About Acquired on the Anchor Podcast of the Day



In a conversation with Grant Palomantier on the Anchor podcast of the day show, Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal, co-founders of Pioneer Square Labs and Madrona Venture Group respectively, discuss the origins and structure of their podcast, Acquired. They delve into their backgrounds, the podcast's focus on technology acquisitions and IPOs, and how they analyze and grade significant business events. Ben and David highlight their independent research approach to foster dynamic discussions and reveal how their community-driven Slack channel has evolved into a vibrant forum for tech M&A and IPO discourse. They touch upon memorable episodes, such as the LinkedIn acquisition and the Facebook IPO, and express their desire to plan further in advance to accommodate high-profile guests. Lastly, they share their personal favorite tech tools, with Ben championing Strava and David praising AirPods for transforming his audio consumption experience.

Summary Notes

Introduction to "Acquired" Podcast

  • Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal introduce themselves and discuss their backgrounds.
  • Ben is the co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs with a computer science background and experience at Microsoft.
  • David is a venture capitalist at Madrona Venture Group and met Ben during his time at Madrona Labs.
  • They started the podcast after Ben proposed the idea to David, and it has since gained thousands of listeners.

I am Ben Gilbert. I am the co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs here in Seattle.

And I'm David Rosenthal. I am a venture capitalist at Madrona Venture Group in Seattle.

The quotes introduce the hosts, Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal, and provide context about their professional backgrounds, which contributes to their expertise in the technology and venture capital sectors that the podcast focuses on.

Early Interest in Podcasts

  • Ben and David discuss their early experiences with podcasts, dating back to 2005 and 2006.
  • Ben highlights the cumbersome process of loading podcasts onto an iPod via USB.
  • Both hosts experienced a period where they stopped listening to podcasts due to the inconvenience.
  • They returned to listening to and eventually creating their own podcast with the advent of smartphones.

Yeah, absolutely. Like 2005, 2006. I remember loading them through USB onto my iPod.

Yeah, it's funny. We're literally right after this, going to record our next episode, and we're going to cover sound jam, which Apple acquired and became iTunes.

These quotes reflect the personal experiences of the hosts with the early days of podcasting and their renewed interest in the medium that led to the creation of their own show.

Description of "Acquired" Podcast

  • "Acquired" is a podcast about technology, acquisitions, and IPOs.
  • The show focuses on the narrative history of companies, their evolution, and future conjectures.
  • The structure includes sections on company history, types of acquisitions, counterfactuals, and thematic observations.
  • The podcast features a grading section evaluating the use of capital in transactions.
  • The show also includes fun sections following the main content.

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 story of these companies.

This quote succinctly describes the core content and purpose of the "Acquired" podcast, emphasizing its focus on storytelling within the realm of technology business events.

Show Structure and Themes

  • The podcast is structured with clear sections to analyze and discuss various aspects of technology companies.
  • Discussions include the nature of acquisitions, potential alternate scenarios, and thematic insights from technology events.
  • The grading section assesses the value and impact of financial decisions on companies' futures.
  • The podcast aims to explore the broader implications of specific technology transactions and events.

We really break it into these pretty clear sections, the history and facts of the company... And then we really talk about themes... And then we grade it.

This quote outlines the structured approach the podcast takes to dissect and evaluate technology companies and their significant events, providing a framework for listeners to understand the analysis process.

The Creation and Evolution of "Acquired" Podcast

  • The podcast was born from Ben's interest in podcasting and discussions with David about potential show topics.
  • The decision to focus on technology, acquisitions, and IPOs was driven by their professional experiences and interests.
  • The show has evolved to include a variety of segments and in-depth discussions, reflecting the hosts' commitment to providing comprehensive coverage of the tech industry.

You know, I think one thing that really makes the show work is, like we were saying a minute ago, we started this just because Ben was interested in podcasting and kind of looking at it at PSL, and we were chatting about, oh, we should do it.

This quote captures the organic origins of the "Acquired" podcast, highlighting the collaborative nature of its creation and the alignment of the hosts' interests with the show's focus.

Eternal Truths in Technology and Startups

  • Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal discuss the importance of understanding deep, enduring themes in technology beyond fleeting trends.
  • Identifying these themes is crucial for venture capitalists and company builders like Ben at PSL.
  • The podcast serves as a tool for them to research and learn from historical company successes, including founders, technology decisions, and market dynamics.

"Super important being a venture capitalist and a company builder for Ben at PSL."

This quote highlights the significance of recognizing lasting principles in the tech industry for professionals involved in venture capital and company building.

"And we thought, 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 kind of start to see themes emerge from all them about what's made these companies really work and really be great, from the founders, to the technology decisions, to markets and business dynamics."

The quote explains the podcast's purpose as a platform for Ben and David to collaborate and learn from the history of successful companies, focusing on various factors that contribute to their success.

Podcast Episode Creation Process

  • Ben Gilbert describes the process of selecting episode topics from a Google Doc with over 50 potential ideas, many of which are user-submitted through their Slack community.
  • Initially, Ben and David would research together, but found independent research led to more interesting discussions with varying perspectives on the show.
  • The element of surprise and competition in bringing unique details to the show enhances the listening experience.

"We've got a bursting Google Doc with about 50 plus possible episode topics, a lot of them users submitted."

This quote explains the collaborative and organized approach to generating episode topics, emphasizing the involvement of their listener community.

"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?"

The quote reveals the dynamic between the co-hosts, where independent research and friendly competition contribute to a more engaging podcast experience.

Discovering Untold Stories in Tech

  • David Rosenthal expresses initial concerns about the sufficiency of content around startup technology and acquisitions.
  • They were surprised to find a wealth of fascinating stories, both well-known and obscure, that have significantly impacted the tech industry.
  • Small companies with lesser-known stories, like SoundJam's influence on Apple and podcasting, provide rich material for episodes.

"Is there enough there? Are we going to run out of shows to do after a few episodes? And not at all."

David's quote reflects the initial uncertainty about content availability, which was quickly dispelled by the abundance of interesting tech stories.

"It was three people. And the impact that had on Apple, on the music industry, on podcasting, just can't be overstated."

The quote emphasizes the profound influence that even small companies can have on major industry players and sectors, highlighting the potential for compelling narratives in the podcast.

Uncovering Hidden Gems and Influential Acquisitions

  • Ben Gilbert shares anecdotes about lesser-known companies like Push Pop Press, which was acquired by Facebook and influenced features like Facebook Paper and Instant Articles.
  • These stories of small but influential tech acquisitions provide unique and insightful content for the podcast.

"There's been some that were like little companies that one of us was following for a long time, and then we would know a weird amount about that company to be able to do an episode about it."

This quote shows the depth of knowledge the hosts bring to the podcast, often drawing from their personal interest and expertise in niche companies.

"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."

The quote illustrates the impact of Push Pop Press's work on the evolution of digital books and its subsequent acquisition by Facebook, demonstrating the potential for small companies to drive innovation in larger entities.

Recurring Themes and Hypothetical Scenarios

  • The hosts discuss recurring themes on the podcast, such as hypothetical scenarios like "What if Facebook acquired Snapchat?"
  • These discussions offer listeners engaging and speculative insights into the tech industry's potential different paths.

"David, do you want to talk about the what if Facebook acquired Snapchat?"

Ben's invitation to David to discuss a recurring theme on the show suggests that exploring hypothetical scenarios is a regular and intriguing feature of their podcast content.

Snapchat's Viral Growth

  • Snapchat's initial lack of user engagement.
  • The role of Evan Spiegel's family in Snapchat's growth.
  • The use of Snapchat in a Los Angeles high school as a workaround for blocked communication apps.

"But the story of, in the relatively early days of Snapchat, well, a, I mean, 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 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 was iMessage and all the messaging apps."

The quote explains the pivotal moment in Snapchat's history when it was first adopted by high school students in LA due to restrictions on other messaging platforms. This adoption was facilitated by Evan Spiegel's family connection and marked the beginning of Snapchat's viral growth.

Podcasting Approach and Favorite Episodes

  • The podcasters' stance on journalism and their preference for historical perspective.
  • The excitement of covering tech events like LinkedIn's acquisition and Snapchat's IPO in real-time.
  • The memorable experience of covering the Facebook IPO and its associated lessons.

"We like to dig up interesting things that happened ten 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, released it two days after the acquisition by Microsoft, and we were just bursting at the seams, excited to do the Snapchat IPO."

This quote highlights the podcasters' general approach to covering tech stories with historical perspective while also expressing the excitement they feel when participating in the coverage of significant real-time events, such as acquisitions and IPOs.

"I think that the story that we told about the Facebook IPO is, it's really one of perseverance through kind of unexpected things that happen and sort of writing the ship in the face of big challenges."

The quote reflects on the Facebook IPO episode as a story of perseverance and overcoming challenges, which resonated with the podcasters and stood out as a favorite episode due to its relevance and the effort they put into it.

Planning for Future Episodes

  • The desire to establish a more advanced recording calendar.
  • The goal to interview CEOs involved in acquisitions and IPOs.
  • The challenge of scheduling guests in advance.

"One of the things we're looking forward to doing more this year. I mean, the show is what, like a year and a half ish old at this point. But as it keeps growing, one of the things we want to do is get a calendar set more in advance."

This quote indicates the podcasters' intention to organize their recording schedule better and hints at the ongoing growth of the show, which necessitates more advanced planning.

Audience Engagement and Community

  • The active participation of listeners in the podcast's Slack channel.
  • The shift from public Twitter discussions to private Slack conversations within the tech community.
  • The distribution of conversations by frequency of posts among users.

"We definitely have these spikes where Atlassian will 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. This is kind of a tech trend to observe broadly, is I think people have a lot of these conversations in these sort of private slacks now."

This quote discusses the shift in how the tech community engages in conversation, moving from public platforms like Twitter to more private settings such as Slack channels. It also notes the increased activity in their Slack channel during significant tech events, highlighting the importance of community engagement for the podcast.

Community Engagement and Growth

  • The community around the podcast has become self-sustaining with active members recognized by others.
  • Members are not directly associated with the show but contribute content that aligns with its themes.
  • There is a dynamic discussion among community members on various topics.

They're like basically stewards of the community now. People recognize their name and people, 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.

This quote highlights the organic growth and self-governance of the community, where members take initiative to contribute and foster discussions.

Networking and Professional Opportunities

  • The Slack community has facilitated job opportunities and hires.
  • Connections made through the podcast community have led to actual employment, including a hire at Madrona.
  • The podcast and its community have become a networking tool.

Several people both at Madrona and some of our portfolio companies have actually gotten jobs and have made hires through the podcast and through the slack community.

This quote emphasizes the unexpected but positive impact of the podcast's community in creating real-world professional opportunities for its members.

Personal Technology Preferences

  • Hosts discuss their favorite technologies and gadgets.
  • Ben Gilbert is currently enjoying Strava for running and biking.
  • David Rosenthal praises Airpods for their convenience in listening to audio content.

My favorite app on my phone right now is Strava. I picked them up at Christmas... Airpods... have just increased my podcast consumption by 1000%.

These quotes reveal the personal technology choices of the hosts, Ben's preference for a fitness app, and David's appreciation for the wireless convenience of Airpods.

AirPods as a Lifestyle Change

  • David Rosenthal discusses how AirPods have significantly improved his podcast listening experience.
  • The lack of wires and the ease of use have been transformative for him.
  • He mentions the importance of keeping track of the AirPods due to their size and cost.

Not having to have wires when you're walking around or driving the bar to activating, listening to something now is like they have lowered it exponentially and I love them.

This quote conveys David's enthusiasm for AirPods and how they have changed his audio consumption habits.

Valuing Expensive Items

  • There is a discussion about the concern of losing AirPods and the comparison to expensive pens.
  • A psychological dynamic is mentioned where people take better care of items they value and find expensive.

But there's this dynamic where if you have something you love and that is expensive, even if it's small, you're going to keep track of it and lose.

This quote discusses the tendency of individuals to be more careful with possessions they cherish and perceive as valuable, reducing the likelihood of loss.

AirPods' Popularity and Market Impact

  • Ben Gilbert notes the visible increase in AirPods usage among the public.
  • The hosts acknowledge the trend and success of AirPods in the market.

I walk to our office and I see five, six pair on my half hour walk every day now.

Ben's observation serves as an anecdotal testament to the widespread adoption and popularity of AirPods.

Podcast Accessibility and Community Invitation

  • The hosts invite listeners to find their podcast on various platforms and to join their Slack community.
  • They provide information on how to access their content and community online.

You can find us on Apple Podcasts if you just search acquired... And if you want to join our slack, we have a little widget on the website at Acquired FM.

These quotes offer clear instructions for listeners interested in accessing the podcast and joining the community, emphasizing the hosts' openness to new members.

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