Episode 51 2017 Holiday Special

Summary Notes


In episode 51 of Acquired, hosts Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal, amidst a jovial holiday atmosphere, reflect on a year of technology acquisitions and IPOs. They highlight the growth of their partner, Pilot, an accounting firm for startups backed by notable investors like Sequoia and Jeff Bezos. They discuss the importance of startups focusing on core product enhancements and outsourcing non-essential tasks like accounting. The episode also teases Acquired's format evolution into a seasonal structure, allowing for mini-series and new content experimentation. Additionally, the hosts announce a San Francisco meetup for their listener community and hint at big changes for the podcast in 2018. They reminisce over their favorite episodes, with Rosenthal favoring the Beats acquisition story and Gilbert lauding the Square IPO analysis. The episode concludes with reflections on personal milestones and a look ahead at potential trends and predictions for the coming year.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Acquired Podcast Episode 51

  • Episode 51 of Acquired is a holiday special hosted by Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal.
  • The hosts are celebrating mid-December and the second annual holiday tradition.
  • David expresses excitement for the episode, despite not having a glass of wine like Ben.

"I'm so excited. I'm jealous because Ben has a glass of and I am in the office and we don't yet have any wine or beer here. I'm toasting you in spirit."

This quote shows David's enthusiasm for the episode and his playful jealousy of Ben's relaxed setting with a glass of wine.

Pilot's Role in Startups and Growth Companies

  • Pilot is a sponsor of the episode and provides accounting, tax, and bookkeeping services.
  • It is the largest startup-focused accounting firm in the US, backed by Sequoia, Index, Stripe, and Jeff Bezos.
  • Pilot takes care of a company's entire financial stack, including finance, accounting, tax, and CFO services.

"Pilot both sets up and operates your company's entire financial stack. So finance, accounting, tax, even CFO services like investor reporting from your general ledger all the way up to budgeting and financial sections of board decks."

This quote summarizes Pilot's comprehensive service offerings, highlighting their role in managing the financial operations of startups and growth companies.

Acquired Community and Listener Engagement

  • Acquired has a Slack community with over 1000 members.
  • The community is active with direct messaging and discussions about tech M&A and recent news.
  • The hosts appreciate the listener engagement and the connections being made within the community.

"We've got a slack that you can join at acquired fm. We're over 1000 strong and good place to talk about tech M and a recent news that happened."

The quote emphasizes the existence of a vibrant community around the Acquired podcast, where listeners can engage with each other and discuss relevant topics.

Upcoming San Francisco Meetup

  • The hosts are planning a meetup in San Francisco on January 18.
  • The Bay Area has the densest concentration of Acquired listeners.
  • A listener named Preet is thanked for helping organize the meetup.

"We're going to be in San Francisco. David's already down there. I'll be flying down Thursday, January 18. Mark your calendars."

This quote informs listeners about the upcoming meetup event, encouraging them to participate and interact with the hosts and other listeners in person.

Changes to Acquired Format in 2018

  • Acquired will evolve its format to a season structure with approximately ten episodes per season.
  • The new format will allow the hosts to experiment with new ideas and create miniseries.
  • The first season will include a mix of standard episodes and a miniseries.

"We are going to move to a season format. We thought after now 51 episodes, it would be better to block this into a traditional podcast season format."

The quote explains the decision to shift to a season-based format for the podcast, aiming to improve the structure and content delivery.

Personal Reflections from 2017

  • David reflects on his personal journey, including moving to Europe and starting a new venture.
  • Ben discusses his role at Pioneer Square Labs and his experience as interim CEO of Taunt, an esports company.
  • Both hosts share their experiences with the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship.

"For me, 2017 was about as big a year as you can get. So almost exactly a year ago, at the end of 2016, Jenny, my wife, finished her phd, which itself was an incredible accomplishment."

This quote from David shares a personal milestone and sets the stage for his reflections on the past year, indicating significant life changes and new beginnings.

Favorite Episodes of 2017

  • David and Ben share their favorite episodes and runners-up from 2017.
  • David's favorite is the Beats episode, while Ben's favorite is the Square IPO episode.
  • They discuss the impact of these episodes and the stories they covered.

"But my winner, I cannot not pick our last episode. Beats. That was just too much fun."

David's quote reveals his favorite episode of the year, highlighting the engaging story of Beats and its acquisition by Apple as particularly memorable.

Looking Forward to 2018

  • The hosts express excitement for the upcoming year and hint at new developments for Acquired.
  • They discuss the potential for revisiting past episodes and correcting any inaccuracies.
  • The conversation includes lighthearted banter about future plans and predictions.

"We do. We are going to be evolving the format a little bit in 2018. Big things happening in acquired."

This quote indicates that there are significant changes and exciting developments in store for the Acquired podcast in the coming year.

Transition from Idea Generation to Company Running

  • The speaker discusses the shift from starting multiple ideas to focusing on a single company.
  • Running a company requires an immense amount of focus and prioritization.
  • The speaker has stopped many activities to concentrate on the company.
  • Ta McCann's concept of "itindi" (important things I'm not doing yet) is used to manage priorities.
  • The founder mindset means being ready and adaptable at all times.
  • The ability to reprioritize tasks based on new information is crucial.

"Boy, the number one thing, switching from my job as basically serially starting these ideas and then working to transition off them, to start the next one, to sort of running with one, at least in this interim capacity, has been a remarkable I way underestimated how much focus I would need to have."

The quote explains the speaker's underestimation of the focus needed to run a single company compared to starting multiple ideas.

"Ta McCann, who's another awesome founder and investor in the Seattle area, calls this itindi important things I'm not doing yet, and he keeps a conscious list of things that are extremely important, super high priority things, but it's either not as urgent, it's not a hair on fire problem as other things, or it's just not as high priority as some other high priority things."

This quote introduces the concept of "itindi" as a method for managing important but not immediately urgent tasks.

"Actually, Ta McCann, who's another awesome founder and investor in the Seattle area, calls this itindi important things I'm not doing yet, and he keeps a conscious list of things that are extremely important, super high priority things, but it's either not as urgent, it's not a hair on fire problem as other things, or it's just not as high priority as some other high priority things."

The speaker is reflecting on the need to prioritize and the challenge of not being able to address all important tasks at once.

Founder's Challenges and Responsibilities

  • A founder has less freedom, especially in the pre-product market fit stage.
  • Identifying the North Star for a company can be challenging.
  • The speaker discusses the high cognitive load and switching costs of managing various tasks.
  • Founders have to deal with the reality of multiple dependencies and high responsibility.

"You have multiple handful of people that depend on you. That's one thing that's not our structure here. So I'm lucky that I don't have that particular challenge of being a founder. Still have a little bit more kind of autonomy. But I got to imagine in some ways, as founder and CEO of something, you have the least amount of freedom."

The quote highlights the responsibility and dependency issues that founders face, which can limit their freedom.

"And at least in the pre product market fit stage, where you're actually not sure what the North Star is like. You have an idea, you have a value or a mission that's a North star, but there's not a defined implementation yet."

This quote discusses the uncertainty and challenges in the early stages of a startup when the product-market fit has yet to be defined.

Aggregation Theory's Impact on Economy and Technology

  • Aggregation theory has become more significant in shaping the tech industry.
  • The theory explains the consolidation of power by major tech companies.
  • It has implications for income inequality and social changes.
  • The speaker notes the challenges of user acquisition, with Google and Facebook being the primary channels.

"I think in 2017, it has become super clear that the biggest tech companies, the Facebooks, the Amazons, the Googles, the apples, have just consolidated so much power in the space, continue to consolidate even more power."

This quote addresses the growing influence and dominance of large tech companies as per aggregation theory.

"It changed our economy, it changed our political structure. It literally changed the way that people interact with other humans."

The speaker emphasizes the profound impact of aggregation theory on various aspects of society.

Predictions and Reflections

  • The speakers review their predictions for 2017, including the importance of aggregation theory and the rise of universal basic income.
  • They discuss the actual outcomes of their predictions, such as the number of tech IPOs and the commoditization of machine learning.
  • The conversation touches on the lack of predictions regarding the rise of cryptocurrency.

"So my first one was that aggregation theory was going to become even more important in 2017 than 2016."

The speaker had correctly predicted the growing relevance of aggregation theory in the tech industry.

"Another one that I had. I think the rest of mine are kind of hard to check in on. I said, people get more serious about universal basic income."

This quote reflects on a prediction about universal basic income, which did not gain as much traction as expected.

Social Media's Role in Removing Gatekeepers

  • Social media has enabled individuals to become content creators and share their stories widely.
  • The Internet has removed traditional gatekeepers, allowing for more democratic content distribution.
  • The #MeToo movement is cited as an example of how social media has empowered individuals.
  • The speakers discuss the positive and negative aspects of this shift, including the potential for lower quality content and confirmation bias.

"It really makes all media truly social and all media the future of media much more about do you have a compelling message, rather than are you able to fit in with a body of content that has existed today and in the ability to be non conforming, which David, actually fits in pretty well with your tech theme, to be able to be differentiated by be non conforming and still get distribution on that, that was a new piece of value that was unlocked."

This quote discusses how social media has transformed the media landscape, emphasizing the importance of compelling messages over conformity.

"The biggest thing to come of all that is that the Internet and social media really removed gatekeepers."

The speaker highlights the significant impact of social media in democratizing content distribution and reducing the power of traditional gatekeepers.

Content Contribution in Digital Platforms

  • Digital platforms and publishers are striking deals that result in some of the world's best content being shared.
  • The value exchange between platforms and publishers is significant for content distribution and visibility.

"All forms. Some of the best content in the world is being contributed as part of the bargain that the publishers are striking with the platforms."

This quote emphasizes the mutually beneficial relationship between digital platforms and content publishers, where high-quality content is exchanged for platform access and audience reach.

Introduction to Statsig

  • Statsig is a feature management and experimentation platform for product teams.
  • It allows teams to ship products faster, automate A/B testing, and measure feature impact on business metrics.
  • Statsig provides visualizations and a powerful stats engine for real-time product observability.

"Statsig is a feature management and experimentation platform that helps product teams ship faster, automate A/B testing, and see the impact every feature is having on the core business metrics."

This quote introduces Statsig, outlining its role in helping product teams enhance their development processes and decision-making through feature management and experimentation.

Statsig's Benefits and Customer Base

  • Statsig enables data-driven decisions, testing with user groups, and accurate impact reporting.
  • Notable customers include Notion, Brex, OpenAI, Flipkart, and Microsoft, among others.
  • Statsig is beneficial for AI feature testing and integrates with data warehouses.

"Statsig lets you make actual data driven decisions about product changes, test them with different user groups around the world, and get statistically accurate reporting on the impact."

The quote highlights the practical benefits of using Statsig for product development, emphasizing its data-driven approach to testing and impact analysis.

Bitcoin Price Prediction Discussion

  • The speakers engage in a playful prediction of Bitcoin's price for the following year.
  • They acknowledge the speculative nature of such predictions and the many factors influencing Bitcoin's value.

"I am going to say the price of bitcoin on December twelveth 2018 will be $28,000."

This quote captures one speaker's attempt to predict Bitcoin's future price, reflecting the speculative discussions common in cryptocurrency communities.

Amazon HQ2 Location Prediction

  • The speakers discuss potential locations for Amazon's second headquarters (HQ2).
  • Predictions include Toronto for diversification and political reasons, and Texas for demographic changes.

"Amazon HQ two will be in Toronto."

This quote is a prediction that Amazon would choose Toronto for its HQ2, providing reasons related to tax diversification and proximity to talent from universities like Waterloo.

Venture Capital Ecosystem Disruption

  • The venture capital ecosystem is undergoing disruption, particularly in early-stage investing.
  • Traditional Series A firms have grown, leading to a gap in true early-stage investing.
  • New players and methods, including ICOs, are emerging in the early-stage funding landscape.

"I seriously believe we have been in the midst of major disruption that has been happening in the venture capital ecosystem over the last few years."

This quote discusses the ongoing changes in the venture capital industry, highlighting the shift in early-stage investment strategies and the emergence of new funding models.

Shift to Private Communication Networks

  • There's a growing trend towards private communication networks over broad social networks.
  • People are seeking privacy and intimacy in their digital interactions.
  • Private networks may occupy more of people's time, moving away from public platforms.

"We're going to start seeing smaller, more intimate communication networks rise instead of broad social networks, as people start to react to a lack of comfort with things being public and a shift toward a desire for more private communication and private broadcast of themselves."

This quote explains the prediction that private communication networks will become more popular as people seek more intimate and private digital interactions.

End of Mobile Era

  • The speakers contemplate whether the focus on mobile technology is becoming outdated.
  • They suggest a transition to an ecosystem of tailored devices, including voice assistants and AR.
  • The concept of "the end of eras" is introduced, indicating a seamless internet experience across various devices.

"Are we nearing the end of mobile? And I don't mean that in something is going to replace mobile. Like, I don't think it's going to be the AirPods and the watch and you're not going to have your phone, but it's almost like, are we going to enter somewhere where between voice assistants in your house and your phone."

This quote reflects on whether the era of mobile dominance is coming to an end, suggesting a future where technology is integrated into a broader ecosystem of devices.

Carve Outs and Recommendations

  • The speakers plan to share recommendations across various categories, including books, articles, podcasts, music, TV, movies, and apps.
  • They emphasize the importance of these recommendations for their listeners.

"Let's do it. Okay, so just like last year, we are keeping our mega extended carve out section."

This quote sets the stage for a segment where the speakers will provide a range of personal recommendations, acknowledging the tradition from the previous year.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy

  • The trilogy is a fantasy series, often categorized as young adult fiction, but also enjoyed by adults.
  • The first book in the trilogy is "The Golden Compass."
  • The series has been likened to "Harry Potter," combining elements of fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk.
  • Features a female protagonist and offers a complete inversion and retelling of the story of "Lost."
  • A second trilogy by Philip Pullman has begun with the first book already released.

"It's actually a trilogy, is Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, which the first book of which is the Golden Compass, which is a fantasy, sort know young adult fiction, but also can very much be read and enjoyed by adults."

The quote explains that "His Dark Materials" is a fantasy trilogy that appeals to both young adults and adults, similar to the broad appeal of the "Harry Potter" series.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

  • "Shoe Dog" is the only book recommended by the speaker for the year.
  • It is the story of Phil Knight and the creation of Nike.
  • Described as a page-turner thriller, but it is a nonfiction work.
  • Highly praised for its writing quality.

"Shoe dog. It was so good. Talked about it a bunch. Whatever episode it was, where it was my carve out and David, it was your carve out, and I've forgotten that. But the story of Phil Knight and the creation of Nike, just like page Turner thriller, but nonfiction and so freaking well written."

The quote describes "Shoe Dog" as a compelling nonfiction book that is as engaging as a thriller and is highly recommended for its excellent writing.

Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden

  • "Wooden on Leadership" is a book about John Wooden's leadership philosophies and his Pyramid of Success.
  • John Wooden's definition of success is unique, focusing on personal effort rather than external achievements.
  • The book is recommended for individuals interested in business, sports, or leadership.

"John Wooden says, success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable."

The quote provides John Wooden's definition of success, emphasizing self-satisfaction from personal effort rather than external validation, which is a central tenet of his leadership philosophy.

The Great AI Awakening Article

  • The New York Times magazine cover story titled "The Great AI Awakening" is highlighted.
  • The article explains the transformative impact of AI and machine learning.
  • It narrates the story of Google Translate's improvement using neural networks.
  • The piece made AI and machine learning more understandable to the public.

"It is the New York Times magazine cover story called the great AI Awakening. And this was the first piece that I read that really brought not only an understanding, but a compelling narrative to why AI and machine learning is so transformative to the era that we live in."

The quote explains that "The Great AI Awakening" was a pivotal article that provided both understanding and a compelling narrative about the transformative nature of AI and machine learning.

Founder Friendly Blog Post by Fred Wilson

  • Discusses the Uber situation and the benchmark lawsuit against Travis Kalanick.
  • Fred Wilson's response to the notion of "founder friendly" era ending due to VC lawsuits against CEOs.
  • Wilson argues that what is best for the company often aligns with the founders' best interests.
  • The blog post indicates a potential shift in the dynamics between VCs, founders, and boards.

"Sometimes what's most friendly to founders is doing what's best for the company."

The quote from Fred Wilson's blog post argues that the true founder-friendly approach is to do what is best for the company, implying that this may also be in the best interest of founders in the long run.

The Ezra Klein Show with Yuval Noah Harari

  • The podcast episode features Yuval Noah Harari, the author of "Sapiens."
  • Harari discusses a wide range of topics, including archaeology, psychology, and evolutionary biology.
  • The speaker expresses a personal interest in meditation and its potential impact on personal development.

"It's like a primer on many, many things that are core to the human condition, archaeological stuff, psychological stuff, evolutionary biology, a lot of sociology of why we treat people the way we do today in different groups and how that falls out of different evolutionary things."

The quote summarizes the breadth of topics covered in the podcast with Yuval Noah Harari, which delve into the core aspects of the human condition and our societal behaviors.

The Bill Simmons Show with Jimmy Iovine

  • Jimmy Iovine is described as the "coolest human alive."
  • The podcast episode is recommended for listeners interested in music and entertainment.

"Go listen to it."

The quote is a straightforward recommendation to listen to the episode of The Bill Simmons Show featuring Jimmy Iovine, emphasizing the speaker's high regard for the guest.

Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band Live Albums

  • Bruce Springsteen's live performance at the Hammersmith Odeon in London in 1975 is highlighted as one of his best.
  • The album captures the early days of Springsteen's career following the release of "Born to Run."
  • The performance is recommended for its display of Springsteen's talent.

"Bruce writes about it in Born to Run in the autobiography. Whatever your streaming service of choice is, go listen to this now. It's just the boss at his best."

The quote encourages listeners to experience Bruce Springsteen's live performance, which is highly praised and considered a prime example of his musical prowess.

Odesza's Album "A Moment Apart"

  • Odesza's album "A Moment Apart" is recommended for its versatility, serving as suitable music for work, mornings, and workouts.
  • The speaker has a strong personal connection to the band, equating them with the likes of The Beatles and Radiohead.

"Odeza's new album, a moment apart. I know that I listen to this over and over again."

The quote conveys the speaker's repeated enjoyment of Odesza's album "A Moment Apart," highlighting its significance in their music rotation.

Blade Runner 2049

  • "Blade Runner 2049" is chosen as the movie of the year.
  • The speaker had to watch the original "Blade Runner" to fully appreciate the sequel.
  • The movie is described as visually stunning and thought-provoking, particularly in the context of AI.

"It's both visually incredible and one of those thinker movies that you're thinking about for days after and especially in our AI apocalypse that we are in."

The quote describes "Blade Runner 2049" as a visually impressive film that provokes deep thought, especially relevant to contemporary discussions around AI.

Creed and The Last Jedi

  • "Creed," the latest Rocky movie, is recommended as a worthy watch.
  • Anticipation for "The Last Jedi," which had not been released at the time of recording, is expressed.

"I was going to do the defiant ones, but we can't do too much."

While discussing movie recommendations, the speaker expresses a preference for "Creed" and shares excitement for the upcoming "The Last Jedi."

YouTube as an App

  • YouTube is chosen as the app of the year due to increased personal engagement.
  • The speaker finds YouTube's personalized feed entertaining and a go-to for content.
  • A shift in perception from YouTube being a destination for embedded videos to a source of personalized entertainment is noted.

"I've been reengaging with the main app and the feed, and there's great stuff that they surface for you in there and very personalized based on your watching history."

The quote explains the speaker's renewed interest in YouTube, emphasizing the personalized content recommendations that have made the app more engaging.

HQ Trivia and the End of the Mobile Era

  • HQ Trivia is mentioned as an app of the year, despite not being on the speaker's home screen.
  • The speaker notes a lack of new, habit-forming apps in 2017, suggesting a possible end to the era of mobile app innovation.
  • The conversation reflects on how established apps remain dominant, with few newcomers breaking into daily use.

"There is very rarely a new app that becomes a part of my daily or even weekly life."

The quote reflects the speaker's observation that new apps have not become integral to their daily routine, highlighting a potential stagnation in mobile app innovation.

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