Podcasts have very quickly become an excellent medium for absorbing all kinds of information. Searching for a new podcast series can be as daunting as scrolling through Netflix or even analysing companies. The quantity is significant but it is important to focus on the quality to utilise your time most effectively.
With that being said, here is a list of our favourite 10 podcasts from 2019 which cover a broad range of business related topics. Some contain valuable business/investment lessons from some of the brightest brains on the planet, some take us on a trip back in time, whilst some are stories that need to be heard to be believed.
By BBC World Service
20 July 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the “giant leap for mankind”, the Apollo 11 moon landing.
This podcast series by the BBC, released to commemorate this anniversary, gives us a detailed look behind the scenes into the work it took to put the first humans on the moon. During the cold war, the US was falling behind the Russians when it came to space exploration. The idea of putting man on the moon was first announced by President JFK in September 1962 and his goal was to see it happen before the end of the 1960’s.
This series starts by giving us the background of how and why the Apollo spacecraft program came to be. Next they step through the ambitious and expensive plans to achieve a moon landing before the end of 1969. Finally, they dive deep into the period when the Eagle Lunar Module separates and descends to the moon, known as the '13 minutes to the moon'. We hear the real audio and the stories behind it from the perspective of unsung heroes, the computer controllers and engineers at NASA headquarters, guiding the mission. There were so many alarms and near misses that it is quite astonishing they even made it to the moon.
Business Wars is a podcast that looks at some of the great company rivalries in modern history. Featured battles on this podcast series include Ferrari v Lamborghini, Hasbro v Mattel and McDonalds v Burger King. The Gibson v Fender group of episodes explore the war between the two most iconic guitar companies of all time, both of which remain mainstays of the music world today.
Gibson starts out as a mandolin and violin maker in the 19th century, whilst Leo Fender, before he incorporates Fender Guitars, is an engineer who does radio repairs. Both companies turn their hand to creating the first electric guitar in the late 1940s/1950s. An arms race develops between Gibson and Fender which involves some of the biggest musicians on the planet. Starting out as garage operations, both companies undergo significant change as they scale up and modernise. Ownership changes occur, the impact of financial cycles is severe, licensing negotiations are important, all the while, the companies battle against each other for supremacy of the guitar world.
Invest Like the Best by Patrick O’Shaughnessy
Patrick O’Shaughnessy is the CEO of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management and in his podcast series he sits down with some excellent money managers for in-depth interviews. Chuck Akre is the media-shy founder and CIO of Akre Asset Management, a circa US$7bn firm that operates well away from Wall Street in rural Virginia. Akre Asset Management was founded in the late 1980s and is a long term concentrated value manager following their ‘Three Legged Stool’ investment philosophy.
According to Akre, the ‘Three Legged Stool’ investment philosophy he developed derives its meaning from a reference to a three-legged milking stool farmers would sit on. The stool is sturdy, durable and due to it being low to the ground the farmer wouldn’t fall far if it flipped over, meaning your downside risk is manageable. All characteristics of a good business. This interview with Chuck Akre is an insightful podcast with a very practical thinker.
Podcast from The Daily, New York Times
Carlos Ghosn was one of the most powerful CEO’s on the planet. Remarkably, he was the CEO and/or Chairman of three Fortune 500 companies at the same time, being the global car companies Renault S.A, Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.
As a CEO and/or Chairman, Ghosn’s track record for generating shareholder value is strong, however since late 2018 Ghosn has been in the global media spotlight for all of the wrong reasons. Ultimately he was arrested and jailed awaiting trial in Japan for fraud related activity.
This podcast provides details on how Ghosn became an international fugitive. Ghosn’s actions are very polarising, but these actions have turned the balance of power in his upcoming trial squarely in his favour. The trial of Carlos Ghosn will certainly be one to stay up to date with.
Podcast by Talks at GS
An interview with the new Ford Motor Company CEO, an industry outsider corporate executive that is not a ‘car guy’. Jim talks about lessons he would teach himself as a younger man, principally around leadership. “Leadership is having a point of view”.
Jim talks through his idea of the future of the automotive industry, including partnerships between global car markets, and that autonomous vehicles will not take over the world because of the fundamental reason that a lot of people enjoy driving. Furthermore Jim discusses the role of electric vehicles and how this will pan out for future generations, in which he believes it is not a ‘one size fits all’ movement.
An insightful man leading a company through a major industry transformation. Jim didn’t want the top job of Ford Motor Company CEO but for that reason he was arguably the right candidate for the job.
Invest Like the Best by Patrick O’Shaughnessy
In 2006, at just 23, Daniel Ek founded the now global audio juggernaut Spotify.
Daniel talks about his life before Spotify and how he came to create this business which has helped to revolutionise the audio industry. Daniel discusses his helicopter view of trends such as digitisation and automation, many of which he believes are in their infancy and also how Spotify can adapt and grow from its iteration as a ~$25bn NASDAQ listed company.
This interview also gives us an insight into why audio as a category can be viewed as an ‘intimate’ form of media as well as discussing the growth in the world of podcasts. We go on to hear about the next generation use cases of podcasts and how they can be used within the workplace to disrupt and improve efficiency, Daniel speaks to his experience at Spotify here.
It is clear to see that Daniel is a fascinating human and a very deep thinker who is constantly looking to the future.
Podcast By BBC Sounds
This recently launched podcast series looks into OneCoin. Whilst everyone has heard of Bitcoin, there are many other cryptocurrencies in existence, of which OneCoin was (and still is) one of them. OneCoin was the 2014 brainchild of a highly credentialed Bulgarian women, Dr Ruja Ignatova.
In marketing herself as Oxford University alumni and with extensive financial background from McKinsey, Dr Ruja Ignatova promised that OneCoin would not only be the cryptocurrency to ‘destroy’ Bitcoin but also the cryptocurrency to revolutionise the way we bank.
On the back of Dr Ruja Ignatova’s ideals, OneCoin’s growth was exponential as it was sold through a multi-level marketing structure to the masses in many countries, including developing nations. Billions of dollars were ploughed into OneCoin yet at the time it wasn’t a fungible cryptocurrency. Then in 2017, one day Dr Ruja Ignatova suddenly disappeared.
This podcast series, hosted by a technology expert/criminal journalist at the BBC, attempts to track her down and uncover the elements of truth behind the fascinating story that is OneCoin.
Podcast by Talks at GS
For those with little time to spare, this 20 minute podcast episode provides a brief yet insightful view into the changing retail landscape and how Warby Parker is growing harmoniously through both online technology and bricks and mortar channels of eyewear retailing.
The founders, who met at the Wharton School of Business, started the company after being inspired by a lost pair of $700 glasses.
They saw the need for affordable, stylish, socially conscious and importantly – accessible eyeglasses and began to push the boundaries of traditional retailing in a time when only 1% of glasses were sold online.
Having been dubbed “the Netflix of eyewear” they now have 88 stores, with a view to open 30 more this year.
Tune in to this interview with Co-founders and Co-CEOS Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa to see how Warby Parker innovates in their space.
Howard Schultz is arguably the single reason US coffee culture exists as we know it today. Inspired by the ill fate of his father who suffered a workplace injury at a time before employee insurance, Schultz wanted to create a company where employees were looked after.
In 1981, the then young Xerox salesman, walked into a Seattle store called 'Starbucks' that sold coffee beans (you couldn't buy a cup of coffee though!), Schultz was so blown away by the quality of the coffee he tasted that he quit his job in New York and begged the owners of the store to hire him.
Whilst visiting a coffee bean trade fair in Milan Italy on behalf of Starbucks, Schultz recognised the beauty of the local coffee culture, he identified something special that needed to be brought to the US. Schultz describes this as a "third place" i.e. a place for people to spend time outside of their home or workplace. Starting out with just four stores, today Starbucks operates more than 30,000 stores and employees more than 250,000 people who benefit from the company health insurance program.
Schultz tells a couple of great stories in this podcast about the Starbucks expansion to Japan as well as a chance meeting with Bill Gates Sr. The story of Howard Schultz and Starbucks is one of both luck and determination.
David Abrams started his career working for value investing legend Seth Klarman at Baupost. His fund Abrams Capital has returned 15% p.a. since 1999 and has $9bn in AUM.
In this podcast he shares a huge amount of information into what he believes are the characteristics that make up a good business. In particular, we highlight the following passage of thought.
“When looking at a business we want to understand the fundamental economics of that business. It’s easy to tell what’s happening today in a business but what separates a great investor is having insight into what the business will look like in a few years from today. To understand the dynamics around what is going on. A lot of it has to do with who has the power in the relationships, what the product alternatives are, the value of the business to both the customers and the employees so we want to try and understand that, rather than just take historical numbers and projecting them out two years. Taking that one step further, everyone is looking for businesses with pricing power, as are we. That’s great, but to say that a business has pricing power and leave it there is an incomplete line of thinking because no one has unlimited pricing power. Then the question is what can help you or what can hurt you. To understand those things at a deeper level is really crucial.”
We think David is an investor who is ahead of his class in terms of thinking about portfolio construction and his lessons are of huge value to serious investors.