z.com/2020/12/14/cost-disease-healthcare-baumol/

2021-01-06
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Words of 2020! (and Metaphors, and Interfaces of the Year)

"In a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other?... so it's unprecedented that for the first time, the Oxford English Dictionary did NOT name a word of the year. But do we really need the dictionaries to tell us what our words of the year are? Especially if the approaches "Big Word" takes may be based on more lagging vs. leading indicators; after all, language is created and constructed as we go.

And yet. People want the dictionary to give them permission of "tell me what the words are", observes internet linguist (and author of the NYT bestselling book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language) Gretchen McCulloch. No! We, the people, decide what the words are!! So in this special holiday, end-of-year episode, a16z Podcast showrunner Sonal Chokshi chats with McCulloch about the words of the year in and beyond Oxford's "Words of an Unprecedented Year" report -- and importantly, the tech shifts and cultural shifts behind them.

From remote work portmanteaus to scientific discourse in a pandemic (for better and for worse) to social movements and more -- we take a whirlwind tour through the words of the year, exploring misplaced analogies, shifting metaphors, and even the evolution of interfaces. We dip into the settling of the "Zoomer" generation and "moonshots"; dive into the need for "third places" and parties; debate Dunbar numbers for conversations, and the trend of "proximity chat" -- and discuss the meta story of language, and of writing itself. The English language may have resulted from network effects involving the "loners" who introduce words, and the ?leaders? who spread them; but writing is a technology that spreads with the tools, going well beyond medium/message, connecting us across time and place and online spaces.

 

image: Andy Simmons / Flickr

2020-12-25
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The Machine That Made the Vaccine: Company, Platform, Innovation

In this special episode of Bio Eats World -- which aired right after the FDA authorized Moderna's mRNA vaccine for emergency use -- Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel tells the story of not just the vaccine?s development, but the machine that made the vaccine: the platform, the technology, and the moves behind the vaccine?s development.

How does this new technology that uses mRNA work; why is this such a fundamental shift in the world of drug development; and where will this technology go next?

 

https://a16z.com/2020/12/18/moderna-covid-vaccine-mrna-technology/

2020-12-21
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The PPP Omnibus: Eminent Domain, Fraud, and Fintech

This episode features two relevant but previously recorded episodes, discussing the relevance of the Paycheck Protection Program (or PPP) from the Small Business Administration and the role of government stimulus/ pandemic relief for the economy as well as where tech comes in. 

It combines 2 separate episodes, beginning with one recorded much earlier this year (on our show 16 Minutes), which outlines a useful analogy of "eminent domain" for government-mandated shutdowns of certain businesses and technology considerations; and then is followed by an episode (recorded later this year) on preventing fraud and the role of fintech. 

Both episodes feature in common a16z general partner in fintech Alex Rampell, who also wrote about how Small Businesses Depend on the Stimulus Package, and The Stimulus Will Depend on Fintech, which you can find at: a16z.com/pandemicstimulus

2020-12-14
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The Holy Grail of Social + Fintech

The intersection of social and finance?as well as shifting attitudes around what we share about money online?have given way to an ambitious new wave of financial products.

While revealing one?s financial information was once considered taboo, now people are more apt than ever to openly discuss money online, particularly Gen Z and millennials. That?s evident on both ends of the spectrum, whether people are bemoaning their crushing levels of student debt on Twitter and Instagram or bragging about their latest stock trades on WallStreetBets. The repercussions extend far beyond social media, fueling a wave of new social-fintech products like Public, Commonstock, and Doji, among others.

In this conversation between fintech partner Anish Acharya, formerly a product manager at Credit Karma, consumer partner D?Arcy Coolican (who himself is a former founder in this space), and host Lauren Murrow, we discuss why the ?holy grail? of social plus finance is both so challenging and, potentially, so rewarding. 

This episode was originally released last year and has been resurfaced as part of Social Strikes Back, a new series exploring the next generation of social networks and how they?re shaping the future of consumer tech. See more at a16z.com/social-strikes-back.

2020-12-07
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On Fear and Leadership: Product to Sales CTOs & CEOs

There's a few ontologies for describing the phases leaders -- and their startups -- go through, whether it's product-sales-etc. or pioneer to settler. In any case, as companies evolve, so must the leaders -- but can the same person transition across all these phases? When and when not; what are the qualities, criteria, and tradeoffs to be made?

In this episode of the a16z Podcast, originally recorded as an internal hallway-style chat (pre pandemic!) a16z general partner Martin Casado, who co-founded but decided to remain CTO of Nicira -- and previously shared his own journey, lessons learned, and advice for founders about bringing in an external CEO and the question of "to CTO or not to CTO" -- and Armon Dadgar, co-founder (with Mitchell Hashimoto) and CTO of HashiCorp, chat with Sonal Chokshi about both managing their past psychology through these common questions and decisions. They also share their strategies on managing the specific tactics behind it all: Everything from the "dating" process of finding an external CEO to figuring out swim lanes; handling debates and decisions; who presents, who sells. And while the conversation is a brief glimpse into their longer personal journeys, there's lessons in it for startups and leaders of all kinds on the art of hiring and sales, managing credit and conflict, and more...

2020-12-04
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On Food As Medicine (A Holiday Snack)

What happens if we treat food as a medicine in the healthcare system: How, where, and who (pays)? What role can technology play in increasing access, distribution, and more? 

General partner Julie Yoo talks with the founder and former medical director of Geisinger Fresh Food Farmacy, Dr. Andrea Feinberg, and with the co-founder of food delivery start up Plated in this "holiday" cross-promo of our show Bio Eats World. 

2020-11-26
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Crypto for Creators: From Art Galleries to 'Tokenized' Collectibles

This episode features Q&As with two artists who are exploring crypto-powered auction sites and marketplaces ? this is part of our ongoing series on the creator economy. The big picture is that emerging "tokenization" models, especially non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are creating new ways for collectors and investors to buy, sell, and trade digital art. More broadly, these innovations open the door to the tokenization of any products or collectibles that can be captured and owned digitally.  Marketplaces powered by NFTs open up new revenue streams for creators, because anytime digital work is resold or their tokens traded on these platforms, no matter how many times, the creator gets a percentage of those secondary sales. It's all transparent and governed by code on the blockchain, and it?s a big shift in creator economies. Our first guest is one of the biggest names in crypto art, and one of the most mysterious. Murat Pak is the artist and industrial designer who created the AI-powered image sharing site Archillect. Pak has made it a policy to separate their personal identity from their online work, and prefers to keep their quote-unquote real identity hidden, so we conducted this interview by email and converted Pak?s answers to audio using text-to-speech software. As Pak has expressed in other interviews, it's really the work that matters. And we do know a lot about the work, Pak has sold more than 60 pieces of digital art this year on the auction site SuperRare, for more than $350,000. And that?s just one of the several platforms on which Pak?s work is sold.  In this Q&A, Pak talks with a16z's Zoran Basich about NFTs. These "non-fungible tokens" are unique assets that are not interchangeable. Dollar bills are fungible ? each dollar bill is worth exactly the same as every other one. But works of art, for example, or any collectible, can be non-fungible ? their value varies based on the market for that particular asset. With crypto, these assets carry digital ownership rights that can be easily exchanged. We start by discussing the whole concept of digital art, and why anyone would pay for something that (seemingly) can be easily copied. Our second interview is with Signe Pierce, a visual, digital, and performance artist whose work has appeared in major galleries in Paris, Los Angeles, and New York. She?s currently featuring her artwork on the creator marketplace Foundation. On that site, in addition to auction-style NFT markets, the price of tokens associated with individual works of art is something like you?d see on a stock market ? the pricing is real-time, and dynamic and fluctuates according to demand by buyers, who might be investors, collectors, or fans. Signe discusses why she went from working exclusively with galleries to trying crypto marketplaces, how this move affects her work and her business, and how crypto could change the way she engages with her fans. She also offers advice for creators interested in getting into the world of crypto. She starts off by talking about how social media popularity several years ago opened her eyes to the idea of new monetization models for creators. 
2020-11-22
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What to Know about Those Vaccines

A vaccine for COVID seems to be (almost) here? or is it? What?s hype/ what?s real beyond the headlines (and beyond the press release), when it comes to the announcement last week from Pfizer and BioNTech that their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 -- and relatedly, the most recent news around Moderna's vaccine candidate? 

Of course, this was just the first interim efficacy analysis ? so how close or far are we? What?s the significance of the readout and case numbers? How do we put all this in context of all the other (458!) programs in development? And how much should/ shouldn?t we read into the news, given the buzzy excitement and penchant for evaluating "science via press release"? a16z bio general partners Vineeta Agarwala and Jorge Conde recently broke it all down in conversation with Sonal Chokshi on our show 16 Minutes: the math, the science, and the practical considerations ? from ?vaccine efficacy? vs. efficiency, from cold chains to distribution, from patients to the system? as well as why mRNA matters in the present future of vaccines.

2020-11-20
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The Social Serendipity of Cloud Gaming

True cloud-native games?those exclusive to and solely playable within the cloud?are poised to revolutionize gameplay and unlock new avenues of hyper-personalized storytelling and socializing. It's a vision that, though steadily advancing, is still in its early stages. Just one year ago this week, Google launched its cloud gaming service, Stadia, which shares the space with competitors including Microsoft's xCloud, Playstation Now, and Nvidia?s GeForce. 

In this episode, Jade Raymond, VP of Stadia Games and Entertainment, Jonathan Lai, formerly of Riot Games and Tencent, and host Lauren Murrow talk about the challenges in building cloud-native games, their potential to upend prevailing business models and pricing, and, most importantly, the spontaneous, social, super-shareable experiences that true cloud streaming  will reveal. Through the rise of user-generated content, AI, and the cloud, they believe we're inching ever closer to the Metaverse.

This episode is part of Social Strikes Back, a new series exploring the next generation of social networks and how they?re shaping the future of consumer tech. See more at a16z.com/social-strikes-back.

 

2020-11-16
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The Great Data Debate

Lakes v. warehouses, analytics v. AI/ML, SQL v. everything else... As the technical capabilities of data lakes and data warehouses converge, are the separate tools and teams that run AI/ML and analytics converging as well?

In this podcast, originally recorded as part of Fivetran's Modern Data Stack conference, five leaders in data infrastructure debate that question: a16z general partner and pioneer of software defined networking Martin Casado, former CEO of Snowflake Bob Muglia; Michelle Ufford, founder and CEO of Noteable; Tristan Handy, founder of Fishtown Analytics and leader of the open source project dbt; and Fivetran founder George Fraser.

The conversation covers the future of data lakes, the new use cases for the modern data stack, data mesh and whether decentralization of teams and tools is the future, and how low we actually need to go with latency. And while the topic of debate is the modern data stack, the themes and differing perspectives strike at the heart of an even bigger: how does technology evolve in complex enterprise environments? 

2020-11-13
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How to Moderate Talks, Panels, Meetings, More (Virtual and Beyond!)

How to moderate good, productive discussions and navigate tricky conversations is top of mind -- whether doing a panel, conducting a live event, presenting a talk (or hosting a podcast), managing (and even just participating in!) a meeting. Especially in a world where remote and virtual work is increasingly become the norm for many knowledge workers, one in which we're increasingly communicating through little "Hollywood Squares, Brady Bunch"-like boxes.

So how to translate physical and nonverbal presence in such virtual environments, or voice-only modes? How to manage unruly discussions? Do parasocial vs. social interactions change things? And beyond these broader contexts, how do the things inside us -- whether agendas, tics, anxiety -- manifest outwardly, and can we better control them?

In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Matt Abrahams -- lecturer at Stanford?s Graduate School of Business (where he also has a podcast, "Think Fast Talk Smart"); principal and co-founder of Bold Echo (a company that helps people with presentation and communication skills); and author of Speaking Up Without Freaking Out -- shares frameworks and best practices, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. The discussion offers many concrete tips for moderation and communication for anyone, across all kinds of mediums and modes.

 

image: Paul Hudson / Flickr

2020-11-05
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Textiles as Tech, Science, Math, Culture... or Civilization

"The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they're indistinguishable from it." That quote from computer scientist Mark Weiser is from a 1991 paper where he outlined the vision of ubiquitous computing; in it, he also referenced "seamlessness"... We just can't get away from textile metaphors: we catch airline "shuttles", we "weave" through traffic, we follow comment "threads? -- the metaphors are as ubiquitous and abundant and threaded throughout our lives as the textiles (and computing) all around us.

In fact, argues author and columnist Virginia Postrel, the story of textiles IS the story of technology and science (across all kinds of fields, from biology to chemistry); of commerce (as well as management, measurement, machines); but most of all, of civilization (vs. just culture) itself. That's what her new book, The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World is all about. But it's really a story and history of innovation, and of human ingenuity... which is also the theme of the a16z Podcast -- and of this special, inaugural book launch episode with the author in conversation with showrunner Sonal Chokshi.

The discussion both dives deep and lightly dips into a wide range of topics: fabrics, from the genetics of cotton to the supply chain of silk (including pre-Industrial Revolution factories, early payment and incentive alignment, "maestre" and notions of expertise); knowledge, from the storage and transmission of it to sharing tacit and explicit code (including manuals, notation, measures); and math as the science of patterns, origins of mathematics (including early education and getting paid for it). The touch on the NASA space program, knitting and AI, and the environmental impact of dyes. Throughout, they discuss the what and the why -- the warp and weft of this episode! -- of HOW innovation happens, from incremental improvements to sudden leaps, also taking a closer look at the demographics and images involved. And finally, they cover the evolution and meaning of kente cloth (as well as other patterns) in Ghana and beyond... Because the story of textiles -- and of technology -- is not just a story of one culture or time or place: it is a universally human story, woven from countless threads and wires.

links & other articles mentioned in this episode:YouTube & Instagram from the author, featuring cited images among othersThe Computer for the 21st Century, Mark Weiser, Scientific American, 1991Every topological surface can be knit: a proof, Sarah-Marie Belcastro, Journal of Mathematics and the Arts, 2009How an AI took over the an adult knitting community, Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic, 2018Portrait of a Man, Portrait of a Woman, Maarten van Heemskerck, Rijks Museum, 1529In Ghana, pandemic inspires new fabrics, Kent Mensah, Christian Science Monitor 2020Welcome to the new world civilization, Virginia Postrel, Reason, 2020

images: composite of knitting by © sarah-marie belcastro (courtesy Virginia Postrel) + magnetic core memory wires & beads, magnified 60x (photo from Virginia Postrel) -- combined by Sonal Chokshi for the a16z Podcast

2020-10-24
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Data Alone Is Not Enough: The Evolution of Data Architectures

Data, data, data ? it?s long been a buzzword in the industry, whether big data, streaming data, data analytics, data science, even AI & machine learning ? but data alone is not enough: it takes an entire system of tools and technology to extract value from data. 

A multibillion dollar industry has emerged around data tools and technologies. And with so much excitement and innovation in the space: how exactly do all these tools fit together? 

This podcast ? a hallway style conversation between Ali Ghodsi, CEO and Founder of Databricks, and a16z general partner Martin Casado ? explores the evolution of data architectures, including some quick history, where they?re going, and a surprising use case for streaming data, as well as Ali?s take on how he?d architect the picks and shovels that handle data end-to-end today.

2020-10-23
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Designing for, Marketing to, and Partnering With Gen Z

Gen Z?those born between 1995 and 2010?now makes up 35 percent of the population and represent $143 billion dollars in spending power. This episode is all about how brands can better understand, collaborate with, and resonate with this hugely influential segment of consumers. 

Our guest, Tiffany Zhong, is the 24-year-old CEO of Zebra IQ, a company that helps brands interpret the wants of Gen Z consumers and helps Gen Z creators turn their content into businesses. In its recent Gen Z Trends Report, her company highlights important cultural trends and Gen Z behaviors based on a trove of proprietary research. In this conversation, Tiffany and a16z general partner Connie Chan discuss the key differences between Gen Z and millennials, the growing power of short-form video on platforms like TikTok and YouTube, our changing perception of luxury, and how Gen Z is shifting the paradigm around money, education, and work.

The pair breaks down how brands can partner with Gen Z influencers in a way that?s compelling, not cringeworthy, and why when it comes to memes and the art of emoji, you?re probably doing it wrong.

2020-10-19
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The Present Future of Audio: Talk, Music, Video, Interactivity

We've already talked a lot about podcasting, both evolution of the industry as well as the form, but where are we going with the future of audio, more broadly? Can we borrow from the present and future of video (e.g., TikTok) to see what's next in audio (more layers, more interactivity)? Can we borrow from the past of audio (i.e., radio) to see what's next for audio experiences (more blending of music, talk, podcasting)? Where do all these mediums converge and where do they diverge -- when it comes to user experience, product design, recommendations, discovery?

Gustav Söderström, chief R&D officer (who oversees the product, design, data, and engineering teams) at Spotify -- the world's most popular audio streaming subscription service -- joins this episode of the a16z Podcast for a deep dive on all things audio with a16z general partner Connie Chan and editor in chief Sonal Chokshi. They cover the past, present, and future of audio -- going high level into the big trends and also dipping down into the trenches -- especially given the increased blending of talk/ podcasting, music, more. What are the challenges to designing for different mediums, on both front end and back end (including machine learning and different graphs), when listeners want everything in one place when and where they want it... yet their contexts shift?

But the conversation more broadly is really more about what happens when we give creators (of all kinds!) tools -- not just for expression but for fan engagement and monetization too. We also discuss the themes of super apps and full-stack approaches when it comes to innovating on top of a protocol, as well as how innovation happens in practice: How do mediums -- and organizations -- evolve, prioritize, "disrupt themselves"? All this and more in this episode.

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The views expressed here are those of the individual AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (?a16z?) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by a16z. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, a16z has not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. In addition, this content may include third-party advertisements; a16z has not reviewed such advertisements and does not endorse any advertising content contained therein.

This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by Andreessen Horowitz (excluding investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets) is available at https://a16z.com/investments/.

Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.

2020-10-14
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Tracking the Trends: AI, WebRTC, Crypto, and Full Stack Startups

[]
2020-10-11
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How to Decide, Convey vs. Convince, & More

It seems like investors are especially obsessed with the psychology of decision making -- high stakes, after all -- but all kinds of decisions, whether in life or business -- like dating, product management, what to eat or watch on Netflix -- are an "investment portfolio" of decisions... even if you sometimes feel like you're making one big decision at a time (like, say, marriage or what product to develop next or who to hire).

Obviously, not all decisions are equal; in fact, sometimes we don't even have to spend any time deciding. So how do we know which decisions to apply a robust decision process too, which ones not to? What are the strategies, mindsets, tools to help us decide? How can we operationalize a good decision process and decision hygiene into our teams and organizations? After all, we're tribal creatures -- our opinions are infectious (for better and for worse) -- so how do we convey vs. convince, and not necessarily agree but inform to decide? Especially given common pitfalls (resulting, hindsight bias, etc.), and "the paradox of experience", including even (and more so) winning vs. losing.

Decision expert (and leading poker player) Annie Duke comes back on the a16z Podcast -- after our first conversation with her for Thinking in Bets, which focused mainly on WHY our decision making gets so frustrated -- to talk about her new book, which picks up where the last left off, on HOW to Decide: Simple Tools for Better Choices. In conversation with a16z managing partner Jeff Jordan (and former CEO of OpenTable and former GM of eBay among other things) -- so, from all sides of investing, operating, life -- Annie shares tips for decision makers of all kinds making decisions under uncertainty... really, all of us.

 

The views expressed here are those of the individual AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (?a16z?) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by a16z. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, a16z has not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. In addition, this content may include third-party advertisements; a16z has not reviewed such advertisements and does not endorse any advertising content contained therein.

This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by Andreessen Horowitz (excluding investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets) is available at https://a16z.com/investments/.

Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.

2020-10-08
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Fintech for Gen Z and Millennials

Millennials and Gen Z have been hard-hit by the one-two punch of the 2008 and 2020 financial crises. That experience has radically shaped their approach to finances and their mindset around credit and debt. This episode explores how fintech founders are now designing products tailored to the financial challenges of younger consumers, from managing and avoiding student loans to building credit to saving and budgeting apps. 

Historically, students have largely been overlooked by traditional banks. Due to a combination of economic forces, predatory lending practices, and uninformed decisions, millennials have more outstanding student loans?and owe more money?than any prior generation. According to a poll conducted this month by the data intelligence company Morning Consult, just 46 percent of millennials believe their student debt was worth attending college. 

Amira Yahyaoui wants to change that. She?s the founder and CEO of Mos, a platform that allows students to apply for every government college financial aid program with a single application. In this episode, Amira joins host Lauren Murrow and a16z fintech partners Anish Acharya and Seema Amble to discuss how fintech can cut through bureaucracy, downsize student debt, and optimize?and ultimately automate?consumers? financial futures from an early age.

2020-10-01
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Degrading Drugs for Problem Proteins: Journal Club now on Bio Eats World (ep 2)

Welcome to the second episode of Bio Eats World, a brand new podcast all about how biology is technology. Bio is breaking out of the lab and clinic and into our daily lives -- on the verge of revolutionizing our world in ways we are only just beginning to imagine.

Many diseases are caused by proteins that have gone haywire in some fashion. There could be too much of the protein, it could be mutated, or it could be present in the wrong place or time. So how do you get rid of these problematic proteins? In this episode of Journal Club (now on Bio Eats World), Stanford professor Carolyn Bertozzi and host Lauren Richardson discuss the article ?Lysosome-targeting chimaeras for degradation of extracellular proteins? by Steven Banik, Kayvon Pedram, Simon Wisnovsky, Green Ahn, Nicholas Riley, and Carolyn Bertozzi, published in Nature (2020).

Dr. Bertozzi and  her lab developed a class of drugs ? or modality ? that tosses the disease-related proteins into the cellular trash can. While there are other drugs that work through targeted protein degradation, these drugs called LYTACs are able to attack a set of critical proteins, some of which have never been touched by any kind of drug before. The conversation covers how they engineered these new drugs, their benefits, and how they can be further optimized and specialized in the future.

2020-09-27
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The Biology of Aging: Introducing Bio Eats World (ep 1)

Welcome to the first episode of Bio Eats World, a brand new podcast all about how biology is technology. Bio is breaking out of the lab and clinic and into our daily lives -- on the verge of revolutionizing our world in ways we are only just beginning to imagine.

In this episode, we talk all about the science of aging. Once a fringe field, aging research is now entering a new phase with the first clinical trials of aging-related drugs. As the entire field shifts into this moment of translation, what have we learned? What are the basic approaches to developing aging-related drugs? How is studying aging helping us understand diseases like cancer and Alzheimer?s -- and increasing the amount of time we are healthy -- today? 

In this conversation, Laura Deming, founder of The Longevity Fund; Kristen Fortney, co-founder of BioAge, a clinical-stage company focused on finding drugs to extend healthspan; Vijay Pande, general partner at a16z; and host Hanne Winarsky discuss the entire arc of aging science from one genetic tweak in a tiny worm to changing a whole paradigm of healthcare delivery.

Be sure to subscribe to 'Bio Eats World' if you want to keep getting it (and please feel free to rate it as well). To learn more about the expanding a16z Podcast network, please visit a16z.com/podnetwork.

2020-09-23
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TikTok & Beyond: The Algorithm Question, The Future of Product

With the U.S. tech partnership for TikTok being finalized, what happens if source code is excluded (and more specifically, the For You Page algorithm), given China?s revised export controls? But more broadly -- well beyond the specifics and politics of this deal -- what does the success of TikTok tell us about ?creativity network effects?, where every additional creator makes the rest of the community more creative? How did "seeing like an algorithm" and the new age of algorithm-friendly product design enable the short video-sharing platform to grab massive marketshare in cultures and markets never experienced firsthand by the engineers and designers in China, beating out other dominant players and apps in the United States?

In this episode of 16 Minutes -- our show where we discuss what's in the news, tease apart what's hype/ what's real, and  where we are on the long arc of innovation  with specific tech trends with top experts -- Eugene Wei (former head of product at Hulu, Flipboard, and video at Oculus) joins us. We also touch on the future of entertainment, education, and the power and future of video.

full transcript here: https://a16z.com/2020/09/18/16mins-tiktok-seeing-like-an-algorithm-friendly-design-creativity-network-effects-video/

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This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by Andreessen Horowitz (excluding investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets) is available at https://a16z.com/investments/.

Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.

2020-09-20
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The New Fan Club: Creators, Fans, and the Power of Markets (& Crypto)

Today?s episode, part two in our two-part series on the Creator Economy, focuses on the new potential revenue streams and fan-engagement models opened up by emerging decentralized technology. It's a new type of fan club, driven by crypto networks and aiming to give creators more power in the commercial sphere. Zoran Basich of a16z talked to two guests deeply immersed in these topics. Kayvon Tehranian is the founder and CEO of Foundation Labs, a platform for buying and selling limited edition goods. Think of it as a crypto marketplace that creates new revenue streams for creators, and financial incentives for buyers. Before that he was head of product at cryptocurrencies marketplace Dharma Labs, and he has long worked on making crypto more accessible to the mainstream. Jesse Walden is a former a16z partner who recently launched his own fund, Variant, which focuses on what he calls the ownership economy enabled by crypto. He also previously cofounded the startup Mediachain, which was acquired by Spotify, and is a former music promoter and manager whose focus was on helping artists stay independent. Kayvon and Jesse explain how the emerging crypto models differ from previous attempts to create new revenue streams for artists, and about the role of speculation and hype in creator markets. They also debate whether these new markets will largely be driven by financial motives, or whether cultural factors will be equally powerful in determining the growth of creator markets. And they offer advice to creators interested in exploring this new world, including important practical guidance on expectations and timelines. 
2020-09-18
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So You Want to Launch a Newsletter: Tips From Substack Writers

This episode, part one in a two-part series on the Creator Economy, explores the process and economics behind creating an independent newsletter. In this candid conversation, host Lauren Murrow talks with four Substack writers?an artist, a technologist, a journalist, and a clinical researcher-turned-psychedelics scholar?about how to find and foster an audience, the calculus behind going paid versus unpaid, the pressure to produce, and financial benchmarks for making a living from newsletter writing.

The pandemic has prompted a reckoning within traditional media  and, in parallel, a surge in the newsletter ecosystem. On Substack, readership and active writers both doubled from January through April. The newsletter hosting platform now has more than 100,000 paying subscribers.

This episode reveals the behind-the-scenes experiences of four newsletter creators, all of whom launched roughly within the past year:

Software engineer Lenny Rachitsky, most recently a growth product manager at Airbnb, whose tech-focused dispatch is called Lenny?s Newsletter.

Artist and writer Edith Zimmerman, creator of the Drawing Links newsletter, which chronicles her life and musings through comic-style illustrations. 

Zach Haigney, an acupuncturist and researcher whose newsletter, The Trip Report, explores the science, policy, and business behind medicinal psychedelics.

And Patrice Peck, a freelance journalist?previously a staff writer at BuzzFeed?whose newsletter, Coronavirus News for Black Folks, highlights the pandemic?s disproportionate impact on the black community.

Listen to the end of the episode to hear more about Patrice, Zach, Edith, and Lenny's top newsletter recommendations:

Patrice?s newsletter recs:

The Intersection by Adriana Lacy

Beauty IRL by Darian Symone Harvin

Carefree Black Girl by Zeba Blay

Maybe Baby by Haley Nahman

 

Zach?s newsletter recs:

Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Sinocism by Bill Bishop

A Media Operator by Jacob Cohen Donnelly

Off the Chain by Anthony Pompliano

The Weekly Dish by Andrew Sullivan

 

Edith?s newsletter recs:

The Browser by Robert Cottrell

The Ruffian by Ian Leslie

Ridgeline by Craig Mod

Dearest by Monica McLaughlin

Why Is This Interesting? by Noah Brier and Colin Nagy

 

Lenny?s newsletter recs:

2PM by Webb Smith 

Li?s Newsletter by Li Jin 

Alex Danco?s Newsletter by Alex Danco

Turner?s Blog by Turner Novak

Next Big Thing by Nikhil Basu Trivedi 

Big Technology by Alex Kantrowitz

The Profile by Polina Marinova

Everything by Nathan Baschez, Dan Shipper, Tiago Forte, and Adam Keesling

Not Boring by Packy McCormick 

 

Illustration: Edith Zimmerman

2020-09-17
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Designing a Culture of Reinvention

Since Netflix started in the late 90s as a DVD-by-mail rental service competing with Blockbuster, it has completely reinvented itself... twice ? first, when it went from DVD rental to video streaming platform, and then again when it went from licensing to producing original content.

But what does it take to create an organization capable of reinventing itself?

In this episode, originally recorded for the Commonwealth Club of California, Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hasting talks about his new book "No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention" with a16z co-founder and fellow author Ben Horowitz, who also wrote a bestselling book about culture last year. 

During the conversation, Reed tells the story of Netflix's evolution and his management philosophy, including the hard lesson he learned about what happens when you optimize for efficiency at the expense of creative talent. He also explains why sometimes a more narrow market focus is better for growth and shares the tactics that have helped Netflix expand globally and translate a culture of innovation across different countries, from Japan to Brazil to America.

2020-09-16
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Heroes & Myths in Entrepreneurship -- Guy Raz

"I'm in a movie, but it's the wrong movie."

For better or for worse, we tell the story of entrepreneurs as one of the mythical hero's journey: that's there's a call, a test (multiple tests!), a destination... But nothing truly follows such a clean, linear, storytelling arc. Stories of success and resilience are messy and full of "sleepless nights, anxiety-ridden fears, moments of real despair and failure", observes Guy Raz -- who is the host, co-creator, and editorial director of three NPR programs, including the popular podcast "How I Built This" -- and has a new book (coming out this week) on How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs.

But in sharing these stories, are we also indulging in "failure porn"? Where do (and don't) debates about optimism vs. pessimism come in; does this really squelch the appetite for building? What happens when "unexpected paths" are actually things like a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic? Editor in chief (and showrunner of the a16z podcasts) Sonal Chokshi probes Raz on these questions and more, while also pulling the threads of how storytelling IS business -- whether it's a company or a community or a product or a movement. So what's the difference between "building buzz" and "engineering word of mouth"? And how do the stories we tell ourselves, and others, actually move things?

Raz is also an entrepreneur with his own production company; has won numerous awards and accolades; co-created a podcast for kids (Wow In The World); and is hosting a music interview show for Spotify, not to mention his NPR shows. So what's his best interview tip? And how does his story also thread into this broader sea of stories, along with the story of the podcasting industry, and even the story (and history) of the Bay Area? This episode is for anyone wanting to figure out how to rewrite their own story... it's really for everyone.

2020-09-12
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The Question of Education

Monopoly, oligopoly, cartel. All three of those words can describe the (not so) modern education system today, given the cost structures, economics, and accreditation capture -- in everything from who can and can't start a new university (when was the last time a significant change happened there anyway?!) to where government funding really goes to the student loan and debt crisis.

Yet degrees do matter, just not for the reasons we think. So what are the tradeoffs -- when it comes to the "right" school, making money, and assessing skills objectively -- between what's been called "hard" (B.S.) and "soft" (B.A.) degrees? What's the best book on career advice, and what advice does Marc Andreessen -- who went to a public university, worked on a revolutionary project there, and started a company right after -- have for students (and others contemplating change in their careers)... and especially for those considering dropping out, delaying, or skipping college altogether?

Andreessen shares his thoughts on the purpose, past and present of education (briefly touching on the impact of the pandemic as well) with Dylan Field, CEO of Figma, which is free for students and educators. The Q&A was recorded in August 2020 and originally appeared as a video in their "Back to School?" interview series; it was actually inspired by the question of taking a gap year and questions about whether or not to go back to school this year that came up in their Virtual Campus community of students from across the world.

 

image: Lyndsy Rommel / Flickr

2020-09-11
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Pandemic Relief and Fraud: Willful Deceit or Design Defect?

This episode examines the potential for misuse and fraud among those applying for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?and how fintech and software provide overlooked tools to stop it.  

On March 27th, the government enacted a $2.2 trillion dollar stimulus package called the CARES Act, the largest aid measure in history. The act provides more than $500 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, a low-interest, forgivable loan program designed to help small businesses and self-employed individuals retain workers and stay afloat during the pandemic. Since March, the Small Business Administration has approved billions of dollars in PPP loans. But it is also estimated that U.S. losses from coronavirus-related fraud and identity theft have reached almost $100 million. According to the New York Times, the Small Business Administration?s fraud hotline has received 42,000 reports about coronavirus-related cheating and misuse; by comparison, last year it had less than 800.

To date, the Department of Justice has charged more than 40 cases of PPP-related schemes, from claiming non-existent employees or non-existent businesses to identity theft, kickback schemes, fake tax documents, and multi-state fraud rings. Most of those cases have alleged fraud of more than a $1 million. But what about the countless others that may be cheating taxpayers out of smaller?but not insignificant?sums? How does the government decide who should get money and who shouldn?t among millions of applications from businesses of all industries and sizes?and what role do banks play? How does the program then distribute that money quickly and accurately?or not, in many cases? And what tools are at our disposal to catch those who cheat the system? 

Host Lauren Murrow is joined by Bharat Ramamurti, the original member of the COVID-19 Congressional Oversight Commission, which is tasked with evaluating the impact of coronavirus relief loans; Naftali Harris, the CEO of SentiLink, a software company that builds technology to detect synthetic fraud; and a16z fintech general partner Alex Rampell.

2020-09-04
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Measuring & Managing Community Orgs, Developer Relations and Beyond

Okay, so we know community is important -- whether for developer relations for your product or other types of communities -- but how do we measure the success of community initiatives and even artifacts (like events or schwag), given how indirect and long-cycle so much of it is? How do we know we're even measuring the right things, and is there one key metric or KPI for measuring the health of a community? Where do "meta communities" or where does engaging key community leaders come in?

And when it comes to developer relations specifically, where should devrel sit in an organization (product, sales, engineering)? Who should you hire first? How do you reconcile developer as customer vs. developer as community member? And what's the difference between evangelism and advocacy?

Amir Shevat -- former VP of Product and Developer Experience at Twitch and former Director of Developer Relations at Slack who also previously worked at Google and Microsoft -- drew on his experiences to share insights and answers to these questions, as well as provides an overview of key concepts, followed by a Q&A with Mikeal Rogers, who works on Community Operations at Protocol Labs, and was formerly Community Manager of the Node.js foundation (and has shared insights on the changing culture and community of open source on a previous episode of the a16z Podcast).

This episode is based on a conversation that took place at a portfolio workshop event from a couple years ago organized by former a16z crypto partner Jesse Walden, because crypto gives developers the ability to build on top of and extend any protocol or application in the space, and developer relations and community building is an important part of that being realized. You can find the latest on company building best practices for crypto at a16z Crypto Startup School and see other pieces in our ongoing community series at a16z.com/community.

2020-08-30
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Reining in Complexity: Data Science & Future of AI/ML Businesses

There is no spoon. Or rather, ?There is no such thing as ?data?, there?s just frozen models?, argues Peter Wang, the co-founder and CEO of Anaconda ? who also created the PyData conferences and grew the early data science community there, while on the frontlines of trying to make Python useful for business analytics. He views both models and data as fluid, more like metaphysics than typical data management? Or perhaps it?s that when it comes to data, those with a physics background just better appreciate the mind-bending complexity and challenges of reining in the natural world, and therefore get the unique challenges of AI/ML development, observes a16z general partner Martin Casado ? whose first job after college involved computational physics simulation and high-performance computing in Python at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (Wang, meanwhile, graduated in physics.)

But this not just a philosophical question ? the answer has real implications for the margins, organizational structures, and building of AI/ML businesses. Especially as we?re in a tricky time of transition, where customers don?t even know what they?re asking for, yet are looking for AI/ML help or know it?s the future. So what does this all mean for the software value chain; for open source collaboration and commodification; and for the future of software businesses? After all, it?s not written in stone that ?All information systems must be deconstructed into hardware, and software, and data? and that ?software must have these margins?? Will there be a new type of company?

 

image: Pawel Loj / Wikimedia Commons

2020-08-21
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Online Learning and the Ed Tech Debate

This episode is all about education and technology, a topic that?s especially top of mind this week as students in much of the country return to school?virtually. The intersection of learning and technology has been accelerated by the pandemic, but the debate around education's "disruption," and what that means for educators doing the hands-on work of teaching, has been swirling for years.

In this episode, a16z general partner Connie Chan and host Lauren Murrow are joined by educators and experts Josh Kim, the Director of Online Programs and Strategy at  Dartmouth College (whose most recent book, Learning Innovation and the Future of Higher Education, was published earlier this year), and David Deming, Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

We explore the complicated issue of online education from a variety of angles: Can the quality of online learning stack up to an  in-person education? What improvements have we seen over the past decade and what improvements are we likely to see this fall, compared to the COVID scramble last spring? And might this moment be the push we need for educators and technologists?sometimes at odds?to collaborate more closely?

We discuss and debate the research behind online learning, the dual impact of tech and COVID on the future of higher ed, and tech's potential in everything from curriculum to access to structural inequality.

2020-08-17
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On Vaccines and Vaccinology, in COVID and Beyond

WHEN are we going to have a COVID-19 vaccine, and how the heck are we going from (what?s been traditionally been up to) 12 years or so of vaccine development compressed into 12 months or so? What will and won?t be compromised here, and where do new technologies -- like mRNA or messenger RNA vaccines -- come in? Where will vaccines likely be distributed first, who will and won't get them initially, both across populations... and nations?

Rajeev Venkayya, president of the Global Vaccine Business Unit at Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and former White House Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense (where, among other things, he was the principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza) joins this special deep-dive episode of the a16z Podcast, in conversation with general partner Jorge Conde to discuss all things vaccines. Including where does manufacturing and scale-up come in -- is "plug and play" really here? -- and by the way, why have we traditionally used eggs in growing vaccines?

Where and how can startups and others participate in vaccine development, given how competitive, time-consuming, capital intensive, and risky it is to develop (and sell) them? Can we decouple the question of how we reopen schools with when we have a vaccine? And how do we maintain not just safety and efficacy of vaccines but trust and transparency when it comes to mis/information? We may actually see the emergence of a "Neo Anti-Vaxxer" thanks to the rush... but we may also be entering a renaissance for vaccinology after this pandemic. So what changes, what doesn't?

 

image: Jernej Furman / Flickr

2020-08-14
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Turning Open Source Developers Into Superfans

In this episode, we continue our community series with a recent discussion that applies to many kinds of community building. Today?s topic: How do you create a platform that people not only use, but tell their friends about? One that goes beyond just being useful and actually connects deeply with the user? In this discussion, which was recorded at our Crypto Startup School in April 2020, a16z General Partner Chris Dixon talked about building communities ? specifically, communities of open-source developers ? with GitHub cofounder Tom Preston-Werner. They discussed how to engage early users, how to turn them into your biggest advocates, how to create superfans, and more. Today, GitHub is the leading community for open-source developers and others. They also discuss in-person communities vs. distributed communities, a topic that is very top of mind today.
2020-08-10
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Journal Club: Slaying the Sleeper Cells of Aging with CAR T

CAR T therapy is a groundbreaking medicine that uses engineered T cells to attack cancer. But CAR T cells (that is, chimeric antigen receptor T cells) can be programmed to recognize a huge range of target proteins and cell types. So what other types of cells should we train CAR Ts to recognize and destroy to improve human health?

On this episode of the a16z Journal Club, a16z General Partner Jorge Conde, bio deal team partner Andy Tran, and Lauren Richardson discuss new research published in Nature in which the authors engineer CAR T cells to recognize and kill senescent cells. Cellular senescence is a process where cells stop dividing (sort of go to sleep), and in many cases this can be protective, like its role in tumor suppression, but if too many cells become senescent of if they are not removed, they can trigger inflammation and cause disease, like in atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes. Critically, senescent cells build up as we age and contribute to a whole host of age-related conditions. In this episode we cover how the authors created these senescence killing (aka senolytic) CAR T cells, the diseases that could be treated with senolytic CAR Ts, the hurdles to getting them into the clinic, and how they could potentially be used to treat aging and possibly improve longevity.

?Senolytic CAR T cells reverse senescence-associated pathologies? in Nature (June 2020) by Corina Amor, Judith Feucht, Josef Leibold, Yu-Jui Ho, Changyu Zhu, Direna Alonso-Curbelo, Jorge Mansilla-Soto, Jacob A. Boyer, Xiang Li, Theodoros Giavridis, Amanda Kulick, Shauna Houlihan, Ellinor Peerschke, Scott L. Friedman, Vladimir Ponomarev, Alessandra Piersigilli, Michel Sadelain & Scott W. Lowe

a16z bio Journal Club (part of the a16z Podcast), curates and covers recent advances from the scientific literature -- what papers we?re reading, and why they matter from our perspective at the intersection of biology & technology. You can find all these episodes at a16z.com/journalclub.

2020-08-09
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Working, Making, Creating in Public... and Private

We're living in an unprecedented era of online collaboration, coordination, and creation. All kinds of people are coming together -- whether in an open source project or company, an R&D initiative, a department in a company, a club or special interest group, even a group of friends and family -- around some shared interest or activity. But the word "members" is faceless, and doesn't help us really understand, support (and better design for) these communities.

So in this special book launch episode of the a16z Podcast, Nadia Eghbal -- author of the new book Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software published by Stripe Press -- shares with a16z editor in chief Sonal Chokshi the latest research and insights from years of studying the health of open source communities (for Ford Foundation), working in developer experience (at GitHub), researching the economics and production of software (at Protocol Labs), and now focusing on writer experience at Substack.

Eghbal offers a new taxonomy of communities -- including newer phenomena such as "stadiums" of open source developers, other creators, and really, influencers -- who are performing their work in massive spaces where the work is public (and not necessarily participatory). So what lessons of open source communities do and don't apply to the passion economy and creator communities? How does the evolution of online communities -- really, social networks -- shift the focus to reputation and status as a service? And what if working in public is also about sharing in private, given the "dark forest theory of the internet", the growing desire for more "high-shared context" groups and spaces (including even podcasts and newsletters)? All this and more in this episode.

2020-08-02
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GPT-3: What's Hype, What's Real on the Latest in AI

In this episode -- cross posted from our 16 Minutes show feed -- we cover all the buzz around GPT-3, the pre-trained machine learning model from OpenAI that?s optimized to do a variety of natural-language processing tasks. 

It?s a commercial product, built on research; so what does this mean for both startups AND incumbents? and the future of ?AI as a service?? And given that we?re seeing all kinds of (cherrypicked!) examples of output from OpenAI?s beta API being shared ? how do we know how good it really is or isn?t? How do we know the difference between ?looks like? a toy and ?is? a toy when it comes to new innovations? 

And where are we, really, in terms of natural language processing and progress towards artificial general intelligence? Is it intelligent, does that matter, and how do we know (if not with a Turing Test)? Finally, what are the broader questions, considerations, and implications for jobs and more? Frank Chen explains what ?it? actually is and isn?t and more in conversation with host Sonal Chokshi. The two help tease apart what?s hype/ what?s real here? as is the theme of 16 Minutes.

2020-07-30
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Taking the Pulse on Medical Device Security

Many don?t realize we even need to think about the possibility of security hacks when it comes to things like pacemakers, insulin pumps, and more. But when bits and bytes meet flesh and blood, security becomes literally a life or death concern. So what are the issues and risks we need to be aware of in exposing security vulnerabilities in connected biomedical devices?

This conversation?with Beau Woods, Cyber Safety Innovation Fellow with the Atlantic Council, part of the I Am The Cavalry grassroots security initiative, Founder/CEO of Stratigos Security; Andy Coravos, co-founder and CEO of Elektra Labs, advisor to the Biohacking Village at DEF CON (both of whom were formerly EIRs at the FDA); and a16z's Hanne Tidnam covers how we should begin to think about addressing these security issues in the biomedical device space. What are the frameworks that should guide our conversations, and how and when (and which!) stakeholders should be incentivized to address these challenges? How did the FDA begin to think about security as part of the safety of all medical devices, including software as a medical device, and how we should think about understanding, monitoring, and updating the security of these devices?from philosophical statements to on-the-ground practical fixes and updates?

2020-07-22
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Journal Club: A New Path to Antibiotic Resistance

Ever since the discovery of antibiotics, microbiologists have worried about and studied how bacteria acquire resistance to these drugs. Adding to the complexity of this problem is the fact that it is not always clear whether the conditions that drive the evolution of resistance in the lab occur in patients suffering from bacterial infections.

This is where the work of Nathalie Balaban -- Professor at the Hebrew University, and our guest on this episode -- comes in. The article we discuss is based on a foundation of research done in her laboratory, but this study makes the important step into the clinic by using samples from a patient with a life-threatening bacterial (MRSA) infection. By analyzing these patient samples, Dr. Balaban and her team were able to understand the conditions that lead to multi-drug resistance in a hospital setting. The work reveals how the ability of bacteria to enter a state of dormancy, also known as tolerance, can act as a stepping stone to resistance and can interfere with the efficacy of drug combinations. Our conversation covers what tolerance is, the conditions that promote tolerance, how it can lead to resistance and impact drug combination therapies, and lastly, integrating this new understanding into clinical microbiology protocols.

"Effect of tolerance on the evolution of antibiotic resistance under drug combinations" in Science (January 2020) by Jiafeng Liu, Orit Gefen, Irine Ronin, Maskit Bar-Meir, Nathalie Q. Balaban.

a16z bio Journal Club (part of the a16z Podcast), curates and covers recent advances from the scientific literature -- what papers we?re reading, and why they matter from our perspective at the intersection of biology & technology (for bio journal club). You can find all these episodes at a16z.com/journalclub.

2020-07-19
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Cybercrime, Incorporated

A dive into the sociological, operational, and tactical realities of this murky underworld, Lusthaus and de la Garza discuss who the players are, what they are motivated by, and specialize in?as well as how basic ideas like trust and anonymity function in a world where no one wants to get caught. How do criminal nicknames function as brand? Which countries tend to specialize in what kinds of crime, and why? And most of all, what changes when you begin to think of the business of cybercrime as an industry?

2020-07-18
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How Transparent Pricing Drives Healthcare Change

Dr. Marty Makary?surgical oncologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and health policy and innovation expert?has long been a passionate advocate for transparent pricing in the healthcare system. We don?t talk enough (or really at all) about price in healthcare, says Makary (instead, we talk about cost). But shedding a light on prices in healthcare?from not just what those prices are but how prices are set and the value we all receive as consumers of the system overall?can help us measure quality in medicine, and be a driver for real behavioral change in the healthcare system, correcting many of the unintended consequences of a fee-for-service system like surprise billing or unnecessary medical procedures.

In this conversation with a16z General Partner Julie Yoo, Makary and Yoo discuss what price transparency in the healthcare system could really do; how we can "steer" towards the good physicians who are not just highly skilled, but make the right judgment calls based on need and holistic health, not cost; how we might distinguish between high value and low value through medical appropriateness; and how we might gain clinical wisdom from other kinds of scientific discovery beyond randomized controls, especially during the wartime protocol of COVID-19.

2020-07-15
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Preserving Digital History: How to Close the Web's 'Memory Hole'

More than 98% of the information on the web is lost within 20 years, and huge gaps exist in our digital and cultural history. Zoran Basich and Alex Pruden of a16z talk to Brewster Kahle and Sam Williams, who are using different approaches to attack this problem. Brewster cofounded the Internet Archive, which is well known for creating the Wayback Machine that crawls a billion URLs every day. Sam cofounded Arweave, a company that uses decentralized crypto networks to store information forever. For both of them, this issue has implications that go far beyond just data storage. It touches on issues of censorship, government manipulation of information, and how historical context is necessary for well-functioning societies. They discuss how decentralized models offer the promise of building a next-generation web that works better for users.
2020-07-13
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Alex Honnold on Human Performance (part 2) ? Climbing and Entrepreneurship

In part 1 of our series on human performance, we looked at the limits of human potential in climbing and other sports ? and how we push those limits through technology and training.

In this episode, recorded at our a16z innovation summit last year, Alex talks with a16z general partner and fellow avid climber Peter Levine about the risk, fear, and preparation for his free solo of El Capitan on Yosemite. While climbing is the topic, the conversation holds many lessons for entrepreneurs, and anyone else who is attempting something that?s never been done before ? from how to evaluate risk versus reward, moving into the public spotlight from stealth, removing constraints to innovate on established routes, and knowing where you can fall and where you can?t. The conversation finishes with Alex?s life philosophy of living simply and giving back, including how he donates a third of all his income to the Honnold Foundation to support solar projects in underserved communities.

2020-07-11
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