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.
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with Chris Dixon and Fred Ehrsam We’ve already talked about why bitcoin matters. But as the set of cryptocurrencies — and networks and “tokens” enabled by the underlying blockchain — grow (Ethereum being one of the fastest-growing ones), where do we go from here? How do we tease apart the signal from the noise, given all the buzz and critiques out there? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, general partner Chris Dixon and Fred Ehrsam (former Goldman Sachs trader and a co-founder of Coinbase) break down the fundamentals of it all — from incentives, developer communities, and protocols, to new models of governance and the tradeoffs between centralized and decentralized systems (including central planning vs. letting a thousand experiments bloom). And then, given all the hype out there right now around crypto tokens and “ICOs”, how do we tell the difference between what’s promising/legitimate vs. a red flag? How could we value tokens? And what does it mean for incumbents when all the value that was created in the previous paradigm is being commoditized by the new one, and that value creation now has to happen at some new layer? At the end of the day, the key word through it all is incentives. And it’s a testament to the power of getting incentive structures right that someone pseudonymously dropping a 9-page whitepaper onto the internet led to a $70 billion cryptocurrency, a whole ecosystem of companies and users, and the largest supercomputer network in the world. Then again… isn’t that how innovation happens?
One of the biggest misconceptions around network effects (which are one of the key dynamics behind many successful and highly defensible software companies) is confusing growth with engagement. So how does one tell the difference between viral growth and network effects? How does one create network effects in different businesses? (Hint: it's not by accident!) How do you know when to hang in there because you see signs of network effects or just drop it and move on to something else? And what are some examples of teasing all of the above apart? In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- based on an event we hosted and slide deck we released all about network effects -- a16z partners Anu Hariharan and Jeff Jordan (who cover all things marketplaces, consumer, and more) share (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) their observations, insights, and experiences. Because, why reinvent the, er, flywheel?
with Prasad Akella, Paul Daughtery (@pauldaugh) and Frank Chen (@withfries2) What is different on that factory floor from Henry Ford to today? In this conversation, Prasad Akella, Founder and CEO of Drishti; Paul Daugherty, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of Accenture, and author of the recently published Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI; and a16z operating partner Frank Chen, talk about how the introduction of automation from Henry Ford to now co-bots and AI all change the work we do in manufacturing and beyond. What are the skills that we’ll need in the future? What kinds of new information is available, and what new needs -- for dynamic adaptive processes, for example? What are the new tool chains and core (organizational and technical) habits of ML/AI-centric companies of the future?
with Jeff Jordan (@Jeff_Jordan), Yogi Roth (@YogiRoth), Zack Weiner and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) For decades, the increasing value of sports teams, rights, licenses and more have been fueled by sports media. But dollars follow eyeballs, and eyeballs -- at least on the traditional broadcast -- are going elsewhere. "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else,” Yogi Berra once said. So where exactly are those eyeballs going, and what does that mean for the sports media industry, now that each and every one of us is an individual media platform? a16z General Partner Jeff Jordan, Yogi Roth, Pac-12 college football analyst and former athlete and coach, and Zack Weiner, co-founder and president of sports media platform Overtime -- in conversation with a16z's Hanne Tidnam -- talk all about the evolution of sports media and content, and what it means for how we will consume sports in the future. How will the way we watch sports fundamentally change? How this begin to affect the game itself? How are athletes thinking about brand in this new world of sports content?
The period from 2000-2016 was one of the best of times and worst of times for tech and the Valley (dotcom, financial crisis, Google IPO, Facebook founded, unprecedented growth, and so on), and John Hennessy -- current chairman of Alphabet, also on the boards of Cisco and other organizations -- was the president of Stanford University during that entire time. Given this vantage point, what are his views on Silicon Valley (will there ever be another one, and if so where?); the "Stanford model" (for transferring IP, and talent, into the world); and of course, on education (and especially access)? Hennessy also co-founded startups, including one based on pioneering microprocessor architecture used in 99% of devices today (for which he and his collaborator won the prestigious Turing Award)... so what did it take to go from research/idea to industry/implementation? General partners Marc Andreessen and Martin Casado, who also founded startups while inside universities (Netscape, Nicira) and led them to successful exits (IPO, acquisition by VMWare), also join this episode of the a16z podcast with Sonal Chokshi to share their perspectives. But beyond those instances, how has the overall relationship and "divide" between academia and industry shifted, especially as the tech industry itself has changed... and perhaps talent has, too? Finally, in his new book, Leading Matters, Hennessy shares some of the leadership principles he's learned -- and instilling through the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program -- offering nuanced takes on topics like humility (needs ambition), empathy (without contravening fairness and reason), and others. What does it take to build not just tech, but a successful organization? image credit: Jitze Couperus / Flickr
with Shannon (Stubo) Brayton (@sstubo), Margit Wennmachers (@wennmachers), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) One of the company building topics that’s surprisingly mystifying is PR -- and only surprising since so much of the strategy and tactics behind public relations are actually hidden from public view. We've tried demystifying the topic in an ongoing series, covering everything from "the why, how, and when" of PR" and leaders building a personal brand to crisis communications. But the most frequently asked question startup founders, especially technical ones, have is how to manage a PR agency -- from when to bring one in and the mechanics of onboarding and engaging with them; to key acronyms to know in the process of doing so (what's an AoR? RFP? GA?); to what are the ideal configurations for the who-what-where of in-house vs. agency PR. So this episode of the a16z Podcast provides perspectives from both sides of the table (in-house vs. agency, big company vs. startup) for what it takes, featuring PR legends and veterans Shannon (Stubo) Brayton, chief marketing officer at LinkedIn (formerly at OpenTable and formerly vice president of corporate communications at eBay) and Margit Wennmachers, operating partner at Andreessen Horowitz who heads up the marketing function (and who co-founded and later sold The Outcast Agency), in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. It's not dictation -- whether from company to agency, or agency to reporter, or PR to internal stakeholders -- there's a lot of strategic thinking involved even with seemingly incidental things. And... it's a leap of faith.
with Michael Ovitz (@michaelovitz), Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) When Michael Ovitz co-founded the Hollywood talent agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), he turned a number of the entertainment industry's well-entrenched traditions on their head. The origin story of a16z (not coincidentally!) is not that dissimilar. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Ovitz and a16z co-founder Ben Horowitz talk with Hanne Tidnam about Ovitz' just-released book, Who is Michael Ovitz? -- and about how CAA transformed the power equation in Hollywood. The conversation covers everything from the history of the entertainment business -- the days of vaudeville and the Jack Warners and William Foxes and Jurassic Parks -- to what strategies guided the differentiation of the new kids on the block. There's lessons for other founders here, too, about culture, negotiation, and more.
with Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) and Chris Dixon (@cdixon) There's all sorts of interesting tech trends happening right now, including AI, VR/AR, self-driving cars and drones (as well as interesting stuff happening in verticals like healthcare and finance) -- and there's a lot also happening in seemingly more "mature" tech revolutions, such as mobile and cloud. But where are we now, really, with these shifts... and how does that inform how we think about the next couple decades? And does a framework like Carlota Perez's -- as outlined in Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages and summarized by venture capitalist and longtime internet investor Fred Wilson (of Union Square Ventures) -- fully apply when it comes to software? Because, argues Chris Dixon (general partner on a16z crypto), software "has so much more plasticity, ability to adapt, ability to evolve" that unlike hardware, "the core itself will also dramatically change... not just the apps around it". The total economic value that will be unlocked with the software revolution, observes Wilson, should be orders of magnitude bigger than what we saw with manufacturing for sure. But just how much internet innovation is actually powering true disruption (i.e., is more than just a sustaining innovation, to use Clayton Christensen's terminology)? How do new business models change everything? Dixon and Wilson consider all this and more in this hallway-style episode of the a16z Podcast, where we recorded the two having a think-aloud conversation about everything from the history of the internet and startups, the evolution of capital and infrastructure, to the advent of crypto. How do they they both define "decentralized", what do they think of dApps, and where do NFTs and "crypto goods" come in?? One thing's for sure: It's the most interesting time they've both ever seen in over 30 years of internet work, life, and play. Please note that the a16z crypto fund is a separate legal entity managed by CNK Capital Management, L.L.C. (“CNK”), a registered investor advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission. a16z crypto is legally independent and operationally separate from the Andreessen Horowitz family of fund and AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“AHCM”). In any case, the content provided here is for informational purposes only, and does NOT constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment solution or a recommendation to buy or sell a security; nor it is to be taken as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. In fact, none of the information in this or other content on a16zcrypto.com should be relied on in any manner as advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax and other related matters concerning any investment.
with Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) and Steven Sinofsky (@SteveSi) In another of our hallway conversation episodes, Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky talk all about Tesla — and more broadly, the nature of disruption overall. How disruptive is Tesla really, and what exactly are they disrupting — from the dashboard to car makers to vendors to energy source to autonomy overall? The tech industry is littered with leading innovators... who nonetheless failed to be the dominant leader in the end. So the question should be, is this new thing fundamentally difficult for the incumbent to do, and how does it relate to market dominance? Which of these things are important in order for Tesla to be the new BMW or the new GM? Looking back at other examples historically (Microsoft, GM's Saturn Brand, and of course the iPhone), what kind of disruption matters most for market dominance? And what is the long view of how software is eating transportation?
with Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) and Steven Sinofksy (@StevenSi) In this hallway-style conversation episode of the a16z Podcast, Benedict Evans and a16z board partner Steven Sinofsky discuss Apple’s September 2018 keynote event and share their thoughts on the new innovations -- and lessons -- that really matter. With something that’s gone from toy to phone to fashion item -- and just pivoted to a health monitor that can literally save lives -- where are we now? How closely aligned is health to the overall value proposition, and what are some of the characteristics of how Apple innovates as a company as a whole... from components and building blocks to how it all comes together? image: Integrated Change/ Flickr(CC 2.0)
with Steven Johnson (@stevenbjohnson), Chris Dixon (@cdixon), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) There's a lot of research and writing out there on "thinking fast" -- the short-term, gut, instinctual decisions we make, biases we have, and heuristics we use -- but what about for "thinking slow" -- the long-term decisions we make that both take longer to deliberate and have longer spans of impact on our lives... and the world? Because we're not only talking about decisions like who to marry (or whether to move) here; we're also talking about decisions that impact future generations in ways we as a species never considered (or could consider) before. But... why bother, if these decisions are so complex, with competing value systems, countless interacting variables, and unforeseeable second- and third-order effects? We can't predict the future, so why try? Well, while there's no crystal ball that allows you to see clearly into the future, we can certainly try to ensure better outcomes than merely flipping a coin, argues author Steven B. Johnson in his new book, Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter Most. Especially because the hardest choices are the most consequential, he observes, yet we know so little about how to get them right. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Johnson shares with a16z crypto general partner Chris Dixon and a16z's Sonal Chokshi specific strategies -- beyond good old-fashioned pro/con lists and post-mortems -- for modeling the deliberative tactics of expert decision-makers (and not just oil-company scenario planners, but also storytellers). The decisions we're talking about here aren't just about individual lives and businesses -- whether launching a new product feature or deciding where to innovate next -- they're also about even bigger and bolder things like how to fix the internet, or what message to send aliens with outcomes spanning centuries far into the future. But that's where the power of story comes in again. * * * The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment solution or a recommendation to buy or sell a security; nor it is to be taken as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. In fact, none of the information in this or other content on a16zcrypto.com should be relied on in any manner as advice. Please see https://a16zcrypto.com/disclosures/ for further information.
with Jeff Jordan (@Jeff_Jordan), Cal Turner Jr., and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) The "death of retail" in the face of e-commerce and tech disruption is a very real phenomenon, but what about the flip side of that story -- that is, retail thriving despite all odds? Enter Dollar General, a multi-billion-dollar success story of the U.S. chain with 14,000 brick-and-mortar dollar stores. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, general partner Jeff Jordan -- who was formerly an SVP for The Disney Stores (and has written much about declining malls, competing with Amazon, and the tipping point for ecommerce, among other things) -- with Hanne Tidnam interviews Cal Turner, Jr., the CEO of Dollar General and author of the new book, My Father's Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company. How did Dollar General go from the Great Depression to nearly filing for bankruptcy to IPO and entering the Fortune 500? It turns out, the journey -- not unlike startups and successful big companies -- is a case study in focus, focus, focus... whether it was pricing (natch) or inventory or a focus on customers or simply (but not so simply!) focusing on one's "true north".