Pulling the Thread with Tren Griffin – [Invest Like the Best, EP.87]

My guest this week is a bundle of curiosity, and that is one of the nicest things I could say about someone. For several years, Tren Griffin has been writing a weekly blog post that highlights things he has learned from various investors, businesspeople, musicians, comedians, and more. Lately, he has also been tackling individual businesses, and broad topics like scaling, competitive forces, and product market fit.

Tren’s full-time job is serving as a director at Microsoft. He’s also worked with or for several well known businesspeople and investors like Craig McCaw, and written several books including one on lessons for entrepreneurs, one on Charlie Munger, and another on negotiation.

We discuss value creation vs. value capture, alpha in investing, sales, hip-hop, and why he’d teach high school students about convexity through a drunk driving analogy. I could have talked to Tren for much longer than I did, but sadly, we both had flights to catch.

If you take anything away from this, I hope its just how much fun it is to just be curious about business, and how you can learn a tremendous amount if you just keep reading about the things that interest you and talking to others. Please enjoy my conversation with Tren Griffin.

 

Show Notes

2:26 – (First question) –  key levers of the universal business model

4:26 – How do you know when you’ve achieved real value creation

6:24 – Importance of value capture and how they enhance value creation

6:31 – Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

9:08 – Price power

10:28 – Are discussions of moats more useful to businesses than to investors

13:12 –  What Tren learned during his early years working with Craig McCaw

16:28 – The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success

16:36 – The skill of capital allocation

18:37 – How would Buffett and Munger bet on tech if they were starting out today and their philosophy of betting against change

21:57 – How Tren became so fascinated with Charlie and what he’s learned from him

22:32 – The Alchemy of Finance

23:17 – Damn Right: Behind the Scenes with Berkshire Hathaway Billionaire Charlie Munger

23:19 – Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger

25:21 – Most memorable moment or lesson from Charlie

28:19 – There are more pockets of Alpha

19:20 – How he thinks about factor investing

31:25 – What are the scalability features that make a business attractive

31:28 – A Dozen Attributes of a Scalable Business

35:37 – Exploring some of the other important levers of businesses, such as subscriptions, customer acquisition cost, and more.

36:20 – Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

37:11 – Wholesale transfer pricing

39:18 – Pros and cons of subscription business models

43:14 – Magic of getting products distributed

44:58 – Best sale Tren’s ever made

46:46 – Most important lesson for young people

49:01 – Any businesses that are piquing Tren’s interest right now

50:16 – Tren’s interest in hip-hop and how it helps him reach more people

53:49 – A look at some interesting quotes from Jim Barksdale

58:22 – Learning by doing

1:00:48 – Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

1:01:06 – Period of his career that he felt most alive

1:03:03 – Advice for young people thinking about business and entrepreneurship

1:04:56 – Why are so few people passionate about what they do for a living

1:10:44 – Kindest thing anyone has done for Tren