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a16z Podcast

a16z Podcast

Author: Andreessen Horowitz

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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!
346 Episodes
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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.
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. Lowea16z 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Cybercrime, Incorporated

Cybercrime, Incorporated

2020-07-1836:201

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?
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.
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.
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.
Is there a limit to what humans can do? And if so, how do you know when you've reached it? Welcome to part one of a two-part series on human performance with professional rock climber Alex Honnold. Alex redefined the limits of what is possible by free soloing – that is climbing with no ropes or safety gear – a 2000-foot granite rock face in Yosemite, known as El Capitan. That feat  was documented in the award-winning film Free Solo. In this podcast, Alex, a16z general partner Peter Levine (who at age 59 is still an avid ice climber), and Das Rush discuss how technology and training have pushed the limits of what's possible and how to manage the mental preparation of any big endeavor, whether its building a company, reaching a new peak, or maintaining peak performance while aging.In Part 2, recorded last year as part of our a16z innovation summit, we share a fireside chat with Peter and Alex  about the risk, preparation, and fear around Alex's free solo.  Photo credit: Shawn Corrigan 
"Why We Shouldn’t Fear the ‘Black Box’ of AI (in Healthcare and Everywhere)" by Vijay Pande. First published in the New York Times, January 2018. You can also find and share this article at a16z.com/aidoctor
"When One App Rules Them All: The Case of WeChat and Mobile in China" by Connie Chan. First published August 2015. You can also find and share this essay at a16z.com/mobilefirstchina
"Why Every Company Will Be a Fintech Company -- The Next Era of Financial Services and the 'AWS Phase' for Fintech" by Angela Strange.You can also find and share this essay at a16z.com/fintecheverywhere  
Read-Alouds, Continued

Read-Alouds, Continued

2020-07-0700:51

Today we're continuing a series we started a while ago of read-alouds (for more context on the why and why now check out episode #500 on how we podcast!).The first was episode #544 in April, It's Time to Build, read out loud by Marc Andreessen; what follows are  three more pieces read out loud by their authors:"Why Every Company Will Become a Fintech Company: The Next Era of Financial Services and the 'AWS Phase' for Fintech" by Angela Strange"When One App Rules Them All: The Case of WeChat and Mobile in China" by Connie Chan, first published August 2015"Why We Shouldn’t Fear the ‘Black Box’ of AI (in Healthcare and Everywhere)" by Vijay Pande, first published in the New York Times January 2018 
Eroom’s Law is Moore’s Law spelled backwards. It’s a term that was coined in a Nature Reviews Drug Discovery article by researchers at Sanford Bernstein and describes the exponential decrease in biopharma research and development efficiency between the 1950s and 2010. Whereas Moore’s describes technologies becoming exponentially faster and cheaper over time, Eroom’s Law describes the trend of drug development becoming exponentially more expensive over time.The article describing Eroom’s Law was published in 2012, and analyzed data up till 2010. That is perhaps ironic as 2010 appears to be an inflection point in the trend. In Breaking Eroom’s Law, the authors analyze the data since 2010 and show that costs appear to have stabilized over the last ten years. But what has contributed to this critical and exciting trend shift? In our conversation, Jorge and Vijay discuss the three causes cited by the authors of the Breaking Eroom’s Law article, their views on what technologies and policies will continue to push costs down, and their opinion on whether Eroom’s Law is broken for good.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the visibility of scientists and the scientific process to the broader public; suddenly, scientists working on virology and infectious disease dynamics have seen their public profiles rapidly expand. One such scientist is the special guest in this episode, Trevor Bedford, Associate Professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.An expert in genomic epidemiology, he and his collaborators built Nextstrain, which shares real-time, interactive data visualizations to track the spread of viruses through populations.a16z bio deal team partner Judy Savitskaya and Lauren Richardson chat with Trevor about how genomic epidemiology can inform public health decisions; viral mutation and spillover from animals into humans; what can be done now to prevent the next big pandemic; and the shift in scientific communication to pre-prints and open science.
In this episode of the a16z bio journal club, we cover one of the key clinical trials that supported the recent FDA approval of the first prescription video game. The game was developed by Akili Interactive, is called EndeavorRx, and is now a clinically-validated therapy for improving attention in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). But how does a game improve attention? How does a clinical trial evaluate the efficacy of a game? And what are the pros and cons of a video game as compared to traditional pharmacological therapies for ADHD? Bio deal team partner Justin Larkin and Lauren Richardson delve into these questions and more in their discussion of this clinical trial:“A novel digital intervention for actively reducing severity of paediatric ADHD (STARS-ADHD): a randomised controlled trial” in Lancet Digital Health (April 2020) by Scott H Kollins, Denton J DeLoss, Elena Cañadas, Jacqueline Lutz, Robert L Findling, Richard S E Keefe, Jeffery N Epstein, Andrew J Cutler, and Stephen V Faraone.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.
Gross margins are essentially a company's revenue from products and services minus the costs to deliver those products and services to customers, and it's one of the most important financial metrics a startup can track.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. 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?In this episode, a16z general partners Martin Casado, who invests in early stage enterprise startups and  David George, who leads our growth fund, and Sarah Wang  on the growth investing team share their perspectives on how to think about gross margins in both earlier and later stages at a startup. 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. 
As more digital natives have entered the workplace, they have brought with them the expectation that their software should both be a joy to use and allow them to be power users. That is, users who configure and control it to better serves their needs. And often, these digital natives aren't just aspiring power users, they are also prosumers, who can and will pay for a premium experience. But first generation SaaS products have often struggled to deliver the experience these users crave.For today's founders and builders, how do you get the user experience right when a product has to delight your power users, while being something a less savvy user can pick up and learn?In this episode, a16z general partner David Ulevitch and Superhuman founder Rahul Vohra discuss how to build products that can turn any user into a power user. The conversation touches on themes from David's recent talk on products that adopt developer tools, like the command palette and keyboard shortcuts, to improve usability, and Rahul's talk on how to apply game design principles to product design. They cover how to onboard users to drive virality, when to expand to a second product, and how to use pricing to position a premium product.
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Comments (16)

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
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Al Yaz

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

Feb 19th
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Sara Jackson

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

Oct 20th
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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
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Cliffy B.

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

Apr 4th
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Luke H

A lot.of this does not reflect UK market

Mar 23rd
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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
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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
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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
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