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Sun, 11 Jun 2017 20:33
Ben and David are guests on Anchor's Podcast of the Day, discussing Acquired's origin story, show structure, and how the show gets made. If you're new to the show and looking for a primer, this is a great place to jump in!
Hey, acquired listeners, it's Ben. David and I were recently on the anchor podcast of the day, a show hosted by Grant Polymanteer to talk about acquired. We were asked things like, how did we start the show, how do we make the show, and what's sort of the structure of the show, and what's it all about. And after we finished recording it, we realized this would probably be useful, number one, to reference for new listeners coming in and wondering what the show is all about. But we figured long time listeners might be interested in hearing how we really got started, because I don't think we've talked a lot about it on the show. So if that's something you're interested in, then keep listening, and we hope you enjoy this sort of special episode. So if you guys just want to introduce yourself and kind of tell me a little bit about each of you. Sure. I am Ben Gilbert. I am the co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs here in Seattle. We are a startup studio that starts companies. And computer science background, worked at Microsoft a little bit, got to ship Office for iPad V1, and started getting interested in the venture side of things after that. So then I got the chance to work with David at Modrona. And we've been podcasting ever since. Indeed, indeed. And David Rosenthal, I am a venture capitalist at Modrona Venture Group in Seattle. And yeah, Ben and I met when he joined Modrona in the first iteration of Modrona Labs before Pioneer Square Labs. And became great friends. And one day Ben said, hey, I've been thinking about starting a podcast. And what do you think about doing it together? And one thing led to another. And many, many thousands of listeners later, here we are. That's awesome. So have you guys always been big fans of podcasts in the podcast world? Yeah, absolutely. Like 2005, 2006, I remember loading them through USB onto my iPod and having a lot of friends being like, what is that? And I'm like, well, it's like radio, but it comes over the internet and they're like, okay, so can you listen to it anywhere else? And I'm like, no, there's this terrible process of loading it onto your iPod to actually make it work. And then I think I probably won a few years without listening to podcasts for a while. So it was just too collusion. And then with the advent of the iPhone, I probably came back to it in 2011, 2012. Yeah, it's funny. We're literally right after this going to record our next episode. And we're going to cover a sound jam, which Apple acquired and became iTunes and is so wrapped up in the history of all this. And, uh, yeah, same for me, I sort of experimented with it when it became a thing in the early days of iTunes and the iPod in the mid 2000s in college. And then, and then abandoned it. And really, it was, it was only, I only started, I listened to a ton of podcast now, but I only got back into it after Ben and I started recording our own. And it's just been amazing to see the industry over the last two years, you know, completely blow up. Totally. Yeah. I can imagine it was a much different scene back then. So, um, so, so walk me through if I'm, if I'm like a first time listener coming into your show, uh, how would you describe it? Well, we are a podcast about technology acquisitions and IPOs, but that's really kind of the vehicle for which we tell the narrative of the the story of these companies and, and how they were founded and how they morphed into what they are today and, uh, and, and really all the way through conjecture about the future. And so we've, we've really break it into these, these pre clear sections, um, that the history and facts of the company, we, we figure out what type of acquisition was it was it people was it technology, you know, there's a bunch of different categories. We like start going into what are the counterfactuals? Like, what could have happened otherwise? What are the alternate universes we could live in? Where, um, what if this thing didn't happen? This IPO, this acquisition, this spin out, whatever the thing is, um, and then we really talk about themes. So what do we think that that we observe in the world today that is best, uh, sort of exemplified by this specific transaction or this specific event and technology? And then we grade it. We go into a section where we, uh, we say, you know, if you had X billion dollars and, um, you would spend it on this company, was that a good, you see your capital? Was that a good decision? Was that a good thing for the future of the company? And then, uh, and then we have a couple of fun sections after that. But those are the real bones of it. Yeah. And, um, you know, I think one thing that really makes the show work is, uh, like we're saying a minute ago, we started this just because Ben was interesting and interested in podcasting and kind of looking at it at PSL and we're chatting about, oh, we should do it. And then we're talking about what the topic of the show should be. And at the same time, we and a bunch of friends were, basically all our conversations in the always that Madrid and we were kind of jamming on was, were around sort of, hey, what are the, what are some deep themes in technology and with startups and building companies, um, that kind of transcend, you know, different waves that come and go in terms of what actual types of companies or technologies are hot. But what are sort of the eternal truths out there? It's super important being venture capitalists and a company builder for Ben at PSL. Um, and, and we're both, you know, relatively early in our careers and trying to figure this out. And we thought, you know, what a great vehicle to have this forcing function for us to get together and research these great companies and great acquisitions and IPOs throughout history and and kind of start to see themes emerge from all of them about what's made these, these companies really work and really be great from the founders to the technology decisions to markets and, and business dynamics. And it's been great. And I think that for us and, and I think for a lot of the podcasts that I really enjoy listening to, it totally comes through when, when hosts are, doing this not just to create a show, but because they're actually trying to learn themselves. So, you know, doing the research is like, this is just an excuse for us to do research that we would be doing anyway. Yeah, sure. So tell me how a typical episode gets made. Do you guys just have these lined up in your heads or on a spreadsheet or something or how does it all work? We've got a bursting Google Doc with about 50 plus possible episode topics. A lot of that users submitted. We have this, this Slack community with over 600 people in it that submit episode topics to us. And it's a, it's a process where I'd say two to three days out, David and I pick one. And then we both go into our, our independent ways of researching. And it's funny. When we first started the show, we used to do a lot of this together and we used to talk a lot about, I'm going to say this, you're going to say that, but it made the show less interesting. There was less dissonance. There was less, we had the same narrative. So it's like, why are these guys even having a different show? Before you guys are agreeing all the time. So yeah, now we both know the structure of the show and we do our research independently. And then we try and sort of outdo one another on the show of, oh, but did you find this crazy little detail about the company? And I think that's a kind of a fun experience for listeners. Yeah. And it's funny too. When we started this, we were a little worried, I was particularly worried, I was particularly worried, obviously, you know, start-up technology acquisitions. We started with just acquisitions we didn't do, IPOs in the beginning. Like is that, is there enough there? Are we going to run out of shows to do after a few episodes? And like not at all. There's one thing we found there, so many fascinating stories. There are tons of big deals that like everybody's heard of and cares about and way more than you would think. But then also it's like it's the little ones too that are really interesting. Like we're going to do sound jam here in a little bit and nobody's heard of that company. It was three people and like the impact that that had on Apple, on the music industry, on podcasting, just like can't be overstated. And so like there's so many of these cool little stories to find. Heather, been any stories like that so far that we wouldn't miss necessarily like have the name recognition for? Oh yeah, there's been some that were like little companies that one of us was following for a long time. And then like we would know a weird amount about that company to be able to do an episode about it. So one example is push push pop press, which was Mike Madis' company. And it was a small outfit that basically did ebooks. They produced really incredible iPad apps that were the next evolution of what books could be. And it actually ended up getting acquired by Facebook. They were a really small company then. They morphed into what became, I think things called like Facebook creative labs. And that I don't know if that group is still around, but that existed for a few years. And they birthed Facebook paper, which then became instant articles. And you still see a lot of these like interactions and really beautiful sort of animations and way of displaying content in the Facebook app today that came through this tiny little technology acquisition. Well, that's that's super interesting. So have you had any episodes that have been ones that you've really wanted to create or any startup stories or acquisitions that are crazy to hear? Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm sure all of them have similar stories. We're right though. There's a few in particular. David, you want to talk about the what if Facebook acquired Snapchat? Oh yeah, this has been a really fun recurring theme on the show. The other thing that's cool is we have, you know, Facebook, Apple, Amazon. We end up doing multiple shows about them because like they acquire so many companies. And we're now on how many shows have we done on Snapchat? I think two so far. We'll probably have a third and then even more coming up. And just some of the story, I mean, in practically every episode, it's like truth is stranger than fiction, you know, but the story of in the relatively early days of Snapchat, hey, I mean, like nobody used the thing for like a year. It was just like basically dead on arrival. And then Evan Spiegel's mom's his cousin, right? His like mom's sister's daughter or something like that was in high school in LA. And everybody in her class had iPads. And Facebook was blocked on it. And so they couldn't and so was I message and all sorts of all the messaging apps. And and Spiegel's mom told her about Snapchat and then she started using it with her friends in her class in LA to like be able to get around this restriction and message one another. And that was like the seed of how the viral growth started. And it's like, you can't make this stuff up. That's crazy. Now that's that's awesome. Any episodes that you that you have that are kind of your favorite or do you like them all? Oh, we love all of our children. I will say that there's been a couple that we so we don't view ourselves as journalists. We we don't at all look like we're putting people feel like we're putting our guests on the record. We are never scooping. We rarely even cover like stories that are that are happening in real time. We like to dig up interesting things that happened 10 to 15 years ago that we now have historical perspective on and really review those. But sometimes we can't help ourselves. And so there's been a couple of them. I think LinkedIn, we did a show two days after the or released it two days after the acquisition by Microsoft. And we were just like bursting at the seams excited to do the Snapchat IPO. So for for that one, we actually recorded it the next morning after trading opened and then released it right away. And just super fun to be a part of those conversations as they're happening in real time. It's awesome. I was just going to say, my I think it is it's it's like children right like you started to pick your favorite. But one that I'm really proud of is the work we did on the Facebook IPO, which we covered. We actually recorded that episode the night before the 2016 election. And it was like so it was the first IPO we covered. So we were making a big change to the show. We put a ton of work into it. And I think it went really well. And then the night after we recorded it before we released it, you know, the election happened. And everybody was, you know, no matter what you, what you supported, like everybody was just kind of shocked at what happened. And we recorded this sort of preamble to the show before we released it. And it's really cool because I think that you know, the story that we told about that the Facebook IPO is it's really one of like perseverance through kind of unexpected things that happen. And you know, sort of writing the ship in the in the face of big challenges. And you know, obviously tons of lessons for business and for tech. But for me, that kind of stands out as one of our favorites. That's awesome. Yeah, I can imagine that's a crazy story to tell. Are you do you have any upcoming episodes on and different IPOs that you'd want to preview or give us a little sneak peek of? Well, you know, I'll tell you if we knew we would tell you. Yeah, we, one of the things that we're looking forward to doing more this year. I mean, we're only the shows what like a year and a half-ish old at this point. But it keeps growing. You know, one of the things we want to do is get a calendar set more in advance. And we've had some amazing guests on the show. But it's all been kind of ad hoc. And you know, especially with people, you know, we want to do more interviews with CEOs who were both acquirers and acquiries. And it takes a while to book these folks in advance. So we need to get more into that as we move throughout the year. Right, right. And when I was looking through your website, I noticed you have a Slack channel. Now is that pretty active? And do you have people like talking with and about all these acquisitions and IPOs and stuff? Yeah, I mean, I think every day, there's a good amount of activity on one of the channels in there. We definitely have these spikes where like at last scene, they'll buy Trello or some major event will happen. And it's funny how it's morphed from I want to go talk to people on Twitter about that. And this is kind of a tech trend to observe broadly is I think people have a lot of these conversations and these sort of private slacks now. And ours has definitely become kind of the, at least the de facto one that I've found for tech M&A, tech IPOs, like big tech news that that's happened. And the funny thing is like anything else, the conversations are the people who are conversing are long tailed distributed by frequency of post. So we have some like incredible super users that are in there. They're like basically stewards of the community now. People recognize their name and people, you know, they're not associated with the show at all, but they write their own blog posts that follow similar themes. And then they post. And then we all discuss. And it's funny how the community's really taken a life of its own. That's really cool. Yeah. And the other super cool thing about Slack is, you know, obviously you can DM people. So I mean, they've been, I'm sure it's happened with other people in the community that we don't even know about, but like several people both at Madrid and some of our portfolio companies, have actually like gotten jobs and like have made hires through the podcast and through the Slack community, which is just like so awesome. I mean, we never thought that this wouldn't be happy. We did. We actually hired somebody at Madrid, who kind of came to us through through acquired, which is amazing. Wow. That blows my mind. In terms of technology, what do you think? Do you, I guess not so much that you come across the most on a daily basis, but what tech do you enjoy most using on a daily basis? If you were to nail it down to one or two, feeling Ben is Ben is the ultimate technology connoisseur that I know I'll let him go first. Okay. So you know, mine goes in waves right now or coming into some nice weather. And I've been been getting ready for half marathon. I've been training for and doing a bunch of biking and I think my favorite app on my phone right now is Strava. And they just, you know, every year as I go into start my sort of running and and biking season, it just gets better and better. So Strava is my pick. Nice. I think for me, I'm going to have to go with with AirPods. I picked them up at Christmas. My, my in-laws were super, super kind and went and scoured eBay to find AirPods for me for for Christmas. I have the best in-laws in the world. And they, I was so pumped for the podcast because I thought, you know, when you're recording podcasts, you've got all these wires for your microphone, your headphones. And it's like I'll use AirPods and then be able to record podcasts and it turns out they're actually really crappy for actually recording audio. But they have just like increased my podcast consumption by like a thousand percent. Because not having to have wires when you're walking around or driving or like the bar to the bar to activating listening to something now is like they have is lowered it exponentially and I love them. Have you lost any pieces of it yet or not? Not yet. It's, it's funny. The when they came out there, you know, all this article is about like, you know, yeah, AirPods will be great until you lose them. And I saw, I can't remember where it was, but somebody wrote after they came out, you know, that it's a little, it might end up being like a, like a month-long pen or something like really nice people. Like why would you have a really nice pen? Like you're gonna lose it. But there's this dynamic where if you have something you love and that is expensive, even if it's small, you're gonna keep track of it and lose it. And like I track my AirPods like, you know, it is like the most important thing on my body throughout the day. I like have not even come close to losing them yet. Right. Would you say they're worth it? Oh totally, totally worth it. I've been thinking about getting them up so I think I might. I mean the thing is like if you just think about them as headphones, like then you're like, yeah, that's really expensive. But this is this is what I'm saying. Like it opened up this whole new world for me. Like audio quality doesn't matter like you don't even realize how not having wires. And I've had wireless headphones before. But like having them be so small and independent and not have to fiddle with them and just work like, you know, audiobooks, podcasts, interacting with apps that have audio. It's just been a game changer. And I will say we've all seen these numbers that like they're doing phenomenally well. But just anecdotally, I walked to our office and I see five, six pair on my half hour walk every day now. I mean they're really catching on. Yeah, I've seen the same. I can definitely see the trend growing. So I think I might do it. Yeah. Well, I think I think that's about all I have for you guys today, man. I really appreciate you coming down and sitting with me. Yeah, thanks for having us on. Yeah. Did you want to show out what we're to find your podcasts and everything? Yeah. Yeah. So you can you can find us on Apple podcasts if you just search acquired. We're on Twitter at acquired FM. And we are on the web at acquired dot FM. And if you want to join our Slack, we have a we have a little widget on the website at acquired dot FM. And you can get a sign up email invitation from there. Well, awesome. I will be sure to direct all of you listeners to that. And I'll let you know when when the episode goes up and everything like that too. All that sounds great. Thank you.