ACQ2: The Acquired Interviews

[on Uber’s Early Organizational Structure] “Uber always thought about it as a twin turbine plane: maybe for a short period of time, you could operate on one engine. But if you want to operate at full efficiency, you need both engines working in tandem and working effectively together.”  Brian Tolkin, (@briantolkin)

We’re super excited to be joined by Brian Tolkin, one of Uber’s first ~100 employees who built their “Product Ops” organization and then went on to lead Product Management for UberPOOL and all shared rides on the platform. We dive into the nitty gritty of how Uber built their “twin turbine” engine of decentralized real-world Ops and centralized Tech Product, and how the organization evolved as it scaled. We also cover Brian’s new role at OpenDoor, and the even tight ops + product coupling they’re building now in real estate.


Be sure to follow the Acquired Podcast:


Let People Know You’re An LP on Twitter!

Link to the Acquired LP show page

Links from the Show:

Stanford Venture Capital Club

Ben Evans: The End of the Beginning (video)

Lyft IPO (Acquired)

Pre-Meeting Narrative Example


Show Bookmarks:

[01:51] Brian’s backstory / “How I started at Uber”

[03:42] Uber’s Operating Model in its Early Stages

[06:29] Uber’s “Playbooking” aka Best Practice Sharing

[09:10] Uber’s Early Thesis on Product Market Fit

[13:30] Early Team Constructs and Focuses

[17:50] The Start of the Product & Ops Team

[21:10] “Platforms and Programs”

[24:21] The Product & Ops Team Today

[26:15] The Twin Turbine Plane

[28:03] Taking Uber Global

[31:37] UberPool

[36:28] Brian’s Move to OpenDoor


People Worth Knowing:

Ben Evans

Brian Tolkin

Jeff Holden

Travis Kalanick


Companies Mentioned in Episode:


Andreessen Horowitz

Cabulous (RideGuru)

DiDi (China)

Grab (SE Asia)


Hailo (London)

Ola (India)











Episode Specific Terms:

Bi-Directional Communication Gap

Centralized “Growth/Marketing/Funnel/Onboarding/Pricing” Teams

Decentralized Teams


Funnel Optimization

Highly Distributed (as an Operating Model)

Knowledge Base

Local and Viral Network Effects

Local Operations vs Centralized EPD


Platforms and Programs



Two-Pizza Teams

Uber Launch Team “Launchers”


Ben and David’s Affiliations:

Wave Capital, @WaveCapitalVC

Pioneer Square Labs, @psl

What is ACQ2: The Acquired Interviews?

ACQ2 is Ben and David's conversations with expert founders and investors. Acquired the stories of great companies — and ACQ2 dives deeper into the lessons we can learn from them, often with the protagonists themselves.