Top Podcasts of the Week

Today we have as good of a business list as I’ve ever sent. We have must listens with Jim Leitner on the macro environment, Professor Ken French, and the founder of Duolingo. We also have episodes with the CEO of Airbnb on navigating COVID-19, an incredible story about investing in Airbnb, and the founder of a venture firm focused on the space industry.

  • ***Must Listen*** Macro Hive Conversations with Bilal Hafeez: Jim Leitner On The Dollar, Equities And The Economy Of Bits And Things. This was a great macro episode with Bilal Hafeez, President of Falcon Management. After starting with his background and some general thoughts on options, he gets into the most interesting part of the episode — his explanation that we are currently living in two different economies: an economy of bits and an economy of things, and he thinks you should be long bits/technology and avoid the economy of things. He then ties that into the idea that we have a decline in competition in the country which leads him to think large cap stocks continue to outperform small cap. Then he talks about the improving social metric indicators in Asia which makes him bullish there (and the opposite in a place like Turkey), commodities and gold, and some reforms he thinks capitalism needs in the U.S. (healthcare not tied to your employer) to avoid more social unrest. [April 16, 2020–50 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

COVID has really made it clear that there are two economies. And it’s a big, big trade — be long tech, and don’t be long things.

  • ***Must Listen*** The Rational Reminder Podcast: Expect the Unexpected. This episode is with Professor Ken French, who is well-known for his work on asset pricing with Eugene Fama. He covers a lot in this episode — why most of us should avoid active managers, why you should only sell stocks right now if you’ve learned your risk tolerance is lower than you thought over the last three months, the equity risk premium and expected vs. unexpected returns (of which, the latter drives the short-term), and what he thinks about the small stock premium. He also addresses if price/book is the best way to still measure value, how would he incorporate momentum in a portfolio, why you should avoid home country bias, why people’s thoughts on buybacks separates those who understand finance and those who don’t, and why ESG investing is good for the world but bad if you’re trying to maximize returns. [May 28, 2020–57 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

“When I want to judge the quality of an investment decision I made, I don’t pay much attention to the outcome. I pay attention to “did I make a good decision based on the information I had at the time.”

  • ***Must Listen*** How I Built This with Guy Raz: reCAPTCHA and Duolingo: Luis von Ahn. I haven’t listened to someone more humble, interesting, and that I would 100% want to work on whatever project they start next. Luis von Ahn is originally from Guatemala and came to the U.S. to do computer science and while getting his doctorate, created CAPTCHA (yes, the one we still use today) and gave it to Yahoo (emphasize on gave…for free). After a couple stops and telling Bill Gates “no” when he personally recruited him, he started giving CAPTCHA to companies for free in exchange for the ability to see what users typed, and the company who produced the most data and helped him along the most was Online Booty Call. He essentially was able to use CAPTCHA to then digitize websites, including every year of the New York Times for $42,000/year (it took about a week’s worth of work to do one year). He then started a company to do this with languages (Duolingo), raised $100 million, got a contract from CNN and BuzzFeed, and was forced to pivot to a subscription business for people who wanted to avoid ads (~3% of users do so). His focus is now on encouraging people to learn other languages since learning english had such a big impact on him. He now has 5x the revenue of Rosetta Stone, 50x the users, a $1.5 billion valuation in 2019 and is seeing a 50% increase in revenue all over the world since the start of COVID-19. [May 25, 2020–1 hour, 6 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

“The largest website, for a while that was using us was called Online Booty Call, and to get an account in Online Booty Call you had to type a CAPTCHA, and it was our CAPTCHA, and every time every person that was getting an account in Online Booty Call was starting to help us digitize them.”

  • Recode Decode: Brian Chesky: These 9 weeks were the most stressful in Airbnb’s history. Great episode with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on what he and the company have endured over the past 2+ months. He explains how they saw the slowdown early as a result of their business in China and Europe and were forced to go from working on the S-1 to go public to deal with COVID-19. He explains the decision making process of taking the investment from Silver Lake Partners and the change in valuation the business had from February 2020 to the date Silver Lake invested. He then discusses the operational decisions he was forced to make, including having to let ~1,900 people go (you can read the letter he wrote to employees here), the severance they received and directory he made for prospective employers, and the decision to cut ~60% of projects the company was working on to become more focused. He also has some interesting takeaways on travel going forward, including a trend towards local travel and experiences. [May 22, 2020–1 hour, 9 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

“I went from feeling like I was super cool to all the sudden facing the abyss, will we go under, can I save the company?”

  • The Meb Faber Show: #223 — Steven Jorgenson, Starbridge Venture Capital — The Launch Sector is Literally Less Than 2% Of The Space Industry. Timely episode with the launch of SpaceX this week. Jorgenson is the founder of Starbridge Venture Capital, which focuses on making venture investments in the space industry. He gives some fascinating applications and ideas of what’s in store for the future. After a few stops out of college, he began making angel investments in the industry, and emphasizes how much that helped him learn early on and the importance of doing your homework before you invest in this space. After making some angel investments, he started his first fund with some smaller checks and is now starting a larger second fund. He talks about some fascinating ideas that he’s investing in including 3-D printing and manufacturing in space. He also says that he believes the first human will be on Mars in 2033 and that less than 2% of the entire space industry consists of the launch sector (as in the episode title). [May 25, 2020–1 hour, 1 minuteiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link
  • Lindzanity with Howard Lindzon: Panic with friends (72) — with Paige Craig of Arena Ventures. Craig founded Arena Ventures, a seed state VC firm. Even if this isn’t up your alley, it’s worth listening to if only for his story on angel investing in Airbnb at the 15 minute mark. After serving in the Marines and selling his private military company, he wanted to start doing technology seed investments and the first he came across was Airbnb. He became fascinated with the company and after agreeing to terms for him to invest, Paul Graham and Y Combinator came in (read his Medium post about it here) and they told him he couldn’t invest until after they went through Y Combinator. He then talks about why he chose to live with his wife in Atlanta and not San Francisco, general thoughts on COVID and what will change afterwards, and then why he invested in Bird at 46:51. [May 26, 2020–59 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

“I knew nothing. Two months earlier I decided I’m going to move to San Francisco and start investing in tech shit. Days before that, I was in North Africa…dealing with Al Qaeda.”

  • Resolve’s Gestalt University: ReSolve Riff’s on The Great Tail Protection Debate. The team from ReSolve Asset Management spends an hour discussing all things tail risk strategies: you first have to define the type of strategy you want and decide what a successful strategy looks like for you, you have to understand different tail events happen over different time horizons, why is it so hard for both individual and institutional investors to stick with tail strategies, and the importance of knowing if you allocate some of your portfolio to this, you have to be comfortable with it being a drag on returns most years. They also touch on the fact that different strategies are implemented differently, which causes their outcomes to differ when major events occur (as seen YTD).[May 26, 2020–1 hour, 2 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link
  • The Meb Faber Show: #224 — Eric Kinariwala, Capsule — The Pharmacy Sits At The Center Of The Healthcare System. Kinariwala is Founder and CEO of Capsule, a pharmacy startup utilizing technology to provide an easier experience to supply medication to customers. He explains what gave him the idea for the company, what the current pharmacy business model is and why it doesn’t make sense, how Capsule’s business model differs to get people their medication more easily, and what the future is for the company. [May 27, 2020–41 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link
The Rest
  • The Knowledge Project: #43 Amelia Boone: Learning How to Suffer. Boone is as big of a high performer as you will find — she is both a lawyer for Apple and competitive obstacle course racer (she’s been called the Michael Jordan of obstacle course racing). The episode is a great listen on the right way to think about how to think about elite performance, the importance of embracing the process in all aspects of life, staying in your lane and not becoming distracted by others, overcoming adversity, creating routings, and how to avoid burnout. [June 13, 2018–1 hour, 9 minutesiTunes Podcast | Spotify | Overcast | Google | Breaker | Website Link

“I’m not the strongest, I’m not the fastest, but I’m really good at suffering.”


Michael Lewis (Best-Selling Author):

  1. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  3. Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford

Robin Hanson (Author, Professor of Economics, George Mason University):

  1. The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family by Peter Byrne
  2. The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert Simon
  3. The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature by Geoffrey Miller

Josh Wolfe (Co-Founder, Lux Capital):

  1. Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger by Peter Kaufman
  2. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Bevelin
  3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Good investing,
Meb Faber