Julian wood is a Senior Developer Advocate for the Serverless Product Group at AWS. We discuss lots of great stuff around the serverless platforms, transforming IT (yes Digital Transformation is real) and transitioning careers and methods from “traditional” Ops to new was of operating your environment.
Over the past three decades, Don W Long has founded/co-founded six different companies his most recent which was in the top 1,000 companies in the United States in that particular industry.
He is the author of three books The Blueprint of God and the international bestselling book Sell or Don’t Eat and joins us for a discussion on his latest book God’s Blueprint for Nations and we delve into the power of mentoring and community on growing ourselves and our businesses.
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Warren Shaeffer is the CEO and founder of Knowable, the world’s first audio learning platform for the podcast generation. Warren and his team are truly rethinking and reinventing learning with not only how they are delivering content but in how he shares personal and business lessons to help the future entrepreneurs build and succeed.
This was a real enjoyable and in-depth chat on the science of learning, building a startup, and making what Warren perfectly describes as nutritious content for the mind.
Hey everybody, welcome to the DiscoPosse podcast. My name is Eric, Wright. I’m going to be your host. And this is a fantastic episode by somebody who I’ve been so lucky to actually connect and then since reconnect with this has been really cool to see a lot of stuff going on in this ecosystem. So we’re going to be here in a second from Warren Schaeffer. But before we get into that, I want to give a huge shout out to our fans, friends and supporters and our sponsors, this podcast, including Veeam software.
I say this because I’m a user of the platform. I really enjoy the team and the way that they approach the challenge and dealing with the way that we have to back up and protect our data.
Now, this includes everything from your on premises, environment, physical servers, virtual servers, up to your apps, out to the cloud, and in fact, even cloud native backups beyond that, actually. What about that SaaS? Don’t forget, if you’ve got seven Office 365 Microsoft teams, it’s not actually protected.
Definitely easy to make a mistake. And in fact, let’s not even talk about ransomware and all the other craziness that can go on. So if you want to find out more about everything you need for your data protection needs, then you want to talk to the folks at VM, go to vee.am/discoposse they’ll take your right to a page and you can actually check it out for yourself again. Go to vee.am/discoposse
Also super happy to see that we’ve had great uptake from the book. This is something that I’ve built and shared out and I got really good peer review feedback and in fact I got lots of customer review feedback. So thank you very much everybody who has downloaded and bought the book. If you want to learn about the four step guide to delivering extraordinary software demos that teaches you how to better connect with people, they make sure you can engage with customers, prospective customers and how to really tell a story and get people emotionally invested in the ability for your platform or product to be able to solve a problem.
This is great for product marketers, for folks that are in technical sales. Definitely something that I’ve been very happy has had a really good response. And if you want to find out more about that, you can easily go to the landing link for that one, which is velocity closing. So we go to velocityclosing.com. It’ll take you right to the four step guide and look for some really cool, neat stuff coming up around rebranding and a neat new thing I’m doing with a company called RapidMatter.
And now let’s jump right into the Good Stuff, which is Warren Shaeffer.
So Warren is the CEO and founder of Knowable, which is an audio learning platform that is really and truly trying to reinvent and rethink the way we do learning through an audio engagement. Really, really cool. So Warren’s just a fantastic human, somebody who had a great conversation with and like I said, I’ve been lucky enough to reengage with him in a couple of other forums and stuff enjoyable on clubhouse as well as Twitter spaces recently.
So Warren is really prolific and he and his whole team are doing some really, really neat stuff. You’re going to want to check out Knowable as well. They’ve got courses from Scott Kelly. They got course from Alexis Ohanian, startup founder of Reddit, an investor. Anyways, so much to talk about it, but check it out. And here is Warren Schaeffer.
Hi, I’m Warren Shaeffer. I’m the co-founder and the CEO of Noble. We’re an audio first learning platform. You’re listening to DiscoPosse.
You’re listening to today’s days, the. And with that, we begin, Warren, thank you very much. This is definitely one of the areas that I really enjoyed being able to get into. I’ve long time it often, obviously, as a podcast or of audio, as an opportunity to get into people’s daily lives.
And when I got winds that you are going to be able to join the show. I was really excited because knowable is really cool.
But before we jump into we’ll talk about knowable. We’ll talk about a lot more. Let’s talk about you. You’ve got such an incredible storied history. But for folks that don’t already know you just give yourself a quick introduction and we’ll we’ll get rolling.
Well, first off, Eric, thanks for having me on the show. Really excited to be here. I will give you the quick background. I grew up in Southern California. I’m a first generation American. My parents immigrated a couple of years before I was born from communist Romania and landed in an Orange County of all places. And I went to Harvard for undergrad. When I was a teenager. I got introduced to audiobooks and I, I think I’d like to say before they were even cool on tape.
And and so that is what led me to eventually want to start knowable, which is an audio first learning company. As I mentioned, the top after Harvard, I spent a few years working in finance. I worked for a big bank in New York, JP Morgan, and then I worked for a private equity firm on the investing side in San Francisco. And I moved back to L.A. to be closer to family, teamed up with my current co-founder, Alex, and we ran two companies together, Nobilis, our third company.
We were a venture backed company. We launched about a year ago. And I’m happy to talk about any of it.
Yeah. And so there’s just little I could do a podcast on any one of the things you just talked about and easily fill a long and good hour, but we’ll kind of cover as much as we can.
So you you talked about your first start and your three time founder. And my guess is that there was probably even a lot more that happened before that.
But let’s talk about knowable and what you and the team are doing there, and then we’ll kind of start to go backwards in time as to what led up to that where you are today. Yeah, so as I mentioned, I’ve been lucky to work with the same co-founder across a few different businesses, and when we exited our last product, Badme, which which got a quarter of a jiffy, we thought about what we long and hard about what we wanted to do next.
And we had this list of one hundred different company ideas from everything from men’s skincare products to vinyl records to you name it.
And at the end of the day, we looked at ourselves and thought, what do we really believe is important to the world today? What’s going to sustain us for at least a decade of arguably some of the best years of our life and some of those productive years of our lives? And Alex, my co-founder, his father was a professor at Caltech. And both of us have seen firsthand how a great teacher can have a huge impact on the trajectory of somebody’s life.
And so we gravitated towards this idea of education. And there’s this great quote by H.G. Wells, who’s a sci fi writer. And in nineteen twenty nearly a century ago, he wrote that history is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe. And I think that’s more true than ever today. There’s so much information in the world, but a lot of people aren’t getting access to useful knowledge that they can apply in their life. So we really built we really went into the idea of this venture as what can we do in the education space?
It’s going to be interesting and actionable and helpful to the world at large. So when we looked at the space, though, we saw that pretty much every player was focused on video masterclass due to me, Skillshare, even YouTube. Right. All predicated on this idea that if you want to learn in a structured way, you have to stare at a screen in order to do so. I become a new father and my time was short and I realized I don’t have time to sit down and watch these lengthy video courses.
But I do have a lot of audio time. And same with Alex when we were both listening to a lot of podcasts and there was sort of this aha moment of, well, what if we made an audio first learning platform and we dug deeper and we realized that the number one reason that people say they listen to podcasts is because they want to learn new things. And yet there was no company which had established itself as the place for good for you audio.
So we’re building knowable to be that place.
And it’s it’s such a it’s always interesting when you hear the story and like the most people, the first thing I think is like of course, like it makes sense, but there is very much it’s a it’s a leap to get into an area because like you said, we’ve we have this sort of sensation in society.
That video is the way in which we learn we have to visually and aurally engage. But the truth as it really is, like more and more, that’s what I find.
I mean, especially I live I’ve got two young kids, and so I walk around our four and one and a half and I’ve got a 19 year old and a 17 year old. So I got a whole range.
So I don’t have the older ones. They I listen to podcast because they don’t want to talk with me and then the young ones because they can’t wait to get back.
But the really fun part of it is that I’d be putting my youngest daughter to bed and, you know, just walking around with her and I would just pop on an audio book. And I was listening to book after book over the course of a couple of months.
And and it became a real good way.
And that helped to really influence a lot of my day to day stuff because I was picking up, like you said, it’s like I was picking up lessons. I was learning about how people founded businesses and engage with people.
And it really helped to either reinforce stuff or pick up, you know, new new ways of doing things.
And I look so talk about first of all, the methodology is fantastic, right? They say audio is effectively this Gutenberg revolution now in what we can do around engaging with people.
But you’ve not only said we’re going to do this as a methodology, but you’ve really immediately reached out and got some fantastic people involved as far as the content.
So when I’m curious, sort of when you thought about yours, here’s a method, then we’ve got to think about the technology, then we’ve got to think about what we put in this platform. How did that all kind of come to fruition as you started the design phase?
Like everything, it’s a work in progress and a trial by fire. So take look, we took our best guess and really the the mission statement is let’s go and find really, really enthusiastic teachers and encourage them to share their inside knowledge, the lessons that could really change the trajectory of somebody’s life. So, for instance, we’ve got a course, our pilot course, as launch a startup, and it’s led by Alexis Ohanian, who’s the co-founder of Reddit and has gone on to become an investor at Initialize Capital and now seven, seven, six capital.
And he’s he’s really had a front seat over the past 15 years to some of the most transformative companies that have been built in our in our country and world and. What we did was we really question to say, what’s the stuff that you wish you knew when you were starting out as an entrepreneur? And and so that’s an example of somebody who we’re just so excited to have. We also have a course on speaking with confidence. And that’s led by Celeste Headlee.
She’s an NPR host and she also has one of the top ten TED talks of all time. And it’s on the subject of communication. And so she’s written books on the subject to communications, is truly lived and breathed How to be a Better Communicator. And she shared similar similar things. She shares exactly what she knows and and all the inside things that she learned over a decade plus of expertize in the field. So it’s a little bit manual in the beginning, but we’re we’re kind of slowly and gradually opening up the marketplace to allow other people to share their inside knowledge.
And, you know, the beauty of audio is that you can find an audience that there’s lower production costs. Right.
So somebody who has expertize can with the right tools, I’m sure that knowledge with a lot of people at the right time when you get into it’s funny that I’ve only just recently started to add video to the elements of the podcast purely on the YouTube side, because it’s you know, people have said it’d be kind of neat.
And, you know, I’ve made the choice to give it a whirl.
And for the most part, it’s definitely audio is is the strongest format. And it’s so much easier to do because you can just have a microphone. You don’t worry about a perfect room set up like it’s if I took a picture of the room surrounding me, it probably horrified by how it looks just because it’s I’ve got a dedicated studio, which is right next to my very small children during the day. So clearly a bad place to try and do a very tight recording, especially when you just get knocked on the door going, Daddy, why are you in there as well with young kids?
You know you know, finding time that’s dedicated is a is a challenge unto itself as it is.
Yes, certainly. It should be a noble cause just on that.
Well, and so and the other thing, too, is I I noticed that you also recently did kind of an AMA style where you’re you’re engaging with folks and and I love that you led with this thing of like, well, this could influence ultimately a course on, you know, startup founding.
And so it’s not just that you’re going with, like, pure produced content, but you have a real opportunity in that you can kind of test things out and then, you know, work it into a course from there, which is which is pretty cool. How did that one come to, you know, your mind when you were thinking, all right, let’s just let’s give this a whirl?
Yeah. I’m glad you asked about that, Eric. I actually listen to a course called Branding for Founders. That’s unknowable. And it features a couple of guys who started Robinhood Surtaxes newsletter, and they really had this statement but stuck out, which is people follow people. They don’t follow brands. Right. At the end of the day, Elon Musk has way more followers than Tesla does. And that’s just because we’re all humans.
We we care about the story of the person behind the company and said that that was sort of an aha moment for me where I realized I should really put myself out there more and and be you know, I’m so enthusiastic about what we’re building available. I use the product. I get so much value from it. And so why not share that enthusiasm directly with people? And so so I started to become more active on Twitter over the past few months.
And I’ve just seen so much value from building and learning and teaching in public. And and I think when you. Bring people into your process, they become more invested and excited, and it’s just so much more. Fruitful and and cumulative when multiple people are sharing their input as you build, so, yeah, what you mentioned is yesterday I just said, hey, I’m thinking of doing this course I’m fundraising. I’ve been fortunate to raise over a million dollars from top investors in Silicon Valley.
And I want to share everything I’ve learned in this course. And again, that same premise and what do I wish I knew when I was starting out? But why don’t you join me for a live presentation? It’s going to be a dry run. It’s not going to be flawless and perfectly rehearsed. But that way I can also answer questions live. I can get I can hear what people are curious about, what people are confused about, and that will inform the course.
And also it will help me generate interest from people up top. So I’m a huge fan of this this direction. And I think it’s something we’re going to be doing a lot more of where we talk to people live and then in the process, crystallize what the course should be about.
Yeah, it’s it’s definitely such a it’s the real multimedia approach in that you can have the the structured, you know, formal, you know, like read and edited, you know, ultimate course. But then in the meantime you get the off the cuff stuff with the albums and the Ozz. But it’s a real conversation that you’re effectively being a part of.
And the fact that can be interactive as well is so cool because, you know, and it’s I I did one myself. I just did a small, you know, e-book to talk about how to better engage with people through doing technical demos. So it was a thing I hear every day. I’m Lillian calls all the time.
And I’m like, OK, look, we got a teacher in the box, right? Yeah. And so I said, OK, fine. I said I Wrage wrote the book. I spent like four days just like hammering out content. Yeah.
And then I did it and then I did the audio book for it and then I, I do now I’m actually doing these kind of in that style of like, you know, monthly Amma’s where like just invite people on and because then we can say, OK, let’s actually talk about it, because even the audio book or like the straight course, I don’t want to do a full form chorus until I know what’s actually resonating from the content.
So it’s I love that interactivity and I love that you’ve taken a real choice to to go that route, think they’re like, yeah, I love that phrase.
Wrage wrote, I am looking I, I, I felt so inspired after I did the flight yesterday and I thought, oh I really want to turn this new book and I really want to have this crystallize and have the audio format in the courts from the video format, because there are this multimedia, there’s this realization that just different people want different formats.
And so I think that I’m so curious how you to hear more about the book and where did you publish it?
Oh, yeah, that was a neat thing. So the there’s actually a platform called Sam Kart and it was funny. It was literally like, this is proof that Instagram advertising works.
And it was one of these things where it’s effectively like kind of a one page funnel style of of hosting platform takes care of everything. But they actually had a full, full course on like how to actually build a compelling, you know, the pitch, you know, how to actually build your content.
They have a really, really great course.
So I’m and I said, OK, I’m in, I’ll do this thing, you know?
And it was funny. When you go through it, you realize this methodology is obviously widely used and they’re just one place to go. So I but they actually have the hosting for it. I used a company called Beacon for the publishing, so I just wrote the content self, published their beacon and then publishes a PDF and then hosted on Sam Card. So it’s a fairly low lift.
You know, once I did it because I’ve written stuff before, it was a little easier because I knew what the editing process and what the publishing process was. So for a first timer, it would probably be a little bit more daunting. I was lucky enough to have been through the mill with O’Reilly Media and a few other publishing companies.
So but yes, it was fun because I have said, OK, what’s the what’s the short version? You know, I didn’t want to go through this like super like 200 page manual of of things. I said let’s just hammered out and make it fun.
And that’s why I like I did the audio book, too. I was like, OK, let me just read my own book. It was actually kind of funny to do this. I’m sitting there like looking at my own content, reading it back like, oh, that sounds like it’s me.
And where did that where did that where did you put the audiobook? That’s actually the next one. So I, I definitely did not research well on how to do this is the best way today. I actually just like literally send it directly to subscribers when they buy the book. It’s actually part of the bundle. So I Lilium sending empathy’s around but I’m investigating, you know where to host it because you know I’d rather have a place where they can go and then individually, you know, just grab the audio book and then get the associated PDF so you can kind of come at it whichever way you you wanted to be.
I know where you can put it. You put it unknowable. I think. I know. A good place to go. I was and it was funny, I was actually researching the like how to become a contributor and so I to be able to put my name alongside of the likes of Scott Kelly and Alexis Ohanian, I would be I would be honored to be among this crowd and and you like.
So platform is amazing. What you’re doing is really solid. Like you’re really this is a great way to give back and empower people through a format that’s is just a really great opportunity.
Obviously, you put a lot into this, it’s your third startup, so I’m going to go way back in the Wayback Machine and I’m going to imagine that you were probably a young person and you had an idea long before most people would think that it’s a good time to start a business.
No one’s a three time founder. There are 12 time founder and even venture funded.
So entrepreneurship is part of your in your bloodstream, I’m betting.
That’s right. Yeah. I mean. I as a kid, my first experience with making money was the classic lemonade stand, and we put one there was basically this one artery into this residential neighborhood and we put a lemonade stand on one side and then we realized, oh, we should have a lemonade stand on the other side so we can kick people when they come and when they go. And then we ended up, my friend and I, my friend had a younger sister and we basically employed her to run the rival lemonade stand across the street, across the artery.
And and then we just hired some more of her friends. And that was my first foray into scaling a company. And it was really exciting. And I think I’ve had that itch since since I was a kid.
I really like the Howard Schultz of lemonade stands monopolized by competing quarters. Yeah. How you’re doing. Lemonade stand on every corner. You’ve got to catch them on the driver’s side. You’ve got to catch the side. It’s all well.
And it’s it’s very interesting. And even when you talked about, you know, you’ve effectively got a founding team that that you and your your founding partner work with. And it was neat when you describe that you like we said, OK, we’re ready. I’ve got like 200 ideas. Which one should we go with? So the one thing is, it’s not about what you do. It’s about what you do. You’re always iterating. You’re always like you must always be thinking.
And then how do you actually sift it down to what, you know, needs to can actually potentially do this or to zero to one opportunity or whatever however you want to describe it?
Like, which is where do you put your focus when you have all of these ideas?
It’s a huge question. I don’t think there’s I don’t think I have a super simple answer for it, but I will I’ll take a guess at it, which is I think I’ve had the realization and probably too late in life is that you don’t actually want to focus on your solution. You want to focus on a problem that you’re passionate about solving. To that. To me, that was and that’s really the aha. Moment that for for this business was look, we don’t know exactly what the right format is for education.
The end all be all solution. Right. But we do know that we want we see an opportunity to improve, to unlock learning time for people around the world. Right. And so that problem, this idea of, oh, I want to keep learning, I want nutritious content in my brain, but I don’t have time.
I’m a busy parent. I’m a busy entrepreneur. I’m a busy nurse or doctor. Right. That that’s that feels like a really big, tangible problem. And so starting with the problem that you have and that other people have, I think that’s the truest way to to find clarity on whether it’s an idea that you want to work on. Right. So start with the problem. Don’t start with the solution. You said something really interesting, and I love this phrase, nutritious content for the brain.
That’s probably not the first time you said that. What when you thought about this, what was? Because what was the first thing you thought? This is what I would love to be a host, a platform for.
Yeah, I love there are a lot of podcasts that I love. And I went around the time when, you know, a little was birth. I was listening to a lot of how I built this episode with Guy Raz. He’s a great interviewer and show. Yeah, great show. And he interviews founders with amazing stories. But I realized that that show doesn’t teach anyone how to actually become an entrepreneur. There is no tactical advice on how do you find a co-founder?
How do you select an idea? How do you meet a venture capitalist? How do you hire a lawyer? Which lawyers you hire? There’s none of that. And so what felt missing was this useful knowledge is applicable or actionable knowledge. And that’s that to me felt urgent. And I think it comes down to that problem statement. Look, if you’re busy, you don’t have time to sift through hundreds of episodes of every podcast, even though there might be great and fun to listen to.
You want you want the essence. You want it to be boiled down into what can I take from this that I can go apply to my own life, that can change the trajectory of my life in a positive way. And it’s it’s very interesting. Yeah, and the idea of distilling down, you know, meaningful stuff and it’s in fact, one of the areas I’m looking at right now is like, how do I distill out all of these amazing lessons that have been collected over the years, you know, now in the podcast.
But there’s a lot of really cool conversation wrapped around. It won’t make it into book form, like unless you’re Kevin Smith and you go and you just take the smart cast and you put it into a written form. That’s all well and good.
But I think he had the audience and they effectively would have you know, he could have effectively published most anything and it would have been well received just because he had such a really sort of loving audience that was ready to receive any of the content.
It was great content. And he was, you know, Tim Ferriss have a similar style that let’s just transcribe what we’ve got.
But I love this idea of like founders at work. That was the other one as well, which is a great, great book. And it was effectively long form interviews that were then and the same group of questions were asked. Yeah.
And they were put into and it was that sort of style, like you said, one of it’s not just talk about the success stories, like let’s actually talk about the the ways, the methods, the lessons, like actual actionable things.
Yeah, there’s way too many like oh it just works, you know, or it was really hard to write what was really hard, what worked. I’m not I’m not richer for having listen to this thing.
You just told me that you had a problem. I don’t know how you got through it.
Yeah. Yeah. I think it’s and it’s really common, right. When at the end of the journey, it’s hard to remember all the details and and the practicalities. Right. It gets glossed over and repackaged. And that’s, you know, Hero’s Journey story that doesn’t always mirror the actual nitty gritty of, you know, what was involved. Yeah.
It’s like the Dick Wolf who’s there to the creator of all the Law and order franchises. He says, like, great drama is when you take all the boring bits out and compress the rest down to an hour.
Totally. Right. You don’t see them go to the bathroom or eat a sandwich like that just doesn’t happen. There’s no time for that.
What’s interesting is actually, if you if you watch a law and order which has done far too much of in my life, what if you look at it every time you hear the countdown is a date at the bottom on the screen.
If you actually look at it, it shows that these basically elapsed over like 18 months, which shows you really. But it’s so subdued in like subliminal almost in the way that it’s done.
You think it’s happening all at once? Yeah, like it’s happening over a week, but it’s actually OK like 11 months, right?
Every time it takes too long. Yeah, right.
There may be the first forty eight, but they don’t tell you about the other four thousand nine hundred and twenty two, which is really where the the work happens to get it right.
So the, the other interesting thing too was you ledwith talking about being a first, you know, you know, first time born, you know, in the US and and you talked about your your family’s history and where they came from since that that led the discussion and the way you described yourself.
It must be important in kind of how you see the way you come to the world. Yeah, I I think that’s a good observation. I think founders come in all shapes and forms and all ages and all backgrounds, but there’s a unifying characteristic that I’ve seen great founders have, which is that they had grit. They have this desire to overcome obstacles, and often they’ll see challenges as opportunities. I think that’s really a characteristic. I think a lot of immigrants and first generation and maybe even second Asian-Americans have that sense of grit and still where things you don’t expect things to come easy.
And and so that, I think, has shaped my lens of the world in many ways.
And certainly how I think about building a business do it’s always funny that you hear the amazing stories of our grandparents and parents who, you know, as they came to the country, you always hear these stories of literally you’re getting on a boat with like 12 dollars in their pocket. You know, people would do right now if they had 12 dollars in their pocket.
They got on a boat, they’d go to the Starbucks and they would spend eight of those 12 dollars it.
And yet it’s so it’s so interesting that, you know, when you’re close to it, you see so many of these stories.
But in the broader sense of how many people are, you know, either founders or even more so distill it down to successful founders and are able to go through that facing adversity.
And like, if you’re anybody that tells you, you know, I’ve got this great idea and I’m going to make a business out of it, most people tell you it’s a pretty fundamentally terrible idea.
Like it’s not the ideas bad, but making a business out of it is not going to be. There’s nothing easy about this.
You know, the.
Yeah, I think the that’s also why I like you said, you know, let’s actually go through some of those stories and and get further into where it works, where it doesn’t.
Yeah. So how many lessons when you were thinking entrepreneurial and then you chose you went to Harvard. When you were going to Harvard, this is also one of the other sort of like hero stories we always hear is the, you know, the founder that goes to Harvard and then leaves or whatever, like there’s all sorts of stories about, you know, whether you should or shouldn’t go to university.
You know, how does it inform your future in entrepreneurship?
I’m curious, Warren, as you went, you made the choice to go and then when you came out, you got into investments and venture. What was your mindset on either side of the university experience? I don’t think when I went to college, there was so in vogue to think about not going to college, I think that’s becoming more that’s a more recent topic of discussion. I my parents went through a lot of financial difficulty and actually ended up living with friends for four 1/2 of high school.
And I was fortunate to to win over thirty thousand dollars in scholarships and get really generous financial aid to to go to Harvard. So it was. I hadn’t really entered my mind to not go to college, and I sort of had this road map in mind, which was I knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial or something creative or both, and but I wanted to drink and have, you know, make some money early in life, be able to invest it and compound it and then take a quote unquote, risk a little bit later.
So I don’t know exactly when that game plan got for me that I think I read a lot of books and I think I probably came across some book that basically showed me the value of compounding money. If you’re 20 versus when you’re 30. Right. You’re going to put some money in the stock market. When you’re 20 versus 30, it can be triple. You know what it’s worth when you want to retire. So that that is how I sort of hedged, I guess, my my life risk and.
It’s telling in the way you described it as well, that you drink before you take on risk, and that’s another successful founders sort of lesson in what I’ve talked to a lot of folks is that most of founding and operating a company is spent in continuously drinking the environment.
That’s right. Yeah. And the faster you can drink, the better. And this is something that it’s so hard. And even for me and my staff to continue learn, this is and this is going back to why build a course in public. Right. You want to get validation super fast. Before I spend six months making a course on raising some money, let me see if anybody even cares if I’m getting free. And it’s like, will anyone join?
And, you know, look, 250 people signed up. And that was a really strong signal to me, like, wow, there’s real demand here for this topic so that the faster you can be risk, the better, whether it’s financially or intellectually. I think that’s a great heuristic to look for. And obviously, you were definitely in the risk and risk business when you got into the investment side coming at a school, so taking on risk at scale, you jumped right in.
You know what? What was that early part of it, you know, as you now could take the successes of what you’re effectively what your family gave you, you know, this this heart to do this thing. And now here you are. You can you can said you won, you worked to get scholarships. You got through this. Now, you know, the side must have been a pretty proud thing, but also a fairly daunting task to take on.
Right. That you are suddenly OK. We did it. Now what what was that like on the other side now when you got into the investment world?
Yeah. So when you say I did it, are you referring to getting a job in finance or what?
Yeah. Yeah, just like that. You literally pushed right through versus you know, you know, you didn’t take a journeyman’s job and then just choose to ride it out until retirement.
You you went right into an area where you you could pretty much affect the outcome, which is again, sort of a bold, you know, choice in that you knew you were taking on risk.
But, you know, you obviously had both sides of it. In your mind.
Are you saying the decision to leave finance, to go work and you and your finances, as did that route, like you got right into the game? Oh, yeah, money.
I mean, I think, you know, I. I really again, it goes back to this idea of drinking to take risk. I really thought, well, this is a great opportunity to learn some hard skills, no matter what finances is the underbelly of any venture. So and coming out of a liberal arts college, I thought it’d be great to have that practical, tangible skill of knowing how to financial model and understand thinking about investing and really what investing is.
It’s maximizing rewards and minimizing risks. And and when you extrapolate that out of finance, you realize that basically every decision is an investment decision. You have a limited amount of time and attention and you have to decide where to invest it. Right. And the people who think about investing their time versus spending their time, those are the people who end up being really successful because those little micro decisions compound. Right. So if you spend time, you’re basically doing something where you’re not learning, you’re not adding value to anyone else.
You’re not really treating yourself your body in a healthy way. That’s time spent. If you’re investing time, you’re there reading or learning. You’re writing, you’re teaching, you’re meeting somebody new. Those are things that accumulate and compound. So, I mean, I think you go back to your question. The risky thing to me, I realized, was. And I got this because I read a lot of books was ending up at the end of life and and wishing I had taken done something else and tried.
And this is such a cliche now, but it’s so important that people know that most people on their death bed, they regret the things they didn’t do, the things that they didn’t try. And so I knew that I would regret not taking a chance and that I would actually be risky not to take a quote unquote risk by going and trying something different. And like that, I like that thought process, it’s it’s tough for us, I think, as humans to look far forward and then regret is such a driver.
You know, you look at all of the work around the heuristics and behavioral economics, and one of the biggest drivers is regret. You know, we will make decisions.
We will do make choices wholly based on our sense of potential regret, more so than the value that we would get at it. But we are much more driven by the wish that we had something, which is why when you make bets and you know, you look at the sort of works of conmen and Tversky, yeah, so much of it was wrapped around this pervasive effect that Regrette has on human decision making.
Yeah, I mean, the whole field of behavioral economics that they pioneered is so powerful. And once you once you become aware of these cognitive limitations, you can work around them. Right. Because I don’t like loss aversion and sunk costs and confirmation bias. I mean, that’s a that’s a great book. Or I mean, I read the Michael Lewis Oh, The Undoing project. That is so good. Yeah. Story.
I wept like a baby at the end of it when when I won’t give the spoiler but is just such a beautiful human story.
I’ve, I studied it was a fine as I had studied a lot of of cornerman Tversky and sort of pinker and a lot of I was very deep into that game on self study for a long time. Yeah. I when I got the Michael Lewis book I was like, oh wow, this totally makes sense now.
Such a profound, just emotional story about how they approached it.
And it’s funny that, you know, they were it didn’t make sense that it even happen that the fact that here we are, a behavioral psychologist that would win a Nobel Prize for economics.
And yet we think it’s standard game these days, right?
Totally. Yeah. I was everyone. It was up until then it was, oh, people are rational. Oh, no, no. We’re very far from it.
Fairly far from it. In fact, we’re predictably irrational.
Oh, so funny now. This is interesting as well, you know, there’s a lot of sort of timing that works out and being able to bring a business, you know, and obviously the technology’s there to do this and knowable has such a great opportunity.
So bringing knowledge and, you know, nutritive brain injections effectively in an attention economy, you know, how do you approach things knowing that you are effectively fighting for a cohesive time blocks in somebody’s day? Great question.
Yeah. Our our vision statement, our why the reason for being a company is we want to live in a world. I want to live in a world where daily actionable learning is as addictive as social media is today. And so we know that, look, social media is so addictive. It is it’s weaponized distraction. And we want to push the bounds of of how people spend and invest their time, because it’s so easy for people to spend their time on social media to just end up scrolling.
And, you know, there’s a lot of benefits to the platform, but so many people just get sucked in and end up consuming and and not taking knowledge and applying it and actually improving their lives. So we think a lot about how do we use those behavioral psychology hacks that social media platforms are using to make mobile more addictive. And look, we’re in the early days of our product development, but we think things like streak’s and habits and social pressure, that’s all getting built into the product to really create this atmosphere of, hey, when I go to knowable, I know that I’m doing something good for myself and it’s also fun and feel good.
I get that reward right. You probably read some of the habit books like Atomic Habits are Right. Expect to have a reward is so important to talk to creating a habit. And so that’s something that we’re working on, building more into the product so that you’re not just doing it for them, but for the knowledge sake, but because there is some productize gamification and makes you feel invested and good in the process. Yeah.
And the the the real truth of the they call it the click were like it’s the thing that just gets triggered, you know, of like these are their behavioral things that are baked into us and using it for positive results, which is which is interesting.
Like they said when we describe it, we talk about time spent in social media, how much time you’re spending in social media. No one says how much time are you investing in social media?
They know it is spending purely I mean, look, it’s like any tool, right? You know, a hammer can be used for a nail or it can be used for for for.
More or less the purpose. So it depends how you use it. I mean, I think there are ways to invest time in social media, but I think a lot of people cross over the border pretty fast and pretty far. And so spending their time.
Yeah. What’s interesting, too, is as a student, at least in reading of it, I didn’t actually attend Stanford, but of B.J. Fogg and sort of this whole idea of persuasive computing. I studied that for quite a while. And then, you know, you see the stuff that’s Tristan Harris is doing around human computing and you ethics in A.I. The tough part was that more people will use B.J. Fogg’s material as the wrong side of the hammer then than the right side, which is unfortunate.
You know, especially when you see kids like you’ve got little kids, you see them like I can watch my my youngest son pick up an iPad and just tap know what to do like they built it makes complete sense to him. Yeah.
And then along comes an ad and like so the funny thing is I taught him to skip commercials real quick.
What like the fact that he just sits through it now and it’s like yeah.
How did. I don’t know how this happened.
It used to be a lot of smart people applying that those behavioral. Inefficiencies. Yeah. If only they would build enterprise software that way, then it may actually get adopted. Well, yeah, I think that I think that is happening.
I do think we are kind. Funny you mention that, right? With Noble, we’re seeing a lot of opportunities on the enterprise side where, hey, we can employees. You know, L.A. is really important for four big organizations today. L.A. stands for learning and development and and upskilling. But look, if you ask somebody to sit and watch a training video at their computer that’s competing with their work time, but if you give somebody something that they can listen to when they go for a walk or on their commute, that that opens up a lot of enterprise time.
So. So that’s something that we’re thinking about actively, too, of how do we actually make workforces better? How can we create a diversity and inclusion course that makes you really want to listen and make a difference?
Yeah, and I think using those techniques in any way in the learning development space, especially in the enterprise, like because we all know everybody who’s listening to this, who’s works for a company, and you get that annual it’s like, oh, it’s the compliance training ranty, anti money laundering training. Right.
And there’s like you just horrified with the fact you have a waste like five hours of your day and you’re like fast forwarding as much as you can, and they make it so that you can’t fast forward, you know, but they have to actually make it engaging.
And make it worth their time. And that’s effectively what you’re doing, is you’re giving them a sense of worth. Yeah. For having done it.
That’s right. Yeah. I think there’s certainly room for improvement there. Now, the the things that you. You’re doing it definitely is a very positive spin in so much of what you do, and it’s like it’s natural, even when you tried to describe a bad thing you could do with a hammer, you really got stuck.
And it’s so cool because. You it must be, again, sort of like baked into you that what’s the most positive thing I could do as a result of what I’m about to do? Yeah, I think, you know, it’s funny, I just started reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and it’s I it’s amazing. This guy just truly the the OG of self-improvement and positive thinking. And I think there’s so much power to it. And it really is just what filter to you apply to the world, because you can see things in many different ways.
And I do think one of the benefits are argument brains is that we have the ability to decide how we react to things. Right. There’s a there is a a control mechanism between stimulus and response. So I think the more we can view things to the positive lens and see problems as opportunities, that the better will all be.
They had tried to get in front of the old amygdala hijack, as they call it, right? Yeah, right. Whether brand useful, sometimes very useful, but oftentimes gets in the way and modern society.
Yeah. And it’s it’s very interesting that I’ve even through my team at work, we’ve gotten we’ve had to make a lot of really heavy decisions lately. And it’s it creates some rather animated group discussions. And I say that like, you know, ten year version ago of me would have said like some really crazy arguments.
But they really, truly are animated discussions. And we’ve become as we age, I think, much better at like recognizing when.
So what I’m hearing you saying is this and when you start to respond to things, it’s very different than, know, 20 year old me would have been like, look and like my favorite thing to be with, say, like if you’re writing an email and it sounds like you’re going to begin with, look, comma, you’re going to want to get up and walk around for a bit before you finish that sentence.
That’s right. Yeah. You don’t send emails when you’re emotional. A hundred percent. I think that I mentioned this course unknowable called Speak with confidence. And Celeste Headlee, one of the other experts in that court is Julian Treasure. This guy has 80 million views across his TED talks on the subject of communication. And he’s written this book basically about how to listen. And there’s this big realization of most people when they’re in a conversation, they’re listening to respond.
They’re not listening to understand. Right, and what you just did, what you said is so great, which is repeat back, kind of paraphrase back what somebody says because it helps you actually understand what they said. It moves it from the one part of the brain to the other. And then it helps them also feel heard, which is fundamentally what most people want. They want to feel heard, appreciated and understood. And so I think improving as a listener is is a huge way to become a better communicator and conversationalist and learner and person and friend and partner.
And that’s something that I still still work on. I’ll give you one take. We have another course that’s led by an improv comedian named Will Hines. He’s part of the Upright Citizens Brigade, which is the Amy Poehler start, as we did, of course, in partnership with them on improv. And and I had the chance to interview him after the course was done. And he shared this great bit of wisdom, which I really liked, which is after somebody finishes talking horse for half a second.
Before you respond, because it gives your brain time to actually think about what they said and then allows you some time to think about how to reply so that you’re not spending the whole time when they’re talking, wondering, OK, let me here’s what I want to add to this. Yes, that’s we most of the time is more like your turn to talk, your turn to talk. My turn to talk to your dog eat dog. It’s like.
It’s like what am I going to say? I can’t wait to tell him about this thing I did was like, would you do improv?
My fear I messed around with with a group of folks and we they they were doing improv stuff and I got to jump in for a while and it was fun. And the whole thing is like, yes. And right now it’s like the whole idea of like carrying this forward. And I would just for fun, just coming to say like, no.
Yeah. Just completely shut it down. It’s funny, but the way in which you effectively pick up the conversation, you have the chance to either. Yes. And carry forward or, you know, and even like you said. When you listen and you want to say something back to somebody, tell them what you heard and because the way in which you say it is important, it’s not just that.
What you’re saying is what I’m hearing you say is, yes, totally.
It sounds like to me it feels like. Right. You’ve put it through your own personal lens. It’s yeah. I found this very helpful for for marital conversations. I have we have three kids under four, and so we’re short on time.
And so we really have to get better at how we talk with each other and really listen, because it’s so easy to just. Try to be understood and not try to understand what’s the default and it’s a continuing thing, like even therapists need therapists, like it’s not like no one’s no one’s perfect that the stuff we’re always trying to figure it out. And it’s harder on some days than others and. Yeah, but I think.
This is where this kind of growth mindset versus fixed mindset, I think it sounds like that’s what you’re alluding to, right, is this idea of, well, it’s a skill that you can get better at. You don’t aligning.
A lot of people approach certain things like relationships as insider works or doesn’t. It’s binary. And don’t take on the idea of, oh, I can improve at this. Right. I can I can learn to manage this relationship better. And that growth mindset, I think, is really powerful. And the more people have it, I think the better our society will be.
Yeah, there’s there’s a lot of things, stuff like journaling, future authoring stuff where you’re effectively envisioning, you know, kind of what’s what’s ahead. And then you it helps you to actually define it, because when you’re working it out in a session, you’re physically writing it out. It does imprint it effectively on your mind that, like, this is a goal.
And it’s it’s kind of neat. And that’s a thought question for you one. Where how do you go from idea to eye?
We’re going to do more with this idea, what’s that process look like as an example?
So as it relates to startups, there’s this common commonly thrown around acronym, which is minimum viable product and the. Basic concept of it is, is that you want to learn as fast as you can whether anyone is going to care about what your idea is, what your solution is. Right. So, again, I’m going to repeat it, start with the problem. Start with a group of people who have a problem and figure out, OK. Is this solution going to solve their problem or are they going to?
Is it sufficiently different or better for them to care? And when they pay me money, or would somebody else pay me money at some point if enough people used this solution that I’m putting up with the world and you want to find that out as soon as possible. So rather than waiting six years and making your perfect dating app that you just tried manually to figure out, OK, can I connect to people and are they going to care? Right.
I’m using my quote unquote algorithm. Can I connect to people. Right. And and so so you really want to do things that in the beginning that don’t necessarily scale and that’s OK. But you’re looking for a signal. You’re looking for a sign that you’ve made something and somebody else cares about it. And the best signal in my mind is. You make something, you give it to somebody. And they share it with somebody else unsolicited, right, that’s such a clear sign of, oh, wow, I made something useful.
That’s that’s what you’re looking for. So you read a book and you give it to one person and they give it to five more people. That’s that’s that signal, yeah.
And take on the reading side of it, and, you know, if I look at what I really love about your platform and your content approach is that when I get an audio book, it’s read by a professional reader, like a professional voice actor, and even you get to know them when you listen to enough of them, like, oh, yeah, I don’t know their names, but I’m like, I remember another book that they read.
So what I love is that when you’re doing a course by Scott Kelly, it’s Scott Kelly.
It’s not Scott Kelly wrote this and then a professional voice actor is hammering out in a in a small, soundproof room. You are you’re getting the real deal. All of your content creators are they create the content. They voice the content.
That’s right. So cool. Right. There’s nothing better than when you get an audio book that’s read by the author, especially when they’re a personality, you know, because, you know, they invested the time to do it.
Yeah. And it feels that feels more like you’re actually sitting in the room with them.
And so I’m so I’m so on the same page. I think we’re not not everyone agrees with us there. I think there are some people who just prefer the professional narrator. And but I am totally in the camp of I want to hear Jerry Seinfeld read Jerry Seinfeld’s book. I want that voice. They don’t want some random person who doesn’t appreciate comedy. Reading that book, you hear professional voice actor.
So what’s the deal with you?
Like, no, it’s got to be his thing, right? Yeah. Yeah, there’s definitely there’s there’s so many nuances that and it’s funny at the end of it to you very much feel a part of their story. Totally.
Yeah. You feel like you just spend time with them. I mean they’ve been in your brain, they’re so intimate. It’s in your ear canal. Right. And they’ve been whispering sweet nothings. You’ve been walking and driving for the world.
Yeah, but what does blow it up, though, is that I’ve definitely gotten to the point where I listen to a lot of books at like one point seven, when you hear somebody talk and they sound like they’re talking very like you don’t sound like that at all.
Like button. Yeah. Yeah.
Because you say yes. So we’re going to to talk about this because you’re just trying to get it in as quickly as possible.
That’s the downside to, you know, that long, really long form book content is that when you see one in, you’re like 17 hours, you’re looking down into this like I’m not ready if I know if I’m ready to take this one on.
But luckily, I think like Netflix opening up the idea of like episodic content, being able to consume in batches or across time, like there’s no right way to consume episodic content.
And then this audio content follows the same format, like in the 70s, later told us that no one will go more than thirty minutes and retain interest in the program.
Right. When our programs was like, I don’t know if this is a good idea. You know, people love Lucille Ball, but I know they’re going to love an hour of her. They do love seventeen straight hours of her. If it truth was all right, if we actually let them try it so, so cool that we can be now.
You can, you can go you can get a knowable you know. Of course underway. Yeah. Take a break.
You can. That’s right. Yeah. Kind of at your at your own pace. And you know there’s certainly been times where I had a long drive and I was so grateful to have a seventeen hour audio book right today. I don’t I’m not commuting so I don’t want but I want the short three version. Yeah.
And this is the interesting thing is you’ve, you know, been, you know, the platform, it’s been been going for a while. Did you see sort of a marked difference in in patterns of utilization as we saw the world kind of shift the way we operated?
Yeah, I think I think it has halted some of the acceleration and audio consumption. Certainly, I know for myself, because I’m not reading and listening to less audio just now, I think a lot of people are in the same boat, but I think that it will come back. I do think that people will also just get screened for TI. And and going back to this idea of how what we really want to inculcate is this idea that noble is something that you can go take on a on a break.
Right. You can go for a walk or a run and put on your headphones and know that you’re going to listen to something that has a potential to a lesson that can change your life for the better that we can. So I think that we’ll see new behaviors and patterns emerge.
And I think that is the. That’s what I love about what you’re doing, and like I said, when it comes out in so much of what you the way you even describe it, you can just tell it’s in there. It’s like we want to know what’s a meaningful, positive impact that I can have as a result of the content. This is it’s going to be fluff.
I mean, good on right, everybody. There’s Harlequin romances for a reason, right? Somebody somebody out there loves that side of the story. Yeah, fantastic.
But, you know, we have such a great opportunity and especially when we’re in this real sort of challenge, detention economy, when we don’t have time away, like you said, that, you know, you realize we all despised commuting, but once we learned how to do things while we were commuting. That was a real opportunity sometimes to learn, to read or even just detach and going for a run. So I’m a cyclist and I love one of my favorite things is that the moment that I put my leg over the crossbar and I clip in my pedals and I start turning the pedals, I’m immediately in a different mindset because I know for the next four hours I have no way that I can type.
I have no way that I listen.
I have no I’m literally it’s me and an introspective mind for four hours, which can be a really dangerous place depending on what your mindset is.
But it’s it’s this beautiful sort of forcing function. Like when I get in a plane, that was my thing. When I get into a plane, people are like, you know, what I hate is that the Internet on planes is really terrible.
I’m like, you know what I, I love, but I’ve never found out because I, I when I’m on a plane. Yeah, it’s me. White noise. I can actually do other things.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m the same, I’m the same way. I think that downtime is really important and it’s just forcing yourself or putting yourself in situations where you, you don’t have the willpower to resist the weapons of mass destruction. That’s right out of the smart, smart way to design environment.
You talked about UCB and I know from reading a bit about you were in that you you took a little time on the microphone yourself on on improv and stand up, OK, talk about minimum viable product and finding a product market fit making material, you know, two minutes on a microphone at an open mic feels like an eternity.
So cool. But it’s like, oh so what what drove you to take a run at that and what was the experience like.
I have always I’ve always been a fan of humor. I think humor is such a great tool in the chest of life and it feels like people have a great sense of humor. They’re able to. Go over the bumps of life so much better and easier and right and so I’ve just always appreciated comedians because my parents are immigrants. I think they let me watch a lot more TV than I probably should have. And I watch. And then when I was a kid.
And so that really. Influenced my my style of humor. I think I know what I think I’m squarely medium funny. Sometimes I can can make someone laugh and most of the time it’s it’s a mess. So I but it was something that scared me. And I really like this idea of doing things that scare me, because often on the other side of that is a sense of growth. And so I agree. I think it’s really scary to go up on stage and just have a microphone and talk to a roomful of strangers and try to get laughter.
But I think it’s also such an exciting format because the feedback is so objective. Right. And a world where there’s a lot of subjective value. Right. You don’t know. Well, how how good am I? Did I do a good job or are people just being nice, having being able to say something and then hear whether or not somebody laughs or not, you know, whether how you perform. And so I think that objective feedback is also exhilarating and exciting.
And a bit of advice I got on standup was talk about the stuff that you’re embarrassed about, because that’s the stuff that it’s honest. And most people will relate to it in some way or at least a certain subset of people relate to it.
And I think that’s humor is usually a byproduct of a sense of relief. Right. This idea of like, oh, you have that, OK, and that’s it. Yeah.
Yeah, it is. Because you effectively you’re just like anything, you know, when you’re you’re laying yourself bare. Right. You are going on a stage to present your you’re going to do stand up your you’re surrendering yourself to the audience for that period of time and hoping that they will carry you through this ride. And it’s very much an interactive experience, which is what’s funny. People always ask me, like it’s like I’ve been lucky enough through the course of my career to do a lot of, like public speaking and getting some large audience.
I used to be in a band years ago, so I was fairly familiar with being on a stage, but it still scares me all the time. And because you don’t know, it’s it’s a dynamic experience.
And I would and I would describe it and I help people with coaching for public speaking.
And I would say I call it listening to five thousand people at a time, because what you’re doing is you’re effectively letting them guide your talk. You may already have some kind of points you want to hit. Right.
But you have to let them steer you. You’re looking in the audience. You’re seeing the person in the front row who’s like leaning back and chuckling.
When you say a joke and you’re looking at the person who’s in the third row, who’s looking down in their phone all like from the moment you start, like, OK, I’m not watching that person for guys because they are not invested in it. Yeah, but it’s the audience themselves, you know, and at standup especially, they’re already invested in a way to the upcoming hour. Right. Five minutes, whatever, because they’ve made a point. I’m in this chair.
Yeah, I’m giving you a chance, kid.
So let’s see what you got.
Totally. I like that listening to find finance some people at the same time. That’s a good way of thinking about it in the end.
Is this as well as well, even the hour like when you see a comedian and they do an hour, what I see is eleven months of somebody doing five minute bits and two minute bits, like just testing it out and working it out and that real like they truly call it working out material.
It’s a gym membership, you know, going every day and trying it out and you’re testing in small rooms and on your family and friends wherever.
And eventually you glued together stuff that’s in a flow that’s in an hour.
It’s so when you. You know, when you’re a people based business, it sounds to me like that’s been a focus of you, is that you’ve always looked at a personal effect as an outcome of anything that you create. Absolutely, yeah, we are all west of us. So I think keeping that in mind and thinking about how do you want someone to feel, what’s the outcome that you want when they use your your product or service, I think is as a great.
System level way to think about what you’re working on. And sadly, it’s more rare sometimes than than we realize. I mean, I don’t think it truly is like we hear, of course, some of the tough stories and like it. I mean, there’s obviously, like you said, when you get into venture where people say like, oh, yeah, like congratulations on your venture funding, you almost want to say like, no, no, no.
Means to an end. Yeah, yeah. That is a person who’s betting on you to get an outsized return on their investment. And you’ve got the timer is ticking now.
Yes. Yes. It’s definitely a double edged sword, for lack of a better phrase. I think that. Yeah, I think a lot of entrepreneurs confuse raising money with succeeding at a business, and I you know, really the goal is to not have to raise money, right? The goal is you have a business. The people they love so much are paying you and you’re funding through your customers. But, you know, there are certainly advantages to funding.
And I don’t want to I don’t want to dismiss it totally or be ungrateful to work with great investors, which, you know, I certainly am. But but there are there are downsides and it is a calculated risk like anything else.
Yeah. And it’s there definitely is, as you say, sort of this idea of like a revenue funded business is fantastic. But of course, there’s going to be limitations.
There’s going to be advantages, disadvantages. And. Yes.
And, you know, like in your folks that you’ve worked with, you’ve chosen people that have been successful. They’ve got a high bar for their ethics to the way that they approach it, which is important as well. Right.
Because there are a lot of places that people could go to get money that are purely, you know, just accounting driven.
And so I like that in looking through sort of your investors and the folks that you work with in the market, I can appreciate their approach to it because I’ve seen, you know, their impact on the world and is really we are trying to do good things, you know, through technology and such. Yeah, absolutely, I think that in general, finding partners who are playing a long game is so valuable, who are playing multiple rounds because the firm, they care about, the reputation they cared about doing, supporting businesses that are doing good and aren’t just totally bottom line focused.
Right. Because they know that their only funding businesses that hurt people that long term, their value will diminish. So so I think fine people who play the long game, whether it’s a financial partner or a business partner, a life partner. When you chose to start your own venture and get into funding it and such, obviously your I should say I, I shouldn’t say obviously I shouldn’t lead with that.
Like, it would seem to me that your history in finance would have helped you to inform how to approach that part of the business building. How important was it that you had been intimate with the industry of finance as you went to actually raise funding? I think I think it’s helpful to know your customer and whatever situation you’re in, and so when you’re trying to capitalize your business, what you’re effectively doing is you’re selling equity. So it is by definition, you’re doing it.
It’s a sales process. And one of the best things that the best sales people do is they have empathy for their counterparty. And so really putting yourself in the shoes of the investors is helpful because you understand what are their needs and how can I fulfill them. So I did this presentation yesterday. I’m doing this course on fundraising. And my second tip is basically know your customer and know what venture investors want and how their math works. And the way their math works is they’re really trying to find the next Facebook, the next Pinterest and Snapchat, the next multibillion dollar company, because that is what really drives the returns.
There’s a Scott Kapoor is a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, put out a book recently called The Secrets of Sandhill Road. And he has this chart in there which shows that 60 percent of the returns for venture investors come from six percent of the deals. So when you’re pitching to investors, you really want to pitch this idea that you can be one of those six percent companies, that you’re going to be that company that can really drive outsized returns. And knowing that and having empathy for what the investors needs and wants are puts you in a better position to find a partner who you’re going to to jive with.
Yeah, that’s actually such a good read that will scare you out of ever going to where adventure because you realize how much is behind the scenes of the age of the funds, the the percentage of returns that have already come back in.
It is an incredible set of mathematics and and behaviors that will drive how an investor will comment at a particular point in time.
So it’s it is a very, very, very well done. And I love how transparent Scott was as part of the discussion, because it’s not often that people kind of share the math and the process behind the math.
Right. Which is which is pretty wild. I agree.
So for folks that want to find out more and I will make sure they do, I will be we’ll talk beyond here about, you know, how I can help to expand the brand. You know, Noble is just so fantastic. And I appreciate you taking the time with me today. Warren, this is a real pleasure.
And you’re you’re doing good things. And like I said, it’s sadly, it’s is more rare than than it should be. But it’s so nice when you see people that are becoming successful as a result of the good things they’re doing. And it’s well deserved.
Thank you so much for the kind words. I really enjoyed the conversation. It’s nice. It’s really energizing and fun to talk with someone who is so well rounded and so interested in and learning. And I’m sure we get to talk for multiple hours easily. And I look forward to continuing the conversation.
We’ll have to have we’ll do a knowable course on how to have a two way conversation on financing and venture capital. But it is this was really, really cool.
So, again, for folks, if they want to connect with you online, Warren, what’s the best way that they can reach out?
The best way to find me is on Twitter. My handle is at @wwshaef and you can also find knowable at knowable.fyi and the best places to find me and no perfect.
Yeah, I’ll make sure we have links in the show notes as well.
And, and I’ll, I’ll definitely be albe before long before we got to today, I wanted to test her to talk about things, you know, through the course of the discussion. But I’m definitely I’m keen, you know, if it’s valuable, I’d love to contribute content towards the platform. It’s just such a such a great opportunity. So absolutely.
Yeah. Let’s talk more about your book, because I think that’s a really easy way to get started. So we should have an offline conversation about that.
We’re in good shape. Warren, thank you very much for spending the time today. And I’ll say happy twenty, twenty one. We’re we’re we’re we’re around the corner on a lot of things and we’ve got some some good stuff ahead.
And for folks, definitely, if you want to hear great stuff like this, head over to knowable because you get to hear it from the from the creator’s voice, which is in my my view, one of the best ways to learn.
Luis Ceze is a computer architect and co-founder and CEO of OctoML. I do research in the intersection of computer systems architecture, programming languages, machine learning and biology.
OctoML is doing some very cool things about demecratizing ML and transforming how ML models are optimized and made secure for deployment. Luis shares a lot of great info on the foundations of ML, ethics of data, and how he builds a team.
Oh, yeah. Welcome, everybody, to the Disco Posse podcast. My name is Eric Wright and be your host. And this is a really fun episode if you’re digging machine learning then look no further.
You’re in for a great conversation. Before we get started, though, I want to make sure I give a huge shout out to all the great supporters and fans and friends of the show. This episode is brought to you by our favorite and good friends over at Veeam software.
This is everything you need for your data protection needs. I trust this company with my data, my identity. My goodness, whether it’s on the cloud, whether it’s on premises, whether it’s in using cloud native and the new stuff they’re doing with their recent purchase of a company called Kastin and Integration. Really cool stuff.
Whether you want to automate and orchestrate the entire kit from end to end for full business continuity and disaster recovery with Veeam availability orchestrator, you name it, Vimes got all sorts of goodness for you. If you want to go check it out and you can easily go to vee.am/discoposse and also let us know that you came from ol’ DiscoPosse’s podcast.
It’s kind of cool, but the Veeam family, it’s hard to say the Veeam family are extremely cool in that they’ve been great supporters. I love the platform. I love the team. And in fact, like if you actually go back in our archives, you can hear Danny Allen, who’s a fellow Canadian fellow cyclist and also a really fantastic human who’s the CTO over at Veeam. I was really lucky to have Danny on, but at any rate, go check it out.
I definitely believe in their platform, in their product go to vee.am/discoposse
This is also brought to you by the four step guide to delivering extraordinary software demos that win deals.
This is something that I decided to build myself because what I found is that I’ve continuously involved in sort of sales processes and in listening to folks that are struggling with being able to connect with people, whether it’s in product marketing, product management, sales, technical sales. So what I did was I took all the lessons that I’ve captured myself and from my peers and compress them into a very easy to consume concise book. It’s called The Four Step Guide to delivering extraordinary software demos.
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With that, we’re going to jump right into the episode. This is Luis Ceze, who’s a fantastic person who I was so happy. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Octo ML.
Not only have they got the really cool thing, they called the optimizer, which is a fantastic name for a product, but they’re doing some really neat stuff around democratizing and making highly performing an insecure machine, learning models.
Really, really cool. So check it out. Plus, the Beast talks a lot about building the business, the educational impact of where technology and is so much cool stuff.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did. Hi, this is Luis. I am a co-founder and CEO at OctoML and a professor of computer science in Washington, and you’re listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.
You’re innocent till the days go by the. So this is fantastic. I do want to very quickly introduce you as your company is doing some really neat stuff.
And of course, I say this as a as a precursor to what you’re going to tell us or for the people that are listening. We hear ML/AI and it becomes like this wash that it’s assumed that it’s like, you know, they always say no one believes what’s actually going on.
I’ve dug in and I’m excited about what you and the team are doing. So I wanted to lay this of this.
You have really are solving a very genuine and interesting challenge. And I can’t wait to kind of figure out how you got to solve these problems.
So anyways, me take it away.
Let’s let’s introduce you to the audience and talk about where where you’re from and how you got to begin the OctoML story.
That sounds good. Yeah. So I have a technical background. So most of my you know, I guess intellectually active life has been in computer architecture, programing languages and compilers. You know, I’ve my speech to the University of Illinois. I spent time at IBM Research before then working on large scale supercomputers like bludging, you know, primarily applied to life sciences problems. And at the University of Washington, where I’ve been almost for 14 years now, it’s kind of crazy to think about my research career.
There has been focus on what we call the intersection of new applications, new kinds of hardware and everything in between, you know, copilots programing languages and and so on. In about five or six years ago or so, we started looking at the problem of, well, the opportunity. I would say that based on the observation that machine learning is getting popular super fast. Right. Because, you know, machine learning allows us to solve interesting problems for things that we don’t know how to write direct code for.
Like, for example, if you think about how you can write an algorithm to find cats in the photograph, it’s really hard to to write the direct code for that. But, you know, the machine learning allows us to infer a program, learn a model from data and examples. Right. So this proof has proven to be really powerful and machine learning is permeating every single application we use today. Right. So but anyway, so six years or so ago, we started thinking about, well, there’s a variety of machine learning models that people care about for computer vision, natural language processing, you know, all the time, series predictions and so on, and a variety of harder targets that you want to run these models to.
This includes CPU’s, GPS and then accelerators and FPGA and DSD and all sorts of compute engines that have been growing really fast. So you had this interesting cross product.
If you have lots of models and lots of hardware, and how do you actually get them to run? Well, where you need them to run, that includes the cloud, the edge, you know, implantable devices, you know, with smart cameras, all of these things. Right. So and one thing that’s interesting to note in this context about machine learning models as computer programs is that they’re very sensitive to performance and they’re very computer hungry, the memory hungry, their bandwidth hungry.
So they need lots of data. They need lots of compute, therefore, making them perform the way you want them to perform, to be able to run fast enough and or use, you know, a reasonable amount of energy when being executed requires quite a bit of tuning your performance. Right. So that means that if you look at the machine learning models are deployed today, they’re highly dependent on hardware vendor specific software stacks like Nvidia with their GPS has cooled down and included a Khuda stack.
You know, ARM has compute led, Intel has indicated and you know, and then software at the height of it is have their own software stack in general. So this is also not ideal because then that means that from somebody who wants to deploy machine learning models, they need to understand ahead of time where they’re going to deploy, how they can deploy and use some custom tools that typically aren’t super easy to use. And that might not even be a software stack for the hardware that you care about.
That works well. Right. So long story short, the research that we started with a version of six years ago was to try and create a common layer that maps the high level frameworks that people use. Think of the data scientists use, like Tensor Flow, PI talks and so on, or numpty and bridge that to a higher targets in an automatic way. So we don’t have to worry about how are you going to deploy it, create this clean, open uniform layer that automates the process of getting your models from data scientists to production?
Well, this seems like yeah, it seems like a good idea and people would agree. But there’s a lot of challenges there, right? Because the way machine learning models are applied to. They rely on hand tuned, low level optimizations of code that really means like understanding the model, understanding the hardware and tuning the low level codes to make sure that you make the most out of that hardware. Right. So that takes a tremendous amount of work.
It’s not sustainable. So the research question that we start exploring was, can we use machine learning to optimize that process? So essentially use machine learning to make machine learning faster on your chosen hardware. And that’s what that was the that was how the Tensor Virtual Machine project was born. So we started this project six years ago, five, six years ago. And fast forward to today. It’s top level Apache Foundation Software Foundation project called Apache TVM has been adopted by all of the major players in AML, including the Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and so on.
It’s supported by all of the major hardware vendors. It is actually the de facto open standard for deploying models on a bunch of hybrid targets. That is open source, right? So, so armed, for example, adopted to VMD as the official software stack. So AMD is building with we talk to him about, you know, support for AMD CPU’s and chips on on Apache to VM and then other companies like Xilinx, which makes upgrades and a bunch of other nascent hardware companies are using Apache to VM as their preferred software stack.
And just one final sentence, and I know this has been going on, but I just thought know there’s no there’s no rapide way like this.
This is a super important understanding of how we got to even the start line, which is even before where we are today.
Right, right. Yeah. So anyways, and then TVM has been adopted both by end users and and hardware vendors. And the way to think about EVM in one sentence essentially is this compiler time system to form this common layer across all sorts of hardware. And think of it as a 21st century operating system for machine learning models that runs in all different hardware. Right. So that’s Apache to it has almost 500 contributors from all over the world, has been adopted, as I said, by all the major players in the industry.
And we formed talk to him about a year and a half ago to continue investing into PVM, all of the core people around Apache to VMware, co-founder of the company. So these are three PhDs in Washington. And another co-founder, Jason Knight, was head of software products. And Intel left until the time to join the company. So I’ll come out today. It’s about 40 people. We our mission is to build this machine learning acceleration platform to enable anyone that a very automatic way to get the models deployed in a hardware that they want without having to fiddle or with, you know, different software specs or having to tune low level code to deploy your model.
Really, we are about automation and democratizing access to efficient machine learning because the tools today require quite a bit of various skills. So. And I think that’s where we really want to begin, is that every, you know, abstractions are generally done because it allows for obviously diversity of platforms above and below the line.
Wherever that abstraction layer is, the appropriate abstraction is a fantastic place where platform begins.
Then even further up is how do you organize a commercial entity that can create an additional value.
Even beyond that is a is really amazing because, you know, especially in a niche area like this where you look at look at the folks that are contributing to TVM and to who are obviously well down the road, you know, people are thinking that smell is coming like it’s already here in America anyway.
But so beyond the abstraction now, there’s that optimization which makes it you know, we’ll talk about the optimal approach to it. Maybe give a sense of what does a non optimized machine learning model do relative to an optimized one, because I think this is it’s hard for people that don’t get it to understand this.
Yeah, great scale.
I love that question, Erica. So so the UN optimized version typically means that you have you get a machine learning model and you run it through, say, tensor flow defaults, deployment model or Piotrek, and you choose the CPU or GPU. And most of the time what you get is not deployment ready because it’s not fast enough or uses too much memory or doesn’t make the most of the hardware and so on, or you don’t get the throughput that you want.
Or if you’re deploying the cloud, it’s too expensive because it uses a lot of compute. So now if you run that through TVM and just what it will do is it gets that model and then generates an executable that’s tuned for that specific hybrid target that you that you’re going to deploy it into essentially generates custom code, uses its machine learning magic that we can get into if you want. But basically to find the best way of compiling your model into your hardware targets, to make the most out of your hardware resources.
And the performance gains can be anywhere from two or three acts all the way to 30, 40 X. Right. So we have so if you look at our conference, for example, we had a conference in December for the past three years. There are cases of folks showing that there were up to one hundred up to eighty five X better performance. And we talked about anything above 10 X.. It’s not a nice to have it’s an enabler. Like if you make something five 10x better, you enable something that wasn’t possible before because it’s just too slow or too costly.
And that’s the level of performance gain that we’re talking about here. So and this can translate into enabling anybody that before was too slow to deploy. Now you can deploy it. That reduces costs in the cloud because 10x faster means 10x cheaper to run in the cloud and so on.
When this it also helps to answer the myth. I would believe that there is a hardware specific machine learning unit.
Well, there are obviously hardware specific iterations.
Each model, each data set based on scale, size use, you know, there’s a lot of factors that even the most perfectly designed physical unit with a broad set of use, whatever is going to be, whatever the right combination of things, may not be appropriate for every model.
So this is an beyond this is not like there’s like a really good gaming laptop and a really good you know, machine learning is at any it doesn’t take long before you get to the scale of using machine learning before even a machine learning node is not optimized for your particular model.
Absolutely. As another way of saying that, too, is that even if you have fantastic cadre, you know, and numerous resources, if you don’t have good software to make use of it, you know, it’s just no good for you. The question is, you know, it takes quite a bit of work for you to massage your model to make the most out of a hardware target. Right. And it doesn’t mean that all heart attacks will be appropriate for all models, but by and large, it’s dependent on very fairly low level, sophisticated engineering required to get there.
So and that’s what we all about. Automating a doctorate now. So you.
You have me curious and I’m going to ask you to go down the rabbit hole right away. How do you possibly at a code level through software to models on the fly based on hardware?
This is like my I’m lighting up at the idea of, like, getting Texaco’s you need to because I would love for folks to really get a sense of.
Yeah. Where those challenge is being solved.
Great coup. Absolutely. So let me just start once upon a time now. I’m not going to be that long. No, but I mean, well, you know, fundamentally, machine learning models, by and large, are a sequence of linear algebra operations. Think of it as multiplying a multidimensional data structure, but not think of it as a matrix matrix, vector multiplication, matrix, matrix duplication. But sometimes more than two dimensions would be imagine a three dimensional matrix to call the tensor.
Right. So in general, like a generalization of that, it’s about another 10. It’s a lot of linear algebra operations. Right. So now these are very performance sensitive because they depend on how you lay out the data structure in memory because it affects your memory. How can your cash behavior that depends which instructions you’re going to use in your process. Because different processes are diffuse. They have different instructions that are more appropriate than others. Like instead of doing a scalar where you multiply one number by a single, the nobody could use a vector structure which which applies to vectors at a time.
And there’s so many ways there’s literally millions, potentially billions of ways of compiling the same program into the same hardware. But among the billions of possibilities, some of them are vastly faster than others. So what do you have to do is just search, right? So given a program that’s your your and now model and give the higher target and there are billions of ways in which you can compile those, how do you pick the fastest one? OK, so now to answer your question directly, how do we use an amount for that search?
Well, the brute force way and I’d say the less smart way of doing this would be to try all 10 orbiters of possibilities. But the problem there is that you don’t have time. Imagine making a variant of the code, compiling, running it, even just that, even if it takes a second each, you’re talking about centuries of computes to actually you talk about centuries worth of time to actually find what’s the best program. Where Emelle comes into play is that as part of how TVM operates, TVM starts up when you create a new harder target, you runs a bunch of little experiments that builds a machine learning model of how the hardware itself behaves.
So this machine learning model is then used to do a very fast search among all the possibilities in which you are going to compile your models how to target among all of those possibilities, which one is likely to be the fastest one? And that can be vastly faster. Think of it a hundred million times faster than trying each one of them. So now you enable this ability of navigating the space of configurations in ways in which you can optimize the model and then choose the best one.
OK, so now a machine learning model has a combination of these. So we just apply this subsequently of every layer of a model and then we compose and see how they compose and run it through the prediction. And then again, we validate like are we doing a good job in the way we do? That is by doing the full computation and running of performance tests and comparing are we doing better? Yes. And we keep the search going. Does that does that give you a general idea of how to do that?
And this is the. It’s the interesting challenge that we have with anything that’s any long running process, even if, like, just think of just traditional batch computing where where folks live, a massive long batch.
And at some point your you know, let’s just you know, for folks remember the days of the overnight jobs, right. So they’d have some four hour batch that would run. And you’re five hours in and something’s wrong. And there’s the difficulty of assessing.
If I stop now, optimize correct code, do something and then rerun, is it more worthwhile to do so versus just letting it run out? And it’s going to take twice as long as I expected. Like, that’s a relative number that I think a lot of folks would remember, even if it’s like a five minute script, if it takes five minutes and it should take 30 seconds, you know, makes sense.
But like the the scale at which you’re talking about, number one, to the initial problem of like where we’re going to go and use a model against a mass data set, it’s going to take.
Potentially hours, days, whatever is going to be significant. But then to run scenario, run that scenario. Repeatedly before triggering it effectively defined the most optimal place in which the host exactly is in fact identifiability to the right.
Yes, I think you could run those running, running parallel simulation modeling.
This is you anybody would think, oh, of course, where you’re going to use machine learning, like, well, you’ve now got an inception problem, right? Your effect, you have to do something that’s incredibly complex. To solve an even more complex problem, but. It seems untenable for people to imagine that because this could be done, so this is why this is this is like, yeah, it is how we do it, that we use this machine and others to make it.
So now we actually let me let me go and ask a question and ask her, like, what do we offer as a company? What is what is the commercial story here? Right. So anyone TVM is opensource, right? Anyone can just go to a package to PVM GitHub repo, download the code and run it. But Psyllium takes, you know, to set it up because he has to set up harder targets. And then you have to collect these machine learning models that predict how the harder behaves.
And and, you know, it is a sophisticated tool that it works really well. But you do it does it does require quite a bit of lifting to to get going in the context of of an end user. Right. Well, we did talk to a man who has built a platform called the OCTA Mizer, which is a fully hosted software as a service offering up to Veniam that automates the whole thing that has a really nice graphical user interface.
We can upload models, choose your harder targets, click the magic button, optimize, and then a few hours, maybe a day later, you get an executable just deeply optimized for your your higher target of choice. And the way that this is different than the experience using Cavium, as I said, it’s much easier. You don’t have to stall and do anything. There’s no no code required. And you just literally upload the model, choose the target and download it, or you can use an API.
But also the optimizer has no models and has pre a preset set of these hardware targets. Optimizer is built on machine learning that are ready to go for use, who don’t have to go and collect yourselves just because you can be protected from days using the optimizer when this is what I think is incredible.
And I spoke with somebody very recently and we had we just we’re just I’m enthralled with this idea of where we are today. And, you know, now at twenty twenty one, as we record this, it’s like.
The accessibility of both models and training data to like, if you wanted to try and get into the business of machine learning, just even to dabble with it, to get the hardware, to be able to have some data, to be able to the like the one or one layer of machine learning was very low level, like very simplified, and there was no access to go beyond and really test it. So now because like what you’ve got with the optimizer, like I said, you’re shipping stuff that’s there and it’s ready to go, so you don’t even need to then wear it like so like those first steps are incredibly challenging.
And and this is what I want to impress upon people that there’s effectively no reason why you wouldn’t just get started because it’s been done for you and it’s accessible to you now. Like, it’s it’s a wondrous time where we can do these things, because for all of the things that people are worried about, you know, one, I don’t understand complex mathematics. So how can I do with machine learning? Well, it’s not necessarily.
Not exactly. It’s about abstracting those away. Right. Right. And secondarily, how do I know how do I learn to trust what machine learning does? The only way to do it is to get in and see it. It’s a weird because machine learning has this really odd thing.
Even when we talk about A.I., sometimes it’s I describe it as like the scene from The Matrix when, you know, when when the Oracle system, you don’t worry about the face. And then he says, what? And he turns around, he knocks a base off the table and she says, what a really make your noodle is. If you would actually would have done that if I hadn’t told you about it.
And when we explained machine learning and like what you get, like you said, how do you find a picture of a cat? How do you tell the difference between a blueberry muffin and a Pomeranian? Like there’s all of these things where. There’s people don’t trust the outcome because they saw a meme about it one day, but you can dove in. You can test it out. You can put data through it. You can see Output’s.
It’s it’s there today because of what you and the team and what what the community is doing around this stuff, which is pretty amazing, right?
Yeah. And I want to pull that thread for just a minute on how the machine learning models, which, you know, there’s a whole sub field of machine learning, which is about explainable A.I. or excitable machine learning models to get people to trust and more. But I would even start by saying that how do we trust software to let’s forget about machine learning. Let’s just think about software the way we trusted by saying, like, we’ve put this much time testing it and you will have some confidence that it’s likely to work on the scenarios where your users care about.
We do not do formal verification of all software today. You don’t want to formally verify Excel or Oracle or Microsoft score. Basically, you just if you test it extensively and then you have confidence that it behaves the way you expect it to behave, and then you put a checkmark in any ship it machine learning models, they are that way too.
You have a training session, you have a test set, you train it, you test, and then you can do all sorts of ways of actually get more serious to the test. But, you know, that is going to work within the set of inputs that he was, you know, certified for, tested for. It works well, right. So, yes. So then you can go all into to this a huge fun discussion that we could have at some point.
Probably not. Now on how you explain to humans what is it in a machine that humans would trust them better.
Right. So and yeah. So that might involve compromising performance. It could be you might want to choose a model that’s not just as fast, but at least when you look at internally it works. You can explain to humans it might be useful for, say, medical diagnostics where you want a doctor to see, like, you know, this kind of like generally looks right to the decision tree. Here it is. Right, right. So then we can help with those cases, too, with integrating the optimizer, because if you choose to use a model that’s not as fast just because it’s more potentially trustworthy, we can help you recoup performance by giving you a highly optimized version.
And this is where, you know, I would say that the people that realize the difficulty that they’re facing, I’d like to get like, how do we get better at machine learning? You brought up the most perfect point. We don’t we just broadly trust software as if it’s like if it’s linear in its ability to scale. We were like, oh, I can almost run as fast as the machine. So they’ve we’ve just it kind of we grew up with it.
So we don’t distrust it as much as we we don’t necessarily trust it, but we don’t distrust it. Machine learning and quantum and the idea of being able to scale far beyond human capability. There’s this really odd. Case where the distrust is greater than the trust. And even though there’s no fun, I mean, this is I mean, effectively, it’s a lot of the core and the fundamentals of like behavioral psychology, you know, because of the way that we we place bets, the way we we think about, you know, outcomes versus efforts.
It is really funny or peculiar, I should say, you know, to see how people behave, but yet when they see the outcomes, like you said, they’d be like, oh, OK, now that’s fine.
I make sense, but. When you go one step further, which is especially the folks that are going to be, you know, customers and folks that you’re talking to. They’re further along where they know the risk of, you know, yeah, and the benefits outweigh. Yes. So they but the benefits to outweigh but the benefits outweigh the risks. Right, exactly. And also, I mean, trust the kind of stuff that it’s I guess it’s a kind of property kind of feeling that it takes a while to build, but it’s very easy to lose.
Right. So it takes a lot of work to build trust. And it means that investing, learning how you can live with it for a while and it works really well. But then you make a small change because models evolve fast and then that one breaks and he makes you lose some trust in it. But, you know, that’s just part of how it is.
And I feel like given the strides made in machine learning, research and getting models to be more trustworthy, more explainable together with all of the machine learning systems work, which is all we focus on in making these models perform and run well in the real world, I feel like very, very quickly going to we’re going to trust them just as much as we trust software and, you know, things that are really transformational to our lives, like self-driving cars, like automated diagnostics, like, you know, using A.I. designs, drugs and therapies and diagnostics is just such a special for us that the the progress that and the impact it has on human life is so far beyond the risks that he can cause, in my opinion.
You know, this may be philosophical, but I do think that in this case, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
So I’d be curious, especially because you’re obviously very close to it near you. You were you’re doing this in academia as well as in business. So you’re really tackling it on two streams, which is always amazing.
And I think that’s where a lot of the stuff comes from. But in fact, a lot of technology, amazing technology startups have been founded from academia and made their way into commercial business. And then those folks maybe get into venture capital. And it’s neat to see this progression.
But, you know, there are very few people that most people know.
And I wherever the descriptors of most or many, but who they could look to in and get that first understanding of the impact and importance of machine learning on society. Obviously, one that I know off the top of my head, of course, Cassi Korsakov.
She’s with Google and a fantastic person that truly does a lot to sort of share. The human side of of the value of machine learning and, you know, it’s neat to see those stories. So I’m curious, Lewis, who in your peer group and yourself included, like, how do you how do you get people involved and interested in the potential that we have as a society because of machine learning?
Yeah, great, great question. The way I think we get people interested and excited about is just by continuing to show the kind of problems that we can solve, the kind of new applications that we can build with with machine learning. Right. So let me let me take a recent example, seeing all of the progress going on on this large language models based on or three, for example. I mean, the ability the ability of summarizing text is fantastic with generating new tax is great to help you draft these technologies.
Just seem like magic. They work really, really well. And and I think that has the potential to amplify ability to understand large bodies of tasks of texts. Right.
So, for example, some of my colleagues and friends at AC2 here in Seattle had been working on these tools that help one understand how bodies of knowledge in a specific field. They’ve done this for covid recently, for example. I think it’s just really amazing applications that can capture the imagination and have a direct impact right now that really gets people more excited about it. I’m not sure that’s what you’re asking. No, I think it’s all about showing great.
But then, you know, just seeing the. So that’s one of them. The other one seeing the I know that we’re so far away from fully autonomous vehicles, but just seeing the kind of things that are ever more accessible electric vehicles from big ones like, for example, Tesla. I’ve that a model, a model three can do Real-Time Computer Vision and build a 3D model of the world around it. And you see, you know, the cars and people crossing the streets and then, you know, like this thing that is happening all the time.
It’s like, oh, this is a model. The car is actually agrees with them. Just as you get exposed to this, you get people more and more and more and realize how how exciting this is. So think about the applications that it enables.
And then a final one. It’s more academic. What’s becoming more top of mind today that I find particularly exciting and happens to be related to one of my personal intellectual passions of, you know, molecular biology and life sciences. I think that nature is a boundless source of two things, you know, mechanisms that we can use and molecules that can go and used to do beaches and things. And then second is all sorts of interesting problems that you can use a and the mouth to understand, you know, how nature works.
And it has tremendous impact on on understanding life and on understanding disease and understanding new therapies and so on. And there’s some things I think it’s fair to say that the strides that we’ve made in understanding, you know, gene regulatory networks and understanding, you know, a lot of life sciences processes would not have been possible without machine learning.
And right, so and. Yeah, so this has an incredible effect today, like, you know, how we can design a vaccine super fast, how can actually test it super fast? How can actually understanding do DNA sequencing of of of different people understanding? What is it? How did it correlate with things that you observed? I mean, this all boils down to it is enabled by conventional processes, largely based on machine learning.
And that’s one of the most you know, I don’t have the numbers handy, but I you know, I know it’s a good example to use, but as far as like the the the economies that we’ve achieved of time and scale is, you know, look at sequencing DNA, both the physical exertion required to do so on like hardware, the time and the cost in 20 years time or 10 years time even what it doesn’t take long to go back and see.
It was thousands of dollars in order to and and, you know, the amount of time required to do so versus now it is pennies on the dollar in effect relative to what the cost was not too many years ago, but.
Absolutely, yeah. And they should mention as one of the one of the research areas that I’m still active is on essentially using DNA for data storage, which would involve writing DNA and reading DNA sequencing. And this relied on on the progress of DNA. So I watch these trends very closely. And just to put numbers there, we’re really talking about, you know, the first human genome, the sequence. It was a huge landmark a couple of decades ago, actually cost over a billion dollars.
And today you can do a full you can do a full genome sequencing of, you know, under a thousand dollars, which is just you talking about a million faud, literally a million fold decrease, a million acts, decrease in cost. And then the amount of and this is all, by the way, enabled not only by no better understanding how, you know, it’s, of course, the genius idea of the next generation sequencing. But from there to today, a lot of it is really advances in computing infrastructure because it’s very complex, intensive advance in imaging technologies and optics.
Right. So and advances in machine learning, decoding very faint signals to read the letters that are in the DNA sequences, just. Yeah, all roads on the backs of Moore’s Law plus, you know, computing. That’s right.
Well, it’s interesting to see you as we come through. There’s a beautiful sort of readiness that’s arrived of all of these criteria. Right.
Like you said, you know, computational power, the understated scientific understanding, all of these things, they they move enough in effectively like a horse race beside each other.
And when one crosses the line, the rest cross very shortly after because one effectively carries the other. And there is this merger of things that has to occur to get then from there exponential increase in capabilities.
And we’ve seen so much recently and we as humans, we far overused the phrase exponential.
Right. People like us. And there’s a literally I talked with Joe back to you ahead of the founder of a company called Quant Gene.
And and he talked we talked a lot about that. And that’s but that’s their whole thing, is they’re using quantum computing and genome sequencing to find. Better ways to detect every kind of cancer, he says, but 10, 20 years ago, you would have a team of scientists and entire research area that’s focused solely on researching one type mapping, one type of cancer. And now, because of the ability in quantum computing, the ability we have in hardware, software and people and understanding, they can seek every possible type of cancer collectively through the research they’re doing.
And this is really like first principles like this is exponential growth in what we can do as an outcome because of the technology that we’ve enabled.
So what you’ve done and what you and the industry in your peer group and all of us are they’re doing is. Using first principles to do to set the stage for. An unlimited amount of new first principles thinking, going to do fantastic things, yeah, it’s a great point. And the way out outside this conversation back to what OCTA Mountain does is there are a lot of problems today or opportunities today, specifically in life sciences. For example, if you’re doing deep learning over genomic data that, you know, it’ll be without significant optimization would be beyond the reach of most people talking about problems that could literally take millions of dollars worth of compute cycles in in in cloud services.
If you could if you make that 50 X faster, the problem that takes billions of dollars cost in the tens of thousands of hundreds of dollars, which something that now becomes feasible and is also something that we’re very excited about this. You know, what we are doing is because not only do we make it more accessible to enable applications that we are doing today and make them faster and more responsive, but also the kind of optimization degree that we offer could enable things that would be beyond the reach of many today in application areas that are more custom, like, for example, what is life sciences when I think it’s one one great example.
So, yeah, and I think this is the fantastic opportunity that you have got now for your current and future customers is that it’s no longer about baseline achievement, but we can immediately begin to think of optimization versus that wasn’t accessible before. That just wasn’t it was just a matter of can we do it? And now it’s can we do this and are we doing it in the most effective and optimized manner.
Right. Yeah. And which which is often necessary like so to actually make it. Let me let me give you a without disclosing anything sensitive. You know, we’re being we’ve been working with customers that both deployed AML at scale and the edge and the cloud on the edge side. Think of it as if you had the machine learning model that helps you, that helps you extract help you understand the scene so you can replace objects in real time, say, for video chat, for example.
And then you have a you have that app running all sorts of events and devices like, know, different types of laptops, PCs or tablets or phones and so on. Once you have a model like that, what you have to do, what you have to do today to deploy it is by every single time you had to go and optimize and make sure that this is run fast enough on this and on on this ABC and any that different modeling that that is like, you know, it’s just really the unsurmountable of but not automating all of that, you know, which is what we do with the optimizer is something that is enabling, you know, the evolution of these applications.
And on the cloud side, you know, if you’re doing things like, you know, computer vision over large collections of of of images or video and to a large scale. So this could cost, you know, an incredible amount of money. If you don’t optimize writes, it means that you until you hits a certain cost target, you can’t you can’t even for companies that have deep pockets, that’s so significant what we’re talking about here.
So and it becomes the interesting conundrum of in order to test to see that your your model is effective and how long it’s going to take to run and what the optimization opportunities may be for it, you run it against your data set, but if you run it repeatedly against the same data set, it’s actually goes counter to the value that is dangerous if you continue to run like you’re not going to get expected results. And it may sort of skew some results if you send exactly the same data through exactly the same model over and over again.
You do it again. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But usually it’s a wee.
So so that’s why effectively people are probably going to sort of throw up their hands and say, hey, you know, at least we know it works. We don’t know that it could run faster. So there was sort of an unfortunate acceptance up until, you know, what you’re bringing to the market that there just was it was just the cost of doing business in Emelle. Right. And that doesn’t need to be the case anymore, does it need to be.
Exactly. Does need to be the case. And these tools and he doesn’t need to be the case for as many possible users as far as as we possibly can. That’s why we strive for really easy to use and really making the level of abstraction much higher. So instead of you having to bear a super talented software engineer with a data scientist to go and do these things, going to be able to have the data scientists themselves to just go and use a tool that subsumes the need of having to work closely with this engineering team to deploy it.
Right. So, yeah.
Yeah. Well, yes, this is the thing of. We can now actually get positive business and societal outcomes instead of just technological outcomes.
I think one of my favorite things I remember Peter Tiel, he refers to he says we’ve we were trying to get Star Trek, but all we got was the Star Trek computer.
We didn’t get the tricorder. We didn’t get the transplant. We didn’t get the other things. All we got was the the computer that, you know, and and in fact, that’s the dangerous place to rely on. You know, we need to do things with these things. And this is why we are now at the point where we can really do amazing things.
Absolutely. And especially if you are a scientist. Right.
So I’m actually curious, Louise, what is a data scientists? Because I started to get different pictures of what that person is today, so if I’m an organization that I’m looking to hire a data scientist, what’s that profile of a person look like?
I’m curious in your experiences, given that you’re obviously very close to the field.
Yeah, no, that’s that’s a great question. Also, it’s a great question. And there’s just so many possibilities here. I tell it, say it really it really depends on what kind of problem we try to solve after data. Scientists tends to specialize in different kinds of data rights for different kinds of models. I would say that we should approach our, you know, see what kind of data you have to probably try to solve and go after.
Data scientist had zero domain experience because if you have some domain experience, you tend to get a lot better, you know, more predictive models and a lot better analysis out of the data that you that you have. What I think you actually focus people that say that the folks and people understand the problem domain and understand is the you know, the core tools in machine learning and data and analytics and statistics. Right. To go and work with your data now to go full circle.
Now, what I think is harder is trying to find a data scientist that can do that and also can do all of the complicated, ugly software tricks and they have to do to actually get get the model to or get the results to be usable as an end product. This is almost impossible to find somebody like that. This is why, you know, when we do, because somewhere early on in the life of the company, we’re doing some interviews to see what is it that we will be going after.
The number one pain points that we heard from folks that were running these things is that, well, you know, we have great data scientists and we’ve been doing better because the tools for the science are getting better and, you know, and there’s more. But now we have to go compare them was with very rare software engineering skills. And that’s what breaks the whole magic tear, because now you have the data and the data scientists just don’t have the rest of the resources to go and make their output be useful.
That’s where that’s where we started. Like, let’s just go to zero in on let’s automate the process of what gets out of the hands of data scientists and what should be the deployable module and get that gap and cover that with, you know, very sophisticated automation that uses machine learning. That’s really what the optimizer does. Right.
So first of all, my favorite name on Earth of a platform optimizer.
Sounds cool. I’m glad you like it. We love it. Yeah, the optimizer is definitely yeah. Every time I say like, it makes me smile. I’ve been saying this for over a year now and so I love. Thank you. Thank you for that Eric. So I hope I answered your question, but yeah. So how are you. Data scientist is I’m glad the tools are getting better, but it’s just so dependent on what kind of problem you want to solve that.
Yeah, it’s really about people understand the problem domain.
So it’s it’ll be interesting to see because I think we face right now as a society and businesses and governments is the sense that you’ve got to wait for the next.
We have to wait for the next batch of students to come up through the education system with access to the tools. So you have an eight to ten year cycle before people are actually able to do. And and in that amount of time, since we have so fundamentally change now, we don’t have to wait for that. We can we can train people in place. We can up level people where they’re at, through software, through technology, through capabilities.
It’s yeah, it’s an interesting point. I’m not sure if that’s where you’re going. And so it is a complete tangent here, but I think it’s fascinating to think about the role of A.I. and now in machine learning, it’s actually in educating humans. Right. So right. So there’s like ways of using AML to generate problem sets for kids to learn the ways of evaluating their kids. Yeah, so. And using that to actually train engineers. Right.
So the the potential for this stuff is just it is wondrous.
You know, there’s obviously there’s and I’ve talked with a few folks about some of the challenges around the ethics and biases.
And I and definitely I think what it’s superimportant, extremely important and tough on him.
I know I’ll ask you this kind of in your let me lean on your academia side, because I especially, as you put it, my Professor Hattab, my professor, had said you’re you’re very you probably that’s probably an area that where it gets dealt with or questioned the most. Is it through academia? We’re studying, you know, what are the potential like in business? It’s more like how do you, you know, broadly get this out in the world.
But we are finding through, you know, through thinking groups and through, you know, think tanks and through universities and the academia, like we are now at the study phase or continue to be when we’ll be for a long time in the study phase of.
How do we make sure? That we are as best as possible using these tools and this data. You know, it’s a real conundrum, because if it if it’s a representation of society, how much do we steer it in order to get what we hope to get out of it? Versus if a machine learning model gives you an output and we should there’s a reason it came up with that output we made up, trust it or understand it or maybe not like it, but it’s more like looking at how it got there than trying to, you know, stand at the output phase and then try and steer it towards a belief or an opinion, which is.
Yeah, well, this is a great question, super deep. And again, it could be a topic of a long conversation, but I would say that. Right. No, no, no.
But I’m I’m happy to offer some some thoughts here, because I do have colleagues and friends that I think about this for a good chunk of their waking hours, so. First of all, I mean, absolutely, we have to be mindful of biases in in machine learning, especially because of machine learning being dependent on training data. We need to make sure that the data is representative of a broad set of uses that’s actually equitable across all of the stakeholders in how this model is deployed and is aspects of the model architecture that should be training should be developed in the loop assuming.
And I think that comes fundamentally from having a diverse team. Right. So if you have a diverse team of people that are working on there’s a diverse engineering team or diverse team of of of data scientists as a team, that actually doing this naturally will point out deficiencies in training data and the architecture of the models. Just so with that as the people aspect here, that if we talk about machines doing more and more things, you have machines, you have people designing machines and designing engines that these people themselves need to be there.
Is this why I’m a firm believer of extremely diverse things? I’ve done that in academic teams that I’ve that I’ve built and know, pay a lot of attention to that at Octonal as well. That’s one thing.
And then the second thing is just through education. Right. So we have to keep bringing up these aspects of of of bias and make sure that he works for all the stakeholders, not just the machine learning, by the way, but in any engineering discipline. So there’s a friend of mine that once gave a talk and you to put his name here, but so about bias in machine learning. And he started with a great example. They might have heard that one of the very first photographic films that you heard that story before, photographic films that Kodak that essentially we’re talking about the chemical engineering thing like you designed the chemistry of our bodies and the way they designed the photosensitive material.
They realized that the way they were judging whether it was good or not was by, you know, checking this against a certain set of people with a different skin color, with a specific skin color. That means that if you actually use this in other skin color would just not work at all, which is not look right. And it was the case. So that means that they were they were biased. They set a great example that bias in how we evaluate whether something is ready or not for all the stakeholders is just not applied to machinery.
But any engineering discipline in this case, I thought was a really great one because it talked about something that, you know, on the order of a century old. Right. So it is just and then the way the tone of the film was and good for all of the callers. And it actually showed, you know, as one historical aspect of that. And that’s that’s true. You know, how you design you know how this affects building architecture.
There’s is it’s like a lot of things that humans use should have this thinking, not just machine learning. Right. Just that machine learning gets that extra aspect, because right now it’s enabling applications that it’s not a machine that gets extra attention on this because of how their applications is changing our lives super fast today, but also because so sensitive to data litigation is so fast that, you know, leads to a lot of misfortunes and, you know, let’s say missed opportunities to make it better early on in its.
There’s so much positive, but unfortunately, what will happen is the one the one negative story will be the one that becomes the focus. Quite often it’s like with anything. It was interesting. I was at a an event a couple of years ago says that it’s almost feel like it’s been that long since we’ve been at in-person events.
And it was a Canadian insurance company that had created their own their own call centers with EHI machine learning, all the stuff. And they basically fed it every single call that they’ve ever had taken with a customer service call and and trains this. And then they finally this was the moment where they said it as the to answer the next call. And it took the call and it dealt with with the person and they said it goes all the way through. And like, obviously they’re listening and monitoring like what’s let’s see how it behaves and it gets all the way to the end, solves the person’s problem in a perfect human sounding voice and gets all the way to the end.
And and this is the closing of the call. Then the machine says, is there anything else that I can help you with today?
And they said, yes, they stopped and looked at each other the like.
We that’s never been in a training manual. It’s never been there’s nothing that tells it to do that. But through all of the different calls and all the different ascertains that this was the best way. And they said then what was even funnier was the response. The person says, no, thank you, but I just want to thank you, especially because it’s so nice to talk to a human for a change right now.
I love that. Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. But this is the. There there’s going to be a beautiful call, like an augmented world, where we can leverage machine learning in these capabilities with like natural language processing and all these different things, we can use that like here.
But companies that are using it to detect, you know, emotional changes in people’s voices and they’re using effect to detect changes in their behaviors that, you know, could be for people that are at risk of suicide or there’s, you know, so there’s so many incredibly positive things.
And this is why, like I said, when so we have a friend in common, Amber Roland, who is, you know, you know, through your you she helps you with your PR and just fantastic human.
And she’s done a ton of stuff, you know, introduce me to the great people as well over time. And she’s like, every time I talk to her, it’s just like this, like, oh, yeah, here’s the human side. And she’s going to introduce me to people that are doing. Big things in when she said, I want you to talk to these folks, to talk to them. I had to race to the reply and say, I’m so glad that you did.
Now I know, of course, because like you mentioned, it’s tough. This is the tough part.
It’s hard to have hero customer stories because a lot of the customers you have, obviously, there’s going to be sensitivity and there’s and you’re ready, you know, in the in the birth of the company.
But you know what is maybe another quick example of a real human outcome that you’ve been able to see come to life. Well, yeah, great, so that we have several of them, right, so we. Let me let me if I can just pick up into, like, what kind of customers we work with today. Right. We have two categories of customers, one hour in which you learn the end users. These are companies that deploy that have products that use machine learning both on the edge and any of the cloud without getting into specifics.
I think of it as enabling much more natural user interfaces. I’d say that this is has, you know, a human outcome, because if you actually enable a new way of using voice, basing their faces in in very cheap, low, low end devices, you can buy them into more, more user scenarios and therefore have both add added convenience to people that are able and also add that ability to people that do not have, you know, that that are potentially disabled.
Right. So let’s say that is like a really nice outcome of just enabling more intelligence and intelligence. Think the edge is something that we have customers that we have enabled to do so. But customers are just machine learning and users and then also enabling hardware vendors that do not did not have a solid software stack to make their hardware useful for machine learning and then enable them to to to do so. But I’d say that in general, like the impact on human life, what we do is, again, one, enabling applications that weren’t possible before in terms of telling you the edge and also enabling these large scale compute problems that could be related to, say, life sciences, you know, that would not be accessible without the level optimizations that we provide.
So that’s how we got really proud of what we do in terms of the and, you know, and the impact in human life is we didn’t have any applications and even things that would be possible before. So.
Well, the the thing that I I try to remind people, too, is, you know, when we look at phases of of adoption and real life, if we look at sort of the hype lifecycle of so many things and we talk about edge computing for a long time and people still sort of struggle with what it means, but in effect, the the phone, you know, in a way, the phone you hold in your hand while it is a computer that’s stronger than the computer that since the first humans to the moon, it is an, in effect, an edge device.
Edge devices aren’t just raspberry pis that are glued to the side of a cell phone tower. They’re going to be computing. They’re distributed with different physical capabilities, different memory, different storage, different network, different CPU. And this is when. The ability to use decentralization, it will this is the again, exponential effect is that we can rather than taking collecting the data, they’re stream it back to central storage processing, essentially streaming it back the amount of bandwidth.
It’s it’s untenable. Right. And this is why being able to do processing and machine learning at the Edge is an amazing leap in. And what we need to do.
And this is what hammers home the value of what you’re doing, because there is no way that the model you’re going to run centrally is going to be run the same way at the edge of the hydra’s different.
Everything is. Yeah. So I love. Yeah, you said it exactly right. And I just said one more potentially overly dramatic point here, that which is speed of light is limited and light is fast, but you cannot make it faster. You know, if you had to actually have to go and you know, the speed of light is a limitation in in wireless, in any communication. Right. So not to justify this in any any communication.
So that means that some things fundamentally have to do at a very short physical distance to actually enable low latency and not having to rely on a long, long range infrastructure. This all of the hopes that he has to jump. So being able to compute and the edge has this fundamental enabling, like back by, you know, hard laws of physics that you must run this locally advisee continuous application. Right.
So, yeah, it also just enables low power, right? Yeah.
There’s this is the reason why people hate Bitcoin, not just because of most of the people that got in early and got rich was because of the physical impact it has on compute requirement.
And so there’s always this comparison of like, oh, you know, for every bitcoin you mine, it will basically you could power a city for a year or whatever it’s going to be had.
But this that is that’s a sort of a mythical historical thing. But beyond Bitcoin, when we look at. Yeah, using block chain, using machine learning all of these things to be able to do them on lower power, diverse hardware platforms. Yeah.
This is this is the Gutenberg Revolution of Machine Learning.
Wow. Thank you. All right. That was beautiful. Take the good. Agreed. Yeah.
And also to free people from having to even think about how they can deploy models because it’s just so that course like can even as I development to knowing how you going to be used. But how do you know. I mean there’s so many just think about mobile phones like, you know, there’s literally 200 different Android phones. So how are you going to tune for every single one of them right now? It’s just like this, a very small example when I just think about it came out as soon as he could run to the phone grid and a camera could run on a smart trained on a smart device and on the smartwatch and all of these things, just not having to worry about where it runs, could enable a whole wave of innovation.
So, yeah, this is so you must be excited. To be able to be both, you know, in academia and watching this world evolve and now you can very literally create the future through what you’re enabling at Octo Amelle, this is how good does it feel when you when you began this journey?
It’s got to be challenging.
And I say this like, obviously there’s no easy path to entrepreneurship and.
Yeah, well, thank you I for that question, because I used to present to Forsys how lucky I feel to have the team that we have. And I think that has one of the reasons that I think we have such a fantastic team is because of our connection to academia and the fact that we are a company that has a bottom line to to it’s you know, we have investors, we have customers have employees. And luckily, when we are in a very good position and that means that we’re not we’re not a research group.
Right. But we have a lot of we are really pushing the pushing the state of the art because we are a deep technology company. Right. So we are enabled by the fact that we had people with the products, that we build everything. But the fact that we actually had people that think on the frontiers of what’s possible with machine learning, like using machine learning to make machine learning better. And the connection to academia, I think is is really important and extremely synergistics and I would say essential to us because we are connected to the latest and greatest in machine learning models and the latest and greatest understanding of where even the hardware industry is going and what’s possible there, but also as a source of talents.
Right. So our company has incredible, incredible, incredible talent. We have more than a dozen PhDs in the team and a team of 40. Not that, you know, it’s just about that. But everyone is great. But I’m just saying that just showed the level that we are operating here in terms of pushing state of the art that we have a lot of people that, you know, operate like software engineers and making a product, but they all have a research mentality and research background and always think about how is it that how can I do something better than was done before?
Because that’s how a lot of folks have done research, you might think. Right.
So that’s and that’s very fortunate. Yeah. Yeah.
It’s always that tough metric when you like it. And I believe everyone should be proud especially to say, like, you know, we have a number of PhDs at it. At my own company. We have the same thing we talk about sometimes.
And it feels odd sometimes to say it depending on what the context. But the truth is, what you just said is that there are a group of people who chose to go above and beyond in order to advance something that had been done before that could be done better. And then when you bring a specialty machine learning of all the technologies and the things that we’re doing in the world right now. This needs those advantages for sure, thinkers who are willing to do what they did before and as a group, as a collective, and it’s also important that you don’t have one PhD because then having multiple.
Thinkers that way, people who’ve lived that life, they have the ability to use critical thinking as a group. To aim for the best outcome, not the right answer, the best outcome, and yet as humans, especially as entrepreneurs, we often get stuck with.
I’ve got the right answer and I’ve just got to teach the world that versus let’s as a group work with our customers in the community and the world and academia and come up with the the best outcome because it will be surpassed in future.
Absolutely absurd. Yeah, no, I love that that comment. And one thing I wanted to add there is, is that, you know, the path to impact and the time to impact the machine learning model in machine, any progress. And General is extremely short and a grand scheme of things. You’re talking about something that was in the academic world. People write papers about, you know, in January of a year could be by, you know, by by the end of the debate admitted that same you could be in production by people using it, like just this kind of like unheard of writing in terms of scientific disciplines, writing academic papers about and that having impact on people’s lives in new products within months.
Not not we’re not talking about years or decades, which is a typical thing that in a lot of disciplines you think about advances in life sciences, but at times it has an impact on diagnostics or or it’s just a long time like the future. Same thing in physics and chemistry. So I think many people I think generate for something that’s in production in March. You know that, right? So having this title of what the researchers and getting to see is really important.
And I think it’s a beautiful opportunity. Like, I love that people are coming because the dangerous thing is that if it only lives in academia and never makes it, if the same people that build, you know, take the concepts to the next level, don’t get a chance to actually be a part of the implementation of them, how do the how do we learn, you know, other than waiting for the next academic to come along and evaluate and analyze?
And like you said in the past, it would be a decade before you would see the results, you know, necessarily now that you can literally in academia work towards a goal, do you achieve your plan, evaluate, take the hypothesis, and now you can actually enact that hypothesis.
And as a commercial business, I think this is really, really cool.
Yeah, thank you. I completely agree. I couldn’t agree more.
So so, you know, one, before we close up, Lewis, I’d love to hear your thought. Eighteen year old Louis Sasi decided he was going to school, No one.
Did you imagine you were going to go to school as long as you did? When did you build your plan and when did that? When did when did today become part of that plan?
Well, that’s said you give me the goosebumps here. So just a quick personal company. I grew up in Brazil. I went to engineering school in Brazil when I was 18. I was an electrical engineering student at the University of Sao Paulo. You know, at that time, I, I definitely like I really liked research, was involved in some research, but honestly never thought that first I’ll become a professor, that is all. And then even though I would say that I had thought about starting companies at that time but never ended up not doing it because of those, I got into the academic world and research and, you know, left to Brazil to go to IBM Research to work on this machine that was working life science.
And after that I went to so that was very, you know, taking the next and the next opportunity. So where did that plan come together? I don’t think there was. I don’t think I was ever a point where the whole plan came together was I’ll follow, you know, the flow.
But I always had the North Star that what gets me up in the morning is intellectual excitement and working with people that I can learn from and admire. And, you know, academia is great for that. And at Oxford now, it’s been great for that, too, because, you know, it’s been a different dream to have this kind of team they were able to build here.
So I I hope that we find more losers in this world. You took kind of. Thank you. Well, thank you for the conversation. There’s been a lot of fun, and I hope to chat with you again.
So, yeah, absolutely. I’ll be excited to watch the growth of the team, the organization, your customer base here. Some of the stories. We’ll get caught up again in future.
All obviously of links down in the show, notes for folks that want to find where if they if folks want to contact you directly, Luis’, obviously they can go to Octoml.ai, can we have that? But what they want to reach out to you directly, what’s the best way to do so.
Yes, you can just go ahead Lewis at OK, time out. Right. I listen to him outright. You trust me and I’ll come back to you. Looking forward to hearing from your audience.
I also want to congratulate you and thank you for being an amazing intellectual who doesn’t use their university address when they run a company.
It’s I know there’s a beautiful pride in the Stanford edu or the University of Washington that it’s always amazed me to see someone use like a three year CEO of a company and they still use their university email as their contact.
And like you, you should be proud of everything is OK to email is the thing to be proud of everything.
You’ve got to take it down to be proud of. But thank you.
Yes. I’m very, very proud of our time out for sure. Yeah. This email address will be the only to now. We’ll be there for a long time. So this email address will be valid for a very, very long time. I’m very proud of it.
So judging by you and your team, I very firmly believe it will be so. Thank you very much for the time today, Louise.
Thank you. Thank you again, Eric. Wow, there was there’s a lot of fun.
Thomas Graf is the CTO and co-founder of Isovalent as well as a long time open source contributor to numerous projects. Linux kernel, BPF, networking, containers, security. He also previously Linux kernel developer at Red Hat and shares a ton of great info on the challengs of security and networking in Linux and Kubernetes as well as how he and his team have built a business on open source technology.
Paul Zychowicz is a technologist and elite performance athlete specializing in triathlon. This is a great discussion around achieving personal performance, the jump into elite sports, and how Paul motivates himself through adversity and challenge which helps both in sport and in life.
Chris Psaltis is the co-founder & CEO at mist.io. Chris has an unbounded curiosity and an urge to find out how things work. Chris shares insights into the myths of multi-cloud, how to grow a successful distributed startup team, and how the power of ML and AI are creating incredible opportunities for business and society.
Jeff Bermant is the founder of Cocoon MyData Rewards™, an app that pays users cash just for sharing their online data anonymously. This discussion explores empathetic leadership, selling when you’re not in sales, and how adversity and challenge formed Jeff’s future and what his story could unlock in empowering you.
Well, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are, folks, my name is Eric Wright. I’m going to be the host of your DiscoPosse podcast. Thank you for listening.
Wow. We’ve had a really great, great set of shows. It’s 150 this 150 episode. That’s kind of crazy to imagine.
So I’m extremely proud of the conversation that you’re about to listen to.
And it is really good to be true and to end personal reward.
You’re going to hear some really great stuff. But before we get started, I have to give a shout out. And thanks to the sponsors and supporters of our podcast today. This podcast is sponsored by our fine friends at Veeam Software. So everything you need for your data protection needs. That’s right. Your data is not safe. So make sure you do your data protection. Whether it’s on premises in the cloud can cloud native and containers.
They’ve got this really great thing they just bought called Kasten recently. So lots of really neat stuff if you want to find out more.
And trust me, you do you want to go to vee.am/discoposse again, go to vee.am/discoposse. You can check it out, find out more. I’ve been a long time user and supported the platform in the team and I really love it anyway. So go check it out again. Go to Vietnam forward slash. Just go and find out all about it.
It’s also brought to you by the four step guide to delivering extraordinary software demos that win deals. I’ve been lucky enough to be in the industry and learn from amazing folks and see stuff that’s played out and how to better connect with people. When you’re talking about technical demos and doing product management, product marketing. How do you make sure you can connect with people who want to use your product and platform?
So check it out. You can go to velocity closing dotcom and you can download the ebook.
You get access to the audio book read by yours truly. That’s right. So not only am I the author, but I read the audio book, which is super cool, excited by that really neat announcements actually come up. So if you go and you buy the bundle right now, you get set out for an upcoming course as you can go to velocityclosing.com . All right, let’s get to the Good Stuff. This is a show featuring Jeff Bermant.
Jeff is the founder and CEO of Virtual World Computing, and they’ve got a really, really neat product called Cocoon. My data rewards this. The idea of being able to do stuff around, taking your data and monetizing your own search data instead of just giving it away to the big guns over there at those big search providers. At any rate, this is we start off there.
But really, Jeff is a real estate provider.
He’s a CEO and he has gone through some personal adversity which will really open your eyes to the power of people and what you can do for yourself.
So check it out, Jeff, Fermat. Hi, I’m Jeff Permit, I’m the CEO of Virtual World Computing and our flagship product is Kitsune. My reward’s where you get paid for your data and you’re listening to Desco policy podcast.
You’re listening to. Today’s Capozzi. And with that, will will jump right in. Right. So, Jeff, thank you very much for joining us.
I’m I’m really excited by the both your history, your background, where we’re going to talk about how you got to where we are today, but as well, just the platform and the stuff that you’re doing with your team.
But for folks that are maybe new to your name, if you want to introduce yourself and we’ll talk about virtual world computing, we’re going to get into the cocoon, my data rewards platform and kind of why that’s important.
I’m a I’m cheering and cheering for what you and the team are doing.
So but with that, like I said, introduce yourself and talk about.
But where you’re at with things.
Sure. Well, thanks, Eric, and thanks for having me on the show. It’s a real pleasure to speak to you and to speak to your audience. So my journey, which I’ll just give you a brief background. I’m originally from Rye, New York. So I know that Jersey area a little bit and moved out to California to play tennis. I went to USC there, had a scholarship and played tennis there. It was always like the seventh man on the team.
So it wasn’t great. I got into the real estate business after a terrible year on the pro circuit and my father said, go find a job. And I decided, well, I’ll get into something that made sense. My family was in real estate, so I actually got into the real estate brokerage business and I was with Coldwell Banker, which for seven years as a office and industrial development broker and then salesman, and then decided to open my own development company.
And this is in eighty six. So it’s a long time ago. Some of your listeners probably weren’t even born in.
They said, yes, maybe a variety of folks that have been through it. So I was there. I remember those days.
So days of high interest rates of want everybody but 19, I think they went as high as 19 percent. At one point they were busy.
You remember that people were actually locking in long term rates at like seventeen because they were worried it was going to go even higher.
And it’s if you told somebody today that they were going to pay 20 percent on anything, they would lose their minds like theirs. They just can’t even fathom what it’s like to even have double digit interest rates, let alone you heading into the high teens and twenties.
You’re absolutely crazy. And in fact, I remember my dad who passed away many years ago in 2000. He was boasting about his four percent real estate deal interest rates. And today we’re down in threes. And some of them I’m seeing the high twos for off, not for office, but for other spaces. So history does repeat itself. And we’re at a great time for interest rates and and actually pretty good time and business. Overall, though, obviously with covid, it’s been really rough.
And I do feel terrible for the small and I know exactly what they’re going through. For small business owners, it’s a total disaster. And of course, you know, the trade off is you get people sick. So there’s no good answer for this covid, but it’s different for me. You need to find ways to get through even these terrible times.
And it’s it’s really interesting. And I, I say I’m sorry.
Same with the sort of, you know, the the feeling of of, you know, it’s tough to even say like we trying to look for the outside, like the positive outlook, anything we could do to capture like what’s what’s good about where we’re at. Obviously there’s so much that we wish we could I would give up so many things to know that I could get rid of the greater problem, but. You know, the one thing that we haven’t necessarily seen is so I worked at an insurance and investments companies before and seen like the REIT is like the real estate trust was like a really strong area.
It was slow moving, but it was like you could always you always knew it was a gentle but rising returns. And I think we are very much had a really tough spot market wise for that, which is and I heard an ad on the radio and every once in a while they have those things. And of course, it’s like read the prospectus before you do this.
And, you know, but they they’re talking about like we’ve seen, you know, returns are analyzed, like all the little small print stuff gets said. And they said, like we saw like a 15 to 40 percent gain in some areas. And this was a real estate. They’re talking a real estate investment. And I thought, good golly, if anybody’s listening to this now and they don’t understand where this impact is going to be, I feel for anybody who puts money towards those areas right now thinking for like high returns.
Anyway, I’ve heard that. I know the ad you’re talking about and I worry anybody gets on who does this, I start to worry exactly about the company. So I’m I’m I’m in lock step with you, which is this is not my kind of advertising. I’m much more of a person that and I’m really enjoying, by the way, this move from real estate into tech. And, you know, most people say, what the heck?
Yeah, that’s quite jumping crazy.
I mean, you know what it is. So there’s a fascinating story, but my personality is one of inquisitive and trying to solve problems. And I happened to be really I was terrible math. It’s terrible in English, but I was a really good problem solver. And it’s probably because I have dyslexia and have maybe some form of autism or I forget what the other thing is that makes you figure out puzzles that are most people would go, oh, God, that’s way too complicated to figure out.
But for me, it’s it’s what I love to do. And so when I got sort of bored with real estate and it is boring, I mean, it’s hard work.
And particularly if you’re in Santa Barbara and nobody wants you, you’re the most hated person in the world, but not a popular you’re right up there with dentistry as far as popular careers, actually, I was the most loved, hated developer.
I mean, they loved me because I figure out ways to give open space and wouldn’t take all the land for developers and very honest about stuff. But it was a terrible business to be in here in Santa Barbara. So when I finally decided, you know what, I need to do something different just because I wanted to, I got into tech. I didn’t know I was getting into honestly, but and it’s a whole different world. But I’m I’m actually happy I’m here.
I wasn’t very happy last year, the year before as I continue to lose money. But, you know, if you rummage around in in your profession, sometimes ideas come to you and sometimes not even your ideas come to you, which I’ll I won’t take the credit for the my dinner rewards happily give it to my son who said, Chief, did you know a lot about building browser’s what about people’s data. And the lights turned on for me but I hadn’t.
I stayed in this realm. I stayed in this vertical of browsers and left again and going back to real estate, I never would have picked up on this wonderful idea of what we where we’ve been taken for the last 15 or 20 years and the Internet. And it’s kind of like the wool’s been pulled over our eyes and I realize, holy smokes, this could be great for everyone. So, you know, it’s interesting that you get into one business and I will tell anybody who is entrepreneurial stay at it.
I wouldn’t say be foolish. I would almost recognize recognized as being foolish. But if you can stand it and you can figure something out, it can be really fun and rewarding and hopefully rewarding to your customer as well. Well, you bring up a very interesting thing, Jeff, and and I appreciate your openness to and you talk about dyslexia.
I share the challenge you had I, I would have this real problem.
And I talked to more and more folks who are founders.
And it is not uncommon to find a lot of founders and leaders who struggle with dyslexia was the best burgers I have.
That’s what they’ve said. You’ve got a form of Asperger’s, not as heavily as some people, but it’s there. And my wife says you come up with the weirdest stuff and we think we think differently than a lot of people think.
In a in a sense, it’s a necessity, as you talked about, like. Getting into founding a company and taking the is sort of like this idea of risk. Most people it’s really we talk when we describe it is often, you know, delaying and deferring as much risk as you can and eliminating risk, especially as a CEO.
But just the fact that you take the first leap, you have to have a certain sense of a different type of personality that’s willing to kind of step off the diving board the first time when everyone else is looking and saying, no, I’m good. I don’t I don’t need to do this. It’s a very elite set of folks who will say, OK, well, I, you know, risk aside, let’s say let’s go for it.
Yeah. You know, there’s no doubt about it. And I would tell you, in fact, I had a discussion with a guy and we had a bet because he said, well, you have Aspergers. What are you doing running the company as a CEO? And I said, well, let me show you all the people that are just, you know, have Asperger’s that are running companies. And I’m saying I’m not comparing myself to them, but I gave them a list of these and he was kind of in shock.
And he had much more to say to me, because it is true that that we tend to be and I can tell you part of this is your tenaciousness and you’re looking at problems that most people would go, oh, that’s just way too complicated to figure out. And yet you’re in there in your brain undoing the puzzle or doing the puzzle and figuring out the pieces and finding little strikes, a goal that most people would. And I’m kind of surprised that my team is a really great team.
But half the stuff comes for me. More than half of it comes from me going, hey, wait, what if we just did this and it’s so out of the box? Like I came up with this idea, you know, where we should be advertising? Well, you know, they’re like, where? Well, what do we advertise in gas stations? And it’s like, what? That’s not tech. What are you talking about? Well, most of my best customers, in my opinion, are going to be truckers, Uber drivers, people who are on the road a lot commuters.
So if a trucker is going to do sixty or eighty thousand miles a year, how best are you going to get in front of them? Well, it turns out that those gas pumps where they’re sitting to, you know, fifteen to twenty five minutes to to gas up one of those big trucks. And while they’re sitting doing that, you could have a sign in front of them saying, why don’t you sign up and earn money for it? That’s just off the wall.
It is interesting that you definitely have the and I always say, like when people when adults play video games, he sort of another sort of example of the way that your brain is wired that we’ve by nature have built in all these constraints.
And so if you see an adult play a video game, they typically will have swollen thumbs by the end of it. And they’re physically moving, trying to, like, force this thing. You believe that physical effort can change things, but kids.
Because they haven’t got those constraints built in yet, don’t fall victim to that belief that they’re going to affect the outcome in these other ways and that freedom of thought.
Is where it is, and so when we look at Ivancich personality disorders, but differences in sort of like the spectrum of of personality types and where Asperger’s and other things fall onto the spectrum.
A lot of times it is the fact that you’ve got so much. In one area of like capabilities, like cognitive capabilities, and there’s also it’s a trade off of some parts of the personality are very different, but it also means that you probably have less constraints in the way you approach a problem. You just you see through the constraints and say, well, what if we try this?
And most people are before they say that they’re looking for all the excuses why it wouldn’t work before they suggest the idea.
I have a team that will do that to me all day long and I just push through it and go. Now, we’ve got to go test this because it makes logical sense and may turn out to be wrong. I mean, that’s possible, but it makes logical sense. If your best if if you’re paying people for geolocation, for example, that’s one of the things we do that we pay for GEULA location data. Well, that means your best you’re your best customer might be the truck driver that I mean, I have competitors.
I don’t think I’ve thought of that. Like, well, if I want to collect geolocation data, what about truck drivers? What about Uber drivers? What about people that are on the road a lot? Those are interesting customers. And if they don’t mind sharing their data and getting paid for it, so it’s a win for both of us. But that that I had to push through two guys on my team going, I don’t know, that’s really weird.
Why would you think of that? Then I showed him the sign on the Petru on the station where you’re pumping. And I said, so that guy is going to look at the sign for at least two or three minutes while he’s sitting in his car. And he’s going to start thinking, I’m so glad I can make hundreds of dollars just letting this app run in the background. I had we had a truck driver call up our service guys today, and I think they’re a little bit a little bit off.
He says it looks like I’m going to make one hundred dollars in the first month and it’s not. We have something off on our on our data. It’s more like probably twenty five or thirty dollars. But I mean, you make twenty five to thirty dollars doing nothing. I mean where do you get to do that. And I guess this is the perfect time to let’s talk about what it is that that your team is doing and the idea of being able to do this mid to rewards those platforms.
Let’s open up.
Jeff, what exactly is it that that you folks are doing? It’s you know, I don’t want to call the Lexar because Alexia’s don’t work, so I don’t. I can tell you that this is not something you’d get at one of those shows. So what I what I discovered in my years now nine years in the technology business, and I’ve gone through a lot with the browser, dealing with browsers, trying to figure out how to make money with browsers.
Browsers are difficult. It’s a difficult vertical to be in, and particularly because the word free means you’re not going to get paid. And also on top of the browsers, unless you. I was big on price target, big on privacy. But I’m learning to realize that honestly, there’s very little privacy now in in the Internet and your geolocation. You might, for instance, have a VPN that you’re using and that will give you a certain degree of privacy.
But OK, so how is that VPN going to help you when you get in your car and you’re driving around? Well, if you have your VPN on all the time, I guess it might block the Geode geolocation data. I don’t think it does, though. So you’re just being tracked everywhere. And my son said something to me in one day and he says that, you know, your a plan is not working out with your browser. What about a B plan, which would be the data?
And although you like privacy, there are a lot of people like me that, you know, I don’t really care where my my data goes because I’m not doing anything that I would offend anybody with or do anything wrong. So to me, it was like, yeah, they already have my data, so why don’t we figure out how we can profit, how people can profit off of this. And I would tell you five years ago, I don’t think we had the machinery or the servers that could do that for an individual today with the power of the servers and the computers, it’s a lot easier to track somebody.
And obviously they’ve been doing it for the last five or six years. And I kind of came up with the idea, why don’t we why don’t we I’m including myself. Why don’t we get paid for our data? Who’s making all this money off of it? And obviously became a parent with a little bit of a background study, which was, you know, Google, Facebook, you name it. All these advertisers, they’re all collecting your data and selling it.
And guess who’s not making any money?
Well, you me. Right. And it dawned on me like, well, that doesn’t seem fair to me, that Google, Google, I think revenue last year and don’t quote we have is right or wrong. I think with three hundred and sixty billion dollars. And a lot of it was not the sale of data. It was they give this data away to their advertisers in order for the advertisers to then serve you ads. And they make money off the ads, right?
Yeah. It’s the right. You are not the fish, you’re the bait. And the fish is the purchaser of ads, and that is the business they’re in. But you are, in fact, beating every hook.
You are right. And I would say, you know, as we say in the business, if it’s free, you’re the product. Yeah, right. And so I thought of it in this sense. And, you know, I’ve done pretty well in my real estate career. So this was just like, holy mackerel, you know, maybe I could help change the world. And in fact, this morning I was just reading about a lawsuit that Google, the Justice Department filed against Google for a monopoly.
And I thought I started reading This is Me, because when I went out to Google to start advertising Cocoon, where you could you could actually make money off your data, they called me a scam and they they denied me advertising. I wrote them six different letters, begged somebody to come on to talk to me. No one would. And I realized after reading what’s going on with the Justice Department, they’re doing this to a lot of people. Anybody who is in competition with them, they’re like, we’ll make something up and they won’t be able to advertise on our site.
And it’s a very opaque system, too, like that I I’m in a similar challenge, so one point I don’t even know, probably 10 years ago I I was doing some testing of of like website performance testing for I was setting up a site and let me just see how it works.
And I had Google ads on my site. And so I was basically like battering my site with hits. And I realized that as it’s scraping the site, it’s also scraping the ad and effectively probably virtual clicking the link. And so all of a sudden I get up in the morning and I look at my Web site and it’s just got a bunch of gray boxes on it because there was no ad there. And I look in and says, you’ve been banned from the ad since platform.
And and they said, and that’s it. Like that’s literally all you get is an email saying if you wish to appeal, fill out this form. And there’s no phone numbers, no people, there’s no nothing. And every year, like the way the same way that, you know, Charles Manson’s family goes back and they apply for parole and it gets denied every year. I do the same thing with accents. Every year I say, hey, by the way, I’ve been kicked off the platform since probably the beginning of Google.
And can you tell me why? And then, like, we can’t tell you why.
And I say they a form response from, I guess you we due to the complexities and not being able to expose the algorithms that make the decisions, we cannot tell you why.
We can only tell you that you’ve been denied. Please feel free to reapply again in the future.
My my gal, by the way, over at Google, her name is Elizabeth. She’s not a real person. She’s a I. So every time I’ve tried to go up the ladder now I might give it a go up the ladder with Google only because they’ve just become a tenant of mine in my office park and they’re just about they took like twenty thousand square feet and they’re just about to take twenty five thousand. And what they’re doing in our office park in Santa Barbara is quantum computing.
So no secret there that’s been announced. And they’re taking up as much office space as I can. And I own we own about three hundred thousand square feet. I wouldn’t be surprised if most or all that goes to them in the long run. But my my point was I didn’t even bother to talk to them. But I was like, you know, the government because it’s not just the right. It’s both the left and the right do not like the monopoly that’s going on.
And they could find themselves in deep trouble with this kind of attitude, which is, well, if you’re a competitor of ours, we’ll just block you. And that’s what they did to you or they thought you’re doing something you didn’t have as a way to appeal it. I gave up. I was like, I don’t really need you guys. And that’s by the way, this is how people with Asperger’s look at things a lot of times. Like what?
I’ll need you. I’ll figure this out without you. And I do this all the time, I just go, OK, that road is not working, I’ll just go a different road. And so the gas stations for me, sitting at the gas station with, you know, with the truckers as a bus. And I actually like people. I like people who are like that. So I’m happy to go sit and chat with them over coffee.
Then I am going over to talk to Google and talking some intellectual nonsense with them.
Well, enough to talk about an example of, you know, a big bit of a roundabout of of how things come back together in this weird you know, the convergence is remember Microsoft when they were taken and their answer to antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. government and the the firm that represented them was and was Boies Schiller. And if it was boys and at the time I was. But David Boies, famous lawyer, famously struggles with dyslexia, all sorts of really, really interesting, you know, cognitive challenges that he faces and the way that he dealt with it, stuttering and also with memory challenges.
And so he had a terrible rote memory. And so he had to do was like to really train himself to respond. And as a result, when it came to doing legal briefs, he had this incredible ability to sort of attack it in a very different way. And like you talked about, is that you just kind of you see the puzzle and it’s not even a puzzle. You just you see the solution and you end up. He said he would look around at people saying, why aren’t you willing to do the work?
This just this just makes sense to me. And and thus it created the success.
And then so I said the roundabout thing was Microsoft, you know, it led the way for what I believe Google is probably about to face and.
Exactly, exactly. I mean, they’re now faced with I don’t know what I don’t know if there’s a political hiding place for them or not, but their soon to be faced with this. And, you know, I say to myself, well, just how similar these guys for blocking people with other good ideas and they need to go. The way I look at this is they need to keep up with the other guys, too. So it is a problem for them.
And I’ll explain why. So in in this world and remember, I’m a browser and an app, so I’m not a search engine. And people sometimes get confused. And they’re they’re their biggest profit center, I believe, is their search engine. And everything else is smaller, but still it’s all revenue. But by them blocking other people instead of just saying, oh, yeah, it’s competition now, people are in my interest. I think they’re going to a lot be a lot of knives coming out and hurting Google because they’re not following the new path and the new path, which is what I believe it is more of a shared path you’re doing have to work on your computer or you’re driving around there collecting all this data for free.
You think they’ve kind of talked you into, hey, you’re getting free service and that’s why you’re giving up all this data? Well, I did the math, sat down one day and went, that’s not necessarily true. I could give my user sixty seventy percent of the profit take 30 or 40 percent, which is far better than what you’re getting today, which is zero. And yeah, it’s small dollars to start. But if we start a movement and people catch on to this and go, yeah, I’m giving up my data anyway for free, so why not get paid for it, that will hurt Google in the long run because their model of not paying anybody for anything will eventually eventually make it hurt.
I say May because, you know, they’re the giant gorilla of one point five billion people using their browser. But, you know, there could be a lot of knives coming out. And I don’t mean in a bad way, but just in a fair way for people. After all, why shouldn’t you get some of the profit? And I by the way, I commend Andrew Yang, who is a, you know, the presidential candidate for going after Google and trying to get them to do something.
I don’t have high hopes for him because, you know, a hundred or two hundred thousand, unless they can he can pull something off politically on them. They’re not going to give up anything.
No. And but it’s interesting that you raised the idea of it’s effectively a margin business. Right.
So we are in the it’s you know, you can’t get it all.
But if you can at least take a margin, give folks a way in which they can recapture value in Little League revenue from their own data consumption, that not not them consuming, but their data being consumed, like, why shouldn’t we do that?
Why shouldn’t we we’re seeing it in other areas of the industry, like what Rakuten does with with shopping. Effectively, they’ve looked and said that we can at scale do something that effectively is a margin. Business, so we will share that margin with you and that works out to discounts, everybody, in effect wins because you are going to do the stuff anyways.
So why wouldn’t you, you know, put something in the middle that allows you to personally have gains from from what you’re doing anyways, instead of giving it all to the these massive back end providers?
You’re 100 percent right. In fact, I built the Staats. It’s in the weightings. I built my own rack store because what I wanted to do is when you come to NDR, I want you to get all the savings or all the profits I possibly can give you because I want the customer to be the winner. I mean, I ran this real estate company and I was always looking out for my tenants, giving them the best possible deal. I could lose one guy who showed up one day and he invited me to lunch news that one of my competitors and he said, let me ask you a question.
I’m a window broke in my building and it cost me a thousand dollars. I could not convince the landlord to fix it. It cost me a thousand dollars and I just moved in. What would you have done? I said I would have just fixed it for you. I wouldn’t ask any questions. So stupid. He said, as soon as my lease is up, I’m coming to you. Well, four years later, indeed, he showed up and signed a 10000 thousand square foot lease with me.
It’s right, we just made common sense to to work with people and to and if you can figure out I’m excited about nonprofits for interest, I would love to work with nonprofits. Not only had people share some of their profits with them, I’m happy to share some of my profits with them as well. Well, and this is another thing that came up recently, and I’ll say I’ll say this is my point, Jeff, because I want to pull you into my sort of opinion piece here.
But somebody raised that the concerns about Amazon Smil, where they take a sort of a percentage of of every sale and it goes towards charities, you can select the charity. Right.
And because it’s hosted by Amazon, they effectively are getting so you do the charity, you give the money, and then Amazon as the collective gets the tax rebate for it.
So there are a lot of people are sort of torn and they said, well, I don’t like that.
I say like Boo on Amazon smile because it’s just another multibillion dollar company getting more billions of dollars.
But at the same time, like, the charities are getting money.
And so it is an interesting conundrum, like you said, with privacy, where, look, we’re we have 100 percent privacy laws. If we can ratchet it back, we’re not going to get zero. But there are somewhere in the middle where we can at least find some medium where we can we’ll never be fully satisfied.
But that was another is again, like margin level major, you know, at scale model where stuff can have a drastic effect. A lot of companies can get some good money in. Non-profit is a place where I think people would really agree we should put our attention. Right.
I didn’t even think of the tax. I don’t think that way. So I didn’t think of the tax ramifications. I just, you know, I really care about people. So for me, sure, I’m happy if we can get something going. And look, it helps the company. So our company grows because we’re active with nonprofits. People are happy that we’re doing that. They want to give they don’t have to give a penny. You know, they could choose not to take all the money.
And I wouldn’t think anything, you know, less of them. But I just think it’s a great way and here’s what I’m seeing, and this is kind of a cultural change. I think it’s a cultural change is coming is that we is growing up and I’m I’m pretty old. So I’m I act like a 12 year old or 16, but I get it.
And we’re much more of a sharing type of thought process than than we are. And I’m not saying it’s it’s bad to go and make a profit. And it’s and I believe in, you know, in some great American dreams. But I also think that there’s a there’s a little bit of a wave coming where it’s not just about me, the company. And so I’m one of those guys, which is, well, wait, I can help see, I love this.
This is the biggest win win you could possibly have in business where you’re not taking anything from the customer. You’re actually on the customer side making money for the customer and you get to make some money with. And I look at them go, oh, my God, how great is that? It’s it really is a win win and. It it definitely comes out in everything you say, Jeff, that the the focus is always on the customer like the person, the somebody, a real human, you really seem to focus very much first on them.
And you are the secondary benefactor in every way you describe things.
Is that something that’s kind of always been in your personality?
Oh, I have always thought like that. I have always been for the other guy first. And I figure out I may not be the richest guy in the world, but I’m very happy with putting people before me. You know, you can ask my wife, I have that personality like I’m the last guy off the ship. And I really think that way, although, you know, I have to work really hard at what I’m doing. I’m always the last.
I always think of myself as last. Let me get her taken care of. Let me do this for people. You know, let me people ask me, why did you give me one hundred bucks? It’s like you look like you needed some money. You know, I you know, I’m just that way. And I look at business that way, like I don’t have to have every penny in the world. It’s not necessary. And I actually have told people if I had a billion dollars, I would never owned a yacht.
I would give my money away before I’d get a yacht. It’s it’s funny. You want to go on a nice vacation, you want to rent a yacht because you’re worth a billion dollars. Go ahead. Yeah, but to own one and then instead you could you could help other people with that money. Maybe I’ve gotten too old to be that greedy.
Well, another thing that’s interesting is you’re you’ve had many careers.
And I would say that you’ve approached them all. But the one that I’m interested in because you have a you have a let’s just get it done like you are definitely willing to do stuff. And so competitive tennis was your example where. You did very well at that, you’re getting scholarships for it. So it’s an interesting dichotomy that you have that competitive capability, but you also have the very human, empathetic understanding of experience.
So how did that how did it feel to you when you were a competitive sportsperson?
Did you ever sort of struggle with. You’re being competitive and successful in the sense of you probably didn’t celebrate as much as you deserve to because it’s in your purse. Now, think about somebody else first. So intense, is it it’s interesting you bring that up and it’s once again, it’s part of my personality. I was not a good tennis player. In fact, I had a match one time with a kid. I won’t mention his name. And if he’s still around and he told me he walked up to me after we played two sets, he said he’d beat me love and love the 00.
And he said, you’re never going to be any good at the sport. You should go do something else. And I was heartbroken. I was what I go I didn’t go home and say I’m quitting. I went home and asked my dad to build me a backboard, you know, so I could hit a thousand four hundred thousand back and forth. And I was out there every single day practicing practice until, you know, until it became a really good tennis player and I had to play it, which means I have a problem with my eyes.
My eyes don’t fuse like everybody else’s. So a ball will jump around on me. And yet, you know, I turned out as a really good tennis player and with all these things that I had to overcome. And so, you know, I just had this personality where, like, if if the ball was close, I’d call it in for the other guy. It just it was like, well, I don’t know. And it was clearly not out.
And it was clearly, you know, I couldn’t tell. So I actually could actually I won’t mention the coach’s name, but actually when I looked at USC and UCLA, a school, I actually wouldn’t go to UCLA because I knew the coach, a few of the kids on their team cheat. And then we thought I was just kidding. One of my fellow tennis players about that, that we had a saying that he would say the kid would say out and we’d all say, mutter under my breath, under water of your reach, out of your reach.
That’s what it was. It wasn’t out. It was out of your reach. So, yeah, it’s it’s an interesting thing to have this this kind of dual personality that wants to be successful. But I want other people to be successful along with me. But that’s not unusual. But what’s unusual is, is so focused on your customer rather than your company. And I think that is a little bit unusual.
And it needs to be celebrated more and unfortunately, the reason why it’s as you even even you describe what you’re saying, it’s tons of people out there that are like me, like, well, it’s that may be true, but I the problem is the news is sort of filled with the hubers of the world.
And, you know, while we talk about the Uber of something being an idea of like the way in which they approach business, unfortunately, there’s also many negative connotations to sort of the early management team at Uber and sort of their some of their business techniques. And there’s lots of companies that, you know, have done that also.
At the same time, though, I think inside inside some of those folks, they just they were much more willing to do things that were negative in hopes of doing a positive thing versus you just don’t have that in your you when you’re when your needle goes to 50 percent and it says someone’s going to get hurt as a result of this decision, you’ll never let it go to 51. Judging by the way that you’ve, you know, the way you do business, the way you treat people, you sure try.
And I have to say, you sure try and think like that. I like to get up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror and go, you’re doing a good job and you care about others. Now, that’s not to say so. An investor doesn’t say, gee, I don’t know if I’d invest with this guy. He’s not after every dollar. And the truth is, this is the greatest part about this is I’m after every dollar I can get because I’m helping my customers make money.
And to me, it’s like, sure, I’ll bargain the heck out of other people if I could earn a little more. Not being unfair, I’m not the type of person. I’m not I don’t I’m not a person who takes advantage of you, but I am. But I’m aggressive in getting the best deal I can for my particularly for my customers, because they’re my clients and they’re making I mean, this deal is, you know, if there’s there’s right now, it’s the cocoon is MVR by data rewards is a desktop and it’s also a mobile.
And the mobile does two fabulous things. One, it collects your geo data and we can sell that. And then two, it does the browsing and hopefully other things will come to pass that we can sell for you. But by doing that, I’m actually making money for you and I’m getting just a piece of the action. And the more you make, maybe the more I can actually give you. Right, because we’re all doing great together. We’re in the boat together and it’s so unusual to be on the same side as the customer.
Even in real estate, it’s hard to be you can’t really be on the same side as a customer. But here my customer and I are simpatico. We’re we’re together. And I just can’t think of a better all my business career, I can’t think of a better position to be in a lot of us both making money together and and also doing the right thing.
It’s it is a wonderful thing and. I’m I’m betting that this started fire before your your tennis days and your real estate days, when when was the first time, Jeff, that you realized that you were thinking differently in the way that you were looking at life? I know exactly when that would be, I was in the third grade and my parents held me back and they told me, don’t worry, you don’t have to tell anybody. We’re moving to a different city.
We moved from White Plains, New York, to Rye, and that was musclemen health for me. It was hard for me to realize I thought I was stupid. I literally thought I was stupid. And today I still sometimes think I’m dumb. So this goes all the way back to my eye surgery. So when I was a child, I had eye surgery, I had a clubfoot. I didn’t talk until I was I think I was almost either four.
I didn’t say a word. My parents were. I remember having, you know, I whatever all those things on your brain to see if you had a functioning brain because they’re all going, what is wrong with this child? And there was nothing wrong with me in that way. I just thought differently. And so there was different. And I use all these different things to I hope to be a better person and to, you know, think out of the box.
And if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, even in my real estate career, I was the first guy in Santa Barbara to figure out how to bring workforce housing to the marketplace. Nobody had figured out how to do that. And I did. I mean, it took me a long time to figure it out. You know, I was proud of building things that that most people go to. This case, it’s weird to me, was creative.
Right? So, I mean, if you ask people in our town, if you love the most hated developers who you hated the most love developer, it was always, yeah, this guy I mean, I was always true to my word. If I said I was going to donate land, you know, people just to try and kill the project, which is not going to donate the land. And of course, I did. You know, just.
That’s how I act, I tell you, I’m going to do it. We’re going to get it done. There’s a very strong. Story and and like the the adversity that you faced from from early on.
And the way that you built sort of compensating capabilities for those things, like when did when did you understand that you were, you know, as we say, sort of different in the way that you described it or that, but you knew.
That you could do you could have a good outcome despite that, and in fact, maybe even because of it, I would say that you’ve through adversity, you became much stronger than if you hadn’t faced much of the adversity that you faced.
First of all, I’m hiring you as my therapist and you’re dead on, right? And I think it was you know, I really had some dark moments growing up where I really was convinced that I didn’t have the self-worth and that was part of the driving force for me. I mean, when, like your parents say you’re going to be left back, you know, maybe today it’s not as bad. Back then, I was like the most horrible thing they could ever say to me and I interpreted as being done.
And so it wasn’t true. I wasn’t dumb. I just I still can’t write a sentence properly and I probably can’t do all the math. But it’s interesting. I can do math in my head and do fairly complex math and figure it out and be pretty close and not know how to do it on a piece of paper. And just, you know, I have no clue, but I can do it in my head. So probably after college, when I first got my job, my first job and I worked my whole way, I was from a fairly well-off family.
I worked all the time. I loved to work. I mean, as a kid, I tweet tennis courts. I run an indoor tennis club. I worked on a grocery store truck. Anything to me was fun. Working was fun. And so I’ve kind of grown up that way. And I’ll admit, maybe I haven’t been the best. I’ve tried to be a really good parent, but, you know, it’s I don’t want to compare myself to Steve Jobs, but it is hard to be this kind of person and have these struggles going on.
But yet you have these talents that most people don’t understand. And when I hear these guys, as investors say to me, I don’t know if I want to invest in you, they may have good reason, but they certainly haven’t talked to me. They just maybe don’t like the product. But if you sat down and talked to me, you’d go with this guy is you know, he’s got a purpose. He’s he’s out there to win. And in fact.
I never asked my current investors for any money, I just put the money in myself until I think, hey, we really have something and I think now, hey, we really have something. But I didn’t for seven years. I didn’t ask anybody for any money. And I just put it in myself like, it’s not really I can’t ask people for money. It’s a challenge in the industry that, of course, like venture capital and the whole basis of the system is that their investors who are looking for outsized returns in general within a fund, and that means that they are going to bet and they know that the the bets are mostly losses.
And so they have to bet moderate amounts across a spectrum of companies knowing that, you know, in the preto sort of principle that 80-20 that 20 percent of the investment will return 80 percent of the value, but they have to go their whole purpose.
People always say, you know, hey, they could celebrate. Yeah, we just had a funding round of, you know, forty eight million dollars or whatever.
It’s like whatever that thing is, it’s it’s funny when I talk to folks that are on there that are receiving that that fund, that they’re receiving dilution, they’re receiving all of these side effects and IOUs and obligations. But it’s sort of the nature of the industry that they have to take that’s they’ve just accepted, that’s what it is.
And you’re on the right side of the model, in my belief, because you are you probably when you do take an investment, it will be for a fantastic return for that investor, because you’ve already done the hard yards. You’ve already taken the risk yourself, because in the same way you treat people, you’re going to treat your investors the same way that you wouldn’t let them put money in if you didn’t fully trust that you are going to be able to deliver an outcome that will be in their favor.
That’s 100 percent right. I mean, that’s exactly what you should be my therapist, because that’s exactly how I actually think of it. And I wouldn’t put it. I wouldn’t take anybody’s money. I had a woman who said I want to risk more money. And I was like, no, you’re not putting any more money in until I tell you. I think we’ve put all these pieces together and we’re still compiling all these pieces. I mean, today, I couldn’t tell a user that they’re going to make unless they’re a long term driver that are make three or four dollars a month from this.
It’s really hard to do. But I can tell you, if we stay at it and we all collectively work together, all of a sudden that four dollars return and eight dollars and eight dollars turn into twelve dollars. And it’s the tenacity. The smartness is letting our investors know I am their one hundred percent to make this a winning hand and a fair hand so that, you know, the investors may not like to hear that. And I would tell you if if I think treating people fairly is a good way of going and and it’s not always about the dollar, because treating people fairly is about the dollar.
And I can prove it in my office buildings. I had less vacancies that anybody around because they took care of my customers. They never wanted to leave. I mean, I got guys going, fine, you know, they need to downsize. I talked to a tenant today. I need to downsize. OK, let’s downsize you. I got a tenant. I think I can step into your space. What do you want from me? I don’t want anything will help you move and we’ll bring in this other tenant.
And so it’s thinking out of the box that’s super important in in any kind of technology, any kind of thing. It’s super important. And I would say about investors vs.. As I look at them and they seem like they follow each other and they wonder why they don’t make any money in it is because they’re all they’re all following each other. If it’s food that’s hot, they’re all in it. And ninety six percent are going to lose their shirts.
But they’re all in and it’s like, wow, why would you guys all step into that same room? Why don’t you? Take a bit off the wall, I’m in off the wall idea and you go, oh, you’re competing with Google? Yeah, in a way I am, but I think in the long run will hurt Google and you’ll make money doing it. I’m not doing it on purpose to Google. Google really can’t afford to do my business plan because their whole business plan is based on 100 percent.
Yet they’re giving up their own margins to run away from themselves. It would be a fundamentally bad business practice in their mind. Right? Right.
It would be a terrible business idea. What about a search engine? What if we developed a search engine that paid you for your data and then they’d even be more hurt? So this is what they have to worry about is, is people finding ways. And so the time has come where sharing is OK? It doesn’t always have to go just to our bottom line. It could go to. You know, to to my customers bottom line, and it’s it’s it’s a great model and it’s it’s hard to beat up on that LOL.
And in the end, when you look at there, they are still obviously vastly successful. There’s no doubt that even if you were able to scale, you know, and when we see the scaling of of what you’re doing with Cocoon MDR.
You’re still not putting them out of business, in fact, you’re keeping them in business because you still they still have customers, they still have flow of data. We’re not cutting them off. They’re not cutting us off. It is a beautiful sort of.
And it’s fair is a is an odd word because I think of like sort of the Chris Voss method of talks about, you know, fair is a difficult world in negotiations because fair is really the ideal non negotiated outcome is. But each side has a sense of fair.
And when we think of fair in a human term, it’s it really does move to a binary sense of fairness. But in fact, that’s not what it is.
It’s that both sides have to agree to accept some non negotiated outcome of both gain and loss, right?
Exactly. Absolutely. You know, in my in my real estate career, I did really well, a taking care of my customers and B, being smart about how I used money, how we build things. And that’s just a matter of then just as you’re saying, is that compromising that you can’t get it all? And in my case, you know, I like the sharing and I love the idea of building something that’s good for a lot of people.
And look at this. I mean, the advertisers, when they get the data they want, the customer wins finally because they get money in their pocket and and we win because we’re helping the customer make money. And so to me, this is the this is like a I mean, this is a dream come true for a businessman who has strong ethics, which is, hey, everybody wins. And I think the I’m actually seeing a stronger move nowadays that some of the folks that went through sort of Silicon Valley, the you know, so we’ve got the we’ll see the old school, the Sandhill Road, like the classic, you know, big groups of voices.
But they have spawned a lot of companies, which spawned a lot of founders who made a lot of money. They had a good, good, you know, windfall. And they’ve taken that now and they’re doing seed investment, angel investment.
And what’s interesting is that we’re seeing a move towards a very ethical investment method because those people benefited, but they understand that they benefited. And what the wins and losses and what those trade offs were, what how fair worked in that market, and so I really like that we’re seeing folks that took that capability and they’re doing what you’re doing, Jeff.
And they’re seeing look, can I take this money that I’ve made?
And recognize that I did it and I won the lottery in effect, but with that, can I help somebody else feel like they won the lottery? And we are really seeing this new batch of founders that are being given the the chance where a traditional VC investor would just purely have looked at the spreadsheet and not cared about the business like the the human outcome of their business.
Yeah, I. I totally agree. We’re still you know, we’re still underfunded and looking for the investors. But I have to say, I met somebody on the street who just was looking out for themselves, period. I might not do the deal with them because what I want is if you hear, I guess, the perfect answer, which makes this really a lot easier for an investor to understand, because my customers making more money and I’m out looking for them, you, the investor, are actually ending up making more investment versus saying to me, well, why don’t you just keep cutting their margins?
And I can say, if I keep cutting the margins of the customer, the customer is going to go away. And that four dollars turns into two dollars. Sure. For two months you got a little more money, but now I don’t have a customer. Why would you do that? That doesn’t make so being in business for 25 or 30 years makes me a lot smarter about how this whole system can work and what I can say to an investor.
Sure, we’ll take 50 percent, but now I don’t have a customer because I took too much money from that. So they’re not around anymore, so now I have to buy a new customer. Thanks a lot. Yeah, well, and in the area that you’re working, we know the business model that you’re effectively pitted against is certainly not going away. And in fact, their margins are increasing.
There’s definitely a win for your customers all the way through, like the end for the foreseeable future.
This is not a it’s not a temporary win.
This is something that we are going to be up against in the economics of advertising and data sales and data privacy, subjugation.
To to that stuff. It’s. It’s not going away, and in fact, this is an opportune time for for what you’re doing. And and like I said, I appreciate, you know, how you’re approaching it.
What you’re doing is amazing. What the way in which you’re approaching it as a person is even more important, I think, in what will derive a positive outcome for you and for your customers.
I sure hope so. And let me say this. You touched on privacy. I think privacy. I actually built the browser, which will eventually combine into this browser that’s I think one of the most private secure browsers ever built. That was the first thing I ever built. So I like the idea of privacy. But when you get to the point of realizing, well, OK, so maybe my browser could be private, but my geolocation is really not private.
It’s kind of like, you know, unless this is really harming you a lot, either sit home and don’t go anywhere or you kind of have to go, well, you know what, they’re getting it anyway. So why don’t I get a piece of the action and maybe it’s, you know, you kind of given up in a way. But the answer is, well, maybe I had to, because really, you’re fighting these giant companies that are going to take all the information they possibly can get about you and turn it into monetizing because that’s their model.
My model is different, which is a you and I together are going to do this with your data. But finally, you’re going to get paid for your data versus just giving it to some company and you never get anything out of it. Now, it may be only a few dollars to start, but I guarantee you, if we stick together and we build the company, this will turn into a lot more money, maybe as much as, you know, a couple of thousand dollars a year for a person.
And that that’s a dream right now. But it’s you know, it could be reality in years and still have some privacy. But at least you’re making some money off of what everybody else is using on you and you don’t even get it. You don’t even know that you are the product. It’s it’s a terrible, terrible situation to not realize that you are the product and you’re not getting anything for your data.
Yeah, it’s it’s the problem we face of like the some of the like the pundits, the strong voices out there that are very like, you know, and I’m all I’m pro privacy.
I’m I’m I would say I’m island. And instead of a lot of libertarian categories and sort of the like, the way I think about, you know, like Google, I’m like, hey, I love the idea of free markets at some point, then I’m torn of how do we regulate it, because there is a point where sometimes it’s necessary, but when it comes to privacy and whatever, so the people like me, you know, or the really strong advocates for privacy, they’re going to do kind of what you talked about, where they’re going to use a a Tor browser.
They’re going to do VPN everywhere.
They’re going to do all this crazy stuff. But the truth is, it’s a minuscule percentage of the population. And what you’re doing is you’re effectively creating opportunity for the larger mass of the population who just can’t they don’t have the technical know how to do that and nor they should they.
So why not reward them with the data that they’re already giving away, at least in. Let’s let’s find a way that we can I think through that.
You know, even as the second phase of of what your team will do is there’s there’s a next chapter and it will probably be can we empower more privacy through now that we have a customer base like it’s your customers are in the beginning of a journey and it’s a journey towards them getting value from their own.
Selves. Well, how would you like. Let me put this out as a big as a big picture. How would you like that? You have the control, I’ll say, on almost everything you have to control to decide. I want to sell it just like you do it today. I want to sell it. And I don’t want to sell. I mean, to me, that’s how we act as human beings. We don’t have this one side like, oh, I’ll just sell everything or we don’t have the side that I’m just going to be private about everything.
There’s these you know, we have two different personalities going on. And I would submit to you what we’re building when I eventually match in Cocoon, the private browser, you then have the best of both worlds. So you can say to yourself, instead of spending one hundred and twenty dollars on a VPN, unless you’re sending documents through, I don’t see a need for that. But if you’re on the Web, you could use our browser, which hides your IP address, stores, everything in the cloud, nothing is on your computer.
I mean, I’m a whiz kid at this part. It’s probably one of the better browsers ever had built in that sense of privacy. And and we have know antivirus on it. So all types of things. And yet you could have best of both worlds. So you in a switch, which is what I plan in the future, is you can hit I want to be in stealth mode. Nobody can see anything you’re doing. And to me, that’s the perfect solution, which is take your choice, you know, if you want to be private, you don’t want anybody know what you’re doing, put that on.
If you don’t care about where you’re going day to day, turn on your geolocation, let it flow and make some money. It’s a. It’s a win. It truly is a win win, and I think that for folks who who need to look into this will we’ll include some some links in the show notes as well.
But just to go back to your. Your way of approaching things, Jeff, adversity very much played a part in your ability to succeed because of the way you’ve developed methods to deal with that adversity, which resulted in you being able to deal with other externalities, other adversity for folks that.
If they came to you and they said, Jeff, I love your story, I haven’t, I want to be able to.
Take on risk, I want to be able to move they start a business, do a thing.
What’s the advice that you would give, maybe just to folks that how do they prepare themselves for that adversity when they may not have experienced it yet?
Yeah, great question. So a couple pieces of advice from my staff. First of all, which I’ve made a hundred mistakes, so make sure you do your research, whatever, you’re going to go in to do a deep dive and twist this around before you spend a penny twisted around. You’ll still find when you start to develop it that you’ll have surprises you never thought of. Like who would have thought that? Maybe Mike, maybe the trucker’s or or Uber drivers would be my best customers and their best customers, so to speak.
So would you have to do is you need to have an idea. You need to focus in on it, do the research, and then don’t be afraid to twist and turn as it comes along, because the people who get just like tied into their one idea and if it doesn’t work, they give up, then I would tell you, you probably shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. You’re probably and it’s not for everyone. Taking these kinds of risks is a scary deal.
And, you know, I woke up this morning thinking, how am I going to get all my bills paid? And, you know, I’m done really well in business, but you take these risk and you’re willing to take them and you have a spouse that doesn’t mind, hopefully, if you’re married, but you have to be able to twist and turn, persevere, and then you have to know when to let go if it’s not working. I mean, I’m a perfect come see me on my first project and I tell you, you should learn a lesson for me.
I should have let it go. However, when I didn’t let it go because I had the money to keep going and my own money, I think that hurt. I think because I’m not there yet. I think I’ve turned this into a wonderful project. So that’s my advice to people, is focus and do your research first. Do not go out and think you’re going to create the next pair of glasses if they’re already existing or if you’re going to compete, you’ve got to have an angle that the other guy doesn’t have a price point, something that the other guy doesn’t have.
Otherwise it may not work out for you. Restaurant, even a restaurant. You’ve got to look in your marketplace. If there’s four Thai restaurants, I wouldn’t be proposing opening a Thai food Thai restaurant unless you have a special formula that the other guys don’t have. And I do hope that people take a lot from your story, Jeff, it’s inspiring both as far as what you’re doing through your team, your platform and personally, it’s it’s been a real pleasure to share the last the last seventy five minutes with you.
And I hope that folks enjoy it.
And if so, if somebody wanted to get a hold of you or wanted to get in contact. Jeff is there what’s the best way that they could do that?
Well, if they want to reach me personally, which I’m always happy to take people’s e-mails, it’s Jeff. I’m a different kind of CEO. I will answer you. You send me something, I will respond. And I learned this, by the way, from the president of American Express. I was a customer of theirs for 20 some odd years. And all of a sudden during the last recession, big recession, they said, we’re going to cut off your credit or do something.
I wrote the CEO, the president of the company, and he responded in writing back to me with not only I’m sorry, but with a gift card of one hundred and fifty dollars. So don’t be afraid to send me an email. It’s Jeff Jeff at the Lake and Victor World, WRAL, D. C. and Charlie dot com. No crackpots, please. I don’t think I have time for that. You have an interesting question or you liked what I was saying.
And if you want to look at our website, go to try Cun Seo Seo. And if I’m from Jersey, you get to see a bit fast growing. That’s great.
Seo Seo and dot com try cocoon dot com. It’s only unfortunately it’s only Android for mobile and for desktop. It is both an. Both desktop is Apple or Mac and and PC. I will warn you about the desktop. I so far have not found the formula that I think pays people enough money. I’m not discouraging you from coming. I’m being honest with you. But I think mobile is a seriously great play. And as soon as we can get iOS out, we will.
But if you if you do have an Android, come and try us and write back to me. If you find something that was, you know, you couldn’t figure out, let me know was fantastic, Jeff.
And thank you. And try and talk about the platform differences.
Probably one of the reasons why iOS is more of a challenge is because they have actually more aggressively put better walls out to protect privacy for their customers. And Android is entirely based on, you know, like let’s let’s get this free OS out there because it allows us to capture more data ultimately that feeds the the machine behind the scenes versus Apple has taken a very privacy forward approach.
You’re not entirely but there more more privacy forward and more customer forward, I think.
Let me just say one last word about privacy. I think this should be up to the customer. I don’t think this should be iOS or Apple making the decision for you. They should put the safeguards in place. And then if you say, hey, listen, I want to sell my data, they shouldn’t be blocking you from doing that. I hope to God they don’t because they’re ruining not just my platform, but they’re ruining the opportunity for other.
They know this other people getting a small piece of the action. And I would have high disregard for them for doing that to people, because to me, it would just be greed if you want to turn it off. So there is just don’t download our app or don’t use our app if you want total privacy. But if you want to share in the profit, I would hope to God I so far, I think they will you know, they’ll let you do that because you said I want to do that and the power should be in you, the customer, not in them.
Cheers to an opt in lifestyle, and when it comes to privacy, that’s where it should be. I agree. Jeff, thank you very much for taking the time today. It’s been a real pleasure. And as as you mentioned, we’ll include some links for folks to get in contact. I really enjoyed the conversation.
Eric is great and once again, ready to hire you as my therapist. All right.
I’m available. I’m available now. But it’s I tell you, it’s I’ve I, I feel like every day that I get to do this thing is a part of, you know, like sort of a side gig, I guess you’d call it my my side hustle is learning.
And and what I’ve been able to be lucky enough to do is to hear all of these incredible stories of perseverance and adversity and and see these patterns and see that how stuff gets through it. And it’s it’s inspiring. I, I, I’m going to walk at it today, right now. And I’m going to be on a real high.
I’ve got a customer event I’m doing in a in a couple of hours and they are going to get a whole lot of cheer and positivity because you’ve, you’ve, you’ve given me a smile and and anybody who’s listening will will share with me and be positive.
I mean, every day I get up, I may be discouraged one day and next more. My secret is I get up and I’m positive, like, I’m going to go I’m going to go solve this problem.
It was and of course, the day we’re recording, this is what’s funny to people, that the time machine is interesting. So General Chuck Yeager sadly passed away last night. And he one of the quotes that that he has is I butchered every time.
I’m sure that everybody does. But the idea is, is that a landing that you walk away from is a good landing. A well, if you can use the plane the next day, it’s an outstanding landing.
I where I try to live by, I still use the term. Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? From Animal House, and so that’s one of my mottos, is did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and and today we will not give up.
And so thank you for the story. Thank you.
It’s been really great. Great. Thank you so much for your time.
Aeva is a technology architect, team leader, mentor, and industry veteran with a career spanning 20 years, several startups, and multiple Fortune 500 Companies. Aeva’s areas of expertise include open source strategy, cloud computing, hardware security, and database development and consulting. They currently focus on Confidential Computing at Microsoft Azure, building the next generation of secure cloud-native application services.
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