A cartoon of two men sitting at a table Description automatically generated

2023: Our Favorite Interviews

By : Jim Jonassen

As you might imagine, interviews play a pivotal role for an executive search firm like JJA.co. Between our five senior partners, I think it’s safe to say we’ve conducted over a million interviews in our practice of building leadership teams.

Learning how to dig beneath the surface – really get to know what makes someone tick, and the things that make them remarkable – is something of an art form. Which is one of the reasons every person on our team has become an unabashed podcast addict over the past few years.

Think of this curated collection as our holiday gift to you. All four of these selected, in-depth interviews come from podcasters we admire and follow. And although they all now qualify as news and tastemakers, I get the sense each is still constantly evolving and fine-tuning in the quest to nail that perfect interview.

Happy listening, and Happy New Year!

Links Up Front:

  1. Teddy Atlas: Mike Tyson, Cus D’Amato, Boxing, Loyalty, Fear & Greatness
    Lex Fridman Podcast #406
  2. Legendary Investor Bill Gurley on Investing Rules, Finding Outliers, Insights from Jeff Bezos and Howard Marks, Must-Read Books, Creating True Competitive Advantages, Open-Source Strategies, Adapting Mental Models to New Realities, and More
    The Tim Ferris Show #651
  3. Comparing the Dotcom Crash to Today With Tom Cowan Co-Founder, TDM Growth
  4. Acquired interviews Charlie Munger

Teddy Atlas: Mike Tyson, Cus D'Amato, Boxing, Loyalty, Fear & Greatness | Lex  Fridman Podcast #406 - YouTube

Lex Fridman Interviews Teddy Atlas

Lex is, without a doubt, one of my favorite interviewers in the podcast medium. In this amazing exchange, he teases out genuine pearls of wisdom from a philosopher of life’s mean streets. Be prepared to hit rewind and have a notepad handy.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Mike Tyson fight. He came out like a rhinoceros, while his opponents merely seemed like creatures who had annoyed the raging rhino. As I, like other boxing fans, double-clicked on the meteor that was Iron Mike, I was also fascinated by the style and tactics of Mike’s handler/trainer Teddy Atlas, along with Teddy’s legendary mentor and partner, Cus D’Amato. This is their story.

Lex himself describes the wild ride that is this interview. “It’s a story about loyalty, betrayal, fear, and greatness. It’s a story where nobody is perfect, and everybody is human. To summarize, in the early ’80s, young trainer, Teddy Atlas, worked with his mentor, Cus D’Amato, in training the young boxing protégé, now a boxing legend, Mike Tyson. Mike was a troubled youth, arrested over 40 times, and at age 15, he was sexually inappropriate with Teddy’s 11-year-old niece.”

And it gets wilder from there.

My favorite takeaway? The idea that you can’t really know who anyone is until you see them operate under pressure. As he put it, “Everyone’s going to be tested, you, me, everyone, because you don’t know about nobody until they’re tested.” He goes, “You know nothing until you know. Until something happens to test if they were really your friend.” 


Legendary Investor Bill Gurley on Investing Rules, Insights from Jeff  Bezos, Must-Read Books, & More - YouTube

Tim Ferris Interviews Bill Gurley

Ferris and Gurley. Does it get any better? As a product of the software/startup/venture capital ecosystem for over 30 years, I can say without hesitation that Bill Gurley is the GOAT at the intersection of those worlds. There are investors, and then there’s Gurley. There are VCs, and then there’s Gurley.

I first crossed paths with Bill in 1998 when he was a young, gangly 6’ 9” braces-wearing Associate at Hummer Winblad. He sat across from me as a first-time software company Founder/CEO while I delivered my first-ever VC pitch. Bill impressed me deeply, even then.

Tim Ferris is the definition of a Renaissance man. Author of The 4-Hour Work Week, Tribe of Mentors and other acclaimed bestsellers, Tim is my personal favorite interviewer of all time <full stop>. His show’s mission is to “deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use.”

Among the gems that Tim teases out of Bill in this interview: “If you’re starting a company because you think it’s going to be a good lifestyle, holy shit. You’re in for a rude awakening.” The highlight for me was his billboard, “Be Less Tribal!” Just hit that subscribe button and enjoy.


Comparing the Dotcom Crash to Today (with Tom Cowan from TDM): The Complete  History and Strategy

Acquired Interviews TDM Growth

Admittedly, I’d never heard of TDM Growth, Tom Cowan or the Acquired.FM podcast before a long-time friend strongly recommended this particular episode. As in the other two pods, the Acquired co-hosts have proven to be brilliant interviewers. They know how to get their guests comfortable, then allow them to weave their story while sharing the best of what they’ve learned from experiences along the way. The probing, open-ended questions seem designed to highlight the guests themselves, not the interviewers’ own success or prowess.

As I listened to this interview, I discovered that, like Gurley and Benchmark’s investing and company-building ethos and playbook, TDM was literally a new asset class to this reporter. TDM is Growth Equity meets Berkshire Hathaway value investing with a healthy dose of Gurley-style advisory/company building/leadership coaching thrown in.

TDM, founded nearly two decades ago in Australia, has compounded a single, private pool of capital at–wait for it–26% per annum. TDM recently published a memo comparing the current “post ZIRP bubble” market with what happened in the years following both the dot-com crash and the GFC in 2008. Like Berkshire, TDM are public market investors. They are true quants who actually take years (not days) to get to know a company’s leadership before investing a cent. Then, like Gurley, they go deep on creating value through real work product.

The current downturn in tech and private capital has found me trying to compare it to the aftermath of prior bubble-bursts as a way to better anticipate what might come next. This interview offers some brilliantly explained data and useful insights.


A person in a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

Acquired Interviews Charlie Munger

Naturally, I subscribed to Acquired.FM immediately after the TDM deep dive. And I’m not alone: this incredible show boasts half a million listeners, and has been ranked the #1 technology show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. With individual episodes running 3-4 hours, you might think today’s attention-challenged audiences would tune out in favor of more quick-fix, empty-calorie fare. Of course, you’d be dead wrong.

So, when I heard that co-hosts Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal had done a show with Charlie Munger, there was only one rational response: put everything else on hold until I could devour this interview whole. Here’s how the Acquired team describes the episode:

“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 and advice for investors today, and of course he shared his speech on the virtues of Costco once again (among other favorite investments). We’re so glad that we got the opportunity to record and share this with you all — break out your notebooks, tune in, and enjoy the singular wit and wisdom of Charlie Munger.”

As we now know, Charlie did not make it to his centennial birthday, passing away just weeks after this interview. On a personal note, this man had become a real touchstone for me over the years. I’d savored his wisdom in several of Berkshire’s annual letters to shareholders, listened to him speak at a few conferences and gleaned every brilliant observation I could from dozens of appearances on business newscasts.

Another of Charlie’s disciples was Chinese hedge funder Li Lu, whom Munger trusted to invest a sizeable chunk of his family’s fortune. Lu earned Charlie roughly 400% return on his original $90 million investment. Lu’s eulogy to his mentor was a beautiful send-off, capturing Munger’s unshakable ability to conduct himself morally within a capitalist system. We can each benefit from his example.



Hey – my name may be on the byline, but the ideas I share are always the product of a team effort. JJA.CO is on a mission to raise the bar in high-stakes executive search. We approach life like an open-source project, driven by the belief that there’s always a better way. Sign up for our free newsletter, The Executive Summary, on our LinkedIn page. To get the scoop on our invite-only curated events where we convene top Founders, Funders, and Showrunners from the local innovation ecosystem, visit ThursdayNights.org.