a16z

a16z

United States

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.

Episodes

a16z Podcast: The Asshole Survival Guide  

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!)

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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