Every company has a story. Learn the playbooks that built the world’s greatest companies — and how you can apply them as a founder, operator, or investor.


June 3, 2024 195 mins

Starbucks. You’d be hard pressed to name any brand that’s more ubiquitous in the world today. With nearly half a billion global customer purchases per week across its stores and 3rd party retail channels, a significant portion of the human population gets their daily fix in the green and white paper cup. (Including our own Ben Gilbert who famously enjoys his daily spinach feta wrap. :)

But it wasn’t always this way. Long be...

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Microsoft. After nearly a decade of Acquired episodes, we are finally ready to tackle the most valuable company ever created. The company that put a computer on every desk and in every home. The company that invented the software business model. The company that so thoroughly and completely dominated every conceivable competitor that the United States government intervened and kneecapped it… yet it’s STILL the most valuabl...

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March 17, 2024 190 mins

Renaissance Technologies is the best performing investment firm of all time. And yet no one at RenTec would consider themselves an “investor”, at least in any traditional sense of the word. It’d rather be more accurate to call them scientists — scientists who’ve discovered a system of math, computers and artificial intelligence that has evolved into the greatest money making machine the world has ever seen. And boy does it...

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February 19, 2024 249 mins

In luxury, there’s Hermès… and there’s everyone else. Stewarded by one French family over six generations, Hermès sells the absolute pinnacle of the French luxury dream. Loyal clients will wait years simply for the opportunity to buy one of the company’s flagship Birkin or Kelly bags. Unlike every other luxury brand, Hermès:

  • Doesn’t increase supply to meet demand (hence the waitlists)
  • Doesn’t loudly brand their products ...
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January 21, 2024 224 mins

Last year Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical company behind Ozempic and Wegovy, overtook LVMH to become Europe’s most valuable company. And the pull for Acquired to finally tackle healthcare (18% of US GDP!) became too strong for us to resist. While we didn’t know much about Novo Nordisk before diving in, our first thought was, “wow, seems like these new diabetes and obesity drugs mean serious trouble for big insulin ...

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December 17, 2023 145 mins

Ben has some big news. Actually, double big news! On what has become a holiday tradition here at Acquired, we cozy up to the fire to do our annual review of the show “in public”. We reflect on what can only be described as an absolutely mind-blowing 2023 (LVMH! Jensen! Costco! Charlie! Half a million plus listeners!) and look ahead to some big things cooking for 2024. Plus as always, we wrap with extended carve outs (joine...

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November 26, 2023 222 mins

To paraphrase Visa founder Dee Hock, how many of you know Visa? Great, all of you. Now, how many of you know how it started? Or, for that matter, who started it? Who runs and governs it? Where is it headquartered? What’s its business model?

For the 11th largest market cap company in the world, Visa’s history and strategy is almost shockingly unknown. A huge portion of the world’s population uses their products on a daily ba...

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October 29, 2023 66 mins

We sit down with the legendary Charlie Munger in the only dedicated longform podcast interview that he has done in his 99 years on Earth. We’ve gotten to have some special conversations on Acquired over the years, but this one truly takes the cake. Over dinner at his Los Angeles home, Charlie reflected with us on his own career and his nearly 50-year partnership at Berkshire Hathaway with Warren Buffett. He offered lessons...

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October 15, 2023 89 mins

We finally sit down with the man himself: Nvidia Cofounder & CEO Jensen Huang. After three parts and seven+ hours of covering the company, we thought we knew everything but — unsurprisingly — Jensen knows more. A couple teasers: we learned that the company’s initial motivation to enter the datacenter business came from perhaps not where you’d think, and the roots of Nvidia’s platform strategy stretch back beyond CUDA a...

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It’s a(nother) new era for Nvidia.

We thought we’d closed the Acquired book on Nvidia back in April 2022. The story was all wrapped up: Jensen & crew had set out on an amazing journey to accelerate the world’s computing workloads. Along the way they’d discovered a wondrous opportunity (machine learning powered social media feed recommendations). They forged incredible Power in the CUDA platform, and used it to triumph o...

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August 20, 2023 181 mins

Costco is not only Charlie Munger’s favorite company of all time (plus he’s on the board, natch), it’s an absolutely fascinating study in how seemingly opposite characteristics can combine to create incredible company value. For instance: Costco has the cheapest prices of any major retailer in America — and also the wealthiest customer base. They pay their hourly workers 30% above the industry norm (and give them excellent...

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July 24, 2023 242 mins

Nike — it’s perhaps the most iconic and most prolific brand of the modern era. On any given day, swooshes adorn the feet of more people on earth than any other footwear company — by a long shot.

If you read Shoe Dog or watched Air, you may think you know its history. But Shoe Dog ends in 1980, and Air… well let’s just say it’s an enjoyable piece of fiction. And it turns out (as always) that the real story is filled with far...

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June 26, 2023 202 mins

Nobody’s perfect — including Porsche. Despite that phrase appearing in their famous 1983 magazine advertisement, they managed to get damn-close to the perfect luxury business (even Bernard Arnault would be jealous!). Porsche is both quality AND quantity, owning the most prestigious brand in its market, while at the same time churning out almost half a million mass-market soccer mom/dad SUVs per year. And like any good luxu...

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June 12, 2023 97 mins

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi dropped by the Acquired studio for an Eats delivery, so we broke out the cameras and asked him to hang out for a wide-ranging conversation. :) We talk about his 20 years working with Barry Diller, starting his career at Allen & Company, how the Uber CEO search process ACTUALLY went down… and oh yeah, the massive transformation that’s happened at Uber over the past few years. When Dara took ov...

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May 29, 2023 217 mins

Today we bring you two absolutely incredible stories. The first is Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works division — the elite team of aviation geniuses who produced some of the greatest airplanes in history: the U-2, the Stealth Fighter, and the incomparable SR-71 Blackbird. The second story is arguably even more important, but not widely known! It's the secret and true origins of Silicon Valley — and Lockheed’s primary role in...

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May 17, 2023 98 mins

We sit down with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek live in Stockholm at Spotify’s amazing HQ studio (check out the video version of this episode — which plays natively on Spotify!). This was an incredibly special and timely conversation: for those who haven’t been paying attention over the past few years, after revolutionizing music Spotify has now ALSO completely transformed our own industry in podcasting. Starting from way behind wi...

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We sit down Benchmark’s legendary gaming investors Mitch Lasky and Blake Robbins (now also of the excellent Gamecraft podcast fame) to discuss the history and future of gaming business models. This episode is the perfect bookend to our Nintendo/Sega gaming series this season on Acquired — no one is more qualified than Mitch and Blake to breakdown how the business side of the industry has evolved so radically from the Peris...

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April 17, 2023 68 mins

Sega and the Genesis was THE underdog story of the early 90’s. In a single console generation, Sega went from ~zero to 50% US market share and dethroned Nintendo’s seemingly invincible global monopoly. But — somehow — it all then died. Two console generations later Sega was out of the hardware game entirely, and the company was sold off for pieces to a pachinko manufacturer. How on earth did this happen??

Today we’re la...

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April 11, 2023 197 mins

In the 1980’s Nintendo was on top of the world, with the NES achieving over 90% market share of home video games globally. So how did they fall ALL the way down to ~10% in just a few short console generations? And how did they then build themselves back up (and down and up again) to the top of the world again? Spoiler: it all hinged on one very small, yet very large and durable platform… the Game Boy. Fire up your favorite...

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7 Powers author Hamilton Helmer and his Strategy Capital colleague Chenyi Shi join us again to discuss their latest research on a topic that’s highly relevant to the recent Acquired canon: how to build a second business line. This incredibly important “transforming” question faces every great company who has achieved initial product success (as well as their investors). Do we continue solely along the established path, or ...

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