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The Road to Autonomy
Brulte & Company
The Road to Autonomy hosted by Grayson Brulte is a podcast featuring unconventional conversations about the future of mobility.
5 days ago
Episode 28 | Automating Grocery Delivery
Pradeep Elankumaran, Co-Founder & CEO of Farmstead joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss automating grocery delivery. The conversation begins with Pradeep sharing how bad experiences with grocery delivery led to the founding of Farmstead. Armed with an idea, Pradeep posted the idea on Nextdoor Mountain View to see if there was a demand for his idea of a better grocery delivery experience. Indeed there was a demand. In 2 days, 200 new potential customers expressed interest in the idea. One of the key selling points to those potential Farmstead customers the substitution policy. We told customers that we would guarantee the item. – Pradeep Elankumaran No longer would items that you did not order show up on your doorstep. This eliminates stress for parents who would no longer have to worry if their child’s favorite milk or ice cream will arrive instead of a substitute. Our approach is software and a lot of prediction and a lot of very precise control of the data that is inserted into our system which makes the software better. As the software gets better, prediction gets better. As the prediction gets better, your experience gets better. – Pradeep Elankumaran One of the other elements of the Farmstead business model is that the company does not pick items from a supermarket, instead, they operate out of dedicated 15,000 – 25,000 square foot warehouses. Supermarkets are not great places to fulfill online grocery orders. – Pradeep Elankumaran Farmstead is able to operate this model because of its prediction software. As the Farmstead expands to cities around the United States, the company is using a demand model to gauge interest in the market. One of those markets is Miami. As Farmstead scales, Grayson asks if Amazon and their growing grocery ambitions are a threat to Farmstead. Pradeep shares an interesting thesis on the grocery market comparing Amazon to Walmart and how Farmstead is well-positioned to gain market share in the online grocery market. One of the key differences between Amazon and Farmstead is that the company uses reusable packaging. Grayson and Pradeep have an in-depth conversation about packaging and why it is so important for grocery delivery. The crux of the market of the packaging should really be: is it recyclable? Is it returnable? – Pradeep Elankumaran From packaging to the current in-store experience, Grayson and Pradeep have a long conversation about consumer habits and their shopping experiences. Selection no longer matters, curation matters a lot more. – Pradeep Elankumaran Farmstead is saving consumers time by curating groceries from specialty retailers all within the app. As Farmstead onboards new customers, they are adding new products that appeal to their customers' needs and wants. All the items that are stocked and the quantity of those products are chosen by Farmstead’s predictive software. With an incredible software solution that is creating massive efficiencies for the company and its customers, Grayson asks Pradeep if Farmstead will adapt its model for autonomous vehicle delivery services. It all comes down to the customer experience. It’s not about the shiny technology. – Pradeep Elankumaran When automation can increase the customer experience, Farmstead will go all in. Wrapping up the conversation, Pradeep shares his vision for the future of Farmstead.
Feb 16, 2021
Episode 27 | Fashionably Late to Autonomy: Understanding Market Dynamics
Çetin Meriçli, Co-Founder & CEO of Locomation joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss what he saw in the market when he launched Locomation into a maturing autonomous trucking market in 2018. The conversation begins with Çetin discussing growing up in Istanbul, Turkey, and how his family encouraged curiosity and asking questions to learn. Curious to us was something that was particularly promoted in our family. – Çetin Meriçli With unlimited curiosity and an always learning philosophy, Çetin taught himself computer programing when his Uncle gifted him a small home computer. I started learning computer programing. Very quickly I ran out of the idea of just getting the computer to do what I wanted it to do. Then I started exploring the idea of what if the computer can make the decisions? What if it can surprise me? – Çetin Meriçli After several years of hard work, Çetin moved to America to study robotics at Carnegie Mellon in 2009 and be part of the history. CMU (Carnegie Mellon University) was equal to Top Gun for me. I wanted to come here, I wanted to learn from the Red Whittaker’s, Al Kelly’s, Tony Stentz’s of the world. – Çetin Meriçli While a Senior Robotics Engineer at the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon, Çetin co-authored the Slip-aware Model Predictive Optimal Control for Path Following paper which was published by IEEE. This paper heavily influenced the founding of Locomation as several of the co-founders were authors. Locomation was founded in 2018 just as the autonomous trucking market was starting to mature. Grayson asks Çetin what he saw when he made the decision to join a maturing market. We were not deterred, but we were actually nervous. We were scared to death. That is just normal because you are about to enter into a race where there are quote on quote more established players.– Çetin Meriçli Know-how is very valuable. With a history in robotics and automation, the team at Locomation sat back and watched as the market matured. They were learning the market and discovering opportunities based on their technical backgrounds. While others made mistakes, Çetin learned and studied until the time was right. Being fashionably late to the party we did not lose the entire window of opportunity. We got our feet into the game at the right time. We got to observe what others were going after. – Çetin Meriçli Sitting back and observing the market, Çetin was able to develop an autonomous trucking business model that would resonate with the market. The business model resonated with Wilson Logistics after a chance meeting at a conference. Then in September 2020, the companies announced a deal where 1,120 Wilson Logistics trucks will be equipped with Locomation’s autonomous relay convoy technology. Currently, Locomation has tested trucks in Pittsburgh, Ohio, Michigan, Oregon, Idaho, Texas, and Louisiana. Grayson goes onto asks Çetin what the company is learning from testing in different environments with different climates and driving habits. Not all tests are created equal. – Çetin Meriçli Grayson shifts the conversation to commercialization and asks Çetin when the company plans to start deploying trucks for customers and when the company will become profitable. In late 2022, Locomation trucks will start operating commercially and by 2023, the company will be cash-flow profitable optionally. Wrapping up the conversation, Çetin shares his thoughts on the current state of the autonomous trucking industry.
Feb 9, 2021
Episode 26 | The Building Blocks of Mobility
Sahas Katta, Founder & CEO of Smartcar joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the building blocks of mobility – standardized APIs (Application Programming Interface). The conversation begins with Sahas discussing the founding of Smartcar and growing up in Silicon Valley. Growing up in Silicon Valley has its advantages as one is able to build and develop a network early in life. This network becomes extremely valuable as one is exposed to new and emerging technologies prior to individuals located in other geographical regions. Expanding upon this, Grayson asks Sahas when the automotive industry first turned its attention to Silicon Valley. Automotive has always had a heart in Silicon Valley. – Sahas Katta The trend began to take hold in 2015 with the adoption of connected cars. Capitalizing on this trend, Sahas and his brother Sanketh secured a pitch meeting (view the Smartcar pitch deck here) at Andreessen Horowitz which led to $2m in venture capital funding. With funding secured, Sahas and Sanketh got to work developing a standardized API for connected cars to solve the connected car problem. If you are a mobility company trying to bring your product or service to the market, you may today have to do proprietary integrations with a dozen or two dozen different car brands. Each integration might take 6, 9, or 12 months to get through that process. The end result in the world pre-Smartcar, companies decided not to even do it. It was too much work, too expensive, and too time-consuming. – Sahas Katta Today with a standardized API for connected cars, companies and developers can build new products and services without having to dedicate an immense amount of resources. As connected cars become autonomous, Smartcar’s platform will be the plumbing that enables the “non-sexy” parts of the business to function at full capacity. From unlocking doors to ensuring the vehicle is fully charged to making certain that the vehicle is properly cleaned. This is all possible with Smartcar’s platform. Staying on the theme of what is possible with Smartcar’s platform, Grayson and Sahas discuss vehicle miles traveled (VMT). How does VMT work and what has Smartcar learned from its pilots in California and Oregon? With California’s plan to phase out gasoline-powered cars by 2035, Grayson shifts the conversation to focus on electric vehicles. Sahas explains how the Smartcar platform can be used to optimize vehicle charging and monitor the health of EV car batteries. We are not the innovators coming up with these ideas to solve these problems. We provide the building blocks for incredible entrepreneurs to build really amazing applications which create a lot of value for both consumers and businesses. – Sahas Katta One of the applications that uses Smartcar’s platform is Turo. Smartcar’s platform has enabled Turo to digitize their business all the while eliminating consumer friction. This same approach can be applied to fleet operators. With Smartcar operating in the United States, Europe, and Canada, the company takes the time to understand the culture and localizes its product to comply with local rules and regulations. Wrapping up the conversation, Sahas shares his thoughts on what mobility will look like in the United States over the next four years.
Feb 2, 2021
Episode 25 | Data is the New Space Race
Dr. Pippa Malmgren, Former Presidential Advisor, Economist, Best-Selling Author, and Policy Analyst joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why data is the new space race. The conversation begins with Pippa sharing insight into what her father, Mr. Harald Malmgren, a senior advisor to four consecutive U.S. Presidents (President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson, President Richard Nixon, and President Gerald Ford) taught her about relationships. My dad taught me how important it is to have trusted relationships even with people who are your opponents. – Dr. Pippa Malmgren When Pippa first joined the George W. Bush White House she called her counterpart who worked for President Bill Clinton to learn and develop a relationship. Bipartisanship is something that is not very common today. Grayson and Pippa go on to discuss why bipartisanship is the way forward. You are not elected to just represent one side. You are elected to represent the American public. – Dr. Pippa Malmgren Pippa has a talk to everyone policy which has allowed her to understand complex issues from different perspectives. With a new incoming administration, Grayson and Pippa discuss what the Biden administration should focus on as it relates to economic policy. As America awakes from a COVID-19 slumber, entrepreneurs will emerge with new, stronger businesses that will create jobs and have a positive economic impact on society. Americans now have increased savings, stimulus checks, and commission-free trading. This is causing consumer habits to change. The world is becoming digitized and consumers are investing in the stock market like never before. While consumer habits are changing, Government habits are changing as well. The United States is printing trillions of dollars with no plan to repay the National Debt. Does the debt even matter? Can the United States keep printing money? Grayson asks this question to Pippa and the answer might even surprise you – The United States can keep printing money indefinitely. With a highly digitized society, comes security issues that can have a profound impact on geopolitical politics and the global economy. Pippa and Grayson go onto discuss data gathering and the U.S. Department of Commerce Entity List. Data gathering is just the first step in capturing emotions. If you know how I emotionally react, then you know how to sell to me, but you also know how to negotiate with me. Facial recognition is really about deep insight into your thought process that even you do not know. – Dr. Pippa Malmgren What happens when autonomous vehicles start to gather data? Pippa shares examples of how that data can be used against consumers and why it could eventually lead to Surveillance Capitalism. Grayson asks Pippa about privacy. What regulations are needed to protect consumers from the invasion of privacy? What happens if consumers are forced to show their medical history before entering a restaurant or getting on a plane? This is a future that some individuals envision and want to see happen for their own personal and political gains. The big ideas coming out of California are not resonating as a record number of individuals and businesses are leaving the State in droves. One of the places those individuals and businesses are moving to is Austin, TX. The movement is being driven by years of bad policy and over-regulation. This conversation evolves into a discussion about open communication and why individuals are done with being censored and de-platformed. Grayson and Pippa discuss China and the current situation with Alibaba founder, Jack Ma. This situation raises the question of, who wants to do business in China. Does it lead to an exodus of foreign capital from China? With the potential exodus of foreign capital from China and a revamped manufacturing industry in the United States, apprenticeships could make a comeback. These apprenticeships will lead to new high-paying jobs. As the economy becomes more digitized and automated, Grayson and Pippa discuss the myth that automation will kill jobs. In fact, it is the opposite. Automation will create jobs. Pippa goes onto share historical contexts of why automation will create jobs. You cannot say that automation equals unemployment because it’s just not true. Automation equals better employment. – Dr. Pippa Malmgren Automation requires semiconductors and software to operate. Grayson and Pippa discuss the growth of the semiconductor industry. The exponential growth of Taiwan Semiconductor and the geopolitical issues that this is causing in Asia. Wrapping up the conversation, Pippa shares her thoughts on what new trends she sees emerging over the next four years.
Jan 26, 2021
Episode 24 | The Brand is the Experience
Roger Webb, Lifetime Student of the Restaurant Industry joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why the brand is the experience. The conversation begins with Roger sharing the story of how he first met Dave Thomas, Founder of Wendy’s. Later he shares his experience of when he first joined Wendy’s as the company opened its third restaurant. Today there over 6,500 Wendy’s around the world and the brand is known and loved by millions of individuals. From the VP of Franchise to a Wendy’s franchisee, Roger had an incredible career with Wendy’s. Roger was the first Wendy’s franchisee to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge in 2016. Before joining the challenge, Roger had a company-wide energy policy. We had a very strict policy, never have a light out. – Roger Webb Never having a light out is part of the experience of going to a restaurant. It’s an experience that consumers look for and one that the restaurant industry has to deliver on each and every-time. The experience is the thousands of little things that have to be executed perfectly every time. – Roger Webb Expanding upon the conversation of the little things that make an experience, Grayson and Roger go on to discuss brands and experiences and why they are crucial to the ultimate success of a restaurant. Your brand is the experience. – Roger Webb With a great brand, the future is bright and scalable if you are innovative and ahead of trends. Taking a look at the future of the restaurant industry, Grayson and Roger discuss the design of restaurants. Will they have to change with the growth of delivery and eventually autonomous delivery via delivery bots such as Nuro. With an increase in delivery services, comes the need for new innovative packaging. Roger shares his thoughts on packaging and what needs to be done to ensure the french fries that arrive at your house are warm and crispy. From drones to autonomous vehicles to delivery cars, the packaging has to be developed for the operating environment. The packaging used in delivery will be different than the packaging used for food picked up at a drive-through. The drive-through is a booming business for the restaurant industry today. Roger explains how the drive-through operates and what the keys to success are for successfully operating one. The drive-throughs of today might not look like the drive-throughs of the future. Chipotle is pioneering their Chipotlanes concept throughout the United States to great success. Chipotlanes are Chipotle’s most-profitable experience because of the higher check averages. This raises the question: Is this the future of the restaurant business? Grayson asks Roger and he goes onto say restaurants are always evolving. While restaurants are always evolving they must never stop building their brand equity. This lesson can be traced back to Sam Bronfman, Founder of Distillers Corporation who was always focused on quality and the appearance of his brands. Discounting can impact brand equity in a negative way. Roger explains why discounting is something that should be done with caution. Brand equity is what you do every day, every minute, every hour, and that should be a part of everything that you do when you are building a brand. – Roger Webb Looking at the current trend of Cloud / Ghost Kitchens, Grayson asks Roger how these types of restaurant businesses can develop a brand. Without a brand, customers will be unsure whether to try a new concept that they might never have heard of before. For Cloud / Ghost Kitchen concepts to be successful, they will have to have a brand that customers know, like and trust. A brand combined with a bespoke delivery service and pick-up service will thrive in resort communities. Wrapping up the conversation, Roger discusses delivery fees and the economics of delivery services.
Jan 19, 2021
Episode 23 | Automating Fleet Optimization
Aarjav Trivedi, Founder & CEO of Ridecell joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how digitizing and automating fleet management leads to increase revenue and profitability for logistics and mobility companies. The conversation begins with Aarjav discussing the founding of Ridecell 1.0 in Atlanta, GA. The experience of waiting for the bus in the cold and not knowing if and/or when the bus would show up gave Aarjav the inspiration to change transportation. Three years in a row this experience on an almost daily basis grinds into you this feeling – there has got to be a better way. – Aarjav Trivedi During this time, Uber had yet to exist. The iPhone was just being introduced and Aarjav Trivedi an engineer from Georgia Tech decided to change transportation by combining trust and payments. In 2011, Aarjav moved to San Fransisco and launched Summon. Summon was the first on-demand taxi company in California to receive a permit and operate legally. While operating Summon, Aarjav saw that partners such as BMW and companies such as Google needed a fleet optimization management software solution. The relationship and trust Aarjav developed with BMW during the Summon days led to BMW’s i Ventures team leading Ridecell’s $11.7 Series A round. Most great investors are very focused on creating impact. If you create impact the revenues follow. – Aarjav Trivedi Today, Ridecell is a global enterprise operating in multiple countries around the world including the United States, Europe, and India. Aarjav discusses how he manages a global team and understands local cultures and customs. The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to pivot and embrace new business models. Aarjav discusses how Ridecell was well prepared for the pandemic as the company was well-diversified with digital-first solutions. With digital-first solutions for fleet operators and the growth of e-commerce, Ridecell’s logistics business is growing as more companies around the globe adopt digital-first solutions. Aarjav explains how Ridecell’s software platform helps logistics companies operate more efficiently and profitability. One of Ridecell’s strongest value propositions is being able to automate the decisions that increase revenue, decrease cost, increase yield while increasing sustainability. – Aarjav Trivedi Grayson asks Aarjav, how the Ridecell platform can help optimize courier services for the delivery of goods. It all comes down to digitization and using the data to optimize the fleet to ensure optimum up-time. The courier also benefits from a comfort perspective. Before getting into the vehicle, the temperature and music are set for the driver’s preference. What happens when the vehicles are autonomous? Grayson and Aarjav go on to discuss autonomy and Ridecell’s acquisition of Auro Robotics in 2017. Expanding upon the autonomy theme, they discuss the economics of autonomous vehicles and what the business model might look like in the future. Grayson asks Aarjav if fleet optimization the key to achieving profitability with autonomous solutions. Fleet optimization along with the eco-system of operating a service is the key. From managing the health of the vehicle to in-vehicle entertainment. All the parts of the eco-system have to work together in harmony. The core problem is to not let data live in silos so that decisions are made in efficient ways. The core thing is to connect the data from the vehicle. – Aarjav Trivedi Wrapping up the conversation, Aarjav shares his thoughts on the future of mobility and the role that Ridecell will play.
Dec 31, 2020
Episode 22 | Thermal Imaging: Making Roads Safer
John Eggert, Automotive Business Development, FLIR Systems joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how thermal imaging is making roads safer. The conversation begins with John sharing his thoughts on the current state of the autonomous vehicle industry while looking back to 2015 when he first started his career in the industry. [The industry] has become a lot more professional. – John Eggert Today, the industry as a whole is spending money more wisely. It’s maturing, but certain companies still do not have a path to profitability. Expanding upon this, Grayson and John discuss the economics of the autonomous vehicle industry and properly setting expectations for investors and the public. Diving deeper into the economics discussion, Grayson asks John to talk about his experience of owning a Quiznos franchise in San Fransisco. John shares what he learned and how difficult it was to operate a business in San Fransico. With John’s unique experience of having owned and operated a business in San Fransisco, Grayson asks John why the autonomous vehicle industry is determined to launch a service in a city that is extremely unwelcoming to the technology. John explains that the talent pool is currently driving the decision, but that could change in the future as the reality of economics and regulation set in as the companies move to commercialize their services. Could Miami end up becoming the Autonomous Vehicle Capital of North America as companies are fleeing California every single day? Grayson and John discuss why and what is driving the growth of the autonomous vehicle industry in Miami. Looking back on his days at Velodyne, John shares some intimate stories about the early days of LiDAR including a meeting with George Hotz, Founder of Comma AI where he showed him the latest Velodyne LiDAR. The conversation evolves into a discussion about Comma AI and how George Hotz understood the economics of LiDAR. At the prices, George knew that it would be impossible to scale Comma AI with LiDAR due to the cost of LiDAR. LiDAR is one of the key technologies to enable full self-driving. The other technology is thermal imaging. There is no technology in vehicles today more capable of identifying or classifying or detecting a human or any living creature for that matter than thermal imaging. – John Eggert John goes onto explain the safety benefits of thermal imaging and how this technology can be incorporated into automatic emergency braking systems to save lives. Today, thermal imaging is not included in AEB systems due to the cost. Grayson makes the case that it is not about the cost, it is about saving lives and doing good by society. In March of 2020, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 76% of all 2018 pedestrian fatalities involving vehicles happened after dark. This conversation evolves into a discussion around safety and how Volvo built a brand around safety. Expanding upon brands, Grayson and John discuss Zoox and their relationship with Amazon. Grayson goes on the record to predict that Amazon will launch an Amazon Prime Mobility Tier in the future which will include unlimited Zoox rides. Closing out the conversation, Grayson and John go onto discuss FLIR Systems and the many use cases for thermal imaging around the world.
Dec 22, 2020
Episode 21 | Disrupt Yourself or the Market Will
Chase Koch, President of Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), and Andrew Smith, CEO & Founder of Outrider join Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss automation, partnerships, and the power of the Koch network for principled disruptive entrepreneurs. The conversation begins with Grayson sharing a high-level overview of Koch Industries and the company’s economic impact globally. Koch Industries is a private company that generates annual revenues of $115 billion according to Forbes and employs over 130,000 individuals in 70 countries around the world. Following the introduction of Koch Industries, Chase explains the Koch Laboratory approach to entrepreneurship. We can give entrepreneurs with a lot of upside a place to experiment, grow, and transform their technology and their business model to help them unlock their potential. – Chase Koch Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) vision is to be the preferred partner in accelerating value creation for principled disruptive entrepreneurs while helping to transform Koch Industries. Koch Industries success comes in part from the company’s Market Based Management (MBM) philosophy which was developed by Mr. Charles Koch. This same philosophy is applied to Koch Disruptive Technologies and the Koch Laboratory. It’s the whole Joseph Schumpeter model, disrupt yourself or the market will. – Chase Koch Koch incentives every employee to create value not just for their P&L, but for the entire organization. Expanding upon this conversation, Chase explains Koch’s Republic of Science approach and how it benefits founders who work with Koch Disruptive Technologies. One of the companies that Koch Disruptive Technologies has invested in is Outrider. Andrew Smith, CEO & Founder shares his inspiration for why he founded Outrider and what the market opportunity is for Outrider. One of the biggest market opportunities facing today’s business leaders is essentially to reinvent how we move things, power things, produce things to support higher and higher standards of living. – Andrew Smith While leading an expedition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to witness the caribou migration, Andrew came up with the idea for Outrider. Outrider is the perfect example of how innovation allows us to avoid unnecessary tradeoffs. – Andrew Smith Grayson asks Andrew, why yard automation. Andrew explains that there are over 10 billion tons of cargo moving around the United States on a daily basis. A majority of the cargo is moving over trucks and yard trucks are being used to move the trailers around yards. Automation has become more and more a key driver for our transformation vision across all of our businesses. – Chase Koch The partnership with Koch Industries gives Outrider a massive path to scaling operations. Andrew talks about his working relationship with Chase and how their organizations are working together. Chase expands upon Andrew’s thoughts and shares his own thoughts on the power of relationships and partnerships. Additionally, they discuss their mutual commitment to the environment and sustainability. The Koch Industries vision is applied to everything that Koch does: We want to create products, services, and solutions that are better than customers’ alternative but do this responsibility while always consuming fewer resources. – Chase Koch Over the past five years, Koch Industries has invested over $30 billion in technology alone. This investment in technology is only going to continue to grow. Using fewer resources and being a sustainable company is one of the key goals of Outrider. Sustainability is core to who Outrider is as a company. Wherever your gift is, you have to lean into it. Where passion meets your gift, you have to lean into because that is how you are going to unlock your potential. – Chase Koch Prior to founding Outrider, Andrew founded ATDynamics and sold it to STEMCO in 2015. During his time running ATDynamics, Andrew learned a lot and he shares his knowledge and how this experience prepared him for Outrider. To succeed in transportation logistics, it’s not just about fancy technology. It’s about reliability, simplicity, and durability. – Andrew Smith Andrew discusses why having the right investors is key to succeeding. The team at Outrider works closely with their investors including Prologis to ensure that the company is creating value. Prologis is working with Outrider to ensure that their warehouse yards are designed for yard automation. Increasing the efficiencies of the yard benefits both Prologis and their customers. Closing out the conversation, Chase and Andrew share their thoughts on the future of automation and supply-chain management.
Dec 15, 2020
Episode 20 | What’s Next: Insight from an Angel Investor
Joshua Schachter, Investor, and Founder of Self Racing Cars joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss what’s next and the current state of investing in the private markets. The conversation begins with Joshua sharing his thoughts on new trends that he is starting to see emerge and his philosophy regarding investing. One of his key investment traits is the emotional deal in which he invests based on his gut and intuition. Out of the two-hundred plus companies [that I have invested in] this has probably happened 6,7,8 times, but 5 of those have IPOed. – Joshua Schachter Investing in tech start-ups is based on patterns and that is what Joshua looks for when he is making an investment. By the time people have identified trends, it’s a little lagging. – Joshua Schachter While fintech is hot now, it’s an area that Joshua is currently not investing in, despite his experience on Wall Street. Joshua spent a decade on Wall Street working for Morgan Stanley. Before fintech became an identified trend, Joshua’s long-standing relationship with Jack Dorsey led to an early investment in Square. This conversation evolves into a discussion about reputation and it’s importance in investing. I will absolutely take it on the chin to make sure that a founder is not screwed over. – Joshua Schachter With a great reputation, one can build life-long relationships. To learn a new industry, one must invest. This is one of the main reasons why Joshua created Self Racing Cars. He wanted to develop relationships in a sector where he did not have any connections. Joshua goes onto explain what Self Racing Cars is and how his love of racing inspired the event. Grayson asks Joshua about how he is planning to maintain the homebrew club feel of the event as it scales and becomes more popular. This conversation evolves into the current state of markets. With a red-hot IPO market and stocks of electric vehicle companies soaring, Grayson asks Joshua to share his thoughts on the current state of the private market. It’s a much more slowly moving system. I think venture goes throw waves of contraction and relaxation. – Joshua Schachter As a seed-stage investor, Joshua looks for companies that have a market value of $10 – $12 million. Investing at this stage is risky and takes years to realize returns. With the current global pandemic, Grayson asks Joshua what new opportunities might be bubbling up for investors in the private market. Additionally, why investors are following the herd mentality by investing large sums into loss-making electric vehicle startups. Expanding upon his thoughts, Joshua explains the difference between enabling and enabled companies. An electric vehicle start-up (excluding Tesla) is an enabled company as the companies depend on battery technology to create and deliver their product. There are still a lot of enabling technologies that have yet to be unlocked. In the future, new technologies will be invented which completely change the current state of the electric vehicle market. New technologies (such as autonomous vehicles) will become mainstream one day. But before they get there, there will be a massive round of consolidation in the industry. Grayson and Joshua have a lively discussion around investments in autonomous vehicle companies and the current state of the market. The shape of organizations will change as consolidation begins. Joshua explains the impact that this will have on the teams that are working on the technology. With Uber ATG being in the news (and eventually sold to Aurora), Grayson and Joshua discuss the program and why it was not in Uber’s best interest to start the program. Looking at programs and acquisitions, Grayson shares his thoughts on Zoox and why Amazon made a brilliant purchase. With Amazon being the “Everything Store”, Grayson and Joshua discuss why the Amazon Prime Mobility tier might one day become a reality. Looking at the competitive advantages that certain companies have as they look to enter the autonomous vehicle sector, Grayson discusses why the Apple Store will be one of Apple’s competitive advantages. Joshua goes onto explain Voyage‘s competitive advantage with master-planned communities. The master-planned community strategy was one of the main reasons why Joshua invested in Voyage. Closing out the conversation, Grayson and Joshua discuss the current state of the autonomous vehicle market and who will ultimately be the winners.
Dec 9, 2020
Episode 19 | Becoming a Chef: Timing, Passion, and Risk
Chef Hugo Bolanos, Executive Chef, and Co-Founder, Búho Rouge joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss timing, passion, and risk. The conversation begins with Hugo sharing his memories of growing up in Guatemala and the influence that his grandfather and father had on his life. After a bad investment in textiles, Hugo’s father took a huge gamble and moved the family to America to provide his family a better quality of life for his family. Twenty years after moving to America, the family was able to achieve U.S. Citizenship. Wanting to achieve the American Dream, Hugo wanted to shoot for gold and enter the restaurant business by becoming a waiter at 17. At that time the required age to be a waiter was 21. During the interview, the manager of the restaurant offered Hugo an opportunity as a runner, but he had to prove himself. During that time in the kitchen, Hugo developed a relationship with Chef Fred Iwasaki who would become his very own “Mr. Miyagi”. Wanting to learn to be a chef, Hugo asked Chef Iwasaki to teach him. The Chef replied: I will not pay you anything. If you want to come in, I will pay you in lessons. You come in the morning, you clean the bathrooms, you clean the floors, and if you can hack it- at the end of the day I will teach you a lesson every single day. One day a chef did not show up for work and Hugo got his first big break as a Line Chef. When the restaurant closed its doors, Chef Iwasaki took Hugo to cook at the Oscars as part of the Wolfgang Puck Catering team. This was a life-changing moment for Hugo which would go on to alter the course of his career. At that time in his life, he wanted to work at the Cheesecake Factory, which was always busy and looked cool. Hugo went through six interviews, including a physiological test and he ultimately did not get the job. I tell myself all the time when I drive by the Cheesecake Factory, if I would have gotten that job, it would have changed my whole life. It would have taken me down a different road. – Chef Hugo Bolanos After being turned down for the Cheesecake Factory job, Hugo received a phone call from his mentor, Chef Iwasaki, who invited him to join him once again cooking for Wolfgang Puck Catering. This time it was not for the Oscars, but a private party at the home of the actor David Carradine in Beverly Hills. Hugo was in charge of driving the catering van this evening. This evening turned into a make or break moment. When the party was over, backing out the van, Hugo crashed into Wolfgang Puck’s prototype Mercedes. With the fear of getting fired, Hugo went into the party to inform Chef Wolfgang Puck that he had crashed the van into his car. Wolfgang asked if was OK and told him that it was fine. You have to get over your own fears to see what you are capable of. – Chef Hugo Bolanos The next day, Hugo had to report to Spago for a demo for Chef Charlie Trotter. Feeling like “death”, Hugo shows up and has no idea what is about to happen. Will his parents get a phone call. Will he lose his job. What will happen? During this time, Wolfgang Puck and Chef Lee Hefter were talking about the event and how it went. Wolfgang told Chef Hefter about the incident which did not go over well, to say the least. As Wolfgang makes the rounds during the demo, he locks eyes with Hugo and says: You are that stupid kid who hit my car. Wolfgang calls over Chef Hefter, who respects Hugo for the fact that he showed up at Spago after the incident. Chef Hefter transferred Hugo from Catering to Spago to repay the debt. Once again it was about timing as Hugo owned the situation. Hugo ended up spending 10 years at Spago working his way up to #3 in the kitchen. When famous chefs such as Daniel Boulud or Alain Ducasse would visit Spago, Hugo would ask to join their operations for a summer to learn new cooking techniques. He made it happen and paid his own way. The world’s kitchens were Hugo’s internship. You cannot cook great food or give a great experience unless you received that great food. Received that great experience and seen that for yourself. – Chef Hugo Bolanos From Spago, Hugo transferred to the Hotel Bel-Air where he created the annual End-of-Summer Barbecue. This conversation evolves into a discussion around not giving up when facing obstacles in life. With COVID-19 impacting the world, Hugo’s dream of opening his own restaurant was starting to diminish. Having to make a big life decision, Hugo pivoted and shifted to a takeaway restaurant business – Búho Rouge. With takeaway food, packaging and ingredients are crucial. Grayson and Hugo have an in-depth conversation around packaging and foods that can be packaged for takeaway and delivery. Building upon packaging, Grayson asks Hugo for his thoughts on cloud kitchens and what the experience will look like for customers when the food is delivered. I am looking for whatever that next platform is. – Chef Hugo Bolanos Closing out the conversation, Grayson and Hugo discuss culinary experiences and why they are important for the hospitality industry.
Dec 1, 2020
Episode 18 | Gas Stations of the Future: Electric Charging Hubs
Colin Roche, Co-Founder & CEO of Swiftmile joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss gas stations of the future - electric charging hubs. The conversation begins with Colin telling the story of how entering a raffle during a Christmas party and eventually winning an electric bike inspired him to co-found Swiftmile. Taking a step back in history, Colin shares the story of how he came up with the idea for Penagain during an all-day Saturday detention during High School. Penagain has gone on to sell millions of pens around the world. Colin tells the story of how he grew the business, secured manufacturing, and had a positive impact on society. Grayson steers the conversation back towards Swiftmile and asks Colin about one of his first bosses, Alex Edelstein who told him to: Go Make Something Happen. – Alex Edelstein Later Alex Edelstein became the first investor in Swiftmile after a dinner in which Colin said: What if the world really adopts these PET…
Nov 25, 2020
Episode 17 | Shangri-La of Mobility: Robotaxis
Alvaro Ramis, VP of Business Development and Alliances, Bestmile joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why robotaxis are the Shangri-La of mobility. The conversation begins with Alvaro talking about his career which started in banking and later the travel industry, before joining the mobility industry. Throughout his career, Alvaro has always had a focus on innovation. My background is someone who feels extremely comfortable with uncertainty. – Alvaro Ramis Staying on the theme of being extremely comfortable with uncertainty, Alvaro joined Car2Go in 2014 as Chief Marketing Officer. When he first tried a free-floating car-share service, Alvaro thought the following: It was that moment when I opened that car with my app that the lights turned on. I walked into the vehicle and the panel told me hello with my name. I was like man, this is the future. I fell in love. – Alvaro Ramis Bringing this conversation full circle, Grayson asks Alvaro about the c…
Nov 17, 2020
Episode 16 | American Success Story: AutonomouStuff
Bobby Hambrick, Founder & CEO, AutonomouStuff and Chief Autonomous Officer, Hexagon joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the founding of AutonomouStuff, the acquisition by Hexagon, and why AutonomouStuff is an American success story. The conversation begins with Bobby telling the story of how he founded AutonomouStuff in a barn in his backyard and eventually sold his house and rental properties to scale the company. I was born with this natural innate motivation and this drive to succeed. I have always taken this fearless approach to accomplish whatever task I had on hand. – Bobby Hambrick As the company grew, Bobby reinvested every dollar that the company made back into the company to help it grow. He grew the company without venture capital as he invested in himself and his company. Every month Bobby operated the company it was was profitable. The conversation naturally evolves into SPACs and why companies are going public with little to no r…
Nov 10, 2020
Episode 15 | Insurance Markets and the Digital Economy
Jillian Slyfield, Digital Economy Practice Leader, Aon joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the current state of the insurance markets and the digital economy. The conversation begins with Jillian sharing a high-level overview of Aon and the current state of the insurance markets. It’s the hardest market that we have seen in 25 years. – Jillian Slyfield With a hard market comes reduced capacity in the marketplace which leads to increased pricing for renewals. The markets are hardening with anywhere from 25-40 %, sometimes, even more, delivering at times a 70% year-over-year increase in costs. – Jillian Slyfield The hardening markets are not just leading to price increases for companies, insurance companies are also reducing their capacity. Aon is working with it’s clients to ensure that they are prepared for the current state of the insurance markets. The current state of the insurance markets conversation evolves into one about being under…
Nov 3, 2020
Episode 14 | Mobility SPACs: Hype or Reality?
David Welch, Detroit Bureau Chief, Bloomberg joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the mobility SPAC market. The conversation begins with David sharing his thoughts on the current state of the mobility SPAC market. He brings up the valid point of who is conducting the scouting and due diligence on the deals. Grayson then asks David about the supposed due diligence that Steve Girsky’s VectoIQ Acquisition Corp. did prior to merging with Nikola and taking the company public via a SPAC transaction. Building upon that conversation, David talks about the in-progress Nikola / GM deal that has yet to close. Expanding upon the conversation around Nikola and GM, Grayson asks David if Nikola would even have made it through a traditional IPO. David does not think Nikola would have made it through a traditional IPO process. David suggests that GM originally did the deal with Nikola because the company had a hot stock at the time. Was the Nikola stock craze driv…
Oct 27, 2020
Episode 13 | Autonomous Trucking Logistics
Jordan Coleman, General Counsel and Vice President of Policy, Kodiak Robotics joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss autonomous trucking logistics. The conversation begins with Jordan talking about his journey from corporate lawyer to start-up lawyer. His love of being a lawyer and working on transformative technology and what happened when Kodiak Robotics Co-Founders, Don Burnette, and Paz Eshel asked Jordan to join Kodiak as General Counsel. As my parents like to say, I was a lawyer when I was two-years old at the dinner table, well before I ever went to law school. – Jordan Coleman Expanding upon the dinner table conversation, Grayson asks Jordan to dive into family dinners and to share his insight into what his family would discuss over dinner. Jordan credits his parents and family for encouraging him to explore intellectual curiosity and have healthy debates. My dinner table was a debate club, my dinner table was public speaking 101 and my dinner…
Oct 20, 2020
Episode 12 | California's Electric Future
Russ Mitchell who covers the rapidly changing global auto industry (with special emphasis on California, including Tesla, electric vehicles, and driverless cars) at The Los Angeles Times once again joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss California’s Electric Future. The conversation begins with a discussion about California Governor Newsom’s executive order to phase out gasoline-powered cars. Why this was politically savvy to appeal to the climate front, but the uncertainly that this will cause around the economics as an electric vehicle costs on average 30% more than a gasoline-powered car. Grayson and Russ go onto discuss why this might create a grey market for gasoline-powered cars and what the supply chain for electric vehicles currently looks like in the Congo and China. Following on this topic, they go onto discuss the conditions in which these minerals are mined, and if consumers will take the same active approach to blood cobalt as they took…
Oct 13, 2020
Episode 11 | Innovation Improves Lives
Jesse Blumenthal, Vice President, Technology & Innovation, Stand Together and Director, Technology & Innovation at the Charles Koch Institute joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how innovation improves lives. The conversation begins with a discussion around innovation in society and the positive impacts it has had throughout history. Innovator used to be basically a synonym for a heretic. An innovator meant someone who challenge[s] the King or challenged the Church. – Jesse Blumenthal As more individuals are able to try new things, there are more attempts at innovation which has a positive impact on society. Following on this trend, the conversation expands to platforms and how they grow knowledge in society through access to information. Today billions of individuals around the world access information through a simple search or a scroll of a newsfeed. But in 1992, that was not the case as only 10 million individuals around the world had Interne…
Oct 6, 2020
Episode 10 | Global Perspective on Mobility and Cities
John Rossant, Founder & CEO of Commotion and Chairman of the NewCities Foundation joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast for a global conversation about mobility and cities. The conversation begins with a discussion around public transportation in Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. Grayson and John discuss the culture of cities and why this is one of the main defining factors of how and why public transportation is used in cities around the world. From a discussion around culture and public transportation, Grayson shifts the conversation back to Paris where John started his career as the Europe Editor of BusinessWeek. While in the City of Lights, John saw the oncoming decline of print and joined the Publicis Groupe after a meeting and long negotiation with Maurice Lévy. After several years of leading communications and public affairs, John became Executive Chairman of PublicisLive, producer of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. John shares his…
Sep 29, 2020
Episode 9 | Privacy-First Approach to Mapping
James Wu, CEO & Co-Founder of DeepMap joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss mega-trends, high-precision maps, and DeepMap’s privacy-first approach to HD Maps. In this episode, Grayson and James discuss HD mapping and how HD maps are enabling all SAE Levels of autonomy. The conversation starts with James discussing why he founded DeepMap with Mark Wheeler in 2016 and the opportunity they saw in the market to increase HD map efficiency. The self-driving car problem is really hard. Hardest of all is driving without a map. It is an unsolved problem today. - James Wu, CEO & Co-Founder, DeepMap Without a highly accurate map that updates in real-time, self-driving cars do not have a prior understanding of the environment. Self-driving cars use HD maps to increase efficiency and safety. A 2019 Harvard Business School Case Study on DeepMap detailed the following: Self-driving is not just a technology challenge. It’s also an economic challenge, an infra…
Sep 22, 2020
Episode 8 | Culture of Safety and Innovation
Chuck Price, Chief Product Officer, TuSimple joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss TuSimple's culture of safety and innovation. In this episode, Grayson and Chuck start by discussing the economics of applying autonomy to fleets of trucks. Grayson asks Chuck if TuSimple ever considered creating a self-driving car. In the founding of TuSimple, Chuck discusses why the founding team focused solely on trucking from day one. The team saw a difference in the economics of self-driving trucks. We did see a difference. We saw that there were specific economic pain points in trucking. Robotaxis were solving a problem that didn't appear to exist. It was a fantasy, it was science fiction. It was a future were cities did not have to have individually owned cars. Where parking issues would be resolved. This is a grand vision without clear economic drivers. - Chuck Price, Chief Product Officer, TuSimple The conversation then veers into the universal driver debate and th…
Sep 15, 2020
Episode 7 | Brands, Experiences and the Future of Mobility
Pete Bigelow, Senior Reporter, Automotive News, and Host of the Shift Podcast joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss brands, experiences, and the future of mobility. In this episode, Grayson and Pete explore how autonomous vehciles will create new opportunities for brands to develop and curate bespoke frictionless experiences. From sports to outdoor adventures to luxury experiences, in the future, you will no longer have to worry about forgetting to pack an item for your trip. If you are taking a branded self-driving car to a football game, the vehicle will be stocked with all of the items you need for tailgating experience. No more worrying about who will be the designated driver, no more worrying about traffic or who is going to go to the store. The entire experience will be managed by the sports team. Continuing on the brand theme, Pete and Grayson discuss how FCA created shareholder value by spinning out Ferrari as a publicly traded company. The con…
Sep 9, 2020
Episode 6 | A Conversation with Mike Murphy: California's Prop 22
Mike Murphy, Political Strategist and Co-Host of Hacks on Taps joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the political implications of California's Prop 22 on the rideshare industry and the gig economy. In this episode, Grayson and Mike dive deep into California politics, as Mike pulls back the curtain on how a referendum campaign is managed. While trends fashion trends might start in California, political trends also start there and spread across the globe. With the introduction and passing of AB5 in 2019, politicians in California declared war on jobs and the gig economy. Prop 22 is on the ballot for November 2020, which would define rideshare and delivery drivers as independent contractors. As we dive deep into policy, Mike discusses how political consultants are in the back-channel discussion business. The fine line they walk before scrambling to launch a political initiative. This is why it is always a smart idea to play tough from the beginning. It save…
Sep 1, 2020
Episode 5 | Doing Good In The World
Jody Kelman, Director of Product Management, Self-Driving Platform, Lyft joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss why self-driving cars are creating a better world. In this episode, Grayson and Jody discuss curiosity and how it led to Jody securing an internship in the Irish Government during college. After graduating from college, Jody packed up once again and headed to Uganda to join a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). From a global curiosity conversation to a United States Presidential Transition, Jody has a deep understanding of global affairs and society in general. Bringing the conversation full-circle, we shift into why it is important to take the first meeting with interesting individuals and how that openness led to Jody and Grayson’s friendship. The conversation then shifts to a hyper-local conversation focused on self-driving developments. As Lyft beings to roll-out self-driving technology, the company is working to ensure a safe, clean ride…
Aug 25, 2020
Episode 4 | Innovation is a Good Thing. Innovation is a Job Creator.
Jonny Morris, Head of Policy at Embark Trucks joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the intersection of policy, regulation, and technology. In this episode, Grayson and Jonny discuss the regulatory environment and the misconceptions around self-driving trucks. Jonny discusses the hurdles that need to be overcome before trucks are regularly driving autonomously on public roads around the United States. Building upon Jonny's background in The White House we dive into policy and discuss how self-driving trucks will create new jobs. With Embark's transfer hub strategy, Embark is creating new jobs in the trucking industry. The Embark model is a transfer hub model that combines the strengths of the traditional truck driver with the strengths of an automated driving system. The automated driving system does not get distracted and can drive long periods of time. When the self-driving truck arrives at an Embark transfer hub, a traditional driver takes the load for…
Apr 2, 2020
Episode 3 | Developing an Autonomous Future
Gopal Rajegowda, Senior Vice President at Related and a Managing Partner of Related Urban-Southeast joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss how Related is developing for an autonomous future. In this episode, Grayson and Gopal discuss reimagining City Place in West Palm Beach, FL into Rosemary Square and the future of retail experiences. Gopal touches on the work Related did with Gehl to reimage public spaces, optimize green spaces, walkability all the while ensuring that the environment is welcoming and approachable for all ages. Continuing the conversation, Grayson and Gopal discuss the rumor that City Place was one of Rick Caruso’s inspirations for The Grove in Los Angeles, CA. Following up on this, they dive into the trend of walkable mix-use developments that incorporate great retail brands, culinary experiences, and hotels into developments. Building on their discussion around culinary experiences, they take a step into the past as Gopal tells a story…
Mar 17, 2020
Episode 2 | The Business of Self-Driving Cars
Russ Mitchell who covers the rapidly changing global auto industry, with special emphasis on California, including Tesla, electric vehicles and driverless cars at The Los Angeles Times joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss the business of self-driving cars. In this episode, Grayson and Russ discuss the business of self-driving cars, Tesla’s bulls vs bears and Waymo’s recently announced $2.25 billion investment round from outside investors. As the funding conversation evolves, they touch on the possibility of Alphabet breaking out Waymo revenue and spinning out Waymo as a new publicly-traded company. Concluding their conversation, Grayson and Russ discuss the self-driving car industry at-large being based in California and the reluctance of officials in California to embrace the business side of self-driving cars. They also touch on the TSLAQ debate and the industry’s pivot to trucking and how self-driving trucks will transform the shipment of goods.
Mar 9, 2020
Episode 1 | Henry Morrison Flagler and The Future of Mobility in Florida
Christopher Emmanuel, Director of Infrastructure & Governance Policy and Director of Autonomous Florida, Florida Chamber of Commerce joins Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast following an afternoon spent at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, FL. On the inaugural episode of The Road To Autonomy, Grayson Brulte sits down with Christopher Emmanuel, Director of Infrastructure & Governance Policy and Director of Autonomous Florida to discuss the innovations that Henry Morrison Flagler developed with The Florida East Coast Railway/Florida East Coast Hotel Companies and the impact that Flagler’s legacy has had on Florida. Building on Flagler’s Florida legacy (which was mainly focused on hospitality and tourism) the conversation evolves into what many consider the modern-day The Florida East Coast Railway Company - Brightline (Virgin Trains). Concluding their conversation, Grayson and Christopher discuss Disney and the value of the Disney brand as it directly r…