Tony Xu - A Human and Math Problem - [Founder’s Field Guide, EP. 28‪]‬ Invest Like the Best with Patrick O'Shaughnessy

    • Investing

My guest today is Tony Xu, co-founder, and CEO of DoorDash. Tony started DoorDash 7.5 years ago, and today it is one of the largest food delivery and logistics platforms globally, with operations in the US, Canada, Australia. In our conversation, we discuss the initial problem that DoorDash set out to solve, DoorDash’s counterintuitive approach to building their product, and the surprising benefits of capital constraints in DoorDash’s early days. DoorDash’s business model is an equal parts logistics nightmare and a human coordination problem, or as Tony puts it, a human and math problem. After talking to Tony, I feel his personality makes him a great candidate to solve those problems.
 
For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.
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This episode is brought to you by Vanta. Vanta has built software that makes it easier to get and maintain your SOC 2 report at a fraction of the typical cost. Founder’s Field Guide listeners can redeem a $1k off coupon at vanta.com/patrick.
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This episode is brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. With LinkedIn, you get access to an active community of professionals with more than 722 million members worldwide. LinkedIn is the easiest place in the world to post a job and message qualified candidates. Getting started is easier than ever, and now you can do this all from your mobile device.
 
When your business is ready to make that next hire, find the right person with LinkedIn Jobs. And now, you can post a job for free. Just visit linkedin.com/fieldguide to post a job for free. Terms and conditions apply.
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Founder's Field Guide is a property of Colossus, Inc. For more episodes of Founder's Field Guide, visit joincolossus.com/episodes.
 
Stay up to date on all our podcasts by signing up to Colossus Weekly, our quick dive every Sunday highlighting the top business and investing concepts from our podcasts and the best of what we read that week. Sign up here.
 
Follow us on Twitter: @patrick_oshag | @JoinColossus
 
Show Notes
[00:03:07] - [First question] - The catalytic moment that inspired Tony to build DoorDash
[00:06:33] - Network density and its role in scalability
[00:09:15] - Solving a math and sales problem simultaneously
[00:11:33] - Becoming aware of multiple problem sets for restaurant owners
[00:14:34] - Designing a team to quantify friction and turn it into useable data
[00:16:49] - How to approach difficult problems and compartmentalize them in a practical way
[00:18:38] - Accounting for high-level variance in long-term goals
[00:21:54] - Factoring in time horizons for variance and planning for the future
[00:23:08] - Slowing down an action process to minimize a high-consequence decision
[00:26:48] - Generating demand after completing their software infrastructure
[00:28:15] - Strategic choices between network health and unit economics
[00:30:32] - Why DoorDash struggled to raise financing in their seed-stage
[00:32:23] - Solving a small fraction of a larger logistics problem
[00:35:00] - Differences between local commerce and distribution centers 
[00:36:44] - Creating the DashPass subscription service and how premium experiences influence user behavior
[00:38:34] - Advantages and potential diminishing returns in servant leadership
[00:40:41] - His broader philosophy on leadership and how it’s changed over the years
[00:44:55] - Creating an incentive-aligned culture of ownership at scale
[00:47:02] - The most surprising lessons learned about company building
[00:50:38] - Unexpected positive outcomes that may emerge in other areas due to DoorDash’s growth in the coming years 
[00:53:44] - Will DoorDash’s presence change behavioral patterns in where people choose to live or start their business?
[00:55:36] - What has him most excited for the future
[00:56:55] - Kin

My guest today is Tony Xu, co-founder, and CEO of DoorDash. Tony started DoorDash 7.5 years ago, and today it is one of the largest food delivery and logistics platforms globally, with operations in the US, Canada, Australia. In our conversation, we discuss the initial problem that DoorDash set out to solve, DoorDash’s counterintuitive approach to building their product, and the surprising benefits of capital constraints in DoorDash’s early days. DoorDash’s business model is an equal parts logistics nightmare and a human coordination problem, or as Tony puts it, a human and math problem. After talking to Tony, I feel his personality makes him a great candidate to solve those problems.
 
For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.
-----
This episode is brought to you by Vanta. Vanta has built software that makes it easier to get and maintain your SOC 2 report at a fraction of the typical cost. Founder’s Field Guide listeners can redeem a $1k off coupon at vanta.com/patrick.
-----
This episode is brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. With LinkedIn, you get access to an active community of professionals with more than 722 million members worldwide. LinkedIn is the easiest place in the world to post a job and message qualified candidates. Getting started is easier than ever, and now you can do this all from your mobile device.
 
When your business is ready to make that next hire, find the right person with LinkedIn Jobs. And now, you can post a job for free. Just visit linkedin.com/fieldguide to post a job for free. Terms and conditions apply.
-----
Founder's Field Guide is a property of Colossus, Inc. For more episodes of Founder's Field Guide, visit joincolossus.com/episodes.
 
Stay up to date on all our podcasts by signing up to Colossus Weekly, our quick dive every Sunday highlighting the top business and investing concepts from our podcasts and the best of what we read that week. Sign up here.
 
Follow us on Twitter: @patrick_oshag | @JoinColossus
 
Show Notes
[00:03:07] - [First question] - The catalytic moment that inspired Tony to build DoorDash
[00:06:33] - Network density and its role in scalability
[00:09:15] - Solving a math and sales problem simultaneously
[00:11:33] - Becoming aware of multiple problem sets for restaurant owners
[00:14:34] - Designing a team to quantify friction and turn it into useable data
[00:16:49] - How to approach difficult problems and compartmentalize them in a practical way
[00:18:38] - Accounting for high-level variance in long-term goals
[00:21:54] - Factoring in time horizons for variance and planning for the future
[00:23:08] - Slowing down an action process to minimize a high-consequence decision
[00:26:48] - Generating demand after completing their software infrastructure
[00:28:15] - Strategic choices between network health and unit economics
[00:30:32] - Why DoorDash struggled to raise financing in their seed-stage
[00:32:23] - Solving a small fraction of a larger logistics problem
[00:35:00] - Differences between local commerce and distribution centers 
[00:36:44] - Creating the DashPass subscription service and how premium experiences influence user behavior
[00:38:34] - Advantages and potential diminishing returns in servant leadership
[00:40:41] - His broader philosophy on leadership and how it’s changed over the years
[00:44:55] - Creating an incentive-aligned culture of ownership at scale
[00:47:02] - The most surprising lessons learned about company building
[00:50:38] - Unexpected positive outcomes that may emerge in other areas due to DoorDash’s growth in the coming years 
[00:53:44] - Will DoorDash’s presence change behavioral patterns in where people choose to live or start their business?
[00:55:36] - What has him most excited for the future
[00:56:55] - Kin

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