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In this episode from February 2021, early Amazon execs Colin Bryar and Bill Carr -- in conversation with a16z's Sonal Chokshi -- go beyond the well-known artifacts of Amazon innovation, like the memo and the press release, and share the leadership principles, decision making practices, and operational processes that helped Amazon continue to innovate, invent new products and learn from its mistakes, as it scaled. It’s all based on their book, Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon, drawing from the 27 years combined experience of being in the room where it happened at Amazon.
Gross margins–which are essentially a company’s revenue from products and services minus the costs to deliver those products and services to customers–are one of the most important financial metrics for any startup and growing business. And yet, figuring out what goes into the “cost” for delivering products and services is not as simple as it may sound, particularly for high-growth software businesses that might use emerging business models or be leveraging new technology. In this episode from June 2020, a16z general partners Martin Casado, David George, and Sarah Wang talk all things gross margins, from early to late stage. Why do gross margins matter? When do they matter during a company’s growth? And how do you use them to plan for the future? The conversation ranges from the nuances of and strategy for calculating margins with things like cloud costs, freemium users, or implementation costs, to the impact margins can have on valuations.
This week, we have a special crossover episode from June 2021: Joel Beasley, host of the Modern CTO podcast, interviews a16z general partner David Ulevitch about David’s journey from working at an ISP and Dot Com company mp3.com in high school; to starting, running, and selling his own enterprise security company, OpenDNS; to becoming an investor at a16z. They also discuss the value of product marketing for enterprise, David’s philosophy around pricing enterprise products how to survive and lead through hard times, new trends in startup investing, and more. This is part of our occasional series where we feature relevant episodes from like-minded shows on the a16z Podcast, to surface other shows you might be interested in. The Modern CTO podcast is by and for CTOs and other technical leaders at places like Microsoft, NASA, Reddit, Launch Darkly, and more, all sharing how to build strong companies and organizations. It’s hosted by Joel Beasley, CTO of Leaderbits and author of the book, The Modern CTO. Check out more episodes of this show wherever you get your podcast. And for more on how to grow from a technical to product to Sales CEO, check out David’s previous episode on this podcast called “What Time Is It”.
Inside Apple Software Design

Inside Apple Software Design

2022-04-2801:40:251

In this wide-ranging conversation from April 2019, a16z’s Frank Chen sits down with Ken Kocienda, a longtime software engineer and designer at Apple from 2001 to 2017, who wrote a book about his career there, called Creative Selection.They discuss Ken’s unconventional path from freelance photographer to software engineer at Apple, his work on many core products from Safari web browser to iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch and features like Autocorrect, what it was like to demo new products for Steve Jobs, and more.
In this re-run from September 2018, 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?
In this episode from September 2020, 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 in 2019. 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.
After achieving product-market fit and starting to gain users, how do startups then avoid the "leaky bucket" problem of losing users as quickly as they gained them? By focusing on user engagement and retention, startups can not only keep their hard-won customers but also ensure that each new cohort of users gets more and more value out of their product.This episode is part two in a two-part series on the basics of growth. Featuring a16z general partners Andrew Chen (formerly of Uber and author of the book, The Cold Start Problem) and Jeff Jordan (formerly of OpenTable, eBay, Disney, and more), in conversation with Sonal Chokshi, the conversation goes deep on many aspects and nuances of engaging and retaining users: from how network effects come into play and if there is really a magic number or "aha" moment for a product to who are the power users and the power user curve for measuring, finding, and retaining those users.For a deeper discussion on user acquisition, check out last week's episode, the first part of this series. 
Once known as “growth hacking”, the concept of Growth has now evolved into an entire discipline that spans marketing, product management, user experience, and more. Why? After achieving product-market fit, startups need to capitalize quickly on that initial traction to capture and retain more users and market share before the competition does, and building an efficient and resilient growth strategy is a critical component.This episode -- one of two in a series -- focuses on the user acquisition aspect of growth. Featuring a16z general partners Andrew Chen (formerly of Uber and author of the book, The Cold Start Problem) and Jeff Jordan (formerly of OpenTable, eBay, Disney, and more), in conversation with Sonal Chokshi, the discussion also covers the nuances of paid vs. organic marketing (and the perils of blended CAC); the role of network effects; where does customer lifetime value (LTV) come in; and much more. Because at the end of the day, businesses don't grow themselves. 
The Great Data Debate

The Great Data Debate

2022-03-2428:321

Over a decade after the idea of “big data'' was first born, data has become the central nervous system for decision-making in organizations of all sizes. But the modern data stack is evolving and which infrastructure trends and technologies will ultimately win out remains to be decided.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? We're re-running this episode as part of a special report on Future.com, the Data50: the World's Top Data Startups, which covers the bellwether private companies across the most exciting categories in data, from AI/ML to observability and more. 
In the face of great uncertainty, how do you make decisions? Can you really apply the lessons of the past to the present and the future, to navigate seemingly new situations and get what you want out of business and life? By deeply understanding cause-effect relationships -- clearly expressed, shared with others, overlaid with data, back-tested, modified -- you can build a set of principles for dealing with the realities of whatever situation you're in, observes Ray Dalio, in this episode from 2018 and in conversation with a16z's  Alex Rampell and Sonal Chokshi, Dalio's book Principles: Life and Work originated as an internal company document that was posted online years ago and has been shared widely since. His insights on how to create your own recipe book to draw upon in moments of great change is as relevant as ever. The conversation covers everything from the differences between private and public investing, and between startups and big companies -- to questions of getting timing right, how people, teams, organizations, and even nation-states can evolve through principles like "believability-weighted idea meritocracies," and more.
In his book (and podcast), Brian McCullough chronicles the history and evolution of the internet -- from college kids in a basement and the dot-com boom, to the applications built on top of it and the entrepreneurs behind them.General partner Chris Dixon chats with McCullough about How the Internet Happened -- and more broadly, about how tech adoption and innovation happens. They discuss lessons learned, how innovation doesn’t happen in a straight line, and what the past can tell us about the next phase of the internet and technology.
original episode notes and transcript here: https://future.a16z.com/podcasts/textiles-technology-science-math-cultures-civilization/Longtime podcast showrunner (2014-2022), primary host, and editor Sonal Chokshi shares three best-of episodes as she shifts gears and the show goes on hiatus until relaunched with a new host. The third of these three special rerun episodes is a conversation that originally took place in October 2020, in the midst of the pandemic – and perfectly captures the signature identity of this show until now, and Chokshi's work, which is at the intersection of technology and humanity. In it, she and Virginia Postrel, author of the book The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World cover everything from science and math across several fields, to commerce to management & measurement, to the always-meta narrative of HOW innovation happens… As a reminder: the a16z marketing & Future team will be putting this feed on hiatus while they relaunch it with a new host; in the meantime, you can continue to follow Sonal's work both here at a16z and other projects on Twitter @smc90. Thank you as well to our brilliant audio editors, expert guests, and several others here -- but most of all, thank you to YOU: for listening, sharing, engaging, and coming along with us on this journey the past decade! Stay tuned for more. 
original episode notes and transcript here: https://future.a16z.com/podcasts/innovating-in-bets/Longtime podcast showrunner (2014-2022), primary host, and editor Sonal Chokshi shares three best-of episodes as she shifts gears and the show goes on hiatus until relaunched with a new host. The second of these three special rerun episodes is a conversation that originally took place spring/summer 2019, pre-pandemic (ah, that we could remember that time!) – between a16z co-founder Marc Andreessen and Sonal interviewing author, consultant/advisor, and former pro poker player Annie Duke, on one of her first few appearances with us. It’s a conversation quite unlike her other conversations, and one in a series of special joint interviews Marc and Sonal did. So there's a lot of high-speed talking, but the three cover a broad range of topics relevant to both businesses and individuals: on skill vs luck, on outcomes vs process, on asking the right questions, on how to communicate in probabilities within an organization or team, and, on how NOT making a decision is also a decision and why that matters. Be sure to also check out this feed for the followup conversation with Annie, Jeff Jordan, and Sonal on the specifics of HOW to Decide as well -- the practical and organizational implementations. (Because the a16z Podcast became an early go-to for book authors to release their books, Annie agreed to share her next book with us first.) But overall, these evergreen episodes are really all about INNOVATION, which is another signature theme in defining the identity of the a16z Podcast…
original episode notes and transcript here: https://future.a16z.com/podcasts/pleistocenepark-geoengineering-iceagebiome/Longtime podcast showrunner (2014-2022), primary host, and editor Sonal Chokshi shares three best-of episodes as she shifts gears and the show goes on hiatus until relaunched with a new host. The first of these three special rerun episodes is a conversation that originally took place in summer 2017, but both the work discussed in here – on making a really wild (quite literally wild;) geo-engineering idea at massive scale real – is still actively, relevant, and frequently discussed today (it’s on bringing back lab-grown woolly mammoths, which was also discussed in the 2020 documentary with Stewart Brand, We Are As Gods). But it's also all about how we humans can and do use the power of narrative to drive great feats of change, including engineering. This has been a signature theme in forming the identity of the a16z Podcast, and the conversation that follows is one that takes place among three tech & science editors, including one of our former colleagues (who also was a host on this podcast for 4 years).links: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/pleistocene-park/517779/https://www.weareasgods.film/  
Welcome to the a16z podcast. Today we’re talking about the mindsets and frameworks founders should know about when navigating the mergers and acquisitions or M&A process, both before and after – including how to think about the pricing dynamics, factors that go into the decision-making process, and what to expect from the integration once the deal is done.A16z editorial partner Zoran Basich recently talked to two a16z experts here to give us their big-picture view of the most important things to know – for founders seeking to acquire companies and how they might think about it, or those considering selling a company, or just those deciding to merge with an acquirer.Blake Kim is a partner on our Enterprise Network team and a former investment banker who works with companies on strategic partnerships; he also recently co-wrote a post on Future outlining all the different exit options and considerations for companies. And general partner Martin Casado discusses common M&A issues and shares his experiences both as observer and participant – including the challenges of integration, which he saw from the inside with Nicira, which he cofounded and was acquired by VMware for $1.26 billion in 2012, and where he remained for years to lead its networking and security business unit.As a reminder, none of the following should be taken as investment advice. Please see a16z.com/disclosures for more important information.They start the discussion by outlining the frameworks for understanding M&A dynamics, including the “kingmaking dynamic” and the difference between “selling your company” and “getting acquired.”
Innovation in the data center has been constrained by the traditional model of suppliers providing fixed-function chips that limit how much the biggest data center operators can differentiate. But programmable chips have emerged that allow these companies to not only increase performance, but innovate throughout the pipeline, from operating system to networking interface to user application.This is a major trend among "hyperscalers," which are some of the world’s most well known companies running massive data centers with tens of thousands of servers. We’re talking about companies like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Alibaba, Tencent.To talk about the trends in data centers and how software may be “eating the world of the data center,” we talked this summer to two experts. Martin Casado is an a16z general partner focused on enterprise investing. Before that he was a pioneer in the software-defined networking movement and the cofounder of Nicira, which was acquired by VMWare. (Martin has written frequently on infrastructure and data-center issues and has appeared on many a16z podcasts on these topics.)He’s joined by Nick McKeown, a Stanford professor of computer science who has founded multiple companies (and was Martin’s cofounder at Nicira) and has worked with hyperscalers to innovate within their data centers. After this podcast was recorded, Nick was appointed Senior Vice President and General Manager of a new Intel organization, the Network and Edge Group. We begin with Nick, talking about the sheer scale of data-center traffic.
What are network effects? [1:32]How do you cold start and get your first users? [2:33]Atomic networks and why minimum viable community is more important than minimum viable product [6:36]How do you curate your network and set norms? [8:42]Faking users: good idea, bad idea? [13:13]What is flintstoning? [14:26]How does the relationship to creators change as you scale? [17:07]Building for the professional creator class [22:52]How is web3 changing incentives? [25:12]
NFTs, Explained

NFTs, Explained

2021-11-2556:514

Given all the activity and interest recently around crypto and web3, as well as in upcoming holidays and art events, we’re re-running our episode all about NFTs (from March 2021) -- where we covered everything you need or want to know about NFTs. You can also find a curated list of resources to learn all about NFTs at future.com/nftcanon. That list, and this episode, has something for everyone -- from artists and creators and other builders to big companies and institutions or just anyone seeking to understand or even explain to others NFTs.Here, we’ve cut through the noise around NFTs to share the signal, covering everything from: what NFTs are and the underlying crypto big picture, before we dig into specifically what forms they take;common myths and misconceptions -- from confusing overlaps with other concepts to addressing commentary like it’s “just a JPG” or that it’s just hypeto the question of energy use, also covering briefly how NFTs workproviding a quick overview of the players/ ecosystemand throughout, covering various applications too.Joining host Sonal Chokshi are Jesse Walden, now of Variant Fund, and formerly co-founder of Mediachain Labs, which was acquired by Spotify; and Linda Xie, now of Scalar Capital, and formerly an early product manager at Coinbase. As a reminder, NONE of the following should be taken as investment advice, for more important information please see a16z.com/disclosures.[If you’re also interested in DAOs (which we touch on briefly in this episode), we just recently published a list of readings -- in the vein of our famous crypto canon resource, then NFT canon, and now DAO canon -- all about DAOs. It’s for anyone seeking to understand, build, and otherwise get involved with these “decentralized autonomous organizations” -- which represent the future of community, coordination, work, and much more… so we’ve curated resources on this list for people at different levels of interest, from dipping one’s toes in to going deep. You can find that at future.com/daocanon.]This episode was originally released in March 2021: https://future.a16z.com/podcasts/nfts-explainer/  
In today's episode we’re talking about an emerging model of gaming called play to earn, in which players can make actual money based on how much time and effort they put into a game. Play to earn is also part of broader trends — the changing relationship between players and platforms, new incentives for participants in blockchain-based networks, and the new internet era that is coming to be known as a web3. The top play-to-earn game is called Axie Infinity, operated by a Vietnam-based company called Sky Mavis. Players of the game acquire unique digital pets called Axies, and battle other teams of Axies. These NFT Axies can be created and sold using the game’s in-game currency, SLP, which can be traded for traditional currency. Think of it as Pokemon on the blockchain, with a social network built-in, and an actual economy, and even companies built around the game that help players onboard and loan them money to get started playing. The game has made more than $3 billion in total sales since launching in March 2018, with much of its early growth in the Philippines. (As a reminder, none of the following should be taken as investment advice, please see a16z.com/disclosures for more important information.) Our guests today are Jeff Zirlin, the cofounder of Sky Mavis; Gabby Dizon, the cofounder of Yield Guild Games, a play to earn gaming guild that gives players the resources to start playing; and a16z crypto general partner Arianna Simpson. They talk to a16z's Zoran Basich about the tech trends that enabled the emergence of play to earn, why and where it caught on first, and the role of community, as well as the challenges, which include onboarding and scalability, and the economic sustainability of this model. The panel also discusses what the play-to-earn movement say about the future of work.
"Beyond the Meme: Ever Given, Supply Chains, and the Physical World" -- by Ryan Petersen (June 2021). Bio + essay details/ originally appeared at: https://future.a16z.com/beyond-the-meme-ever-given-supply-chains-and-the-physical-world/More read-alouds at: https://a16z.com/tag/read-alouds/
Comments (25)

Nassim Zand

the speech of your guest made this episode super difficult to follow, regarding the information he was trying to share. that would be nice to stay on a logical speed in a podcast talk. thank you

May 1st
Reply (1)

Vazquez

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Mar 3rd
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laia farshbaf

l am laia farshbaf from iran lovely . i like very spead talk ing langhage have reaguest yours help me pl .

Jan 18th
Reply

Amey Kulkarni

Very well covered and explained

Oct 1st
Reply

Sakib Ahmed

loved this episode

Jul 23rd
Reply

Kevin Schreder

With everything going on in the markets today, I would be interested in understanding how a cryptocurrency, driven by a private entity or open source, could influence the public markets, interest rates, and the dispersion of money. Depending on the economic ups and downs, wouldn't there need to be a governing entity, such as the federal reserve?

Apr 25th
Reply (1)

Al Yaz

a very powerful and thought provoking episode. thank you. Buy American.

Feb 19th
Reply

Sara Jackson

This was a great episode! A lot of fun history to learn about.

Oct 20th
Reply (1)

AJF Nonprofit Podcast

That's why we in America need Yang2020.com.

Jun 16th
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Connie Kwan

very informative. one of the best episodes!

May 30th
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CJ

They really need to check out Castbox, we are working on a lot of the features they talked about, and some of the features are even available in other regions already. There will be lots of new monetization opportunities on Castbox for creators, keep an eye out in the near future!

Apr 7th
Reply (2)

Cliffy B.

Even tho i had to slow down all the SPEED TAlKING this was enjoyable. Peeps be waaayyy Vata

Apr 4th
Reply

Luke H

A lot.of this does not reflect UK market

Mar 23rd
Reply

Pieter Haegeman

Let your guests speak and your audience make connections for themselves. The interviewers incessant hmms and rights are just distracting from the quality of your guests. Please think about the difference between showing your guests youre listening in the moment and letting your listeners still be able to experience the conversation for themselves.

Mar 17th
Reply

CJ

Really wish I could hear more from the CEO of Activision, he has some great stories!

Feb 22nd
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Michael Bergman

Great podcast, please don't interrupt the subject so much next time.

Dec 26th
Reply

Marcin K

this is actually a really interesting talk...

Sep 18th
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Melanie Matsuo

why are there only men in this interview? are there no women that have an opinion on hiring a vp of product???

Jul 13th
Reply (1)

Indrajit Rajtilak

- Idea meritocracy and believability weighted decision making - mission first people second - everything has precedent, understanding differences is important for good decision making - having 15 low correlated investments is great investing strategy - being early and being wrong are the same thing - ego barrier and blindspot - teacher vs peer vs student - Shaper : visualization to actualization - Simultaneous open mindedness and assertiveness - Open mindedness: having opinions but knowing that you might be wrong, and testing it

Apr 27th
Reply
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