a16z

a16z

United States

The a16z Podcast discusses trends, news, and the future of a world being shaped by technology, 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 that invests in entrepreneurs building the next great consumer and enterprise companies. Multiple podcasts are released every week and sometimes on weekends; visit a16z.com for more details.

Episodes

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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, 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.

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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.

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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

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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?

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a16z Podcast: The Internet Is My 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.

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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?

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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

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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?

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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?

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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.

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a16z Podcast: 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 features 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? 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”?

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a16z Podcast: Of 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".

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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!

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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