I attended a conference this week in San Francisco and had the opportunity to briefly talk one-on-one with several entrepreneurs that are in my opinion “world-changers.” One of the first conversations I had was with Payam Banazadeh, CEO and founder of Capella Space. Capella Space has developed a miniature, cube-shaped satellite that provides hourly, reliable, and persistent imagery of any location on the globe delivered to you from space. Their satellites are equipped with a technology they developed called Synthetic Aperture Radar, which allows their satellites to see in all light and weather conditions 100% of the time. The range of use for the technology is endless. While the technology is impressive, what is equally impressive is the business ecosystem that exists makes a company like Capella even possible. I asked Payam to explain the process for getting his satellites to space and he commented that it’s relatively straightforward. The privatization of launching rockets, manufacturing satellites, distributing product, etc, has made it so much easier for companies like his to build a startup company based on this type of technology. Ten years ago, a company like Capella Space could not exist. Now, with the infrastructure in place (and growing), the barrier for getting objects into space is gradually shrinking.
Another entrepreneur I spoke with was Justin Kolbeck, CEO and co-founder of Wild Type. Wild Type is in quasi-stealth mode so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. But what they have publicly shared is that they are developing technology that allows them to create real, consumable meat directly from cells. According to a recent study conducted by the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, researchers Rosamond Naylor and Walter Falcon state that currently three-quarters of the world’s poultry supply, half of the pork and two-thirds of the eggs, come from industrial meat factories (according to the Food & Agriculture Organizationor FAO). Mr. Falcon states that the concentration of livestock increases the environmental burden with issues like runoff and odor, that were present in rather small and diverse quantities 40 years ago, have now become concentrated and significant. According to the Livestock, Environment and Development Initiative, livestock production accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and has contributed to the concern over increased antibiotic resistance as livestock accounts for 50 percent of antibiotic use globally (1).
Scientists and entrepreneurs (like Justin) know that people are never going to stop eating meat. They also know that someone has to come up with a healthy solution for producing meat that doesn’t destroy the planet. As such, companies like Wild Type and other food startups like Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, and others, should be aptly positioned to change the way we think about and consume meat products.
After the conference ended, there was a dinner that evening and I had the fortunate opportunity to be seated next to Daniel Kan, current COO and co-founder of Cruise Automation. Cruise Automation is building an autonomous vehicle network that safely connects people to places, things, and experiences they care about. Cruise’s technology is applied to cars that are equipped with an array of sensors that enable them to navigate complex city streets intelligently and with a 360-degree view of the surrounding environment. In speaking with Dan, I asked him if he fully understood the impact their technology will have on transportation and what that means to people like me and my children, and how what they are building is going to change the world in an enormously positive way. Dan responded and said he wouldn’t be building this company if he didn’t think it could change the world. He knew he always wanted to do something huge and build a legacy. When his fellow colleague and co-founder Kyle Vogt approached him early on with the initial idea he was ecstatic. He knew immediately that Cruise had the potential to be something special. Now the two of them, Kyle an Dan, are working steadily to potentially have a fully automated vehicle on the road sometime in 2020. Cruise sold to GM for $1 billion in March of 2016.
In addition to Cruise Automation, companies developing autonomous car driving technology tallied a big win this past week with the news that California will allow “Driverless cars to begin operating on California roads as early as April 2018 under regulations that were passed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. This is the first time companies will be able to operate autonomous vehicles in California without a safety driver behind the wheel. The vehicles will however need to be remotely monitored in the event an operator needs to take over (2).
One of the big takeaways I got from each of these conversations is that if you’re going to dream, dream big. Each of these entrepreneurs is developing technology that is changing the world and how we operate in it. I have always been a big believer in the mantra that the only difference between great entrepreneurs and average entrepreneurs is their system of belief. In fact, it was Steve Jobs who said “Life can be broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it…You can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” Cheers – Kevin