Sonal Chokshi: a16z Podcasting – Software Engineering Daily

Check out the Software Engineering Daily Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • We’re still very much in the early days of the podcast space
  • The podcast industry is lacking two big things:
    • General discovery – the ability to discover specific types of podcasts or others you might enjoy
    • Episodic discovery – the ability to search for episodes by topic
    • (There’s also a ton of room for innovation surrounding analytics, listener engagement, search, etc.)
  • A VC firm is like a talent agency
    • Startups aren’t just about code or products, talented people are needed to make them successful
      • You need talented leaders who can recognize talented people and hire them as employees to build and ship great products
  • The great thing about technology is the democratization of access – almost anyone can start their own YouTube channel, podcast, etc.
  • The hardest part of podcasting takes place before and after the podcast
    • Before the podcast, you need to prep by reading about the guest, reviewing books, writing down questions, etc.
    • After the podcast, you need to edit things down so it’s interesting for listeners

Intro

  • Sonal Chokshi (@smc90) is the editor in chief at Andreessen Horowitz and the showrunner for the a16z Podcast (check out the Podcast Notes). For five years, she has been interviewing entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, and investors, exploring how software has increasingly impacted our lives and transformed society. 

Why Does A VC Firm Have A Podcast?

  • A16z (short for Andreessen Horowitz) has always had a culture of writing, communicating, and sharing ideas 
    • VC firms focus on leading indicators rather than lagging indications (new vs. old companies)
      • Podcasting was the next evolution of blogging, which a16z was already doing (but podcasts are a lot more intimate than blogs since you’re quite literally in someone’s ear)
  • One of Sonal’s favorite a16z podcast episodes was about emojis and the governance around such a simple too
  • The great thing about podcasts? – Anyone can listen, all they need is a mobile phone
    • Podcasts also tend to be less edited and “rawer” than blog posts which are often rewritten several times 
      • “Podcasting is like a shared community and a movement”
  • Many people say podcasting is hitting the inflection point and becoming more mainstream. Sonal believes we’re still in the early days.
  • The podcast space is lacking two big things:
    • General discovery – the ability to discover specific types of podcasts or others you might enjoy
    • There is a complete lack of episodic discoverythe ability to search for episodes by topic
      • Google is currently working on transcribing podcasts to make it easier to search by episode/topic

Spotify vs Google vs Apple

  • Spotify’s CEO has been aggressively pursuing the podcast space by purchasing podcast companies such as Anchor and Gimlet 
    • Sonal believes Spotify has the potential to become the YouTube of podcasts 
      • Spotify already has a lot of data on what type of music people enjoy – perhaps they can use that music profile to recommend podcasts
  • Google has an incredible search engine and the ability to index podcasts (which is a huge advantage)
  • Apple is big on user privacy so they aren’t giving podcasters much of the customer data that they’d like
  • All three companies are just podcast distributors – none of these companies host the actual podcast file
  • Podcasting should be more social
    • How can podcasters communicate with fans? – Currently they can’t 
      • There’s a ton of room for innovation in the podcast space surrounding analytics, engagement, search, etc.

VC Firms Are Talent Agencies

  • A VC firm is like a talent agency
    • Startups aren’t just about code or products – talented people are needed to make them successful
      • You need talented leaders who can recognize talented people and then hire them as employees to build and ship great products
      • At the end of the day, talent is everything and the core business is people

Cryptocurrency: Fad or Future?

  • While working as a journalist, Sonal was one of the first people to write about bitcoin and ethereum
  • Cryptocurrency is everything: It is a community, a technology, a network, and a currency
  • Cryptocurrency is bringing open-source to capitalism
    • However, the problem with open-source technology is finding funding since it doesn’t belong to any person/company
      • The problem is aligning incentives between users and creators

Additional Notes

  • The great thing about technology is the democratization of access – Almost anyone can start their own YouTube channel, podcast, etc.
  • Technology and work aren’t bad things, it’s all about how they’re used and why
    • If a kid watches educational YouTube videos for hours on end, that isn’t a bad thing, neither is working a job you love for 10 hours a day
  • The best content creators are those with a unique point-of-view who also know how to listen to different opinions from their team and use their feedback to improve
  • Government research is best for topics that will affect the world 10-30 years from now while academic research is best for topics to cross multiple disciplines
  • Podcasters have multiple levers to pull: Energy, content, charisma, etc.
  • Podcasts should be however long they need to be 
  • The hardest part of podcasting takes place before and after the podcast
    • Before the podcast, you need to prep by reading about the guest, reviewing books, writing down questions, etc.
    • After the podcast, you need to edit things down so that it’s interesting for listeners – Editing is especially important for new podcasters
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