73 episodes

A podcast about Silicon Valley, hosted by newsletter writer Eric Newcomer and Tom Dotan, with Katie Benner as a regular special guest.

www.newcomer.co

Dead Cat Eric Newcomer

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A podcast about Silicon Valley, hosted by newsletter writer Eric Newcomer and Tom Dotan, with Katie Benner as a regular special guest.

www.newcomer.co

    Another Shoe to Drop (w/Jeremy Levine)

    Another Shoe to Drop (w/Jeremy Levine)

    Bessemer Venture Partners’ Jeremy Levine is someone who keeps his head when others are losing theirs.
    He’s long been wary of tech exuberance while being a long-term optimist about the transformative power of technology.
    A board member at Pinterest and Shopify, Levine described his investing style to me for this week’s Dead Cat podcast: “I don’t like to go where all the cool kids are, where all the popular kids are. I like to kind of go off in the corner of the playground and find someone who’s doing something over there that’s really compelling that most people are prepared to dismiss or aren’t that excited about.”
    I wanted to have Levine on the podcast to explain the tech downturn. Levine has been investing at Bessemer for over two decades. I wondered, how does this moment compare to the dot-com bust and the Great Recession? On the podcast, Levine traces the ebbs and flows of tech euphoria while giving concrete math to the pain of down rounds.
    ‘The entire world smoked a giant joint and was high as a kite’
    He delivered quite the diatribe when I asked him to compare the present moment to the dot-com bust:
    When I joined the venture industry in 2001, I looked at these entrepreneurs who built businesses and these venture capitalists who funded them from ’96 to 2000 and I was jealous. Oh my lord, they generated enormous value and enormous wealth in such a short time. And I said to myself, the world is never going to get this crazy again. The entire world smoked a giant joint and was high as a kite, and what fun it would have been to be part of that, but I missed the party. But I thought, you know, it’s really rewarding and fun and challenging to find compelling entrepreneurs and invest in startups. So even though it’s never gonna get as good as it was in 2000 again, I’m going to try to make this my career because I think I’ll find it fun.
    And lo and behold, 20 years later, it happened again: Someone passed the joint around the party a second time, and no one remembered what happened the first time, and things got crazy. So in that sense, it’s really similar. Enormous wealth was created, enormous companies were created. But the difference is that when that party ended — at the end of 2021 — it wasn’t three or four companies left standing. It was dozens and dozens of strong public companies, and hundreds of really interesting private companies. Now, not every unicorn and not every company that raised a lot of money will be successful. But the industry is, I would say, two orders of magnitude larger than it was in 2000.
    He argued that he believed there was still “another shoe to drop” in this tech downturn. He said venture firms were reserving more money to make follow-on investments for their existing portfolio companies, giving them less dry powder with which to make new investments. “I think we’re in a little bit of that spiral,” Levine said.
    The Anti-Portfolio
    Back in July 2021, amidst the final heady months of the bull market, I profiled Bessemer and Levine in an in-depth story titled, The Anti-Portfolio. (Still worth a read if you missed it.) An undercurrent in the piece was that Bessemer had smartly invested early in some of the tech industry’s most popular public stocks like Shopify and Twilio but that the firm had sold down its positions before a massive run-up in their value on the public markets. Now, with Twilio down 70% and Shopify down 52% over the past 12 months, Bessemer’s decision to cash in its winners seems more rational.
    I asked Levine whether he felt vindicated.
    “We’ve made every mistake possible,” he told me. “But we’ve also gotten some things right. And so with the benefit of hindsight, we distributed our stock in Shopify way too early. And at the same time, we held onto some stocks in 2021 a bit too long. I think we’re not all that focused on getting that exactly right. Of course, we’re always trying to do better. But the real win, if y

    • 1 hr 12 min
    'I Fell in Love With an Algorithm' (w/Cristóbal Valenzuela & Alexis Gay)

    'I Fell in Love With an Algorithm' (w/Cristóbal Valenzuela & Alexis Gay)

    Generative artificial intelligence is sweeping the nation. People are turning themselves into animated characters, drafting their essays with ChatGPT, and illustrating with Stable Diffusion. Or, as was the case with the tiny special effects team on the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, they’re using it to help edit a movie.
    On the latest episode of Dead Cat, Cristóbal Valenzuela, the chief executive officer at generative artificial intelligence company Runway, talked about how he discovered that his AI-powered video editing software was used to help make the award winning film.
    When I wrote about generative AI burning white hot back in October, I talked to Valenzuela for that story and called him “among the most compelling founders that I’ve come across while reporting on artificial intelligence.” So I thought it would be fun to have him on the podcast and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing generative artificial intelligence.
    To help me interview Valenzuela, I invited Non-Technical podcast host and viral comedian Alexis Gay to guest host the episode. You’ll probably recognize her from some of her viral tech parody videos. (Listen to my guest appearance on Non-Technical if you want to learn more than you ever thought you wanted to know about the man behind the newsletter.)
    On the podcast, Valenzuela predicts that “very soon,” in “a couple of years,” artificial intelligence software will be able to create the sort of TikTok videos that people flip through online. “We’re heading towards a world — where a lot of the content that you consume online will be generated [by artificial intelligence],” Valenzuela said.
    “There’s definitely an exponential progress rate that you can see and perceive more clearly now,” Valenzuela said. “What took years of progress is now taking months. And what used to take months is now taking weeks.”
    Give it a listen
    Read the automated transcript


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    • 56 min
    Business Tea, the Creator Economy Downturn, Twitter Drama & TikTok's Chinese Influence (w/Taylor Lorenz)

    Business Tea, the Creator Economy Downturn, Twitter Drama & TikTok's Chinese Influence (w/Taylor Lorenz)

    I always enjoy talking with Taylor Lorenz, a deep thinker about the internet who infuriates certain pockets of tech Twitter.
    Last week, she published a look at the crypto social media accounts that broke news on the fall of FTX. She wrote about how accounts like Coffeezilla and AutismCapital have become media figures in their own right.
    She wrote for the Washington Post:
    All this coverage of the FTX implosion is the most prominent example of how “citizen journalism” is battling legacy publishers for online attention, catapulting a fresh class of independent journalists into the mainstream while also giving rise to a group of social media influencers who optimize for attention rather than accuracy.
    For years, drama channels and tea accounts — so called because the word “tea” is slang for juicy information — have been first to break news related to pop culture and influencers. Business news is late to undergo this trend.
    So in classic fashion, I broke one of my only New Year’s resolutions — to pay less attention to “the media” — and invited Lorenz on the Dead Cat podcast to talk about how these accounts are changing how information reaches the public.
    In my mind, our conversation was really about reputations — and how they’re built and maintained online. Later in the episode, we talk about how Twitter and rightwing media has shaped Lorenz’s own reputation online. Some of her critics might be surprised to hear her speak out against Instagram’s harsh content moderation policies.
    At the 27:30 mark, we shift gears and talk about the downturn in the creator economy.
    At 40:10, Lorenz and I debate whether we should be worried about Chinese influence over TikTok.
    Give it a listen
    Read the automated transcript


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    • 1 hr
    All Eyes Are on Apple's Augmented Reality Device As the Hunt for a Revolutionary Consumer Startup Continues (w/Max Child & James Wilsterman)

    All Eyes Are on Apple's Augmented Reality Device As the Hunt for a Revolutionary Consumer Startup Continues (w/Max Child & James Wilsterman)

    Before the rise of crypto investing, venture capital careers seemed to be divided into two buckets: consumer and business-to-business. If the goal of venture capital investing is to pick winners, American consumer investors generally picked wrong. There just hasn’t been another Facebook. The biggest consumer startup of the moment is ByteDance, a Chinese company.
    While I’ve generally dedicated more time to writing about software investing since that’s where the money and exits have been, I’ve tried to chronicle consumer investing to the extent that it exists. I was the first to report BeReal’s seed and Series A funding round. I’ve scooped some of Discord’s valuation ascent. In December 2020, I wrote about investors’ effort to will a consumer renaissance into being. Sure, there weren’t any obvious new platforms but consumer investors weren’t going to let that get in their way.
    I invited my good friends Max Child and James Wilsterman onto the Dead Cat podcast. They’re the co-founders of voice games company Volley. The NFX, Y Combinator, and Lightspeed-backed startup — which they tell me is the largest voice game company — started off as a chatbot games company. So Child and Wilsterman know consumer trends. Chatbots once burned red hot before evaporating only to be revived with the rise of generative artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, few VCs have been bullish on voice as a platform.
    Child, Wilsterman, and I dig into the struggles of the QVC for startups trend. Popshop looks to be on the rocks and Whatnot may be peaking. We interrogate whether marketplaces were ever really a thing. And we wonder if AirPods as the next platform was really just a statement about Clubhouse.
    Then we look to 2023 and consider the pockets of hope for consumer investing: the rise of generative AI startups and the possibility that Apple announces an augmented reality device. And we ponder whether this crypto winter will ever thaw.
    Give it a listen



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    • 1 hr 14 min
    Does That Mean the Cat's Dead?

    Does That Mean the Cat's Dead?

    Tom Dotan, Katie Benner, and I became friends in San Francisco back in 2014 when we all worked as technology reporters at The Information. But we didn’t achieve that core pillar of modern friendship until August 2021 when we started a podcast together.
    Insider generously let Tom co-host the podcast with me — and Katie, a reporter at the New York Times, came on every few episodes as a regular special guest.
    A year and a half ago we kicked off the show with an interview of Rippling CEO Parker Conrad. Since then, publishing most Tuesdays, we’ve pumped out 69 episodes and have built up a loyal following of listeners for our niche tech media podcast. With our intense focus on how the media covers technology stories, we’ve become a must-listen for newsrooms, tech public relations shops, startup world movers and shakers, and tech industry onlookers.
    We’ve had a variety of guests on the show. We’ve featured venture capitalists, startup founders, political operatives, and security experts. In our most popular episode, we took a look at the media’s coverage of the rise and fall of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with the old Uber CEO’s former top deputy, Emil Michael.
    Reporters, especially our reporter friends, have been a regular fixture of the show. We’ve talked with reporters like the New York Times’ Erin Griffith and Mike Isaac, the Wall Street Journal’s Deepa Seetharaman, Rolfe Winkler, and Kirsten Grind, Semafor’s Ben Smith and Reed Albergotti, Insider’s Aki Ito, Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz, and Puck’s Teddy Schleifer.
    Now the show — at least as we’ve come to know it — is coming to an end.
    Tom is taking a job at the Wall Street Journal and he’s stepping back from his co-hosting duties. Today’s episode is our last together. The episode is a fun look back at some of the themes that we’ve explored over the past year and a half.
    I’d encourage you to DM Tom on Twitter with your Microsoft story ideas and tips. Hopefully Tom will come back on the show as a guest and this memoriam will look overblown.
    This iteration of the Dead Cat show is going out on a high, apparently ranking number two among tech news shows at this moment.
    Going forward, I plan to continue podcasting and would love to get your input on the future of the show. I might keep the name “Dead Cat,” or I might not. I’m rather fond of it. (By the way, I explain the origins of the show’s name here.)
    Leave a comment or send me an email with your thoughts on what the future of the podcast should be. I’m open to suggestions for co-hosts, interview subjects, topics, show names, etc.
    As I talk about on this week’s episode, I’m inclined to align the show more closely with Newcomer newsletter content, meaning going forward it will probably be more focused on the business of technology and less about how it’s covered.
    In January, I hope to experiment with different formats and see what works. I think the podcast will continue to be free, meant to draw people into the newsletter and to attract a broader audience. I might pause the show in February for a relaunch or might decide that I can keep my stride. We’ll see!
    Anyway, this was a really enjoyable last episode to record. I hope you’ll give it a listen and help us wish Tom farewell.
    Give it a listen



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    • 1 hr 13 min
    'This Monolithic Other That Is Acting in Some Dark Confederacy Against What Is True and Good in the World' (w/Antonio García Martínez)

    'This Monolithic Other That Is Acting in Some Dark Confederacy Against What Is True and Good in the World' (w/Antonio García Martínez)

    On last week’s Dead Cat episode with ex-Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, we spent a lot of time trying to steel man the free speech moderation crowd’s argument — even though none of us seemed to hold it ourselves. The other week, we had Jason Calacanis on the show but he didn’t want to talk about Elon Musk.
    This week, finally we have someone on the podcast who is a defender of the so-called free speech regime and is also willing to talk to skeptical journalists about it on air. Antonio García Martínez, the author of Chaos Monkeys and startup CEO, came on the show. On his Substack The Pull Request, he defended the free speech argument in April — before Musk acquired Twitter. (I’ve written that no one, Musk included, was plausibly going to govern social media under a free speech standard so invoking free speech is a pure marketing ploy. I think that position has been vindicated by Musk’s recent actions.)
    More broadly, García Martínez, or AGM as he is widely known, is someone who has pushed back against the tech media and leftwing employees. With Dead Cat co-host Tom Dotan, we set out to make sense of the culture war between tech “builders” and reporters.
    Give it a listen
    Read the automated transcript




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    • 1 hr 17 min

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