The Road to Autonomy Podcast

The Road to Autonomy hosted by Grayson Brulte is a podcast featuring unconventional conversations about the future of mobility.

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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.

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Recorded on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

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.

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Recorded on Friday, December 18, 2020.

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.

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Recorded on Friday, December 11, 2020.

What’s Next: Insight from an Angel Investor

Joshua Schachter, Angel 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.

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Recorded on Friday, December 4, 2020.

Becoming a Chef: Timing, Passion, and Risk

Chef Hugo Bolanos, Executive Chef, and Co-Founder of 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.

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