From the stage of the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Acquired podcast hosts Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal discussed with a series of guests the inner workings of cultivation and trade most likely to drive stocks higher and higher in the long run.
They also brainstormed with a Y Combinator executive what qualities venture capitalists should look for in a startup founder. And they chatted with Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber about the tough decisions and big bets needed to save a company from mediocrity and ruin.
the Acquired podcast, among the top 10 technology podcasts distributed by Apple and Spotify, is known for this kind of detailed and multifaceted deep dives into what makes a business successful.
Previous episodes — some with over 130,000 downloads and three hours long — feature founders and CEOs from Twitter, Electronic Arts, Superhuman, Venmo and Mozilla. Others feature full histories of companies such as SpaceX and Berkshire Hathaway. Gilbert said nearly 40% of the show’s listeners are current or former founders of the company.
Gilbert and Rosenthal pitched their podcast, which they typically record remotely, to a live audience of about 1,000 Seattle arena techs, founders and CEOs through an offering from Seattle’s PitchBook, which sponsored the event on Wednesday evening.
Rosenthal called Wednesday’s podcast a kind of homecoming for Acquired, which started recording in 2015 in Seattle and made its first live broadcast at the GeekWire Summit in 2016.
“It’s so much fun hanging out with so many people that we know mostly on the internet and hanging out with them,” said Rosenthal, a venture capitalist and former director of Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group.
Gilbert, who lives in Seattle and is also the managing director of Pioneer Square Labs, said the city’s tech scene is particularly suited to the kind of complex stories he and Rosenthal like to tell about the companies they cover.
“I think there’s a quiet intellectualism in Seattle,” Gilbert said. “Seattle is the least told story over and over again, and I think we kind of like it that way.”
Outstanding running recovery
Brooks’ story is one of a remarkable recovery. The brand bounced between multiple owners, chewed multiple CEOs, and even faced the possibility of missing pay for a time before Weber took the helm just over two decades ago.
As the company’s new CEO, Weber, who had previously served on the company’s board and was experiencing chaos, reduced Brooks’ product offerings to primarily target performance runners.
The company slowly found its way back to profitability and gained a substantial market share among riders. During the pandemic, as retailers closed their doors, Brooks was able to bolster its digital sales channels and grow 27% in 2020, then another 31% last year, posting $1.1 billion in revenue. of dollars.
Weber tells the story in a new book titled “Running with a purpose,which includes a foreword by Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, owner of Brooks.
The company’s recent gains were possible in part because, as the pandemic took hold, Brooks posted marketing reps at parks and counted runners passing by. Every day, Weber said, the number was increasing, indicating that people were practicing running as a safe outdoor activity during quarantine. The company took a bet and increased its inventory – and the bet paid off.
A logical next step in protecting Brooks’ position, Weber said, is to develop technology services for runners. This, he said, will provide the Seattle-based company with an abundance of data illustrating everything from how often, when and for what distance runners use its shoes, even which muscle groups are strained during those runs.
Weber said he was so determined to acquire this type of technology that he once tried to convince Buffet to buy just about every digital racing app on the market. But Buffet had none of that.
The reason, Weber said, is that Under Armour, which owns the Map My Run app and ASICS, which owns another app called Runkeeper, “have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on digital apps, and I think they really struggled… the digital space, there’s a lot of carcasses out there.
Weber said he admires Nike’s personal training apps and called the Apple Watch a “great product.”
“These tools are really powerful for data,” he said. “But how do you monetize it?”
“So we haven’t been there yet, but we’re building a Brooks Running Club. Finally, we want to sell this program,” Weber said.
Digital services that provide runner activity data can be a way to build loyalty among die-hard runners — Weber called them “true believers” — who want to track their performance and progress.
“The data element of this is going to be key,” he said.
In a separate conversation, Anu Hariharan, managing director of Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, told Gilbert and Rosenthal that when deciding which companies to back, the fund focuses more on the “qualitative qualities of a founder” only on specific figures.
“A lot of people can lump the metrics together in the fundraising game,” Hariharan said with a laugh. “I mean, we teach you how to do it. We are art experts.
“What we’re looking for (instead) is how fast is the Founder moving?” she continued. “How fast are they moving? How fast do they iterate? »
The Continuity Fund wants to see founders who “learn fast and make changes,” she said. “If these qualities show up, action will follow.”