Season 2, Episode 6: Spotify’s Direct Listing

Acquired wraps up a big few weeks of coverage with not an IPO or an M&A or a fundraising round, but what’s still the largest tech exit in recent memory: Spotify’s $30B direct public listing. We dive into what it all means and how we got here: from Napster to iTunes to Facebook (and even some Justin Timberlake thrown in for good measure). Acquired FM is on the scene and spinning all the hits from this new wave music industry titan!

Note: We incorrectly described Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s ownership stake in Spotify as 25%+; that is actually his voting control. His economic ownership is 9.3%, and cofounder Martin Lorentzon’s is 12.4%. We apologize for the error!

Links:

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Lee Schindler, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Season 2, Episode 5: The Dropbox IPO

Acquired is live on the scene following Dropbox’s public market debut. From playing a central role in the early days of Y Combinator, to having Steve Jobs famously label the company a “feature not a product”, to pivoting from consumers to enterprise to developers and back again, the silicon valley history runs deep with this one. What twists and turns lie ahead for Dropbox as a public company? We speculate!

Links:

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Lee Schindler, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Season 2, Episode 4: SoftBank, Fortress and the Vision Fund

Acquired dives into the topic on the minds and lips of just about every VC and founder these days: SoftBank’s $93B+ Vision Fund, and its seemingly-overnight rewriting of the rules of venture capital and startup fundraising. Where did this new 800lbs gorilla come from, what are its goals, and what does it mean for the future of silicon valley and the global tech ecosystem? The answer, it turns out, starts with an acquisition, and unfolds into a story no one has yet told and few yet understand. Luckily our heroes are on the case!

Links:

Carve Outs:

  • Ben: eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work
  • David: Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy (starting with The Three-Body Problem)
  • Bonus: shout out to Brian McCullough’s new podcast the Ride Home, in partnership with TechMeme!

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Lee Schindler, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Season 2, Episode 3: Nest

Acquired brings it all back home—to the smart home that is—with Google’s 2014 acquisition of Nest for $3.2B. From Nest cofounder Tony Fadell’s first job at General Magic (alongside future Android founder Andy Rubin) to his days as “father of the iPod” under Steve Jobs at Apple, the Silicon Valley history runs deep with this one. But did that make the acquisition a good move for Google in the coming battle with Amazon’s “Lady A” for control over consumers’ homes? We dive in! 

Links:

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Gina Eiben, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Season 2, Episode 2: Raising a Seed Round with Against Gravity CEO Nick Fajt

We launch mini-series on Acquired with a subject near & dear to our heroes’ hearts: startup fundraising! This has been one of our most-requested new topics, and we’re excited to kick things off with makers of the popular Rec Room social VR app, Against Gravity, which raised one of Seattle’s hottest venture rounds in recent history: a $4m seed led by Sequoia Capital in 2016. CEO Nick Fajt joins to tell the story from company inception to building and shipping the initial product, fundraising as a first-time CEO, what they’ve been able to accomplish with the capital and their vision for the future. We had a blast touching on many classic Acquired themes for the first time “in-action” with a young, growing company, and hope you all enjoy the discussion as much as we did. Let us know what you think in the Slack!

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this Acquired Season 2. You can get in touch with Gina Eiben, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Season 2, Episode 1: Zappos (with Alfred Lin)

Season 2, Episode 1: Zappos (with Alfred Lin)

Former Zappos Chairman & COO (and current Partner at Sequoia Capital) Alfred Lin joins our heroes to kick off Season 2 with a classic: Amazon’s 2009 acquisition of the internet’s quirkiest online retailer for $1.2B in stock. How did three Harvard undergrads go from delivering pizza to their dorm to delivering happiness to the world — and become in the process one of the few companies ever to compete successfully head-to-head against Amazon in commerce? Tune in to find out! 

Note: Unfortunately the quality of David and Alfred’s audio tracks in this episode were significantly impacted by a processor issue on David’s computer, which we didn’t discover until after recording. We’ve worked hard to fix in post-production, but it’s still far from perfect. Still, the content from Alfred is so good, we felt we had to put this episode out there even though the audio quality isn’t up to par. We hope you’ll give it a listen regardless, and we’re working on getting a transcript made ASAP as well. 

-Ben & David

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Full Transcript below: (disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

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Episode 51: 2017 Holiday Special

Acquired cozies up to the fire and looks back on the year in tech. How wildly off were we on last year’s predictions? What does the next year have in store? Most importantly, what price will Bitcoin be trading at in December 2018??? Pour yourself a glass of your favorite holiday beverage and kick back with us.

SF Acquired Meetup!

  • Mark your calendars: we’ll be hosting an Acquired Meetup in SF the evening of January 18, 2018. More details coming soon—check Slack or Acquired.fm

Links

2017 Carve Outs of the Year:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 50: Apple - Beats

Acquired crosses the half-century mark with an instant classic: Apple’s 2014 purchase of Beats, its largest acquisition ever. If you knew Beats as just another headphone company, think again—the history on this one will keep your heads ringin’.

SF Acquired Meetup!

  • Mark your calendars: we’ll be hosting an Acquired Meetup in SF the evening of January 18, 2018. More details to come soon. 

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Nick Ferrer, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 49: The Stitch Fix IPO

Ben and David dive into the most talked-about tech IPO of 4Q 2017: Stitch Fix. After downsizing the offering and pricing below the range, does this signal a warning that public markets won’t value high-flying silicon valley “disruptors” as high as VCs hope? Or is this a textbook example of a great return for a disciplined management team and well-run company? Most importantly, what happens next? Tune in for our heroes’ take. 

Carve Outs:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 48: Qualcomm - Broadcom

Ben & David cover the proposed largest tech M&A deal of all time, and in the process dive into the evolving dynamics of the industry that started everything in Silicon Valley—silicon. Just when VCs thought innovation was dead in semiconductors, a new wave of startups and large companies are redrawing the lines of competition in an industry dominated for a half-century by the “Wintel” duopoly of Intel and Microsoft.

Topics Covered Include:

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Nick Ferrer, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 47: The Atlassian IPO

Ben & David venture to the land down under (and reunite in-person!) to tell the story of the granddaddy of all bootstrapped tech success stories, collaboration software company Atlassian. How did two plucky college grads from Sydney, Australia go from just trying to escape working for the man to becoming two of the top 10 wealthiest people in the entire country, all without raising a dollar of venture capital? We dive in. 

Topics Covered Include:

  • How Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar met in college at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and their decision to bootstrap a startup as an alternative to finding a “real job” after graduation
  • Atlassian’s “no sales” model, and the resultant efficiency of their sales & marketing spend relative to other SAAS companies 
  • Organic product growth and acquisitions over the years, starting with Jira and later adding Confluence, BitBucket, HipChat / Stride, Jira Service Desk and Trello
  • Rapid revenue growth and the decision to continue as a bootstrapped company, only raising secondary capital prior to going public
  • The IPO in November 2015 and subsequent stock performance (spoiler: it’s been good)

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jason Day, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 46: Blue Bottle Coffee

Today our heroes cover a deal that might have more impact on life in Silicon Valley than AI, wearables and AR/VR combined… Nestle’s acquisition of Blue Bottle Coffee. Will hipster entrepreneurs and the VCs who love/need them continue to line up around the block for their minimalist coffee experience of choice, now that it’s owned by the Nesquik Bunny? Is this the beginning of Blue Bottle pod machines filling the empty counter space left by Juicero’s demise in VC offices throughout South Park? We investigate. 

Topics Covered Include:

  • The rise of “Third Wave” coffee
  • Blue Bottle founder James Freeman’s “classical” (music) influences 
  • Venture capital and the coffee business 
  • Achieving liquidity when companies and founders’ don’t want to go public, and don’t want to sell their stakes 
  • Nestle’s position in single-serve coffee market and potential brand impact of Blue Bottle

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jeff Beuche, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 45: HTC, Google and the Future of Mobile

Acquired is back and live on the scene! After months of speculation, Google announces today their acquisition (err, "Cooperation Agreement”) of a large portion of HTC’s hardware division. What does this mean for the future of mobile? Can Google transform itself into a vertically integrated device company and compete directly with Apple? Most importantly, when will we see more Beats Android handsets??? (We hope never)

Topics Covered Include:

  • The origins of HTC as a Taiwanese OEM, dating back to the Compaq iPAQ and Palm Treo 650!
  • HTC’s long history with Google, starting as the manufacturer of the first Android phone, the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1
  • HTC’s ownership of Beats, for a hot minute
  • Google’s own winding history in hardware, with its Motorola acquisition in 2011 and divestiture in 2014
  • Google & HTC’s joint work on the Pixel smartphones in 2016
  • And much analysis and speculation on what this means for Google, Apple, Samsung, vertical vs horizontal business models and more!

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jeff Beuche, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 44: AOL - Time Warner (with the Internet History Podcast)

On this extra-long episode of Acquired, Brian McCullough from the Internet History Podcast returns to discuss perhaps the most (in)famous merger of all time: AOL - Time Warner. Who doesn’t remember the soothing sounds of 56k modems and the timeless phrase, “You’ve Got Mail”? Join us all as we unpack how one of the biggest ISP’s of the 90’s tried to take over the world… and failed.

Topics Covered Include:

  • AOL’s status in the 90’s / early 00’s
  • Explaining just what it is that AOL did at the height of their popularity
  • How AOL pioneered a number of internet paradigms
  • AOL’s persistent money troubles and bailouts from other companies
  • Steve Case foreseeing the coming era of broadband, inspiring AOL to pursue working with a cable company
  • Ebay vs. Time Warner in a down-to-the-wire war for a merger with AOL
  • Why the money dried up for AOL after their merger with Time Warner
  • AOL and its value in the post-Time-Warner era
  • Speculating about what would have happened had AOL and others stayed independent businesses
  • And much discussion on how to grade this one…

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Jeff Beuche, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Episode 43: The Square IPO

Episode 43: The Square IPO

Unicorns and ratchets and lawsuits, oh my! Our heroes dive into the history of Jack Dorsey’s famous “other” company, Square. Was the Square IPO a canary in the coal mine signaling doom & gloom for the so-called unicorn companies of the early 2010’s, or a mispriced and misunderstood diamond in the rough? Acquired weighs in.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Square’s deep origins in the early 90’s in St. Louis, MO with the initial meeting of its co-founders, Jack Dorsey & Jim McKelvey
  • McKelvey’s side glass blowing business and the “inspiration” for Square that came much later in the late 2000’s
  • The complicated involvement of Washington University (in St. Louis) professor Robert Morley, who had worked for years developing payment card reading technology
  • The company’s early meeting with Scott Forstall at Apple, and its “significant” impact on the its name and design
  • The real disruptive innovation of Square and its business model (hint: not just building a mobile card reader)
  • Square’s massive payments deal with Starbucks in 2012 and its impact on the company
  • The evolution of Square’s business from a simple card reader to cloud-based Point of Sale (PoS) system and entire suite of merchant tools & business management services
  • The drama leading up to Square’s IPO (including at Jack Dorsey’s “other” company, Twitter), dynamics and narratives affecting its pricing, the effect of IPO “ratchets”, and the company’s performance over the ~2 years since

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this podcast. You can get in touch with Buddy Arnheim, who you heard at the beginning of this podcast, here.

Full Transcript below: (disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

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Episode 42: Opsware (with special guest Michel Feaster)

Episode 42: Opsware (with special guest Michel Feaster)

Acquired dives into the legendary acquisition of Ben Horowitz & Marc Andreessen’s “second act” software company Opsware, from a perspective never before heard—HP’s side of the story! Our heroes are joined by Michel Feaster, who led both the acquisition for HP and then the Opsware product as part of the integrated company afterward under Ben Horowitz. Today the tables have turned: Michel is the Co-Founder and CEO of Seattle-based startup Usermind, and Ben Horowitz sits on her board on behalf of A16Z. This episode is not one to miss!

Topics covered include:

  • Opsware’s early history and origins as Loudcloud, the “second act” of internet wunderkind Marc Andreessen and Netscape product manager Ben Horowitz
  • Ben’s first person telling of the Loudcloud/Opsware history in The Hard Thing about Hard Things, as well as the great Wired "period piece” covering Loudcloud’s launch in August 2000
  • The importance of timing, and Loudcloud’s too-early vision of—essentially—AWS before AWS (including eerie parallels between the metaphor Andreessen used to describe Loudcloud during the company’s first press briefing, and Jeff Bezos’s description of AWS at YC nearly a decade later)
  • Creation of the “Opsware” tool inside of Loudcloud to automate deploying and configuring servers within Loudcloud’s data centers
  • Loudcloud's meteoric rise, crash following the burst of the internet bubble, and hard pivot as a public company into Opsware—now an enterprise software company selling datacenter tools 
  • Michel’s role in HP’s evaluation of the company as an acquisition target, and process leading to its $1.6B acquisition in July 2007
  • Integration of the company into HP’s culture and sales channel
  • The creation of Ben & Marc’s “third act”, the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, and what it’s like for Michel now having Ben as an investor on her board at Usermind 

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Perkins Coie, Counsel to Great Companies, for sponsoring this episode. You can get in touch with Buddy Arnheim (as heard on this episode) directly here.

Full Transcript below: (disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

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Episode 41: Booking.com with Jetsetter & Room 77 CEO Drew Patterson

Episode 41: Booking.com with Jetsetter & Room 77 CEO Drew Patterson

Acquired trains its lens on the “second or third best acquisition of all-time”, Priceline’s 2005 purchase of Booking.com. Our heroes are joined by friend-of-the-show and former Jetsetter & Room 77 CEO Drew Patterson to help understand how this little-known startup from The Netherlands grew into the largest travel company in the world, with nearly $8B in annual revenue. Was this deal even better than Instagram??? We debate, hotly. 

Topics covered include:

  • The biggest startup you’ve never heard of (in the US), Booking.com, and its parent company Priceline (yes, the William Shatner Priceline)
  • Booking’s founding in Amsterdam in late 1996: by recent college graduate Geert-Jan Bruinsma
  • Skift.com’s Definitive Oral History of Online Travel
  • The travel industry's GDS's (“Global Distribution Systems”) and the development of Sabre 
  • How Bruinsma raised the initial money for Booking: by emailing anyone he know who had an email address 
  • OTAs ("Online Travel Agencies”) and how they operate; the "merchant model" versus the “agency model"
  • The role of search in online travel 
  • Bill Gurley on Conversion: The Most Important Internet Metric of All
  • Expedia’s early flirtation with Booking, and decision not to acquire the company
  • Priceline head of M&A Glenn Fogel’s vision for how powerful the agency model for OTAs could become in Europe
  • Priceline and Glenn's 2004 acquisition of Active Hotels in the UK, followed by the 2005 acquisition of Booking for $133M and the combination of the two businesses into Booking.com 
  • Booking’s incredible growth in the decade since the acquisition, from less than 20M room-nights to over 500M, and $7.8B in revenue in 2016

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring this episode. If you'd like to learn more or start a banking relationship, you can get in touch with Shai Goldman here.

Full Transcript below: (disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors

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Episode 40: Activision Blizzard

Episode 40: Activision Blizzard

Ben & David cover the creation of the gaming world’s equivalent of the 70’s rock supergroup: the 2008 merger of Blizzard and Activision. We tell the story from the Blizzard perspective, tracing the history of one of the most innovative companies in the business from humble beginnings at the hands of UCLA undergrads, to surviving multiple acquisition rollups (including at one point being owned by the French national water company), to joining ultimately with Activision to form the largest gaming company in the world, all while inventing multiple game genres that define the industry as we know it today.

 

Click here to take the 2017 Acquired Survey. It takes 5-10 minutes, and you may win a pair of AirPods (woo!)

 

Topics covered include:

  • Blizzard’s founding in 1991 as "Silicon & Synapse” by recent UCLA grads Allen Adham, Frank Pearce, and Mike Morhaime
  • The team’s first projects making ports for other games, including Battle Chess on the Commodore 64
  • Early success on the Super Nintendo with Rock & Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings
  • Origin of the Real-Time Strategy game genre (“RTS”) and Blizzard’s fist mega-hit, Warcraft 
  • Blizzard’s crazy corporate ownership changes over the years
  • Development of further legendary game franchises like Diablo and Starcraft, along with sequels to Warcraft and the rise of the rise of player modding
  • Emergence of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre (“MOBA”) from the Warcraft III modding community, and its growth into one of the biggest sectors in the games and esports industries today
  • Blizzard’s role in developing the concept of online gaming, from early hacks to play against friends to World of Warcraft and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (“MMORPG’s”)
  • The 2008 merger with storied gaming company Activision 
  • Growth and success since the merger, including the launch of new game franchises Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

  • Thanks to Silicon Valley Bank for sponsoring this episode. If you'd like to learn more or start a banking relationship, you can get in touch with Shai Goldman here.

Full Transcript below: (disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

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Episode 39: Whole Foods Market

Episode 39: Whole Foods Market

Ben and David are once again live on the scene, this time covering the biggest disruption in grocery since… well, sliced bread: Amazon’s $13.7B purchase of Whole Foods Market. We place this deal in context by diving deep into the long, intertwining history of grocery, tech and Amazon, from the infamous dotcom flameout Webvan (domain name now owned by Amazon) to its much more successful progeny Kiva Systems (acquired by Amazon in 2012) to current Silicon Valley unicorn Instacart (founded by former Amazon logistics engineer Apoorva Mehta). One thing is clear: for Amazon and Jeff Bezos, realizing the longterm vision of the Everything Store truly means building the everything store.

Topics covered include:

Followups:

The Carve Out:

Sponsor:

Full Transcript below: (disclaimer: may contain unintentionally confusing, inaccurate and/or amusing transcription errors)

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