“Hi everyone, welcome to the a16z Podcast.”
Like many things here at Andreessen Horowitz, our podcast started as just an idea, an experiment even, that grew into something much bigger and then took on a life of its own. It was started in early 2014 (you can learn a bit more about the backstory here, about the brand story here, and about some of the editorial mindsets involved here). And while we were indeed early in this next wave of podcasting, the podcast did not just grow on its own; there were many layers of strategy, specific criteria, and editorial approaches that helped the show stand out. Nieman Journalism Lab wrote about this early on, observing in its annual predictions that the podcasting scene would “explode” with programming “from unforeseen places” — and that the year’s highlights and surprises included “a venture capital firm producing one of the best tech podcasts of the year”.
Soon, we were covering not just our own areas of interest, but covering ALL the major tech trends that people needed to know about, as well as emerging ones they would want to know about if they wanted to understand the future. We could cover all this given our unique vantage point; a16z had already become a must-stop in Silicon Valley visits for every major organization seeking to understand the future… what if our podcast could extend such insights, and our networks in and beyond the firm, out into the world, freely, to everyone?
There wasn’t really a go-to place for grounded tech coverage (i.e., that wasn’t “a cabinet of curiosities” or speculative futurism) that was also still optimistic in a credible, thoughtful way (in much the same way that Wired, with its “informed optimism”, once meant so much to so many people including me). I believe people were — are! — hungry for this kind of sensemaking about the future, and that the a16z Podcast fulfills this “job to be done” for them (to put it in Christensen terms). And that job was providing nuanced, deep yet accessible coverage of how technology is changing the way we all work, live, eat, learn, play — in a very human, often first-person way. We also focused on the theme of “how innovation happens” in practice, not just in theory, for companies both big and small.
Today, we are announcing that we are covering even more areas:
A little over a year ago, I launched an experimental news show for us called 16 Minutes, both riffing on the numeronym “a16z” and short form aiming for 16ish minutes in length. Now 40+ episodes in, 16 Minutes found its product-market fit as a show that’s focused on teasing apart “what’s hype/ what’s real” given all the buzz out there.
Yet it also goes beyond the news, to help answer where we are on the long arc of tech trends, why those trends matter, and practical implications for builders and beyond. The show also occasionally features explainers on topics and debates dominating the news — such as the opioid crisis, content moderation & section 230, GPT-3, and TikTok — all with the goal of adding value for listeners who are inundated by the headlines, and just want to make sense of it all.
Where possible, we try to have experts provide frameworks for such sensemaking, and will now be bringing on even more outside expert guests alongside our internal experts onto these episodes (see below for links to pitch guidelines). If you haven’t already, subscribe to “16 Minutes from a16z” on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you like to get your podcasts.
A few years ago, we were pitching an op-ed that was received well but that didn’t quite fit typical tech media outlets OR traditional science media outlets, because what we were talking about was at the intersection of both: Not biotech, but bio + tech, or bio x tech. I realized that we had a huge opportunity to build a new podcast vertical here (and elsewhere) that addressed this while traditional media (and podcast network models) remain locked in silos.
But we’re launching this new show today because biology today is where information technology was 50 years ago (the a16z bio team has a manifesto about this here). And as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s attention is focused on the power and promise of biology — but no, this isn’t yet another coronavirus podcast! (though we did cover that very carefully, and early, on our other shows). This new show is about how our ability to engineer biology will change the ways we diagnose and manage disease, create new medicines and therapeutics, and access and deliver healthcare. But it also goes beyond healthcare; biology is in the products we use daily, in our food, in our manufacturing processes, much more. Bio, in other words, is eating the world.
So the show Bio Eats World is about how biology + technology are shaping our future, and is hosted by Hanne Winarsky (who, among other things, was a former senior editor at Princeton University Press, and has been on the a16z Podcast for over three and a half years now!) and Lauren Richardson, PhD (scientist and former senior editor at PLOS Biology, who joined us just six months ago). Hanne and Lauren will be curating and leading discussions with a16z experts, top leaders in healthcare and other industries, entrepreneurs, and groundbreaking researchers to release two episodes a week: The first installment will focus on a big trend in the “bio” space; and the second weekly installment, Journal Club, will dive deep into a new scientific article with the authors and a16z experts on the implications of the breakthroughs, and how to translate them from paper to practice.
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There’s a very simple logic — and heart! — to all of this: We want to be your go-to place for understanding the future as all our lives change through tech. Podcasts are uniquely suited as a medium for this, because they convey so much nuance, and many more layers of meaning than a flat medium like text. But they also convey an intimacy that allows us to connect, continuously, to the stories, the people, the themes, the voices, the brands, the movements… motivating us to act, to move, to build.
It’s not only education and entertainment, but about influence as well — for builders, and for the broader ecosystem. One of the most powerful examples of the power of the a16z Podcast was when a U.S. senator reached out after listening to an episode, because he was “so intrigued” by the idea our founder had proposed, that “there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be doing this already”. So it moved to the top of his “‘to-tackle’ list” as a potential piece of legislation during the upcoming Session. Innovation is change, and change involves influence, after all…
Add it all up, and we are not just a podcast — but a network. As information diets have collapsed away from feeds and into apps, inboxes, streams, and more, the a16z Podcast now has a growing portfolio of shows that can fill your appetite for different domains (like bio); themed series (Hustlin Tech’); genres (book authors); formats (news, read alouds); and more. This is especially relevant as podcasting becomes more mainstream, more abundant, and even more topic- and host-driven in an age of individual and niche media brands fragmented across specific domains. (We publish newsletters and posts and op-eds too, but more on that later.) To help more people discover more podcasts, we will also start sharing carefully vetted promos for other podcasts on our network, as well as doing more crossover collaborations and even rare feed drops when relevant to our audience.
Just as great podcasts can come from non media-companies, so, too, will the next podcast networks. The a16z Podcast main show will continue, but more focused than ever; other new shows will come (and go) — but no matter what, we remain committed to being your go-to place for understanding tech and the future. There’s just so much more to cover, and it is still only the beginning…
“Hello, world. Welcome to the a16z Podcast Network.”
contact info: podpitches <at> a16z <dot> com
acknowledgements: With any launch like this, there are countless people behind the scenes (not to mention our amazing audio editors!), but I want to especially thank Amelia Salyers, who has been our managing editor for almost two years, and has been managing the day-to-day operations of the team — including scaling our editorial infrastructure, growing our team, and much more. She also led the marketing plan and other key activities for this particular show launch; we also want to thank our growth lead Jared Smith, who has been valuable in brainstorming the network structure, proposing the initial launch strategy including vetting our pod marketing firm for this launch, and more. They have both been invaluable partners to me as I thought through the future of podcasts-as-network at a16z!