Colossus is the learning hub we’ve always wanted for ourselves.
So how did we get here, what is Colossus exactly, and where are we going?
The Origins, by Patrick O’Shaughnessy
I launched my podcast, Invest Like the Best, in 2016 as part of an effort to deepen my understanding of the business and investing worlds. As I began to research new topics, I was disappointed at how hard it was to find good learning material. An MBA would take too much time. Finding good blog posts or podcast episodes was like finding needles in a haystack.
So, I decided to create my own curriculum and began interviewing the smartest people in the world that would agree to speak with me.
I began traveling around the country with a backpack filled with a few days’ clothes and a mobile recording studio. I always wore the same blue blazer to early interviews. I was serious about learning and wanted to be taken seriously, too. Someone joked that I must sleep in that blazer. I nearly did.
Four years later, I’ve had the opportunity to interview more than 200 of the world’s smartest people in business and investing. These people obviously can’t talk to everyone, so we’ve tried to position ourselves as a representative of the audience that would love to sit down for sixty minutes with a Tobi Lutke, a Katrina Lake, a Bill Gurley. I’ve also been lucky enough to amass a large audience of smart and curious people around the world.
More importantly, I’ve learned that conversations are an insanely powerful and efficient tool, both to teach and to learn, and that they represent the opportunity to build something much bigger and more impactful than my simple podcast.
The Power of Conversation
One of my favorite guests, Sarah Tavel, always says she’s looking for businesses that offer solutions that are “ten times better, and cheaper.” Recorded conversation meets those criteria for learning. In sixty minutes, you can capture what might take years to capture in a book. Everyone gets writer’s block, but no one gets talker's block.
A simple example makes the point emphatically. Will and Ariel Durant were the authors of The Story of Civilization. Their 11-volume epic became one of the most prolific sets of books ever produced. Their 4 million words took 5 decades to write. It sold 2 million copies and won the Pulitzer Prize. Now compare that output to the first 200 episodes of Invest Like the Best. It is also 4 million words worth of information, but has only taken me (and our guests) 4 years to produce—as a side project. We’ve had nearly 20 million listeners to date; there will be no Pulitzer. 10% of the time, 10 times the reach. That is the game-changing advantage of conversation, and we intend to lean on that advantage.
Building the Team
During the summer of COVID, I met an executive at HBO who told me, in the nicest way possible, that I was foolish for not building more around the podcast. The next day I posted a job description for a partner. I reviewed all 700 applications and hired Damian Brychcy to be the CEO of the new business. Damian stood out because of his intelligence, energy, and curiosity. On every reference call, the reference giver began by saying, “you’d be a fool to hire anyone but him.”
Damian immediately began to push me and the podcast forward. He built partnerships with amazing firms like Canalyst, Microsoft for Startups, Tegus, Klaviyo, and many more. We set a goal to launch a second podcast called Founder’s Field Guide and launched earlier than expected.
Damian and I also built the co-founding team: lead engineer Joe Berg and another person to be named soon. The team shares an insatiable curiosity about business building and investing. We want to know how everything works.
But most importantly, we all agree that not much has changed since my initial frustration with the resources for learning in this field. Those tools—from the content itself to search and discovery—still don’t cut it, so we are going to build them ourselves at Colossus.
What started as a passion project to address a personal frustration now has a great team behind it. I started adding small little blocks of knowledge in 2016 with my podcast, almost by accident. Now I believe we can do much, much more. Early on, we will create definitive conversations on topics across business building and investing (hosted by me and several others). We want to become your favorite place to learn, and the place you start every search. What I promise is that we will always be seeking and probing and challenging ourselves out of our comfort zone, and then sharing what we learn with you all. We hope you’ll join us.
The Future, by Damian Brychcy
In June of this year, Patrick sent a note to his e-mail list saying there was an opportunity to join him to work on Invest Like the Best. I was a bit skeptical at first given my background as a lawyer and operating at a FinTech company. But I was extremely curious about what it might entail.
After a lengthy interview process that I was lucky enough to survive (and which included a surprise celebrity interviewer), Patrick and I sat down and looked at each other, asking…so, how exactly are we going to become the destination for investors, founders, and operators to learn the world’s best information on business building and investing in the most efficient way?
Becoming the Destination
Over the past ten years, there has been an explosion of content. The number of new podcasts, blogs, newsletters, and YouTube channels is staggering. While this content explosion has been incredible, it is now challenging to find and aggregate the best information.
Making things worse, search engines do a poor job searching across these new content formats. Books are too general and, without a personal recommendation, a high-risk bet. Newsletters are fantastic but exist in a vacuum and have no search between them. Twitter helps, but content recommendations are unorganized and mixed with other irrelevant material. No single tool is good enough.
We believe definitive conversations with the world’s best investors and operators paired with the best curated third-party content is the most impactful way to learn in the rapidly evolving landscape of business building and investing.
Starting today, we are releasing ultra-fast search capability across most of the 200+ Invest Like the Best and Founder's Field Guide episodes (with the rest to be completed soon) replete with full transcripts, show notes, artwork to bring the episodes to life, and links to all books, articles, audio, video, or products mentioned in the episode.
Using Colossus Search, you can enter any phrase, company, or person of interest and we will scan the hand-edited transcripts across every recorded episode and return results which narrow the episode list to those where your search term is mentioned, and order them based on how often your search term is discussed in the episode. You can even filter by episode category (e.g. the guest is a founder vs. an investor), and sort results by episode popularity.
Our original plan was to launch in 2021, with a broad set of features. But having built search, we decided to simply get it out, build in public, and rely on you, our extremely smart audience, to pull the most valuable features out of us.
Over the next few months, we will be releasing new podcasts with new hosts, adding features to make podcast listening and discovery even better, and working with you to make Colossus the destination to learn about business building and investing.
I cannot wait to build and learn with you.
Oh, and Why “Colossus?”
The name and logo are inspired by Tim Urban’s post on the history of human knowledge. In it, he refers to the growing tower of human knowledge as “the human colossus.” We are going to build a tower, too, adding units of knowledge every week, block by block. The Colossus—our collective knowledge—is what makes humans distinct as a species. It is the root of progress. It will be our constant reminder to add blocks to the tower ourselves, and to give others the tools to do so with us.