Kulveer Taggar: The Innovation Interview

Kulveer Taggar, Co-Founder & CEO of Egomotion Corp, the creator of Agent, shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the future of context aware computing.

Kulveer sold his first company, Auctomatic, for $5M aged 24. He is a graduate of Oxford, where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and started the Oxford Entrepreneurs society. His was the first international and non-technical team funded by Y Combinator. He lives in San Francisco.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

I define innovation as bringing to market novel products or services that create economic value. Anything that saves people time or money creates economic value. To me, innovation is the crucial thing that entrepreneurs are responsible for, to keep the economy moving forward. Progress is driven by entrepreneurs, who in turn drive innovation.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Any industry that is oligopolistic in structure. Coming from the UK, I was shocked at the telco and cable industries in the US. It’s absurd the prices that AT&T can get away with. Similarly, the cost of healthcare is very expensive in the US. It doesn’t need to be.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

Probably early on in my career, it was to read “How to win friends and influence people”. At my first job (when I was still at high school), my boss told me that if 80% was the required mark to get an A grade, then the best possible mark you could get was 80%. Anything more, and you should have spent your time doing other things. I also follow the mantra of “to whom much is given, much shall be expected”.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

Being unafraid to take risks. Coming from a single parent family, living in inner city London, it was an achievement to get into Oxford University to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. The easy thing would have been to stick to banking or something else like that. Instead I packed my suitcases and headed for San Francisco. After selling my first company, I dived into theatre and did sketch comedy for two years.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Newspapers digital, and books physical.

How do you envision the Android platform evolving and do you feel that forked versions of Android could lead to Google taking more control of the operating system and standardizing it for both the benefits of consumers and developers?

I think we are already seeing Google take more control of the ecosystem. The whole deal to sell Motorola to Lenovo was a deal to stop Lenovo forking Android. Overall, having Google control the software is a good thing, they are great at it.

As cars get smarter and in-dash infotainment systems are upgraded, how are you planning to scale Agent to benefit from this trend? Will we see Agent partner with an auto manufacturer to fully integrate Agent into the infotainment system?

This is a possibility. Hopefully if the systems have APIs we can integrate directly with them. The app is already smart enough to know when you driving.

What are the greatest benefits to growing up in London, England when it comes to building, running and scaling a company?

I don’t think there are many benefits. The market is smaller, the investment capital scarcer, and there’s not much of a culture around risk taking. One benefit could be that British companies are forced to look international much earlier in their lives, and so may do a better job at creating global solutions.

Why did you ultimately decide to make Agent free instead of charging $1.99?

We wanted to pursue growth, and get as much feedback as we could to make the app as powerful as possible. We’ve had 12M agents start to date, that’s 12M data points we’ve collected to analyse and understand how users have used their phones. Ultimately, we’ll release a premium version of the app.

What is the future of context aware computing and how are you planning on positioning Agent to benefit from the future?

An analogy I like to make is the switch from manual transmission to automatic transmission in cars. They were already very powerful and useful products, but after the switch to automatic transmission, cars became easier to drive and less stressful. Smartphones right now are in the manual transmission era. We have to continuously launch apps, change settings etc.

Eventually, smartphones will know where you are, what you are doing and who with, and will use that information to augment the phone experience. We’ve started by focusing on answering the question, “what are you doing”, and we get it right 95% of the times.

Also, sensors have become cheaper to integrate into the hardware for OEMs as they come directly on the chipsets, which means that they are proliferating quickly. These sensors can tell us more about your context. Agent is positioned to exploit this trend and usher in the era of contextual computing.