Business Casual
Business Casual
Dec 3, 2020
Big Tech monopolies and the innovation chill
Play • 36 min

At what point does “participating in a new format” turn into “stealing an idea?” In the world of Big Tech, the line is incredibly fine.

And given that we’ve deemed Big Tech the arbiters of morality in the modern business world, their decisions to borrow, steal, or innovate are incredibly impactful. What happens to entrepreneurship and innovation in a world that rarely gives credit where it’s due?

That’s what we’re getting to the bottom of today with Casey Newton, writer of the Platformer newsletter and expert on the intersection of Big Tech and democracy.

This is an important episode—Big Tech steals ideas from smaller upstarts in part as a means of insulation from competitive threats...because Facebook, as influential as it might be, has no guarantee of immortality. Don’t miss Casey’s insights.

Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal
Special: Acquired x Indie Hackers
As regular listeners know, we typically cover some of the biggest companies who often receive the most media attention (see Airbnb and DoorDash). But today's episode is a little different. In our conversation with Courtland Allen of Indie Hackers, the largest community of startup founders, we dive into the stories of underdogs. What happens when there are millions of people doing small business entrepreneurship? How does anyone having access to the globally addressable market of 3 billion internet users open the door for the niche-est of products? We tell the story of Courtland’s own “Indie Hacker” journey, how he came to found Indie Hackers itself, and the lessons learned along the way. If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show, the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our live Book Club discussions with top authors. Join here at: Sponsors: * This episode is supported by Teamistry, a great new podcast from Atlassian that tells the stories of teams who work together in new and unexpected ways to achieve remarkable things. It's one of our best new podcast discoveries in 2020 and we think Acquired listeners are going to love it. Our thanks to Teamistry for their support, and you can listen here: * Thank you as well to Kevel and to Capchase. You can learn more about them at: * * Playbook Themes from this Episode: (also available on our website at ) 1. As long as you don't quit your journey, you're still in the act of succeeding. * Indie Hackers was Courtland's seventh company. Before it, Courtland had started six other companies, each with a few thousand dollars in revenue but never as big as he wanted it to be. Looking back, Courtland has realized that everyone has a certain number of companies they need to start before they succeed: for some, that number may be one, for others, 36. For him, that number was 7. So his advice? All you have to do is not quit before you get to that number. 2. The journey is as important as the destination. * While Courtland was working on some of his earlier companies, he was miserable. A few of those working years felt like a complete blur. But sometime before he started Indie Hackers, he realized that in order to keep going until you succeed (see playbook #1), you must structure your life so that it's easy for you to not quit. In other words, you have to make the journey fun — almost like the emotional counterpart to Paul Graham’s famous “default alive” concept. With this reframe, Courtland began to enjoy the journey — enjoying the new people he met and the new things he learned. This mindset helped him level up as a person. Instead of worrying and asking "am I there yet?" he was able to enjoy the building journey. 3. Stories are always paramount. * As we discuss so often on Acquired, stories can be an incredibly powerful force, and their value is one of the core theses/value propositions of Indie Hackers. One insight Courtland came to from Hacker News was that people didn't want to just read comments about people who didn't succeed. They wanted high quality, verified stories that were trustable in some way. * Indie Hackers sends a survey out to users 6 months after they join the community. One of the questions the survey asks is, "would you have started your company if not for Indie Hackers?" 15-20% say they would not have started without some story or interaction on Indie Hackers! 4. Don't try to create budgets — sell to people that already have them. * Courtland originally tried to monetize Indie Hackers via advertising, and shared advertisement opportunities with the Indie Hacker community. But he soon realized that these smaller businesses weren't exactly the best customers to sell to. Eventually, he transitioned to selling to enterprises, and was pleasantly surprised by how much easier it was to sell. * The sales process simplified is: educate, then win. If you're selling to someone with a budget, you essentially bypass the education step. 5. Utilizing platforms, like everything in business, has tradeoffs. * There are no hard or fast rules in business. Everything has tradeoffs. Platforms may help with distribution but make it harder to build a brand and also create risks and dependencies. For Courtland, it was important for Indie Hackers to have its own brand. Additionally, he already had a distribution strategy (Hacker News). Hence, it made sense for Indie Hackers to be its own site, as there were many risks but few benefits to using some other platform like Medium. 6. Trust and mission alignment are critical in acquisitions. * Acquisition terms are about much more than just the purchase price. Sometimes, other considerations are more advantageous than cash (e.g. equity), and there are creative ways to align their incentives. * For Courtland, it was crucial that he retain freedom over his time and control over the direction of Indie Hackers. Hence, it was — and still remains — key that Patrick and Courtland's relationship have a high degree of trust. 7. Acquisitions can enable established brands to take bigger risks. * “Intra-preneurship” can be difficult because the initiative is constrained by internal processes and standards as well as external expectations. Hence, you can often take bigger risks through an acquisition. Google video versus YouTube is a great example of this. 8. There is an infinite number of "indie hacker" opportunities. * There is no end to the number of niche problems that can be identified and served. Big businesses and platforms create massive opportunities to go for the long tail. New businesses can build on top of these platforms or build for these platforms, creating tools to help people use them. For example, there are thriving tools business ecosystems today for Stripe, Shopify, WordPress, and still many more use cases yet to be addressed. Links: * Indie Hackers:
1 hr 49 min
The Twenty Minute VC: Venture Capital | Startup Funding | The Pitch
The Twenty Minute VC: Venture Capital | Startup Funding | The Pitch
Harry Stebbings
20VC: Databricks CEO, Ali Ghodsi on The 3 Phases of Startup Growth, How to Evaluate Risk and Downside Scenario Planning & Who, What and When To Hire When Scaling Your Go-To-Market
Ali Ghodsi is the Founder & CEO @ Databricks, bringing together data engineering, science and analytics on an open, unified platform so data teams can collaborate and innovate faster. To date, Ali has raised over $897M for the company including from the likes of a16z, NEA, Microsoft, Battery, Coatue, Greenbay and more. Prior to Databricks, Ali was one of the original creators of open source project, Apache Spark, and ideas from his research have been applied to Apache Mesos and Apache Hadoop. In Today’s Episode You Will Learn: 1.) How Ali made his way from fleeing Iran as a refugee to living in a Swedish ghetto? What was the founding moment for Ali with Databricks? 2.) How does Ali think about and evaluate risk today? Why does Ali always make his team do downside scenario planning? How does Ali think about his relationship to money today? Why does Ali disagree with gut decisions? What is his process for making decisions effectively? 3.) Stage 1: The Search for PMF: What are the core elements included in this phase? What types of leaders thrive in this phase? What type struggle? How can leaders sustain morale in the early days when it is not up and to the right? Who are the crucial hires in this phase? 4.) Stage 2: Scale Go-To-Market: What are the core roles needed to expand GTM fast and effectively? Why should you hire sales leaders before marketing leaders? Why is hiring finance leaders so crucial here? What mistakes are most often made here? How do the board resolve them? 5.) Stage 3: Process and Efficiency: What are the first and most important processes that need to be implemented? How does Ali need to change the type of leader he is to fit this stage? How does one retain creativity and nimble decision-making at scale and with process? Item’s Mentioned In Today’s Episode Ali’s Favourite Book: Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters As always you can follow Harry and The Twenty Minute VC on Twitter here! Likewise, you can follow Harry on Instagram here for mojito madness and all things 20VC.
42 min
TechCrunch, Chris Gates, Alex Wilhelm, Danny Crichton, Natasha Mascarenhas, Grace Mendenhall
Checkout wants to be Rapyd and Fast
Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. We’re back on this lovely Saturday with a bonus episode! Again! There is enough going on that to avoid failing to bring you stuff that we think matters, we are back yet again for more. This time around we are not talking Roblox, we're talking about ecommerce, and a number of rounds -- big _and_ small -- that have been raised in the space. Honest question: do y'all plan to release news on the same week? Are trends a social construct? From Natasha, Grace, Danny, and your humble servant, here's your run-down: * Webflow raised $140 million in a round that it says it did not need. This is not a new thing. Some startups are doing well, and don't burn much. So investors offer them more at a nice price. In this case $2.1 billion. (Webflow does no-code * raised $450 million. The rich really do get richer. In this case the founders of, whose company is now worth around $15 billion does, you guessed, online checkout work. Which as Danny explains is complicated and critical. * We also talked about this Bolt round, for context. * And sticking to the ecommerce theme, Rapyd raised $300 million at around a $2.5 billion valuation. There is infinte money available for late-stage fintech. * Early stage as well, it turns out, with Tradeswell raising $15.5 million to help businesses improve their net margins. * Finally, ending with a chat on infrastructure, Nacelle closed an $18 million Series A. And now we're going back to bed.
14 min
Invest Like the Best
Invest Like the Best
Patrick O'Shaughnessy
Oliver Hughes – The Secret FinTech Giant – [Founder’s Field Guide, EP.16]
My guest today is Oliver Hughes, the CEO of Tinkoff, the leading online commercial bank based in Russia. I found this conversation fascinating and think it will be essential for anyone who wants to understand online financial services or the next generation of fintech. Our conversation touches on how Tinkoff used direct mail campaigns to become the largest online banking provider in Russia, their last-mile delivery platform that combines couriers with door-to-door salesmen, and how they build profitability into every aspect of the business. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Oliver Hughes. For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content check out This episode of Founder's Field Guide is sponsored by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is the ultimate marketing platform for ecommerce. With targeted segmentation, email automation, SMS marketing, and more, Klaviyo helps you create your ideal customer experience. See why Klaviyo's trusted by more than 50,000 brands, like Living Proof, Solo Stove, and Nomad to help them grow their business. For a free trial check out This episode is also sponsored by Vanta. Vanta has built software that makes it easier to both get and maintain your SOC 2 report, at a fraction of the normal cost. Founders Field Guide listeners can redeem a $1k off coupon at Founder's Field Guide is a property of Colossus Inc. For more episodes of Founder's Field Guide go to Stay up to date on all our podcasts by signing up to Colossus Weekly, our quick dive every Sunday highlighting the top business and investing concepts from our podcasts and the best of what we read that week. Sign up here - Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_oshag Follow Colossus on Twitter at @JoinColossus Show Notes [00:02:44] – [First question] – The origins of Tinkoff [00:06:18] – How they started and stayed profitable, and lessons learned [00:08:18] – Bringing Visa to Russia and what he took with him to Tinkoff [00:10:02] – Overall Credit card and Tinkoff's specifically business model [00:12:35] – Running an effective direct mail acquisition campaign [00:15:45] – Branching off from the original core credit card business into other spaces [00:18:45] – How he thinks about when to make competing investments [00:21:00] – Embedding into new businesses and how it goes wrong [00:24:50] – How they became a large door-to-door business in Russia [00:27:55] – Why that door-to-door business makes it hard to compete with them [00:29:38] – Challenges in the payments business [00:32:25] – Using content to help them grow their business [00:35:29] – Competitive frontiers for Tinkoff and how often they shift [00:38:45] – What the future of Tinkoff might look like and the Russian business environment [00:41:55] – State of the market in Russia today [00:45:27] – Recruiting talent and building culture [00:47:55] – What he enjoys most about his job [00:49:14] – Failures and lessons from them [00:52:00] – Kindest thing anyone has done for him
58 min
Fintech Insider Podcast by 11:FS
Fintech Insider Podcast by 11:FS
493. Insights: Partnerships in finance: building the new banking ecosystem
With the help of fintechs, BaaS, third party providers and even M&As, banking as we know it is changing. Partnerships are proving to be the key to unlocking what the future of the banking ecosystem will look like. In this episode, Adam Davis sits down with a panel of guests for an insightful conversation about how partnership in finance could have the potential to change the entire ecosystem of banking. Joining Adam on the show are: Victoria Roberts - Director of Fintech Delivery Panel at Tech Nation Jason Wilkinson-Brown - Head of Partnerships, TSB Keith Grose - Head of UK, Plaid This podcast is brought to you by Jack Henry Digital ( the pioneer and creator of personal digital banking that helps community financial institutions strategically differentiate their digital offerings from those of MegaBanks, BigTechs and FinTechs. This podcast is also brought to you by Mitek ( MITK). Mitek is a global leader in mobile capture and digital identity verification solutions built on the latest advancements in computer vision, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Mitek’s identity verification solutions enable an enterprise to verify a user’s identity during a digital transaction, which assists businesses operating in highly regulated markets to reduce financial risk and meet regulatory requirements while increasing revenue from digital channels. Financial services, marketplaces and other organizations around the world use Mitek to reduce friction creating the digital experiences their customers expect. Mobile Deposit® and Mobile Verify® are used by millions of consumers for check deposit, new account opening and more. The company is based in San Diego with offices in New York, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris and St Petersburg. Learn more at Banking as a Service is deconstructing the banking stack. It's enabling brands to embed finance more easily, and to tailor financial products to specific customer needs. This is presenting new opportunities for specialised providers and offers banks extra revenue streams. Download our report for a comprehensive, no BS view of what Banking as a Service is and what it means for the industry. Head to ( Fintech Insider by 11:FS is a podcast dedicated to all things fintech, banking, technology and financial services. Hosted by a rotation of 11:FS experts including David Brear, Simon Taylor, Jason Bates and Sarah Kocianski and joined by a range of brilliant guests, we cover the latest global news, bring you interviews from industry experts or take a deep dive into subject matters such as APIs, AI or digital banking. If you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to subscribe and please leave a review Follow us on Twitter: where you can ask the hosts questions, alternatively email! Special Guests: Jason Wilkinson-Brown, Keith Grose, and Victoria Roberts.
46 min
Creator Lab - interviews with entrepreneurs and startup founders
Creator Lab - interviews with entrepreneurs and startup founders
Bilal Zaidi
Andrew Wilkinson, Tiny // Building The Internet's Berkshire Hathaway, Going Public & Munger's Mental Models
Andrew Wilkinson is the co-founder of Tiny. He owns 30+ companies, including Dribbble, Metalab, Girlboss & Castro. Collectively, these businesses bring in $100mil+ in annual revenue. Andrew took WeCommerce public the week of this interview, with the most recent market cap hitting $800mil Canadian dollars (Jan 2021) He's a leading expert in buying, starting & growing online businesses. Let us know what you think on Twitter: @bzaidi & @awilkinson Watch on YouTube: In this conversation, you'll learn: * why Warren Buffet + Charlie Munger's approach inspired Andrew to create the Berkshire Hathaway of the internet * how mental models like "inversion" can help you think more effectively * the 4 types of entrepreneurs + understanding which type you are * how to hire key employees + a CEO to replace you * the importance of incentives + how to align employees around a shared vision Timestamps: * 00:00:00 Snippet * 00:03:32 Who is Andrew? Buying, Building + Growing Companies * 00:07:41 Mental Models: Studying Warren Buffett + Charlie Munger * 00:10:22 Inversion * 00:12:12 Make A Few Good Decisions A Year * 00:13:54 The New Zealand Approach * 00:15:30 Fishing Where The Fish Are * 00:22:11 Controlling Emotions * 00:24:50 When Deals Don't Go To Plan * 00:26:07 How 2020 Changed Andrew's Strategy * 00:27:40 The Value Of Service Businesses * 00:32:08 Incentives * 00:34:09 4 Types of Entrepreneurs * 00:37:13 How to Hire a CEO * 00:40:21 Working With Recruiters * 00:41:42 Lessons on Firing * 00:43:35 Incentivizing CEOs * 00:46:20 Creating A Shared Vision * 00:50:39 The Art of Delegation * 00:53:33 "Twitter should be milking money" * 00:56:38 Lessons From Shareholder Letters * 00:58:49 The Future of Local News * 01:00:39 Wrap-Up
1 hr 2 min
a16z Podcast
a16z Podcast
Andreessen Horowitz
Developers as Creatives
The rise of developers -- as buyers, as influencers, as a _creative_ class -- is a direct result of "software eating the world", and of key shifts in IT from on-prem to cloud & SaaS to the API economy, where application programming interfaces are essentially building blocks for innovation. Developers therefore not only play an outsized role in high-performing tech companies -- but managing and motivating them is actually critical in ALL companies, since every company is a tech company (whether they know it or not). As every industry turns digital, and a company's interface to their customers IS software, "asking" one's developer is the key to solving business problems and to thriving not just surviving, argues Jeff Lawson, CEO and co-founder of cloud communications platform-as-a-service company Twilio, in his new book, _Ask Your Developer: How to Harness the Power of Software Developers and Win in the 21st Century._ So in this episode of the a16z Podcast in conversation with Sonal Chokshi and David Ulevitch (who previously argued "the developer's way" is the future of work), Lawson shares hard-earned lessons learned, mindsets, strategies, and tactics -- from "build vs. buy" to "build vs. die", to the art and science of small teams ("mitosis") -- for leaders and companies of all sizes. But what does it mean to truly treat developers as creatives within an organization? What does it mean to be "developer first"? And how does this affect customers, product, go-to-market? All this and more in this episode.
33 min
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