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

Episode Date
a16z Podcast: Inside Apple Software Design
Join longtime Apple software engineer Ken Kocienda in conversation with a16z Deal and Research operating partner Frank Chen for an insider’s account of how Apple designed software in the golden age of Steve Jobs, spanning products like the first release of Safari on MacOS to the first few releases of the iPhone and iOS (very first codename: "Purple"). Ken vividly shares about the creative process, how teams were organized, what it was like demo'ing to Steve Jobs, and many other fun stories. This episode originally aired as a YouTube video, and throughout, we repeatedly probe the question: is Apple's obsession with secrecy during the product development process a feature or a bug?
Apr 20, 2019
a16z Podcast: Fintech for Startups and Incumbents
In this episode of the a16z Podcast -- which originally aired as a video on YouTube -- general partner Alex Rampell (and former fintech entrepreneur as the CEO and co-founder of TrialPay) talks with operating partner Frank Chen about the quickly changing fintech landscape and, even more importantly, why the landscape is changing now. Should the incumbents be nervous? About what, exactly? And most importantly, what should big companies do about all of this change? But the conversation from both sides of the table begins from the perspective of the hungry and fast fintech startup sharing lessons learned, and then moves to more concrete advice for the execs in the hot seat at established companies. --- The views expressed here are those of the individual AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates. This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund which should be read in their entirety.) Past performance is not indicative of future results. Any charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.
Apr 07, 2019
a16z Podcast: A Podcast About Podcasting
with Nick Quah (@nwquah), Connie Chan (@conniechan), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) It's a podcast about podcasting! About the state of the industry, that is. Because a lot has changed since we recorded "a podcast about podcasts" about four years ago: podcasts, and interest in podcasting -- listening, making, building -- is growing. But by how much, exactly? (since various stats are constantly floating around and often out of context); and what do we even know (given that no one really knows what a download is)?And in fact, how do we define "podcasts": Should the definition include audio books... why not music, too, then? So much of the podcasting ecosystem -- from editing tools to the notion of a "CD phase" to music companies like Spotify doing more audio deals -- stems from the legacy of the music industry. But other analogies -- like that of the web and of blogging! -- may be more useful for understanding the podcasting ecosystem, too. Heck, we even throw in an analogy of container ships (yes, the ocean kind!) to help out there.If we really think medium-native -- and borrow from other mediums and entertainment models, like TV and streaming and even terrestrial radio -- what may or may not apply to podcasting as experiments evolve? In this hallway-style jam of an episode, Nick Quah (writer and publisher of Hot Pod) joins a16z general partner Connie Chan (who covers consumer startups among other things) in conversation with Sonal Chokshi (who is also showrunner of the a16z Podcast) to talk about all this and more. We also discuss the obvious and the not-so-obvious aspects of monetization, discovery, search, platforms... and where are we in the cycles of industry fragmentation vs. consolidation, bundling vs. unbundling, more? And where might opportunities for entrepreneurs, toolmakers, and creators lie? --- The views expressed here are those of the individual AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates.This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund which should be read in their entirety.)Past performance is not indicative of future results. Any charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.
Apr 03, 2019
a16z Podcast: How Many Taps in the Apple (Plus) Tree?
with Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) and Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) What does Apple's recent event — in which a range of new services was announced, from Apple News Plus to Apple TV Plus to the Apple card — mean for the company's overall strategy and tactics? In this another of a16z's 'hallway conversations', Benedict Evens and Steven Sinofsky discuss the build up, announcements, and postmortem of the recent Apple event, and consider what it all means in terms of a big company's evolution into services. How many different places is Apple now putting a tap into the tree, with new subscriptions available? What’s the positioning underlying all those different services, from a new credit card to new magazines and content, all bundled up together? The views expressed here are those of the individual AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) personnel quoted and are not the views of a16z or its affiliates.This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by a16z. (An offering to invest in an a16z fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund which should be read in their entirety.)Past performance is not indicative of future results. Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures for additional important information.
Mar 30, 2019
a16z Podcast: Incenting Innovation Inside, Loonshots to Moonshots
with Safi Bahcall (@safibahcall), Vijay Pande (@vijaypande), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) A "moonshot" is a destination (like going to the moon, quite literally) -- but nurturing "loonshots" (which often involves a number of stumbles along the way) is how we get there. This goes beyond the trite mantra of failing fast! It is about not having "false fails" or not killing the seemingly small ideas that could lead to outsized yet unexpected outcomes, observes Safi Bahcall (physicist, ex-startup founder, and CEO of a public biotech company), author of the new book, Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries.So in this episode of the a16z Podcast -- in conversation with a16z bio general partner Vijay Pande and Sonal Chokshi -- Bahcall shares why concepts like "disruptive innovation" cause him gas; why doing market projections can sometimes be crap; and why most management books that focus on culture are b.s.Because CEOs and culture, argues Bahcall, do not control organizational behavior... but hidden incentives, "phase transitions", and specific control parameters do. So how can organizations -- of any size, big or small -- be in two states at the same time: both fluid and stable, soft and solid, with high entropy yet bound energy, and both artists and soldiers? The answer may be in a more scientific, less "squishy" framework for management at the intersection of physics and economics. Big empires always miss the small but important new ideas... can this be why?
Mar 25, 2019
a16z Podcast: For the Billions of Creatives Out There
with Brian Koppelman (@briankoppelman), Marc Andreessen (@pmarca), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) The writer-showrunner is a relatively new phenomenon in TV, as opposed to film, which is still a director-driven enterprise. But what does it mean, as both a creative and a leader, to “showrun” something, whether a TV show… or a startup? Turns out, there are a lot of parallels with the rise of the showrunner and the rise of founder-CEOs, all working (or partnering) within legacy systems. But in the day to day details, really “owning” and showunning something — while also having others participate in it and help bring it to life — involves doing the work, both inside and out. This special, almost-crossover episode of the a16z Podcast features Billions co-showrunner Brian Koppelman — who also co-wrote movies such as Rounders and Ocean’s 13 with his longtime creative partner David Levien — in conversation with Marc Andreessen (and Sonal Chokshi). The discussion covers everything from managing up — when it comes to executives or investors sharing their “notes” aka “feedback” on your work — to managing down, with one’s team; to managing one’s partners (or co-founders)… and especially managing yourself. How to tame those irrational emotions, that ego? Ultimately, though, it’s all about unlocking creativity, whether in writing, coding, or other art forms. Because something surprising happened: Instead of TV going the way of music à la Napster with the advent of the internet, we’re seeing the exact opposite — a new era of “visual literature”, a “Golden Age” of television and art. Are artists apprenticing from other artists virtually, learning and figuring out the craft (with some help from the internet, mobile, TV)? And if we really are seeing “the creative explosion of all time”, what does it take to explode our own creativity in our work, to better run the shows of our lives? All this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast… as well as some Billions behind-the-scenes (and light spoilers, alerted within!) towards the end.
Mar 16, 2019
a16z Podcast: Lessons Learned from Chinese Education Startups
When people talk about trends in education technology, they often focus on how to disrupt higher education in the U.S., whether it's about breaking free of the "signaling" factor of elite educations or how to shift education out of its "cottage industry" mindset to achieve greater scale. However, in China, the transformation of education is already well underway, with a fast-growing ecosystem built around lifelong learning. In fact, one of the largest demographic groups paying for education in China is actually not college students -- it's college graduates, aged 26 through 35.In this episode -- which originally aired as a video on our YouTube channel -- a16z general partner Connie Chan talks with operating partner Frank Chen about the lifelong learning ecosystem in China; what it means for startups there; and lessons for entrepreneurs everywhere... or will these techniques even work outside of China?
Mar 14, 2019
a16z Podcast: What's in the Water at the George Church Lab?
with George Church (@geochurch) and Jorge Conde (@JorgeCondeBio) Renowned scientist George Church is known for his groundbreaking work and methods used for the first genome sequence, and for his work in genome editing, writing & recoding -- in fact, Church’s innovations have become an essential building block for most of the DNA sequencing methods and companies we see today. In this conversation, a16z bio general partner Jorge Conde -- who also founded a company with Church out of the George Church Lab -- take us on a wild journey into the scientist’s mind and work, starting with what the leading pioneer in the space makes of where we are today with CRISPR (especially given recent news about CRISPR babies in China), to the broader implications of all of this on a cultural level, and finally to what it really takes to go from science fiction, to lab, to reality.
Feb 26, 2019
a16z Podcast: Capitalizing on an Autonomous Vehicle Future
with Peter Ludwig, Qasar Younis (@qasar), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) When people talk about autonomous vehicles, we hear everything from "we're much closer than you think" to "we're much further than you think". So where are we, really, in the widespread reality of autonomous vehicles today? It depends, of course, on how you define autonomy -- which is where a handy recap and update of the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) levels of autonomy comes in. But still, given everything out there from self-driving shuttles to Teslas, it's really hard to tell just where we are and where the nuances of, say, Level 2-plus vs. Level 3 might come in. This episode of the a16z Podcast takes a quick pulse on where we are in the state of autonomy in 2019 when it comes to autonomous cars, shuttles, robots -- basically any "autonomous" and/or "self-driving" vehicle out there -- as well as the analogy of mobile for understanding the space: where it works, where it breaks down. But did even the mobile industry itself really have a clear iPhone "moment"? When did mobile devices that seemed so limited -- or seemed like just "toys" -- suddenly (or not so suddenly) go to an apps layer that we use every single day? How do we build "the rails" and "the trains" at the same time in this case? And perhaps most importantly, where will the spoils of this new wave of innovation go -- to Silicon Valley or Detroit? Or outside the U.S.? Who are the players? How do regulatory -- and quite frankly, nationalistic -- concerns come into play here? And finally, how does one balance the desire to embrace innovation in an open and fast, yet still very thoughtful and safe way? The answers, according to Applied Intuition co-founder and CEO Qasar Younis and CTO Peter Ludwig (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi), have to do with commodities and capitalism, with science and science fiction, with simulation and software as infrastructure, and more... And really, how we define autonomy now, and in the future.
Feb 24, 2019
a16z Podcast: Gaming Goes Mainstream
Bobby Kotick is the CEO of Activision Blizzard (a merger he engineered); it's one of only two video gaming companies in the Fortune 500, and the largest game network in the world. The company is responsible for some of the most iconic entertainment franchises, including Call of Duty, Candy Crush, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft -- as well as its own professional esports league. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Marc Andreessen interviews Kotick on everything from the evolution of video games in the 1980s to gaming trends more broadly. What changes as gaming goes from "just for nerds" to "just for kids" and spreads more broadly into entertainment and cultural phenomena (esports, Fortnite, Pokemon Go, etc.)... both online and offline? The conversation originally took place at our annual innovation a16z Summit in November 2018 -- which features a16z speakers and invited experts from various organizations discussing innovation at companies small and large. You can also see other podcasts and videos from this event here: https://a16z.com/tag/summit-2018/
Feb 17, 2019
a16z Podcast: Who's Down with CPG, DTC? (And Micro-Brands Too?)
with Ryan Caldbeck (@ryan_caldbeck), Jeff Jordan (@jeff_jordan), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) It's clear that all kinds of commerce companies and consumer products have been disrupted -- or enabled -- by tech. Yet for certain categories, like consumer packaged goods (CPG), it seems like tech hasn't changed things very much. How is the rise of so-called "micro-brands" (or emerging brands) playing out here? And, how is it possible that "real" -- different -- innovation isn't really happening in the CPG industry, despite the tremendous legacy of brand, talent, and more in the space? How are CPG companies tackling grocery, which represents the perfect end-capsule and case study of challenges -- and opportunities -- in going from offline to online, from online to offline, and more? As for grocery itself, stores themselves (in the U.S. at least) haven't changed very much due to tech, either... is it a last-mile delivery thing; could we also possibly move to distribution-only centers in the future? Finally, while the holy grail of performance marketing and personalization remains elusive for the industry -- let’s face it, most brands are still guessing in the dark (and forget trying to customize offerings!) -- even going direct-to-consumer (DTC) hasn't been shining as much of a light here as one might expect. Or so argue the guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast, featuring Ryan Caldbeck of CircleUp, along with a16z general general partner Jeff Jordan, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. Cuz this episode is all about CPG, DTC; micro-brands, yah you know, all kinds of commerce.
Feb 16, 2019
a16z Podcast: To All the Robots I've Loved Before
with Kate Darling (@grok_) and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) We already know that we have an innate tendency to anthropomorphize robots. But beyond just projecting human qualities onto them, as we begin to share more and more spaces, social and private, what kind of relationships will we develop with them? And how will those relationships in turn change us? In this Valentine’s Day special, Kate Darling, Researcher at MIT Labs, talks with a16z's Hanne Tidnam all about our emotional relations with robots. From our lighter sides -- affection, love, empathy, and support -- to our darker sides, what will these new kinds of relationships enhance or de-sensitize in us? Why does it matter that we develop these often intense attachments to these machines that range from tool to companion -- and what do these relationships teach us about ourselves, our tendencies and our behaviors? What kinds of models from the past can we look towards to help us navigate the ethics and accountability that come along with these increasingly sophisticated relationships with robots?
Feb 14, 2019
a16z Podcast: Cryptonetworks as Emerging Economies (Done Right?)
with Chris Burniske (@cburniske), Joel Monegro (@jmonegro), Denis Nazarov (@Iiterature), and Jesse Walden (@jessewldn) When designing cryptonetworks -- really, emerging economies -- how do we avoid some of the monetary and fiscal policy failings of "real-world" economies? Like not separating currency and capital, which accelerated and spread economic growth through the former... but also concentrated the latter into the hands of a few? Yet how can we empower users to access capital while also managing risk? If the promise of cryptonetworks is to better align incentives and value capture, then we can't make the same mistakes as we did in traditional economies. We also have the chance to do novel things not possible in the physical world, through software. So this episode of the a16z Podcast -- featuring voices from Placeholder VC and a16z Crypto -- goes deep into the nuances and mechanisms of cryptonetworks, tokens, and decentralized applications at every layer of the "stack". Chris Burniske (who has written a lot about financial modeling-influenced frameworks for analyzing crypto) and Joel Monegro (who has written about "fat protocols", and once managed the Digital Economy Department at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of the Dominican Republic) of Placeholder VC discuss and debate all of the above -- and more! -- with a16z crypto's Denis Nazarov and Jesse Walden (co-founders of Mediachain, which was acquired by Spotify). Throughout the history of information technology, we've gone from hardware to software, and software to data. So what's next, what's the layer above data? The answer is governance -- which gives more people a way to participate in decision making around a given network -- but the answer for how to implement the best governance isn't so clear. --- The views expressed herein are those of the individual personnel quoted herein. This presentation is provided solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation to invest in any instrument nor do they constitute an offer to provide investment advisory services. This content should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax and other related matters concerning any investment. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Please seehttps://a16zcrypto.com/disclosures for additional important information.
Feb 12, 2019
a16z Podcast: Voting, Security, and Governance in Blockchains and Cryptonetworks
with Phil Daian (@phildaian) and Ali Yahya (@ali01) Whether in corporations, boardrooms, or political elections, voting is something we see in all kinds of social systems... including blockchains. It's the natural human tendency for how to organize decisions, and in distributed systems without centralized middlemen, it's the only clear Schelling point we can come up with. But too many people design voting mechanisms in distributed systems in isolation -- sometimes naively "porting over" assumptions from the real world or from simple cryptoeconomic models without thinking through the economic adversaries present in a larger, more rational (vs. "honest") game-theoretic system. So how are blockchain systems different from real-world paper and electronic voting systems? How can such systems be gamed, and what are the implications for cryptoeconomic security... as well as the governance of distributed organizations? This hallway-style episode of the a16z Podcast covers all this and more. Recorded as part of our NYC roadtrip, it features Cornell Tech PhD student and software engineer Phil Daian, who researches applied cryptography and smart contracts -- and who also wrote about "On-chain Vote Buying and the Rise of Dark DAOs" in 2018 (with Tyler Kell, Ian Miers, and his advisor Ari Juels). Daian is joined by a16z crypto partner Ali Yahya (previously a software engineer and machine learning researcher at GoogleX and Google Brain), who also recently presented on crypto as the evolution -- and future -- of trust. --- The views expressed herein are those of the individual personnel quoted herein. This presentation is provided solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation to invest in any instrument nor do they constitute an offer to provide investment advisory services. This presentation should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment or tax advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax and other related matters concerning any investment. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investor or prospective investor, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Please see https://a16zcrypto.com/disclosures for additional important information.
Feb 10, 2019
a16z Podcast: Product-Market SALES Fit (What Comes First?)
with Jyoti Bansal (@jyotibansalsf), Peter Levine, Satish Talluri (@satishtalluri), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) One of the toughest challenges for founders -- and especially technical founders who are used to focusing so much on product features over sales -- is striking "product-market fit". The concept can be defined many ways, but the simple definition shared in this episode is: it's when you understand the business value of your product. And that comes down to users, which is where the concept of "product-market-sales fit" comes in, observes Jyoti Bansal, founding CEO of AppDynamics (which was acquired by Cisco for $3.7B the night before it was to IPO). Bansal shares this and other key milestones and frameworks for company building in conversation with a16z general partner Peter Levine; enterprise deal team partner Satish Talluri (who was a director of product and growth operations there); and Sonal Chokshi. So in that shift from product-market fit to product-market-SALES fit, how much should you optimize your go-to-market for product... and even the other way around? What does this mean for product design and product management? When should companies offer services? As for pricing, how do you know you're not leaving value on the table? Again, it comes down to product-market fit: If your business case is strong, you will not be leaving money on the table, argues Bansal in this special podcast series on founder stories and lessons learned in enterprise go-to-market.
Feb 03, 2019
a16z Podcast: Stories and Lessons in Enterprise Sales
with Mark Leslie (@mleslie45) and Peter Levine What does it actually take to win at enterprise sales? In this episode, Mark Leslie, former CEO and chairman and founding team member of Veritas Software, and a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a16z general partner Peter Levine -- who worked together at Veritas -- share stories from the field all about sales and entrepreneurship in the enterprise. The wide-ranging conversation covers everything from what makes a good salesperson; to how to actually close that deal; to how to build a company that best incentivizes your sales reps. This episode is based on a conversation that originally took place at an event held at Andreessen Horowitz for veterans participating in the BreakLine education and hiring program for shifting veterans into careers in the tech industry.
Jan 31, 2019
a16z Podcast: Finding Go-to-Market Fit in the Enterprise
with Peter Levine, Bob Tinker, and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) For consumer companies, often when the holy grail of product-market fit is achieved, the company takes off: magic happens, growth unlocks. Enterprise B2B companies face a different challenge. Sometimes, despite achieving product-market fit (and knowing when you've achieved it) and winning your first cohorts of renewing customers -- growth remains a challenge. Industry analyst maps are riddled with the logos of enterprise B2B companies who built outstanding products, won outstanding initial sets of customers... and then ultimately failed to scale. In this episode of the a16z Podcast, Bob Tinker, author of the book Survival to Thrival and founding CEO of MobileIron, and a16z general partner Peter Levine, talk with Hanne Tidnam all about how to find the right go-to-market fit for the enterprise startup. How do founders avoid that moment of reckoning after product-market fit, but before growth? When should an enterprise startup accelerate sales investments?  -- the "Goldilocks problem" (not too early, not too late!) -- and pick the right sales team and go-to-market model for their product and their customers? And if you're stuck in that moment where growth stalls, what are the right tools to get out of it? What are the important metrics to know both where you are, and when you're out of the woods?
Jan 30, 2019
a16z Podcast: Connecting Hearts, Bodies, and Networks to Cure Cancer
Veterinary oncology can inform human oncology, and vice versa -- providing a better model for looking at drug performance, interrelationships, and more. Especially when you add in data (there's no "doggy HIPAA!") and networks to get a "living laboratory at scale". Or so argues Amy Abernethy (Chief Medical and Chief Scientific Officer at Flatiron Health and advisor to One Health), who was recently named the new Principal Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, pending ethics clearance; and Christina Lopes, CEO and co-founder of One Health; in conversation with a16z bio general partner Jorge Conde. Dogs -- as a species, as pets, as companions, as family members -- evolved alongside humans, so are actually more similar to us... not just genetically and in terms of the biologic pathways that may cause cancer, but also in exposure to similar environmental factors as well. But what does this all mean when it comes to thinking about real-world evidence in science, human clinical trials, and more broadly, building a bio company? How can product designers -- of all kinds -- backwards-architect their product roadmap for data network effects? And how can bio founders keep both a big-picture roadmap in mind while also focusing on specific milestones, and while working across unconnected disciplines as well? We cover all this and more in this special episode of the a16z Podcast, recorded during the recent J.P.M. healthcare conference in San Francisco.
Jan 26, 2019
a16z Podcast: The Business of Cybercrime
with Joel de la Garza, Jonathan Lusthaus, and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) The idea of the cybercriminal as lone wolf or hobby hacker is no longer much of a reality. Instead, the business of cybercrime looks a lot more just like that -- a large, global technology business, with many of the associated structures, challenges, and even casts of characters that legitimate businesses have. In this conversation, a16z's Joel de la Garza, a16z operating partner for information security (formerly CSO of Box and head Citigroup's Cyber Intelligence Center), and Hanne Tidnam, discuss with Jonathan Lusthaus -- Director of the Human Cybercriminal Project at the University of Oxford -- the evolution of the industry of cybercrime from single perpetrator into a sprawling and sophisticated international industry as discussed in his new book, Industry of Anonymity: Inside the Business of Cybercrime. A dive into the sociological, operational, and tactical realities of this murky underworld, Lusthaus and de la Garza discuss what the current industry has evolved into -- who the players are, what they are motivated by, and specialize in -- as well as how basic ideas like trust and anonymity function in a world where no one wants to get caught. How do criminal nicknames function as brand? Which countries tend to specialize in what kinds of crime, and why? And most of all, what changes when you begin to think of the business of cybercrime as an industry?
Jan 17, 2019
a16z Podcast: Pulse Check on Consumer Tech Trends 2019, CES and Beyond
with Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) and Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) Every year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) puts the latest and greatest developments in consumer technology on display in Vegas. But beyond the excitement and the hype, what's really here -- or not here -- to stay? Will televisions roll up into tiny boxes? Will Alexa find her way into electric carving knives? Which of these new gadgets will stand the test of time?  In this episode of the a16z podcast, Benedict Evans and Steven Sinofsky share their take not only on what this year’s show had to offer, but the broader trends at play. From the evolution of the smart home and voice interfaces to the cycle of bundling and unbundling and the future of TV and entertainment, the discussion is a pulse check on where we're at. --- 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 a16z.com should be relied on in any manner as advice. Please see https://a16z.com/disclosures/ for further information. This podcast may contain forward-looking statements relating to the objectives, opportunities, and the future performance of the U.S. market generally as well as specific publicly traded companies. Forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of such words as; “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “should,” “planned,” “estimated,” “potential” and other similar terms. Examples of forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, estimates with respect to financial condition, results of operations, and success or lack of success of any particular investment strategy. All are subject to various factors, including, but not limited to general and local economic conditions, changing levels of competition within certain industries and markets, changes in interest rates, changes in legislation or regulation, and other economic, competitive, governmental, regulatory and technological factors affecting a portfolio’s operations that could cause actual results to differ materially from projected results. Such statements are forward-looking in nature and involve a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, and accordingly, actual results may differ materially from those reflected or contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Prospective investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements or examples. None of AH Capital Management, L.L.C. or any of its affiliates, principals, employees nor any other individual or entity assumes any obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, subsequent events or any other circumstances. All statements made herein speak only as of the date that they were made.
Jan 17, 2019
a16z Podcast: Dark Data in Healthcare
with Susannah Fox (@susannahfox), Anil Sethi (@anilsethiusa / @ciitizencorp), Vijay Pande (@vijaypande), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) The problem of "dark data" in healthcare isn't just a feel-good empowerment thing, but a structural issue that leads to miscommunication and extra friction, different players in the entire healthcare system not being able to collaborate with each other, and just major missed opportunities all round. And yes, it also leads to lack of empowerment for patients, not to mention doctors too (who often have less than 30 minutes on site to do their jobs). But we already know all that. What's not clear is WHY and HOW is this the case, when the very point of HIPAA -- the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (of 1996!) -- is to make data portable, not private. That is, IF patients know to ask for it... and can easily get it. So what if we could have a sort of permissioned "permissionless innovation" for healthcare data, not only bringing all that dark data to light, but more importantly -- borrowing from the history of internet innovation -- letting all sorts of expected and unexpected uses be built on top as a result? What happens when data and entities can talk to each other (à la APIs) through patients at the center of the circle of data? From the Dr. Google problem (or opportunity!) to clinical trials and even the opioid crisis, we -- Susannah Fox (former CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services); Anil Sethi (CEO and founder of Ciitizen); and a16z bio general partner Vijay Pande; in conversation with Sonal Chokshi -- explore all this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast. Let there be light!
Jan 16, 2019
a16z Podcast: The Science and Business of Innovative Medicines
with Vas Narasimhan (@vasnarasimhan), Jorge Conde (@jorgecondebio), Vijay Pande (@vijaypande), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) On average, only 1 out of 20 medicines works when we actually bring them into the human body, and these rates of success haven't moved much in the pharma industry overall in the past 15 years, despite much scientific progress. Because if you really think about it, it's incredible that we find any human medicine that works at all, given that human beings are the product of billions of years of evolution, and represent an incredibly complex system we do not fully understand. Yet the business of the pharma industry -- and Novartis in particular, which covers everything from generics to innovative medicines -- is not that different from other large enterprises when it comes to managing R&D and pipelines of ideas, talent, and sales. So in this conversation, a16z bio general partners Jorge Conde and Vijay Pande with Sonal Chokshi interview Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis. How does the world's largest producer of medicines in terms of volume -- 70. billion. doses. a. year. -- balance the science and the business of innovation? How does an enterprise at such vast scale make decisions about what to build vs. buy, especially given the fast pace of science today? How does it balance attitudes between "not invented here" and "not invented yet"? Narasimhan also takes us through the latest trends in therapeutics, such as cell and gene therapies (like CAR-T for cancer and more); RNA-based modalities; and others -- a sweeping tour from small molecules to large molecules to proteins and other modalities for making medicines. But where does tech come into all this, and where are we, really, on science becoming engineering? Why do both big companies and bio startups now need to get market value signals (not just approvals!) from payers earlier in the process of making therapeutics? And beyond all that, how could clinical trials be reinvented? Finally, what should all scientific (and all technical) leaders know when it comes to leadership? All this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast, recorded recently on the road while at the J.P.M. health conference in San Francisco.
Jan 14, 2019
a16z Podcast: All About Synthetic Biology
with James J. Collins, Vijay Pande (@vijaypande), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) The idea of 'designing biology' -- once science fiction -- has over the last 20 years become just... science. In this episode, a16z bio general partner Vijay Pande with Hanne Tidnam talk all about the field of synthetic biology with James J. Collins, professor of bioengineering at MIT. Collins, whose work in synthetic biology and systems biology pioneered the field, has also launched a number of companies and received numerous awards and honors (including a MacArthur "Genius" Award, an NIH Director's Pioneer Award, and Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award). This wide-ranging conversation about the birth of synthetic biology covers everything from the founding story of the discipline to what "engineering and designing" biology really looks like in action -- when instead of engineering electrons, you are engineering toggle switches for genes -- to the disciplinary differences (and synergies) between how biologists and engineers see the world. What are the engineering and design principles, techniques, approaches that work best when applied to science? How does building a company in this new space look different, in terms of platforms and products? And how is this new field changing education in science, all the way down to kits that allow you to play with the machinery of a cell... at home... and even in middle school?
Jan 11, 2019
a16z Podcast: What’s Next for Marketplace Startups (Hint: Services)
The past and future of marketplace startups -- where are we? Ever since eBay popularized an internet meeting place for buyers and sellers of, well, just about everything, we’ve been waiting for 100 other at-scale marketplaces for everything else, including services. So in this hallway-style episode of the a16z Podcast (originally recorded as a video) Li Jin -- co-author with Andrew Chen of this post -- chats with a16z Deal & Research team operating partner about why there aren’t 100 thriving marketplaces for services yet... And what’s changing to make this next wave of marketplace startups super exciting.
Jan 09, 2019
a16z Podcast: Talent, Tech Trends, and Culture -- with Ben, Marc, and Tyler Cowen
with Marc Andreessen (@pmarca), Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz), and Tyler Cowen (@tylercowen) This episode of the a16z Podcast features the rare combination of a16z co-founders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz in conversation, together, with economist Tyler Cowen (chair of economics at George Mason University and chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center there, and host of his own podcast.) The conversation originally took place at our most recent annual innovation Summit -- which features a16z speakers and invited experts from various organizations discussing innovation at companies large and small, as well as tech trends spanning bio, consumer, crypto, fintech, and more. This discussion covers Ben and Marc's marriage, er, partnership; the evolution of VC and "talent as a network"; and where are we right now on industries being affected by tech (such as retail) and tech trends (such as VR/AR and wearables) -- and where are we going next? Finally, is software eating culture... or is it the other way around?
Dec 29, 2018
a16z Podcast: How the Internet Happened
In his book (and podcast), Brian McCullough chronicles the history and evolution of the internet -- from college kids in a basement and the dot-com boom, to the applications built on top of it and the entrepreneurs behind them. General partner Chris Dixon chats with McCullough about How the Internet Happened -- and more broadly, about how tech adoption and innovation happens. --- 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.
Dec 25, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Infrastructure of Total Health
with Bernard J. Tyson (@bernardjtyson) and Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz) Bernard J. Tyson is the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, a $73 billion non-profit health organization that provides healthcare and coverage with more than 22,000 physicians caring for more than 12.2 million members across 9 states. In  this conversion with a16z co-founder and general partner Ben Horowitz -- which originally took place at a16z's annual innovation summit, which focuses on building the future and included an entire theme focused on bio and healthcare -- Tyson shares his thoughts on the state of healthcare today and where it might be going. How does an end-to-end healthcare system (like Kaiser's) work in terms of assuming risk and responsibilities, while also maximizing value and lifetime care over a “head in the bed”? What's the impact of -- and challenges in adopting -- technology in healthcare today? And finally, how does one strike a balance between affordability, quality, and lifetime care... and between innovating and addressing immediate needs? All this and more in this episode.
Dec 23, 2018
a16z Podcast: All About Stablecoins
with Andy Milenius (@realzandy), Jesse Walden (@jessewldn), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) The history, evolution, and use of money revolves around the important concept of debt: It’s what allows us to “time travel” and build toward the future — growing livelihoods, businesses, and the overall economy as a result. When it comes to crypto, however, this concept plays a key role as a way to potentially stabilize the volatility of cryptocurrencies, and more importantly, provide a more stable medium of exchange so key applications can be built on top of blockchains. That’s where stablecoins (cryptocurrencies pegged to a more stable asset, such as fiat dollars) come in. Because they’re deployed on top of blockchains, they retain the advantages of cryptocurrencies — digital, global, easily transferable, decentralized. And because open source networks are more transparent and auditable, these systems are far less opaque than, say, the huge house of cards that collapsed in the case of the 2008 financial crisis. But beyond bringing more people into a better financial system, why do stablecoins like Dai — and Maker, one of the oldest decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) on the Ethereum blockchain — matter to the crypto developer community? To banks? To anyone who thinks about the future of innovation… or even the future of the firm, and the future of work? How do (and don’t) DAOs and these kinds of smart contracts change everything we know about management and software development? This episode of the a16z Podcast explores the answers to these questions and more, with Maker CTO Andy Milenius in conversation with Sonal Chokshi and a16z crypto partner Jesse Walden. Here are just two quotes from our jam session: Blockchains are an "open-access, permissionless, choose-your-own adventure story"; and smart contracts are an mp3-like "compression format" for scaling trust. Let the music begin! --- 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.
Dec 21, 2018
a16z Podcast: Building Crypto, from Vision to Reality
with Brian Armstrong (@brian_armstrong), Chris Dixon (@cdixon), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) Where are we, really, right now -- in terms of what we can/ can't do with crypto today? And what will it take to get from vision to mainstream reality? This episode of the a16z Podcast covers all this and more. It's based on a conversation that took place between Coinbase CEO and cofounder Brian Armstrong and a16z crypto general partner Chris Dixon, interviewed by a16z editor in chief Sonal Chokshi, at our at our annual Summit in November 2018 -- following a series of presentations that covered everything from early adoption, myths, and the global need for crypto; to crypto as seen through the lens of trust; to key terms and concepts that enable entirely new use cases on top of crypto. But what are the missing pieces needed to get us there? Is crypto is too much like a religion... and if so, how does one build a company, culture, community in such an intense environment? Where does the history of open source come in? And finally, what are some of the most interesting applications and trends in the space? --- 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/ for further information.
Dec 18, 2018
a16z Podcast: On Marrying Entertainment and Technology
with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Meg Whitman (@MegWhitman), and Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) In this episode of the a16z Podcast, based on a discussion that took place at our annual a16z Summit, Marc Andreessen interviews Jeffrey Katzenberg -- formerly CEO and co-founder of DreamWorks SKG (and chairman of Walt Disney Studios during some of its biggest hits), now co-founder of tech holding company WndrCo -- and Meg Whitman -- former President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and now CEO of Quibi ("quick bites"), focused on short-form mobile video. Both Katzenberg and Whitman have known each other for years, but they resided in two different worlds -- entertainment and software -- which are now merging, not only through their current venture but more broadly, given fundamental shifts in the entertainment and media landscape. In this conversation, Andreessen probes them on where Hollywood comes in (or doesn't); the intersection of software and new media, including how content creation changes as platforms evolve; and what’s next for entertainment. Along they also touch on their unique working relationship, and leadership lessons learned...
Dec 08, 2018
a16z Podcast: The IQ and EQ of Robots
with Boris Sofman (@bsofman), Dave Touretzky (@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 Touretzky, 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 21, 2018
a16z Podcast: Ancient Dreams of Technology, Gods & Robots
with Adrienne Mayor (@amayor) and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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 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. 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, 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 19, 2018
a16z Podcast: M&A and Innovation, Inside Out
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 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: Automation + Work, Human + Machine
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?
Nov 05, 2018
a16z Podcast: Eyeballs on the Game
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 20, 2018
a16z Podcast: From Research to Startup, There and Back Again
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
Oct 08, 2018
a16z Podcast: How to Manage a PR Agency
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 27, 2018
a16z Podcast: New Upstarts in an Old Industry
with Michael Ovitz (@michaelovitz), Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) When Michael Ovitz co-founded the Hollywood talent agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), he turned a number of the entertainment industry's well-entrenched traditions on their head. The origin story of a16z (not coincidentally!) is not that dissimilar. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Ovitz and a16z co-founder Ben Horowitz talk with Hanne Tidnam about Ovitz' just-released book, Who is Michael Ovitz? -- and about how CAA transformed the power equation in Hollywood. The conversation covers everything from the history of the entertainment business -- the days of vaudeville and the Jack Warners and William Foxes and Jurassic Parks -- to what strategies guided the differentiation of the new kids on the block. There's lessons for other founders here, too, about culture, negotiation, and more.
Sep 25, 2018
a16z Podcast: Technological Trends, Capital, and Internet 'Disruption'
with Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) and Chris Dixon (@cdixon) There's all sorts of interesting tech trends happening right now, including AI, VR/AR, self-driving cars and drones (as well as interesting stuff happening in verticals like healthcare and finance) -- and there's a lot also happening in seemingly more "mature" tech revolutions, such as mobile and cloud. But where are we now, really, with these shifts... and how does that inform how we think about the next couple decades? And does a framework like Carlota Perez's -- as outlined in Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages and summarized by venture capitalist and longtime internet investor Fred Wilson (of Union Square Ventures) -- fully apply when it comes to software? Because, argues Chris Dixon (general partner on a16z crypto), software "has so much more plasticity, ability to adapt, ability to evolve" that unlike hardware, "the core itself will also dramatically change... not just the apps around it". The total economic value that will be unlocked with the software revolution, observes Wilson, should be orders of magnitude bigger than what we saw with manufacturing for sure. But just how much internet innovation is actually powering true disruption (i.e., is more than just a sustaining innovation, to use Clayton Christensen's terminology)? How do new business models change everything? Dixon and Wilson consider all this and more in this hallway-style episode of the a16z Podcast, where we recorded the two having a think-aloud conversation about everything from the history of the internet and startups, the evolution of capital and infrastructure, to the advent of crypto. How do they they both define "decentralized", what do they think of dApps, and where do NFTs and "crypto goods" come in?? One thing's for sure: It's the most interesting time they've both ever seen in over 30 years of internet work, life, and play. Please note that the a16z crypto fund is a separate legal entity managed by CNK Capital Management, L.L.C. (“CNK”), a registered investor advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission. a16z crypto is legally independent and operationally separate from the Andreessen Horowitz family of fund and AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“AHCM”).  In any case, the content provided here is for informational purposes only, and does NOT constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment solution or a recommendation to buy or sell a security; nor it is to be taken as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. In fact, none of the information in this or other content on a16zcrypto.com should be relied on in any manner as advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax and other related matters concerning any investment.
Sep 24, 2018
a16z Podcast: Tesla and the Nature of Disruption
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?
Sep 18, 2018
a16z Podcast: What's at the Core of the Latest Apple Announcement?
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)
Sep 14, 2018
a16z Podcast: Seeing into the Future -- Making Decisions, Telling Stories
with Steven Johnson (@stevenbjohnson), Chris Dixon (@cdixon), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) There's a lot of research and writing out there on "thinking fast" -- the short-term, gut, instinctual decisions we make, biases we have, and heuristics we use -- but what about for "thinking slow" -- the long-term decisions we make that both take longer to deliberate and have longer spans of impact on our lives... and the world? Because we're not only talking about decisions like who to marry (or whether to move) here; we're also talking about decisions that impact future generations in ways we as a species never considered (or could consider) before. But... why bother, if these decisions are so complex, with competing value systems, countless interacting variables, and unforeseeable second- and third-order effects? We can't predict the future, so why try? Well, while there's no crystal ball that allows you to see clearly into the future, we can certainly try to ensure better outcomes than merely flipping a coin, argues author Steven B. Johnson in his new book, Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter Most. Especially because the hardest choices are the most consequential, he observes, yet we know so little about how to get them right. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Johnson shares with a16z crypto general partner Chris Dixon and a16z's Sonal Chokshi specific strategies -- beyond good old-fashioned pro/con lists and post-mortems -- for modeling the deliberative tactics of expert decision-makers (and not just oil-company scenario planners, but also storytellers). The decisions we're talking about here aren't just about individual lives and businesses -- whether launching a new product feature or deciding where to innovate next -- they're also about even bigger and bolder things like how to fix the internet, or what message to send aliens with outcomes spanning centuries far into the future. But that's where the power of story comes in again. * * * The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment solution or a recommendation to buy or sell a security; nor it is to be taken as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. In fact, none of the information in this or other content on a16zcrypto.com should be relied on in any manner as advice. Please see https://a16zcrypto.com/disclosures/ for further information.
Sep 08, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Case Study of Dollar General and Surviving (Thriving!) Retail
with Jeff Jordan (@Jeff_Jordan), Cal Turner Jr., and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) The "death of retail" in the face of e-commerce and tech disruption is a very real phenomenon, but what about the flip side of that story -- that is, retail thriving despite all odds? Enter Dollar General, a multi-billion-dollar success story of the U.S. chain with 14,000 brick-and-mortar dollar stores. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, general partner Jeff Jordan -- who was formerly an SVP for The Disney Stores (and has written much about declining malls, competing with Amazon, and the tipping point for ecommerce, among other things) -- with Hanne Tidnam interviews Cal Turner, Jr., the CEO of Dollar General and author of the new book, My Father's Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company. How did Dollar General go from the Great Depression to nearly filing for bankruptcy to IPO and entering the Fortune 500? It turns out, the journey -- not unlike startups and successful big companies -- is a case study in focus, focus, focus... whether it was pricing (natch) or inventory or a focus on customers or simply (but not so simply!) focusing on one's "true north".
Sep 06, 2018
a16z Podcast: When Organic Growth Goes Enterprise
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 25, 2018
a16z Podcast: Crypto and the Evolution of Open Source
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.
Aug 21, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Basics of Growth 2 -- Engagement & Retention
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 09, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Basics of Growth 1 -- User Acquisition
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 09, 2018
a16z Podcast: Earned Secrets
with Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz) and Sharon Chang (@sychang) 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 04, 2018
a16z Podcast: Cryptonetworks and Cities -- Analogies
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.
Aug 01, 2018
a16z Podcast: Cryptonetworks and Decentralization -- Building Blocks
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.
Aug 01, 2018
a16z Podcast: High Growth in Companies (and Tech)
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 20, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Regulatory Landscape for Crypto
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 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: Building Companies in Crypto, from People to Code
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 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: Decentralization and Crypto, the Big Picture
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 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Scientific Revolution of Ancient DNA
with Jorge Conde (@jorgecondebio), David Reich, and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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. image: Ben Casey, Wikimedia Commons
Jul 13, 2018
a16z Podcast: On Mentors and Mentees
with Ken Coleman, Ben Horowitz (@bhorowitz), and Michel Feaster (@michelfeaster) 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
Jul 13, 2018
a16z Podcast: Beyond Zero-Sum Thinking in the Game of Tech... and Life
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.
Jul 07, 2018
a16z Podcast: All Things Compensation
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 22, 2018
a16z Podcast: Construction Under Tech -- The Build
with Martin Fischer (@fischermartin), Saurabh Ladha (@ladhasaurabh), Chris Rippingham, and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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 15, 2018
a16z Podcast: Construction Under Tech -- Info Flows
with Greg Lynn (@greglynnform), Gina Neff (@ginasue), Tracy Young (@Tracy_Young), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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 14, 2018
a16z Podcast: The End (and Beginning) of Programming
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...
Jun 08, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Hard Things about Security
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.
Jun 06, 2018
a16z Podcast: Autonomy in Service
with Gregory Allen (@Gregory_C_Allen), Gayle Lemmon (@gaylelemmon), Ryan Tseng, and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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 27, 2018
a16z Podcast: When Journalism Goes Global
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 26, 2018
a16z Podcast: B2B2C
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 18, 2018
a16z Podcast: Network Effects, Origin Stories, and the Evolution of Tech
“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?
May 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Oral History Of TrialPay — Obstacles and Opportunities in Payments
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 11, 2018
a16z Podcast: Shifting Risk Mindsets, From Tech to Bio
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?
May 10, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Case Against Education, From Signaling to Rainbow's End
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 09, 2018
a16z Podcast: Breaking Into Bio
with Atul Butte (@atulbutte), Daphne Koller (@daphnekoller), and Vijay Pande (@vijaypande) 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.
May 02, 2018
a16z Podcast: Principles and Algorithms for Work and Life
with Ray Dalio (@raydalio), Alex Rampell (@arampell), and Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) 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.
Apr 21, 2018
a16z Podcast: On Recent Consolidation in the Healthcare Industry
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 18, 2018
a16z Podcast: Players and Paths for Healthcare Startups
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 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: When (and How) Biology Becomes Engineering
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 16, 2018
a16z Podcast: What to Know about GDPR
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/
Apr 12, 2018
a16z Podcast: Feedback Loops -- Company Culture, Change, and DevOps
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 28, 2018
a16z Podcast: From Teaching Leadership to Being a Leader
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 26, 2018
a16z Podcast: Improv'ing Leadership
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.
Mar 23, 2018
a16z Podcast: On Morals and Meaning in Products, Business, and Life
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 21, 2018
a16z Podcast: How to Live Longer and Better
with Kristen Fortney (@kpfortney), Jeff Kaditz (@jeffkaditz), David Sinclair (@davidasinclair), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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 16, 2018
a16z Podcast: The API Economy -- The Why, What, and How
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.
Mar 13, 2018
a16z Podcast: Containing the Monolith -- From Microservices to DevOps
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 08, 2018
a16z Podcast: Space -- the Near Frontier
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.
Mar 05, 2018
a16z Podcast: The State of Security
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 28, 2018
a16z Podcast: Creating a Category, from Pricing to Positioning
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 24, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Self-Flying Camera
with Adam Bry (@adampbry), Chris Dixon (@cdixon), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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.
Feb 23, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Internet of Taste, Streaming Content to Culture
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 18, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Business of Continual Change
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.
Feb 18, 2018
a16z Podcast: How Technology Is Changing Investing
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 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: Data, Insight, and the Customer Experience
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 13, 2018
a16z Podcast: The Evolution of Payments
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 11, 2018
a16z Podcast: When Is VR's iPhone Moment?
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 07, 2018
a16z Podcast: All about Bike Sharing
with Lee Kleinman (@LeeForDallas), Joshua Schank (@joshuaschank), Andrew Savage, and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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
Feb 03, 2018
a16z Podcast: Self-Driving Cars — Where Are We, Really?
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.
Feb 01, 2018
a16z Podcast: Beyond CES: Connected Home Devices, Voice, and More
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 22, 2018
a16z Podcast: Mental Models for Understanding Crypto Tokens
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 22, 2018
a16z Podcast: Reinventing Food
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 17, 2018
a16z Podcast: Revisiting the Gene
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?
Jan 11, 2018
a16z Podcast: Community and Culture, Online
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?
Jan 08, 2018
a16z Podcast: Fintech for the People
New fintech companies are democratizing access to financial services in different ways, whether it's making food stamps more efficient, no longer waiting two weeks for a paycheck, or enabling anyone with a smartphone in developing countries to create small businesses. But what these all have in common -- besides a more inclusive approach to finance -- is also changing, in some way, the fundamental way our financial system works. Featuring CEO of Propel Jimmy Chen, CEO of Branch Matt Flannery, and CEO of Earnin Ram Palaniappan, in conversation with a16z partner Angela Strange, this episode of the a16z Podcast is based on a discussion that took place at a16z's annual Summit in November 2017. Financial innovation can come in unexpected ways from unexpected places -- but what does that mean for established players? For the future of fintech overall?
Dec 24, 2017
a16z Podcast: Trends in Cryptocurrencies
The internet, believe it or not, was just the beginning. Yes, it 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 brief discussion from a16z Summit November 2017, founder and CEO at Protocol Labs Juan Benet and founder and CEO of Polychain Capital Olaf-Carlson Wee -- both of whom have appeared on the a16z Podcast for more in-depth conversations -- chat with general partner Chris Dixon to summarize the big picture on crypto, going beyond the buzz around ICOs to the golden age of protocols.
Dec 23, 2017
a16z Podcast: The $200 PC in the Enterprise
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 21, 2017
a16z Podcast: Of Governors and Mayors, and Tech Policy
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 19, 2017
a16z Podcast: Taking the Pulse on Bio
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 14, 2017
a16z Podcast: Scaling Healthcare
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 14, 2017
a16z Podcast: Market Shifts
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 11, 2017
a16z Podcast: On Data and Data Scientists in the Age of AI
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.
Dec 05, 2017
a16z Podcast: AI, from 'Toy' Problems to Practical Application
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.
Dec 02, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Rise of the CCO
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 18, 2017
a16z Podcast: How Founders Hire a VP of Product
Hiring a VP of Product -- especially as the founder of the company -- can almost feel like handing over your baby to someone else to hold, observes a16z executive talent team partner Caroline Horn, who hosted an event on this topic earlier this year (which this podcast 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 it into your company. Because if you're going to be handing your "baby" over... how can you avoid common pitfalls? And know that you pick the right person for the job?
Nov 11, 2017
a16z Podcast: Putting AI in Medicine, in Practice
with Brandon Ballinger (@bballinger), Mintu Turakhia (@leftbundle), Vijay Pande (@vijaypande), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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?
Nov 04, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Why Behind the Weird
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 31, 2017
a16z Podcast: Revenge of the Algorithms (Over Data)... Go! No?
with Frank Chen, Steven Sinofsky, and Sonal Chokshi 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 results of computers beating games, which not only captures our imaginations but has always played a critical role in advancing machine intelligence (whether it’s AI winning Texas Hold’em poker or beating the world human champ in the ancient Chinese game of Go). But on learning that Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo can 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” — some people leap too far towards claims of artificial 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 mean for entrepreneurs building companies (and what investors 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 operating team 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 … is this the end of big data?
Oct 23, 2017
a16z Podcast: Platforming the Future
with Tim O'Reilly and Benedict Evans 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 13, 2017
a16z Podcast: A New Lab Rises
with Ion Stoica, Peter Levine, and Sonal Chokshi 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 12, 2017
a16z Podcast: Mindsets for Engineering Biology
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.
Oct 06, 2017
a16z Podcast: Why Crypto Tokens Matter
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 28, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Case Study of Lyft and Local Governments
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 26, 2017
a16z Podcast: Exploding the Map
with Wei Luo, David Rumsey (@davidrumseymaps), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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 16, 2017
a16z Podcast: Getting Applications Into People's Hands
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 15, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Asshole Survival Guide
with Michael Dearing (@mcgd), Bob Sutton (@work_matters), and Hanne Tidnam (@omnivorousread) 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 13, 2017
a16z Podcast: Adjusting to Trade... and Innovation
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 10, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Macro and Micro of Parenting
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 05, 2017
a16z Podcast: Competing Against Luck
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.
Sep 02, 2017
a16z Podcast: Engineering Intent
"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 30, 2017
a16z Podcast: A Society Under Construction - Modernizing Infrastructure
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 26, 2017
a16z Podcast: Cash, Growth, and CEO ❤️ CFO
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 hosted by) 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 25, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Taxonomy of Collective Knowledge
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.
Aug 15, 2017
a16z Podcast: Centers of Power, War, and History
with Graham Allison and Matthew Colford "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 11, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Strategies and Tactics of Big
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 07, 2017
a16z Podcast: Independents on the Board
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 04, 2017
a16z Podcast: From Mind at Play to Making the Information Age
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. His contemporaries (and collaborators) included Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, and other architects of the digital era.   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.
Aug 03, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Curious Case of the OpenTable IPO
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 24, 2017
a16z Podcast: Making a (Really) Wild Geo-Engineering Idea Real
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 18, 2017
a16z Podcast: Addiction vs Popularity in the Age of Virality
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 15, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Golden Era of Productivity, Retail, and Supply Chains
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.
Jul 11, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Cloud Atlas to Real Quantum Computing
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 30, 2017
a16z Podcast: Companies, Networks, Crowds
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 29, 2017
a16z Podcast: Lobbying Tech
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 25, 2017
a16z Podcast: Cybersecurity in the Boardroom vs. the Situation Room
"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 18, 2017
a16z Podcast: Changing the Conversation about Cybersecurity
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 17, 2017
a16z Podcast: Taking the ‘Cyber’ Out of Cybersecurity
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 <insert explosive analogy here>. 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 16, 2017
a16z Podcast: Taking the Measure of Tech in Policy -- with Kamala Harris
"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 09, 2017
a16z Podcast: Modernizing Government Services, From Food Stamps to Foster Care
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 07, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Law (and Tech) of Warfare
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.
Jun 05, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Living Museum
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 29, 2017
a16z Podcast: Giving and Getting Feedback -- for Bosses and Employees
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 27, 2017
a16z Podcast: What Technology Wants, Needs, Does
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 23, 2017
a16z Podcast: Tech Policy and the Courts
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 22, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Blockchain, in Congress
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 20, 2017
a16z Podcast: For Your Ears Only
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 18, 2017
a16z Podcast: From Jobs to Flying Cars
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 15, 2017
a16z Podcast: Quantum Computing, Now and Next
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 14, 2017
a16z Podcast: Boards, from Both Sides of the Table
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 11, 2017
a16z Podcast: On Wearables, Quantified Self, and Biohacking
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, “hearables”, 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).
May 09, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Rise of the Digital 'Pill'
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 29, 2017
a16z Podcast: QR. AR. VR.
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 26, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Science Of Extending Life
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 18, 2017
a16z Podcast: Crisis Communications
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 (with Sonal Chokshi) 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 14, 2017
a16z Podcast: Monetizing Open Source (Or, All Enterprise Software)
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 11, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Changing Culture of Open Source
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 09, 2017
a16z Podcast: Cryptocurrencies, App Coins, and Investing in Protocols
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 in conversation with Sonal Chokshi and 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 03, 2017
a16z Podcast: Eyes in the Sky
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 25, 2017
a16z Podcast: From Hidden Figure to Sonic BOOM
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 22, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Storage Renaissance
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 21, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Product Edge in Machine Learning Startups
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 17, 2017
a16z Podcast: Build Your Personal Brand
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 13, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Business of Healthcare
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 10, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Genetics Of Drug Delivery
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 07, 2017
a16z Podcast: Technology, Mobility, and the American Dream
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?
Mar 01, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Future of... You
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 28, 2017
a16z Podcast: Tech and Entertainment in the 'Era of Mass Customization'
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. What happened instead 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 figuring out just how much experience first-time entrepreneurs (or directors) need when creating something (like, say, "Stranger Things"). 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 26, 2017
a16z Podcast: Brains, Bodies, Minds ... and Techno-Religions
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 24, 2017
a16z Podcast: When Will Genomics Live Up to the Hype?
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 22, 2017
a16z Podcast: Startups, Pivots, Culture, and Timing (Oh Shit!)
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? Finally, how do you know when things are working, that you really do have product-market fit? a16z co-founder Ben Horowitz and Lytro CEO Jason Rosenthal discuss (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) all this and more in this episode of the a16z podcast, sharing war stories and lessons learned. Both witnessed first-hand -- and drove -- pivots: Jason watching Ben at Loudcloud/Opsware post-IPO, and conversely, Ben watching Jason at Lytro. Maybe, all startups -- and ultimately, successful companies -- are really just a series of pivots...
Feb 20, 2017
a16z Podcast: Securing Infrastructure and Enterprise Services
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 14, 2017
a16z Podcast: Cars and Cities, the Autonomy Edition
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 09, 2017
a16z Podcast: What Startups Should Know about Analyst Relations
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?
Feb 01, 2017
a16z Podcast: Building Worlds with VR, Art, and Narrative
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 27, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Why, How, and When of PR
"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 26, 2017
VR, AR, and Beyond: The New Medium of Human Experience
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 24, 2017
a16z Podcast: Of Policy, Capital, and the Startup Ecosystem
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 21, 2017
a16z Podcast: Of Presidents, Policies, and Tech
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 21, 2017
a16z Podcast: Culture and/of Design
"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 18, 2017
a16z Podcast: Real Estate -- Ownership, Asset, Economy
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 13, 2017
a16z Podcast: Machine Intelligence, from University to Industry
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 11, 2017
a16z Podcast: New Year, New Horizons -- Pluto!
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.
Jan 01, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Movement of Money
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.
Jan 01, 2017
a16z Podcast: The Realities of Aging / When Healthcare Is Local
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 27, 2016
a16z Podcast: Mobility and the Global Refugee Crisis
"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 16, 2016
a16z Podcast: Produce or Perish! (What We Eat)
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 14, 2016
a16z Podcast: The Internet Is Your Movement
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 11, 2016
a16z Podcast: Health Data -- A Feedback Loop for Humanity
"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?
Dec 06, 2016
a16z Podcast: Knowledge Builds Technology and Technology Builds Knowledge -- with Joel Mokyr
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 29, 2016
a16z Podcast: Drones for Delivery in Healthcare
“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 25, 2016
a16z Podcast: Old Food, New Tech -- 'Clean Meat'
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 23, 2016
a16z Podcast: The Business of Creativity -- Pixar CFO, IPO, and Beyond!
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 12, 2016
a16z Podcast: What's Next for Technology and National Security?
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 09, 2016
a16z Podcast: Messages and Movements in Politics AND Business
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".
Nov 03, 2016
a16z Podcast: So Where Are We on the 'S-curve' for PC Devices?
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 29, 2016
a16z Podcast: On the Genomics of Disease, From Science to Business
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 19, 2016
a16z Podcast: Stickers! Filters! Memes! Livestreams!
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 13, 2016
a16z Podcast: Truce for Mobile, Battle for VR
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.
Oct 11, 2016
a16z Podcast: Mastering the Game (with David Oyelowo)
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
Oct 01, 2016
a16z Podcast: From Data Warehouses to Data Lakes
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 30, 2016
a16z Podcast: Welcome to the New Era of Commerce
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 18, 2016
a16z Podcast: Apple and the Case of Invisible But Audible Innovation
"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 14, 2016
a16z Podcast: Sleep!
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.
Sep 07, 2016
a16z Podcast: All About Microservices
"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.
Sep 01, 2016
a16z Podcast: It's Complicated
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 30, 2016
a16z Podcast: Ethereum, App Coins, and Beyond
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 28, 2016
a16z Podcast: Pricing Free
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 20, 2016
a16z Podcast: Pricing, Pricing, Pricing
"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 14, 2016
a16z Podcast: The Meaning of Emoji
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 03, 2016
a16z Podcast: Not all Network Effects Are Created Equal
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?
Aug 02, 2016
a16z Podcast: We Gotta Talk Pokémon Go
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 23, 2016
a16z Podcast: Getting Network Effects
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 16, 2016
a16z Podcast: On Government as Software Builder, Not Just Buyer
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 14, 2016
a16z Podcast: Software Programs the World
"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 11, 2016
a16z Podcast: Beyond One Size Fits All for Startup Employee Options
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…
Jul 01, 2016
a16z Podcast: When Humanity Meets A.I.
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 29, 2016
a16z Podcast: Fintech Revolution or Evolution?
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 23, 2016
a16z Podcast: An Economics Take on the Sharing Economy
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 17, 2016
a16z Podcast: Apple and the Widgetification of Everything
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 15, 2016
a16z Podcast: Move Fast But Don't Break Things (When It Comes to Computational Biology)
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 14, 2016
a16z Podcast: Not If, But How -- When Technology is Inevitable (with Kevin Kelly)
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 07, 2016
a16z Podcast: Politics Over Pragmatism -- On China, Trump, and Smart Guns?
"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.
Jun 04, 2016
a16z Podcast: Startups and Pendulum Swings Through Ideas, Time, Fame, and Money
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 30, 2016
a16z Podcast: Trade, Commerce, Manufacturing, Immigration, & Cuba -- with Penny Pritzker
"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 28, 2016
a16z Podcast: Managing Uncertainty -- Layoffs and Talent
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 26, 2016
a16z Podcast: Automation, Jobs, & the Future of Work (and Income)
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 24, 2016
a16z Podcast: Airspace as the Next Internet-Like Platform
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 20, 2016
a16z Podcast: Innovation vs. Invention at Google I/O
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 20, 2016
a16z Podcast: The Cloud and The Public Sector
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 18, 2016
a16z Podcast: The Art of the Regulatory Hack
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 17, 2016
a16z Podcast: On Productivity, Immigration, Trump, and Media
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 13, 2016
a16z Podcast: On Corporate Venturing & Setting Up 'Innovation Outposts'
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 11, 2016
a16z Podcast: Banking on the Blockchain
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 10, 2016
a16z Podcast: E-commerce, Payments, & More in India's Evolving Retail Landscape
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.
May 05, 2016
a16z Podcast: Finally a Tablet that Replaces Your Laptop
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 28, 2016
a16z Podcast: Connectivity and the Internet as Supply Chain
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 22, 2016
a16z Podcast: Bots and Beyond
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 19, 2016
a16z Podcast: Selling to Developers & Open Source Business Models
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 14, 2016
a16z Podcast: The Why, How, and When of Sales
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 09, 2016
a16z Podcast: Teams, Trust, and Object Lessons
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.
Apr 02, 2016
a16z Podcast: Scaling Companies and Culture
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 25, 2016
a16z Podcast: Investing in (Business and Career) Change
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 25, 2016
a16z Podcast: Your Worst Deeds Don’t Define You -- Life and Redemption in Prison
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 18, 2016
a16z Podcast: Truth and Humanity in Leadership
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 16, 2016
a16z Podcast: The Dream of AI Is Alive in Go
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 12, 2016