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Interview with Richard Schmalensee, Mar 6, 2018 audio icon

Matchmakers have been around since the dawn of time, but in recent years they have turbocharged their business growth leveraging all the latest technologies.

Matchmakers, marketplace operators or platform developers are all focused on connecting demand with supply, offering access to two groups and often subsidizing one to ignite the business. OpenTable, Uber, Amazon Marketplace, GrubHub are just some of these successful matchmakers.

Richard Schmalensee and David S. Evands, authors of Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms, give a systematic account of multisided markets with a thorough explanation of deeply rooted historic origins where appropriate. In this easy-to-read book, the two distinguished economic advisers compile several examples of successful marketplace operators to illustrate how startups can learn from these businesses and boost their own chances of success. 

Key Topics :

  • How do traditional and matchmaking business models differ?
  • What is the deep rooted history of multisided business models?
  • How can new startups learn from successful multisided platforms? ...+
Interview with Witold Rybczynski, Feb 26, 2018 audio icon

Not many of us pay attention to the architecture surrounding us in our daily lives as we stream in and out of supermarkets, gas stations and other commercial and public places. Much of the architecture we inhabit is increasingly defined by the technology of the time along with the pace of change of activities we like to engage in.

Mysteries of the Mall, a collection of essays from previously published works of architect and author Witold Rybczynski, offers a lucid guide to various architectural developments. In thirty-four essays laid out in four parts, Rybczynski delves into the way we live today, our urban conditions, the art of the building and place makers. The book offers a moving commentary on architectural trends, movements and an accounts of some of the most influential architects over the past five decades.

Rybczynski’s strong interest in the lived experience of architecture and in spaces where form follows function, namely food courts, offers a lively read and raises many important questions. The essay on engineering firm Arup, sheds much needed light on nearly seven decades of work that makes some of the most complex building stand today.

Spaces are not always identified by their physical features as by the events that take or took place. Rapid changes in cities make these spaces acquire significance in one period before they lose it in another. While seaports, railroads and factory complexes created concentration in large cities, recent technological development has supported dispersal. This chain of evolution, invention and change has often been the pattern that drives urban renewal.

Rybczynski’s essays in the fourth part of the book focus on place makers, weaving together stories of common vision from the architectural and development work done by Turner, Durwood and Pritzker.

Key Topics :

  • What is the contemporary American architectural landscape and what are its complexities and beauties?
  • How does knowing the name of a space become a key factor in learning to recognize and use it?
  • What were Tocquville’s observations? ...+
Interview with Daniel L. Everett, Feb 15, 2018 audio icon

All animals communicate, yet only humans have language. With this sophisticated verbal instrument, we convey our inventions, progress and accumulate knowledge, an innate human faculty.

In How Language Began, Daniel L Everett, a linguistics professor with decades of field research experience, argues that, while there are no speech fossils, artefacts of sufficient complexity reveal that language is not such a recent development in human history. Shaped by evolution and invention over hundreds of thousands of years, language materializes communication by incorporating symbols that have culturally agreed meaning and culturally accepted form.

In this engrossing book, Everett suggests that “language began with Homo erectus more than one million years ago, and has existed for 60,000 generations,” unlike other scholars who maintain that it emerged with Homo sapiens about 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Additionally, Everett dissents from traditional views and argues that what is perceived as a “language instinct” is, in fact, a culturally acquired invention.

Everett has spent more than 30 years in the Amazon rainforest studying a remote tribe called the Pirahã, a hunter-gatherer community of only several hundred people living in the tradition of their ancestors. Using this invaluable research to develop his broader theory of language, Everett emphasizes that early symbols of language were developed by common experience, which provided the necessary impetus for accumulating knowledge and advancing culture. In other words, culture and language are inseparable. 

Key Topics :

  • Why do animals communicate but only humans have language?
  • What are the origins and nature of language?
  • How does the brain make language possible? ...+
Interview with Richard O. Prum, Feb 13, 2018 audio icon

In his seminal work, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin laid the foundation of our understanding of biological evolution with the theory of natural selection and the “survival of the fittest” principle. A little over a decade later, Darwin went on to expound his views on sexual selection, which were, however, strongly rejected by his peers at the time.  

Richard O. Prum, an ornithology professor at Yale University and a widely-respected evolutionary biologist, has written The Evolution of Beauty in defense of Darwin’s views of co-evolution from both natural and sexual selection, with a strong emphasis on female choice in mating. Based on his keen observation of birds and animal behavior, Prum elaborates on his anchor theme of the female sexual preference as a major influence on behavior and evolution, and, last but not least, natural beauty. 

Key Topics :

  • What are two main theories of evolution?
  • What are Charles Darwin’s natural selection and sexual selection theories?
  • Why does the “survival of the fittest” principle not account for ornaments seen in many birds and animals? ...+
Interview with Allen C. Benello, Feb 12, 2018 audio icon

For decades investors have been told to diversify among a large number of holdings because financial markets are inherently fragile and volatile. However, many value investors have amassed large amounts of wealth by simply ignoring this principle and keeping their focus on what they know well and hold for longer periods of time.

Concentrated Investing, which follows a few well-known investors along with some less prominent names, offers an inside view of the practices that these investors invariably share, as well as their temperament and discipline.

Authors Benello, van Biema and Carlisle provide a road map in a book that is easy to understand and richly detailed with relevant examples and clear explanations.

Many of the investment principles highlighted in the book are easy to comprehend and not that hard to follow as long as investors are willing to be disciplined in behavior, prepared to do rigorous analysis and focus on fewer companies that they truly understand. 

Key Topics :

  • What is value investing and how is it practiced in general?
  • How does value investing differ from growth investing or trading in stocks?
  • What is the temperament of a value investor and why discipline matters? ...+
Interview with Gina Keating, Nov 9, 2017 audio icon

Before Amazon disrupted the retail industry, Netflix was the bête noire of the movie industry. Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings co-founded a movie rental service that simply sent discs by mail. The business took off because customers loved a subscription model with no late fees.

As Netflix built the customer base and expanded its movie library, business growth accelerated and the entrenched movie rental retailer Blockbuster was forced to respond. In 2000, Hastings first struggled to win a partnership with Blockbuster, but after several rebuffs he went on to chart an independent course with devastating impact on the largest movie retailer at the time.

In an interview with Readara, award-winning author Gina Keating discusses what led to the rise of Netflix and how the movie rental industry slowly shifted to mail order before launching streaming services. Keating goes on to explain how the digitization and the rapid spread of the Internet led to the fall of the once-mighty retail empire of Blockbuster with its thousands of stores, millions of customers and strong marketing strategies. 

In 2004, four years after Netflix was launched, John Antioco, CEO of Blockbuster, realized that Netflix and Redbox are posing a serious threat to the company. After eliminating the annoying late fees that also generated nearly $200 million in profits, he decided to invest an additional $200 million in online operations. However, in 2005, activist shareholder Carl Icahn fired the retail veteran who was taking all the right steps in countering the Netflix threat.

Netflix invested heavily in following and understanding online customer behavior and leveraged that knowledge by building a movie library and improving customer experience. Yet, the final chapter of the company may not be written, as Amazon pursues Netflix customers with a growing library of movies and other offerings at even cheaper subscription prices. 

Key Topics :

  • How was Netflix conceived?
  • Why did movie lovers prefer Netflix’s service?
  • How was Netflix different from the entrenched Blockbuster chain? ...+
Interview with Sam Zell, Nov 1, 2017 audio icon

Sam Zell, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, learned to take risks from his parents at an early age, and rarely missed an opportunity to make profit. Known for creating the largest real estate companies in commercial real estate, Zell went on to find even greater success in other industries including manufacturing, retail, travel, energy and healthcare.

In an interview with Readara, contrarian entrepreneur Zell reviews his childhood, the growth of his real estate business, and the evolution of his management philosophy. Outspoken and blunt, Zell minces no words and lives up to his iconoclastic reputation. In this clear and candid talk, Zell traces his early business ventures and explains how his relentless drive for profit catapulted him to the top of the real estate into more diverse industries. While discussing his success, self-made billionaire Sam Zell also tackles business failures and personal challenges. 

Key Topics :

  • How did the son of Polish immigrant parents rise to the pinnacle of real estate and business management?
  • What are Sam Zell’s philosophies in business, investments, people and life in general?
  • How have Zell’s independent thinking and contrarian streak helped him? ...+
Interview with Larrie D. Ferreiro, Oct 25, 2017 audio icon

The American Revolutionary War was anything but a lonely struggle, as it is widely believed. In fact, the fight for independence was multi-faced, fought on many fronts, and almost of global proportions.

In an interview with Readara, historian and author Larrie D. Ferreiro pierces the popular myth and explains the global magnitude of those turbulent eight years of international coalition. Ferreiro’s authoritative account is based on original research conducted using personal papers and official documents in several languages.

At the end of the Seven Years’ War, France and Spain were ready to take revenge on Great Britain, which was expected to easily crush the rising rebellion in the American colonies. France was eager to help the recently proclaimed United States and ready to shift the balance of power in its favor in Europe, and so was Spain.

Ferreiro details with meticulous precision the vast sums of money in loans (between five and ten billion dollars in today’s currency) and ammunition made available by King Louise XVI, the endless drive of the Prussian Baron von Steuben to professionalize the continental army, as well as the Dutch merchants’ efforts in providing high-quality gunpowder to the revolutionary forces. 

Key Topics :

  • How did a fight for rights escalate into a war of independence?
  • Who were the warring parties and why were they at war?
  • What was the significance of the Declaration of Independence? ...+
Interview with Brian Blum, Oct 23, 2017 audio icon

In 2008, Shai Agassi set out to build electric car infrastructure with a grand vision to change the world but without any experience in the auto industry. A born salesman, young Agassi had the necessary tech savvy and political connections, but went on to build a company that lacked specific purpose.

The rise and failure of Agassi and Better Place is going to be the subject of management schools for decades to come. Was it Agassi’s hubris, his lack of attention to detail, or simply his blind conviction that led to the fall of the once promising startup whose founder lacked operating experience?

In an interview with Readara, Brian Blum, author of Totaled, chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of Better Place along with its founder in four short years. Better Place promised to deliver 30,000 cars at the end of the third year of its existence, only managing to sell a mere 500.

Why did Better Place stumble so fast despite raising astronomical amounts of capital? Blum details how an impatient Agassi failed to appreciate management challenges, was caught up in his hyperbole, ignored customer needs, and ultimately failed to understand what it takes to build a business. 

Key Topics :

  • Who was Shai Agassi and what was his grand vision?
  • Why did Agassi believe in building electric car charging infrastructure rather than in batteries or electric cars?
  • How did Better Place plan to tackle the electric car range anxiety and price hurdle? ...+
Interview with Hartmut Elsenhans, Oct 20, 2017 audio icon

Generally, the implementation of developing technologies that the majority of the population can use to improve productivity is key to the continual success of an economy. Western Europe and the United States of America developed an array of technologies that continue to advance their economies beyond middle income and to the top of the income pyramid.

Throughout the 80s and 90s, East Asian countries were growing at a rapid pace, primarily driven by the manufacturing sector and export-led growth. These economies lifted millions of people out of poverty, only to start stalling within the following two decades.

In an interview with Readara, Professors Eisenhans and Babones offer an insightful analysis of the drivers of economic growth in these nations as well as the policies that contributed to their economic success. 

Key Topics :

  • Why did many fast-growing East Asian economies begin to slow down?
  • How can government policies direct investment to improve labor productivity?
  • What is the middle income trap and why do countries fall in it? ...+
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