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More or Less with the Morins and the Lessins

Author: The Morins and The Lessins

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For 15 years, entrepreneurs and investors the Morins and the Lessins have debated the future of Silicon Valley and tech as the closest of friends. Now six companies, two venture funds and more than a decade at Google, Apple and Facebook later, they are opening up the debate. From The Information, Offline Ventures, and Slow Ventures.

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25 Episodes
Last month, at The Information's WTF conference, Jessica interviewed the sisters behind the hot clothing brand Favorite Daughter, the World's First Podcast and Oversubscribed Ventures. They discussed entrepreneurship, building for today's customers and why it is sometimes a good idea to say everything you are thinking.
This week’s episode takes you front and center into the continuous unfolding of the OpenAI saga, including the different versions of the Sam Altman persona. The quad shares extensive debate on what could come next and why, with key insight into AI as a practical business technology vs. the fears around AGI, and the challenges of a for-profit business funding a non-profit mission. Listen in to learn lessons from other platforms, (especially those without strong economic rationality), observations about the key people involved, thoughts on how this will shape Silicon Valley’s future, and more. DISCUSSED: SHOW NOTES: [00:00:00] Open. [00:02:10] Recap: Our goal is to talk about the bigger picture here. [00:04:10] The rise of the Popcorn emoji. [00:04:52] This is our Kardashians. [00:05:58] Why are people fixated on this? [00:09:30] Religious fundamentalism at play. "Feel the AGI!" [00:12:49] The only way to protect against AGI is to create AGI first? [00:14:20] How did this governance breakdown happen? [00:17:51] Anytime you need a flowchart to explain your org structure you are starting from a bad position. [00:19:00] 11 billion dollars is completely irrelevant to Microsoft, a 3 trillion dollar company. [00:20:00] The key point in the miscalculation: the customers. [00:22:30] Adam D'Angelo is one of the highest integrity people. [00:23:41] Organizing your life and work around things you can trust. Do you want to trust American business and governance or fundamentalism? [00:24:13] The economics of Facebook Platform as a historical example. [00:26:55] Should he restructure the organization entirely? [00:28:04] Shouldn't we have some concerns with putting this 100% commercial realm? Or do we think regulation will fill the gap? [00:28:42] What about decentralization and open source? [00:31:02] What mechanism is there to implement a restructuring? [00:34:48] Sam Altman's side projects. [00:41:20] This technology is so powerful and we are all customers of it. [00:42:07] Do you guys have a single portfolio company that would die if OpenAI went away? [00:42:40] Silicon Valley desperately needs a story right now. [00:43:30] What does this mean for the future of Silicon Valley? [00:44:04] How dangerous is AI, really? [00:45:20] Sam Altman the cultist versus Sam Altman the pragmatist? [00:46:40] What is this technology, really? [00:47:51] You are the OpenAI board, do you vote for or against Sam Altman as CEO? [00:54:25] You are Sam Altman, what do you do? [01:00:07] Trust and board strurcture. [01:04:00] Close. TRY THE GPT: FOLLOW THE POD: FOLLOW THE GANG:
The gang discusses how you build dense networks of real value around small business in the AI future. Also, bonus discussion on content maxis vs. community maxis...and the symmetry of Jessica's face. Try the More or Less GPT:
The gang discusses OpenAI's developer conference and whether the new ‘GPT Store’ is a serious platform developers and entrepreneurs should care about, or just another slick PR announcement. Also thoughts on the IPO market (why bankers keep saying it isn’t open, but will soon) and way too much discussion of The Morning (After) Show.
The gang shares predictions around AI for the year ahead. Are we at digital war and don't even know it? Thoughts on defining an "American Tech Stack" and digital citizenship to defend against foreign speech and bots - and how to think about academia in an era where universities and research are no longer disconnected from politics and business. Discussed Greeking Out from National Geographic Kids Photoleap by Lightricks AI Photo Editing App Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence ⁠FACT SHEET: President Biden Issues Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence⁠ New: Leica M11-P Show Notes [00:00:00] Opening [00:01:37] Halloween and the Greeking Out Podcast [00:03:17] Brit hosted a Howl-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest. [00:03:36] Investing in Dog DNA Startups [00:05:55] Product Idea: AI Dog [00:06:25] AI Ninja Tricks [00:07:50] The Big Debate: The Biden Executive Order on "Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence"⁠⁠ [00:10:36] We need National Tech Stacks. [00:15:28] Every single Federal Agency was directed to appoint a Head of AI. [00:18:35] Lack of transparency at [00:19:31] The difference between academic research and application has collapsed and it is dangerous. [00:20:50] OpenAI took research from the Google world and commercialized it. [00:21:20] National AI research should be like the Manhattan Project. [00:22:39] The Executive Order invokes the Defense Production Act. [00:24:03] We have an AI War already playing out on American Turf and it is called TikTok. [00:24:22] We are at war in the technological world and we have no defenses in terms of how this is playing out on our home front. [00:25:20] We are going to look back in 20 years and realize "Oh my God, we were actually at war, and we were being assaulted on the home front but we don't even fully recognize the attack." [00:25:30] What is going to happen in 2024? [00:26:10] Silicon Valley technologist are good at problems where a "solution" is the goal, but are uniquely bad at Washington style problems where "balance" is the goal. [00:27:29] We need to take the American Tech Stack very very seriously. [00:28:35] TikTok's Larry Ellison Proposal for continuing to exist in the US. [00:29:20] Why aren't conservatives demanding action on this? [00:29:53] If we are in a war, where are we in it? [00:30:16] American Identity and Digital Citizenship [00:32:00] What is the American Tech Stack really? [00:37:14] A hypothetical question: How would you change a government you don't like with AI? [00:39:32] Does digital identity really have to be tied to a single country? [00:41:48] Our generation has the most skewed view of globalization in history. [00:45:50] Where did this conversation start? It started with AI. [00:46:50] AI Predictions for the next year. [00:56:04] Closing
Following news at Snap, the gang debates what the media gets wrong about founders and how founders need to react in this new market. Discussed Show Notes (00:00) Opening (06:05) Evan Spiegel's Persistence and Motivation (11:25) Founders and Product as Powerful Motivating Force (15:39) Challenges of Starting Over from Scratch (19:36) Balancing Product and Business Strategy (29:54) The End of the Product-Focused CEO?  (37:02) Crypto Market Update and Outlook
The Morins and the Lessins debate how to solve misinformation across even legacy media sites. Plus, prepping for VCs' big annual reports to shareholders. Discussed Psilocybin Treatment for Major Depression Effective for Up to a Year for Most Patients, Study Shows Slow evolution of a NYTimes headline. "Israeli Strike" -> "Strike" -> "Blast" After Hospital Blast, Headlines Shift With Changing Claims What To Do About Misinformation in the Upcoming Election Cycle? Show Notes [00:00:00] Intro and Check In [00:01:46] RIP Dr. Roland Griffiths, Johns Hopkins scientist who proved psilocybin is the cure for depression.  [00:05:39] AGM Season. What are AGMs?  [00:08:05] The big topic: Misinformation and The New York Times [00:11:17] How did this happen? Where is the accountability in media? [00:15:58] The importance of being right not first.  [00:20:19] How we get our information.  [00:22:37] Trust in the media. [00:25:56] Should influencers know each other more deeply as humans?  [00:29:38] Civilization vs Not-Civilization.  [00:33:40] Building bridges through conversation.  [00:35:23] The role of colleges.  [00:37:41] AR and VR's are anti-social technology. [00:41:30] Social networks cracking down. [00:46:26] More questions about the end of the factory model of venture capital.  [00:48:57] Are we really not investing in AI startups? [00:52:03] Capital is just gone. [00:54:51] Backing founders without safety nets. [00:55:00] Wrap Up
The Morins and Lessins discuss the urgent questions Hamas’ terrorism against Israel raises for tech companies. Plus, how leaders should—and should not—respond to the attacks. Show Notes [0:00] Intro [0:36] Opening Discussion [2:03] It is a very important and troubling time in the world. Sharing some of our thoughts as a group. [2:10] Impossible to not talk about the Israel and Hamas situation. [2:15] We are not a political podcast nor are we political experts. We are tech people. [2:25] This podcast is going to be about the tech side of it and the important tech stories about it.  [2:30] We are floored and upset. The situation with Hamas is beyond comprehension. They are a terrorist organization. What they’ve done, the atrocities, are beyond pale. [2:49] We wish the Israeli people the best in doing the extremely painful and hard work ahead. Which clearly has to be done.  [3:03] On the tech front, 3 things on the agenda to talk about: 1. Funding and LPs in this era: As a company or a fund how do you think about who’s funding you and who you’re funding in light of the geopolitical situation? 2. Social Networks and News: Section 230, the US election in 14 months, AI is now a thing.  3. Tech Leaders and the interesting thing about who can say what on the internet. [4:46] Debate about tech leaders' statements on the situation. Note of the lack of strong condemnation of Hamas among tech leaders. [13:15] Suggestion that tech leaders may be hesitant to speak out strongly due to security concerns. [15:52] Debate on social networks, news, misinformation, and AI. Prediction that Section 230 is dead. [19:47] Losing the "town square" into encrypted group chats and why social media will never be the same. [26:25] Idea that an alternative social network for “actual relationships” should exist. [27:23] Proposal that we go back to where we were before: “don’t trust the network, trust the individual.” [27:36] Idea to build clubs of trust and community among Celebrity Influencers to protect the commons. [28:40] Is there an opportunity for quality journalism? [28:54] Skepticism that news organizations can regain trust due to business model issues.  [30:33] The Rock is the answer. [30:46] Discussion on founders, VCs, and LPs in this era. Who are you ok making money for?  [34:53] Agreement that transparency enables the individual founder or venture capitalist to make their own decisions about who they’re making money for.  [36:31] Note that pushing VCs for transparency has worked for issues like diversity. California signed a law this week. [38:32] Wrap Up
The couples unpack how to "Survive to 2025" and debate whether Threads had the right launch strategy. Plus, Yaccarino needs media training. Show Notes [00:01:18] Our first ever More or Less event.  [00:04:44] Startups shutting down in Q3.  [00:07:39] Seed investor and founder cramdown risk. [00:10:38] Not so lifestyle businesses.  [00:13:37] Avoid debt at all costs. [00:17:51] Normalizing shut downs. [00:21:32] Will Twitter shut down?  [00:24:50] Should Linda stay as CEO?  [00:27:05] Twitter's debt negotiation strategy.  [00:31:05] Threads’ graph and growth.  [00:35:12] Growth hacks and social apps.  [00:36:36] Discovery and finding new people in social apps.  [00:40:00] FTX and Michael Lewis' new book.  [00:43:33] Taylor Swift's media circus. [00:49:29] See you guys next time.
Adobe Chief Strategy Officer Scott Belsky joins the Morins and the Lessins as the Fifth Wheel for an episode about all things AI. Plus, inside the FTC’s case for breaking up Amazon. *probably dead, but maybe not Show Notes [00:00:14] Developer experience and ease of use. [00:04:24] Scott Belsky and AI. [00:09:55] Empowering SMBs with AI. [00:12:26] Proprietary data and AI. [00:16:09] Building clouds and competition. [00:18:30] AI regulation and fast growth. [00:21:19] The concept of agents. [00:24:09] Agents working on your behalf. [00:27:27] AI agents and their potential. [00:31:36] The limitations of today's LLMs. [00:34:41] The big antitrust kahuna, Amazon. [00:36:51] Amazon's impact on independent sellers. [00:41:30] Amazon's advantage in multiplexing. [00:44:27] The fifth wheel.
As the news heats up, the couples discuss why recent IPOs tell us little about whether the window is, in fact, open and ponder the future of leadership in Silicon Valley. Show Notes: [00:00:10] Startup location rules. [00:05:30] Silicon Valley regulation debate. [00:08:18] Younger and hungrier talent. [00:11:30] Generational transfer in big tech. [00:14:10] Florida signaling and tax optimization. [00:18:23] Tech events worth attending. [00:23:02] Female CEO of Instacart. [00:25:13] Staying private for too long. [00:29:27] Small tech equity risks. [00:32:23] Hiring challenges for startups. [00:36:49] The role of capital market timing. [00:38:02] Cost of compliance for going public. [00:42:05] Power dynamics in public markets. [00:45:09] Price equals quality.
The couples take you up close and personal with this week’s Apple event and discuss the future of the company, hardware and the garbage product they can’t live without. Plus, Brit schools Sam on pop culture, part 10. Show Notes: [00:00:00] New composting trash can? [00:05:23] Apple event changes. [00:08:56] Recycling Cobalt and climate impact. [00:10:46] Apple's first Carbon Neutral Product. [00:15:27] Camera technology advancements. [00:19:44] Apple's trajectory after the launch. [00:22:11] Cambrian moment in computing. [00:26:25] The value of Apple's closed ecosystem. [00:29:41] The capital structure of hardware. [00:31:19] Hardware companies are entreprenuership on expert mode. [00:35:30] The Mill magical bottomless composting trash can. [00:37:48] Spatial computing. [00:41:08] The Insta360 camera. [00:43:38] World creation through AR. [00:48:05] Why can't we have a Hardware API?
…but something else will bloom instead. Plus, this is why Europe can't have nice things. And the Cable Cowboy kills cable. Discussed: The Hottest Coach in Sports: Coach PrimeHow Deel Became Payout Provider for Prop Trading Firms, Including Site Frozen by CFTC John Malone’s Charter Squeezes Disney at Vulnerable Moment Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success How Taylor Swift Ditched Dealing With Hollywood Studios to Release the ‘Eras Tour’ Film With AMC Show Notes: [00:01:59] CU Buffs winning football game. [00:06:30] Prop trading as Ponzi scheme. [00:08:30] A hidden Forex trading industry. [00:10:38] Robo spam being cracked down. [00:14:08] Subscription business models. [00:18:31] Europe's impact on app monetization. [00:22:18] The digital market act. [00:24:12] Implications for big tech gatekeepers. [00:29:31] The future of niche apps. [00:30:01] Subscription services reaching scale. [00:33:11] How do you make money? [00:36:28] Rethinking success for consumer businesses. [00:39:52] Cable subscriptions and user experience. [00:43:23] The fascination with fax machines. [00:45:22] Old and new combined. [00:47:57] Taylor Swift's movie theater success. [00:50:46] More in-person collective experience.
The Morins and the Lessins break down what is really happening in venture firms right now from liquidating venture stakes to fundraising. Plus, Chinese entrepreneurs’ secret AI confab and Jessica’s notes from Beijing. Discussed: Colin Robinson: The Life of an Energy Vampire - What We Do In The ShadowsChamath Palihapitiya’s Venture Firm Offered to Sell Hundreds of Startup StakesChip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology Show Notes: [00:02:30] Energy vampires. [00:04:33] technology for efficient reporting. [00:09:00] Recording everything and privacy. [00:12:41] Is being a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley like being a tenured professor at a University? [00:15:44] Venture capital feedback cycles and accountability. [00:18:40] Choosing Jedi or General. [00:23:01] Fundamental beliefs and investments. [00:25:11] Zero Fund concept. [00:29:07] VC leading indicators. [00:31:27] LPs buying stakes in GPs. [00:34:51] Mid-flight venture capital strategy changes. [00:39:02] The future of AI in China. [00:43:11] Centralized AI ownership in China. [00:47:38] US entrepreneurs selling beauty products. [00:50:09] Feedback and podcast rankings.
Back in the Bay Area, the Morins and the Lessins debate the status of startup work culture and how to fix it. Plus, Nvidia’s blowout earnings and the best More or Less product idea yet. Articles and data discussed: Salesforce Leads Financing of AI Startup at More Than $4 Billion Valuation Can San Francisco Save Itself From the Doom Loop? Show Notes: [0:00:00] Remote work policies and productivity [0:13:23] Data on decreased mobile phone usage in cities since COVID [0:20:11] The current state of San Francisco and the Bay Area [0:31:36] Hybrid work challenges and the move back to the office [0:35:00] Productivity tools and scheduling meetings effectively [0:39:44] Improving communication technologies for remote and hybrid work [0:46:43] NVIDIA earnings and valuations in tech [0:50:00] New potential features for the podcast including a "Third Wheel" segment
As the startup graveyard gets crowded, the Morins and the Lessins talk about when companies should quit and reminisce about failed investments. Plus, a More or Less debate on U.S. China tech policy and evolving views of LLMs. Articles and books discussed: Show Notes: [0:00:00] Introduction - The hosts discuss their health status. [0:00:23] Venture Capital, Startup Trends, and Choosing When to Quit - The group discusses past startup trends like the "Uber for X" era and how changing market conditions are coming home to roost. [0:09:09] China and the Digital Trade Imbalance - The group discusses recent executive orders restricting US investment in Chinese companies and ask questions around why we only discuss the trade of atoms and not bits in the digital era. [0:19:23] TikTok Ban Debate - The hosts debate whether the TikTok app should be banned in the US. [0:35:00] Vision of American Digital Citizenship - Dave and Sam discuss their vision for expanding American digital identity globally. [0:44:39] Supply Chain Impacts of COVID - Dave notes the pandemic highlighted supply chain vulnerabilities which influenced how everyone thinks about entrepreneurial risk. [0:47:09] Large Language Model Perspectives - The hosts share their evolving views of AI, LLMs and regulatory risks.
The Morins and the Lessins devise a playbook on the future of sports media. Plus, a More or Less debate on a new study on Wegovy. Articles and research discussed: Show Notes: 0:00 - Introduction: The hosts discuss ESPN's declining subscriber numbers and revenue challenges. They debate whether equity ownership for athletes could help and what innovations ESPN could make. 2:18 - ESPN's issues: The hosts discuss ESPN's high content costs, difficulty being a distributor in a direct-to-consumer world, and how sports rights are priced to perfection. 9:12 - Barstool Sports: The hosts discuss Barstool Sports' acquisition and subsequent return to its founder due to his controversial behavior. They debate whether "crazy" founders luck into windfalls. 16:00 - Solutions for ESPN: The hosts discuss innovations like new formats, storytelling, and interactive experiences. They debate whether betting is the best form of interactivity. 25:00 - Longevity science: The hosts discuss a new study showing a weight loss drug can reduce heart attack risk by 20%. They debate the risks of healthy people taking such drugs. 34:00 - Wrap up: The hosts summarize the major problems discussed and look forward to recording together in person next time.
This week, inspired by Barbie and Taylor Swift, the Morins and the Lessins debate the future of franchises and brands. Plus, the latest in the ecommerce wars and the winners and losers if room-temperature superconductors actually become a thing. Articles and research discussed: Show Notes: 0:00 Taylor Swift concert and Barbie movie - The hosts discuss the cultural impact of the recent Taylor Swift concert and the Barbie movie. 0:13 Fast fashion brand Shein - The hosts discuss the rise of Chinese fast fashion brand Shein and its impact on Amazon. 0:27 Live shopping - The hosts discuss the trend of live shopping on social media platforms and whether it will take off. 0:38 Superconductors - The hosts discuss recent breakthroughs in room temperature superconductors and the potential impact. Brought To You By: ⁠⁠⁠The Information⁠⁠⁠ ⁠⁠⁠Slow Ventures⁠⁠⁠ ⁠⁠⁠Offline Ventures⁠⁠
Are we just playing into Elon's game with Twitter? The Lessins and The Morins debate and take different sides on whether seed investing can survive. Plus, what's Ruth Porat really up to at Google? Discussed: Google’s Darkest Days: After Three Deaths, a Workforce Reckons with a Changed CompanyThe Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future Seed Investing Can't Turn Back On Show Notes: 00:00 - The hosts discuss Elon Musk rebranding Twitter as 'X'. They argue that Elon is doing it mainly to stay in the news cycle and get attention. They joke about how Elon is just like any other internet user, changing DNS records and making mistakes. 06:29 - The hosts discuss Google. They talk about Google's AI strategy, the promotion of Ruth Porat to President, and mental health issues at Google. They debate whether Google has lost its way or is still well positioned. 13:44 - Sam explains his view that 'seed investing is dead'. He argues that the venture capital model has broken down and companies are overvalued and unable to make a profit. Dave and Sam discuss how they prefer investing in 'weird' areas. 20:18 - The hosts debate whether venture capital will fundamentally change or just become a less good business. They agree that while seed investing will still exist, the previous model is over.
The Morins and Lessins debate the fizzling hype around AI and the Hollywood strike. Plus, Threads’ next move. Discussed: Show Notes: 0:00 Threads had a strong launch but questions remain around engaging content and audience building. 5:00 There is debate about the impact of AI on content, with concerns about AI-generated content and tools. The actors' and writers' strike highlights issues around voice, likeness, and copyright. 15:00 There are differing views on the capabilities and impact of large language models and AI technologies. Some argue the hype has outpaced reality while others see potential if issues around data and synthetic content can be solved. 30:00 The actors' and writers' strike is seen as justified by some to push for changes to copyright law to account for AI, voice, and likeness rights. Others want a quick resolution to minimize disruption. 35:00 Live experiences are seen as becoming more important compared to AI and digital content, as illustrated by the popularity of the Dude Perfect live show. Brought To You By: ⁠The Information⁠ ⁠Slow Ventures⁠ ⁠Offline Ventures⁠
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