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!
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 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)
Compensation is a topic near and dear to everyone’s heart… but what does “compensation” fully mean — and what does it include, what doesn’t it include? How do entrepreneurs compete for talent in an intensely competitive environment, while balancing their startup’s affordability considerations? This wide-ranging episode of the a16z Podcast (based on an event held for entrepreneurs at Andreessen Horowitz earlier this year) covers all things compensation — from philosophical questions such as how to get to alignment around your company’s compensation philosophy to details such as the tradeoffs between RSUs vs. stock options. The discussion includes Steve Cadigan, talent advisor and cofounder at ISDI Digital University; Thanh Nguyen, Executive Director at Connery Consulting; Greg Loehmann, principal at Compensia; and a16z partner Shannon Schiltz, who heads up a16z’s human resources, tech talent, and people practices operation.
Jun 8th • 19:02
There are over 20 million programmers out there -- and double that, if you count everyone else coding in other ways -- but where are the next 100 million developers? How do we get to a billion developers? The answer, observes a16z general partner Peter Levine in conversation with GitHub co-founder and former CEO Chris Wanstrath (based on a Q&A recorded at our last a16z Summit event) lies in changing the very definition of a "programmer" and "programming". It might even mean the end of code, argues Levine (who apparently loves arguing the end of things!), and the beginning of a future where data isn't just "the new oil", but one where we all become our own "oil wells". With everyone is manipulating data -- the new programming, in a sense -- expertise can be scaled (especially with new tools) so everyone gets the answers and solutions they need. So what does this mean for open source developers? CIOs and organizations that have lots of different data streams, as well as domain experts? This episode of the a16z Podcast covers all this and more, including touching briefly on what's ahead...
“The rules of the game are different in tech,” argues — and has long argued, despite his views not being accepted at first — W. Brian Arthur, technologist-turned-economist who first truly described the phenomenon of “positive feedbacks” in the economy or “increasing returns” (vs. diminishing returns) in the new world of business… a.k.a. network effects. A longtime observer of Silicon Valley and the tech industry, he’s seen how a few early entrepreneurs first got it, fewer investors embrace it, entire companies be built around it, and still yet others miss it… even today. If an inferior product/technology/way of doing things can sometimes “lock in” the market, does that make network effects more about luck, or strategy? It’s not really locked in though, since over and over again the next big thing comes along. So what does that mean for companies and industries that want to make the new technology shift? And where does competitive advantage even come from when everyone has access to the same building blocks (open source, APIs, etc.) of innovation? Because Arthur — former Stanford professor, visiting researcher at PARC, and external professor at Santa Fe Institute who is also known as one of the fathers of complexity theory in economics — has written about the nature of technology and how it evolves, observing that new technology doesn’t come out of nowhere, but instead, is the result of “combinatorial” innovation. Does this then mean there’s no such thing as a dramatic breakthrough?! In this hour-long episode of the a16z Podcast, we (Sonal Chokshi with Marc Andreessen) explore many of these questions with Arthur. His answers take us from “the halls of production” to the “casino of technology”; from the “prehistory” to the history of tech; from the invisible underground autonomy economy to the “internet of conversations”; from externally available information to externalized intelligence; and finally, from Silicon Valley to Singapore to China to India and back to Silicon Valley again. Who’s going to win; what are the chances of winning? We don’t know, because it’s a very different game… Do you still want to play?
Apr 21st • 49:52
Can one really apply the lessons of history and of the past to the present and the future, as a way to get what they want out of 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/algorithms/recipes for dealing with the realities of your life, observes Ray Dalio in this episode of the a16z Podcast (in conversation with a16z general partner 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; he is the founder, chairman, and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates -- one of the top five private companies in the U.S., which manages over $150 billion and has made more money for clients than any other hedge fund. "Is this is a duck, how do I deal with ducks; or this is a species I haven't seen before, and how do I deal with that?" In other words, when you see a particular thing coming over and over again, you can know what you're seeing and how to act on it. But what about timing, which is a huge factor when it comes to making various bets and decisions in both work and life? And what if a phenomenon is entirely new and hasn't been seen before (is there such a thing), and also, how do we avoid an overly pattern-matching/ pattern-recognition trap? Having a framework can still help -- even if the phenomena don't have a clear set of rules like chess -- because we can understand why things might be different. Knowing that is important, argues Dalio. The conversation covers everything from the differences between private and public investing, and between startups and big companies -- to how people, teams, organizations, and even nation-states can evolve through principles like "believability-weighted idea meritocracies" and more. But... can adults really change? What are the differences between the two you's, and between closed-minded and open-minded people, and how do they play out across the roles of a "teacher", "student", or "peer" in organizations of varying scale? It's not as obvious as you might think, and knowing how you know -- and what we don't know -- can help.
Every large company -- especially ones that have been around for a long time -- goes through multiple cycles of change. But how do you know where to go next, and when, and how? The management literature is full of case studies, research, and of course, advice... but what if you borrowed from the principles of scientific and social progress instead? In fact, that's what Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries (one of the largest private companies in the U.S., with over $100B in revenue as estimated by Forbes), did in thinking about how to evolve their business. They systematically grew their capabilities from oil and chemicals; to polymers, fibers, and related consumer products; and then into forest products, glass, steel; and now, electronics and software. But this kind of "continual transformation" (and even stated company values) observes Marc Andreessen, sounds obvious; "every company must do that, every company must seek to be the partner of choice to all of its constituents, every company must seek to continually improve". So how did it all work in practice, from strategy and management to incentives and compensation? And is this a new kind of conglomerate business model? This episode of the a16z Podcast covers these questions and more, touching briefly on policy and also sharing a bonus reading list at end. The conversation is based on a Q&A from our annual Summit events, which bring together large companies, finance investors, academics, and startups to talk all things innovation.
The complete sequencing of the human genome is one of the most powerful examples of technology and science in action: We've gone from needing $3 billion and over 13 years to read a single human genome to today, to where we can do that same amount of work for about $1,000 in roughly 2 days -- and the price will only continue to drop. But beyond pricing, what does understanding the gene -- and moving from the sequencing layer to the applications layer -- mean to us; what new questions arise now that we can sequence DNA quickly, reliably, and cheaply? This conversation -- with co-founder and CEO of Jungla Carlos Araya and co-founder and CEO of Freenome Gabe Otte, moderated by a16z General Partner Jorge Conde (based on a discussion that took place at a16z’s annual Summit in November 2017) -- takes a step back and considers all these questions. Every time a human genome sequence is completed, there are on the order of 3,000,000 new variants identified. So how do we think about interpreting all that data? Actionability? And how do we derive meaning from all this, for applications in the clinical space?
Dec 5th, 2017 • 9:42
Data, data, everywhere, nor any drop to drink. Or so would say Coleridge, if he were a big company CEO trying to use A.I. today -- because even when you have a ton of data, there's not always enough signal to get anything meaningful from AI. Why? Because, "like they say, it's 'garbage in, garbage out' -- what matters is what you have in between," reminds Databricks co-founder (and director of the RISElab at U.C. Berkeley) Ion Stoica. And even then it's still not just about data operations, emphasizes SigOpt co-founder Scott Clark; your data scientists need to really understand "What's actually right for my business and what am I actually aiming for?" And then get there as efficiently as possible. But beyond defining their goals, how do companies get over the "cold start" problem when it comes to doing more with AI in practice, asks a16z operating partner Frank Chen (who also released a microsite on getting started with AI earlier this year)? The guests on this short "a16z Bytes" episode of the a16z Podcast -- based on a conversation that took place at our recent annual Summit event -- share practical advice about this and more.
Aug 15th, 2017 • 26:31
What do disease diagnostics, language learning, and image recognition have in common? All depend on the organization of collective intelligence: data ontologies. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, guests Luis von Ahn, founder of reCaptcha and Duolingo, Jay Komarneni, founder of HumanDX, a16z General Partner Vijay Pande, and a16z Partner Malinka Walaliyadde break down what data ontologies are, from the philosophical (Wittgenstein and Wikipedia!) to the practical (a doctor identifying a diagnosis), particularly as they apply to the field of healthcare and diagnosis. It is data ontologies, in fact, that enable not only human computation -- but that allow us to map out, structure, and scale knowledge creation online, providing order to how we organize massive amounts of information so that humans and machines can coordinate in a way that both understand.
Nov 21st • 34:43
with Boris Sofman (@bsofman), Dave Touretsky (@DaveTouretzky), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) We're just now beginning to truly see the the first 'real' robots in the home, from Roombas to toys to companions to... well, much more. How are humans beginning to forge relationships with these robotic devices (/entities!) -- and how will those relationships develop? What do we learn as we begin to forge relationships and interact with robotic toys like Cosmo and Vector -- about robots, and about ourselves? And what do these learnings teach us about the possibility of adding a "personality wrapper" to new technologies? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, CEO and cofounder of Anki Boris Sofman, and Research Professor of Computer Science at CMU Dave Touretsky, discuss with a16z's Hanne Tidnam where we are in the human-robotic future, the history of robotics that has brought us here, and the next big breakthroughs -- in hardware, software, perception, navigation, and manipulation -- that will bring in the next waves of innovation for robots.
Nov 19th • 37:54
with Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) and Adrienne Mayor (@amayor) Is it possible that ancient Greeks and Romans dreamed of technological innovations like robots and artificial intelligence millennia before those technologies became realities? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Adrienne Mayor, historian of science and author of the just released Gods & Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology, discusses with a16z parther Hanne Tidnam the earliest myths around ideas of technology and even artificial life from the ancient world: from the first imagined robot to walk the earth, to actual historical technological wonders of the ancient world such as mechanical flying doves or a giant miles-long parade of 10 foot tall automatons pulled by hundreds of men. What do these early imaginings of technological invention tell us about human nature? And what can we take from understanding the deep roots of this mythology for the era of technology, for today? Mayor is the 2018-19 Berggruen Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and author of The Amazons: Lives and Legends; Fossil Legends of the First Americans; and The Poison King, which was a National Book Award finalist.
Nov 17th • 42:29
with Stephanie Cohen and Martin Casado (@martin_casado) As chief strategy officer of Goldman Sachs (and former global head of financial sponsors M&A), Stephanie Cohen has seen it all when it comes to the ins and outs of M&A. And what it means to innovate from within, especially at a large company. Given Cohen's unique vantage point and nearly 20-year tenure at Goldman Sachs, Casado -- himself a veteran of both an acquisition (Nicira) and big company innovation (VMware) -- interviews Cohen in this episode of the a16z Podcast, on the ways that big companies navigate innovation... both inside and outside. How do they make the decision to build vs. buy? How does one diversify perspectives? And so on. This episode is based on a fireside chat that originally took place at our annual a16z Summit event in November 2018.
Nov 5th • 28:39
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?
Oct 20th • 26:05
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?
Oct 8th • 55:05
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
Sep 27th • 39:15
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.
Sep 25th • 33:15
with Michael Ovitz (@michaelovitz), Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) When Michael Ovitz 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.
Sep 18th • 43:59
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?
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.
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 the Dollar Store, a multi-billion-dollar success story of the U.S. chain with 14,000 brick-and-mortar 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 the Dollar Store 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".
Aug 25th • 29:08
with Martin Casado (@martin_casado), Andrew Chen (@andrewchen), Russ Heddleston (@rheddleston), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) What happens when the bottoms up, organic growth usually associated with consumer companies starts to go.... enterprise? Part of our continuing podcast series (you can listen to part one on user acquisition and part two on engagement/retention) on growth, this episode explores the increasing trend of enterprise growth shifting to be more "bottoms up" -- with a16z general partners Martin Casado and Andrew Chen, and DocSend CEO and co-founder Russ Heddleston, in conversation with Hanne Tidnam. So what exactly does more bottoms up growth for enterprise look like? And then how does organic growth map into the direct sales model we traditionally see in enterprise? How does it affect company building overall? What changes in how we evaluate growth, what do we look at... and how can those two different models work best together?
Aug 21st • 37:19
with Devon Zuegel (@devonzuegel), Denis Nazarov (@iiterature), and Jesse Walden (@jessewldn) The open source movement enabled so much in computing, including the collaborative building of libraries -- that is, building blocks of code that developers could combine together to build applications. But as these applications grew to massive scale, those libraries ended up being somewhat asymmetrical for "nights-and-weekend" developers (compared to say, the disproportionate resources of a large company with billions of users and big data). Blockchains, however -- enabled by cryptotokens that align incentives among stakeholders -- shift open source development from libraries, to the creation of shared, open, permissionless services. Instead of being siloed and repetitively produced as if from the industrial factory era, any smart contract developed on Ethereum becomes a shared service that can interact with any other service... incentivizing developers to improve on existing services, build on top of them, and enable combinatorial innovation at greater scale than ever before. But if decentralized networks are to win the third era of the internet, how will we resolve challenges such as single-purpose services (another form of consolidation), community conflicts, and other issues? In this video, freelance software engineer (and blockchain app developer) and writer (and urban watcher) Devon Zuegel guest-interviews a16z crypto partners Denis Nazarov and Jesse Walden, the co-founders of Mediachain Labs (which was acquired by Spotify in 2017). They draw on their past experiences leading open source development of a decentralized media attribution protocol for connecting creators to their audience, and what the implications of "services vs. libraries" could be for creatives now. And what about identity, stablecoins and crypto finance, and more? Finally, they extend their previous analogy of cities and network effects and how it fits the idea of libraries vs. services in crypto. 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. Furthermore, the content is not directed to any investor or potential investor, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment and must not be taken as a basis for any investment decision. No investment in any fund advised by CNK or AHCM may be made prior to receipt of definitive offering documentation and due diligence materials. Finally, views expressed are those of the individual a16z crypto personnel quoted therein and are not the views of CNK, AHCM, or their respective affiliates. Please see https://a16zcrypto.com/disclosures/ and https://a16zcrypto.com/disclaimers/ for further information.
with Andrew Chen (@andrewchen), Jeff Jordan (@jeff_jordan), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) Once you have users, how do you keep them engaged, retain them, and even "resurrect" or re-engage them? That's the focus of this episode of the a16z Podcast, which continues our series on the basics of growth from user acquisition to engagement and retention -- covering, as always, key metrics and how to think about them. Especially as many products and platforms evolve over time, so do the users, some of whom may even use the product in different ways... so what does that mean for engagement, and how can startups analyze their users? "Show me the cohorts!" may be the new "show me the money"... Featuring a16z general partners Andrew Chen and Jeff Jordan, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi, the discussion also covers everything from how network effects come in to play (is there 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 them). Because at the end of the day, you don't want a leaky bucket that you're constantly trying to fill up. That doesn't work, and definitely won't scale.
Aug 9th • 20:31
with Andrew Chen (@andrewchen), Jeff Jordan (@jeff_jordan), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) Growth is one of the most top of mind questions for entrepreneurs building startups of all kinds (and especially consumer ones) -- but how does one go beyond a mindset of "growth hacking" to thinking about growth more systemically and holistically? What are the key metrics to know; why; and how? This episode of the a16z Podcast -- one of two in a series -- focuses on the user acquisition aspect of growth, followed by engagement and retention in the next episode. Featuring a16z general partners Andrew Chen and Jeff Jordan, 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...
Aug 4th • 16:01
with Sharon Chang (@sychang) and Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz) What does it really take to start a startup (or work at one)? In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- based on a Q&A with Ben Horowitz as part of an event hosted by a16z's Technical Talent and People Practices team for a16z portfolio company summer interns 2018 -- Ben shares quick thoughts and advice geared towards those early in their tech careers. The conversation covers everything from how to know what kind of company to join early (or when to strike out on one's own); the major platform shifts we should anticipate going forward; and founding (as well as exit) stories, like Microsoft’s acquisition of Github. What was the moral of that story for him, and for the industry?... this short a16z Bytes episode shares a glimpse into (some of) those "earned secrets".
Aug 1st • 37:34
with Denis Nazarov (@iiterature), Jesse Walden (@jessewldn), Ali Yahya (@ali01), and Devon Zuegel (@devonzuegel) Cryptonetworks are often compared to firms, people, or even coral reefs -- but, observes a16z crypto partner Ali Yahya, they might be much more similar to cities. Where does that analogy fit, and where does it break down? And what can we learn from how cities both emerge from the bottom up and are motivated by a top down vision/design and apply to open source networks such as those in crypto? In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- guest hosted by freelance software engineer (and blockchain app developer) and writer (and urban watcher) Devon Zuegel -- a16z crypto partners Denis Nazarov, Jesse Walden, and Yahya share their thoughts on "rough consensus"; shared myths and beliefs; modularity vs. monolithic design; and the rivers and riverbeds that people build cities and code around. At the end of the day, it's all about mass coordination at scale... but what are the incentives for building the infrastructure and ecosystem, for running experiments but also determining governance as well? *** 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. Furthermore, the content is not directed to any investor or potential investor, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment and must not be taken as a basis for any investment decision. No investment in any fund advised by CNK or AHCM may be made prior to receipt of definitive offering documentation and due diligence materials. Finally, views expressed are those of the individual a16z crypto personnel quoted therein and are not the views of CNK, AHCM, or their respective affiliates. Please see https://a16zcrypto.com/disclosures/ and https://a16zcrypto.com/disclaimers/ for further information.
with Chris Dixon (@cdixon), Ali Yahya (@ali01), and Devon Zuegel (@devonzuegel) “Show me the incentive and I'll show you the outcomes.” At the end of the day, observes a16z crypto general partner Chris Dixon, Satoshi's whitepaper [the original bitcoin paper outlining a peer-to-peer decentralized network and blockchain sans centralized third parties] is nine pages of incentives. It's the kind of incentive design that you can use to build many other things on the internet (which itself is driven by very simple core protocols and could even upgrade itself as a result). But only with the right incentives (and alignment of those incentives among different entities), of course. Which is where cryptonetworks come in -- especially since they don't rely on hardware buildout (as with earlier generations of internet deployment), but rather on software (which is essentially just logic, the kind of building block you can use to build countless other things). The breadth of possibilities is endless. This means that platforms and networks (and operating systems, for that matter) can spend less time, energy, money, and frankly, suffering due to fighting -- thanks to distorted business models that lead them to extract value from users and compete among complements (vs. substitutes/better alternatives). The internet-native business models baked into crypto, however, could lead to greater competition and better options for users. But what are the missing building blocks, that can help make such networks more iterated games vs. one-off prisoner's dilemmas? And what will it take for these networks to truly reach web-scale, as it's still just the beginning? Because decentralization is the means to an end -- not the end in and itself -- observes a16z crypto partner Ali Yahya, so what do we need to build next to get there? In this episode of the a16z Podcast (guest hosted by freelance software engineer and writer Devon Zuegel), Dixon and Yahya share their thoughts on where we've been, and where we're going with the internet. 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. Furthermore, the content is not directed to any investor or potential investor, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment and must not be taken as a basis for any investment decision. No investment in any fund advised by CNK or AHCM may be made prior to receipt of definitive offering documentation and due diligence materials. Finally, views expressed are those of the individual a16z crypto personnel quoted therein and are not the views of CNK, AHCM, or their respective affiliates. Please see https://a16zcrypto.com/disclosures/ and https://a16zcrypto.com/disclaimers/ for further information.
Jul 20th • 34:06
with Elad Gil (@eladgil) and Chris Dixon (@cdixon) There's a lot of knowledge out there -- and networks of talent (especially in Silicon Valley) -- on what to do in the early stages of a company, going from 0 to 1, and even in going from 1 to 100... but what about beyond that? It's not as simply linear as merely doubling or tripling resources and org structures; it's actually much more complex on many levels, communication to coordination. Because with great scale comes great complexity... and many, many more places for things to break down. So how should founders/CEOs of growing tech startups think about everything from hiring (including key executives) to product management (what is it, really, beyond common myths/misconceptions around the role?) to thinking about late-stage financing, M&A, and other key aspects of building a company? This episode of the a16z Podcast shares both specific answers to -- and general mindsets for thinking about -- these questions. Chris Dixon, general partner on a16z crypto, interviews Elad Gil, investor/advisor to numerous tech companies; co-founder of Color Genomics; formerly of Google and also co-founder and CEO of Mixer Labs (acquired by Twitter, where he also became a VP). He's the author of the new book, The High Growth Handbook, on scaling companies from 10 to 10,000 people. But the two also explore the growth -- and evolution -- of market and tech trends, including the continuation of mobile/cloud; machine learning (and silicon); crypto; and finally, longevity -- both in the near term and further out in the future. Should people -- and even companies for that matter -- really live longer?
Jul 17th • 33:08
with Katie Haun (@katie_haun), Robin Weisnman (@robinweisman), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) What’s going on, regulation-wise, in crypto? How should people who want to join a company or build something new in the space think about the regulatory environment? What to make of all the headlines, or the "alphabet soup" of agencies potentially involved in regulating crypto? This episode of the a16z Podcast shares principles -- as well as key players/acronyms to know -- for sorting the signal from the noise in the regulatory landscape for crypto. The experts in conversation with a16z editorial partner Sonal Chokshi include: Robin Weisman, who helped found and is a lobbyist for Coin Center, a nonprofit policy research and advocacy group for cryptocurrencies; and was formerly a director of government relations at Nasdaq; and Kathryn (Katie) Haun, who teaches crypto at Stanford Business School; is on the boards of Coinbase and HackerOne; is a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, where she led their first digital currency task force and prosecuted a number of cases in the space; and was recently announced as general partner. The discussion is based on a panel that originally took place at the “Intro to Crypto” event that Andreessen Horowitz and #Angels put on in April 2018. You can see other talks from this event -- including a video on the building blocks of crypto; as well as sessions on the big picture of decentralization to building companies in crypto, from people to code -- here. This panel also presented the below slide, which is referenced in (but is not necessary to follow) this episode: https://a16z.files.wordpress.com/2018/07/regulatorylandscape-acronyms-introtocrypto_a16z.png photo credit: Erin Brethauer
Jul 17th • 27:36
with Tina Bhatnagar (@tinab), Preethi Kasireddy (@iam_preethi), Lily Liu (@calilyliu), and Kim Milosevich (@kimbatronic) Whether it’s sharing the decision-making behind joining a crypto company to the perspectives of a passionate early adopter (or relative latecomer), this episode of the a16z Podcast -- based on a panel from the “Intro to Crypto” event that Andreessen Horowitz and #Angels put on in April 2018 -- covers what it takes to build companies in crypto, from people to code. You can find other sessions from the event, covering the building blocks of crypto to decentralization to the regulatory landscape, here. Why crypto? What was the biggest surprise in the space? Do the same skills from other domains apply? This discussion, moderated by Kim Milosevich, explores these questions with Coinbase VP of Operations Tina Bhatnagar; CEO and founder of TruStory Preethi Kasireddy; and Lily Liu, co-founder at Earn.com. photo credit: Erin Brethauer
Jul 17th • 41:17
with Chris Dixon (@cdixon), Elizabeth Stark (@starkness), and Jessica Verrilli (@jess) Why does decentralization matter? This episode of the a16z Podcast -- based on a discussion that first took as part of an “Intro to Crypto” event that Andreessen Horowitz and #Angels put on in April 2018 -- explores the whys and the hows, from the history of the internet to the culture of crypto communities today. Chris Dixon (now of a16z crypto) and Elizabeth Stark (CEO and co-founder of Lightning Labs) share their thoughts with moderator Jessica Verrilli (a founding partner of #Angels, former vice president of corp dev and strategy at Twitter, and now general partner at Google Ventures). You can see other talks from this event -- including a video on the building blocks of crypto; a podcast on the regulatory landscape; and thoughts on building companies in crypto, from people to code -- here. 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. photo credit: Erin Brethauer
Jul 13th • 31:38
Trying to reconstruct the deep past of ancient humans out of present-day people has until now been like trying to reconstruct a bomb explosion in a room from bits of shrapnel, says David Reich, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and author of the new book, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past. But technological advances and new tools available only in the last few years have suddenly revolutionized this field, opening up an entirely new window into the past as well as our present humanity. This conversation, with a16z bio general parter Jorge Conde, and Hanne Tidnam, dives into this new scientific revolution of the study of the ancient genome. Beginning with the so-called "black hole" of Mitochondrial Eve to the most revelatory discoveries from new knowledge and scientific tools, this episode of the a16z Podcast delves into the ways archaic humans and ancient DNA tell us not just about our biology, but about ourselves.
Jul 13th • 32:46
Everyone talks about the importance of mentorship in our professional development, whether it's networking to broaden career opportunities or learning from someone more experienced. But how does one break into an industry without established contacts or prior exposure? Are things different if mentors/mentees come from different backgrounds? If you're already more established in your career, how can you help up-and-comers... and actually, how could mentees help mentors, too? This episode of the a16z Podcast aims to answer these questions, and more. It's based on a networking event held by Andreessen Horowitz in May 2018 and featuring a Q&A moderated by Usermind CEO and co-founder Michel Feaster in conversation with a16z co-founder and general partner Ben Horowitz (also HER mentor); and Ken Coleman (also HIS mentor). Beginning with their personal journeys and ending with advice for others, they talk about their entry points into the tech world to how mentorship continues to play a role in their careers... both as mentors, and mentees. photo credit: Chris Lyons
with Marc Andreessen (@pmarca), Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz), and Steven Johnson (@stevenbjohnson) The rise of zero-sum thinking -- which has come snapping back recently -- slows and even halts progress, observes Marc Andreessen. Because you're then dividing up a smaller piece, adds Ben Horowitz, instead of growing the pie altogether. This is true not just in economics, politics, and tech, but also in business relationships (and life), too. And speaking of such relationships, how does the partnership between Ben and Marc work, more than two decades later, how has it changed through different types of organizations -- and is there anything startup co-founders (and other colleagues) can take away from it? Where do they find the creative inspiration, information, and influences for new ideas? And then, more broadly, how do they think about tech change... including jobs, automation, AI in general? This episode of the a16z Podcast covers these questions and much more. It's based on a fireside chat that took place at our annual a16z Summit event in November 2017 (which brings together large companies, finance investors, academics, and startups to talk all things innovation), and is moderated by author Steven B. Johnson -- who has written numerous magazine articles, 11 books so far (including Where Good Ideas Come From), and also hosted the PBS series “How We Got to Now”. Incidentally, those are the de facto themes for this conversation, which arcs from past to present to future -- taking us from blinking cursors to dashboards to screens and beyond.
Jun 15th • 36:36
Continuing our series on how tech is changing construction -- one of the industries most resistant to change (and facing declining productivity) -- this episode of the a16z Podcast looks at what happens when you go from planning to actually putting boots on the ground. How can tech translate rich data sets into the just-right types, amounts, and levels of information for each different piece of the incredibly complex, dynamic, time-and-space problem that is a building site? Martin Fischer, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford; Saurabh Ladha, cofounder and CEO of Doxel, which uses AI to real-time measure progress and inspect quality on construction projects; and Christopher Rippingham, who leads technology and innovation leadership for nation-wide commercial contractor and manager DPR Construction discuss with a16z's Hanne Tidnam how AI is introducing something fundamentally -- no, foundationally -- different for the construction industry: the feedback loop.
Jun 14th • 32:58
Construction has been one of the industries most resistant to innovation and change over the last decades -- productivity has actually decreased there while it has risen in other industries around it. So how are new technologies (finally!) beginning to transform the most brick-and-mortar of all the (literally!) brick-and-mortar industries? This episode of the a16z Podcast -- with Tracy Young, co-founder and CEO of PlanGrid; Greg Lynn, architect, professor at UCLA, and co-founder of Piaggio Fast Forward; and Gina Neff, sociologist at Oxford University (in conversation with Hanne Tidnam) -- considers the problems, and progress, in the construction industry. Information flows in particular are one area where tech is already making meaningful inroads into the construction process... will coordination follow?
Jun 6th • 33:36
Here's the hard thing about security: the more authentication factors you have, the more secure things are... but in practice, people won't use too many factors, because they want ease of use. There's clearly a tension between security and usability, not to mention between security and privacy (good security doesn't always come with great privacy -- what if you're a journalist or dissenter under a repressive regime??). And finally, there's a tension between the convenience and inconvenience of hardware given the expected convenience (but also dangerous connectivity) of software and mobile everywhere. So how to resolve all this? CEO and founder Stina Ehrensvärd found the answer to these paradoxes with her company Yubico, makers of the "ubi"quitous (ahem, no pun intended!) hardware authentication security key used by the top internet companies. They're also the pioneering contributor to the FIDO open authentication standards -- arguably as important as what the SSL protocol did back then between web servers and browsers, only now we're in a world where payments talk to browsers, and machines talk to machines. But how does open source fit into all this? How does one build trust as a newcomer? And how does one go from founder passion and founder-market fit to product-market fit, especially while straddling two cultures of innovation? Ehrensvärd shares hard-earned lessons learned on going from big vision to practical reality, from managing communication to design and more in this founder/maker story episode of the a16z Podcast (in conversation with general partner Martin Casado and Sonal Chokshi). It's not just luck, it's making your own luck... especially when it comes to seizing opportunities and help in unexpected ways and places.
May 27th • 28:27
We now live in a world where connecting the dots between intel and modeling threats has become infinitely more complex: not only is the surface area to protect larger than ever, but the entry points and issues are more diverse than ever. This conversation, with Gregory Allen, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and co-author of the Belfer Center report on AI and National Security; Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Chief Marketing Officer of Shield AI and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana and Ashley's War; Ryan Tseng, CEO and Co-founder of Shield AI; and a16z’s Hanne Tidnam, considers AI and automation in the context of national security. Given the nature of today's conflict situations — which are over the last few decades increasingly in urban environments, in counterinsurgency operations, and often in ‘boots on the ground’ environments where it is very difficult for service to distinguish between civilians and combatants — how can new autonomous technologies actually improve how we protect the lives of servicemen and women on the ground? How might they enhance critical human decision making moment to moment, to save more lives? And more broadly, how is AI shifting national security power dynamics around the globe?
May 26th • 23:48
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is the organization responsible for the compilation and release of the first the Panama Papers, a series of 11.5 million documents that detailed the offshore dealings of governments and individuals the world over, soon followed by the Paradise Papers. In this podcast, a16z general partner John O'Farrell interviews ICIJ director Gerard Ryle discuss how journalists manage, sort through and coordinate so much information and data to pull out a series of tightly coordinated exposés around the globe for investigative journalism on this scale. With so many moving parts, how does the ICIJ manage to keep high-stakes news stories under wraps until their slated day of release? What kinds of technologies are available to investigative journalists -- tools that might aid in information gathering and data security? And what does the modern media and tech landscape portend for the future of investigative journalism?
May 18th • 29:13
When it comes to B2B2C business models -- which combine both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) -- who really "owns" the customer? That question might not matter as much in more symbiotic, mutually beneficial marketplaces and other platform contexts, but can be a problem in other contexts or if not done right. For example, if it gives entrepreneurs the illusion that they don't have to work to acquire customers, invest in direct sales, or provides a (false) sense of optionality for a second product/ business that "will work later someday". General partners Alex Rampell (who among other things co-founded TrialPay and Affirm) and Martin Casado (who was formerly CTO and cofounder of Nicira, and then SVP and GM of VMWare's networking and security business unit) draw on their backgrounds on both the consumer and enterprise side of B2B2C to share lessons learned in this episode of the 16z Podcast (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi). In enterprise settings, expanding the sale is one of the biggest drivers of growth, and there are broader ecosystem partners and considerations at play. But more broadly, we discuss how one could think about "channel" -- a.k.a. the route to market for distributing product to customers -- as well as if, when, and how to build more than one product in a startup.
May 11th • 46:04
In this hallway-style conversation (originally recorded as a video), a16z general partner Alex Rampell and Terry Angelos, SVP of Commerce Solutions at Visa, discuss the trials and tribulations of their time as co-founders of TrialPay, an e-commerce payment and promotions platform. The story begins with their serendipitous initial meeting twelve years ago; tracks the obstacles overcome, rise, and eventual acquisition of TrialPay (by Visa in 2015); and ends with reflections on the future landscape and potential of payments. How can a third party increase profits for all parties involved? And how can a payments startup make a splash in an industry dominated by a few well-known incumbents?
May 10th • 27:09
What challenges do first-time founders or tech founders encounter when building companies in the bio space, and how do they differ from traditional tech companies? In this hallway-style conversation episode of the a16z Podcast (originally recorded as a video), a16z bio team general partners Vijay Pande and Jorge Conde, with Jeff Low discuss the mindset shifts involved in building bio (particularly therapeutics) companies. They cover everything from different paths to market and different partnerships (including pharma) to different timelines and milestones for validating the product and business itself. But how do we get to a common language that bridges the worlds of tech and bio?
with Bryan Caplan (@bryan_caplan), Marc Andreessen (@pmarca), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) Signaling and credential inflation -- not learning -- can explain why education pays in the labor market, and why we shouldn't invest (any more) in it, argues Bryan Caplan, economics professor at George Mason University and author of the book The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money. But is it really... a waste of time and money? Doesn't education have other benefits at least, like "learning to learn"; or sorting personality traits for employers at least; or helping developing economies even? And isn't it interesting that all the people (not just Caplan, but many in Silicon Valley and elsewhere) who argue against education are in fact, ahem, educationally credentialed themselves? This episode of the a16z Podcast, hosted by Marc Andreessen with Sonal Chokshi, takes on Caplan's "cynical idealist" take to probe both the cynical (problems, realities) and idealist (implications, solutions) aspects of education, no matter one's politics. And finally, where does tech (and a bit of sci-fi) come in??
May 2nd • 41:36
Whether you’re an academic seeking to move out of research and into industry, or simply interested in working at a bio startup, this episode of the a16z Podcast is for you. It covers everything from how to build a brand in the space when you don’t have one to how the bio and how the healthcare startup ecosystem is different from traditional tech (or traditional pharma), to how to choose the right co-founder -- or even identify what problems to solve and build a company around. The discussion (which is based on a recent event at Andreessen Horowitz) features Atul Butte, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at UCSF; and Daphne Koller, founder and CEO of insitro (former professor at Stanford, co-founder of Coursera); in conversation with a16z bio team general partner Vijay Pande. Together, they provide practical how-to's -- for those coming from machine and deep learning backgrounds, but also for anyone, really -- for how to break into the bio space.
Many of the healthcare headlines lately have been about consolidation in the industry: Walmart and Humana; Aetna and CVS; Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway. But what does it all mean for patients, and startups -- Will it decrease costs? What opportunities may arise as a result? In this quick hallway-style conversation, originally recorded as a video, some of the partners on the a16z bio team (Jorge Conde and Vijay Pande in conversation with Jeffrey Low) discuss what's going on as we see more and more vertical integration across the healthcare value chain.
Apr 17th • 7:00
The creation of each new biotechnology enables a tool, a therapy, or a diagnostic: a molecule, a protein, an app, a platform. And the process underneath isn't just complex in the science and engineering of it, but in the go to market. So who are the stakeholders in this process? In this podcast (which was originally recorded as a video), a16z bio fund general partners Jorge Conde and Vijay Pande give a quick hallway-conversation style overview on the stakeholders -- as well as what the process is from inception to approval to market; how do go-to-market models differ; and what should founders know at the beginning of each path.
Apr 16th • 22:21
Hypothesis, test, revise -- that's science. Engineering, however, doesn't quite go that way: You have parts you know and understand (like legos), and then you use those parts to design and build something (like bridges). But the key is that when science -- time-consuming, unpredictable, slow, expensive -- becomes more like engineering -- faster, more methodical/repeatable, cheaper -- you can do new things... or do them in better ways. This means engineering disciplines like mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and materials science can carry over to biology. But the question is HOW does this happen, and how can entrepreneurs apply principles from one discipline to another? How does it affect a healthcare startup's go to market, and how might a shift like this affect the healthcare industry as a whole? Vijay Pande and Jorge Conde (general partners on our bio fund) reflect on all this and more in this hallway-style conversation episode of the a16z Podcast, which was originally recorded as a video.
Apr 12th • 35:31
with Lisa Hawke (@ldhawke) and Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) Given concern around data breaches, the EU Parliament finally passed GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) after four years of preparation and debate; it goes into enforcement on May 25, 2018. Though it originated in Europe, GDPR is a form of long-arm jurisdiction that affects many U.S. companies -- including most software startups, because data collection and user privacy touch so much of what they do. With EU regulators focusing most on transparency, GDPR affects everything from user interface design to engineering to legal contracts and more. That's why it's really about "privacy by design", argues former environmental scientist and lawyer Lisa Hawke, who spent most of her career in regulatory compliance in the oil industry and is now Vice President of Security and Compliance at a16z portfolio company Everlaw (she also serves as Vice Chair for Women in Security and Privacy). And it's also why, observes a16z board partner Steven Sinofsky, everyone -- from founders to product managers to engineers and others -- should think about privacy and data regulations (like GDPR, HIPAA, etc.) as a culture... not just as "compliance". The two break down the basics all about GDPR in this episode of the a16z Podcast -- the why, the what, the how, the who -- including the easy things startups can immediately do, and on their own. In fact, GDPR may give startups an edge over bigger companies and open up opportunities, argue Hawke and Sinofsky; even with fewer resources, startups have more organizational flexibility, if they're willing to put in the work. for links mentioned in this episode (and other resources), please go to: https://a16z.com/2018/04/12/gdpr-why-what-how-for-startups/
with Nicole Forsgren (@nicolefv), Jez Humble (@jezhumble) and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) From the old claim that "IT doesn't matter" and question of whether tech truly drives organizational performance, we've been consumed with figuring out how to measure -- and predict -- the output and outcomes, the performance and productivity of software. It's not useful to talk about what happens in one isolated team or successful company; we need to be able to make it happen at any company -- of any size, industry vertical, or architecture/tech stack. But can we break the false dichotomy of performance vs. speed; is it possible to have it all? This episode of the a16z Podcast boldly goes where no man has gone before -- trying to answer those elusive questions -- by drawing on one of the largest, large-scale studies of software and organizational performance out there, as presented in the new book, Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps -- Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble, and Gene Kim. Forsgren (co-founder and CEO at DevOps Research and Assessment - DORA; PhD in Management Information Systems; formerly at IBM) and Humble (co-founder and CTO at DORA; formerly at 18F; and co-author of The DevOps Handbook, Lean Enterprise, and Continuous Delivery) share the latest findings about what drives performance in companies of all kinds. But what is DevOps, really? And beyond the definitions and history, where does DevOps fit into the broader history and landscape of other tech movements (such as lean manufacturing, agile development, lean startups, microservices)? Finally, what kinds of companies are truly receptive to change, beyond so-called organizational "maturity" scores? And for pete's sake, can we figure out how to measure software productivity already?? All this and more in this episode!
Mar 26th • 22:23
Few operators become VCs, and even fewer go back to leading companies... so how does these perspectives change how one leads? Obviously, it's a lot easier to think of a solution than execute on one... but then how does a leader empower one's team to do the right thing without micromanaging or without being frustrated when they're not getting what they wanted? (Hint: it has to do with providing context). In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Andy Rachleff (president and CEO of Wealthfront and alum of Benchmark) shares his thoughts on leadership, as well as his own journey as an entrepreneur in a particular vertical, in conversation with Bethany Coates, founder and CEO of BreakLine, which helps vets transition into tech. (The discussion took place during one of BreakLine's programs, co-designed and hosted at a16z). And since both are/were also teachers at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (where Rachleff still lectures, and where Coates served as Assistant Dean for their Global Innovation Programs) -- how does teaching make one a more authentic leader, given all the styles of leadership out there? All this and more in this episode.
Mar 23rd • 23:28
Leadership is not just about management, but about passion, a bit of humor, and resilience. General partner Peter Levine and Dick Costolo (entrepreneur, former CEO of Twitter, and erstwhile comedian) share their thoughts on the topic in this episode of the a16z Podcast -- based on a conversation recorded as part of the BreakLine program (hosted at Andreessen Horowitz) preparing military veterans transitioning into tech careers. Among other things, Costolo shares what running Twitter was like pre-IPO and after, as well as what it’s like to suddenly find yourself thrust onto the world stage; the role of improv and imagery in leadership; and the difference between preventing mistakes from happening... and correcting them as quickly as you can when they do happen.
Focusing only on the technical, "crunchy, wonky stuff" behind policies or products sometimes misses the humanity at the center of why we're doing the thing in the first place. Because systems -- whether algorithms and artificial intelligence, or capitalism and other such "operating systems" -- need to work for people, not the other way around. Or so observes economist and author Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) -- a public policy think tank focused on free enterprise (and where he recently announced he will be passing on the baton after a decade of leadership). So how does this philosophy of human dignity and human potential apply to automation and jobs, to education, to entrepreneurship? And not just in the "conventional" entrepreneurial sense of building companies and products -- but in changing one's life? The answer, argues Brooks in this quick, hallway-style episode of the a16z Podcast with Sonal Chokshi (recorded in one of our earlier Washington, D.C. roadshows) -- has to be rooted in the philosophy of human meaning. And that involves truly needing each other... so no one is left behind given technological progress and innovation. image credit: Maria Eklind/ Flickr
Mar 16th • 17:35
Even without a mythical fountain of youth, scientific advances have already dramatically increased how long humans live. But those advances to date have also largely been due to lower mortality rates, less infectious disease, and better nutrition. So when will modern medicine increase not just our healthspan, but our lifespan -- slowing down and possibly even reversing aging? What tools will it take? And what else, beyond the biology and technology involved, would change -- in our healthcare system and society as a whole? In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- recorded at a16z's November 2017 Summit -- Kristen Fortney, CEO and cofounder of BioAge Labs; Jeff Kaditz, CEO and cofounder of Q.Bio; David Sinclair, Co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School; and Michael Snyder, Professor and Department Chair of Genetics at Stanford University (as well as co-founder of and advisor to Q.Bio), in conversation with Hanne Tidnam, break down the science from the science fiction around the topics of longevity, health, and aging. image credit: Garry Knight/ Flickr
Mar 13th • 30:32
with Cristina Cordova (@cjc), Augusto Marietti (@sonicaghi), Laura Behrens Wu (@laurabehrenswu), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) APIs (application programming interfaces), observe the guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast, can be described as everything from Lego building blocks to Tetris to front doors to even veins in the human body. Because the defining property of APIs is that they're ways to send and receive information between different parts, that is, communicate between software applications (which often map onto different organizational functions/services in a company too). APIs therefore give companies access to data and competencies they wouldn't otherwise have -- or better yet, that they no longer need -- by letting even non-tech and small companies combine these building blocks to get exactly what they want. Which means companies today -- including non-tech companies and small companies -- can focus on their core competency instead, access bigger data, and get superpowers to scale and compete with the Amazons of the world. But what does all this mean for design -- after all, APIs are interfaces between software, not people -- and for other stakeholders (finance, ops, etc.) beyond developers? Who do you sell to? How are APIs changing not only the (inter)face of business today, but how entire companies are being formed from -- or around -- them? This conversation considers all this and more, featuring: Cristina Cordova, who leads partnerships for Stripe, which builds infrastructure for the movement of money including payments processing; Augusto Marietti, CEO and co-founder of Kong, which helps companies manage secure APIs and microservices; Laura Behrens Wu, CEO and co-founder of Shippo, which powers multi-carrier shipping for all kinds of commerce; in conversation with Sonal Chokshi.
What happens when monolithic architectures are broken down into containers and microservices (or when things are broken down into smaller units, not just in infrastructure but perhaps even in company structure too)? From building more dynamic websites to monitoring the enterprise cloud to elastically scaling applications, where are developers in the enterprise going now and next? This episode of the a16z Podcast, based on a panel by and for developers recorded at the a16z Summit in November 2017 and moderated by general partner Martin Casado, features Matt Billmann, CEO and co-founder of Netlify; Florian Leibert, CEO and co-founder of Mesophere; and Karthik Rau, CEO and co-founder of SignalFX.
Mar 5th • 14:24
When most people think of space, they think of outer space: Mars, billionaires with rockets, and the “final frontier”. But space innovation is actually playing out right now -- in an immediate and more accessible way, thanks to techonologies getting smaller, faster, and cheaper -- through micro satellites that do everything from map terrain, to telecommunications that can provide connectivity even in remote areas. This episode of the a16z Podcast -- based on an November 2017 a16z Summit conversation moderated by general partner Martin Casado with Dan Berkenstock, founding CEO of Skybox Imaging; John Gedmark, CEO and co-founder of Astranis; and Steve Smith, former astronaut from NASA -- covers how this trend of small satellites is developing, as well as what existing applications it will change to what new business opportunities it presents.
Feb 28th • 17:12
with Joel de la Garza, Stina Ehrensvärd, Niels Provos, and Martin Casado Given the heated discussions around security and the c-word (“cyber”), it’s hard to figure out what the actual state of the industry is. And clearly it’s not just an academic exercise — it is a matter of both business survival and personal safety. As cyber, physical, and national security become one and the same, how does that make us rethink how businesses address the problem, from software to hardware? And where do consumers come in? This episode of the a16z Podcast — based on a conversation recorded at our Summit event in November 2017 — features Stina Ehrensvärd, founder and CEO, of Yubico; Joel de la Garza, CISO of Box; and Niels Provos, distinguished engineer at Google, moderated by a16z general partner Martin Casado.
Feb 24th • 31:32
with Martin Casado (@martin_casado), Michel Feaster (@michelfeaster) and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) The purpose of category creation, argue the guests in this episode of the podcast, isn't just about making a dent in the way companies work and changing what people do every day... it's about setting the price. And with that, comes creating the concept in people's heads, defining the value, and setting the rules of the game. But when you're going for a big change, you have to play by the current rules of the game, too. And to make things even more complicated, theories about how "IT is dead" -- or the conviction that companies and departments beyond IT will become empowered through software -- are still very much in transition. Somehow we don't talk about that enough. That means startups need to do everything in two phases: for the now, and for the later and towards two constituencies: both direct lines of businesses and IT. So what does that mean for startups trying to navigate a complex enterprise, including internal debates around build vs. buy? How do you move beyond a few internal champions only? And just how long can a company cash out on founder charisma? In fact, all of these things can give entrepreneurs very confusing, mixed signals about whether or not they have product-market fit yet. So what patterns reveal that it's working? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, general partner Martin Casado -- who helped create the category of "software-defined networking" in the enterprise through Nicira and then VMware (and has also written about the mixed messages involved in going to market when no market exists) -- and Michel Feaster, CEO and co-founder of Usermind, and who previously (as VP of products at Apptio) also defined the category and discipline of "technology business management" -- share their insights, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. It's a long game, but if you can tease apart the signals, and nail some key moves early... you can win.
Feb 23rd • 22:44
Now that we've finally reached the age of the truly autonomous commercial small drone -- and in this case, a self-flying camera -- what happens when you take the pilot out of the loop? And what becomes possible that wasn't possible before? That's what this episode of the a16z Podcast covers, with Adam Bry, co-founder and CEO of Skydio, and a16z general partner Chris Dixon, in conversation with Hanne Tidnam. Beginning with the evolution of the technology that got us here and then going deep under the hood into the tech that makes this possible from propellers to perception, the conversation also covers what it's like to use a drone that follows you around seamlessly; how autonomous drones are different from autonomous cars; and finally, how our relationship and interactions with computers of all kinds will change as they become increasingly powered by AI.
Once upon a time it was inconceivable that a company in Silicon Valley could make content that was any good; the running joke, shares Marc Andreessen, "was like, what are we gonna do -- we're gonna film a router instruction manual? It was just an absurd idea!" It was also inconceivable at one point (before downloading, let alone before streaming), that an internet company could really do video on the internet. "But Reed talked about it to me like he was telling me the sky is blue," reflects Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, "and it stuck with me because nobody ever changed the world without telling someone they were gonna do it first, and I bet it sounded crazy." Now, with over 117 million subscribers in 190 countries and investments over $7B in original content, Netflix is arguably catalyzing the most dramatic period of change in the television and video industry since the arrival of color TV (and maybe even before that). But how did the company know where to go next, and when, and how? How did they make decisions about the risk/reward tradeoffs, whether it was purchasing a five-part (Marvel universe) franchise at once or betting not just on proven but as yet unknown talent (Stranger Things)? And how did Sarandos (and Netflix for that matter) get there, coming from the very edges of the entertainment industry? This episode of the a16z Podcast covers all this and more, including the business of creativity, changing company cultures, and even the changing culture of taste as content travels across both time and place. The conversation is based on a Q&A from our annual Summit events, which bring together large companies, finance investors, academics, and startups to talk all things innovation.
Feb 17th • 16:22
As people begin to gain access to information that was previously left to only trained specialists, a new set of asset classes are being created -- and they are changing the way we think about everything from banking to customizing portfolios and more. But if investing (and most decision making, in fact) is about navigating uncertainty, what can new tools and models do -- and not do -- for investors both big and small? Recorded at a16z's Summit event in November 2017, John Fawcett, CEO of Quantopian and Joshua Levin, co-founder and chief strategy officer of OpenInvest discuss, in conversation with a16z's Angela Strange, new models of investing for both retail and institutional investors... thanks to new technologies.
Feb 13th • 16:15
In 2017 The Economist declared data to be the world's most valuable resource. And yet “data insight” is one of those phrases that, while important, is now so ubiquitous it’s been numbed of meaning. So how do you actually get the most meaningful insights from your data, and what does that look like as you also think about crafting the best customer experience? When and what is the best way to use this information... without getting to the dystopian future depicted in, for instance, Minority Report? This episode of the a16z Podcast (based on a discussion that took place at a16z's annual summit event in November 2017) features Suhail Doshi, co-founder and CEO of Mixpanel; Gil Elbaz, founder and CEO of Factual; and Jeff Glueck, CEO of Foursquare; moderated by Lauren Berson. It covers everything from using data to understand context and one's customer base to what personalization really means and how data can impact the physical world.
Feb 11th • 19:47
The battle between every startup and incumbent comes down to whether the startup gets distribution before the incumbent gets innovation, oft observes a16z general partner Alex Rampell. But how does this play out when most of the players, big and small, think the innovation has already happened in a particular space? What if there are unmanifested and untapped opportunities in a space? This episode of the a16z Podcast explores these questions through the case study of Stripe. Based on a conversation that took place with Rampell and Stripe co-founder John Collison at our most recent Summit event, the episode covers how the classic battle between startups and incumbents has played out in the payments space; how the broader payments processing landscape has evolved over the past four decades; and what might happen to the established market cap of the "old guard". Stripe is an interesting case study since the company, which was founded in 2010, entered the payments processing scene when the (pervasive) sense was that payments were "done"... and yet at the same time, its co-founder Patrick Collison believed their customers "did not exist yet". So what happened? And how does go-to-market change as a startup evolves, and its mix of customers too changes?
Feb 6th • 23:13
There was a lot of hype about VR ad then it seemed to go pretty quiet. So where are we right now? Bigscreen founder Darshan Shankar and a16z general partner Chris Dixon take the pulse on VR, AR, and mixed reality -- especially where it's going the next 24 months -- in this episode of the a16z Podcast. The conversation surveys some of the key platforms and devices -- from ARKit to the various headsets from various players -- to where we are in hardware, software, functionality, immersive experience, and perhaps most importantly, content. Are these destined to be just fun gadgets, or will they become new tools that demand continuous use and engagement? When will VR finally have its "iPhone moment"?
Feb 3rd • 30:14
There's a new wave of bike-sharing in town. But this wave looks a little different than previous waves -- from docked rows of government-funded bikes to dockless fleets of bicycles where users can find and unlock bikes through GPS from anywhere, with an app. What can we learn from previous (unsuccessful and successful) waves, what are the challenges in making bike sharing a real, viable transport option? What does bike sharing data reveal about human travel patterns? And how might dockless bike-sharing change, maybe even reshape, cities of the future? This episode of the a16z Podcast -- including city of Dallas councilmember Lee Kleinman, chairman of their Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure, and Sustainability Committee; Joshua Shank, CIO at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and Andrew Savage, vice president of strategic development at LimeBike; in conversation with a16z's Hanne Tidnam -- looks at the trend of dockless bike sharing in cities. image credit: Joe Wolf/ Flickr
Jan 31st • 17:39
As cars become more like iPhones and less like just, well, cars — everything changes, from data to mapping to interfaces to security and more. How so? Where are we anyway, given all the hype around when self-driving cars will appear everywhere? And where are new opportunities in the space? This episode of the a16z Podcast, based on a panel discussion from the most recent a16z Summit, features a16z research and deal team head Frank Chen in conversation with various companies doing different things in the autonomous space. Guests include: Taggart Matthiesen, head of product at Lyft, which is developing autonomous car technology; James Wu, CEO and co-founder of DeepMap, which focuses on full-stack HD mapping for autonomy; and Qasar Younis, CEO of Applied Intuition, which provides advance simulation software for autonomy.
In this hallway conversation of the a16z Podcast, Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky discuss CES 2018 and share insight on what they took from this year's show. How much can you discern each company's "big picture" strategy out of the slew of new products, press releases, and announcements that flood the floor? How do you sort the wheat from the chaff? And beyond the event of CES itself, Evans and Sinofsky analyze the experimentation we're beginning to see in connected consumer electronics for the home. When it comes to the smart home, it seems as though more is better -- more devices, more connectivity, and a single network to rule them all -- but that isn't the case. How (and when) will these devices and appliances -- some of which you only buy new every 10-20 years -- all connect into one system, and what will that platform look like? Which devices will we actually need to be "smart", and what will be today's equivalent of the electric carving knife? Where will new kinds of UI come in; when will a simple GO button be the better option? All this and more in this episode.
Jan 22nd • 34:31
This episode of the a16z Podcast goes deep on various trends in cryptocurrencies -- from mental models for understanding tokens and what may give them long-term value; to the role of stablecoins in the ecosystem; to scaling, on-chain and off-chain protocols, forks, and more. The discussion features general partner Chris Dixon in conversation with Nick Tomaino, the founder of early-stage crypto venture fund 1confirmation, editor of The Control, and former business development at Coinbase. (He is also an investor in Basecoin, Cosmos, Ethereum, and MakerDAO.) You can also check out past episodes in this series, covering everything from investing in cryptocurrencies and protocols to accelerating research and practical applications to why crypto tokens matter -- as well as a video covering the building blocks of all things crypto -- at a16z.com/crypto.
Jan 13th • 19:31
It's surprising that how (and what) we eat has actually changed very little over the ages, despite how much we’ve advanced as a species. Now, however -- driven by globalization, environmental factors, and other considerations -- the way we move, taste, and make our food is moving forward too. From countering the limits of seasonality and global transport to re-thinking our species’ dependence on meat to optimizing nutrition to distilling the essence of taste, this discussion with Bryan Crowley, President of Soylent; Ooshma Garg, founder and CEO of Gobble; David Lee, COO and CFO of Impossible Foods ; and James Rogers, cofounder and CEO of Apeel Sciences -- and moderated by a16z Partner Kim Milosevich -- is all about the future of food... including how we define what “food”really is.
Jan 6th • 20:06
We’re so used to thinking of “community” as our friends, families, and neighbors. But what a community is, and who it is made of, has changed thanks to the internet, and without our noticing it. What happens when online communities -- really, new subcultures -- form primarily around interests, not just personal relationships? Featuring VP of Product at Reddit Alex Le, CEO of Rabbit Michael Temkin, and CEO and co-founder of HVMN Geoffrey Woo -- in conversation with a16z general partner Chris Dixon -- this episode of the a16z Podcast is based on a discussion that took place at a16z’s annual Summit in November 2017. As communities of strangers and activities connect online and offline in new and different ways, what else changes?
Dec 19th, 2017 • 17:52
New fintech companies are democratizing access to financial services in different and profound ways: whether that's no longer waiting two weeks for a paycheck, making the service of food stamps more efficient, or enabling anyone with a smartphone in developing countries to create small businesses. But what these also all also have in common -- besides a more inclusive approach to finance -- is in some way fundamentally changing the way our financial system has worked. Moderated by Angela Strange, this conversation (recorded at a16z's Summit in 2017) includes CEO of Propel Jimmy Chen, CEO of Branch Matt Flannery, and CEO of Earnin' Ram Palaniappan to talk about how financial innovation can come in unexpected ways from unexpected places -- and what this mean for the future of financial services as well as established players.
Dec 19th, 2017 • 22:17
The internet, believe it or not, was just the beginning. Yes, it’s spawned an incredible number of uses (some unexpected), from marketplaces and commerce to publishing and social networks... but that’s all been built with old models of funding and coordination. Now, as we enter a new phase of blockchain-enabled innovation -- decentralized, distributed, crowdfunded -- we’re finally bringing capitalism to open source: Smart people can come together in new ways, to build new things. In this discussion from a16z's 2017 Summit, Juan Benet, founder and CEO at Protocol Labs; founder and CEO Olaf-Carlson Wee of Polychain Capital; and a16z General Partner Chris Dixon talk about how that changes everything -- from aligning incentives among different stakeholders to deciding what new things get built in the first place. This session covers the latest trends in crypto, going beyond the buzz around ICOs to the and the golden age of protocols.
Dec 19th, 2017 • 32:57
What capabilities do enterprise companies really want from their computers? Twenty years ago, those capabilities might've been bundled into a mainframe. Ten years ago, it might've been the PC. Today, as more and more businesses rely on devices that need only browsers/ internet connectivity, what will the "$200 box" sitting at an employee workstation look like? In this hallway-style episode of the a16z Podcast, Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky discuss how tech devices evolve for the enterprise -- and more broadly, what happens when the S-curve levels out??
Dec 15th, 2017 • 12:00
Many of the big tech policy issues of the day play out more so at the state and local level, not just federal level. The decisions that cities and states make every day -- from autonomous vehicles to bike sharing -- may therefore end up setting the stage for broader government policies around new tech. But where do "politics" come in for these policy decisions? Many tech policies are in fact bi-partisan or even non-partisan, argue Governor Doug Ducey (R-Arizona) and Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg (D-Indiana), in conversation with a16z policy team head Ted Ullyot. This "byte-sized" episode of the a16z Podcast is based on a conversation recorded November 2017 at our annual Summit event, focused on innovation. How can places and people be more receptive to innovation and innovators?
Dec 14th, 2017 • 28:39
This conversation between the members of a16z's bio team -- including general partners Jorge Conde and Vijay Pande; Malinka Walaliyadde; and Jeffrey Low (the interviewer) -- takes a quick pulse on where we are with when bio becomes more like engineering. Especially given the announcement of our second bio fund, this episode of the a16z Podcast covers everything from the broader trends at play to some specific areas of interest... as well as what types of entrepreneurs may bring us forward into the new Century of Biology.
Dec 13th, 2017 • 18:52
No matter how grand a vision for a particular industry, disruption in practice is hard. This is especially true in industries like healthcare, which have long been resistant to software-driven change. But sometimes you can innovate within the bounds of the industry, using those very constraints to move it forward -- whether it’s understanding and working with the early adopters in healthcare to focusing on the bottomline. This conversation -- recorded at our recent a16z Summit in November 2017 -- between co-founder and CEO of Omada Health, Sean Duffy and CEO of Accolade, Rajeev Singh (moderated by a16z bio fund partner Jeff Low), considers how such innovation affects go-to-market strategies and pricing to measuring savings and the entire ecosystem of healthcare spend. As this generation of digital health tech companies begin to change the healthcare business -- and scale -- what effect are they having on the rising cost of heathcare overall, and the bottom line?
Dec 10th, 2017 • 34:18
NASDAQ CEO Adena Friedman runs one of the world's largest financial services companies, including the NASDAQ stock exchange that's home to more than 3,500 listed companies. They were also the creator of the world's first electronic stock market. Yet how does the company adapt to technology trends today, such as the blockchain? How does it deal with other headwinds in its business, from fewer listed companies to trends in passive vs. active investing? Based on a conversation that was recorded at our annual a16z Summit in November 2017, this podcast features general partner Jeff Jordan interviewing Friedman about these changes... as well as broader themes in the way markets work. They also discuss the IPO process (which Jordan has also shared his experiences and advice on) -- from what companies should be thinking about to where technology could help.
Dec 2nd, 2017 • 34:23
When you have “a really hot, frothy space” like AI, even the most basic questions — like what is it good for, how do you make sure your data is in shape, and so on — aren’t answered. This is just as true for the companies eager to adopt the technology and get into the space, as it is for those building companies around that space, observes Joe Spisak, Head of Partnerships at Amazon Web Services. “People treat it like magic,” adds a16z general partner Martin Casado. This magical realism is especially true of AI, because by definition — i.e., machines learning — there is a bit of a “black box” between what you put in and what you get out of it. Which may be fine… Except when you have to completely change the data being fed into that black box, or you’re shooting for a completely different target to come out of it. That’s why, observes Scott Clark, CEO and co-founder of SigOpt, “an untuned, sophisticated system will underperform a tuned simple system” almost every time. So what does this mean for organizations going from so-called “toy” problems in R&D to real business results tied to KPIs and ROI? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Casado, Clark, and Spisak (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) share their thoughts on what’s happening and what’s needed for AI in practice, given their vantage points working with both large companies and AI startups. What does it mean for data scientists and domain experts? For differentiation and advantage? Because even though we finally have widely available building blocks for AI, we need the scaffolding too… and only then can we build something powerful on top of it.
Nov 18th, 2017 • 25:24
There's a new C-level role in town: the CCO, or Chief Customer Officer. This episode (based on a previous event) is all about the rise of this new role, why it's so important -- and what the actual scope and function of the role should be. a16z's Matt Levy, partner on the exec talent team, discusses with (CCOs all) Allison Pickens of Gainsight; Krista Anderson-Copperman from Okta; and Hatima Shafique from Databricks why it is that the Chief Customer Officer is becoming more prevalent across a number of different kinds of companies; what the strategic value of a CCO is (and how it's actually very different from a VP of Customer Success!); and finally, the career pathing of the Chief Customer Officer.
Nov 10th, 2017 • 29:58
Hiring a VP of Product can almost feel like handing over your baby to someone else to hold -- especially as the founder of the company, observes a16z executive talent team partner Caroline Horn in an event on the topic this podcast conversation is based on. Featuring Vijay Balasubramaniyan, founder/CEO of Pindrop; Shishir Mehrotra, founder and CEO of Coda; Gokul Rajaram, Production Engineering Lead at Square; and Alan Schaaf, founder/CEO of Imgur -- and moderated by general partner Martin Casado -- the discussion covers everything from what the VP of Product role really is to how to hire and integrate them into your company. Because if you are going to be handing your "baby" over... how can you avoid common pitfalls? And know that they're the right person for the job?
Nov 3rd, 2017 • 29:39
There’s been a lot of talk about technology -- and AI, deep learning, and machine learning specifically -- finally reaching the healthcare sector. But AI in medicine isn’t actually new; it’s actually been there since the 1960s. And yet we didn’t see it effect a true change, or even become a real part our doctor’s offices -- let alone routine healthcare services. So: what's different now? And what does AI in medicine look like, practically speaking, whether it's ensuring the best data, versioning software for healthcare, or other aspects? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Brandon Ballinger, CEO of Cardiogram; Mintu Turakhia, cardiologist at Stanford and Director of the Center for Digital Health; and general partner and head of a16z bio fund Vijay Pande in conversation with Hanne Tidnam discuss where will we start to see AI in healthcare first -- diagnosis, treatment, or system management -- to what it will take for it to succeed. Will we perhaps see a "levels" of AI framework for doctors as we have for autonomous cars?
Oct 31st, 2017 • 27:50
Author and professor at George Mason University, Peter Leeson describes himself as not just an economist but as a "collector of curiosa." In his latest book, WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird, Leeson looks at just that -- the strangest beliefs, superstitions and rituals humankind has engaged in -- and using economics, uncovers the incentives and rational behavior that makes them, well, make a whole lot more sense. In this Halloween Special, Leeson and a16z's Hanne Tidnam dive into the weirdest historical mysteries -- everything from ecclesiastic courts that put rats and rodents on trial, to judicial ordeals that determined guilt or innocence by boiling the accused's hands in cauldrons of hot water, to the economics and laws that governed pirate ships. All these practices, Leeson argues, use superstitions and beliefs like tools: a kind of technology -- in the broadest possible terms.
Oct 23rd, 2017 • 40:07
There are many reasons why we’re in an “A.I. spring” after multiple “A.I. winters” — but how then do we tease apart what’s real vs. what’s hype when it comes to the (legitimate!) excitement about artificial intelligence and machine learning? Especially when it comes to the latest story of computers beating games, which has played a critical role in advancing machine intelligence, and continues to capture our imagination… whether it’s AI winning Texas Hold’em poker or beating the world human champ in the ancient Chinese game of Go. Now, we’re in yet another exciting moment when it comes to pondering the potential of A.I., given the latest results that Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo could master the game of Go without human knowledge — or more precisely: “based solely on reinforcement learning, without human data, guidance, or domain knowledge beyond game rules”. Along with any excitement comes some hype, too, though; sometimes leaping too far towards claims of generalized intelligence. So where can we then generalize the findings of such work — unsupervised learning, self-play, etc. — to other specific domains? What does it all mean for entrepreneurs building companies (and what the investors investing in them look for)? And what does it mean for how we, as humans, learn… or rather, how computers can also learn from how we learn? Deal and research operation head Frank Chen and a16z board partner Steven Sinofsky ponder all this and more, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi, in this episode of the a16z Podcast. We ended last time with the triumph of data over algorithms and begin this time with the triumph of algorithms over data; so is this the end of big data?
Oct 13th, 2017 • 34:06
In this hallway-style podcast conversation, O'Reilly Media founder Tim O'Reilly and a16z partner Benedict Evans discuss how we make sense of the most recent wave of new technologies --- technologies that are perhaps more transformative than any we've seen before -- and how we think about the capabilities they might have that we haven't yet even considered. O'Reilly has seen more than one wave of new tech make an impact over the last three decades in Silicon Valley. But this time, O'Reilly argues in his new book, WTF? What's the Future and Why it's Up to Us, is different, partly because of the combinatorial inventions now possible. But we are also in the midst of so much foundational change happening so fast, that we as a society have some very large questions -- and answers -- to consider. What, for example, is the relationship between big tech platforms and the broader ecosystem they're in? What strategic choices (and responsibilities?) do they make on behalf of those ecosystems? Why and how do some platforms compete with their own ecosystems? And finally, how are algorithms optimizing for economic culture and markets, and how aware are we?
Oct 12th, 2017 • 28:57
We’ve already talked quite a bit about the Algorithms, Machines, and People lab at U.C. Berkeley (AMPLab) — all about making sense of big data — so what happens when the entire world moves towards artificial intelligence — and the need to make intelligent decisions on that data? That’s where the new RISElab (Real-time Intelligence Secure Execution) comes in. But what is a good “decision”, exactly? Beyond the existential question of that, what specific attributes make a “good” decision, both computationally and humanly? In this episode of the a16z Podcast (in conversation with general partner Peter Levine and Sonal Chokshi), computer science professor, entrepreneur (co-founder of Databricks), and RISElab director Ion Stoica answers that question. He also shares the “ingredients” of a working research lab model (one, dare we say, could also apply to many types of institutions?); the role of open source and building community; and the evolution of labs today given intense competition from industry and others… as well as what interesting projects — really, trends in decision making with AI — are coming next.
Oct 6th, 2017 • 28:34
Head of the largest bioengineering lab in the world, former chairman of the FDA and one of the few recipients of the National Medals of Science and of Technology and Innovation, Bob Langer's work has spanned multiple fields and settings and has been applied across numerous fields, from pharmaceutical to chemical, biotechnology to medical device companies. What does it mean to move across disciplines like this, from science to engineering, both in the lab and into the field? In this conversation with general partner and head of the a16z bio fund Vijay Pande (with Hanne Tidnam), Langer and Pande share the challenges and opportunities as people move across different disciplines, as well as the changing mindsets for innovation as applied to biotech: first principles, "rational" biology, do no harm, and others. At the heart of it all is "the interface of engineering and materials" in biology and healthcare innovation. Especially as, thanks to tech, biology shifts from empirical study to engineering -- not just in startups but in academia too. Yet does that make the work too "translational"? And what of regulation? The guests on this episode explore all of these themes, and more.
Sep 28th, 2017 • 34:44
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?
Sep 26th, 2017 • 20:34
with David Mack, Joseph Okpaku, and Matt Spence How should startups engage with policymakers, build their own government relations (GR) function (whether in house or with consultants), and just begin to figure out their GR playbook? Let alone explain their moves -- not just externally, but internally too? "We really viewed our first mission as education. Explaining what we were and, possibly more importantly, explaining what we weren't," shares Joseph Okpaku, vice president of government relations at Lyft. Think of it as a campaign, observes David Mack, senior director for public affairs at Lyft, and remember, "You can either let your impact on the community be defined, or you can work to define it yourself." Even though it isn't a zero-sum game (and don't make it one!), you only get once chance to really get it right... not just in terms of making a first impression, but in terms of setting regulatory precedent (as well as in drawing a line). So from where and who to begin with to how they did it, the guests on this episode of the a16z Podcast share some quick lessons learned for startups engaging with local governments, in conversation with policy and regulatory affairs team partner Matt Spence.
Sep 16th, 2017 • 38:02
In this episode, Wei Luo, founding COO of DeepMap -- who build HD maps for autonomous vehicles -- and David Rumsey, founder of the David Rumsey Map Collection (one of the largest paper private map collections in the world, now at Stanford University, and *the* largest digital online private collection in the world, at 80,000 + maps) talk with a16z's Hanne Tidnam about how maps -- and mapmaking tools -- are changing in the age of autonomous vehicles. New ways of mapping the world have always led to profound changes. In the Renaissance -- another golden age of mapmaking -- mapmakers used tools such as sextants to measure distance to the stars and compasses to navigate the world around them. Cartography is undergoing yet another major paradigm shift as it now evolves into HD mapping. So what kinds of data and information do maps now need to contain in order to allow cars (and other autonomous robots of all kinds) to navigate the world around them, down to only a few centimeters of accuracy? How will the nature of maps fundamentally change when they are made by self-driving cars, for self-driving cars, in the era of HD mapping?
Sep 15th, 2017 • 21:13
with Juan Benet and Chris Dixon The story of how innovation happens is a long one — from government funding early basic research, to the heyday of corporate R&D like Bell Labs, to startups as experiments before product-market fit. Through all that, we’ve ended up with “unprecedented superpowers” distributed through the internet, and people building on top of it. Yet there’s still a huge lag in going from brilliant ideas in the form of research papers to an application that’s actually working and in people’s hands, observes computer scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur (founder and CEO of Protocol Labs) Juan Benet. Benet initially designed the peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol IPFS or “InterPlanetary File System” to help build a more robust, distributed, open web. But those ideas were around for a while — they just weren’t implemented in a way that people could easily use. The same was true for early computing revolutions as well… until Apple came along and vertically integrated from research to production, bringing together different groups of people (design, hardware, etc.) to make something amazing that everyone could use, wanted to use. What if open source, online networks — enabled by blockchain and cryptocurrencies — could do something similar? [Full disclosure: we’re investors in the ‘Filecoin SAFT’ security mentioned in this podcast, but are not otherwise affiliated with Protocol Labs or Filecoin.] This episode of the a16z Podcast, hosted by general partner Chris Dixon, explores all of the above and more with Benet, going beyond the buzz around just “ICOs”. What’s the big picture?
Sep 13th, 2017 • 34:34
Bob Sutton's book The No Asshole Rule was all about how to foster company cultures that don't tolerate asshole behavior. But sometimes, dealing with an asshole is unavoidable -- in life or at work. So what are the best tactics to both protect yourself and to stop the asshole behavior? This is the subject that Sutton tackles in his new book, The Asshole Survival Guide. In this somewhat NSFW episode, a16z's Hanne Tidnam talks with Bob Sutton, professor at Stanford; and Michael Dearing, Founder of Harrison Metal and formerly at Stanford and eBay, about tackling asshole behavior -- everything from assessing it (are you dealing with an asshole?) to coping mechanisms, to how to systemize a way of squashing and preventing asshole behavior in the workplace. (Bonus: a surprising truth about EQ in the workplace!)
Sep 10th, 2017 • 38:26
with Russ Roberts, Noah Smith, and Sonal Chokshi Beyond the overly simplistic framing of trade as “good” or “bad” — by politicians, by Econ 101 — why is the topic of trade (or rather, economies and people adjusting to trade) so damn hard? A big part of it has to do with not seeing the human side of trade, let alone the big picture across time and place… as is true for many tech innovations, too. Speaking of: how does the concept of “trade” fit with “innovation”, exactly? They’re both about getting more from less — as well as creating new opportunities — shares Russ Roberts, host of the popular EconTalk podcast (and fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, PhD in economics). But there’s another very provocative theory at play here — fast-forwarding us from the time of the Industrial Revolution to the 2000s — that could make us rethink the relationship between trade, capital, labor, productivity/economic growth, shares Noah Smith, columnist at Bloomberg View (and former professor of finance at Stony Brook University, PhD in economics). And where does China come in — and out — of this picture? Put it all together, and maybe, just maybe, it could help explain why we’re investing in labor-saving innovations/ automation more than ever today. Because one thing is for sure, agree both Roberts and Smith — who otherwise argue with each other on this episode of the a16z Podcast (with Sonal Chokshi) — you can’t stop the march of technology. It’s here, it’s coming, and we’re just going to have to meet it, prepare for it, …roll with it.
Sep 5th, 2017 • 29:56
We tend to talk about tech and parenting through devices and artifacts -- screen time, to code or not to code -- but actually, there's a bigger, macro picture at play there: game theory, economic incentives, culture, and more. So in this back-to-school episode of the a16z Podcast, two economists -- Kevin Zollman, game theorist and philosopher at CMU and author of The Game Theorist's Guide to Parenting; and Fabrizio Zilibotti, macroeconomist at Yale working on a book called Love, Money and Parenting -- share their expertise on parenting through the lens of economics. The hallway-conversation (with Hanne Tidnam) covers how these theories play out in practice -- for example, when the kids are bickering in the back seat of the car -- to how parents can balance altruism vs. paternalism when it comes to thinking about their kids' future vs. their kids' reality of living in the now. And then finally, how do different parenting styles, corporal punishment, education, and of course, technology, play a role in how we parent?
Sep 2nd, 2017 • 37:22
with Clayton Christensen, Marc Andreessen, and Steven Levy In business, mistakes of omission may be just as bad as (if not worse than) mistakes of commission -- simply because of the loss in potential upside: new companies, new products, new opportunities for growth. Or even in the ability to respond to the disruption coming to one's industry and company... if it hasn't already. Sometimes, and in certain industries (such as hospitality and education), it just takes longer to pull off. But it's not like people and companies are dumbly sitting around waiting for disruption to happen. In fact, having read the book on disruption for years -- 20 years, to be precise, given the anniversary of The Innovator's Dilemma this year -- many smart business leaders know it could happen, yet fully determine that it's not going to happen to them... and then, of course, it still happens, observes a16z's Marc Andreessen. Why? Part of the answer, shares father of disruption theory and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, is they don't have a common language, logic, architecture, way to frame the problem. And that's where other theories and frameworks -- like jobs-to-be-done and modularity -- come in. A theory, after all, though never perfect can help. So in this episode of the podcast -- from our inaugural a16z Summit event -- Christensen and Andreessen (in conversation with longtime tech writer and Backchannel editor-in-chief Steven Levy) share their thoughts for how such theories can play out practically in both managing business, and managing priorities in life.
Aug 30th, 2017 • 28:24
"Young hungry and scrappy" is how Hamilton described his country, and it's how many -- including the guests on this episode -- describe startups... or more precisely, the mindset that engineers in startups need to balance both creativity and efficiency. But what happens as those startups scale, accrue technical debt, standardize their frameworks, and hire even more engineers? How do they deliver on their product while also staying on top of -- or better yet, using and also pushing forward -- new tech? (Even if that "new" tech is really the old, much-promised-before-but-finally-here, machine and deep learning?) And how do they do it all without getting mired in philosophical debates? Every Hamilton needs a Washington, after all... VP of Engineering at Airbnb Mike Curtis and head of engineering at Pinterest Li Fan discuss all this and more (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) in this episode of the a16z Podcast. The hallway-style conversation covers everything from taking an individual vs. company-wide view and the myth/reality of the "10x engineer", to the subtle nuances of how computers learn people's styles, intent, aspirations, and outcomes. And how all of this plays out as consumer tech increasingly connects the online to the offline world.
Aug 25th, 2017 • 22:19
What is "infrastructure" actually? In the 19th and 20th century, that usually meant the transportation systems supporting roadways, airports, trains... but we don't even really know yet what it might potentially mean in the age of rapidly changing technology, autonomous vehicles, drones, and self-driving cars. In this episode, a16z's Matthew Colford discusses the infrastructure of the future with Anthony Foxx, former secretary of transportation under the Obama administration and former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina; Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline; and Jase Wilson, CEO of Neighborly. The truth of the matter, says Secretary Foxx, is that we are still a society under construction. How do we think about not just modernizing the 19th century structures we inherited but making new infrastructure for the future anew -- as well as the possibilities of democratizing and crowdsourcing urban planning and public projects?
Aug 25th, 2017 • 19:35
with Ben Horowitz, Scott Kupor, and Caroline Moon “The only unforgivable sin in business is to run out of cash” [so said Harold Geneen], yet startup CEOs “always act on leading indicators of good news, and lagging indicators of bad news” [according to Andy Grove]; after all, it requires a certain stubborn, headstrong optimism to start a company. So how to reconcile these views? At the very least, pay more attention to leading indicators of running out of cash, “because there’s just no going back”! But doing all this — while also trying to balance growth, advance planning vs. constantly changing strategy, revenue vs. margin, coordination/communication/culture, and so on — is a lot harder than it seems on a finance spreadsheet. It requires understanding that the “math is not the terrain, the spreadsheet is not the business”… yet also knowing when to trade rose-colored glasses for darker rainy-day ones. And that’s where a CEO partnering productively with a CFO comes in. In this episode of the a16z Podcast — moderated by (and based on an internal event for CEOs+CFOs) Caroline Moon, who leads the financial operations for startups practice on a16z’s corp dev team — Ben Horowitz and Scott Kupor share their personal insights as well as advice for founders: How DO you do it all?
Aug 11th, 2017 • 28:53
"When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power, shit happens." It's true of people, it's true of companies, and it's even more true of countries. It's also the fundamental insight captured by ancient Greek historian Thucydides in his History of The Pelopennesian War. But where he was describing the war between Sparta and Athens, modern historian and political scientist Graham Allison describes how U.S. and China can escape this rising vs. ruling power "Thucydides trap" in his new book, Destined for War. Allison -- advisor on U.S. national security and policy to several secretaries of defense spanning decades -- was former dean of the Kennedy School and most recently Director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Based on an internal policy series lunch speaker event earlier this year (and moderated by a16z partner Matthew Colford), the conversation touches very briefly on centers of power and creativity; tech in China; North Korea; and finally, the role of applying history -- "applied history", much like the field of engineering could be considered applied physics -- to our thinking about the future. By analyzing the analogs and precedents in the historical record, what clues or insights or lessons might we draw? Because business as usual will produce history as usual argues Allison... but only those of us who fail to study history will repeat it.
Aug 7th, 2017 • 29:23
What happens when companies grow exponentially in a short amount of time -- to their organization, their product planning, their behavior towards change itself? In this "hallway conversation", a16z partners Steven Sinofsky and Benedict Evans discuss the business tactics and strategies behind four of the largest tech companies -- Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon -- and how they work from an org perspective. From the outside, these giants can seem composed of disparate entities literally strewn around the globe; it can be hard (sometimes purposefully so) to understand or detect the strategy that knits them all together. But in fact each of these large companies have very specific approaches to organization and strategy, and what's good for Google isn't necessarily right for Amazon or Apple. Evans and Sinofsky discuss the rationale behind each company's org, looking at the tactics and strategies that are best for the underlying platform, how each thinks of its varied product entities, and how their organizations are all designed differently around their core capabilities and products.
Aug 4th, 2017 • 22:40
with Anne Mitchell, Lars Dalgaard, and Scott Kupor "Orthogonal thinking" but "shared core values" -- that's what makes an ideal board... especially when it comes to "independents", i.e., board members who aren't also investors. But how do you get the most out of those independent directors, who are often in the minority? How do you bring in the best board member for the company, team, product -- not just as another box to check on the road to IPO, but to ensure a fresh and/or missing perspective? And finally, how can the existing board -- and CEO -- best prepare for the changing dynamics? Leaders have to evolve with the company after all. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, moderated by managing partner Scott Kupor, general partner Lars Dalgaard (formerly CEO and founder of SuccessFactors) and executive coach (and former investor) Anne Mitchell -- both of whom have served on boards for companies all the way from private stage to IPO -- share their thoughts and experiences. The conversation took place as part of our annual Director’s College at Stanford University in April 2017.
Aug 3rd, 2017 • 29:46
with Jimmy Soni, Rob Goodman, and Steven Sinofsky Modern technology owes much to the introduction of the binary digit or "bit", first proposed by Claude Shannon in "A Mathematical Theory of Communication”, a paper published in 1948. The bit would go on to transform analog to digital, making Shannon the father of the information age (at various turns working with or coming into contact with Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, and others). In this podcast, moderated by a16z board partner Steven Sinofsky, the authors of the new book about Shannon, A Mind at Play -- Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman -- discuss the life and mind of the mathematician, engineer, and cryptographer from his roots as a precocious tinkerer in Gaylord, Michigan to the halls of MIT and Bell Labs. But this conversation is also, more broadly, about how genius and innovation happens... beginning with play.
Jul 24th, 2017 • 30:51
There are the things that you carefully plan when it comes to an IPO -- the who (the bankers, the desired institutional investors); the what (the pricing, the allocations); and the when (are we ready? is this a good public business?). But then there are the things that you don't plan: like the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression... as happened before the OpenTable IPO. There's even a case study about it. And so in this episode of the a16z Podcast, we delve into those lessons learned and go behind the scenes with the then-CEO of the company -- now general partner Jeff Jordan -- and with the then-banker on the deal, J.D. Moriarty (formerly head Managing Director and Head of Equity Capital Markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch), in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. Is there really such a thing as an ideal timing window? Beyond the transactional aspects of the IPO, which relationships matter and why? And then how does the art and science of pricing (from the allocations to the "pop") play here, especially when it comes to taking a long-term view for the company? What are the subtle, non-obvious things entrepreneurs can do -- from building a "soft track record" of results to providing the right "guidance" (or rather, communication if not guidance per se) to the market? And finally, who at the company should be involved... and how much should the rest of the company know/ be involved? In many ways, observes Jordan -- who got swine flu while on the road to the OpenTable IPO -- "your life is not your own" when you're on the road, literally. But knowing much of this can help smooth the way.
Jul 18th, 2017 • 30:14
Here’s what we know: There’s a pair (father and son) of Russian scientists trying to resurrect (or rather, "rewild") an Ice Age (aka Pleistocene era) biome (grassland) complete with (gene edited, lab-grown) woolly mammoths (derived from elephants). In Arctic Siberia (though, not at the one station there that Amazon Prime delivers to!). Here's what we don't know: How many genes will it take? (with science doing the "sculpting" and nature doing the "polishing")? How many doctors will it take to make? (that is, grow these 200-pound babies in an artificial womb)? What happens if these animals break? (given how social elephants are)? And so on... In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- recorded as part of our podcast on the road in Washington, D.C. -- we (Sonal Chokshi and Hanne Tidnam) discuss all this and more with Ross Andersen, senior editor at The Atlantic who wrote "Welcome to Pleistocene Park", a story that seems so improbably wild yet is so improbably true. And while we focus on the particulars of what it takes to make this seemingly Jurassic Park-like story true, this episode is more generally about what motivates seemingly crazy ideas -- moving them from the lab to the field (quite literally in this case!) -- often with the help of a little marketing, a big vision, and some narrative. And: time. Sometimes, a really, really, really long time... image: National Park Service
Jul 15th, 2017 • 26:41
In the age of virality, what does it actually mean to be popular? When does popularity -- or good product design, for that matter -- cross over from desire and engagement... to addiction? Journalist and editor Derek Thompson, author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction -- and NYU professor Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked -- share their thoughts on these topics with Hanne Tidnam in this episode of the a16z Podcast. The discussion covers everything from the relationship between novelty and familiarity (we like what we know we like! and want more of it!) to what makes a hit. And what's going on when we suddenly fall in love with something "new" and can't get enough of it -- like playing a new video game or binge-watching a TV show.
Jul 11th, 2017 • 33:24
This episode of the a16z Podcast takes us on a quick tour through the themes of economics/historian/journalist Marc Levinson's books -- from An Extraordinary Time, on the end of the postwar boom and the return of the ordinary economy; to The Great A&P, on retail and the struggle for small business in America; all the way through to The Box, on how the shipping container made the world smaller and the world economy bigger. In this hallway-style conversation, Levinson and we (with Sonal Chokshi and Hanne Tidnam) touch on everything from productivity growth & GDP to the "death of retail" -- to finally connecting all the dots through logistics, transportation, infrastructure, and more. How are supply chains changing? How does all this, taken together, affect the way we work? And what can -- or can't -- policymakers do about it? Perhaps, Levinson argues, a lot of the improvement to our living standards really comes out of "microeconomic improvements at the private sector level rather than as a matter of great policy". But that's a bitter pill to swallow for those seeking solace in easy answers from governments, whether at a national or city level. Maybe it's just a matter of managing our expectations -- or resetting our clock for when the new normal begins... and ends.
Jun 30th, 2017 • 25:15
A funny thing happened on the way to quantum computing: Unlike other major shifts in classic computing before it, it begins -- not ends -- with The Cloud. That's because quantum computers today are more like "physics experiments in a can" that most companies can't use yet -- unless you use software, not just as cloud infrastructure for accessing this computing power commercially but for also building the killer app on top of it. What will that killer app be? With quantum virtual machines and special languages for connecting and trading off classic and quantum computing, companies and developers may be able to help figure that out, not to mention get ahead of this next computing platform (before it surprises them). Ok, sounds great. Only the old rules don't all apply: You have to fundamentally rethink algorithms for quantum computing, just as with previous waves of high-performance computing before it -- from CPU to GPU to TPU and now to QPU. Because as chips evolve, so do algorithms, and vice versa, in an iterative way. But the chicken-egg question of which came first (the algorithm or the specialized hardware for running it?) doesn't matter as much because the answer itself involves herding chickens: "You're trying to get all of these independent processes to run and cooperate with each other to produce an answer and do so in a way that was faster" than the other way before it, observes Jeff Cordova, interim head of software engineering at quantum computing startup Rigetti Computing. "In hindsight, we really care about the statistical model, not watching the entire movie", shares general partner Vijay Pande, based on his own experiences in the world of high-performance computing. In this episode of the a16z Podcast (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi), Cordova and Pande talk all about the realities of engineering -- and using -- the next computing platform beyond scientific research and hardening it into practical, commercial, industrial-scale reality. Luckily, the cloud provides a map to get us there, today.
Jun 29th, 2017 • 35:40
Is a network -- whether a crowd or blockchain-based entity -- going to replace the firm anytime soon? Not yet, argue Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson in the new book Machine, Platform, Crowd. But that title is a bit misleading, because the real questions most companies and people wrestle with are more "machine vs. mind", "platform vs. product", and "crowd vs. core". They're really a set of dichotomies. Yet the most successful systems are rarely all one or all the other. So how then do companies make choices, tradeoffs in designing products between humans and machines, whether it's sales people vs. chatbots, or doctors vs. AIs? How can companies combine the fundamental building blocks of businesses -- such as network effects, platforms, crowds, and more -- in a way that lets them get ahead on the chessboard against the Red Queen? And then finally, at a macro level, how do we plan for the future without falling for the "fatal conceit" (which has now, arguably flipped from radical centralization to radical decentralization) ... and just run a ton of experiments to get there? We (Frank Chen and Sonal Chokshi) discuss all this and more with Brynjolfsson and McAfee, who also founded MIT's Initiative on the Global Economy -- and previously wrote the popular The Second Machine Age and Race Against the Machine. Maybe there's a better way to stay ahead without having to run faster and faster just to stay in place like Alice in a tech Wonderland.
Jun 24th, 2017 • 22:00
What is lobbying, really? Is it “white", "heavy-set" men "playing golf" and making arrangements in "smoke-filled back rooms”? It's not like that anymore, according to two lobbyists who join this episode of the a16z Podcast to pull back the curtain on this practice… and share what’s changed: Heather Podesta, founder of Invariant (and a lawyer by training), and Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of the Internet Association (an industry trade association that also has lobbyists on staff). Given the tech industry’s increasing engagement with policy, how does lobbying play out for tech companies in particular? What are the challenges when going up against deeply entrenched incumbents, as all startups inevitably do? And finally, how has tech itself changed the act of lobbying? Thanks in part to the internet, we're now in a new era of transparency and public engagement, where "lobbying" has shifted more to more open citizen engagement vs. only inside closed rooms. We cover all this and more -- including practical tips for influencing government -- on this episode (in conversation with Hanne Tidnam), recorded as part of our annual D.C. podcast roadshow.
Jun 18th, 2017 • 23:04
"We're always fighting the last war" -- that's a phrase historians like to use because policymakers and others tend to be so focused on the threats they already know, and our mindsets and organizational structures are oriented to respond that way as well. And in the "situation room" of nation states (including the intelligence briefing war rooms in the White House), much of the security conversation is necessarily focused on the worst possible scenarios, broader context, and attribution as well. Companies, however, unlike nation states, do not have to worry so much about attribution (who did this? why) or even as much about the sexy, headline-grabbing threats. In fact, they may be better off focusing on security hygiene and basic metrics for assessing risk in the boardroom -- much like they review financials regularly -- argue the guests in this hallway-style conversation episode of the a16z Podcast. Herb Lin, who is Senior Research Scholar for Cyber Policy and Security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and is also at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University; David Damato, Chief Security Officer at Tanium; and a16z policy team partner Matt Spence (who among other things previously spent time at the White House working with the National Security Council) begin by sharing their views on the term "cybersecurity" ...and end up with practical advice for a security boardroom 101. No matter what, security should have a seat at the table.
Jun 16th, 2017 • 8:48
Nearly every cybersecurity discussion/presentation follows this formula: We don’t know what we’re doing; the bad guys are getting smarter; our defenses are getting worse; everything's more connected than ever; we’re heading towards a digital . But even though security itself has obviously changed in many ways and not in others, we — as an industry — have actually gotten pretty good at doing our jobs, argues a16z general partner Martin Casado in this segment excerpted from a talk he gave at our recent Tech Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. That’s not to minimize the seriousness or cost of cyber attacks! It’s just that changing the conversation here will let us pay attention to the fact that “cybersecurity” these days is really… “security”. Because we shouldn’t isolate the “cyber”; we need to always think of digital assets, physical assets, and human assets together. Especially as cyber — or rather, just security — has become more physical than ever (and not in the obvious Internet of Things sense).
Jun 16th, 2017 • 19:19
When individuals gain the abilities that only nation states once had, how do we put cyber threats in perspective for policymakers -- without unduly "inflating" the threats? As it is, security is an intense and important topic, so our job is to be scared -- and prepared -- but what's the scope of the actual threats, how do we talk about them, and what are the best analogies even? For example, we tend to think about "getting inside" as the big problem -- but in fact, the steady, "low-grade" degradation of trust and constant exposure is much more common and where we should be focusing holistically. The guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast discuss all this in a conversation (with a16z's Matt Spence) recorded as part of our Tech Policy Summit in Washington D.C.: a16z general partner Martin Casado; Head of Cybersecurity Strategy at Illumio Nathaniel Gleicher; and former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and former General Counsel for the NSA Matthew Olsen.
Jun 9th, 2017 • 27:00
"Slow down, cowboys" -- that's what Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) said when prosecutors in her office wanted to bring a case against companies that let apps download someone's entire address book, because surely that's a complete violation of privacy?! The issue was a perfect example of the perfect storm playing out right now between existing laws and new technologies that are evolving faster than laws can. So how do we move forward, bringing transparency and even more openness -- while also protecting privacy and safety (especially of those who are vulnerable)? The problem is that many litigators and legislators are unfortunately faced with false choices: to be "soft" on crime or "hard" on crime, for example, when the answer is to be "smart" on crime instead. Born and bred in the world's 6th-largest economy -- that is, the state of California, where she was once District Attorney, then Attorney General, and is now U.S. Senator -- Harris shares not just "protocols and procedures, but perspective" in this episode of the a16z Podcast recorded as part our annual a16z Tech Policy Summit, in Washington, D.C., last month.
Jun 7th, 2017 • 19:34
When people think of modernizing government, they tend to think of new IT, of improved procurement, of new infrastructure ... rather than social services like foster care or food stamps. But how can we actually help improve daily lives -- less in the abstract and more concretely -- by applying tools and lessons from consumer tech to help put food on the table, or to find a safe foster home for children? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, recorded from Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. as part of our D.C. podcast roadshow, Propel CEO Jimmy Chen describes the evolution of the food stamp program from paper stamps to an 800number and EBT card to an app that actually helps make easier and better decisions. Senator Todd Young (R-Indiana), whose district is "ground zero" for the opioid crisis, describes efforts to improve and modernize an interstate foster care placement process. Together, they discuss how the public and private sector can work together to experiment, iterate, and measure success and outcomes; think more holistically about people’s problems and therefore the best solutions; and how to combat poverty.
Jun 4th, 2017 • 32:17
Rules, guidelines, regulations, and “laws” are all sometimes used interchangeably — but what’s legal and what isn’t is far more complex when it comes to policy, especially when politics (and technology) enters the picture. Take encryption for instance: The debate has gone beyond the “Crypto Wars” of yore to a war of attrition playing out today as companies (like Apple) go head-to-head against law enforcement (FBI); but who wins and who loses if the battles play out differently in litigation vs. legislation? And what of cybersecurity more broadly, Russia and hacking, and other top-of-mind policy and politics topics, such as immigration? What are the legal and technical (not to mention moral) nuances of military drones … including the possibility of automating even government decision making in the future? All of these issues share in common the power of technology to both “discriminate” — such as between military targets and civilians — as well as scale beyond borders. Technology doesn’t just level asymmetries; “It levels all asymmetries,” observes Benjamin Wittes, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, and editor-in-chief of the (now) popular Lawfare blog that focuses on “hard national security issues”. In this episode of the a16z Podcast recorded while on the road in D.C., we (with Sonal Chokshi and Hanne Tidnam) take a quick tour through those issues — as well as the meta story of Lawfare as a story about the evolution of media and expert blogging on the internet.
May 29th, 2017 • 32:51
Every industry (for-profit, non-profit, government, private-sector) has been touched by tech, with most trying to lead the charge in order to stay ahead. But museums and memorials, by definition, lag rather than lead there. How is that changing as visitors increasingly expect to be a part of a dialogue, not just a monologue limited to a single interpretation of events or objects in a room? How are tech tools -- from VR/AR, RFID and beacons, and mobile apps to data, personalization, and prototyping -- changing storytelling around exhibits, artifacts, and experiences... even going beyond the museum walls? In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- recorded as part of our annual D.C. podcast road trip 2017 (in conjunction with the a16z Tech Policy Summit in Washington, D.C.) -- Rachel Goslins, Director of the Arts and Industries Building at the Smithsonian; Sarah Lumbard, Digital Curator of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; and Adam Martin, Chief Digital Officer at the National Museum of African American Culture and History, in conversation with Hanne Tidnam, describe what happens as museums move from "cabinets of curiosities" to living spaces that are defined by interaction.
May 26th, 2017 • 24:59
There's feedback and there's guidance; there's praise and there's criticism. All of it is important to do better work, but to develop a better and more productive workplace and relationships -- especially given how much time we spend at work! -- the way we give and receive feedback really matters. "One of the great things about having a great boss," observes Kim Scott, "is that a great boss will help you grow as a person. And for a lot of people, a big part of what gives work meaning is personal growth." That's another reason why feedback matters. But doesn't so much feedback take too much time when you're busy building things, especially in fast-growing startups where you're also focused on survival first? Or what if you're not so into the touchy-feely aspects of soliciting feedback? In fact, what is the best way to give feedback, so that you're not being obnoxiously aggressive or even worse, "ruinously empathetic"? You actually don't have to choose between those two things, argues Scott, because the answer lies somewhere in between, with "radical candor". Finally, how does this fit with other management wisdom around how much to develop someone -- or when to just "call it" and fire them? How does this affect women and under-represented minorities in the workplace? Or how about creatives, millennials, and remote workers? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Sonal Chokshi explores these questions with Scott, who came out of Google, Apple University, and her own startups... and literally wrote the book on Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.
May 23rd, 2017 • 35:10
Turnabout is fair play: That's true in politics, and it's true at Andreessen Horowitz given our internal (and very opinionated!) culture of debate -- where we often agree to disagree, or more often, disagree to agree. So in this special "turnabout" episode of the a16z Podcast, co-founder Marc Andreessen (who is most often in the hot seat being interviewed), got the chance to instead grill fellow partners Frank Chen (who covers AI and much more), Vijay Pande (who covers healthcare for the bio fund), and Alex Rampell (who covers all things fintech). None of the partners had any idea what Marc would ask them. Putting them in the hot seat at our recent a16z Tech Policy Summit, in Washington, D.C., Marc asked them policy questions such as the implications for tech of the American Health Care Act or AHCA (which itself was being hotly debated that exact same day, just a few miles away); the role of regulatory arbitrage; and what happens to companies big and small if Dodd-Frank is repealed. Oh, but they also covered so much more: the pros and cons of using tech to "discriminate" for better risk pooling; the role of genetics in addiction (can/should it be used to determine risk?); the opioid crisis (can tech help?); applying AI as a "salve" for everything (what's hyped, what's real, what's easy, what's hard?); the line between redlining and predatory lending (and where/when did sentiment flip?); and the ethics of artificial intelligence (beyond the ole Trolley Problem). Throw in a classic nature vs. nurture debate, a bit of 2-D vs. 3-D, and some fries (yes)... and the future arrives in this episode in 35 minutes or less.
May 22nd, 2017 • 21:38
Discussions and headlines around tech policy tend to be dominated by what the President and the White House (aka the executive branch of the government) and what the Senate and House of Representatives (aka the legislative branch) are saying and doing. But it’s the judicial branch — the courts — that often gets the final say on key technology policy questions of the day… Like encryption, among many others. And now, there’s a new Supreme Court justice in town (Neil Gorsuch, who was sworn in last month) — how does that change judicial decision making around tech policy? Finally, is the growing trend of tech companies writing and signing amicus briefs (or otherwise engaging with the courts) for high-profile policy issues a good or bad thing for their employees, shareholders, and others? One thing is clear, though: The tech sector is getting more and more involved in policy issues, and is arguably becoming a “fourth branch” of government (or perhaps even a “fifth estate”) with its own checks and balances. Or so argue the guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast: Karen Dunn, partner at Boies Schiller Flexner (who has also been a consultant on the TV show House of Cards); and Erin Murphy, partner at Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C. (recently recognized by National Law Journal as “a rising star”); in conversation with Ted Ullyot, who heads up Andreessen Horowitz’ Policy and Regulatory Affairs operation (and was formerly in both industry, as a general counsel at Facebook, and government, himself). The discussion took place as part our annual a16z Tech Policy Summit, in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
May 20th, 2017 • 20:34
There’s an interesting paradox when it comes to the U.S. government and tech: Either they’re an inventor, early adopter, and buyer of emerging new tech … or they’re a very late adopter (as in the case of government officials using Blackberries vs. iPhones). But when it comes to the blockchain, they’re trying to get ahead of and stay on top of the game — with the Congressional Blockchain Caucus, co-chaired by Reps Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and David Schweikert (R-Arizona). What exactly is a “caucus”, and what’s the government’s perception of cryptocurrencies and similar? While people have been talking about the numerous applications of blockchain for years, which ones resonate right now with the government, and why? Where do states play more (or less) of a role than federal agencies in deciding blockchain matters? Finally, what is the “hard thing” policymakers need to be willing to do in supporting the widespread application of blockchain-based technologies? The guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast — Polis and Schweikert, along with Coinbase chief legal and risk officer (and mayor of Atherton, California!) Mike Lempres — discuss all this and more, in conversation with a16z policy team partner Matthew Colford. This podcast was recorded as part of our (now-annual) podcast road trip, in conjunction with the a16z Tech Policy Summit, in Washington, D.C.
May 18th, 2017 • 32:29
When it comes to spycraft — or rather, “tradecraft,” as they say in the biz — what do the movies get right, and what do they get wrong? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Michael Morell — former Deputy Director and twice-Acting Director of the CIA — talks all things tradecraft and tech with a16z partners Matt Spence and Hanne Tidnam. What it is that the CIA really does? Is it a) James Bond, b) Maxwell Smart, c) Jason Bourne, or d) none of the above? For starters, it’s not at all about predicting what will happen — it’s figuring out what you need to know now to make the right decisions, asking the right questions, and reducing uncertainty. But that’s a tall order when you’re in the Situation Room advising the President — because there’s no such thing as zero uncertainty. So what makes the difference between a good analyst and a great one? How does technology affect tradecraft? And where do human spies come in? This podcast was recorded as part of our (now-annual!) podcast road trip, in conjunction with the a16z Tech Policy Summit, in Washington, D.C.
May 15th, 2017 • 33:19
In this lively conversation -- from our recent annual tech and policy summit in Washington, D.C. -- Axios' Dan Primack interviews a16z co-founder Marc Andreessen about the two major narratives dominating discussions about the tech industry right now: the industry is building stupid stuff; and tech is “evil” (or at least has an outsized impact, is destroying jobs). Part of the problem, Andreessen argues, is that we don't have enough technological innovation: With higher productivity growth, we'd have higher economic growth and more opportunity. But without enough opportunity, we're all at risk on all sides of the ideological spectrum. And actually, both the "tech is stupid" and "tech is evil" narratives are true... in different sectors [hint: those afflicted by Baumol’s cost disease]. So what then are the roles for policymakers and and entrepreneurs in addressing these issues, including jobs? Ultimately, Andreessen argues, success in Silicon Valley isn't really about good idea vs. bad idea at all … and it's all eventually political. (Bonus: why Andreessen stopped tweeting!)
May 13th, 2017 • 26:34
Moore's Law -- putting more and more transistors on a chip -- accelerated the computing industry by so many orders of magnitude, it has (and continues to) achieve seemingly impossible feats. However, we're now resorting to brute-force hacks to keep pushing it beyond its limits and are getting closer to the point of diminishing returns (especially given costly manufacturing infrastructure). Yet this very dynamic is leading to "a Cambrian explosion" in computing capabilities… just look at what's happening today with GPUs, FPGAs, and neuromorphic chips. Through such continuing performance improvements and parallelization, classic computing continues to reshape the modern world. But we're so focused on making our computers do more that we're not talking enough about what classic computers can't do -- and that's to compute things the way nature does, which operates in quantum mechanics. So our smart machines are really quite dumb, argues Rigetti Computing founder and CEO Chad Rigetti; they're limited to human-made binary code vs. the natural reality of continuous variables. This in turn limits our ability to work on problems that classic computers can't solve, such as key applications in computational chemistry or large-scale optimization for machine learning and artificial intelligence. Which is where quantum computing comes in. But what is quantum computing, really -- beyond the history and the hype? And where are we in reaching the promise of practical quantum computers? (Hint: it will take a hybrid approach to get there.) Who are the players -- companies, countries, types of people/skills -- working on it, and how can a startup compete in this space? Finally, what will it take to get "the flywheel" of application development and discovery going? Part of the answer comes full circle to the same economic engine that drove previous computing advances, argues Chris Dixon; Moore's Law, after all, is more of an economic principle that combined the forces of capitalism, a critical mass of ideas, and people moving things forward by sheer will. Quantum computing is finally getting pulled into the same economic forces as well.
May 11th, 2017 • 20:10
A board veteran who has sat on both sides of the table, CEO of PagerDuty Jennifer Tejada shares what you gain from board membership (vs. being only an operator). How does being a board member change you as a CEO, and vice versa? Recorded as part of our annual Director's College held at Stanford University in April 2017, Tejada (in conversation with a16z operating partner Margit Wennmachers) in this episode of the a16z Podcast offers advice about the importance of diligence on both sides, subject matter expertise, and complex dynamics among fellow board members. Tejada also talks about how to make the best use of your board as a CEO... including what's most important when managing them (hint: no surprises!).
May 1st, 2017 • 31:46
It’s the end of the beginning — not the beginning of the end — for wearables, argue the guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast. Especially as we move from the first, to the next, generation of wearable devices: not just activity trackers and watches but VR/AR gear, “audibles”, continuous glucose monitors, and more. The quantified self movement then takes these empirical tracking- and data-gathering tools to better reason about what works and doesn’t work in our bodies to help us solve problems and live better lives. Yet the act of gathering data isn’t the hard part… it’s linking them to insights and outcomes. Because we really do have very little data about what works at a collective let alone an individual level. With a new age of biohacking upon us — where people can apply engineering principles to manipulate what we take into our bodies (inputs) to tune how we perform (outputs) — can we finally embrace these tools? What will it take to make something that’s mainly a niche activity/community (quantified self was formally started a decade ago!) into something more mainstream for all? (Hint: it involves cookie recipes.) And finally, what are the societal implications of all this, from avoiding data dystopias to embracing the consumerization of government projects too? Joining us to explore these questions and more (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi), we have: neuroscientist and data scientist Rachel Kalmar, currently a fellow at The Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University; co-founder of The Quantified Self blog and community Gary Wolf; and Geoffrey Woo, co-founder and CEO at Nootrobox (an a16z company).
Apr 28th, 2017 • 26:07
The first thing that comes to mind when treating health problems is the need to take a pill (or other pharmaceutical) of some kind. But could a digital therapeutic -- a software-based intervention -- not only complement, but possibly even replace pills? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, CEO of Omada Health Sean Duffy and a16z bio fund general partner Vijay Pande (in conversation with Malinka Walaliyadde) discuss the potential of digital therapeutics, which use software, design, and other carefully orchestrated elements to change behavior. (Because what is software, really, observes Duffy, but a way of changing behavior?) Of course, digital therapeutics can augment medical treatment and make doctors better -- but what advantages do such methods have over pills? How do we know it’s really working? And what role does digital health have in the continuing push towards value-based care?
Apr 25th, 2017 • 28:15
In this hallway-style episode of the podcast, a16z partners Connie Chan and Kyle Russell discuss recent announcements at Facebook's annual developer conference, F8, in the context of trends such as: messaging and QR codes; brain computer interfaces; augmented reality and social VR; and, bots (again). As online platforms built on "real" identity and brands bring more of the real world into the digital realm, will we experience filter fatigue... or will the mundane become more profound?
Apr 18th, 2017 • 28:54
Is it real or science fiction to dream of being able to treat… getting old? In this episode, we discuss with Dr. Thomas Rando from Stanford (who directs the Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging), Kristen Fortney, CEO of BioAge, and a16z’s general partner Vijay Pande where we are in the field of “geroscience” — the idea of studying, well, aging itself, and aging as the root risk for all aging related disease. Far from science fiction, recent discoveries have given us a whole crop of promising breakthroughs to treat aging, such as parabiosis (young blood infused into old blood), senolytics, and rapamycin, and more. What we’re beginning to see is a fundamental shift away from the idea of searching for immortality and towards the idea of increasing "health span” — where prevention means much more than eating healthier or exercising more. Are we moving from Dx to Rx to — perhaps Px? What will it look like when anti-aging therapies actually begin to be delivered to us: small molecule or protein or an antibody — or something else entirely? A pill or a blood transfusion treatment? A vaccine for aging? And finally, what has to change — conceptually, scientifically, logistically, in regulation -- to get these therapies into the hands of all?
Apr 13th, 2017 • 33:47
A crisis is an opportunity to change one's culture, to model scenarios and set up a crisis plan/process, to become a better company. But it's also a bit like therapy, from the act of asking probing questions to get at the facts ... to dealing with emotions and conflicting agendas. In this hallway-style conversation with a16z's Margit Wennmachers and Kim Milosevich (who previously shared the why, how, and when of public relations), we explore the process -- and mindsets -- behind the outcomes of a crisis in lieu of specific examples. Because it's something that seems so obvious to those who are on the inside (but even then it's really not!), yet is actually a bit of a "black box" to founders and others who aren’t familiar with crisis comms 101. What constitutes a crisis? Can someone inside a company "call it" early and prevent a crisis from becoming a bigger deal? How do you respond when there's a lag or too much time between acknowledging the issue and finding out all the facts? Who should be in the (war) room where it happens? Should you share the off-the-record background story with reporters? How do you know when a crisis begins and ends -- or that you're ready for a "comeback" story? We explore all this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast. One thing's for sure though: It may seem like a public relations or media problem -- but it's really a business problem, and is often tied to internal culture and values. So how to make that an opportunity (without being opportunistic about it)?
Apr 11th, 2017 • 29:10
Here’s what we know about open source: Developers are the new buyers. Community matters. And there will never be another Red Hat (i.e., a successful “open core” business model … nor do we necessarily think there should be). Yet open source is real, and it’s here to stay. So how then do companies build a viable business model on top of open source? And not only make money, but become a huge business, like the IBMs, Microsofts, Oracles, and SAPs of the world? The answer, argues James Watters, has more to do with good software strategy and smart enterprise sales/procurement tactics (including design and a service-like experience) than with open source per se — from riding a huge trend or architectural shift, to being less transactional and more an extension of your customer’s team. Watters, who is the SVP of Product at Pivotal (part of VMWare and therefore also Dell-EMC), is a veteran of monetizing open source — from OpenSolaris (at Sun Microsystems) to Springsource (acquired by VMWare) to Pivotal Cloud Foundry — with plenty of failures, and successes, along the way. He shares those lessons learned in this episode of the a16z Podcast with Sonal Chokshi and general partner Martin Casado (who was co-founder and CTO of Nicira, later part of VMWare before joining Andreessen Horowitz). These lessons matter, especially as open source has become more of a requirement — and how large enterprises bet on big new trends.
Apr 8th, 2017 • 39:29
The culture of open source has changed across generations, from previous ones that had to fight for the brave new way -- to the current "GitHub generation" that not only accepts open source, but expects it as the default. Which makes sense given that open source powers so much of the software world today... and by the way, that's not just tech companies but hospitals and banks; it touches everyone. Open source culture has also moved away from cults of personality and top-down models to drive the vision for open source projects, to decentralized individual contributor identities and more micro-sized projects within projects. So what does that mean for the governance of open source, whether it's by institution or foundation, or a "healthy" or "popular" project? Should we invert, always invert to make sure open source code "lands" and is committed by default -- as opposed to going through a cabal of gatekeepers first? This episode of the a16z Podcast -- featuring Nadia Eghbal (who formerly researched the sustainability of open source projects for Ford Foundation, and is now in community programs at GitHub) and Mikeal Rogers (community manager and more at Node.js Foundation) in conversation with Sonal Chokshi -- covers all this and more. Is open source simply too loaded a term? Is there no sense of ownership? How best to manage a project or resolve conflicts? After all, at the end of the day, it's about people, not just code...
Apr 3rd, 2017 • 32:32
Most of us have probably heard of bitcoin and ethereum -- but did you know there were 15 new cryptocurrencies launched this past month alone? How then do we know which protocols to invest in -- not just as a developer or user, but as an investor? Because, let's face it, open source software and services need resources not just to survive but thrive. General partner Chris Dixon talks about this dynamic between open vs closed in this episode of the a16z Podcast with Olaf Carlson-Wee, founder of (a16z investment) Polychain, a new kind of hedge fund that invests directly in cryptocurrencies at the protocol layer. But what does that actually mean? Instead of investing in the companies that are building on top of these protocols, Polychain invests in the protocols themselves -- in much the same way that you could have invested in domain names instead of early internet companies like Amazon in the early days (which most people actually didn't have access to do). Imagine if you could have bought equity in Linux! As people create application-specific tokens for these protocols (also known as “app coins”) to crowdfund and share equity in these networks, it's actually "bringing capitalism into open source" -- and could even one day lead to less centralized platforms and a web owned by users. It's also creating a whole new asset class... but whatever you do, do NOT try this at home!
Apr 3rd, 2017 • 36:58
Some people merely adopted the web, some were born into it ... but those who came online in the early days of the blogosphere were molded by it: They remember what it was like to easily find blogs out there; to debate and build on each other's ideas in more than 140 characters; to release experiments half-baked or think out loud in public; to write scrappily, not make pronouncements. And so they yearn for the good old days. But beyond a nostalgia for a shared past, what's really missing since the more "open" days of the early web? What's new that wasn't here before, and what can/should we bring back to make the web great again? From creation and identity to discovery and curation -- across blogs, social media, newsletters, and other platforms -- the guests in this episode riff, hallway-style, on all this and more: early blogger Tom Coates who was formerly with BBC, Yahoo, etc. (and is currently co-founder of IoT startup Thington); Matt Haughey, who had previously founded MetaFilter, one of the first blog communities (and is currently a writer at Slack); Benedict Evans, who has written about search, discovery, distribution, and platforms (among other things); and Sonal Chokshi. Perhaps it's merely the never-ending cycle of how all systems and communities evolve beyond early adopters. After all, more people than ever are online and creating than ever before... for better and for worse.
Mar 25th, 2017 • 19:56
In this episode of the a16z Podcast recorded at our inaugural Summit, Jonathan Downey, CEO of Airware, Grant Jordan, CEO of Skysafe, and Kyle Russell, partner at a16z, discuss our future with “eyes in the sky.” How do you balance experimentation and following the rules in a space where people have fears about what a future with drones might look like? This conversation covers the most interesting enterprise use cases for commercial drones, where we are in the introduction of drones into the consumer and commercial space (including the most interesting enterprise use cases for commercial drones), and how the industry will scale. Downey, Jordan, and Russell parse out what the new FAA regulation means big picture for drones and airspace, and what’s been overlooked. Regulation, says Grant, is just one element. What do we want our drone future to look like — where we want them flying and where we don't — and how will our responses to consumer and commercial drones affect each other? What are the privacy and safety implications, and how do we navigate them?
Mar 22nd, 2017 • 38:12
An aerospace engineer who worked for NASA for over 40 years, Dr. Christine Darden is one of the mathematicians that the book and movie Hidden Figures was based on. Darden eventually would lead the sonic boom team, going on to become the first African-American woman in senior management at NASA. In this intimate conversation with a16z’s general partner Jeff Jordan, held at the SF Jazz Center, Darden shares with Jordan how she first fell in love with geometry and math; the effect that Sputnik had on our culture (and her); and what it was like to work at NASA in the 1960s. And finally, Darden shares with us all the secrets of the sonic boom.
Mar 21st, 2017 • 22:03
As we enter a new era of distributed computing -- and of big data, in the form of machine and deep learning -- storage becomes (even more) important. It might not be sexy, but storage is what makes the internet and cloud computing go round and round: "Without storage, we wouldn't have databases; without databases, we wouldn't have big data; we wouldn't have analytics ... we wouldn't have anything because information needs to be stored, and it needs to be retrieved." This is especially complicated by the fact that more and more computing is happening at the edge, as with autonomous car sensing. Clearly, storage is important. But now it's also undergoing a renaissance as it becomes faster, cheaper, and more in-memory. What does this mean for all the big players in the storage ecosystem? For CIOs and IT departments? For any company competing on data, whether it's in analyzing it or owning it? And for that matter: What is data, really? Beyond the existential questions, this episode of the a16z Podcast -- with a16z partner Peter Levine; Alluxio (formerly Tachyon) founder and CEO Haoyuan Li (“HY”); and storage industry analyst Mike Matchett of The Taneja Group -- covers all this and more. It even tries to make storage, er, great again.
Mar 17th, 2017 • 21:12
A lot of machine learning startups initially feel a bit of “impostor syndrome” around competing with big companies, because (the argument goes), those companies have all the data; surely we can’t beat that! Yet there are many ways startups can, and do, successfully compete with big companies. You can actually achieve great results in a lot of areas even with a relatively small data set, argue the guests on this podcast, if you build the right product on top of it. So how do you go about building the right product (beyond machine-learning algorithms in academic papers)? It’s about the whole system, the user experience, transparency, domain expertise, choosing the right tools. But what do you build, what do you buy, and do you bother to customize? Jensen Harris, CTO and co-founder of Textio, and AJ Shankar, CEO and co-founder of Everlaw, share their lessons learned here in this episode of the a16z Podcast — including what they wish they’d known early on. Because, observes moderator (and a16z board partner) Steven Sinofsky, “To achieve product market fit, there’s a whole bunch of stuff beyond a giant corpus of data, and the latest deep learning algorithm.” Machine learning is an ingredient, part of a modern software-as-a-service company; going beyond the hype, it’s really about figuring out the problem you’re trying to solve… and then figuring out where machine learning fits in (as opposed to the other way around). Customers are paying you to help solve a problem for them, after all.
Mar 13th, 2017 • 31:54
Your brand, says head of a16z marketing and Outcast Agency co-founder Margit Wennmachers, is what people say about you when you're not in the room. And it's going to happen, whether you choose to have an active part in it or not. But what does this mean at an individual, not just company/product level? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Wennmachers and Outcast CEO Alex Constantinople -- both longtime veterans of public relations and building executive profiles -- de-mystify what having and building a personal brand takes. It's not only about "thought leadership", either... a personal brand can also provide a filter for choosing what to do (and what not to do), as well as define your aspirations for where you want to go next. Even if you cringe at the idea of putting yourself in the spotlight. This conversation, moderated by a16z partner Hanne Tidnam, was recorded as part of the BreakLine Tech program for military veterans, an immersive education program for veterans transitioning into new careers (including a week of talks and courses hosted at Andreessen Horowitz).
Mar 9th, 2017 • 17:19
Starbucks supposedly spends more on healthcare than it does on coffee beans. And 20 years ago, says Rajeev Singh, CEO of Accolade, healthcare was 10% of GDP; today it’s 19% -- that's nearly one-fifths of our gross domestic product. So what tools do we have to address the high costs of health care, especially as stakeholders increasingly look for value-based care? This episode, recorded at our a16z inaugural Summit and moderated by Vijay Pande (a16z general partner on the bio fund) discusses approaches that combine new tech + people + data to address and improve healthcare. What are the macro trends driving innovations in the business of healthcare? And what will define the success of companies in this space? (Hint: it's not directly related to costs or healthcare reform.)
Mar 7th, 2017 • 14:11
In this episode of the a16z Podcast introduced by Vijay Pande (based on a presentation at our summit event), Russ Altman, Stanford professor of bioengineering -- and former chairman of their Bioengineering Department -- takes us on a short but deep tour of the possibilities of genomics in drug discovery. Including how building a large bank of human genetic variations will change our understanding and optimization of drug response. Altman (who also hosts his own radio show, "The Future of Everything" on SiriusXM and Stanford radio) describes how in much the same way we inherit our grandmother's eyes, or our great grandfather's ears, we also inherit a response to certain drugs: whether they work or not, what side effects we'll experience, how we react to them. But it's not just genetics information that matters here; it's also molecular, cellular, tissue, and other data about the whole organism. By applying data science and bioinformatics on a more complete data "bank" like this, for the first time, we can see the whole range of actions and side effects -- as well as possible new uses -- that specific drugs will have on specific individuals.
Mar 1st, 2017 • 37:49
The irony of our systems working so well -- technological, corporate, and yes, even political -- is that we've become too comfortable: matching to others just like us, producing less, taking fewer risks. But isn't the very point of technology to make our lives more comfortable? Yes... until "we" -- whether an entire class, generation, ethnic group, or country like the U.S. -- become a little too complacent. Or so argues Tyler Cowen in his new book, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. We've even outsourced our mobility to immigrants, observes Cowen (who is also a prolific economics blogger, columnist, and professor at George Mason University and director of the Mercatus Center there). Which is great... until you realize we're also giving up so much of that dynamism ourselves. This complacency affects everything from how economies to corporations to individuals grow, and we discuss how in this episode of the a16z Podcast (with Alex Rampell and Sonal Chokshi). "The general problem is that 'veto points' build up in a lot of systems as they grow larger and more bureaucratic." That's why we have NIMBYism (and a bunch of other such -isms). Corporate cash becomes the new stagnant pool (watch out for those mosquitos!). The stability of real estate becomes a trap. Social media (and even some protest) becomes signaling vs. actually doing something. As for culture: Who defines it? And is it time to bring back the individual quest?
Feb 28th, 2017 • 19:36
Humans have always wanted to enhance themselves -- from getting nutrition just-right to optimizing their performance, whether in sports or health or work. And food is a big part of all that. But our current systems of food production (and consumption) are far from efficient and sustainable let alone optimizable. That's where a whole new generation of wearable/ bio-feedback, food and nutrition, food production, and performance enhancement/ "nootropics" companies come in. How do these approaches move from the internet and online communities into the mainstream? Or from the university lab to the field? Or, put yet another way, from hobby to daily practice? After all, what we measure, what we take in, and what we output defines what it means to be human. We discuss this "future of you" in this episode of the a16z podcast with Daniel Chao, CEO of Halo Neuroscience; Rob Rhinehart, CEO of Soylent; James Rogers, CEO of Apeel; and Geoffrey Woo, CEO of Nootrobox -- based on a conversation with Chris Dixon at our inaugural Summit event.
Feb 26th, 2017 • 45:30
Imagine, for a moment, an alternative universe: One where Netflix got disrupted by some other streaming-content company that made its DVD rental business irrelevant. But that's just a counterfactual of what could have happened. What actually happened is that Netflix cannibalized (or rather, "hybridized") its own core business to make room for a more strategic one given where the tech was going... Given how rare it is for companies to successfully disrupt themselves like this, Reed Hastings, CEO and co-founder of Netflix, shares how they did it in this episode of the a16z Podcast (based on a conversation with Marc Andreessen that took place at our inaugural summit event). But please don't say "only the paranoid survive" -- Hastings believes business leaders need more sophisticated metaphors "to anticipate the paths, and all the judgment it takes, of deciding which competitive path to most explore". It also turns out that sourcing, managing, and supporting creative ideas and creators is not unlike the questions VCs ask themselves -- like trying to figure out just how much experience entrepreneurs need (especially if first-timers, like the directors of "Stranger Things" were). And finally, is there a "Netflix brand" or genre of content -- and if so, just how far can you stretch it so the same brand can produce something like "Orange Is the New Black" one day and then "Fuller House" the next day? Or are we entering an "era of mass customization" where we only see content suited to our interests -- dark and dystopian if that's your thing, sunny and funny if not? How is the industry ecosystem evolving; where do telcos, Silicon Valley, Hollywood fit in? All this and more in this episode.
Feb 23rd, 2017 • 44:13
Evolution and technology have allowed our human species to manipulate the physical environment around us -- reshaping fields into cities, redirecting rivers to irrigate farms, domesticating wild animals into captive food sources, conquering disease. But now, we're turning that "innovative gaze" inwards: which means the main products of the 21st century will be bodies, brains, and minds. Or so argues Yuval Harari, author of the bestselling book Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind and of the new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, in this episode of the a16z Podcast. What happens when our body parts no longer have to be physically co-located? When Big Brother -- whether government or corporation -- not only knows everything about us, but can make better decisions for us than we could for ourselves? That's ridiculous, you say. Sure... until you stop to think about how such decisions already, actually happen. Or realize that an AI-based doctor and teacher will have way more information than their human counterparts because of what can be captured, through biometric sensors, from inside (not just observed outside) us. So what happens then when illusions collide with reality? As it is, religion itself is "a virtual reality game that provides people with meaning by imposing imaginary rules on an objective reality". Is Data-ism the new religion? From education, automation, war, energy, and jobs to universal basic income, inequality, human longevity, and climate change, Harari (with a16z's Sonal Chokshi and Kyle Russell) reflect on what's possible, probable, pressing -- and is mere decades, not centuries, away -- when man becomes god... or merges with machines.
Feb 22nd, 2017 • 25:31
It's been nearly 15 years since the Human Genome Project was completed. But "are we there yet" in the golden age of genomics? What did we think we'd have by now, what do we actually have, and what do we really still need to make genomics live up to its promise? Well, one thing we now understand is that our DNA isn't static; in fact, it changes at an absolutely crazy rate. We also need to add more context -- about mutations, about somatic tissue, about phenotypes, about each person's unique history -- to make genetic information more complete and accurate. So what does that mean for predictive vs. diagnostic (which are two very different things) genomics? What are the challenges and opportunities for commercialization? The guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast -- Carlos Araya of Jungla,Jeff Kaditz of Q, and Gabe Otte of Freenome -- discuss all this and more with a16z bio fund partner Malinka Walaliyadde in a conversation that took place at our inaugural a16z Summit event.
Feb 19th, 2017 • 32:06
The hardest thing about pivots (major shifts in company/product direction) isn't just the actual pivot. It's the courage to make the decision... and being honest with yourself as a CEO. Especially since, no matter how great the team or board or even customers may be, it's lonely: You're the only one in the position to synthesize the knowledge; nobody else has the data and the insight put together in the same way. And sigh, "pivot" has also become such an overused word, it's certainly lost nuance, and perhaps even meaning. So what does "pivoting" a startup really mean, for decision making? timing (or time left until you run out of cash)? culture? Are things different for so-called “hard tech” or deep research-based startups? How do you know when things are working, that you have product-market fit? a16z co-founder Ben Horowitz and CEO of Lytro Jason Rosenthal discuss (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) all this and more in this episode of the a16z podcast, sharing their war stories and lessons learned. Both witnessed first-hand -- and drove -- pivots: first Jason watching Ben at Loudcloud/Opsware post-IPO, and conversely, Ben watching Jason at Lytro pivot multiple times. Maybe, all startups -- and ultimately, successful companies -- are really just a series of pivots. Doesn't look that way in hindsight though.
Feb 14th, 2017 • 19:21
The modern enterprise holds all sorts of applications, devices, and workflow needs. How should we be thinking about securing infrastructure -- and identity -- in this context, for entities like major news media outlets or financial institutions such as News Corp or NASDAQ? Well, this episode of the a16z Podcast brings those voices together: Frederic Kerrest, cofounder and COO of Okta; Brad Peterson, CIO of NASDAQ; and Dominic Shine, CIO of News Corp ... in conversation with Ben Horowitz at our recent a16z Summit. What's the big security picture for these types of organizations, and others? How should we prepare? Last year's DINE DDoS attack was just one glimpse of what's to come, providing a bit of a barometer read for what's currently working, and what desperately needs re-engineering. One interesting solution involves decentralization; but as we move towards such technology (like blockchain) in security, what will high-frequency trading look like? How will consumer relationships, transactions, UI/design security be reimagined? What areas and fundamentals should we focus on?
Feb 8th, 2017 • 35:55
Thanks to freeways, cities became something to get through instead of something to get to. Now, as the next transportation revolution -- from rivers to trains to cars to autonomous cars -- promises to change the face of our cities, what happens to car culture, infrastructure, and more? Who owns what, who pays? And what about the design -- and product management -- challenges, whether it's designing for user trust, city adoption, or an ever-moving target thanks to constantly evolving tech? This episode of the podcast (in conversation with Sonal) covers all this and more, featuring: a16z's Frank Chen, who recently shared 16 questions about autonomous cars; Taggart Matthiesen, director of product at Lyft who covers the core platform as well as development/strategy for autonomous vehicles; and Carl Pope, former executive director and chairman of the Sierra Club -- and author (with former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg) of the upcoming book Climate of Hope: How Cities Businesses and Citizens Can Save the Planet. Will curb space be the new shelf space? When we value the "iPhone-ness" over the "carness" of cars, what changes? And... will we all drive less, walk more?
Feb 1st, 2017 • 31:06
In the age of the internet -- where information is freely available online, and connections between sellers and buyers of software products are visible on LinkedIn -- do analysts really matter? Do they play a role in decision-making for purchases from smaller vendors like tech startups, especially given the rise of the developer as a buyer? Or what if you're trying to create a new category ... do you need to be on a Gartner Magic Quadrant or Forrester Wave or similar? We answer these questions and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast, featuring former analysts, client managers, and/or product marketing veterans Stacy D'Amico (who joined a16z after a decade at Gartner), Michael King (director of enterprise product marketing at GitHub), and Aneel Lakhani, in conversation with Sharon Chang of the a16z market development team. The conversation covers everything startups should know about analyst relations, from why and how and when to engage with analysts to whether to consider pay-for-play (no!) or more boutique/niche analyst firms. Most importantly: given their limited resources but big market visions, how can startups get the most out of analyst relations?
Jan 27th, 2017 • 38:11
Once upon a time, Robert Stromberg got a phone call from "Jim" Cameron (aka James Francis Cameron of Terminator and Titanic fame) about a little project called Avatar. Before he knew it, he was responsible for designing the organic world of Pandora, from bioluminescent plants to lush mountaintops. That was when Stromberg realized how much more technology could do, when ready, for creating more such virtual worlds. He'd actually been creating such worlds for ages, from drawing monsters in childhood to doing matte art, production design, art direction, and more for films. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, the two-time Academy Award winner (for production design on Avatar and Alice in Wonderland) and director of Maleficent shares his views on the evolution of filmmaking, narrative, and virtual reality. Stromberg directed the VR gaming experience based on The Martian (which received a Cannes Silver Lion award) and co-founded The Virtual Reality Company, which is re-imagining the film studio for the next generation of tech. What challenges do we face in an immersive medium, what will narratives look like, and what new (or even retro) techniques will we need? All this and more in this episode -- along with a16z partners Kyle Russell, Hanne Tidnam, and Sonal Chokshi -- continuing our series on new medium storytelling. image: Wikimedia Commons
Jan 26th, 2017 • 42:08
"Punch above your weight" -- If there's one thing public relations (PR) should help startups and founders do, it's that. Unfortunately, some companies are actually punching below their weight when there's a strong company, founder, product ... yet nobody knows about let alone talks about you. Or worse, someone else defines you first. Or you just become a hype machine. So what conversations should you be in? Is it good or bad to do PR before you have a product? And operationally, WHEN is the right time to build a PR function; WHO should you hire (whether a full-time PR person, consultant, or agency); and HOW can you tell the good from the bad? How do you even know "it's working", when time-is-money for both the startup and the PR firm that's billing you hourly or monthly? There's no easy answer, but it doesn't have to be that hard, either. In this episode of the a16z podcast, partners Margit Wennmachers and Kim Milosevich -- PR veterans who've seen all sides of public relations, from agency to big companies to startups -- share how to strike the just-right balance between doing PR too early or too late, time wasted or time wisely spent, and knowing to say "not now" vs. no... It's all about the art of persuasion.
Jan 24th, 2017 • 25:43
The building blocks for VR and AR are finally here -- but the content is just beginning. So everything you'll actually experience and consume in these new mediums over the next few years is being built right now. Formats aren't yet defined or locked down, and the field is bubbling up with experiments in forms, formats and genres, from narrative to games to live events. As we begin to have real time rendered characters and AI-driven environments that you can interact with, the storytelling structure will also need to completely change. Are these mediums inherently social -- or just the opposite? What will self expression look like? What experiences are being built? Because fundamentally, that is the "celluloid" we are now working with -- human experience, says Within cofounder and filmmaker Chris Milk. Bigscreen founder and CEO Darshan Shankar, Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal, and Milk join a16z's Kyle Russell in conversation about the challenges, potential, and emotional power of these new technologies -- on this episode of the a16z Podcast, recorded at the inaugural a16z summit.
Jan 21st, 2017 • 23:52
How to think about business policy and top-of-mind issues for the tech industry, given a new president? From what agencies matter for startups and VC to what the first 100 days (and next two years!) look like, a16z managing partner Scott Kupor and president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) Bobby Franklin share what happens between elections and when the reality of the Washington process sets in post-inauguration. What are some of the discussions that are happening around taxation, special stock exchanges for earlier-stage/ smaller companies, and what was the JOBS Act again? Believe it or not, seemingly wonky details like these incent behavior -- for better or worse, with intended and unintended consequences -- and in this episode of the a16z Podcast, we discuss all this and more. (Company) size does matter, after all.
Jan 21st, 2017 • 40:19
How to think about tech policy and top-of-mind issues for the tech industry, given a new president? From what agencies matter for different tech domains -- e.g., autonomous cars, drones, fintech, healthcare -- to recent staffing moves, the a16z Policy and Regulatory Affairs team shares their views in this episode of the podcast. What happens to tech policy when you have a dominant Republican presence in both Congress and most states, yet a Democratic majority of mayors? Especially when cities (potentially laboratories of experimentation) may be where all the real tech action's at? How does tech policy play out differently at the local, state, international, and even federal levels? Especially when many of the tech issues don't fall along party lines ... and the traditional way you look at issues is "left vs. right" -- "but it's almost like 'forward/backward'" here. And finally, how should entrepreneurs think about engaging with policymakers, and vice versa?
Jan 18th, 2017 • 29:52
"Mobile-first" (and now too AI-first) has been a mantra of sorts in design, but what does that mean at a company, product management, and competitive level? Especially when someone in company X will always say "we should do what Y did" -- even if they have no idea let alone data why Y did it. And while designing for screens is "like growing a carp in a bathtub" (will inevitably grow to the size of the container), what do design constraints mean in an increasingly screen-less world -- one where everything will eventually become an input ... and even an output? What does it mean to design for a mobile world where "an app isn't really an app" -- and the very definition of apps are themselves evolving, including cross-culturally? From the age-old question of whether there are design universals to the age-old dynamic of bundling/unbundling, the guests on this episode of the a16z Podcast -- Luke Wroblewski and a16z's Connie Chan (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) riff, hallway style, on all things design in practice. And on why startups may have the ultimate design advantage.
Jan 13th, 2017 • 29:26
The largest asset class in the United States is owner-occupied real estate, yet options for homeowners accessing this are very binary right now: either own 100% of your home (with a mortgage), or own nothing. And when people do “own”, that ownership is often skewed by debt. Of course, debt works out great for some, given their risk profiles and potential upside (if the house keeps appreciating); but the downside risk and costs are disproportionately borne by the homeowner. And millennials can’t even enter the housing market in the first place. So how can technology help address a system skewed by debt financing, by letting homeowners sell fractions of equity to unlock wealth without necessarily borrowing against their homes? How can such new approaches help homeowners and financers better align risk and incentives, and unlock a whole new asset class for all kinds of investors? How can they help avoid mortgage crises around the world, and the macroeconomic impact of reduced spending, lost jobs, and more? And finally, what is the role of policy here … especially since the government is de facto subsidizer of certain home finance products over others. We discuss all this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast, featuring general partner Alex Rampell; CEO & co-founder of Point, Eddie Lim; and Atif Mian, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University who also co-authored (with Amir Sufi) the book House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again — in conversation with deal and investing team partner Angela Strange.
Jan 11th, 2017 • 27:24
From the significance of Google DeepMind's AlphaGo wins to recent advances in "expert-level artificial intelligence" in playing an imperfect/ asymmetric information game like poker, toys and games have played and continue to play a critical role in advancing machine intelligence. One of the pioneers in this area among others is the Alberta Innovates Centre for Machine Learning -- now the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (amii) -- which in 2007 solved the long-standing challenge of checkers, and in 2015 produced the first AI agent capable of playing "an essentially perfect game" of heads-up limit hold’em poker. But what does that mean for the evolution of such technology out of play and into production? Out of universities and into industry? (Especially when many such university programs and talent are being hollowed out by companies and they're reliant on intellectual property or provincial support, as is the case of this University of Alberta based institute). And how can CEOs and others embrace learning about this tech somewhere in between? So... what will it take to make AI "real"? What about genetic algorithms, treating computers like people, and other near- and far-future possibilities? This episode featuring the executive director of Amii, Cameron Schuler, and a16z deal, research, and investing team operating head Frank Chen covers all this and more. The conversation was recorded recently as part of our inaugural a16z Summit event. image: Nyks / Wikimedia Commons
Jan 1st, 2017 • 49:09
What (on earth) does it take to get a signal to Pluto? Stanford senior scientist and astronomer Ivan Linscott, part of the team that ran the radio science experiment on the New Horizons probe, shares in conversation with a16z's Frank Chen all the nitty gritty details about their project using Ruse radio transmissions to gather info about Pluto. Listen in on exactly what it really takes to do so -- everything from commandeering old Cold War spy technology and plutonium to completing the entire mission on approximately 250 watts, and including other such highlights as a motorcycle riding, guitar playing, leather jacketed, tattooed FPGA fixer coming to fix everything when it seemed a lost cause, and the satellite going dark just moments before contact. From deep tech details to the drama of accomplishing such a difficult mission, this podcast is all about how, exactly, we sent a radio signal to Pluto.
Dec 31st, 2016 • 26:41
As companies expand out from the internet into the rest of the economy — the proverbial bits to atoms — “the business models are becoming more complicated, more interesting, more payment based”, observes Patrick Collison, CEO and co-founder of payments platform Stripe, which enables apps/websites to programmatically move money around. But as such companies become “the operating platform for commerce”, we also have an interesting paradigm where people, not governments, are controlling the commerce supply — so “It’s not the money supply. It’s the commerce supply,” argues a16z general partner Alex Rampell. This is especially true as payments become easier, as trust and payments become interwoven, and as online, peer-to-peer marketplaces address information asymmetry. So what does this all mean for advertising as a business model, for trading goods and services directly, or for the future of stores? What does it mean for liquidity, for interest rates as a lever for the economy, and for …the end of cash? And finally, when legacy and emerging non-software businesses are increasingly networked and run on “technologically enabled rails”, what does that mean for geopolitical risk? Collison and Rampell discuss all this and more on this episode of the a16z Podcast, a hallway-style riff on all sorts of money matters.
Dec 27th, 2016 • 31:33
As people live longer, aging is more top of mind than ever. This is especially true for the "sandwich generation" wedged between caring for aging parents as well as young children at the same time. The fact is, the 65+ year old population (but don't you dare homogenize a multi-decade age group!) will double over just the next 15-20 years. So how does this fit into our current healthcare system? How does it fit current retail experiences, like for buying adult diapers? What are the design challenges when you're optimizing for screen-less interaction and data collection in a home environment? And finally, where do providers and payers come in? Honor's head of design Renato Valdés Olmos and head of health system integration Kelsey Mallard join this episode of the a16z Podcast to talk about all this and more. This all goes beyond discussions about fighting age with tech though -- it's about the realities of aging and caregiving, from the very mundane (going to the bathroom, for instance) to the very profound (staying in one's home, church, and community). That's why all "healthcare is local" ... or should be.
Dec 16th, 2016 • 34:18
"We throw around words like 'crisis' very easily, but this is a global crisis, and it is of historic proportions," says current U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken about the refugee crisis (for which he and his department mobilized a response that significantly accelerated government efforts to assist refugees, as well as engage the tech sector). "People don't realize that before 2011, the number of Syrian refugees was zero," shares Lina Sergie Attar of the non-profit Karam Foundation, which aims to build a better future for Syria through education, smart aid, and sustainable development programs for internally displaced communities inside Syria as well as refugee populations in neighboring countries. Yet in this episode of the a16z Podcast (with Sonal Chokshi and a16z's Matt Spence, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Middle East) both agree that it's a crisis that requires a global response, including from the tech industry. Especially when technologies like the smartphone, which "is the most important object" that refugees have -- for migration, communication, documentation, connection, commerce, more -- can and do play a role. But we need to go beyond the "mobile migration" narrative here: Maybe we shouldn't focus on promoting superhero 'migration' success stories or citing statistics, and instead find out more about the broader context and details of refugees' day to day lives. Maybe it's not about being 'solutionistic' ... but is about finding solutions. Maybe it's about the intersection of foreign policy and technology; it most certainly is about our collective humanity. image: Mustafa Bader / Wikimedia
Dec 14th, 2016 • 35:09
Nature is the ultimate complex system, of course — but with today’s technology, it’s now provided us with an “incredible toolkit” of different molecules that material scientists can treat like Legos to make some really interesting products. One of those is a protective layer for fruits and vegetables that extends shelf life and freshness. Because all produce is seasonal, it’s perishable — so there’s a limited geographical radius around which it can travel… whether by land, sea, or air. How does this change what food we sell, buy, eat… taste? How does it affect smallholder farmers both in the United States and in the developing world — where there’s no real infrastructure, yet alone for a cold-storage supply chain? And finally, what are some of the most interesting advances in the interdisciplinary field of materials science right now and up next: Is it finally time for these “hard”ware companies to be more software-like? All this and more (and unfortunately, some puns too!) on this episode of the a16z Podcast with Apeel founder and CEO James Rogers and a16z partners Malinka Walaliyadde and Sonal Chokshi. Will tech reshape the food-map of the world?
Dec 9th, 2016 • 22:06
Clearly disruption plays out not just in business but also in politics. Whether it was the Scottish national party, recent election campaigns, or local school boards, people grew and organized communities online all last year through NationBuilder -- which provided a software platform for those otherwise underserved from an established technology perspective (hence the disruption theory reference). Harnessing the energy of communities goes beyond politics though, to all kinds of movements. But what happens when people remain in filter bubbles on the internet -- the very internet that NationBuilder CEO Jim Gilliam famously called his "religion"? What happens when that religious fervor or energy can be... "rabid"-like? Especially in a context where money, media, and other traditional institutions might not have the same impact or control they once did? "The internet can reflect back whatever it is that we want it to -- and we need more leaders to step up and say, 'Look, this is the way that I want it to be'," argues Gilliam in this episode of the a16z Podcast in conversation with Ben Horowitz (based on a session recorded at our recent a16z Summit event). Movements, it seems, are really about leadership, and the future is not written yet as people create new models of voice and choice.
Dec 5th, 2016 • 29:52
"We live in a world where we use millions of variables to predict which ad you're going to click on. Whether or not you deserve to get a loan. What movie you might watch next. But when it comes to our bodies and even serious diseases, we want to reduce things down to just one or two variables." It's insane that we actually collect so little data about our bodies. The modern day physical is downright spartan in what it captures, not to mention that we're using 200-year old tools to capture that very limited data. Which is why we need to borrow from other domains of science and data and apply that to our bodies, in more ways than one, argues Q founder and CEO Jeffrey Kaditz with a16z bio fund general partner Vijay Pande (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) on this episode of the a16z Podcast. But how do we get there? What would data "rights" look like -- and could we possibly donate data much like we currently donate organs? And for catching diseases like prostate or breast cancer early, how can we use data captured over multiple points in time -- something not really done right now in medicine -- to be more predictive, sensitive, and specific beyond so-called "representative" population samples? What IS a 'diagnostic', really, anyway?
Nov 27th, 2016 • 36:15
The Industrial Revolution (and period between 1500-1700) was an unprecedented age of technology and economic progress — not unlike today’s, in fact — where we took “quantum leaps” forward in tech by taming electricity, making cheaper steel and refining iron cheaply, automating fiber looms, pumping water out of coal mines, figuring out how to measure longitude at sea, improving the quality of food, preventing smallpox, … even bleaching underwear. But what really triggered the Industrial Revolution? Why did it take place in Europe and spread beyond? It has to do with a competitive, open market of ideas — a transnational “Republic of Letters”, not unlike the early days of the blogosphere. And the conditions that created it (virtual networks, open access science, weak ties, and so on) are the very conditions we may need to sustain growth and prosperity even today, argues Joel Mokyr, professor of economics and history at Northwestern and author of the new book A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy. Despite fears of what new tech may bring, the alternative to not innovating is stagnation — “not doing it is worse”, argues Mokyr in this episode of the a16z Podcast. So how do we then measure that growth? How does this all play out internationally, and institutionally? And what happens when we bring shared focus to big problems, like climate change? If there’s one pattern that continues to play out throughout history to today, it’s that “Knowledge builds technology and technology builds knowledge.” image: Library of Congress
Nov 23rd, 2016 • 21:33
“If we have instant delivery for our burgers,” says Zipline CEO and co-founder Keller Rinaudo, “we should have it for our medicine.” So while some people debate whether drone delivery for burritos, beers, and books is a marketing gimmick, one of the most important kinds -- urgent delivery of urgent healthcare -- is happening right now through Zipline’s delivering blood and vaccines to patients and hospitals in Rwanda. The peace dividend of the smartphone (and electric vehicle) wars has yielded components and cost dynamics that make all this possible. But more importantly, the economics -- bypassing motorcycles and going 20x as fast -- are actually profitable, as drones can help leapfrog existing (or lacking) road infrastructure. "It’s trade, not aid" ... especially as this approach also builds out commercial infrastructure in Africa. In this episode of the a16z Podcast (in conversation with Chris Dixon and recorded at our recent inaugural a16z Summit), Rinaudo and UPS' Vice President of Healthcare Strategy John Menna discuss using drones to leapfrog infrastructure, and save lives by doing it in less than 15 minutes. But how are regulation and locals responding? What does the trend towards “light and fast” logistics -- based on smaller inventory in a number of controlled-environment yet centrally managed locations -- look like? And finally, how can drones for healthcare delivery further the trend of personalized medicine?
Nov 23rd, 2016 • 25:25
You’ve heard the numbers or some statistic like this: By the year 2050, we’ll need to feed 9.7 billion humans on the planet. Our current production and meat-making methods -- growing crops to feed to animals to turn them into food -- can’t keep up … not to mention it’s not very good for the environment. Yet meat is at the center of the plate for most meals, for most people. So how do we go from where we are to where we need to be? Especially since food is fundamentally an emotional experience! You can’t browbeat consumers into doing the "right" thing by selling on the rational benefits. You have to make them taste it … and crave it. In this episode of the a16z Podcast (continuing our annual Thanksgiving and ongoing food x tech series) Uma Valeti, CEO of Memphis Meats; David Lee, COO of Impossible Foods; and Bruce Friedrich, Executive Director of The Good Food Institute discuss -- in conversation with a16z partner Kyle Russell -- different methods of making meatless meats or “clean meats”. More broadly, we’re beginning to see a new era of food, and with it, radical transparency around understanding where our food comes from and how it’s made … something most people currently don’t know (or don’t want to know). From making to marketing, what will it take to turn the world's oldest food production tradition into an entirely new one? Could a personalized, local “meat brewery” be the future of food?
Nov 9th, 2016 • 29:41
You've heard a version of this story before: Steve Jobs calls some executive out of the blue to come work for him. Only this time the story turns out great ... and the company wasn't Apple. This episode of the a16z Podcast shares some of the journey that former CFO Lawrence Levy went on with Steve Jobs as they took Pixar -- a company then on the verge of failure -- to its IPO and subsequent greatest hits. It's sort of an adventure story but is really more of a quest for product-market fit. How did they figure out a model for such an old-but-new business (i.e., animation and entertainment)? How did they take an improbable plan and figure out how to make it work -- both qualitatively and quantitatively? How did they then navigate and straddle the diverse worlds of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Wall Street? And finally, how did they price their IPO, which was also a symbol of Steve Jobs' comeback story ... a narrative that's sometimes lost in the Apple story. From the business of creativity to corporate culture, Levy -- former CFO of Pixar, board member, and author of the new book To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History -- shares his (and Jobs' untold) story. But it isn't just a story about finding the right model and numbers to build, explain, and measure the business; it's also, partly, about how to get the measure of one's humanity, too.
Nov 9th, 2016 • 34:18
We live in very interesting times, to say the least -- whether it's a shift in how technology is built and adopted today compared to the past; a changing international landscape with leapfrogging players; or an increased cyberattack surface as computing and networking touch everything. So what's next for technology and national security? This episode of the a16z Podcast is based on a conversation that took place last month between Marc Andreessen and Michèle Flournoy -- former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and co-founder of the Center for a New American Security -- moderated by Matt Spence, partner on the a16z Policy and Regulatory Affairs team (and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense). It covers everything from technology procurement and the tyranny of the inbox, to the politics of industrial policy and ethics debates around use-cases for new technologies. But... do we really want innovation, not just in the abstract but in the specifics? If so, how do we think about the future? And how can both policymakers and technologists work together in different ways to help the U.S. keep its competitive edge and "give the future a seat at the table"?
Nov 3rd, 2016 • 26:53
In business, as in politics, "the movement is the message" -- whether that "movement" is a product that's taking off grassroots-style in an enterprise, or is a political candidate. In fact, you can think of political campaigns in general as a lot like startups ... only there's no second place in politics! And you can definitely think of business -- and in particular go-to-market strategy -- as a lot like political campaigns: in allocating marketing resources, going up against incumbents, and much more. Ultimately, it all comes down to the message -- setting the criteria and narrative as tailored for different "buyer" personas, from developers/users/CxOs to the voters you have to persuade. But how do you tell a message is working? With such complex, coordinated efforts behind a visionary product or person, is there room for instinct in message development and discipline? And where does the competition come in? They're laying traps for sure, and while that's obvious in politics it may not be so obvious in business. So pay attention to political campaigns as a way to think about go-to-market business principles, argues a16z's Mark Cranney, with longtime political operator Todd Cranney (who is also his brother!) on this episode of the a16z Podcast, another one of our "hallway conversations".
Oct 29th, 2016 • 33:35
There have been a number of new device announcements this past month -- from Google’s new Pixel phone (the first time they made their own phone on the hardware side as well) to more recently, Apple’s announcements around a new Macbook Pro and innovations in touch (including a Touchbar that replaces function keys and bringing TouchID to Macs); and then Microsoft, which among other things announced a new Surface Studio -- an all-in-one touchscreen desktop PC. How do these change the future of work? Turns out, even seemingly small interface improvements could have significant consequences for user behavior. Just look at touch. More broadly, though, what happens when a software maker becomes a hardware maker? Or when we're in the middle of an architecture shift, as we are right now with x86 to ARM processors in mobile (and beyond)? It's all about where you're at on the "S-curve" of innovation (a concept first coined by Gabriel Tarde and expanded on Everett Rogers in his theory of innovation diffusion). And sometimes, the best is the last... But how can we tell where something is on that curve? The right comparisons matter here, and a16z's Benedict Evans and board partner Steven Sinofsky try to make them in this episode of the podcast!
Oct 18th, 2016 • 30:19
Once we sequenced the human genome, we'd know the cause of -- and therefore be able to help cure -- all diseases... Or so we thought. Turns out, 20,000 genes (and counting) didn't really explain why disease occurred. Sure, some could be explained by mutations in a single genome, but most, like cancer, are too damn complex. And while the focused, singular approach to understanding disease did yield some useful therapeutics, it's now reached its limits. It hasn't helped much on the diagnostics (and early detection) front, either. That's where a systems approach to bio comes in, drawing on machine learning techniques as well as a sort of "Moore's Law" for genomics that's driving costs down, and fast. We're now focusing on the 99% of the genome that hasn't really been understood yet in terms of how they affect the human body and disease. But what will it take for such an approach to succeed? For one thing, it involves building an applications layer on top of the sequencing layer -- so can we borrow lessons from how the computing industry (from chips to apps) evolved here? What are some of the constraints unique to the healthcare system? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Freenome CEO and co-founder Gabriel Otte and a16z bio fund partners Vijay Pande and Malinka Walaliyadde (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) talk all things genomics and disease from science to business, also covering recent news like Illumina to what's next beyond human genomics to future trends. Including what the ultimate, Elysium-like magical diagnostic machine is (hint: the magical is mundane!).
Oct 12th, 2016 • 47:09
From glittery reaction gifs modded by grandparents to rage faces on Reddit, stickers (gifs and other layered images) and emotive “biaoqing” have taken over messaging culture in China and beyond. Stickers are tied to filter culture, too — whether originating in real life as purikura photo sticker booths in Japan or digitally as Snapchat filters. Why are these forms of social communication so popular? Because sometimes you just want to say “I feel totally Nicki Minaj side-eye dot-GIF about this”, and no one can give a side-eye as good as Nicki Minaj can. But it’s not just about isolated expressions, celebrity stickers like Kimoji, or personalized bitmoji; stickers are shaping and codifying the way people talk to each other online in new and multi-layered ways. It’s even connected to mobile livestreaming, a phenomenon that’s taking off in China right now, in the most mundane (food eating streams) to subversive (seductive banana eating streams) ways. And how are all these memes tied to monetization and payments? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, ROFLCon co-founder and human-centered researcher/writer Christina Xu and Connie Chan in conversation with Sonal Chokshi take us on a wild tour of cultural messaging memes and messaging tech in China and beyond.
Oct 10th, 2016 • 35:33
The most recent Oculus Connect event (the third and largest yet) has been lauded as bringing us closer than ever to the future promised for virtual reality or VR. There have been many hardware moves by many players, both recently and over the past year. Who's in it to win it? How far are we from the "holy grail" of headsets that will truly mainstream VR? Will the killer app -- or layer -- for VR be social? And is there enough enthusiasm and activity to get us past the "trough of disillusionment" that inevitably follows the "peak of inflated expectations" in the hype cycle for new technologies like VR? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, partners Chris Dixon, Benedict Evans, and Kyle Russell deep dive on all the gear and players in the VR ecosystem; the evolution of content beyond gaming (with a teeny hint at what a VR horror genre might look like); and how the high-end will push the medium forward for all.
Sep 30th, 2016 • 21:41
This special episode of the a16z Podcast is based on a Q&A from an early screening we hosted of Disney's Queen of Katwe, now in theaters. The movie -- directed by Mira Nair and based on a book by Tim Crothers -- depicts the true story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi. The conversation, hosted by Ben Horowitz, features actor David Oyelowo who (among other roles, previously played Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in "Selma") and plays Robert Katende, the engineer-turned-mentor who taught community sports and chess to kids in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. photo credits: Prentiss Earl lll
Sep 22nd, 2016 • 28:00
From the silver age of on-prem software companies like SAP and Siebel Systems to the golden age of enterprise software-as-a-service, we're now seeing an explosion of data. All types, all sizes, and all over the place. And much of it is a sort of industrial "data exhaust", where companies aren't quite sure what question to ask of the data but are being bombarded with data due to the variety of data sources available today -- from websites to sensors (and therefore data capture) everywhere. Before there is even a signal in the noise. So how do you solve a problem like this-Data? Beyond requiring new types of plumbing and integrations, enterprises now expect -- given the age of mobile, web, cloud, and heck, let's add millennials to the mix too -- self service. To be able to ask, get, fit (curve-fit), predict. To take back the enterprise from the patchwork of integration and number of vendors we all have to deal with -- the scope of which most companies in fact are not truly aware of. It's about the lifecycle of data in the enterprise, argues Snaplogic founder and CEO Gaurav Dhillon in this episode of the a16z Podcast, in conversation with Scott Kupor. It's in fact about the evolution of data overall -- from data warehouses to "data lakes": in stages, from purification (like wrangling data) to bottling (prepping for consumption by data scientists) to making sense of streams and streams of data!
Sep 18th, 2016 • 27:39
Just as "social networking" is a bland term that doesn't really capture the layers of what happens underneath (and on top of) social networking platforms, "crowdfunding" is a broader phenomenon than what the term and tools implies. Or so argue the guests on this episode of the a16z Podcast, Tilt co-founder and CEO James Beshara and a16z general partner Jeff Jordan with Sonal Chokshi. Crowdfunding isn't just about reaching a certain threshold to make something, but it's also about "pre-commerce" or "pretail" -- the next evolution in commerce, which involves the ability to suss out demand before production and sell directly to consumers. Crowdfunding is also about "social commerce" -- the ability to not only build community, but trigger collective action towards some goal. There's even a sort of Dunbar's number equivalent for crowdfunding, the tipping point at which the momentum of this collective action takes over (hint: it involves the magic number of 34%). Beyond crowdfunding, there are broader themes of economic change and behavior at play here -- whether it's people's tolerance for waiting and buying something before it exists; a new type of scarcity and desire for experiential buying; or makers creating or co-creating things publicly, and even incompletely. All we know is that we're at a watershed moment of sorts -- as evidenced by car manufacturer Tesla's pre-orders for its Model 3, which is not even going to be available for a few years. And yet...!
Sep 13th, 2016 • 33:43
"Apple isn't just a tech company; it's a tastemaker." Remember the iconic ads of dancing silhouettes in black, with only the headphone wires visible in white? They were a critical part of the larger buy-Apple innovation narrative. So what happens now when those wires -- an emblematic and enduring image -- are no longer visible, as is the case with the removal of the traditional headphone jack in iPhone 7? It's part of a broader story, both about how product narratives are shared/told and about how innovation happens: "amazingly", subtly, and sometimes, invisibly. Some innovations, like preventing "battery anxiety" or building a platform ecosystem or even laying the tracks for a train that hasn't arrived yet ("ear computers" or "audible computing"? VR/AR? car?) take time. And a direction we may not be able to anticipate from the outside looking in. ...Or so argue the a16zers on this episode of the a16z Podcast featuring in-house analyst Benedict Evans and board partner Steven Sinofsky with Kyle Russell.
Sep 6th, 2016 • 28:14
Sleep, productivity, and creatively are intimately linked, for better and for worse. And "we are living under a collective delusion that burnout is the way to succeed," observes Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution. Not only does this affect our health and resilience, she argues, but the data shows that even though we are working longer hours than ever, we lose 11 days of productivity a year per employee due to sickness or diminished capacity. (It also hurts our ability to work in teams.) This isn't just a problem in the tech industry, either. BuzzFeed News senior writer Nitasha Tiku observes that "Any business book that's valorizing or diving into the life of a CEO is going to talk about how much he or she sleeps." But sleep isn't just a biological act, it's also a psychological (insomnia, anxiety, TV binge-watching?) as well as a socioeconomic one when you consider who gets to sleep (people higher or lower in the workplace hierarchy, other demographic factors?). And where does tech and the tech industry come in here? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Huffington and Tiku discuss the hard realities of sleep -- everything from tech and culture to labor and the evolving nature of work.
Aug 31st, 2016 • 26:47
"Incremental change may be good theory, but in practice you have to have a big enough stick to hit everybody with to make everything move at once". So shares Adrian Cockcroft, who helped lead Netflix's migration from datacenter to the cloud -- and from monolithic to microservices architecture -- when their streaming business (the "stick"!) was exploding. So how did they -- and how can other companies -- make such big, bet-the-company kind of moves, without getting mired in fanatical internal debates? Does organizational structure need to change, especially if moving from a more product-, than project-based, approach? What happens to security? And finally, what happens to the role of CIOs; what can/should they do? Most interestingly: How will the entire industry be affected as companies not only adopt, but essentially offer, microservices or narrow cloud APIs? How do the trends of microservices, containers, devops, cloud, as-a-service/ on-demand, serverless -- all moves towards more and more ephemerality -- change the future of computing and even work? Cockcroft (who is now a technology fellow at Battery Ventures) joins this episode of the a16z Podcast, in conversation with Frank Chen and Martin Casado (and Sonal Chokshi) to discuss these shifts and more.
Aug 30th, 2016 • 18:44
For better or worse, most of the computing systems that run much of our lives (whether invisibly or visibly) have become increasingly complex -- they're not fully engineered; they're almost grown. And with that we enter a brave new world of "biological" (as opposed to a more "physics") mindset applied to computing. It's more like evolution, horns and all. This isn't just abstract or backend-only stuff. Complex system design affects everything from datacenters and SaaS to word processors and cars, touching human lives in very tangible ways. So how do you solve problems in such systems? How do you even begin to understand "the system" in the first place? And is there anything out there yet that lets us test and verify the output of these systems? (Inquiring minds want to know!) All this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast, a riff on the theme of "complicated" with complexity scientist Samuel Arbesman and author of the new book Overcomplicated. Also joining the conversation (with Sonal Chokshi) are a16z board partner Steven Sinofsky and research and deal team head Frank Chen. image: brewbooks / Flickr
Aug 28th, 2016 • 49:18
Bitcoin quickly made its way from a whitepaper to a production network, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. But its scripting/ programming language was initially, intentionally, limited for a few reasons, which meant that building new apps on bitcoin wasn't always easy. Enter ethereum in 2014 -- a public blockchain platform that moved away from the "Swiss-army knife" approach to a more general protocol approach. This would in turn allow endless (and entirely new) use cases to be built on top of the blockchain, whether smart contracts or "app coins" that allow decentralized crowdfunding and decentralized business models. The results, at first glance, may seem just like a new way of financing a company. But it actually goes much deeper than that: They're really software protocols that are almost replacing centralized companies or what those companies would do. The possibilities are endless... In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Ethereum inventor and co-creator Vitalik Buterin joins Fred Ehrsam, co-founder of Coinbase (an a16z portfolio company) in conversation with Chris Dixon. The conversation covers everything from the politics of open source (and value of network effects even when those networks split) to the challenges of mainstreaming and scaling tech. And what happens next?
Aug 19th, 2016 • 32:32
Now that we know to price and plan early, price high -- especially for category-creating or "pre-chasm" businesses -- how do we handle freemium models? While free to premium is a great way to get bottoms-up, often viral traction in an enterprise, the challenge is figuring out just where and how to "draw the line" between where free ends and paid begins. Especially for open source, which while not necessarily free/mium, is also affected by these questions. And in that case, how does one balance the developer community and desire to "spread the religion" within and beyond the enterprise? All this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast with Andreessen Horowitz general partners (who cover all things infrastructure) Martin Casado and Peter Levine and Go-to-Market and EBC operating head Mark Cranney. The trick, they tells us, involves layering ... like layers in a cake.
Aug 14th, 2016 • 36:54
"Raise prices." Regular listeners of our podcast have heard this advice more than once. But why is this so key and yet so hard for many technical founders? And how should startups go about raising prices -- or more specifically, creating value -- for their products? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, former sales VP Mark Cranney (and head of a16z's EBC and go-to-market practice for startups) and former startup founder (and general partner focused on all things infrastructure) Martin Casado talk to managing partner Scott Kupor about pricing for startups ... especially for category-creating businesses. It's not all "pricing, pricing, pricing" though -- there's another important "p" in there too!
Aug 3rd, 2016 • 38:14
This podcast is all about emoji. But it's really about how innovation really comes about -- through the tension between standards vs. proprietary moves; the politics of time and place; and the economics of creativity, from making to funding ... Beginning with a project on Kickstarter to crowd-translate Moby Dick entirely into emoji to getting dumplings into emoji form and ending with the Library of Congress and an "emoji-con". So joining us for this conversation are former VP of Data at Kickstarter Fred Benenson (and the man behind 'Emoji Dick') and former New York Times reporter and current Unicode emoji subcommittee member Jennifer 8. Lee (one of the women behind the dumpling emoji). So yes, this podcast is all about emoji. But it's also about where emoji fits in the taxonomy of social communication -- from emoticons to stickers -- and why this matters, from making emotions machine-readable to being able to add "limbic" visual expression to our world of text. If emoji is a (very limited) language, what tradeoffs do we make for fewer degrees of freedom and greater ambiguity? How exactly does one then translate emoji (let alone translate something into emoji)? How do emoji work, both technically underneath the hood and in the (committee meeting) room where it happens? And finally, what happens as emoji becomes a means of personalized expression? This a16z Podcast is all about emoji. We only wish it could be in emoji!
Aug 1st, 2016 • 21:47
From hardware and hardwires to smartphones and social, technology wants to connect. It's almost a native property of technology and especially software businesses, which is why network effects matter. "It was endemic to these technologies that they wanted to become connected and once connected, they become networks and once networks, they become network effects. Other products like cars or toasters or houses or whatever, aren't natively connected physically or through information sharing," observes James Currier. But not all network effects are equal -- not only can they be strong or weak, there are many different types depending on the business. Currier, who is the co-founder and managing partner of an accelerator (NFX Guild) that advises and runs a runs a program for all kinds of early-stage companies with network effects, shares their ever-evolving taxonomy for thinking about different types of network effects in this episode of the a16z podcast. These labels matter. It's not just words, but language that aids understanding -- and the corresponding growth playbook -- that can help build businesses with network effects, especially given the specific challenges they face. And finally, why did some companies with network effects take off but others didn't?
Jul 22nd, 2016 • 35:19
Seemingly overnight, a single game -- Pokémon Go -- has taken people by storm. But it's a game that was technically years in the making, building on a legacy of creative intellectual property and technologies such as mobile, geomapping/ geolocation, computer vision, and more. And since "toys are the prelude to serious ideas" [Charles and Ray Eames] or "the next big thing will start out looking like a toy" [Chris Dixon via Clayton Christensen], we want to understand this phenomenon beyond the hype and the hope: Not only is Nintendo stock soaring, but people are sharing amazing stories of massive public play, meeting strangers, saving dogs, fighting crime, helping autistic children. So what are some of the mechanics behind the game and its viral growth (and is this also a case of network effects)? Is this the first in a new wave of phone-based lightweight augmented reality a.k.a. "light AR"? How will things change as our environments become even more sensorified or more people embrace "camera expression" (as with Snapchat)? And finally, what does an "appified game" vs. a "gamified app" mean for monetization? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, a16z deal team partners Anu Hariharan and Kyle Russell (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) are joined by Product Hunt CEO and founder -- and cultural trendwatcher/maker -- Ryan Hoover to discuss all this and more. So how do we tell the difference between a fad and something that's here to stay?? photo: iphonedigital / Flickr
Jul 15th, 2016 • 48:09
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?
Jul 14th, 2016 • 23:44
We already know that the government is one of the largest IT buyers, but in many ways it is also an IT builder. Especially for areas where the government is doing something that no one else is doing, like running Medicare and Social Security -- i.e., unique services no other company out there is building software for. That's where the USDS comes in. Now almost two years old, the United States Digital Services is "a startup at the White House" responsible for mission-critical, citizen-facing services like improving Veterans' Affairs healthcare applications and benefit claims appeals, or student loan repayments. But can one really operate as a startup while embedded in an entity as complex and huge -- remember, each agency would be like a Fortune 500 company -- as government? It may not be move fast and break things, observes Mikey Dickerson, Google engineer-turned-administrator of the USDS (and one of the fixers of the original healthcare.gov), but "There's a world of difference between moving a little slower than you're used to and not moving at all." And it's not like large companies don't have huge, bureaucratic structures either. In fact, argues USDS co-founder and deputy administrator Haley Van Dyck, both government and big companies are going through the same shift right now, one where technology is moving "from what used to be the periphery into the core mission of business". So what are the similarities and differences between operating in government vs. big companies? How to draw talent from the private sector into the public sector while avoiding adverse selection (hint: through tours of duty)? And finally, what about fixing the procurement process (because "you don't buy software the same way you would buy a battleship")? Dickerson and Van Dyck share their thoughts on these issues, as well as peacetime/wartime tactics, in this episode of the a16z Podcast.
Jul 11th, 2016 • 40:49
"All of a sudden you can program the world" -- it's the continuation of the software eating the world thesis we put out over five years ago, and of the trajectory of past and current technology shifts. So what are those shifts? What tech trends and platforms do we find most interesting on the heels of raising our fifth fund? Are we just building on and extending existing platforms though, or will there be new platforms; and if so, what will they be? Well, distributed systems for one... This episode of the a16z Podcast covers all things distributed systems -- encompassing cloud and SaaS; A.I., machine learning, deep learning; and quantum computing -- to the role of hardware; future interfaces; and data, big and small. Podcast guests Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz (in conversation with Scott Kupor and Sonal Chokshi) also share the one piece of advice from a management and go-to-market perspective that all founders should know. And finally, why simulations matter... and what do we make of our current reality if we are all really living in a simulation as Elon Musk believes?
Jul 1st, 2016 • 32:37
Do we need a new pay system for the way startup employees are compensated? While many people agree that the current 90-day exercise practice — an outdated relic of when companies used to go public/get liquidity in a much shorter timeframe — is far from ideal, neither are some of the other solutions proposed so far. Because incentives matter, and behavior follows incentives. Which is fine as long as you know all the implications around what you’re incentivizing for and it aligns to what you want as a founder for your company and employees. So “let’s get it out from under the rug, let’s talk about it, and let’s design a system that works for whatever you want your company to be”, argue a16z partners Ben Horowitz and Scott Kupor in this episode of the a16z Podcast. The discussion goes beyond just the question of a 10-year exercise to other configurations — such as Snapchat’s model and Tesla’s model for timing options, as well as radical experiments like “progressive equity“. What are the tradeoffs of each approach? How does the type of company you’re building (a complex hardware or infrastructure-heavy startup for example) change things? How does the broader environment affect all these considerations (and might plans to create a new long-term stock exchange help)? Finally, is it fair to treat tenure as a proxy for the actual value a particular employee contributed to building the company? Or to optimize for earlier vs. later employees, particular if the earlier ones de-risked the company and later ones helped scale it? And what do different employees want — more options, more RSUs, cash, more ownership, more stability, more mobility? All this and more in this episode…
Jun 28th, 2016 • 37:43
with Fei-Fei Li, Frank Chen, and Sonal Chokshi artificial intelligence automation & robotics coding literacy education machine & deep learning announcements autonomous cars computer vision in-residence Who has the advantage in artificial intelligence — big companies, startups, or academia? Perhaps all three, especially as they work together when it comes to fields like this. One thing is clear though: A.I. and deep learning is where it’s at. And that’s why this year’s newly anointed Andreessen Horowitz Distinguished Visiting Professor of Computer Science is Fei-Fei Li [who publishes under Li Fei-Fei], associate professor at Stanford University. Bridging entrepreneurs across academia and industry, we began the a16z Professor-in-Residence program just a couple years ago (most recently with Dan Boneh and beginning with Vijay Pande). Li is the Director of the Stanford Vision Lab, which focuses on connecting computer vision and human vision; is the Director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL), which was founded in the early 1960s; and directs the new SAIL-Toyota Center for AI Research, which brings together researchers in visual computing, machine learning, robotics, human-computer interactions, intelligent systems, decision making, natural language processing, dynamic modeling, and design to develop “human-centered artificial intelligence” for intelligent vehicles. Li also co-created ImageNet, which forms the basis of the Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge (ILSVRC) that continually demonstrates drastic advances in machine vision accuracy. So why now for A.I.? Is deep learning “it”… or what comes next? And what happens as A.I. moves from what Li calls its “in vitro phase” to its “in vivo phase”? Beyond ethical considerations — or celebrating only “geekiness” and “nerdiness” — Li argues we need to inject a stronger humanistic thinking element to design and develop algorithms and A.I. that can co-habitate with people and in social (including crowded) spaces. All this and more on this episode of the a16z Podcast.
Jun 22nd, 2016 • 45:42
How far along are we towards the vision of a "cashless, cardless, walletless, frictionless future" for fintech? We're not quite there yet, argued BuzzFeed News technology reporter Charlie Warzel in a recent feature story -- for which he got a microchip implanted in his finger while trying to go cashless for an entire month. But as revolutionary as the chip tech seems, the reality may be that fintech innovation is much more incremental, evolutionary, and still only disintermediating the physical world than truly doing new things (given what's natively possible with web, cloud, and mobile). Will that change now that Apple Pay is coming to the web? Speaking of, what is the platform and what is the product? Especially given a highly fragmented digital wallet and payments market (Warzel eventually ended up with 64 apps just to get through one month). And where, exactly, are the banks in all this? The problem, observes Warzel -- who is joined by a16z Partners Alex Rampell and Angela Strange in this episode of the a16z Podcast on all things fintech, payments, wallets, and more -- is that the customers/consumers aren't at the center of any of this. And that's a big deal given the (lack of) trust and expectations for user experience that savvy users will have for all their tech.
Jun 16th, 2016 • 28:09
Love the term or hate it, the concept and reality of the "sharing economy" (or "gig economy" and so on) is here to stay. And in fact, argues NYU Stern professor and researcher Arun Sundararajan, it may even reduce the income distribution gap between the haves and have-nots in a way that previous shifts -- like the Industrial Revolution and traditional 20th century institutions -- never did. How? Because it's a new model for (crowd-based) capitalism -- one where we're increasing the segment of the population that owns the means of production. Or... have we just shifted value from traditional institutions to the platforms instead? Well, let's see what the data tells us. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Sundararajan (who is also affiliated with NYU's Center for Urban Science+Progress and at NYU's Center for Data Science) shares the latest findings, economics research, and more from his new book on The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism. We cover the challenges of capturing this shift in GDP (as well as the challenges of GDP and measuring tech progress in general); the challenges of creating a new funding model for the "social safety net of the 21st century workforce"; the challenges of "data darwinism", reputation, and ratings; and finally, how and just who should regulate the sharing economy?
Jun 14th, 2016 • 25:29
The world's most valuable company, Apple, made a number of seemingly incremental announcements at its most recent annual developer's conference (WWDC) -- that Apple Pay is coming to the web; that Siri is being opened up to app developers; that iMessage will suggest emoji; and many other things. Underneath all these little feature tweaks however is a bigger story, argue a16z's Benedict Evans, Frank Chen, and Kyle Russell. It's a story about -ification: the "platformification" of apps available on the Apple operating system (they've turned maps into a platform before even Google has); the "widgetification" of everything (using familiar interfaces to ensure continuity across different contexts); and the AI-ification of everyday services (like recognizing faces in photos and predicting, um, emoji). Add it all up though and it means Apple is focusing a lot more on A.I., just like other big tech companies such as Google and Facebook (and don't forget Amazon too!). Only Apple is bringing artificial intelligence to the phone -- it now also has a neural network API for instance -- only interestingly, it's focusing on doing so at the device, not cloud level. So what does it all mean?
Jun 14th, 2016 • 29:05
The mindset of "move fast and break things", while great for code, isn't exactly great for the human body. So adding computation to biology -- especially in the slow-moving pharmaceutical industry, where drug approval can take years -- brings with it both opportunities (like drastically faster discovery and assessment) and challenges (the need for hard evidence, not just soft-ware). But there's more: We don't want just better outcomes for healthcare. We want better outcomes at a cheaper price. And that's where machine learning comes in. The benefits of such computation -- i.e., software -- can provide a powerful, frictionless, and far more cost-effective tool for biopharmaceutical research ... but it requires data. So who provides that data? Is it the pharmaceutical companies, or the payers (insurance)? How are organizations incented to overcome intellectual property silos in sharing their data? Especially since it was only relatively recently, Jeff Kindler (the former CEO of the world's largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer) reminds us in this episode of the a16z Podcast, that the FDA even allowed data to be put in computers vs. on paper. But there's a reason the self-driving car was pushed out of the software and not the auto industry, argues TwoXAR co-founder and CEO Andrew Radin -- and it has to do with the unique nature of the developer's mindset applied to novel problems. The deterministic nature of Moore's Law -- it's not a matter of if, but when -- plays a role too, observes a16z bio fund general partner Vijay Pande. There are things that big data and simulations will be able to accomplish that a hundred lab experiments on animals can't. Still, the two mindsets will have to merge, so we can move fast ... but without compromising quality, safety, and reliability. That's the big difference between computer science and biology after all. image: mattza/ Flickr
Jun 7th, 2016 • 41:22
Technology has always been a force in how we live, work, and play; only now it's accelerating and compounding in unexpected ways. But just because we don't know exactly what form that tech will take (sharing homes on Airbnb or cars with Lyft and Uber for example) doesn't mean that the larger force at play (e.g., sharing) didn't have a certain predictability to it. It was almost an inherent -- and inevitable -- outcome of the very nature of the internet itself. And there are at least 12 such inevitable technological forces, shares author Kevin Kelly in his new book Inevitable. As we now move from an "internet of information" to an "internet of experiences" -- with virtual and augmented reality, AI-as-a-service, and more -- we need to accept the inevitable. Instead of fighting tech outcomes (things like tracking for example), we need to expect it, accept it, plan for it, and civilize it. It's not just about policy and laws, though (which should follow tech use); it's about new business opportunities (imagine if the music industry had bypassed its DRM phase!), cultural change, and new opportunities for humanity, too. Especially as the future of work changes. But productivity -- and even some forms of creativity -- is for the robots, argues Kelly in this episode of the a16z Podcast (where he is joined by a16z's Chris Dixon, Kyle Russell, and Sonal Chokshi). The irony is that while technology is inevitable, we humans are best suited for what is uncertain, inefficient, and full of failure. Machines may answer, but we will ask the questions. It's not just what we want, but what technology needs.
Jun 2nd, 2016 • 43:16
"Anybody who is interested in China, who's developing things in China, who's doing business with China needs to be thinking about the instinct towards politics over pragmatism", argues New Yorker staff writer (and former Beijing resident) Evan Osnos. "It will affect your operations there. It's not the kind of thing where you can be, 'Well, look, we're not interested in politics.'" Osnos, who also wrote the award-winning book The Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, shares experiences and views on the tension between one of the oldest civilizations in the world and newer story of nation-building (is it, like the buildings being built, structurally sound?); an evolving demographic (where "kids you have no idea how good you have it" may no longer be a hedge against politics); and middle-class Chinese, not just outside or elite, complaints about pollution (especially since "environmentalism has often been the front edge of a deeper change in political consciousness"). And speaking of political consciousness and complaints, what of the Trump phenomenon? In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- continuing our recent tech/policy/innovation D.C. on-the-road trip -- Osnos, who is based in Washington, D.C., shares field observations from Charleston, South Carolina to West Virginia. And from Silicon Valley, where technologists might be able to do something about the largely public health, political, and economic problem of gun violence.
May 30th, 2016 • 53:14
Everything old is new again when it comes to startup ideas and how technology innovation happens. But practically, how does that apply to starting and/or working at startups — especially since the default state of every company is “dying in obscurity”? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Marc Andreessen and 21 co-founder Balaji Srinivasan cover everything from deciding what ideas to work on and the optimal type of startups to work at, to the funding environment and pendulum swings of deciding when to IPO. They also discuss the VC “formula” of weighting product vs. market vs. team; the full-stack approach to cracking industries that tech could never enter before; and recent tech trends and news including The DAO, AI, VR/AR and the “Instagrammification of everything”, more. And where does Andreessen stand on the “moral dilemma” of whether entrepreneurs should drop out of college or not? Would Srinivasan still do a PhD today? People’s early career goals should be about maximizing learning skills and minimizing “personal burn”, they argue. But no matter what, Andreessen believes, smart people — from all industries, not just tech — should build things. It’s also easier to get through startup hard times when there’s an ideological mission motivating you, observes Srinivasan. This episode is based on a May 2016 conversation that was recorded as part of the Annual Distinguished Speaker Series with Thought Leaders in Technology, hosted by engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi at Stanford University. photo credit: Ryan Jae/ The Stanford Daily
May 27th, 2016 • 30:28
"We really want Apple here... Would you please call Tim Cook?" That's just one of the things Penny Pritzker, the 38th Secretary of Commerce has heard as she and the U.S. Department of Commerce engage in "commercial diplomacy" around the world. Their job is to help overcome trade barriers, represent the interests of entrepreneurs and drive administrative policy change as it relates to technology, and be on the frontline of helping small and medium-sized businesses in markets all around the world -- from Indonesia to Europe to Cuba. So what else have they found about how other countries perceive U.S. tech companies? Especially as they wrangle with issues such as immigration (and not just for high-education visas); E.U. Safe Harbor (which is more difficult for smaller companies) and its update, the transatlantic Privacy Shield agreement; and finally, the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational trade agreement (for which some have expressed intellectual property concerns)? And then... since the previous policy of isolation didn't work, how is the U.S. government's policy of engagement with Cuba working out so far? Priztker shares perspectives on all this and more in this episode -- including views on focusing on advanced manufacturing; gathering data from weather sensors and census surveys; and counting the gig economy in GDP -- with a16z's head of policy and regulatory affairs, Ted Ullyot. The conversation took place at Andreessen Horowitz' inaugural Silicon Valley comes to Washington, D.C. tech and policy event in April 2016.
May 26th, 2016 • 29:54
In many ways, managing startups is about managing uncertainty: in product, market, and... people. So what happens when changes in the business require changes -- and sometimes reductions -- in the workforce? In this episode of the podcast, a16z partners Shannon Schiltz and Alex Rampell share both their professional and personal experiences with layoffs -- from why they happen to what to do (and what not to do).
May 23rd, 2016 • 26:39
There's no question automation is taking over more and more aspects of work and some jobs altogether. But we're now entering a "third era" of automation, one which went from taking over dangerous work to dull work and now decision-making work, too. So what will it take to deal with a world -- and a workplace -- where machines could be thought of as colleagues? The key lies in distinguishing between automation vs. augmentation, argue the guests on this episode of the a16z Podcast, IT management professor Thomas Davenport and Harvard Business editor Julia Kirby, who authored the new book Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines. But the argument isn't as simple as saying humans will just do the creative, emotionally intelligent work and that machines will do the rest. The future of work is complex and closely tied to the need for structure, identity, and meaning. Which is also why linking the discussion of things like "universal basic income" to the topic of automation isn't just unnecessary, but depressing and even damaging (or so argue the guests on this episode).
May 20th, 2016 • 26:16
Innovation or invention? Platform or app? Vertical or horizontal? Strategy or tactic? Does the smartphone eat VR? And (not to get all existential about it or anything but), what is an app, really? a16z partners Benedict Evans, Connie Chan, Kyle Russell, and board partner Steven Sinofsky explore these tensions in this episode of the podcast as they share some quick reactions to Google I/O, Google's annual developer conference, where the company announced a number of new platform products -- for VR to messaging to the smart home. Maybe most new things are really old things, but maybe those distinctions don't matter as artificial intelligence leaps into how we live our lives, automating (and anticipating) things in a new way...
May 18th, 2016 • 40:21
One of the most important lessons of the internet age is what happens when we give people -- including companies, developers, engineers, hobbyists, and yes, even a few bad (or dumb) actors -- a new platform, along with the freedom to innovate on top of it. For example, who could have predicted how profoundly the internet would change our economy, given how it started off as a research project -- one where commercial applications were actually frowned upon in the early days? Now, the U.S. is on the cusp of opening up another such platform for commercial and social innovation: airspace (think drones, the non-military kind). There's so many use cases for drones that we already know about, but what about new business use cases? And then, on the policy front, how do we calculate the risk of innovation on a platform made up of atoms (drones) vs. bits (the internet)? What are the pros and cons of registration? Because even though drones are like flying smartphones controlled by software, they're also hard objects that could fall out of the sky ... or go places where no one could go before, for better or worse. The guests on this episode of the a16z Podcast -- continuing our D.C. and tech/innovation/policy theme -- share their thoughts on safety, privacy, paper airplanes, and what they think are some of the most exciting things now possible in airspace. Joining the conversation are Washington, D.C.-based Mercatus Center tech policy lead Eli Dourado, along with graduate research fellow Samuel Hammond; Airware founder and CEO Jonathan Downey; and SkySafe CEO and co-founder Grant Jordan.
May 17th, 2016 • 29:51
It almost seems like gospel -- or at least a given -- today for startups to embrace the cloud. Services like AWS have powered an entire generation of startups that can now spin up new applications, new businesses, and new experiments with very little investment in new infrastructure. But what about governments -- both in the U.S. and around the world -- trying to adopt the cloud? How do they approach this widely known (yet still nebulous) concept of THE CLOUD? Especially given sometimes competing considerations around security and compliance with the desire to innovate? Teresa Carlson, Vice President of Worldwide Public Sector for Amazon Web Services, shares tales from the field in this episode of the a16z Podcast -- continuing our on-the-road series from Washington, D.C. Adopting a cloud-based approach is one of the ways to democratize entrepreneurship, but how do countries and governments, not just companies and entrepreneurs, think about this, especially given the tendency towards "balkanization" of the cloud? All this and more in this episode...
May 17th, 2016 • 34:18
If the next 20 years of startup-led tech innovation are going to be about addressing massive problems -- like health, energy, transportation, cities, education, and more -- it will mean more directly confronting (instead of stealthily bypassing) regulatory barriers and incumbent-driven regulatory capture challenges. So how can startups "growth hack" in a highly regulated sector? In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- the second of our podcasts from our most recent on-the-road trip in Washington, D.C. -- Evan Burfield, the co-founder and co-CEO of D.C.-based global incubator 1776, outlines the techniques (really, an art form) of "regulatory hacking". It's not just a way to enter a market, but a way to create a market ... much like Elon Musk did with Tesla: using the very system that drops lemons to make lemonade. The technique begins by understanding informal and formal power; "power mapping" the influencers all across the chessboard (from the top down and bottom up); telling your startup brand/product story in a particular way; and then making your moves. Just as there's a playbook for navigating Silicon Valley, there's one for navigating D.C., argues Burfield; and while many entrepreneurs instinctively just want to get regulations out of the way, sometimes, you just need to know how to play the game.
May 12th, 2016 • 40:03
Sometimes, our career paths are accidental not intentional... but then it all fits together and makes perfect sense in hindsight. This was especially true for Ezra Klein, who went from writing for his college's alternative paper The Fish Wrap Weekly in the early days, to blogging, and then went to The American Prospect; Washington Post (where he started the very popular policy blog Wonkblog); and now, Vox, where he is the editor-in-chief. All without quite knowing, until after the fact, that he happened to be very interested in policy. In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- the first of our podcasts from our most recent on-the-road trip, this time from Washington, D.C. -- Klein shares his views on tech, policy, and more, including: the productivity (measurement) debate, immigration, the Trump x media phenomenon, and media entrepreneurship overall. Oh and on full-stack startups, too.
May 11th, 2016 • 31:30
Every big technological shift (per Carlota Perez) brings with a structural shift too — an “institutional adjustment” in how companies innovated and build new products, according to Steve Blank and Evangelos Simoudis. Large organizations used to (and continue to) set up remote R&D labs in places like Silicon Valley. But now, those companies are also investing more energy and resources in setting up corporate venturing arms and/or “innovation outposts” in such startup ecosystems — especially as they believe that startup-driven innovation is one of the best ways to keep up with and address disruption in their industries. But… it’s not enough to simply establish a presence in these places; how do you also “sense” and respond to the right opportunities? Are they in the right places? Does beginning with corporate venturing really work for such outposts? And finally, how can these orgs avoid just acting out “innovation theater”? Simoudis — who has also written about whether “the elephant can dance again” using the case of IBM and Watson/ AI — offers his views on how big companies can and should use the Valley (and other innovation clusters) in this episode of the a16z Podcast.
May 10th, 2016 • 39:33
Whether you think of it as a distributed ledger, decentralized database, computing infrastructure, open source/ software development platform, cryptocurrency, transaction platform, or financial services marketplace, the bitcoin blockchain is driven by two key features: that it is a peer-to-peer network, and that it unbundles trust. Imagine moving from Googling for things to offering proof-as-a-service instead (which itself begins with rethinking identity). In fact, there's a lot of parallels -- both in evolution and development -- with the blockchain and the internet before it. Only the blockchain doesn't need the web. And that has profound implications for what applications and new businesses are now possible, especially in financial services. But if "the worst place to develop a new business model is from within your existing business model", then how can banks move beyond mere process innovations to offering entirely new services built on the blockchain? Many financial institutions are trying to get ahead of the blockchain disruption by exploring it proactively, but how do they overcome the innovator's dilemma and looking at startups like animals in a zoo? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, William Mougayar, the author of the new book The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology shares how traditional, established industries can overcome the innovator's dilemma in this case; what the future of banks might be; and what new applications, services, and startups are possible due to the features -- really, benefits -- of the blockchain. Because the blockchain, ultimately, is an innovation platform.
May 5th, 2016 • 37:09
So many modern e-commerce sites and marketplaces are really digital forms of their physical counterparts, which makes it easier to figure out how to present and sell products online. But in India, where many small towns do not have "organized" retail -- and have fewer big (let alone well-known) brands -- mobile and web retail is essentially "leapfrogging" over the physical department store phase to online. So how do these new companies connect people to products when the logistics infrastructure hasn't been built out yet? (Imagine if instead of just partnering with carriers, Amazon had had to build not just its services, but delivery, from scratch in the United States!) Similarly, how do payments happen in an ecosystem that still relies more on cash than more "frictionless" credit cards? And how do you solve problems like discovery; design (different web/app versions depending on connectivity); the balance between notifications/ messaging/ and conversational commerce; and controlling vs. owning inventory and infrastructure? Finally, given the fierce domestic and international competition around e-commerce in India, how do international startups like Snapdeal -- one of the largest online marketplaces in India, and interestingly one taking a full-stack approach -- compete with other players' deep (including foreign) capital and existing expertise? Especially in the context of "regulations"? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, we discuss all this and more with Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, the co-founders of Snapdeal, as well as a16z partner Anu Hariharan.
Apr 28th, 2016 • 27:28
When the iPad first came out in 2010 there was chatter that went in two directions: 1. It’s just a big iPhone 2. I’ll never carry a laptop again Both were wrong. The big iPhone comment was quickly dispelled as people (and their kids) fell under the consumption thrall of iPads. But iPads never could meet the needs of most laptop users –- until now. Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky offer their reasons why the iPad Pro hits the mark as a machine for all kinds of things, and why it may have shoved their own laptops aside for almost everything.
Apr 22nd, 2016 • 31:45
Our first instinct as technologists or users of technology is to think of 'connectivity' as digital connectivity -- the internet, our smartphone. But the internet is just the latest in a long line of connectivity that spans centuries, not just decades: transportation, energy, communication. The internet, in fact, is the newest kind of supply chain -- a "data supply chain" -- with technology, goods, capital, people (human capital), and ideas moving across it. We're moving towards a world where infrastructure and supply chains (and the friction between them) matter more fundamentally than even geography and political borders. This in turn is reshaping everything, from companies (including "stateless superpowers") to cities ("megacities") to identity. But what does this mean for jobs? Or those who don't have connectivity and mobility? Does this lead to a filter bubble? The evidence suggests otherwise, argues the author of the new book Connectography, Parag Khanna, in this episode of the a16z Podcast. Khanna -- a senior research fellow in the Centre on Asia and Globalisation at theNational University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and a CNN global contributor -- traveled to Iran, Mongolia, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Ukraine and many more places to analyze and document the global "connectivity" phenomenon. Despite "millennia of cultivated cultural and linguistic provinces" and practices, this connectivity is reorganizing the world.
Apr 19th, 2016 • 47:50
So... about those bots. Bots bots bots. Bots! In this episode of the botcast, a16z partners Benedict Evans and Connie Chan -- along with Chris Messina, longtime advocate of the open web and more -- pull apart various threads related to the topic of bots, mobile, and beyond: the (evolution?) from web to apps to messaging to bots; chat as an interface; “conversational commerce”; and so on. They also discuss why framing messaging through the lens of WeChat both reveals useful things (what works/ might not work) and not-so-useful things (such as seeking the “WeChat of the West”). More importantly, how can we keep bots, and what they represent, in perspective -- beyond the fad? Especially when it comes to considering innovation on the 'web' vs. 'mobile' (remember the mobile browser!) and when it comes to removing friction (vs. adding limited interaction). What contexts (like customer service) are most useful for thinking about bots? And how can we even know, given it’s early days yet and we haven’t moved much beyond the command-line interface... Finally, as computing moves outside the classic work-centric paradigm to room- and urban-scale, how do we think about integrating online and offline, ubiquitous and “diffuse” computing through bots?
Apr 14th, 2016 • 25:09
Developers are more than just influencers inside the enterprise -- they're now buyers, too. That's a huge shift from before, when only IT and other departments had that kind of purchasing power. (It's not just a Silicon Valley thing, either, as every company becomes a software company.) So what's different then about selling and marketing to developers? One key is open source. But offering products and services built on top of open source brings up a whole slew of other questions: What are viable business models, how do you monetize? Especially since (as Peter Levine has argued before) there will never be another Red Hat a.k.a. a successful "open core" business model. a16z partners Levine and Martin Casado offer their observations and advice about selling to developers and open source business models in this episode of the podcast. The answers affect everything from sales -- yes, you still need sales even when selling to developers! -- to product management (what features to withhold, who builds them) and go to market plan.
Apr 8th, 2016 • 39:44
The hallmark of many great technical founder/CEOs is that they envision a better way of doing things, and that's why they're building a company that delivers on that better way, often disrupting the way things have always been done before. But this very mindset can backfire when it comes to sales. Why shouldn't they reinvent the sales process?? On this episode of the a16z Podcast -- with a16z's Mark Cranney (head of our sales and market development team), Lars Dalgaard, and Ben Horowitz -- we cover the why, how, and when of sales: why do we even need sales when "a really good product sells itself"; how to organize the sales function depending on what you're building (especially when what you're selling is continually changing); and when to bring on that first sales hire. Finally, how do we wrap our heads around sales culture, competition, and commissions in startups? It doesn't help when everyone in the company -- not just sales reps -- are the ones building the very thing you're selling ... so why the special rewards for sales? It isn't fair! Or is it? All this and more in this episode of the pod.
Apr 2nd, 2016 • 27:52
Some of the best management books are actually military books, argues Ben Horowitz. There's just a certain mental toughness and focus that that experience gives you, adds Dick Costolo based on his observations. So how then do you build trust on a team in a company, when it's not (literally) life or death as it is in the military? When giving someone a public "object lesson" -- the equivalent of Sun Tzu's chopping someone's head off -- could mean losing talent ... or being more tyrant than leader? How do you tell the difference? This conversation -- between Horowitz and Costolo (entrepreneur, former CEO of Twitter, comedian and consultant on the HBO show "Silicon Valley") -- took place before a group of 25 veterans who participated in the Breakline education and hiring program (one week of which was hosted at Andreessen Horowitz) for veterans shifting into careers in the tech industry.
Mar 25th, 2016 • 28:14
Most investors try to invest in things that don't change and last forever -- Warren Buffett for example loves Heinz ketchup! But VC is about investing in things that do change... a lot. How does this basic mindset challenge much of what people learn in business school or classic leadership training? Do software-led businesses require different mindsets? What are some of the most common things first-time vs. serial entrepreneurs do? This Q&A -- with Marc Andreessen interviewed by Don Faul (former U.S. Marine platoon commander and head of operations at Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and now COO at Athos) -- covers these topics, as well as what to consider when working for a big- v. small- (and especially intermediate-) -sized company, what it takes to make a career transition, and how to "go back to kindergarten". The conversation took place before a group of 25 veterans who participated in the Breakline education and hiring program (one week of which was hosted at Andreessen Horowitz) for veterans shifting into careers in the tech industry. photo credit: Rene Tate for Breakline
Mar 17th, 2016 • 26:06
In this episode of the a16z Podcast sharing more founder stories, Ben Horowitz interviews a16z partner Lars Dalgaard about SuccessFactors, one of the earlier software-as-a-service companies. (It was founded on 2001, IPO'd in 2008, and was acquired by SAP in 2012). SuccessFactors focused on software for "human capital management" in the enterprise. But what are the success factors in talent, scaling companies, and most importantly, scaling culture? Lars and Ben cover everything from what motivates (the best) founders, the difficulties of entrepreneurship, and team building and building culture. Especially if you have values -- not just an HR offsite exercise -- that mean something, like "no assholes!" .... but then how do you balance a value like that with the desire to succeed (for example, if you have a 10Xer who is an asshole)?? All that and more in this episode.
Mar 16th, 2016 • 15:19
How do you get into tech when you don’t have a tech background? And what special expertise can leaders from other fields -- like the military -- bring to tech startups? This Q&A -- with Lars Dalgaard interviewed by Bethany Coates (assistant dean at Stanford Graduate School of Business who runs global education and social mission programs that primarily focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership) -- covers these topics. As well as what it means to what to bring one’s raw, real self to work, beginning from the interview to working together and sharing feedback later. The conversation took place before a group of 25 veterans who participated in the Breakline education and hiring program (one week of which was hosted at Andreessen Horowitz) for veterans shifting into careers in the tech industry.
Mar 11th, 2016 • 29:20
Why are people so fired up about a computer winning yet another game? Whether it's checkers, chess, Jeopardy, or the ancient Chinese game of Go, we get excited about the potential for more when we see computers beat humans. But then nothing "big" -- in terms of generalized artificial intelligence -- seems to happen after that burst of excitement. Now, with the excitement (and other emotions) around Google DeepMind's "AlphaGo" using machine learning and other techniques to beat one of the world's top Go players, Lee Sodol, in Korea ... it's like the dream of the 1990s (and 1980s, and 1970s, and 1960s) is alive in Seoul right now. Is this time different? How do we know? a16z's head of research and deal team Frank Chen and board partner Steven Sinofsky -- who both suffered through the last “AI winter” -- share how everything old is new again; the triumph of data over algorithms; and the evergreen battle between purist vs. "practical" approaches. Ultimately, it's about how innovation in general plays out, at a scale both grand (cycles and gestation periods) and mundane (sometimes, the only way to make a product work is to hack together the old, the new, and everything in between). NOTE: The Super Mario World video referenced in this podcast is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv6UVOQ0F44
Mar 11th, 2016 • 55:36
Men and women who have spent decades in prison are being released into an iPhone-enabled world that they hardly recognize. Shaka Senghor is one of those people, imprisoned at age 19 for second-degree murder and released almost two decades later in 2010. “It was like Fred Flintstone walking into an episode of the Jetsons,” he tells Ben Horowitz in a conversation about his book, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison. Today, Senghor is an activist, advocate, and mentor for young men and women who find themselves on the same troubled path he took. This episode of the a16z Podcast covers Ben and Shaka's conversation about healing, humanity, and redemption -- especially if you believe that it's how you finish, not just how you start, that matters.
Mar 11th, 2016 • 30:45
YouTube star Casey Neistat rejects the term “viral video,” which is strange because he’s had more than his share of internet monsters. To say I want to make a viral movie, is like a musician saying I want to make a hit song -- it’s just not a good place to start, Neistat says, paraphrasing a point made on Twitter. So how does Neistat start? How does he both attract an audience of millions, and keep them coming back on a daily basis? Neistat is joined on this segment of the pod by Bailey Richardson, one of the early team members at Instagram. With the tools of production available to everyone, how do you create something that people will stop and pay attention to? Neistat does it by ripping up the snowy streets of New York on a snowboard towed behind a jeep, but what about the rest of us?
Mar 8th, 2016 • 31:47
If network effects are one of the most important concepts for software-based businesses, then that may be especially true of data network effects -- a network effect that results from data. Particularly given the prevalence of machine learning and deep learning in startups today. But simply having a huge corpus of data does not a network effect make! So how can startups ensure they don't get a lot of data exhaust but get insight out of and add value to that data and the network? How can they make sure that the (arguably inevitable) data aspect of their business isn't just a sideshow or accident? How should founders strike the balance between not overbuilding/ building a data team vs. having enough data for those data scientists to work with in the first place? And finally, what are the ethical considerations of all this? The a16z general partners most focused on bio and fintech -- Vijay Pande and Alex Rampell -- join this episode of the a16z Podcast to share their observations and advice on all things data network effects.
Mar 2nd, 2016 • 33:27
It's not incompetence, but competence, that causes companies to be disrupted. That applies to big companies and small, as well as people too. Or so argue Clayton Christensen and Marc Andreessen in this podcast, based on a conversation at Startup Grind (moderated by Derek Anderson) between the a16z co-founder and Harvard Business School professor Christensen -- aka the "father of disruption theory" (also known to his wife as "the Jewish mother of business"). This podcast shares everything from their views on managing innovation in companies like Apple, Google, and Twitter (including how to apply the jobs-to-be-done framework there); what the abundance of capital means for innovation; and how to truly measure success and strike work-life balance.
Mar 2nd, 2016 • 24:22
The mobile world has fallen hard for VR, says Benedict Evans. But will virtual reality mean real profit for hardware makers? Evans offers his observations on VR and more gleaned from the largest gathering of the mobile industry, Mobile World Congress. The value in mobile keeps shifting, Evans says, from hardware to software, and the platforms on which that software runs. But the players and the business models are far from set when practically anyone can get into handset business. The forces shaping the future of mobile -- from VR to Algerian handset makers just crushing it -- on this segment of the podcast.
Feb 26th, 2016 • 38:41
Virtual reality is coming fast, and everyone seems to assume that it will be gamers who get to have all the fun first. But there are other applications for VR that could also bring it into the mainstream. “It could very well be business users,” says 16z’s Chris Dixon. “It’s anything where you would want time travel or teleportation.” Dixon is joined on this segment of the podcast by Saku Panditharatne and Kyle Russell, both on the firm’s deal team, to offer their perspective on how virtual reality is likely to enter all of our lives. This year promises to be the moment when more than a very small number of people will get their first taste of VR. What that looks and feels like, and what that shared experience sets in motion on this segment of the a16z podcast. Chris Dixon starts the conversation.
Feb 24th, 2016 • 37:06
Infrastructure. It powers everything from cities to computing, yet is sometimes considered "boring" because it is so invisible to so many of us. But as software continues to eat the world, infrastructure has come to the forefront. And some of the most exciting technology innovations are now happening at the infrastructure level: It's changing everything, observes a16z's newest general partner Martin Casado -- from how new tech is created to how new tech is sold. Casado -- one of the pioneers of "software-defined networking" -- joins this episode of the a16z Podcast to share his journey from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to Stanford to Nicira Networks to VMware to a16z. He also discusses the tradeoffs in theoretical v. applied computer "science", including lessons learned as a PhD and technologist who then had to run a startup through hard times. Finally, Casado shares what he thinks are the key vectors and trends in networking, what's coming next, how the "as-a-service"(ification) of infrastructure is creating entirely new patterns of buying tech, and how selling to developers is so different (hint: open source is a lot more important than you might think!).
Feb 19th, 2016 • 32:54
The principal political binary of the past century was the political 'left versus right'. But in the 21st century the binary has shifted -- the battleground now is 'open versus closed'. Those states and societies that embrace economic, political, and cultural openness will have a better shot at competing in the software and technology-driven future, argues Alec Ross, author of the new book The Industries of the Future. Ross, who worked on the first Obama presidential campaign and was the advisor on innovation to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State, joins the a16z Podcast to discuss his views on the industries (and cities) of the future, how they are playing out across a 196-country chessboard, and what we all can do to prepare ourselves and our children for what is to come.
Feb 18th, 2016 • 31:46
No matter how one views Xiaomi -- and there are many ways to view it, for better or worse -- one thing is clear: It, and other such companies (like WeChat and Alibaba), indicate a broader trend around innovation coming from China. Companies and countries that were once positioned as copycats or followers are becoming leaders, and in unexpected, non-obvious ways. For example, through scale, distribution, logistics, infrastructure, O2O, a different kind of ecommerce, mobile marketing, even design... But of a very different kind than iconic examples like, say, SpaceX. Or Apple, which arguably could damage the U.S. if single-mindedly regarded as "our official most innovative company". Or so argue the guests on this podcast, which include a16z partner Connie Chan and author/long-time observer of internet and social media culture Clay Shirky, who is currently based at NYU Shanghai, wrote the popular book Here Comes Everybody, and most recently authored Little Rice on "smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream".
Feb 6th, 2016 • 41:04
During his “Stratos” jump Felix Baumgartner fell faster than the speed of sound, reaching an estimated speed of 833.9 mph plummeting from the edge of space. Baumgartner’s return trip to earth lasted just over nine minutes, but there was seven years of preparation that came before the record-setting mission. Equipment had to be tested and pushed beyond its limit, and so did Baumgartner. It was the task of Red Bull’s director of high performance Andy Walshe to help train Baumgartner physically and psychologically to do what had never been done before. That’s Walshe’s job -- to work with Red Bull’s athletes and artists to get them to places they’ve never been before. Walshe joins the pod, along with a16z’s Jordan Stankowski, to discuss the methods, technologies, and tools he uses to help get people past seemingly unbreakable barriers. The good news is it isn’t just world-class athletes or your favorite pop-star that can benefit from Walshe’s research and work -- it’s all of us.
Feb 5th, 2016 • 25:49
The NFL has descended upon Silicon Valley for Superbowl 50, and a16z was fortunate to have 30 of the world’s best football players post-up at the firm to talk about the intersection between the world of professional sports and venture capital. Joe Montana -- yes, the Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback – joins a discussion with a16z’s Jeff Jordan and Ben Horowitz about their approaches to tech investing and the startup ecosystem, how they manage the risk involved (there’s plenty), and whether athletes and other high-profile folks can -- and indeed should – get involved. Here’s one piece of common ground: The hardest thing for NFL legends and VC’s alike? Losing.
Feb 5th, 2016 • 35:37
Max Levchin helped build PayPal. Then he went onto tackle gaming at Slide. Now he’s back in the world of payments and finance with his latest startup Affirm. a16z’s Angela Strange talks with Levchin about Affirm’s opportunity in the world of finance, and how it aims to build trust among a customer base that doesn’t trust banks. Why building models around loans requires making bad loans, and finally, why everyone should start watching Kurosawa’s "Seven Samurai" -- over and over.
Feb 3rd, 2016 • 21:28
Technology companies are running hard at almost every part of the traditional banking business -- from raising funds to moving money from one person to another. And as you would expect, that has meant change, both in terms of the banking services that are available to all of us, and the pricing of those services. It begs the question of what role banks play going forward, and whether tech companies are partners or competitors (or some combination) to the players in the traditional banking business? And finally, if banking gets unbundled by tech –- if there is a choice of services -- what fees, and at what price will consumers be willing to pay? a16z’s Alex Rampell leads a discussion with TransferWise Executive Founder Kristo Käärmann and Tilt founder and CEO James Beshara on the future of money and monetization. The discussion occurred as part of the firm’s U.K. Tech Summit.
Feb 2nd, 2016 • 39:36
From Aaron Sorkin to Steve Jobs to Meredith Perry and Elon Musk, "original" thinkers -- such as entrepreneurs -- do a lot of different things to move the world to their visions. And many of those things (and traits) are counterintuitive, such as ... Embracing procrastination. But there's a catch: It's about being the just-right amount of procrastinator, expert, or confident. There's a curvilinear relationship between too much and too little. There's also some surprising findings about why NOT to "start with the why" but with the how. Because sometimes the how is much more believable than the why. Especially when it comes to getting people to engineer things from ubeam to SpaceX. Or to really being able to tell the difference between communication vs. confidence vs. competence. Ultimately, it's all about being flexible, argues top Wharton management professor and New York Times columnist Adam Grant in his new book Originals. So how do we strike the just-right balance -- whether making an entrepreneur or just trying to raise more creative, productive kids? Is the answer perhaps to immerse them in sci-fi books and video games? Well, J.K. Rowling could be the most influential "original" alive, argues Grant in this podcast... but not for the reasons you think.
Jan 29th, 2016 • 24:15
Your homeowner’s insurance didn’t anticipate Airbnb. Your car insurance certainly didn’t see Lyft and Uber coming. And when your car drives itself, it’s anyone’s guess how the insurance industry will wrap its collective head around that one. a16z’s Frank Chen and Mike Paulus talk insurance on this segment of the pod. Yes, insurance. Insurance may not be the sexiest part of your life (hopefully), but because of the changes in how we move through the world -- literally and figuratively -- insurance is due for a reinvention. What are the possibilities for new and better insurance, and which technologies and trends are driving it.
Jan 29th, 2016 • 27:39
There are fewer and fewer parts of our lives that don't feel like an extension of our smartphones. Any song you might want to hear. Any place you might want to go. And a ride to get there. All served up simply, quickly, at the right price, and with an experience that is actually enjoyable. And then there is the world of banking. Taavet Hinrikus, CEO and co-founder of money transfer company TransferWise, and a16z's Angela Strange discuss why and how banking and finance -- from paying back a friend to refinancing a mortgage -- is about to catch up to the rest of our technology-enabled lives.
Jan 25th, 2016 • 46:24
We often hear stats like “more people have mobile phones than toilets” about places like Africa, but what does that actually mean for people? “It is b.s.,” (no pun intended), argues one of the guests on this episode. Then there are statistical predictions about mobile penetration and usage — for example, that there will be one mobile phone per African within just three years. But how do we make sense of such stats, in context? It may make more sense to measure devices per household … and to also consider power structures and whether women, too, truly have such access. Finally, since access is mainly about affordability, what good is a smartphone with an internet connection if data plans are prohibitively expensive? Watching just one YouTube video could cost an African family an entire month of groceries. Yet mobile and wi-fi may be collapsing Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. With three experts from various backgrounds and regions of Africa — Nkiru Balonwu of international music media company Spinlet; Alan Knott-Craig of free wi-fi non-profit Project Isiszwe; and Nanjira Sambuli of Kenyan startup incubator iHub — we explore the nuances of what connectivity in Africa really means, from the field. How does this change app design? What does it mean for doing business with Africa? What does it mean for businesses in Africa trying to compete with Silicon Valley (is there really local advantage)? All this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast. photo: David Mutua
Jan 20th, 2016 • 37:33
The thing about enterprise security, from the outside at least, is it reads like a Hollywood thriller. Nation states are after your company’s most valuable assets and they must be stopped at all costs. And yes, some nation state-sponsored hacks have caused tremendous damage. But the best course for most companies isn’t to focus on combatting Mission Impossible-like come through the vent break-ins, says Tanium co-founder Orion Hindawi. It’s the far less sexy practice of simply keeping the virtual windows and doors to your company locked. “It is the thing that will fix you,” Hindawi says. In a conversation from the firm’s Capital Summit event, Ben Horowitz and Orion discuss the state of enterprise security, and how Tanium’s block and tackle -- not cloak and dagger -- approach has defined the company’s technology and also led to its tremendous growth.
Jan 15th, 2016 • 30:50
Smartphone components have become a kind of Lego kit for all kinds of consumer technology. Cameras, sensors, and batteries all get mixed and matched in different permutations to create different gadgets. It might be something that enables your connected home, offers a video capture system for cops, or powers a remote video chat/treat machine for your dog (I know, we all need that). But since practically every component is now available to everyone -- and the manufacturing expertise to tie it all together as well -- it becomes very hard to distinguish via hardware alone. Software is the key to breaking from the pack, say Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky in this post-2016 CES podcast. What Benedict and Steven saw and learned from this year’s gathering of the consumer electronics industry in this segment of the a16z Podcast.
Jan 13th, 2016 • 29:55
For as long as there has been software we have had this collective hope -- maybe more of a desire -- that software will make all kinds of work easier, more productive, and more creative. Spreadsheets, computer-aided design tools, digital publishing platforms, though never perfect, are examples of software that have definitely changed how we work and what is possible. Still, you find very few people enthusing about Excel over cocktails. So what is going on with Slack? The messaging app crops up in conversation at dinner parties. It’s become a kind of cultural signifier of a tech savvy workforce that is always looking for better ways to connect -- inside and outside of work. In this segment of the podcast we discuss Slack with its founder Stewart Butterfield. Why Slack has resonated so well across all types of people, from engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to dentists, and what that says about how we work today and about our ongoing quest for the perfect tools and services to get the job done. The conversation happened as part of a16z’s Capital Summit.
Jan 8th, 2016 • 11:50
In this, world of massive cloud-based applications and services, rolling out software has moved from an episodic event to an almost continuous release cycle. In that environment, software products aren’t as “done” as they used to be -- they can’t be -- so the focus has shifted to reversibility. Building a development organization with the design tools and processes that can aggressively iterate while also creating safety nets. So if things do get screwy they can be fixed before customers even notice. Call it DevOps or application operations, Steven Sinofsky leads a discussion with Karthik Rau from SignalFx and Alex Solomon from PagerDuty about the evolution of I.T. operations – and the requirements and challenges that modern distributed applications pose for a development organization.
Jan 7th, 2016 • 31:00
Every organization these days is clear about the need to get its data act together. But that doesn’t mean the path toward data bliss is clear. Data has gravity. It resides in different places at different organizations -- on premise, in the cloud, and flowing from external sources. And the rate of change within organizations is always different. So an approach towards handling data that works for one company may be the exact wrong thing for yours. Steven Sinofsky leads a conversation with three founders -- Prat Moghe, from Cazena; Gaurav Dhillon from SnapLogic, and Roman Stanek from GoodData – about the opportunity and variety of ways forward for companies looking to make the most of the data that matters.
Jan 6th, 2016 • 42:53
The old constraint when it came to technology was hardware -- how many CPUs can I get my hands on. Today, spinning up compute can be done from any smartphone with an AWS account or something similar. The current constraint is software. And since software is written and operated by people, tackling that constraint comes down to making people as informed, enabled, and efficient as possible. Three CEOs and co-founders of three companies that serve software developers -- Chris Wanstrath from GitHub, Jeff Lawson from Twilio, and Ben Uretsky of Digital Ocean -- take part in a conversation with a16z’s Peter Levine about the needs of software developers. What are the emerging platforms, ecosystems, and tools that help developers succeed at what is increasingly the most important job in any company – writing and running software.
Jan 5th, 2016 • 32:28
As software becomes core to every industry, there is a need for more and more software development across practically every department in a company. But as anyone who has tried to get quality software developed knows, that has given rise to a supply and demand problem. Leveraging open source software is a big part of the solution to that problem, but venturing into the open source world raises all sorts of questions for most companies. For example, how do you engage as a company in the open source community; what are your obligations to the project; and if you are hiring a development team what clues ought you to be looking for to get the best developers? And what are the developers looking for? And in the end, who’s responsible and accountable for the all this code flowing around? In a discussion from the firm’s 2015 Tech Summit, Steven Sinofsky digs into all those questions with a panel that includes Roger Dickey, founder and CEO of Gigster, Slack CMO Bill Macaitis, GitHub Director of Field Services Matthew McCullough, and Joel Spolsky, co-founder and CEO of StackOverflow.
Dec 18th, 2015 • 27:53
Chris Milk calls virtual reality the “ultimate empathy machine.” The filmmaker and founder of VR shop Vrse talks with a16z’s Chris Dixon about how virtual reality can connect with people in ways no other medium can. Milk describes the ways virtual reality production veers from the traditional techniques of filmmaking, and why the results can transport people to places and feelings that we’ve never experienced -- except in the real world. The discussion happened as part of a16z’s 2015 Academic Roundtable.
Dec 18th, 2015 • 26:52
You know how talented Andre Iguodala is as a basketball player. You may not know that he signed with the Warriors in part to be near Silicon Valley and the tech scene. Iguodala knows tech, and in a conversation with a16z's Jeff Jordan at the 2015 Tech Summit he talks about his relationship with tech as a professional athlete and as a businessman.
Dec 18th, 2015 • 1:00:05
Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, sits down with Ben Horowitz during a16z's 2015 Tech Summit for a wide ranging conversation on investing, the state of markets, and how Hobson began her career in finance. Oh, and Star Wars! Hobson has a little inside info given that her husband is George Lucas. And for the minuscule number of people who have not seen the new Star Wars pic -- no spoilers here.
Dec 17th, 2015 • 22:32
Benedict Evans highlights the past year in mobile. From Apple's ongoing rule of the high-end, to Android's spread farther down the price curve. Without a clear and massive shift on the horizon in mobile tech, Evans outlines the trends in mobile that will matter and that possess opportunity for the right companies and emerging technologies. For a complete rundown of the year's trends check out Evans' 16 Mobile Theses: http://a16z.com/2015/12/18/16-mobile-theses/
Dec 17th, 2015 • 47:42
Our virtual reality-enabled future is arriving, but it’s hard to know -- as it is with every new technology platform -- how quickly we’ll all make the transition to VR and what it will ultimately look like. For example, beyond gaming and entertainment what applications does it seem like VR is best suited for, and will we all be wearing full VR-enabled body suits some day? When will the Matrix become real? a16z’s virtual reality-obsessed Kyle Russell and Sakunthala Pandit are joined by perceptual and computational neuroscience expert Beau Cronin, to offer their informed opinions on the present state and future of VR. They give the rationale for travel, shopping, and education getting the VR treatment, and why software developers would kill for a VR-enabled dev environment. So strap your “face toy” on and dive into virtual reality.
Dec 12th, 2015 • 45:34
India and China. The two most populous countries on the planet are also two of the most tantalizing markets for companies of all size, from startups to conglomerates. But those markets are also intensely, densely competitive: There's a lot of capital, a lot of players, and a whole lot of people. So do local players really have the home-court advantage here? Can they compete with the global players who have unparalleled execution ability and scale? And how does timing and structuring of companies entering those markets matter? Andreessen Horowitz partners Connie Chan and Anu Hariharan discuss these topics and more -- everything from logistics and infrastructure to design and talent -- on this episode of the a16z Podcast. As well as how domains like e-commerce, payments, and ride-sharing are playing out against the incredibly layered sociocultural backdrop of these two countries.
Dec 4th, 2015 • 34:33
Our final segment from the road in the U.K. features two well-known investors and entrepreneurs in the London tech world: Seedcamp co-founder Reshma Sahoni and Shakil Khan (known to all simply as Shak), the founder of CoinDesk and an early investor in Spotify where he also headed up special projects. Reshma and Shak break down the venture scene in London, and describe the particular way the best companies scale in Europe ... it's not what you are probably thinking. Finally, they brag about some European startups we should all be paying attention to.
Dec 4th, 2015 • 22:57
What if you could bring the best version of yourself to everything you do everyday? What if you could get the most out of your mind and brain -- or more scientifically, your "cognitive performance" -- without going to those old addictive standbys like coffee or RedBulls? The promise of nootropics or cognitive enhancers is to help us work better and more productively (for example, through more stamina and working memory); stay more awake and alert (without the sudden jolt of coffee); sleep better; and even protect our brains against cognitive impairments or neuro diseases like Alzheimer's. Geoffrey Woo and Michael Brandt, the founders of Nootrobox, believe that nootropics are possible for everyone -- not just for a select or hobbyist fringe of society -- and that part of that mainstreaming will involve a lot of hard science, hard data, and frankly, good user experience and better packaging of raw components ... the same things, in fact, that helped mainstream personal computers from the days of the early hacking at the Homebrew Club to Apple and the world of mass computing today. But how does nootropics move beyond a community movement ... and how does it fit into the context of other trends such as biohacking, quantified self, and more? Is the human body really the next 'platform'? All this and more on this episode of the a16z Podcast.
Dec 1st, 2015 • 33:11
The pod continues its U.K. road trip, meeting up with three startup founders -- including one startup accelerator programme -- to discuss the entrepreneurial ecosystem in London and more broadly the U.K. and Europe. Let’s be clear upfront: London is not the center of the universe when it comes to technology. But the diversity of industries and thinking in the British capital brings with it advantages when starting a tech company, say our guests on this segment of the podcast, which includes Michelle You, co-founder of Songkick; co-founder of Lifecake, and former Skype engineer Nick Babaian; and Matt Clifford, co-founder of London-based accelerator Entrepreneur First. So what does it take to build flourishing startup communities?
Nov 28th, 2015 • 25:53
Brett Hagler was on a trip to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake where he saw too many of those displaced by the natural disaster still living in tattered blue-tarp shelters. What struck Hagler was the need for more permanent housing that could not only offer much needed safety for families, but help foster the community that was split apart following the earthquake. The non-profit startup NewStory is Hagler’s answer to that need. NewStory co-founder Alexandria Lafci joins Hagler on this segment of the a16z Podcast to discuss the startup’s social-media powered approach to giving -- and why even as a non-profit startup they think and act like any other for-profit tech startup looking to make a mark.
Nov 25th, 2015 • 19:39
The best cooks know cooking a meal is all about having a plan (and a back-up plan if things go south); get the cooking out of the way, and then you can enjoy your family and friends -- the most important part. But now try doing it for thousands. How can one company be the de facto sous chef for so many? Turns out there's a lot of data science behind it, in everything from procurement to forecasts to logistics: what to cook, what people will like, what ingredients are required, what to produce at scale. In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Gobble's Ooshma Garg suggests that every modern food company is really a tech company (or should be). Is there a science to taste?
Nov 24th, 2015 • 29:46
Farmers are among the best hackers in the business. They can fix anything, and are endlessly tweaking their approach to a business that is up against the strongest force on the planet: nature. As adopters of technology, the agriculture industry is both forward-thinking and, at the same time, hard to convince to make a change. For good reason -- you can’t A/B-test an almond orchard. You get one shot a year to grow a crop and make a profit. So whatever technology makes its way into the fields had better work. U.C. Santa Barbara computer science professor Chandra Krintz, Granular CEO and co-founder Sid Gorham, and Fruition Sciences co-founder Thibaut Scholasch join this segment of the a16z Podcast to discuss technologies working down on the farm. Including how sensors monitoring soil elements, water flow in plants, and fertilizer schedules are yielding fruitful data. Given the high stakes -- a planet in the midst of climate change -- what we can all learn from how technology is accepted and implemented in the agriculture industry?
Nov 24th, 2015 • 31:43
Rob Rhinehart, like most startup entrepreneurs, was strapped for cash and time as developed his ideas and ultimately a company. What stood out to Rhinehart in that all-consuming and ongoing process was the contrast between all the things in his life that technology had made more convenient and cheaper -- basically everything powered by smartphones -- and what he felt was a process still trapped in our agrarian past: sitting down for a meal. Out of that observation came Soylent -- nutrition in powder or ready-to-drink form, that substituted for Rhinehart the lousy ramen or frozen corn-dog meals he was subsisting on. Better, faster, cheaper -- Soylent has all the trademarks of good tech -- but are we really going to start drinking our meals? Rhinehart joins this segment of the pod along with a16z’s Chris Dixon, who led the firm’s investment in Soylent, to talk about where Soylent might fit into our lives ... and what it means for the future of food as well as earth's resources.
Nov 21st, 2015 • 44:19
It's hip to be Square right now. Or is it? How do we assess whether it -- and other recent IPOs -- went well, not just for investors but overall? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Nicole Irvin and Stephen McDermid from our startup corp dev team -- and Andreessen Horowitz managing partner Scott Kupor -- share an internal "hallway conversation" of sorts around how to make sense of market reactions to recent IPOs, and more broadly, how to compare private vs. public valuations (and investors). Is there a method to the madness, a formula to compare these from beginning to end? Does it make a difference if you're creating a new category (like SaaS previously) or are in an existing one? Finally, we share views on the somewhat religious debate about whether public is really the new private, growth vs. profitability, and more. Especially as startups are always optimizing for so many competing things at any given time.
Nov 20th, 2015 • 41:04
If the U.K. is to continue its economic march onward and upward, technology needs to play an increasing role, say Martha Lane Fox (that's Baroness of Soho Lane-Fox in more public settings) and Russell Davies in this segment of the pod ... another one of our on-the-road a16z podcasts from London. But it can't just be the same apps and software solutions that are coming out of Silicon Valley, say these two European tech veterans (Lane Fox is a web entrepreneur and on the boards of multiple tech companies and open data initiatives, while Davies is a writer and digital strategist). The U.K. needs to do things differently to create and maintain an edge against all the tech powers around the globe. Lane Fox and Davies describe what a bright tech future could look like -- a lot more women in the industry, for starters -- and how it might differ from, and compete with, the best around the world.
Nov 19th, 2015 • 27:51
There are those who would say that Aubrey de Grey is out to cure death, but what this former artificial intelligence specialist turned gerontologist is really focused on is health -- and the side effect of health is living a lot longer. In this segment of the a16z podcast we talk with Aubrey de Grey on the subject of aging and health, and how his training as a computer scientist helped him approach the problem in a different way from traditional biologists. The intersection of software and biology, and how this “troublemaker” from the computer science world is trying to keep us all healthy for a very, very long time.
Nov 17th, 2015 • 41:38
The title of world's financial capital bounces back and forth between London and New York. This year London has bragging rights, but does being the word's center of gravity for finance mean so-called "fintech" companies will naturally flow from that position? London-based investor Eileen Burbidge joins a16z's Alex Rampell to pick apart fintech in this segment of the podcast recorded on our U.K. road trip. Everything from the term (please make it go away), to the particular barriers and opportunities facing entrepreneurs looking to create what really amounts to better banks.
Nov 15th, 2015 • 41:42
What is A.I. or artificial intelligence but the 'space of possible minds', argues Murray Shanahan, scientific advisor on the movie Ex Machina and Professor of Cognitive Robotics at Imperial College London. In this special episode of the a16z Podcast brought to you on the ground from London, Shanahan -- along with journalist-turned-entrepreneur Azeem Azhar (who also curates The Exponential View newsletter on AI and more) and The Economist Deputy Editor Tom Standage (the author of several tech history books) -- we discuss the past, present, and future of A.I. ... as well as how it fits (or doesn't fit) with machine learning and deep learning. But where are we now in the A.I. evolution? What players do we think will lead, if not win, the current race? And how should we think about issues such as ethics and automation of jobs without descending into obvious extremes? All this and more, including a surprise easter egg in Ex Machina shared by Shanahan, whose work influenced the movie.
Nov 12th, 2015 • 44:04
Quantum computing. The dream of the 1980s is alive in 2015. But this time is different, for a number of reasons. Who are the players, what are the stakes right now? What are the applications, beyond cryptography? And, what's the point of it all -- are the benefits of quantum computing truly going to be a difference of kind vs. of degree? And if so, how will it change what we already know about computers, from languages to coding to UIs to everything? While it's counterintuitive for us to imagine something so infinitismally small, Ilyas Khan of Cambridge Quantum Computing helps us make the quantum leap in our minds ... in this special edition of the a16z Podcast, brought to you from London.
Nov 11th, 2015 • 45:15
Blockchain without bitcoin? It's a debate as old as the cryptocurrency itself (which, to be honest, isn't that old). Given that bitcoin is not just a digital bearer instrument/token but is a network, a distributed ledger, a protocol, the question of separating blockchain from bitcoin isn't a moot one. Especially when you think of it analogously to voice over IP, but for financial services. So what is the financial services industry doing with this "money over IP"? Clearly many large business players are paying attention and trying to get ahead of disruption, by asking themselves exactly what their bitcoin/blockchain strategy is. Adam Ludwin shares what's happening here from his perspective as founder of Chain, an enterprise blockchain platform that partners with financial institutions to help them apply the technology to their markets. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Ludwin covers what it's like merging the cultures of finance and tech; what's driving the recent bitcoin prices; why he believes in blockchain beyond bitcoin; whether there can be such a thing as private or permissioned blockchains; definitions of newer concepts like 'colored coins' and 'sidechains'; and more. Oh and what are the most interesting native apps, too.
Nov 7th, 2015 • 50:55
What began as a scientific approach to creating and managing startups has now become a worldwide movement for companies of all sizes -- and for creating (or rather rediscovering) entrepreneurs in all places. Not just inside startups, not just for software, and not just inside Silicon Valley. It's about unlocking human creativity everywhere. Perhaps even reinventing the firm. As utopian as that sounds, Eric Ries -- who pioneered the lean startup movement and wrote the definitive book on it -- argues the case in this episode of the a16z Podcast. But has it become too much of a religion? One where people apply the letter of, but not the spirit, behind lean startup principles? Ries, who recently crowdsourced a leader's guide for practitioners to test and evolve the very concepts he first published 5 years ago, shares lessons learned -- as well as the true meaning of overused terms like 'MVP' and 'pivot'. Ultimately, lean startups are about how to make decisions and build new products under conditions of high uncertainty. Without having to chisel the principles into stone tablets.
Nov 3rd, 2015 • 51:20
There's a "game" being played right now among lawmakers and tech companies around policy issues, and as tech touches everything, everyone has to play some version of it. Even if the game keeps changing. Even if they don't want to. Or do they? What if the game could be reinvented in a way that respects, but doesn't reinforce, an entrenched system -- especially given newer ways of engaging? Part of the problem is that only big companies can afford to play the game, argues Julie Samuels, executive director at Engine (which does research, analysis, and advocacy for tech entrepreneurship): "Bad policy is bad policy because it's bad policy. But the big companies can afford bad policy." Joining Samuels in this a16z Podcast discussion about the evolution of policy and tech is Techdirt's Mike Masnick (who also founded the "digital-native think tank" The Copia Institute). They end by giving us a whirlwind tour of current policy issues in tech -- from patents and IP in China to cybersecurity, privacy, and Safe Harbor in Europe ... And the gig economy, talent, and immigration. All in just under 60 minutes.
Nov 3rd, 2015 • 38:40
Telepresence. It's an ugly, outdated word for an attractive and current/ emerging phenomenon where people can work from anywhere, anytime. It's technology for the way we work today. But is it as easy as adding good tech to a constantly evolving problem? What about etiquette? And design uber alles? And finally ... why does telepresence even matter? Well, if you can't hire talent locally, you can hire them remotely. That constraint is the easier of all the other requirements to relax. Or so argue the guests on this episode of the a16z Podcast: Scott Hassan, president and CEO of Suitable Technologies, maker of the popular Beam robots and formerly founder of Willow Garage and eGroups (now Yahoo Groups) as well as key software architect and developer of Google, Alexa Internet, and the Stanford Digital Library; Shan Sinha, formerly of DocVerse (acquired by Google) and co-founder and CEO of Highfive, video and web conferencing for everyone; and Craig Walker, formerly of Google and Yahoo Voice, now co-founder and CEO of Switch -- makers of Uberconference and other products for cloud-based enterprises looking to update their communications.
Nov 3rd, 2015 • 21:35
"The most boring yet valuable podcast in a16z history" -- he (our guest Joe Grundfest) said it, not we! That’s because in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Stanford law professor and former SEC commissioner Grundfest -- and securities litigation lawyer Nicki Locker of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati -- discuss not just the importance, but the almost literary balance ("somewhere between haiku and Tolstoy") behind doing board meeting minutes just right. Yes, that's right: this is a podcast all about board minutes. But it is arguably the most "valuable litigation insurance you can buy for free” ... especially if you learn to create a record that can survive an attack by a conspiracy theorist.
Oct 29th, 2015 • 22:29
It's easy to argue for "choosing possibility" when it comes to addressing diversity and inclusion in tech when certain people have access to networks and others don't. BoardList -- more of a talent marketplace than a "list" per se -- is an effort to address part of that issue, bringing more qualified women onto the boards of tech companies. But isn't it risky for startup CEOs to add unknowns onto their boards (and what's the purpose of those boards, anyway?) Does it take away seats from others including the company's investors? In this segment of the a16z Podcast, serial entrepreneur and BoardList founder Sukhinder Singh Cassidy and Silicon Valley Bank's John China discuss these issues and more -- including how boards (and especially common stock in startup boards) are one way to immediately start changing things.
Oct 24th, 2015 • 36:42
Disruption is such an overused buzzword. But the word itself does have meaning: As defined by the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, it is a "disturbance...that interrupts an event, activity, or process" and that causes something "to be unable to continue in the normal way". It's also the name for an influential theory about innovation first coined by Clayton Christensen in a 1995 article and later publicized through his 1997 book, The Innovator's Dilemma. But that was nearly two decades ago! Not only has the concept been much misunderstood and mangled since then, surely it's changed given the advent of new tech and business models today? Is it still relevant, given cases that seemingly defy the theory and its application? Are we at risk of overfitting this "verbally inflated" term to everything, and in doing so, are we missing what disruption theory really says -- and doesn't? Michael Raynor, co-author of the followup book on disruptive innovation with Christensen -- and author of another book that later tested the predictive power of the theory -- joins this episode of the a16z Podcast to answer these questions and more. He also hints at some nuggets from an upcoming article in Harvard Business Review with Christensen and others that addresses the latest formulations of this theory of innovation.
Oct 22nd, 2015 • 22:13
Technology is a progression of new ideas and new platforms gobbling up the one that came before. In the world of computers we went from mainframes to mini computers to PCs. And then came the mobile phone, which, in the form of the smartphone, has dwarfed them all. But what does that to mobile? When you have already gotten to everybody on earth, what comes along that is 10X the size? a16z’s Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky offer their thoughts on where technology is today, why the perfection of the current crop of PCs signals the category’s collapse, and what happens after the smartphone.
Oct 16th, 2015 • 28:44
This special episode of the a16z Podcast is based on a Q&A from an early screening we hosted of OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network)'s "Belief", which just premiered and airs over seven consecutive nights. This week-long documentary series depicts how people -- with a wide range of faiths and spiritual practices around the world -- search for deeper meaning and connection with the world around them. But ultimately, it's about the rituals, stories, and relationships that bind us all together as human beings. The Q&A features Oprah Winfrey interviewed by Ben -- or being interviewed by Oprah, depending on how you look at it (and getting schooled in how to do so!) -- as well as one of the series guests, Resham Thakkar, joining them onstage from the audience.
Oct 16th, 2015 • 35:49
We just witnessed the largest acquisition in tech history, and before Dell made it happen, it would have been hard to imagine. Not so much that the two companies would come together, but that the much smaller Dell would be buying its larger peer EMC. If he imagined anyone doing the acquisition it would have been EMC, says a16z’s Peter Levine, but the realities of being a public company and the pressure of activist shareholders are what made this an “upside down acquisition.” “Dell was able to do this deal because they were a private company and had no activists,” Levine says. “EMC could only do this deal because they had activists.” Levine is joined on this segment of the a16z podcast by Actifio Founder and CEO Ash Ashutosh, and Cumulus Networks Co-founder and CEO JR Rivers in a conversation examining the Dell/EMC deal. What were the technological forces that brought these two companies together, and what does that say about the future of enterprise technology and the people who buy it? Finally, what role did the public and private markets play in this deal, and what will Michael Dell need to do to pull it off?
Oct 14th, 2015 • 42:33
The place where Apache Spark was born, UC Berkeley’s AMPLab has not just created a major open source software platform, it’s spun out more than its share of ground-breaking companies (full disclosure: a16z has invested in three of them). So how did they get there? How has open source and the AMPLab approach reduced the friction between student and faculty ideas and launching them into the real world? Co-founder and director of the AMPLab, Michael Franklin, joins a16z’s Peter Levine to discuss the AMPLab model, and their own relationship as an academic and an investor. Haoyuan Li also joins the discussion -- which was part of our 2015 Academic Roundtable -- to offer another perspective. Li’s company, Tachyon Nexus, came out of work he did as a student in the AMPLab and the resulting open source project. Li describes his struggles and victories in making the transition from student to founder and leader of a company.
Oct 13th, 2015 • 46:09
Getting denied another round of NSF funding in the early days of Mosaic turned out to be a huge catalyst to start a company around the fledgling web browser, says Marc Andreessen. That company was Netscape. Andreessen was still at the University of Illinois at the time, and he wanted the NSF money to help build what amounted to a customer support team. That wasn’t the NSF’s business. Since Andreessen’s Mosaic days, calibrating the interplay between academia, government, and the private sector has gotten, if not easier, less exotic -- with schools like UC Berkeley and Stanford setting the standard for providing students and faculty with a clear path forward. From picking the right classes, to picking the right institution from which to turn research into a company, Andreessen and Chris Dixon discuss the role academia plays in the startup world in this segment of the a16z Podcast. This discussion was part of the firm’s 2015 Academic Roundtable.
Oct 9th, 2015 • 16:25
There is a stream of the world's largest companies coming to Silicon Valley looking for innovation. But how do they find it, and then, how do they bring it back home? a16z's Elizabeth Weil joins this segment of the pod to lay out what the Fortune 500 and Global 2000 are looking for in Silicon Valley's startup landscape, and how both sides -- big companies and small -- can initiate and nurture profitable relationships.
Oct 7th, 2015 • 24:01
It used to be the case for large, global organizations that innovation would simply arrive -- brought every year or every quarter by the technology vendors they did business with. That slow moving, upgrade-cycle cadence no longer exists, says Chris Curran, chief technologist at PwC. And the companies that benefited from it, what Curran calls "slow tech" companies, need to learn from what has become a "fast-tech" world -- the tech environment of devops, open source, big data and mobile. But how to pull it off? In this segment of the pod Curran offers slow-tech companies a guide to embracing the people, culture and technologies of fast tech, and the reasons the fast-tech crowd should take a harder look at the companies and industries they might have dismissed as too lumbering.
Oct 6th, 2015 • 35:15
Mention Patrick Byrne, the founder and CEO of Overstock.com, and you’ll elicit a strong opinion. In 2004, one hedge fund manager labeled Byrne the most hated man on Wall Street -- a label he wears proudly. Byrne started Overstock.com in 1999, and the online retailer has been through a lot of change in the intervening years. At the outset, Byrne didn’t want Overstock to be a technology company trying to get retail right, he wanted to be a retail company that was amplified by technology. Looking back, he says, he had the emphasis wrong -- it should have been on technology. Byrne has been focused on the technology side of things ever since, pushing Overstock further into the cloud, as well as becoming the first major online merchant to accept Bitcoin. Byrne joins this segment of the a16z Podcast to discuss the state of online retail, value investing in tech, and why he believes Bitcoin and the crypto revolution is bigger than the Internet.
Oct 4th, 2015 • 32:54
Podcasts and podcasting have been around a while, but seem to be going through a renaissance of sorts -- partly enabled by connected cars and other technologies. But how do we discover podcasts; is the ideal atomic unit the show, or an individual episode/topic? What makes a good podcast? And given their intimacy, how can brands and communities engage with podcasts? We discuss this and more in this oh-so-meta episode of the a16z Podcast-about-podcasts. And to help us do that, we invited longtime podcaster and radio host Roman Mars -- of the highly regarded design show 99% Invisible -- as well as fans (and now curators of) podcasts, Ryan Hoover and Erik Torenberg of Product Hunt. [Along with, of course, your a16z Podcast producers and hosts Sonal Chokshi and Michael Copeland.]
Oct 2nd, 2015 • 38:43
Financial services are overdue for an overhaul. With a16z's newest general partner, Alex Rampell (who just officially started), this segment of the podcast explores the world of fintech... How software backed up by data is being brought to bear on lending, insurance, and the science (oftentimes art) of underwriting risk. We also get a taste of what life was like for Rampell running a successful internet business out of his bedroom -- an experience that would lead him toward the world of monetization/ payments and eventually co-founding numerous startups.
Sep 25th, 2015 • 24:55
Apple included support for ad blocking in its recent iOS 9 update, and for many that prompted discussions around an age-old question: Is traditional advertising a viable business model for content -- and if it isn’t, what has a shot at replacing it? In this segment of the a16z Podcast [and one of our first podcasts 'by request'], Chris Dixon (who led our BuzzFeed investment and has previously shared his thoughts on the topic) and Benedict Evans (who has also been an independent content site producer himself and has shared some of his thoughts on the topic) discuss the future of advertising; why micropayments have been mostly a non-starter until now; the chicken-egg issue; and which alternative forms of advertising -- native ads, for example -- are showing promise. Finally, why quality media outlets will do extremely well once the industry comes out on the other side of this wrenching transitional period.
Sep 21st, 2015 • 35:41
There is increasing interest among companies -- small and large -- in putting together technical advisory boards. It sounds pretty straightforward: get some senior technical experts to help with the technical speed bumps. But if that is all your technical advisory board is, you are missing out. Built and utilized correctly, a technical advisory board can be a huge advantage when it comes to mapping out a long-term strategic plan, finding talent, and building a great engineering culture. On this segment of the a16z Podcast we break down the right way to build a technical advisory board; what you should expect from the board (and just as important, what you shouldn’t). And for those looking to serve on a technical advisory board, the reasons to do it, as well as the things to consider before committing. This conversation was recorded as part of an event featuring four technical experts: Arnie Goldberg from PayPal; Purnima Padmanabhan, former CEO of Cavirin; Alex Roetter, SVP of Engineering at Twitter; and a16z General Partner Peter Levine.
Sep 17th, 2015 • 22:51
The internet as it has evolved in the United States is perhaps the best example of “permissionless innovation” -- the idea that you can innovate without first waiting for permission or clearance. And so academics, entrepreneurs, and people took up the internet, developed technologies over it, and in the process created fantastically valuable companies that are now household names around the world. But such innovation hasn't happened outside the U.S., argues Adam Thierer -- research fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University -- because other regions have reversed the model of "innovate first, regulate later" (or rather, regulate only as necessary and if not already covered by existing laws). Thierer, who has also authored a book on Permissionless Innovation, joins this segment of the a16z podcast to discuss "technopanic" cycles; emerging areas of interest; and where "best practices" help ... or hurt when it comes to soft regulation.
Sep 11th, 2015 • 32:41
Legendary investor Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett's financial partner and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway) invokes a set of interdisciplinary "mental models" involving economics, business, psychology, ethics, and management to keep emotions out of his investments and avoid the common pitfalls of bad judgment. In a new book focused on lessons learned from Munger, Tren Griffin (who works at Microsoft and has long focused on lessons learned from many investors) shares insights on decision making and the psychology of human judgment -- especially as it applies to investing and risk. But Griffin believes that these lessons can be applied to all of us in our daily lives, not just by investors. (He also argues that investing may be one of the last liberal arts). So how then do we channel our inner Munger? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, we discuss how to think about thinking; why the best investors and business leaders spend more time on what they DON’T know; and how the best way to be smart is to ... not be stupid.
Sep 10th, 2015 • 26:48
Apple has once again shown it absolutely dominates the high-end for smartphones, and no other company is likely to knock it from its perch in the near term, says a16z's Benedict Evans. But does it control the future of TV? Not yet. Evans breaks down the latest Apple event, filled with iPhones, iPads and Apple TV, in this segment of the a16z Podcast. Why the "3D Touch" Apple is featuring on its 6S phones is something only Apple could have pulled off, and why its latest iPad -- the Pro -- creeps into the PC market.
Sep 7th, 2015 • 7:34
South Central Los Angeles -- which includes Watts and Compton -- in many ways still hasn’t recovered from the Rodney King riots of 1992. In South Central L.A. there isn’t the same opportunity found elsewhere in L.A. When Oscar Menjivar returned as an adult to his South Central community, what he found were too many teens facing options that went from bad to worse. He decided to attack the lack of possibilities through coding.
Sep 5th, 2015 • 47:18
Many of the most successful companies have their foundations in university labs -- from data science to the web browser itself. Yet the process of moving from research project to successful startup isn't always straightforward. With the goal of smoothing this process and continuing to bridge entrepreneurs across academia and industry, we began the a16z Professor-in-Residence program just last year. And this year's newly anointed Andreessen Horowitz Distinguished Visiting Professor of Computer Science is Dan Boneh, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University as well as Co-director of the Stanford Computer Security Lab. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, we sit down with Boneh to chat about applied vs. theoretical math and computer science; what's missing and what's next with "usable" security (including various authentication approaches); and current and future trends in cryptography, bitcoin, and more. Boneh also shares his thoughts on MOOCs (massive open online courses) as the "21st century version of the textbook". Oh, and on when quantum computing will finally happen... and why we should (and shouldn't!) freak out about it. Yet.
Sep 2nd, 2015 • 26:54
a16z’s Chris Dixon and Mike Hearn talked about all things bitcoin on the a16z Podcast a couple months ago, including an issue that has bitcoin developers on edge these days: the question of how best to scale the bitcoin blockchain before capacity runs out. Hearn and others offered a solution (Bitcoin XT) -- in the parlance, a “hard fork” -- and quite frankly, not everyone in the bitcoin community is in favor of this approach yet. Which we heard about from various online quarters! So in the interest of airing diverse opinions and other options for solving bitcoin’s scaling problem, we invited two more experts from the bitcoin world, Adam Back and Alex Morcos, to share their views on the topic. A well-known applied cryptographer whose longtime focus has been digital currency, Back invented hashcash, a proof-of-work system used in bitcoin mining. He’s also the cofounder of Blockstream (which, full disclosure, may also have interests in the outcomes of this debate). Morcos is the founder of Chaincode Labs, based in New York City, and was a co-founder of quantitative trading company Hudson River Trading.
Aug 31st, 2015 • 37:25
Can digital work fight poverty? Can companies be profitable and also do social good -- especially in a society where the proxy for value is capital and much of that value accrues to platforms? And finally, what's the difference between a mission-driven and 'social' entrepreneur? Samasource, a nonprofit that uses technology to connect marginalized people around the world to digital work, is one attempt at answering those questions. In this segment of the a16z Podcast, we talk with founder and CEO Leila Janah about employment of all kinds -- from sweatshop work to the gig economy to remote work. Janah also argues what the nonprofit world should borrow from for-profit startups -- including attitudes around failure and better measures of success.
Aug 28th, 2015 • 40:37
Longtime New York Times technology and science writer John Markoff joins the a16z Podcast to discuss our changing relationship with technology and machines ... as well as the changing nature of Silicon Valley itself (where Markoff grew up). Jumping off from the themes of Markoff’s new book, Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots, we explore the future of human and robot work; hear about chatbots that keep kids enthralled during "toilet time;" and the implications of “the wheels finally falling off of Moore’s Law” -- something people have long predicted but has never happened yet. And finally, why education is the raw material for a future where humans and intelligent machines work hand in (robotic) hand.
Aug 28th, 2015 • 43:41
Messaging app WeChat tells us a lot about mobile and business in China. In a recent deep-dive primer on the WeChat phenomenon, a16z partner Connie Chan analyzed WeChat and the notion of app-within-apps, payments as a gateway drug, platforms vs portals, and what happens when utility is more important than being "social". Wired senior writer David Pierce also describes the power of conversational messaging as the main interface, further arguing that “A great messaging app could be to the web browser what the browser was to the internet before it.” So what happens when a messaging app essentially becomes an operating system for our lives? What conditions made the mobile, business, and cultural environment in China so ripe for a phenomenon like WeChat? How does voice change everything? And, let's face it, what are the tradeoffs users (both consumer and business) as well as developers may have to make when one app does in fact rule an entire ecosystem? Connie and David discuss on this episode of the a16z Podcast. Plus what happens to loneliness, work-life balance, and more.
Aug 25th, 2015 • 27:07
After the smartphone, what business has the global scale (in terms of people and profits) that make it attractive for tech companies to turn their attention and capital towards? The answer, argues a16z’s Benedict Evans, is the automotive industry. Sure, cars are mobile -- but what do our smartphones have to do with our rides? More than we might expect. Evans offers his vision of the future of cars, and perhaps the future of today’s biggest technology companies. Who will build these cars, who will own them, and who (or what) will drive them? We discuss this and more in this segment of the a16z Podcast.
Aug 20th, 2015 • 48:49
Google, eBay, even the Web itself, in the beginning all of these things appeared as point products, interesting in their way, but small. Of course, they weren’t. “There is this swallow-the-red-pill moment that happens,” Marc Andreessen says, “Where you realize something really, really big is going to happen.” Optimization -- the relentless improvement of everything -- is another one of those ideas. In this segment of the pod, Andreessen joins Optimizely CEO Dan Siroker during the company’s annual conference Opticon for a conversation that covers a huge swath of what’s most exciting in tech today: the spread of optimization tools, privacy trends, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, Bitcoin, and killer robots. All that, and why Donald Trump’s hair could use some A/B testing.
Aug 18th, 2015 • 23:11
How do you face down cancer? Get told you can’t get life-saving organ transplants, and go about getting them anyway? And in the middle of that mental and physical storm, how do you find the thing that you and only you were meant to do -- and start building it? One person with answers is Jim Gilliam, the founder of NationBuilder, because that is what he had to do -- all of it. It’s given Gilliam a clear philosophy on life, and on being a leader. And what he’s learned along the way, he says, is something everyone can tap into. Gilliam first told his story in a break-the-Internet video, “The Internet is My Religion,” he’s gone deeper with his recently published book of the same title. a16z's Ben Horowitz sat down with Gilliam on the occasion of his book launch, to hear more about his philosophy on life, religion, leadership and what we all can do to move this world forward.
Aug 17th, 2015 • 20:57
As more and more of what we do for fun and work- happens online, establishing identity becomes ever more critical. Whether it’s for dating or sending money, you want to trust that not only are you interacting with the person you think you are, but that your messages (or money) are in fact reaching the right person -- and only them. Sounds simple, but with an internet and computers in between, a lot can go wrong -- whether by accident or malicious design. A16z’s Chris Dixon, and Max Krohn, co-founder of the encryption startup Keybase, examine the problem in this segment of the pod. What makes cryptography so hard to use, what approach Krohn and the Keybase team are taking, and why crypto “key parties” are not what you might think.
Aug 15th, 2015 • 46:33
This special episode of the a16z Podcast is based on a Q&A from an early screening we hosted of Universal Pictures’ Straight Outta Compton, the story of the group N.W.A. that revolutionized music and pop culture. The Q&A features Ice Cube, producer, rapper, and one of the original members of N.W.A.; director F. Gary Gray; and Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and O’Shea Jackson Jr., who play Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube, respectively. Their wide-ranging conversation -- as interviewed by a16z's Ben Horowitz -- covers the struggle, the drive, the creative process, the cycles of history, the city of Los Angeles ... and why “it’s cool to be a nerd”. photo credit: Khristopher 'Squint' Sandifer
Aug 13th, 2015 • 20:00
When you're going for a board interview -- especially when it's your first board seat -- you're actually not supposed to go into it advocating for yourself and trying to convince people that you're a good operator, as you might in a job interview. So what does the board interview involve then? Is all the common advice we hear about getting on boards (e.g., "don't talk about strategy") really true? TaskRabbit COO Stacy Brown-Philpot, who was just announced to the HP Inc board (in Hewlett Packard's first major board shuffle since it split into two companies), answers these questions and shares other interesting nuggets from her experience getting her first board seat. She also shares why she went for a public board, as well as what other factors you should consider -- and really matter -- when considering board service. Joining her is Matt Levy, who manages a16z's board and mentor talent network as part of the executive talent team. For more resources on boards, see http://a16z.com/tag/board-matters-series/.
Aug 7th, 2015 • 23:26
There's been a lot of activity lately around trying to improve equity compensation (for example, by removing tax liabilities that handcuff them). Or by making equity more equitable in other ways; as former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason observed, "When startups grow into unicorns, the distribution of employee earnings follows a common pattern: the founders make more money than they could spend in infinite lifetimes, a handful of early folks achieve financial independence, and everyone else gets a nice bonus, but nothing life changing." It's admittedly a very rarefied problem yet one that plagues a number of startup founders and employees who put in a lot of work to make the startup a success ... but end up with less than others in the same company. And it's a problem that has long plagued Mason, who shared his views on something he calls "progressive equity" to help more startup employees achieve financial independence if and when their companies exit through an IPO, acquisition, or other liquidity event. Can it work? Should it? a16z General Partner and co-founder Ben Horowitz joins Mason on this episode of the a16z Podcast to dissect the idea.
Aug 7th, 2015 • 31:49
The key to any great company is the people. Of course, part of attracting and keeping the best people is compensation. It seems straightforward, but if you don’t develop a philosophy early around how you are going to compensate all those great employees you’re going to be in a world of hurt later, says Shannon Schiltz, who heads up a16z’s People Practice. Compensation, from salary to different forms of equity, is the topic of this segment of the a16z Podcast. For the founders of many fast-growing companies it’s often an afterthought, says the other compensation expert on the pod, Than Nguyen. Founders are busy enough just finding enough people to build and grow their startup. But as a founder you need to raise your head up and consider how compensation fits into your long-term plans. Nguyen and Shiltz discuss ways to make that happen.
Aug 7th, 2015 • 34:23
There are few things as old as financial catastrophe, except maybe finance. But in the latest fiscal meltdown in Greece, people started asking questions about whether newer technology -- bitcoin and the underlying blockchain -- could help. One of those was Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher Mims. In this episode of the pod, Mims and Coinbase CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong talk about the current state and future possibility of bitcoin and the bitcoin blockchain. When it comes to Greece -- or the next financial snafu -- Armstrong and Mims think there is potential for bitcoin to help, but some education and UI mainstreaming needs to happen first.
Aug 5th, 2015 • 22:13
Given the endless time we all spend with our noses in our phones, it may not be too surprising to hear that the smartphone has taken over the tech world. But the smartphone’s dominance is so complete, says a16z’s Benedict Evans, that it’s useful to think of it as the sun, the object around which everything else in the (technology) planetary system revolves. Technology meets astronomy, plus Android’s Stagefright bug, and why three German carmakers are getting into the software business in this segment of the a16z Podcast.
Aug 1st, 2015 • 34:31
Why do so many-government led efforts to build the next "Silicon Valley" in one geography or another fail? Is it misguided to even try? But then what does make such innovation clusters work? In this segment of the pod a trio of expert guests -- AnnaLee Saxenian, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Information and a longtime researcher/observer of regional competitive advantage; VC Brad Feld and writer on startup communities; and entrepreneur and investor Christopher Schroeder, who covers startups rising in the Middle East and most recently wrote about the tech phenomenon in Iran -- tackle the question of how innovation ecosystems grow. The discussion delves into how innovation is being spurred differently (or stifled) in places like China and Iran; whether there are cultural differences in attitudes for failure or about entrepreneurship; and if regulatory arbitrage is one way for regions to get ahead.
Jul 30th, 2015 • 6:57
We sat down with four jet-lagged high school hackers from Nigeria, Brazil, and India -- representing some of the finalists in this year’s Technovation coding competition in San Francisco -- to hear about the mobile apps they created, the culture of coding in their home countries, and what’s coming next for their nascent software empires.
Jul 28th, 2015 • 22:37
It’s not just the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon that lean on a massive and growing corpus of data, today every company is a data-driven company. In this world, access to data -- and how you manage it -- is what matters, says Ash Ashutosh, founder and CEO of Actifio. In this segment of the pod, we get in the weeds with Ashutosh and a16z’s Peter Levine on how this data-driven world is changing the technology infrastructure that is the engine behind it, and the companies that use it. Ashutosh and Levine also discuss ramping sales teams, going international, and what’s driving the timing of IPOs – or really the lack of IPOs. Finally, Ashutosh offers his four-legged response to being referred to as a “unicorn.”
Jul 26th, 2015 • 41:53
Biology startups have been around for a long time. But the world has changed since that first wave of bio startups, and especially more recently, due to the "peace dividends of the smartphone wars". So what happens when you combine those cheap sensors and compute power -- and apply it to bio? Cheaper costs and Moore's Law-like effects may mean lower barriers to entry, the ability to experiment more often and more easily, and other AWS-like effects for a new wave of bio company founders. But is all this just about cost … or about something more? And how do we know if this time is really different when it comes to bio startups? On this episode of the a16z Podcast, a16z partners Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, and Vijay Pande discuss how everything changes when software eats biology -- that is, when computer science is at the heart of bio companies. Pande also shares three trends we think are particularly interesting: "digital therapeutics", "cloud bio", and "computational biomedicine".
Jul 24th, 2015 • 26:36
Big Data is evolving. It’s moving from the sole domain of the high priests of data science, to something that practically every organization -- big and small -- and every group within that organization can get its hands on. So what happens now? The implications of the democratization of Big Data are bigger than just big, says Prat Moghe, CEO and Founder of Cazena. And it’s not just the corporate world that will benefit, he adds, having access to Big Data tools will change how all kinds of organizations, including government agencies and other social services, operate and solve their particular problems Joining Prat on the pod to describe this changing world of Big Data in the Cloud is a16z’s Peter Levine. If every company, and every organization is becoming a data-driven company, it makes sense to start to put that data to work, Levine says.
Jul 22nd, 2015 • 17:05
Regulation always lags behind technology, but by 80-plus years?! U.S. Representatives Fred Upton and Greg Walden -- of the Energy and Commerce Committee including the subcommittee on Communications and Technology that oversees almost every technology -- join this segment of the a16z podcast to discuss what government can do to help (or hurt) innovation. We discuss the Telecommunications Act, originally passed in 1934 and revised in 1996 (before the internet, computing, and especially mobile became ubiquitous!); the conversion from analog to digital; what constitutes medical devices (is an iPad a medical device?) -- as well as healthcare and the 21st Century Cures Act, with its implications for patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers looking for the next breakthrough in medicine.
Jul 16th, 2015 • 34:06
When most people think of big data they think of numbers, but it turns out that a lot of big data -- a lot of the output of our work and activity as humans in fact -- is in the form of words. So what can we learn when we apply machine learning and natural language processing techniques to text? The findings may surprise you. For example, did you know that you can predict whether a Kickstarter project will be funded or not based on textual elements alone ... before it's even published? Other findings are not so surprising; e.g., hopefully we all know by now that a word like "synergy" can sink a job description! But what words DO appeal in tech job descriptions when you're trying to draw the most qualified, diverse candidates? And speaking of diversity: What's up with those findings about differences in how men and women describe themselves on their resumes -- or are described by others in their performance reviews? On this episode of the a16z Podcast, Textio co-founder and CEO Kieran Snyder (who has a PhD in linguistics and formerly led product and design in roles at Microsoft and Amazon) shares her findings, answers to some of these questions, and other insights based on several studies they've conducted on language, technology, and document bias.
Jul 10th, 2015 • 20:49
Bitcoin has had more than its share of drama. There is, of course, the mystery surrounding its anonymous founder (or perhaps, founders) Satoshi Nakamoto. More recently, there's been a battle over whether the size of blocks need to grow to account for more capacity -- especially since there isn’t much time left to make changes before blockchain capacity runs out, says core bitcoin developer Mike Hearn. Hearn joins a16z’s Chris Dixon on this segment of the a16z Podcast to discuss the current state of bitcoin development; Hearn’s own Lighthouse creation, which is a bitcoin-based crowdfunding app; and what it will take to move the bitcoin protocol into the mainstream.
Jul 10th, 2015 • 17:14
Just a few years ago if you were mayor of Washington D.C. –- or any other city -- you didn’t have to wrap your head around the likes of Airbnb, Lyft, and other companies in the fast-growing 'sharing economy'. They didn’t exist. Now, you have no choice says Washington D.C.’s current Mayor Muriel Bowser ... because the citizens in your city certainly already have. Bowser joins the a16z Podcast, along with former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (who is currently a special advisor to a16z), to discuss how technologies and tech companies are changing cities and government, and how moving forward government may play a bigger role. That, and the case for more transparency in government, on this segment of the pod.
Jul 9th, 2015 • 24:12
There is a gap between the technology industry and the fastest growing portion of today’s workforce and the workforce of the future: Latinos -- argue U.S. Representatives Loretta Sanchez (California) and Ruben Gallego (Arizona), both members of Congress. How can we bring more Latinos -- and other underrepresented populations -- into the tech industry, and what roles do both government and fast-moving tech companies have to play? Especially if tech entrepreneurs and government have a hard time working together? “We have the innovators...[but] how do you move that Latino innovator into the mainstream?” asks Sanchez in this episode of the a16z Podcast.
Jul 1st, 2015 • 42:11
In this special international edition of the a16z Podcast, Mohsen Malayeri, co-founder of Avatech -- one of the more prominent startup accelerators in Iran among many (much like Y Combinator in the U.S.) -- talks to guest interviewer Christopher Schroeder (former entrepreneur, D.C. investor, and author of Startup Rising) about startups in Iran. What happens when you have a "mobile-first" startup ecosystem? Is this about trying to be yet another Silicon Valley (and if so, are we just substituting a form of technocracy for theocracy)? Silicon Valley isn't a religion, observes Malayeri, but entrepreneurship IS "a common language which has no border". This is the third installment in a special series on tech startups in Iran, part of a larger theme around global tech and how software -- including mobile -- is eating the world … and creating new opportunities within it.
Jun 30th, 2015 • 19:56
In this special international edition of the a16z Podcast, Nazanin Daneshvar, co-founder and CEO of Takhfifan, the "Groupon of Iran", shares her experiences and broader observations about the startup ecosystem and tech infrastructure in Iran with guest interviewer Christopher Schroeder (former entrepreneur, D.C. investor, and author of Startup Rising). How did she do it? (Hint: With a bit of subterfuge and clever cloaking.)What are the attitudes toward failure in a time and place where startups aren't really considered a real thing? This is the second installment in a special series on tech startups in Iran, part of a larger theme around global tech and how software -- including mobile -- is eating the world … and creating new opportunities within it.
Jun 24th, 2015 • 19:03
One of the most active and fastest growing open source big data cluster computing projects is Apache Spark, which was originally developed at U.C. Berkeley's AMPLab and is now used by internet giants and other companies around the world. Including, as announced most recently, IBM. In this Q&A with Spark inventor Matei Zaharia -- also the CTO and co-founder of Databricks (and a professor at MIT) -- on the heels of the recent Spark Summit, we cover the difference between Hadoop MapReduce and Spark; what are the ingredients of a successful open source project; and the story of how Spark almost helped a friend win a million dollars.
Jun 22nd, 2015 • 24:58
Investing to make a return both financial AND societal isn't new, but the opportunities to reach and build businesses in communities that have been underserved by tech are larger than ever. One example is the business opportunity presented by hairstylist platform Mayvenn, which a16z recently backed. In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Kesha Cash (founder and general partner of the Impact America Fund, also an investor in Mayvenn) discusses how she puts her fund’s money to work in markets that target underserved Americans. Cash is joined by a16z’s Tawny Holguin (who leads our seed and early scouting efforts) to breakdown the intricacies -- and opportunities -- of so-called “impact investing.” Do core business principles change at all? But then how does impact get measured? And what happens when you connect more communities to tech?
Jun 18th, 2015 • 50:58
In this wide-ranging conversation about 'stuff' that took place at a16z's most recent annual investor meeting (VCs have investors too, in the form of 'limited partners'), Fortune's Dan Primack interviews Marc Andreessen -- and asks the tough questions. About VC and returns, founders and startups, ethical vetoes, Facebook, and more.
Jun 17th, 2015 • 29:40
"This time is different." But it's always different! So what's going on now in the public markets? Why does this even matter? For one thing, tech markets have grown significantly. And one big reason is internet and mobile. It's like a multiplier for the market size and opportunity. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Andreessen Horowitz managing partner Scott Kupor, mobile analyst Benedict Evans, and corp dev research partner Morgan Bender break down a slide deck we recently shared, including answers to what all these so-called “unicorns” are, how it affects venture capital and the funding landscape, and how we define a "quasi-IPO."
Jun 15th, 2015 • 21:22
It’s called “perpetual” or “eternal” capital, typically a very large pool of money that is invested on behalf of university endowments, foundations, and the like with a time horizon that extends generations into the future. The people who manage that money are driven by very different forces and thinking than your average Wall Street investor. Liquidity, for example, is not something this category of investors is immediately concerned with, nor are they swayed by your average economic cycle. At least, that’s the theory... how do these investors think in practice? In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Andy Golden of the Princeton University Investment Company, Ben Gomez of Pilothouse Associates, and Edwin Poston and Mel Williams of TrueBridge Capital Partners share their thoughts on tech valuations, liquidity in the markets, and what some in Silicon Valley may have a tendency to overlook.
Jun 11th, 2015 • 22:10
Pick your metaphor: Smartphones are "remote controls" for the physical world, or perhaps, as Steve Cheney argues, they're "cursors for the physical world". Either way, it's clear that the age of mobile is here, GPS is not enough, and with sensors all around us -- both outdoors and in indoor locations -- it's finally time for truly context-aware computing. But what will that take, both content- and design-wise -- is it all just about eliminating friction? And how are players like Apple and Google positioning themselves for this micro-mapped world? a16z's Benedict Evans and Estimote's Steve Cheney talk about these questions and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast...
Jun 10th, 2015 • 22:20
Every meeting a busy founder takes is time away from building the company. So it’s understandable why engaging corporate development groups is believed to be a waste of time, unless you’re selling your company. But... there ARE good reasons to engage corporate development. You just have to know when, and how. And what to avoid! On this episode of the a16z Podcast, operating partner Jamie McGurk, and Tyson Clark and James Loftus (veterans of corporate development from companies like Google, Oracle, and Yahoo) share advice for founders talking to corporate development.
Jun 10th, 2015 • 26:19
Apple’s annual developer conference is cranking away in San Francisco, and a16z’s Benedict Evans examines the latest from the world’s most valuable company in this segment of the pod. Software is the star of WWDC and Apple highlighted updates to iOS and OS X, but the big news was in part Apple News -- a curation and aggregation app for periodicals. Newsstand, Apple’s earlier attempt to tackle news outlets on your Apple device didn’t catch on, but Evans gives Apple News a better chance. And Apple Music? “It was a bit wooly, frankly,” Evans says. Translation: it didn’t amaze. Evans explains why.
Jun 5th, 2015 • 22:05
Is the Apple Watch breaking new technological ground, or just another accessory for your iPhone? a16z’s Benedict Evans and Board Partner Steven Sinofsky describe their experience with the Apple Watch one month after strapping the elegant piece of electronics to their wrists. So how is it? It’s not the one thing you will own that will fill this void in your life like the iPhone did, Evans says. And working out what is useful and pleasurable about the Apple Watch takes time, he says. Even so, Evans finds himself getting there. For example, being prodded by the watch’s map app to turn left or right while walking to your destination “is like a super-power,” he says. Sinofsky too is finding his Apple Watch more alluring than he had anticipated. What will really make the Apple Watch a piece of kit that people won’t want to part with is the evolution of the apps -- building novel things just for the watch that don’t mimic what we do on smartphones or any other existing piece of technology. “We’re in the phase right now (with the Apple Watch) where people are trying to figure out how to do the old things in a new way,” Sinofsky says. “And really, you need to do new things in a new way.”
Jun 5th, 2015 • 21:23
Distributed computing frameworks like Hadoop and Spark have enabled processing of "big data" sets -- but that's not enough for modeling surprise/rare "black swan" or complex events. Just think of scenarios in disaster planning (earthquakes, terrorist attacks, financial system collapse); biology (including disease); urban planning (cities, transportation, energy power grids); military defense ... and other complex systems where unknown behaviors and properties can emerge. They can't be modeled based on (by definition impossible) limited data. And parallelization for this is hard. But what if companies and governments *could* answer these seemingly impossible questions -- through simulations? Especially ones where we can directly merge in knowledge and cues from the real world (sensors, sensors everywhere)? CEO of Improbable Herman Narula and Stanford University professor-in-residence at a16z Vijay Pande discuss this and more with Chris Dixon in this episode of the a16z Podcast. And as Herman says, "the cool stuff only happens at scale".
Jun 4th, 2015 • 29:58
We know that the gaming industry -- in some ways like but in other ways unlike the music industry -- has been changing due to the internet and especially technologies around crowdfunding, online discovery, and direct fan interaction. But how does this affect the creative process and studio model … especially when it comes virtual reality (the ability to craft more immersive experiences); systems tech (is there a tension between content-focused games there?); and the ease with which users -- not just a few rarified developers -- can mod the games themselves? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, listen in on the conversation between Tim Schafer, founder and CEO of Double Fine Productions (and designer of LucasArts’ Grim Fandango); Justin Bailey, COO of Double Fine; and Herman Narula (CEO of Improbable).
May 30th, 2015 • 28:59
Google is a vast machine learning company. If you think about it in those terms, says Benedict Evans, every product and feature Google builds is an expression of its machine learning expertise -- or a way to distribute it, and provide easier access to it. Evans joins the pod to pick apart all the latest machine learning-driven tech from Google as it hosts its annual developer party I/O. What’s become very clear this year, Evans says, is that for Google all the really cool stuff isn’t happening in Android, it’s happening in the Cloud. Finally, what’s next in VR from Google, and how it plans to tackle the developing world.
May 25th, 2015 • 19:29
If there’s one business on planet earth that makes Silicon Valley look sober and level-headed it’s Hollywood, says Marc Andreessen. Hollywood and Silicon Valley meet in this segment of the pod which features Andreessen in conversation with Brian Grazer, the super-producer behind half the movies and television you’ve watched in the last three-plus decades including Empire, 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights, The DaVinci Code, 8 Mile, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Real Genius, Splash… You get the idea. Grazer and Andreessen talk about the future of the entertainment business; why TV is in a golden age of creativity; and how technology and the kinds of stories that Grazer produces can feed off each other -- or not. The conversation took place at the launch of Grazer’s book, “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life,” which describes the “curiosity conversations” Grazer has held for the past 35 years with a succession of artists, scientists, politicians, technologists and people of every stripe. You name them, and Grazer has sat down with them to try and learn their secrets.
May 22nd, 2015 • 28:53
"Fit" is this squishy idea that a person, role, and company are a perfect match. But how do you tease out expectations and motivations from both sides of the hiring equation -- candidates and founding CEOs alike? In this segment of the a16z Podcast,a16z Executive Talent head Jeff Stump and resident talent expert Gia Scinto tackle ways to identify and analyze this, and methodically. And they share their secret weapon for putting the right person in the right job: "the 100-Day Plan".
May 21st, 2015 • 20:19
LinkedIn may seem like a gift both for job seekers and hirers, but it's not enough. When (and how) should your company develop a process to attract -- and close -- the best people? In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Caroline Horn and Matt Oberhardt from a16z’s Executive Talent team break down the steps of a great hiring process: best timing; how to launch a search; when a CEO should and shouldn’t exercise their veto power; and when to turn to outside recruiting help. The goal is not only to make your hiring process more efficient, but to make your company more attractive to the best people. “Before LinkedIn and other social networks, access to candidates wasn’t ubiquitous, which it is now. That’s not the game anymore.” Here's how to play that game now.
May 19th, 2015 • 21:20
Users, entrepreneurs, and investors are harnessing bitcoin’s "workaday utility" in Argentina, a place where bitcoin is arguably more widespread among everyday people than anywhere else. What conditions led to this? Is it indicative of what may happen someplace else? Or is it just an isolated case or even a stopgap? In this episode of the a16z Podcast, NYT journalist Nathaniel Popper, author of the new book Digital Gold on the "inside story of the misfits and millionaires trying to reinvent money", shares his insights on the phenomenon taking place in Argentina; what lessons other countries should (or shouldn't) take away from it; and why email is the best analogy for email. And why the people behind bitcoin really do matter ... especially because -- not in spite of! -- bitcoin being a blank slate to build on top of.
May 16th, 2015 • 26:09
Andreessen Horowitz Managing Partner Scott Kupor and NetSuite CFO Ron Gill get into the weeds on SaaS valuations, and how public and private SaaS companies think differently about the recurring revenue model. Gill and Kupor break down their financial analysis of these kinds of companies -- what metrics matter -- and correct some of the misconceptions about the SaaS business model that even sophisticated investors tend to latch onto. Finally, Kupor offers his advice to private company entrepreneurs who are wondering why, in a public market environment that puts everyone under a microscope, would you ever want to go public?
May 12th, 2015 • 12:32
The battle of the pipes has shifted to mobile. Verizon caught plenty of people by surprise when it announced it was buying AOL for $4.4 billion in cash (the cash part deserves a short moment to sink in). The question plenty of people are asking is, why? “Mobile,” says a16z General Partner Chris Dixon on this segment of the pod. “Increasingly it’s probably also mobile video.” a16z’s Frank Chen joins Dixon to discuss the Verizon acquisition, and what might be the start of a fresh wave of buying as network providers like Verizon look to wedge their way further into both mobile video and the advertising technology that helps pay for it. “Everything is up for grabs in the video-to-mobile value chain,” Chen says. “Verizon sees it, and they want to be at the front of it.”
May 11th, 2015 • 35:40
Venture capital and investing in startups is the (modern) classic case of decision making under uncertainty. As new players and sources of capital enter the market, however, how do we hedge against that uncertainty? For one thing, startups have more reasons than ever to focus on "the 2 Cs": cash (flow), and control. Or so argues Bill Janeway, an early venture capitalist and partner at Warburg Pincus, visiting lecturer in economics at Cambridge, and author of one of the definitive books on the history and evolution of the VC industry. In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Janeway -- who can best be described as a “theorist practitioner of financial economics” -- offers his insights on where unicorns come from (hint: it has to do with IT "disappearing"); how big companies need "absorptive capacity" when acquiring new tech; and why bubbles are "banal" -- including the difference between "good" bubbles and "bad" bubbles.
May 8th, 2015 • 30:29
The days of cramming security down employees’ throats or sending out best-practices advice emails are over. “You have to make security more useable,” says Pindrop CEO and co-founder Vijay Balasubramaniyan. Especially in a world of ubiquitous connected devices, from smartphones to smart thermostats. Security also has to be attractive, argues Okta CEO and co-founder Todd McKinnon. For example, if an employee uses a more sophisticated form of authentication from the road, then they should get access to a deeper, fuller set of data or applications than if they hadn’t gone through that extra layer of security. In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Balasubramaniyan and McKinnon discuss how they approach the problem of making security something that is both powerful and easy to use. From more sophisticated voice analysis to shifting from two-factor to three-factor and beyond authentication, where can technology push security next?
May 7th, 2015 • 25:19
Enterprises large and small run their applications and infrastructure at a whole new level of agility and speed. But unfortunately, security doesn’t like speed. “The faster you go, the harder it is to understand what is happening and to protect your infrastructure,” says Andrew Rubin, CEO and co-founder of cloud security startup Illumio. So then how do we rethink the architecture of the past to acknowledge the way business happens today? If you want to start tackling the shifting landscape of business and security today, “Go become a student of the economics of war and crime,” suggests Gaurav Banga, CEO and co-founder of Bromium. If going slow is not an option, what can and should we do?
May 1st, 2015 • 27:05
"Machine learning is to big data as human learning is to life experience," says Christopher Nguyen, the co-founder and CEO of big data intelligence company Adatao. Sure, but then, what IS big data? (especially as it's become a buzzword that captures so many things)... On this episode of the a16z Podcast, Nguyen puts on his former computer science professor hat to describe 'big data' in relation to 'machine learning' -- as well as what comes next with 'deep learning'. Finally, the former Google exec shares how Hadoop and Spark evolved from the efforts of companies dealing with massive amounts of real-time information; what we need to make machine learning a property of every application (why would we even want to?); and how we can make all this intelligence accessible to everyone.
Apr 30th, 2015 • 35:06
If your income can flow from any place on the globe, and you can earn your money on the Internet, the question for individuals and startup teams alike increasingly is: where do I go? In the tech industry the answer more often than not has been Silicon Valley. For many people and companies that is still true, says Sten Tamkivi, CEO and co-founder of Teleport.org, but it’s not a simple binary answer any more. “It’s more a question of when, and how often do you spend time in Silicon Valley?” he says. And of course, why? Quality, cost, and opportunity, those are the key elements to consider when deciding where in the world you want to be when you are starting a career -- and starting a company. In this segment of the pod, Tamkivi relates his own experience as an executive at Skype, and how he thought about its global workforce and what made it work so well. He also describes what he’s learned from starting his own far-flung company Teleport.org, which is in the business of helping people decide where in the world the best place for their career and company is.
Apr 29th, 2015 • 28:04
The paradox of security is we pretty much know what we are supposed to do most of the time -- but we don’t do it. If you examine all the recent high profile attacks, somebody in the organization knew something was wrong before it happened. They just didn’t have the ability to escalate the problem, or the ability to raise a flag that people took seriously. The lack of foundational security hygiene is what makes companies vulnerable to relatively mundane attacks, which are far more likely to hit your company than some sophisticated nation-state mounted attack. “There’s this misconception that we can’t defend against these attacks because we can’t deal with the sophistication of the attackers,” says Tanium CTO Orion Hindawi. “In turns out, we should just be doing the good hygiene we’ve all been trying to do for the last 20 years.” In this segment of the a16z Podcast, Hindawi shares how to get your security hygiene right -- not just from a technical perspective, but from a cultural one as well.
Apr 27th, 2015 • 16:55
Technology M&A isn’t at the scale or of the character you'd expect given the overall health of the technology industry and the growth companies are experiencing. What’s missing is a robust market for growth acquisitions -- the companies building and selling the next wave of technology. Or so a16z Managing Partner Scott Kupor has argued. So what’s going on? Why are dollars flowing into buybacks and dividends in recent years rather than into growth-oriented acquisitions? What's putting the brakes on M&A for incumbent tech companies? And when will the newer crop of public tech companies -- arguably the new incumbents -- fire up M&A as part of their corporate strategy? Jamie McGurk, head of the corporate development operating group at a16z, joins Kupor for this segment of the a16z Podcast, which examines today’s M&A climate and what’s coming next.
Apr 25th, 2015 • 15:06
Silicon Valley and the U.S. Department of Defense have had a long history of partnership -- including the government funding R&D that was commercialized by major companies and is now used by people everyday. But lately, there's been a more "commercial" evolution of technology, with both government and startups shifting focus in what they did (and didn't do) before. Where does this leave innovation around big ideas? In this segment of the a16z Podcast, we grabbed a few moments with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to hear his thoughts on these and other questions. Including how startups should partner with the government -- one of the biggest IT buyers in the world -- as well as what security areas he thinks are important to work on. And: why he hates GPS.
Apr 24th, 2015 • 17:33
When (now) two-year-old startup Zenefits was banned in Utah because it offered its HR management software for free, CEO and co-founder Parker Conrad felt upset, anxious, and scared. Especially because it was a B2B company with a much smaller supporter base: "If you're Uber or Lyft, then you have this built-in constituency using the service and millions of people to complain and go to the mat for you... But man, we make HR software. That's totally unsexy. No one's even going to pay attention to this,” he says. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Conrad shares how Zenefits went from being banned to the state reversing the ban. As the state governor stated, "Utah is open for business... There are always going to be innovators and disruptors as technology accelerates business growth and we believe government needs to be able to work with these innovators to ensure strong and efficient economic policies and an open marketplace.” Of course, this is just the beginning...
Apr 23rd, 2015 • 22:23
Bitcoin has not been easy for Wall Street and other traditional financial centers to wrap their collective heads around, let alone take seriously. But that has changed recently, argue authors Michael Casey and Paul Vigna in their book The Age of Cryptocurrency -- How Bitcoin and Digital Currency are Challenging the Global Economic Order. The two Wall Street Journal writers join the a16z Podcast to talk about how far bitcoin has seeped into the Wall Street worldview, and more broadly, into the fabric of the global economy. Casey and Vigna describe the five "stages" of bitcoin conversion from disdain to obsession, and why, with the failings of our financial system still painfully fresh, the bitcoin blockchain could be a tool to help rebuild trust, governance, and faith in the power of currency post-recession.
Apr 18th, 2015 • 28:59
It seems like we hear about corporate (not to mention consumer) hacks in the news every week. Is this something new, or just a continuation of old patterns and we just happen to be hearing about it more now? In this segment of the a16z Podcast, longtime security investigative reporter Kim Zetter of Wired -- who also wrote Countdown to Zero Day, the definitive account of Stuxnet, the first digital virus that wrought physical destruction (on a nuclear facility) -- breaks down how hacks happen. What's old (like phishing), what's new (like spear-phishing and ransomware)? How are players around the world -- whether for government or economic espionage -- becoming ever more sophisticated, coordinated, and organized? And what can companies do? Zetter shares her observations on how security models have changed -- for example, from defensive to offensive -- to how she susses out the truth when different players communicate about or claim hacks. (Which is one of the reasons that Zetter questions North Korea's role in the Sony hack...)
Apr 15th, 2015 • 22:41
It has long been the case that technological change outpaces changes to policy and law. Beyond important safety measures, some regulations take the form of complex processes or workflows that simply don't apply to startups doing different things -- or, that involve prohibitive fees, time, and other resources that startups can't afford. For companies like Airbnb, Instacart, LocalMotion, Lyft, Teespring, Tilt, and others on the frontlines of the so-called 'sharing economy' -- What's working? What needs to be changed? This segment of the a16z Podcast shares founders' perspectives and experiences [from a previously recorded live roundtable conversation] on what startups need to be able to innovate in this (and other areas!) in the current regulatory environment... Especially as software continues to eat the physical world.
Apr 10th, 2015 • 21:07
It is something we all face -- the prospect of taking care of a parent (or two) when they can't quite take care of themselves. For Seth Sternberg, part of the founding team of messaging service Meebo (bought by Google) a trip in the car with his mother reinforced the inevitability of her aging. Today it was her driving, but soon how would she manage everything else? For Sternberg, the answer to that question lay in part with technology. How could technology be brought to bear so that his mother -- and other seniors -- might stay in their homes longer and live not just physically satisfying lives, but lives that addressed their emotional well-being as well? The founding Meebo team got back together to build that technology, the backbone of their new company Honor. In this segment of the pod Sternberg and co-founder Sandy Jen discuss how technology needs to disappear into a human experience -- becoming something that isn't about the shiny and new, and more about human interaction. Also, after such a successful run at Meebo why torture themselves with building some new? The answer is exactly what you would hope.
Apr 3rd, 2015 • 25:13
The potential to turn messaging into a platform is driving much of the excitement in mobile, says a16z’s Benedict Evans. It's a platform through which other apps flow (and where all the users get aggregated). Take for example Facebook's recent announcements, which put it right where it wants to be on the mobile phone -- in control. So what’s next in messaging? And what will Apple, Google, and other players like WeChat have to say about it?
Mar 31st, 2015 • 33:51
Cyber attacks are growing in number and impact, and the reason is simple: there's more of value (and more vectors to) steal in our increasingly virtual world. So how are we to continue to move forward along this connected path as a culture and as businesses? Marc Andreessen tackles that question in this segment of the a16z Podcast -- against the backdrop of ever-more sophisticated hackers and hacks, Edward Snowden, and the rise of trillions more devices coming online. Still, despite the real risk and pain of cyber attacks we won't go backwards -- we have no choice but to move forward, says Andreessen. "The reason we don’t have a choice is there’s too much value in the virtual world." Smartphones, the internet; pick your favorite device, app, or service... ask yourself what (if anything) you would be willing to give up. Not much, right?
Mar 26th, 2015 • 48:03
As the CEO of a startup your board is a critical tool in helping your company grow; the board is there to make you a better CEO. (Or at least it should be.) But how do you best leverage your board’s expertise -- both during meetings and outside scheduled time -- and what kind of people should fill the precious few slots you have? “Don’t end up with one of those boards with six VCs on it,” says a16z General Partner Scott Weiss. Seems like strange advice coming from a VC, but the point, Weiss says, is to have a balance of people on your board -- especially in the early stages of a company. “For every VC you have, add a CEO -- that’s how you get that outside perspective.” Weiss is joined in this segment of the podcast by former Chairman and CEO of 3Com (and a16z Board Partner) Bill Krause; Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie; Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff; and former CEO and Chairman of NetApp Dan Warmenhoven to discuss the practicalities of building and leading boards over the lifetime of a company -- from early days to prepping for an IPO.
Mar 25th, 2015 • 29:16
Getting a board seat isn't just about adding value, but also about what value you take from it for your career. But why do it? When? How? And should you focus on a public or private company? To answer these questions and share their perspectives, this segment of the a16z Podcast features three current board directors and veteran executives: Amy Bohutinsky, CMO of the Zillow Group and a board director at Hotel Tonight and Avvo; Dawn Lepore, former Chair and CEO of Drugstore.com and a board director at AOL, Real Networks, and Coupons.com; and Michelle Wilson, former Amazon general counsel and a board member at Zendesk.
Mar 20th, 2015 • 50:27
Diane Greene -- who is on the boards of Google and Intuit -- has some golden rules when it comes to serving on boards. No 1: “You don’t want to tell them how to do strategy, whether it’s a big company or a small company,” she says. “That’s not your job. Your job as a director is to ask questions.” Lots of questions. In this segment of the a16z Podcast, a16z's Marc Andreessen and VMware co-founder and former CEO Diane Greene have a candid conversation about their experiences on boards from the perspective of both company founders and board directors. “I’ve almost never seen a problem that couldn’t be solved by better communication and consistency,” Greene says. That's rule No. 2. [This talk took place as part of a training program in corporate governance that a16z organized with the Director’s College at Stanford on March 5, 2015.]
Mar 16th, 2015 • 31:50
Of the 371 board seats that opened up last year (within Fortune 500 companies that is), 39% ended up going to first-time board members. So how did they pull it off? What are some strategies for landing your first board seat -- especially if you don’t fit the typical 'profile' of the other board members? And why do it? In this segment of the a16z Podcast, three veteran executives and board members share their experiences and offer advice about building better public company boards: Shellye Archambeau, who sits on the Nordstrom and Verizon boards; Gerri Elliott, a board member at Whirlpool, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Charlotte Russe; and Raul Vazquez, a Staples board member.
Mar 13th, 2015 • 36:47
Personalized learning -- customized to different student's interests and levels -- has long been an elusive goal of education. Now, however, technology-enabled approaches like AltSchool's make personalized learning possible at a whole new scale. Yet education has changed very little, fundamentally, in decades. Can a 'full-stack' approach really change things? This episode of the a16z Podcast with AltSchool founder and CEO Max Ventilla and a16z General Partner Lars Dalgaard addresses some of the common myths and misconceptions around tech and education -- and shares their hopes for a better platform to engage teachers, students, parents, and entire communities. And not just in San Francisco.
Mar 11th, 2015 • 14:51
As technology outgrows the tech industry, it moves from selling utilitarian products to selling things that fulfill other desires or pleasures. The Apple Watch is a perfect example of this market shift, says a16z's Benedict Evans. "It's another step in abstraction, and another step in the importance of delight rather than speeds and feeds." Technology meets desire in this segment of the a16z Podcast.
Mar 5th, 2015 • 23:10
Companies founded by a group of engineers often have a deep-seated mistrust of sales -- or more precisely, salespeople. That was the case at GitHub, says CEO and co-founder Chris Wanstrath: It wasn't until their customers started asking for a sales organization to help guide them that Wanstrath and the GitHub team realized sales wasn't necessarily filled with the fast-talking stereotypes they were used to seeing on TV. Wanstrath joins a16z General Partner Peter Levine to discuss how GitHub finally embraced sales, why good salespeople are like good teachers, and what it takes to sell to developers.
Mar 4th, 2015 • 28:53
It may seem like good apps or services sell themselves. That's what the whole viral thing is all about, right? Wrong, says Daniel Shapero, who helped build LinkedIn's enterprise sales team from a small core group to more than 1,200 people all over the globe. Shapero joins a16z General Partner Peter Levine (an engineer who jumped into sales before taking on his first CEO gig, and who now also teaches a class on the topic at Stanford) to discuss the right way to build a sales organization -- from answering the basic question of why sales?, to hiring, compensation ... and the inevitable culture clash that occurs when salespeople and engineers meet.
Feb 18th, 2015 • 26:46
Online marketplaces are growing much faster than e-commerce overall. Why is that? And what new kinds of marketplaces powered by the internet and mobile are we now seeing? a16z's Jeff Jordan and Anu Hariharan share their observations here and also explain what makes marketplace powered by software and reputation work -- as well as how to manage tensions, trust, and marketplace community reactions around change.
Feb 11th, 2015 • 37:49
You've heard the story: Slack began as a game. But almost exactly 1 year ago today, the internal tool the team built for its own use became a team communication app that anyone (and especially enterprises) can use -- and is now one of the fastest growing ones at that. It seems like collaboration is "something software should be helping us with” Slack co-founder Stewart Butterfield observes, yet it typically isn't. So what can an app like Slack tell us about how we work today, and how the nature of work will change (fewer meetings? less emails)? Butterfield is joined in this edition of the a16z podcast by a16z board partner Steven Sinofsky and a16z's Benedict Evans. The trio examines the origins of messaging and task management tools (many of which Sinofsky worked on at Microsoft) -- and how the advent of cloud-based services and mobile in particular have changed the requirements for modern workplace tools and information management.
Feb 7th, 2015 • 22:13
Consumers seem content with the mobile duopoly we currently have. So what can be gained from a third mobile operating system? If it's an open computing platform, argues Cyanogen CEO and co-founder Kirt McMaster (in discussion with a16z's Zal Bilimoria), one big win for developers and device makers is access to the guts of an operating system -- and the opportunity to exist as core services rather than simple apps riding on top of an OS. For consumers this means potentially new and unique software for smartphones, tablets, and wearables that take advantage of that tight integration. How else could the next Siri or Gmail take hold on mobile ... without necessarily coming from the likes of Apple and Google??
Feb 3rd, 2015 • 27:03
A crisis can be an opportunity to change your culture. But you have to get through the crisis first, and that starts with getting to the truth of what happened. a16z's Margit Wennmachers, who co-founded The Outcast Agency, and Judy Smith, the founder of a crisis management firm but also "the real life Olivia Pope" (the inspiration behind the ABC show Scandal) draw on their long experience managing all types of crises to walk us through what steps to take when things go bad.
Jan 30th, 2015 • 28:02
Apple absolutely crushed its most recent quarter, and unquestionably owns the high-end of the smartphone market, says a16z’s Benedict Evans. So where does Android fit in the ecosystem going forward? Where is the leverage for Google? Not to mention for Facebook, Amazon, and handset-makers like Samsung? Get used to this market complexion for the foreseeable future, Evans argues, with Apple owning the high-end; forked Android-powered devices flourishing at the low-end; and a battle to sell Google-approved Android gadgets in the middle. Until, of course, everything changes yet again.
Jan 27th, 2015 • 30:38
Virtual reality (VR) -- and augmented reality (AR) -- seem to be everywhere these days, showing up in demos and offerings from the world's biggest gadget makers to the Hollywood, gaming, and media crowds. But what's the difference between VR and AR? Is one better suited for work vs. play? What happens when you are building experiences -- and an entirely new visual grammar -- from scratch ... will we actually need standards next? a16z's Chris Dixon and Wired Entertainment's Peter Rubin discuss all this and more on this episode of the a16z Podcast.
Jan 19th, 2015 • 24:38
Tracy Chou from Pinterest, and Chris Granger and Jamie Brandon from Eve, discuss whether coding is a literacy (or as Granger puts it, a "superpower" ). But as software infuses every industry and much of our lives, do we all really need to start writing code? Or is a less hands-on approach -- educating ourselves about what software can (and can't) do, and the basic architecture behind its creation -- the most useful way to gain software literacy for most people?
Jan 9th, 2015 • 18:27
Does your burglar alarm need to speak to your thermostat? What about your lighting system? And if all those things need to interoperate, how does that happen -- and what does that look like on the shelf at Home Depot? These are just some of the questions facing the Internet of Things. It was one of the highest-profile collections of gadgets and ideas at this year’s International CES, but is also a tech trend that has lots of consumers scratching their heads. a16z's Benedict (just back from the Vegas melee that is CES), Preethi, and Zal discuss the Internet of Things and more in this a16z Podcast. The technology is ready, so what are the breakout use cases going to be?
Dec 19th, 2014 • 21:15
Storage as a set of technologies in the datacenter has a conservative reputation when it comes to innovation. Reliability, capacity, speed, and cost -- those have long been the only levers to pull in storage technology. Until Paula Long had the idea to add intelligence to enterprise-grade storage. Long, the CEO and founder of DataGravity joins a16z's Peter Levine for a discussion about storage. Why (and how) intelligence is a fit for storage technology, and how this smarter approach to handling data fits in with the datacenter of the future.
Dec 18th, 2014 • 30:43
What does an operating system for today's datacenter look like? Why do we even need one, and how does it function? Mesosphere's Benjamin Hindman, the co-creator of Apache Mesos, joins Steven Sinofsky for an all-OS discussion.
Dec 17th, 2014 • 35:42
It's been a long and (at times) interesting battle pitching iOS vs. Android. It's time to let it go, says a16z's Benedict Evans. It's time to move on to a new set of questions -- and ideas -- in mobile.
Dec 13th, 2014 • 14:57
The Internet of Things puts intelligence into all kinds of things -- especially in the home, from appliances to light bulbs and door locks. But we still have a ways to go. “We need to be very patient in this category,” says Quirky CEO Ben Kaufman in a conversation with a16z General Partner Scott Weiss. The technology is available, Kaufman adds, we just need our things -- and habits -- to be ready too. So when does this technology go mainstream? What gadget do they think will push it over the edge ... and what might hold it back even longer?
Dec 8th, 2014 • 33:25
After years of being shut off to the world -- Myanmar is opening itself up. Not just across physical borders, but also the digital. What happens when the vast majority of a population suddenly has access to a cell phone, not to mention Facebook? How is technology manifesting itself in the media, in the economy and in the education of a population eager to use the tools it suddenly has access to? What can Myanmar teach the rest of the world about the opportunities that arise, and potential pitfalls, when a wave of new technology crashes down? Joining the discussion is David Madden from non-profit Internews and the founder of the brand-new Phandeeyar: Myanmar Innovation Lab; Aye Moah, founder of Silicon Valley-based startup Baydin (in photo); and Ethan Zuckerman director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT.
Dec 8th, 2014 • 35:37
Technology can be an equalizer, especially as new tools democratize the expertise that was previously held only by a limited few. But is coding really the new literacy -- the fourth “r” -- after reading, writing and arithmetic? Should it be? Why does this even matter, and how can coding enable more people?
Dec 5th, 2014 • 34:14
VCs wouldn't fund Salesforce ("that obviously won't work") when Marc Benioff began. With the cloud a growing part of practically every company, government, organization, and people's lives, a lot's changed since 1999. But what's next? Do enterprise CEOs get (mobile) religion? [Answer: not yet. Benioff thinks there's a ton of opportunity ahead there.] What's happening with international growth, when countries want their own clouds and 90% of enterprise software is bought in just 7 countries?
Dec 3rd, 2014 • 29:21
The security landscape is changing. Can companies fight back against an increasingly well-armed and sophisticated set of bad players? “I think it is the beginning of a wakeup call,” former deputy secretary of defense Ashton Carter says. “That said, I think there are a lot of people at the top that don’t know what to do.” Carter (who is is expected to be formally nominated as the next Secretary of Defense) joins a16z board partner John Jack and Yahoo security chief Alex Stamos for a wide-ranging discussion about the state of security.
Nov 28th, 2014 • 32:21
It might seem that culture at a startup is something that is just intuitive. And in the first days, with the first handful of people, that might be true. But the co-founders of Genius.com, Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory (pictured), found that even at 25 people taking the time to describe their company's culture in detail -- their basic principles of life and work -- was critical. What follows is their version of a culture guide, the "Genius ISMs," from the practical -- "take the roast out of the oven," and "run into the spike," to the more tonal -- "we'll figure it out" and "the chaos will not be minimized." You can check out all 17 here: http://genius.com/Genius-the-genius-isms-annotated And of course here's the interview annotated: http://genius.com/A16z-genius-podcast-annotated
Nov 21st, 2014 • 22:29
How can ecommerce companies deal with the conflicting expectations of consumers and logistics realities of an on-demand economy? How can they compete with ecommerce giant Amazon, which just gets bigger every year? And given all this, how is physical retail faring?
Nov 21st, 2014 • 57:37
The ease with which we can order anything online masks the tremendous complexity of getting that item to your door in a day or two (or less). Andreessen Horowitz's Jeff Jordan leads a discussion with four experts in ecommerce logistics and operations -- the tough business of getting things from one place to another.
Nov 19th, 2014 • 27:07
In this wide-ranging discussion about the latest and next consumer and industrial applications for 3D printing, we examine (with Shapeway's Carine Carmy and a16z's Tom Rikert): how the software-driven ideal of product-market-fit may be achieved in physical products, too -- with rapid prototyping through 3D printing; how the ability to manufacture on-demand changes traditional notions of seasonality and inventory management in product cycles and development; and how the long tail of 3-D printing means being able to have a market of 1.
Nov 17th, 2014 • 38:10
What happens when the importance of access to things trumps the value of owning those same things? The end of ownership. From computer hardware, to houses, trucks, cars, and more, the notion of ownership is changing as software enables the matching of people and organizations that have things and those that need them. Joining a16z’s Balaji Srinivasan to pick apart this trend are Joe Gebbia, Airbnb co-founder and chief product officer; John Stanfield co-founder and CEO of Local Motion; and Ben Uretsky, co-founder and CEO of DigitalOcean.
Nov 14th, 2014 • 57:14
The modern, average 12-year-old Madden NFL videogame player has actually visualized more plays than any past real-life NFL Hall-of-Famer. And now, for the first time, we're seeing those videogame tactics show up on the field too. There's a "technological and analytical arms race" going on in sports, and it's producing the world's best athletes in history. How are they working smarter, using science and technology to enhance the way they train and perform, when it's not enough to put in 10,000 hours? How should athletes sleep? (Note: you can try this at home, too). And what does “performance by the aggregation of marginal gains” have to do with winning? Author of the new book Faster, Higher, Stronger Wired's Mark McClusky -- interviewed by a16z General Partner (and enthusiastic basketball player) Jeff Jordan -- bridge the worlds of "jocks" and "nerds" in this wide-ranging conversation about sports, performance technology, nature vs. nurture, and the tricky nuances of why some enhancement technologies are legal vs. illegal or better vs. worse than others.
Nov 12th, 2014 • 25:22
With 15 million fantasy football players angling for the win in thousands of fantasy leagues, ESPN joined Tilt.com for a discussion about how crowdfunding provides a platform for an obsessed community.
Nov 11th, 2014 • 43:49
Don Faul, head of operations at Pinterest and a former U.S. Marine Corps Platoon Commander, grills Marc Andreessen in front of a crowd of veterans at an event we hosted for bringing more veterans into startups. The discussion ranges from what makes great founders great; the shift to venture capital; and how Silicon Valley is all about “applied creativity.” All that, plus the three books every entrepreneur should read...
Oct 31st, 2014 • 21:42
It’s always hard to predict how a generational shift in technology will impact the wider world, especially when you are in the trenches building that new technology. It happened with the mainframe computer, mini-computer, and the PC. These were all technologies that fundamentally changed how industries functioned and culture evolved (especially the PC plus internet), and in ways that were hard to predict. With mobile and the smartphone, a16z’s Benedict Evans argues, the impact will be even greater. a16z Board Partner Steven Sinofsky joins Evans in a conversation examining the massive scale and monstrous leverage of mobile devices and the software running on them and how -- unpredictably as always -- this technological shift is changing the world. As Sinofsky puts it, “Mobile is everything.”
Oct 24th, 2014 • 28:54
It’s well understood that bitcoin can be used to buy and sell things/services, and the ecosystem of people accepting the cryptocurrency as payment is expanding. But what else can we use the underlying protocol for? How can we expand the same system that enables bitcoin-the-currency to flow and transactions to be recorded? This discussion (from the a16z Academic Roundtable 2014) examines that question, and answers why the currency is just the beginning of the story when it comes to this technology. You can watch video of the entire discussion here: http://a16z.com/2014/10/24/the-bitcoin-network-effect/
Oct 17th, 2014 • 1:11:17
What is Silicon Valley’s greatest reigning monopoly? How did PayPal manage to emerge from the dotcom implosion? Can you build a great tech company and keep it private forever? And how did Elon Musk manage to wreck an uninsured, million-dollar car with Peter Thiel in the passenger seat speeding on the way to a VC meeting? Marc Andreessen and Thiel discuss all of it in a wide-ranging conversation that toggles off the topics in Thiel’s new book “Zero to One.”
Oct 2nd, 2014 • 23:14
It's a myth that startups happen in isolation. Those legendary two people in a garage are often building on the deep and basic research -- long funded by government and conducted in universities -- that has come before it. But with the advent of the internet, what's the future of peer-to-peer collaborations and startups-as-"science experiments"? Can venture capital disrupt academia… and vice versa? And finally, what's the secret to universities like Stanford making money off the entrepreneurial ideas coming out of them? (Hint: It starts with a 'p'. But not what you think.) a16z's new professor in residence Vijay Pande interviews Marc Andreessen at our recent Academic summit on these topics, as well as 'regulatory arbitrage', how to mix humanities and science, and what Marc would have majored in if he were 18 today.
Sep 30th, 2014 • 30:50
Is it possible to engineer new Silicon Valleys? What are the roles of large companies, government, academia, and entrepreneurial communities? Fiona Murray, MIT’s Associate Dean for Innovation and an expert on regional innovation, joins the a16z Podcast to share what she’s learned studying successful — and not so successful — ‘innovation ecosystems’ around the globe. (Including more recent entrepreneur-led efforts, such as Brad Feld’s work in Boulder, Colorado, and Tony Hsieh’s work in Las Vegas.)
Sep 18th, 2014 • 26:05
Jonah Peretti is building BuzzFeed to “inform, inspire and entertain” in a world where news and entertainment is increasingly passed around on social networks and consumed on smartphones. Chris Dixon, who is on the board of BuzzFeed as part of Andreessen Horowitz’s recent investment in the startup, sat down with Peretti to talk about building a media company from scratch. If editorial success is driven by digital word-of-mouth, and mountains of data about what people like to read and watch, what does Peretti do differently? Why do BuzzFeed’s lists work so well? Does video finally make financial sense? And why, even if it’s a traffic monster now, is Peretti not religious about any particular format -- including lists. (For more on Dixon’s take on the media business, and BuzzFeed’s “full stack” approach check out this recent post: http://cdixon.org/2014/08/10/buzzfeed/)
Sep 17th, 2014 • 35:41
Software, and the billions of transistors that power it, has brought about massive change to all kinds of industries, but none more so than the news business. Today, distribution doesn’t come from the back of trucks, but from Facebook, Twitter and all across the social web. Relationships with readers and viewers have become a two-way conversation. It’s not news that the traditional business model of news has come under extreme pressure, but there is growing evidence that the reach of media outlets -- and in many ways the opportunity -- has never been greater. In today’s unending news cycle, the latest story, video or graphic is only a tap away from a potential audience of billions around the world. Andreessen Horowitz’s Margit Wennmachers leads a conversation about the road ahead for good journalism and the business of news with Claire Cain Miller from the New York Times, Alexis Madrigal from The Atlantic, and CNET’s Connie Guglielmo.
Sep 15th, 2014 • 20:24
Nir Eyal and Product Hunt's Ryan Hoover, the authors of "Hooked, How to Build Habit-Forming Products," discuss the theory and practice of the book as the publish date of a new edition approaches. Nir lays out the four steps integral to any habit-forming product -- trigger, action, reward, investment -- and Ryan describes how those same steps apply to the fast-growing Product Hunt.
Sep 12th, 2014 • 18:49
Have we as a culture become expert at globalizing industries, but are we failing when it comes to truly world-changing technological breakthroughs? Is competition bad for business? Should you bother with creating the “nth” social network (the answer is no)? Chris Dixon and Blake Masters dig into these themes, plus “power laws” and the importance of secrets from Peter Thiel's new book with Masters, “Zero to One.” Dixon tries to pry a secret from Masters, but they aren’t called “secrets” for nothing.
Sep 10th, 2014 • 33:16
Sep 8th, 2014 • 25:30
It’s a problem most entrepreneurs would love to face, a massive valuation offer from investors for the startup they’ve been killing themselves over. But what terms come along with that big number? In this segment a16z’s Scott Kupor is joined by two startup CEOs to pick apart the topic of valuations – serial entrepreneur Danny Shader, founder of PayNearMe, and Danielle Morrill, co-founder of Mattermark.
Sep 5th, 2014 • 17:36
Profitless Ponzi scheme, or the greatest company in the world led by an absolute genius? Amazon is a polarizing company. Quarter after quarter, as it grows ever larger gobbling up categories and adding businesses, Amazon manages to produce exactly no profit. It’s as if its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos engineered it that way. He has, and Bezos will continue on the same profitless path, says Benedict Evans in conversation with Ben Horowitz in this segment of the a16z podcast. Benedict and Ben (yeah, we know, two Bens) examine the company Bezos has constructed, and why, for Bezos at least as opposed to nervous investors, it works so well. How one of the world's great founders gets away with building a massive public company his way. Be sure to check out Benedict's post on the topic for all the charts and numbers: http://a16z.com
Sep 3rd, 2014 • 27:23
Given that physical retail is expensive, what’s the right distribution mix for startups? In this podcast with Tristan Walker (who is building health and beauty brand Walker & Company from scratch), we hear Ron Johnson's lessons learned from arguably the world’s most successful physical retail outlet: the Apple Store -- as well as a discussion of the challenges of brand and retail in a multichannel world.
Aug 28th, 2014 • 12:51
Teenage siblings Ima, Asha and Caleb Christian from Atlanta, Georgia join Ben Horowitz for a discussion about the motivation and origins of their new app, Five-O. In the aftermath of the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, the young developers built Five-O as a tool to rate and document interactions -- good and bad -- with the police. Ben and the Five-O team discuss the origins and technical underpinnings of the app. Rapper Nas makes an appearance, offering his own experience with the police, and why efforts like Five-O work towards a solution that both citizens and police should get behind.
Aug 26th, 2014 • 16:47
The five-year anniversary segment with a16z founders Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen picks up with a discussion of Clayton Christensen's theories around disruption. Why Christensen's thinking is very much on the mark today, and how his theories help guide the firm in making decisions about what NOT to invest in. Ben offers one of the things he wished he had known as a young CEO, and Marc describes a trait that every great entrepreneur possesses. Part two of two.
Aug 15th, 2014 • 19:19
Jim Barksdale in the run-up to the Netscape IPO told potential investors that you can make money in software in two ways: bundling and unbundling. Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky revisit that thesis in the context of a mobile app world -- how Facebook for example, is unbundling itself, while at the same time Baidu is bundling everything together as fast as it can. How and why Barksdale's thesis is very much alive and well in the mobile world. All that, and the proper use of "fissiparousness" in a sentence.
Jul 31st, 2014 • 22:29
Peter Levine goes deeper into the changing nature of the data center with Yoram Novick, CEO of Maxta, and Florian Leibert, CEO of Mesosphere. Does ARM architecture, the foundation of the chips in practically every mobile phone, have what it takes to displace X86 processors in the data center? Is the private cloud --- effectively a company operating its own data center -- dead, or will a hybrid public/private cloud model dominate? Given all the upheaval in the data center how do startups fit into the equation, and how are they competing today with legacy technologies and companies?
Jul 31st, 2014 • 25:22
There is a shift in enterprise hardware from expensive, proprietary hardware to cheap components plucked directly from the consumer hardware supply chain. While that trend has been underway for some time thanks to companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon rolling their own data centers, the next wave of enterprise IT is taking its cues from the mobile supply chain’s collection of components -- the stuff that your mobile phone is made of. That includes everything from power-sipping ARM chips to flash-based memory. Andreessen Horowitz’s Peter Levine is joined by Coho Data CEO Ramana Jonnala and Cumulus Networks CEO JR Rivers for a discussion about the consumerization of the datacenter. Where is the hardware coming from? How will software make it all work? What does it mean for incumbent hardware and software vendors? And how will customers buy all this data center muscle?
Jul 31st, 2014 • 23:06
Open source software has permeated practically every nook of the software world. The biggest companies and largest-scale systems all lean heavily on open source code. Yet, with the exception of Red Hat, no one has built a great business on top of open source software. That’s because what companies should be selling isn’t necessarily the software, or even support, says a16z’s Peter Levine, but a service that leverages open source. One example of such a service is DigitalOcean, which has built a cloud environment tailored to the needs of developers. DigitalOcean CEO and cofcounder Ben Uretsky joins Levine from his New York City HQ for a discussion about open source-as-a-service, how companies of all sizes should think about leveraging open source, and whether we’ll start to see a slew of specialized clouds geared toward different verticals.
Jul 31st, 2014 • 14:05
Fashion, function or just a fad? Wearable technology is getting huge amounts of attention from companies of every size and stripe. Consumers are slapping on fitness bands, experimenting with smart watches and trying on jewelry that syncs with their smart phones. Christina Mercando, CEO and co-founder of Ringly, which fits in the fashion/jewelry segment of wearables, joins a16z’s Chris Dixon in a discussion about this emerging technology segment. What is working today, and where things are headed in wearables.
Jul 31st, 2014 • 24:13
There are great examples of communities helping to grow and solidify online marketplaces. eBay in its early days certainly leveraged the power of community to bring buyers and sellers onto its platform. Today, companies like Etsy, Uber and Airbnb are turning toward community for new ideas and new customers. But how do you build community, and how do you balance the needs of the community and the needs of the business? Or to put it another way, how do you simultaneously give up control and maintain control? Andreessen Horowitz board partner Boris Wertz – who built his own community while running Abe Books – is joined by Tindie’s CEO Emile Petrone and head of engineering Julia Grace to pick apart the notion of community. Can it be engineered? How much leverage do you give your “super-users,” and for some businesses is community even necessary?
Jul 25th, 2014 • 17:38
Apple during its most recent quarter reported growing app store sales and flat iPad sales. Where do tablets go from here, especially in light of the Apple and IBM partnership announced? How does the iOS ecosystem stack up against Android now that we can (somewhat) accurately compare the two? Benedict Evans analyzes the small details and big moves driving the mobile industry, and makes an argument for why the impact and opportunity of mobile far exceeds the sheer number of devices.
Jul 10th, 2014 • 20:00
What if we could tap into our government with the same speed and ease as our smartphones and search? Can technology make a difference in how government operates, and how we citizens interact with it? Two-time Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak, OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman, and a16z’s Tom Rikert discuss government’s historically uneasy relationship with technology, how a growing trend in government transparency is being powered by software, and why you should be glad your local city council takes its sweet time to pass a budget.
Jul 8th, 2014 • 24:26
One of the ways to damage a fast-growing startup is to not have an HR person. But when is the right time to bring someone on? What qualities should you look for? How can you preserve the company culture and energy that got you where you are -- while still putting in place the processes that HR requires? Ben Horowitz and a16z’s head of technical talent Shannon Schiltz (Callahan) dive into the world of HR for startups. How does a good HR professional partner with a CEO? When you have to fire someone for the first time … and how should it go down? Musical kicker at end: If you thought you couldn’t rhyme Oculus, think again. For Ben’s debut on the a16z podcast, we included an original song provided by friend of the firm Divine (and produced by a16z’s own Chris Lyons). For more on Divine and his relationship with Ben, check out Rap Genius. http://rapgenius.com/Divine-the-4th-letter-venture-capitalist-like-ben-horowitz-lyrics
Jun 27th, 2014 • 18:34
Managing enterprise networks with thousands of users and endpoints has been hard enough. Now that large enterprise networks routinely include hundreds of thousands of nodes it’s amazingly difficult and time-consuming (we’re talking days often) to get definitive answers to seemingly simple questions like, how many PCs do I have running? Never mind, how many PCs do I have that could be at risk of the Heartbleed virus? Tanium, the most recent company to join the a16z portfolio, offers a systems management and security tool that allows administrators to ask virtually any question about the configuration, performance, and complexion of an enterprise network and get an answer in seconds. Tanium CTO and Co-founder Orion Hindawi and a16z Board Partner Steven Sinofsky discuss the origins of Tanium; the invention of the “linear peer-to-peer communications” architecture that turbo-charges the Tanium solution; and with Internet of Things coming online fast, the prospect of networks quickly going to millions and billions of nodes.
Jun 26th, 2014 • 33:11
The Google I/O keynote was epic in at least one respect, length. For three hours Google laid out the near horizon for all things Google. This included the next version of Android; a new platform for connected watches; Google for your car; yet another Google TV; and a new health platform. Andreessen Horowitz’s Benedict Evans plowed through it all, including what was noticeably absent: Google+ and Google Glass. What the future looks like as the lines between mobile apps and web pages blur, and why Google is the new Microsoft -- in the best possible way.
Jun 18th, 2014 • 25:39
The datacenter has long been -- there's no nice way to put this -- a bit of a snoozer. Expensive boxes running expensive software. No more, says a16z General Partner Peter Levine. Along with Chris Dixon, Levine lays out a vision for the datacenter of the future. Building on the technology established by companies like Facebook and Google, Levine and Dixon describe a software-led transformation of the datacenter, one where the mobile supply chain and fast-moving companies are reimagining everything -- from the underlying architecture to new business models. Be prepared to get in the weeds, hear Levine talk about the next opportunity, “hosted instances,” Dixon describe the “the dream within the dream,” and discover why the datacenter is about to get exciting.
Jun 16th, 2014 • 12:46
People Marketplaces are a lot like eBay -- connecting buyer and seller -- but for services, says a16z General Partner Jeff Jordan. These two-sided marketplaces are cropping up across the economy, from finding a ride to house cleaning and pet sitting. Now Instacart is bringing the People Marketplace model to the grocery business -- a massive market that has seen very little change even as the internet and mobile have upended most retail categories. Joined by a16z's Sam Gerstenzang, this segment outlines the elements of a People Marketplace; why the model is gathering momentum now; and if we all remember what happened with Webvan, why is this time is different?
Jun 13th, 2014 • 17:18
a16z Board Partner Steven Sinofsky and Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie discuss findings from a study of the information economy that has been built on cloud and mobile. The findings were based on workflow data collected anonymously from a subset of 25 million users, 225,000 businesses, and five industries (you can see the report here: http://blog.box.com/2014/06/mapping-the-information-economy-a-tale-of-five-industries/). It all amounts to big shifts in enterprise IT. But what are the implications of these findings for everyone’s business ... beyond Silicon Valley and the software industry? And finally -- shared in a live brainstorm at the end -- what’s the future of the cloud?