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    Acquired

    Every company has a story. Learn the playbooks that built the world’s greatest companies — and how you can apply them as a founder, operator, or investor.
    enBen Gilbert and David Rosenthal190 Episodes

    Episodes (190)

    Microsoft

    Microsoft

    Microsoft. After nearly a decade of Acquired episodes, we are finally ready to tackle the most valuable company ever created. The company that put a computer on every desk and in every home. The company that invented the software business model. The company that so thoroughly and completely dominated every conceivable competitor that the United States government intervened and kneecapped it… yet it’s STILL the most valuable company in the world today.

    This episode tells the story of Microsoft in its heyday, the PC Era. We cover its rise from a teenage dream to the most powerful business and technology force in history — the 20-year period from 1975 to 1995 that took Bill and Paul from the Lakeside high school computer room to launching Windows 95 alongside Jay Leno and the Rolling Stones. From BASIC to DOS, Windows, Office, Intel, IBM, Xerox PARC, Apple, Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer… it’s all here, and it’s all amazing. Tune in and enjoy… Microsoft.

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Renaissance Technologies

    Renaissance Technologies

    Renaissance Technologies is the best performing investment firm of all time. And yet no one at RenTec would consider themselves an “investor”, at least in any traditional sense of the word. It’d rather be more accurate to call them scientists — scientists who’ve discovered a system of math, computers and artificial intelligence that has evolved into the greatest money making machine the world has ever seen. And boy does it work: RenTec’s alchemic colossus has posted annual returns in the firm’s flagship Medallion Fund of 68% gross and 40% net over the past 34 years, while never once losing money. (For those keeping track at home, $1,000 invested in Medallion in 1988 would have compounded to $46.5B today… if you’d been allowed to keep it in.) Tune in for an incredible story of the small group of rebel mathematicians who didn’t just beat the market, but in the words of author Greg Zuckerman “solved it.”

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    Note: references to Fortune in ServiceNow sponsor sections are from Fortune ©2023. Used under license.


    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Hermès

    Hermès

    In luxury, there’s Hermès… and there’s everyone else. Stewarded by one French family over six generations, Hermès sells the absolute pinnacle of the French luxury dream. Loyal clients will wait years simply for the opportunity to buy one of the company’s flagship Birkin or Kelly bags. Unlike every other luxury brand, Hermès:

    • Doesn’t increase supply to meet demand (hence the waitlists)
    • Doesn’t loudly brand their products (IYKYK)
    • Doesn’t do celebrity endorsements (stars buy their bags just like everyone else)
    • Doesn’t even have a marketing department! (they barely advertise at all)

    And yet everyone knows who they are and what they represent. But, despite all their iconoclasm, this is not a company that’s stood still for six generations. Unbeknownst to most, Hermès has completely reinvented itself at least three times in its 187-year history. Including most recently (and most dramatically) by the family’s current leaders, who responded to LVMH and Bernard Arnault’s 2010 takeover attempt by pursuing a radical strategy — scaling hand craftsmanship. And in the process they turned the company from a sleepy, ~$10B family enterprise into a $200B market cap European giant. Tune in for one incredible story!

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Novo Nordisk (Ozempic)

    Novo Nordisk (Ozempic)

    Last year Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical company behind Ozempic and Wegovy, overtook LVMH to become Europe’s most valuable company. And the pull for Acquired to finally tackle healthcare (18% of US GDP!) became too strong for us to resist. While we didn’t know much about Novo Nordisk before diving in, our first thought was, “wow, seems like these new diabetes and obesity drugs mean serious trouble for big insulin companies.”

    And then… we realized that Novo Nordisk IS the big insulin company. And in a story befitting of Steve Jobs and Apple, they’d just disrupted themselves with the drug equivalent of an iPhone moment. Once we dug further, we quickly realized this company has it all: an incredible 100+ year history filled with Nobel Prizes, bitter personal rivalries, board room dramas, a generation-defining silicon valley innovation, lone voices persevering against all odds — and oh yeah, the world’s largest charitable foundation at its helm. Tune in for one incredible story!

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Holiday Special 2023

    Holiday Special 2023

    Ben has some big news. Actually, double big news! On what has become a holiday tradition here at Acquired, we cozy up to the fire to do our annual review of the show “in public”. We reflect on what can only be described as an absolutely mind-blowing 2023 (LVMH! Jensen! Costco! Charlie! Half a million plus listeners!) and look ahead to some big things cooking for 2024. Plus as always, we wrap with extended carve outs (joined this year by some surprise guests) for anyone still shopping for those holiday perfect gifts.

    Huge thank you to everyone for making 2023 an amazing year again here in Acquired-land, and cheers to even greater things to come in 2023!

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Visa

    Visa

    To paraphrase Visa founder Dee Hock, how many of you know Visa? Great, all of you. Now, how many of you know how it started? Or, for that matter, who started it? Who runs and governs it? Where is it headquartered? What’s its business model?

    For the 11th largest market cap company in the world, Visa’s history and strategy is almost shockingly unknown. A huge portion of the world’s population uses their products on a daily basis (you might say Visa is… everywhere people want to be), but very few know the amazing story behind how that came to be. Or why Visa continues to be one of the most incredible and incredibly durable business franchises of all-time. (50%+ net income margins!! On $30B of revenue!) Today we do our part to change that. Tune in for one heck of a journey.

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Charlie Munger

    Charlie Munger

    We sit down with the legendary Charlie Munger in the only dedicated longform podcast interview that he has done in his 99 years on Earth. We’ve gotten to have some special conversations on Acquired over the years, but this one truly takes the cake. Over dinner at his Los Angeles home, Charlie reflected with us on his own career and his nearly 50-year partnership at Berkshire Hathaway with Warren Buffett. He offered lessons and advice for investors today, and of course he shared his speech on the virtues of Costco once again (among other favorite investments). We’re so glad that we got the opportunity to record and share this with you all — break out your notebooks, tune in, and enjoy the singular wit and wisdom of Charlie Munger.

    A transcript is available here.

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang

    NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang

    We finally sit down with the man himself: Nvidia Cofounder & CEO Jensen Huang. After three parts and seven+ hours of covering the company, we thought we knew everything but — unsurprisingly — Jensen knows more. A couple teasers: we learned that the company’s initial motivation to enter the datacenter business came from perhaps not where you’d think, and the roots of Nvidia’s platform strategy stretch back beyond CUDA all the way to the origin of the company.

    We also got a peek into Jensen’s mindset and calculus behind “betting the company” multiple times, and his surprising feelings about whether he’d go on the founder journey again if he could rewind time. We can’t think of any better way to tie a bow on our Nvidia series (for now). Tune in!

    Editorial Note: We originally recorded this episode before the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel. It feels wrong to release this episode — where the nation of Israel and the Mellanox team are discussed — without sharing our profound sadness for all the families who had innocent loved ones or friends killed, injured, or taken hostage. Our hearts go out to everyone coping through this dark moment in history.

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Nvidia Part III: The Dawn of the AI Era (2022-2023)

    Nvidia Part III: The Dawn of the AI Era (2022-2023)

    It’s a(nother) new era for Nvidia.

    We thought we’d closed the Acquired book on Nvidia back in April 2022. The story was all wrapped up: Jensen & crew had set out on an amazing journey to accelerate the world’s computing workloads. Along the way they’d discovered a wondrous opportunity (machine learning powered social media feed recommendations). They forged incredible Power in the CUDA platform, and used it to triumph over seemingly insurmountable adversity — the stock market penalty-box.

    But, it turned out that was only the precursor to an even wilder journey. Over the past 18 months Nvidia has weathered one of the steepest stock crashes in history ($500B+ market cap wiped away peak-to-trough!). And, it has of course also experienced an even more fantastical rise — becoming the platform that’s powering the emergence of perhaps a new form of intelligence itself… and in the process becoming a trillion-dollar company.

    Today we tell another chapter in the amazing Nvidia saga: the dawn of the AI era. Tune in!

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Costco

    Costco

    Costco is not only Charlie Munger’s favorite company of all time (plus he’s on the board, natch), it’s an absolutely fascinating study in how seemingly opposite characteristics can combine to create incredible company value. For instance: Costco has the cheapest prices of any major retailer in America — and also the wealthiest customer base. They pay their hourly workers 30% above the industry norm (and give them excellent healthcare + 401k benefits) — and are almost 3x more profitable on labor than Walmart. Speaking of Walmart, Costco stocks 40x fewer SKUs than their Bentonville-based rivals — yet sells an average of 15x more volume of each. And oh yeah, practically all of Costco’s C-Suite started their careers as baggers and checkout clerks! Tune in for a mind-bending exploration of one of the world’s most iconic — and iconically unique — companies.

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Nike

    Nike

    Nike — it’s perhaps the most iconic and most prolific brand of the modern era. On any given day, swooshes adorn the feet of more people on earth than any other footwear company — by a long shot.

    If you read Shoe Dog or watched Air, you may think you know its history. But Shoe Dog ends in 1980, and Air… well let’s just say it’s an enjoyable piece of fiction. And it turns out (as always) that the real story is filled with far more drama, twists and business lessons than either of those works.

    We’ve been wanting to cover Nike for a long time, and thanks to our LPs who voted to choose this episode it’s finally here. So lace up your Vaporflys, Air Maxes, Dunks or Jordans (or your Monarchs, hey we don’t judge), head out for a long run or walk and enjoy!

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Porsche (with Doug DeMuro)

    Porsche (with Doug DeMuro)

    Nobody’s perfect — including Porsche. Despite that phrase appearing in their famous 1983 magazine advertisement, they managed to get damn-close to the perfect luxury business (even Bernard Arnault would be jealous!). Porsche is both quality AND quantity, owning the most prestigious brand in its market, while at the same time churning out almost half a million mass-market soccer mom/dad SUVs per year. And like any good luxury brand, it’s packed with enough juicy family drama and creeping takeovers to fill a Netflix series.

    Yet, behind it all lies perhaps the darkest origin story we’ve ever told on Acquired. Not only was Porsche was started by Nazis, Adolf Hitler himself was deeply involved in its early fortunes. And, following WWII, the Allies simply looked past these facts and essentially bestowed a license to generate wealth on Porsche and its owners — setting the stage for them to become one of the top ~15 wealthiest families in the world today.

    Joining us to explore it all is perhaps the very most-qualified person in the person in the world: the one & only Doug DeMuro. Not only is Doug the largest independent car reviewer on YouTube with millions of subscribers (we’re HUGE fans), he previously worked at Porsche corporate and owns a legendary Porsche Carrera GT — which served as the recording backdrop for this episode. Make sure you tune in to watch the video version! :)

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi

    Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi

    Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi dropped by the Acquired studio for an Eats delivery, so we broke out the cameras and asked him to hang out for a wide-ranging conversation. :) We talk about his 20 years working with Barry Diller, starting his career at Allen & Company, how the Uber CEO search process ACTUALLY went down… and oh yeah, the massive transformation that’s happened at Uber over the past few years. When Dara took over the company it was bleeding huge sums of cash, losing share to competitors and embroiled in one of the biggest corporate controversies in recent memory. Fast forward to today and it’s turned cashflow positive while also having tripled revenue to over $30B (on $120B in GMV) and solidified its rideshare dominance in the US. And in perhaps the biggest change, it’s done it all while staying out of the headlines. Tune in!

    ACQ2 Show + LP Program:

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    Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Lockheed Martin

    Lockheed Martin

    Today we bring you two absolutely incredible stories. The first is Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works division — the elite team of aviation geniuses who produced some of the greatest airplanes in history: the U-2, the Stealth Fighter, and the incomparable SR-71 Blackbird. The second story is arguably even more important, but not widely known! It's the secret and true origins of Silicon Valley — and Lockheed’s primary role in it. We take you from WWII to the Cold War, all the way to today to unpack and analyze the industry dynamics of defense contractors in the modern era. Tune in and prepare to be blown away by what you’ll learn about the history of our industry!

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Spotify CEO Daniel Ek

    Spotify CEO Daniel Ek

    We sit down with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek live in Stockholm at Spotify’s amazing HQ studio (check out the video version of this episode — which plays natively on Spotify!). This was an incredibly special and timely conversation: for those who haven’t been paying attention over the past few years, after revolutionizing music Spotify has now ALSO completely transformed our own industry in podcasting. Starting from way behind with ~zero market share in 2018, Spotify has now aggregated the listener market and amazingly surpassed Apple as the world’s largest podcast platform — including close to home with the Acquired audience, where it has 60%+ market share among you all!


    We discuss the origins of this “second act” strategy with Daniel, the vision to move from a music company to an audio company, and what’s coming next with Spotify’s entry into Audiobooks. And of course we relive some key moments from the Acquired canon that Daniel was involved in, including his pivotal conversations with Taylor Swift and her team convincing her to come back to streaming following the release of 1984. Tune in!

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    Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky and Blake Robbins on The Art of Business in Gaming

    Benchmark’s Mitch Lasky and Blake Robbins on The Art of Business in Gaming

    We sit down Benchmark’s legendary gaming investors Mitch Lasky and Blake Robbins (now also of the excellent Gamecraft podcast fame) to discuss the history and future of gaming business models. This episode is the perfect bookend to our Nintendo/Sega gaming series this season on Acquired — no one is more qualified than Mitch and Blake to breakdown how the business side of the industry has evolved so radically from the Periscope quarter-drop days to the forever games and platform based publishers of today.

    Regardless if you’re a gamer, understanding the incredible innovation that’s taken place over the past two decades in gaming and what it portends for other industries is critical for any founder and investor to understand. Tune in!

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    Pilot: https://bit.ly/acquiredpilot24
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    Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Short: The Death of Sega

    Short: The Death of Sega

    Sega and the Genesis was THE underdog story of the early 90’s. In a single console generation, Sega went from ~zero to 50% US market share and dethroned Nintendo’s seemingly invincible global monopoly. But — somehow — it all then died. Two console generations later Sega was out of the hardware game entirely, and the company was sold off for pieces to a pachinko manufacturer. How on earth did this happen??


    Today we’re launching Acquired Shorts in order to tell this story and others like it: side tales from the “Acquired Cinematic Universe” that are too brief for a full episode, but too good to leave in the vault. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the format (and this episode). Please send us your feedback in Slack, email or Twitter!

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    Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Nintendo: The Console Wars

    Nintendo: The Console Wars

    In the 1980’s Nintendo was on top of the world, with the NES achieving over 90% market share of home video games globally. So how did they fall ALL the way down to ~10% in just a few short console generations? And how did they then build themselves back up (and down and up again) to the top of the world again? Spoiler: it all hinged on one very small, yet very large and durable platform… the Game Boy. Fire up your favorite portable entertainment device and tune in for the epic story of Nintendo’s fall from grace and journey back to the top — capped off by our robust discussion of where they go from here, and whether this 130+ year old company may still (!) be misunderstood and mis-valued.

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    ‍Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Interview: Hamilton Helmer & Chenyi Shi on How to Build an AWS-Like Second Business

    Interview: Hamilton Helmer & Chenyi Shi on How to Build an AWS-Like Second Business

    7 Powers author Hamilton Helmer and his Strategy Capital colleague Chenyi Shi join us again to discuss their latest research on a topic that’s highly relevant to the recent Acquired canon: how to build a second business line. This incredibly important “transforming” question faces every great company who has achieved initial product success (as well as their investors). Do we continue solely along the established path, or do we attempt to grow new branches on the tree? Some companies grow new businesses with tremendous success — Amazon and AWS, Nintendo and video games, Nvidia and CUDA — yet many others fail miserably. For the first time Hamilton and Chenyi share their research-based playbook on how companies should approach this decision and choose wisely. Tune in!

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    Link to Hamilton's 2-Axis Chart

    Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.

    Sessions: David Senra (Founders Podcast)

    Sessions: David Senra (Founders Podcast)

    ACQ Sessions returns with David Senra of the Founders Podcast. David is one of our very favorite people in the world — it’s impossible to spend an hour (or 3!) with him and not come away inspired to go take over the world. This conversation is an “extended, IRL version” of monthly calls that we do together where we share stories, swap life and podcast advice, and just genuinely enjoy sharing time with someone who shares our outlook and enthusiasm for the history of entrepreneurship. Pull up a chair, grab a beverage (or energy drink in David’s case) and join us!

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    Topics:

    Note: Acquired hosts and guests may hold assets discussed in this episode. This podcast is not investment advice, and is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. You should do your own research and make your own independent decisions when considering any financial transactions.