Auren Hoffman (00:01.974)
Hello fellow data nerds. My guest today is Dan Sroger. Dan is the co-founder and CEO of Rewind AI. He's also a co-founder of Optimizely and he was the director of analytics at Obama's first presidential campaign. Dan, welcome to World of DaaS
Dan Siroker (00:16.153)
Thanks for having me, thrilled to be here.
Auren Hoffman (00:17.822)
I'm really excited. Um, now, like when you raised money last year, it kind of like blew up the internet, like I think the numbers around your fundraise was kind of crazy. I think you mentioned your pitch deck was viewed like 1.7 million times on Twitter and you got over a thousand of preliminary offers to invest. And I think like 170 serious offers, including some of like crazy valuations. Like walk me through the decision to fundraise in public.
Dan Siroker (00:45.321)
Yeah, it's funny these kinds of decisions in hindsight always look much smarter than they did in the moment. You know, because when we actually decided to do this, it wasn't an obviously good idea. In hindsight, it is. And what we were thinking at the time was, you know, we'd had we had plenty of runway at the time, about three years of runway, we just raised a seed round from Andreessen Horowitz not too long ago. And we were getting a couple things happening. One was tons of inbound investors, great investors wanting to meet wanting to talk. I didn't really want to spend you know, half an hour meetings with each of these folks sort of
Auren Hoffman (00:48.718)
Dan Siroker (01:15.733)
one-on-one repeating myself. Simultaneously, we realized that part of our core promise with our product is privacy, it's, you know, is you can trust us as a company. And I've learned time and time again in my career that transparency breeds trust. You know, every time we've been more transparent about something, more people trust it. So we thought, why not do this crazy thing of taking the pitch deck that I'm gonna have to go talk to all these investors, you know, one-on-one and repeat myself and just post it on Twitter.
You know, some of the folks on my team thought this was crazy. It's one of those things that nobody really has done or not very, very commonly. So no one really knows why we don't do it. And, and the last factor really was there really wasn't a huge competitive threat in our industry, you know, that obviously there's a lot of AI companies, but what we're doing is so unique in that we capture everything you've seen, said or heard, we make it useful. We let you search it. We let you, you know, we integrate with GPT-4. So it lets you do a lot of things that the data is really the, the moat.
Auren Hoffman (01:48.299)
Dan Siroker (02:06.401)
And so even if you saw my pitch deck and many people did, and we didn't redact anything by the way, it's still up there, it wouldn't really give you the playbook to beat us. So anyway, so we-
Auren Hoffman (02:10.155)
Auren Hoffman (02:14.634)
And also like you were early, so it's not like the revenues, like who cares? Like, so someone knows your revenues. Like it's not like you're that. Yeah.
Dan Siroker (02:18.645)
Yeah, yeah. It's not going to change. Yeah, we were growing quickly. We grew to, you know, within short order from zero to 707,000 in ARR. And that was what we put out in the deck. And you know, and I did this nice little deck trick where, you know, we started the company March 2020, we only really started monetizing recently. So I showed the full graph, I was like the first headline slide on Twitter was like this black graph of no revenue. And then, you know, he started charging and took off. So
Auren Hoffman (02:42.559)
Dan Siroker (02:42.977)
Okay, long story short, we put that out there and it achieved all our goals. We got lots of customers saying, Whoa, wow, you guys are real going concern. I'm not worried about you guys going anywhere. We got tons of investors, it's sort of fast tracked those investor conversations, instead of having to repeat myself that first conversation, we could just jump right into the questions. And that was good for me, good for them and worked out great. I highly recommend it.
Auren Hoffman (03:03.754)
Now you also were kind of like, you know, you're kind of a known entity already, you're a repeat founder. Like, do you think this would work even for a newer founder?
Dan Siroker (03:13.269)
Yeah, I think it would. You know, so here's a lot of folks have reached out to me one on one after. So there's definitely a lot of latent interest to do it. I think there's a very few people who are like, over the activation energy, because there is some risk associated with this is certainly the stakes are higher when you do it this way. You know, often, if you go into fundraise, it doesn't work well, you talk to a bunch of investors, okay, maybe there's kind of a little bit of taint on your company that they couldn't raise. Maybe six months later, you can come back. It's not quite as public.
And the reality is some companies today are fundable, some aren't. If you're not fundable, you shouldn't go out and raise money. If you're fundable, you should do it as transparently and publicly as you can. There's no reason, purely from a financial perspective, it makes the most sense. If you could go out to a broader market, get lots of bids, got a lot of interested buyers, you may find an investor you never even imagined you'd want to talk to, but they turn out to be great fits for you as your company. So I don't think it's a first time founder or a second time founder. You do need to start with a question though, very honest question. Is my company fundable? If so, then...
Why not maximize the chances of success? And the best thing actually, it saved me, was a ton of time. We went from that post out on Twitter to a signed term sheet in under a month. And this was, by the way, you have to think back, this was not during the heyday. This was a pretty tough time to raise money. So I highly recommend that if you wanna save time, get a great set of investors and do it efficiently. Do it in public.
Auren Hoffman (04:18.97)
Yeah, tough time to raise money, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (04:29.206)
Now the, the pitch you had was, was really, it was really a video, right? It wasn't just like, um, it was, it was a produced well-produced video. Um, and you know, what I found, like when I was raising money is like the first, like 10 pitches I gave were terrible. And even though I did like, I'll do practice with a bunch of friends and I did practice with a bunch of colleagues for, and then I would actually do like real pitches to VCs and they were like horrible. Like I got like no interest at all. And then like.
Dan Siroker (04:34.876)
That's right. Yeah.
Dan Siroker (04:46.037)
Dan Siroker (04:57.142)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (04:57.602)
They like slowly got better over time. Like clearly your first pitch, even like before you even did it was like amazing. Like, so like you, you put out a good product right away. Like, how do you, how do you give advice to someone like that? You're like, you're already there. Like the pitch was already great. You know, I was talking about that.
Dan Siroker (05:14.317)
Let me tell you a secret. And if you're a VC, if you're especially if you're an associate or low level person at a VC, don't listen to the next few minutes because I'm gonna tell you the secret that I used to get there, which was prior to this pitch, I would meet investors, but I would never do it kind of like they reach out. A lot of times that is maybe a benefit of being a second hand founder. I got a lot of, you know, every day, every day a new VC firm wants to meet. And so what I did was instead of actually saying yes, I would tell, and this was maybe for the last two years prior to this public fundraise, anytime I would get one of these, I had this canned response. It was auto complete in a...
Auren Hoffman (05:22.434)
Auren Hoffman (05:31.798)
Dan Siroker (05:43.745)
I use a text expander, autocomplete, and basically I told them, hey, we're heads down focused on product, we're not talking to investors right now, but one week a quarter I do an investor week and I talk to investors, feel free to book a time. And so then there's these 30, and then basically what happens is one week every quarter I ended up having just 50 to 60, maybe sometimes more. How can I mean? I was doing pitches, but none of these, and it wasn't to raise money, and I also set expectations, but I also know that 90 Time You Meet with a Nester, it really is a pitch. So what I did was,
Auren Hoffman (06:03.211)
Ah, so you were doing pitches. Yeah.
Dan Siroker (06:13.141)
I then use those meetings. And almost all of those were like the junior folks of the VC firm. I'm sorry I used you as my standup material, you know, the small clubs where you go to Madison Square Garden. I was moving that as a way to hone the pitch. So I would actually go for each one of those pitches. I have in a folder on my machine, I have hundreds of versions of my pitch deck. Each time I would pitch, I would give the pitch and frankly, now this is the part I didn't want them to hear because they're not particularly good investors, their questions were always kind of like the dumb questions.
And that's where I actually would focus. I would make sure all of the dumb questions got answered sufficiently well that I would stop getting them. You know, if I could convince, like, some kid, exactly, some kid two years out of McKinsey, if I can convince them and get them to sort of understand the pitch in 15 minutes or less, then I could hone it. So by the time I had done this, by the time I put it in public, I had already done the, you know, small, dingy, you know, the comedy seller wannabes.
Auren Hoffman (06:48.702)
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Then you only get like the hard questions, the interesting questions. Yeah, that's cool. Yeah.
Dan Siroker (07:10.089)
to hone the pitch. So yeah, I do think practice makes perfect. And this is where, again, I'm sorry to all those associates whose time I probably wasted, but I use them as really the practice where I just say it over and over again, by the time I recorded it, that by the way, it was like the third take, I edited in half an hour and I posted it, it really wasn't this like, well, you know, rehearsed thing at that or it was rehearsed, but it wasn't something that final product was the culmination of probably hundreds of pitches before.
Auren Hoffman (07:29.783)
It's just like that comedian who's just like slowly Jerry Seinfeld's been Chris Rock's been honing their material for all these years. Okay.
Dan Siroker (07:34.771)
Dan Siroker (07:38.589)
Yeah. And if you can nail it in the small dingy Wednesday afternoon, comedy clubs, you're gonna nail it in Madison Square Garden. So that was kind of my that was my approach. And I recommend that also just generally because when you get into pitch mode, at least this is how my brain works. It's really hard to go from product customer interview, I know, hiring people and then go into like pitch mode. It's just a different way. And so and you also don't get better when you do these meetings sporadically with investors. It's very hard to incorporate the feedback loop. So that's why I really like sort of doing back to back meetings for one week once a quarter.
Auren Hoffman (07:43.5)
Auren Hoffman (07:47.009)
Dan Siroker (08:06.413)
really just a way to hone the pitch down to precision.
Auren Hoffman (08:09.438)
OK, I really like now another thing about rewind is like it's a consumer app, right? So it's demoable. It's you know, a lot of people working on things like to work on some algorithm. It's harder to put in a video, right? Or do you think that's not true? Do you think that's a cop out that could still create like a really good like video pitch?
Dan Siroker (08:28.889)
You know, I've never been able to build a successful company without a great demo. So I don't know how that's possible. You know, with Optimizely, but part of the magic of Optimizely was that first 30 seconds is like you come to our homepage, you put in any URL, you don't even have to have the snippet on your website, you put in any URL, and you immediately can start moving things around and changing it. So in some ways I reverse, like I start with that as like the premise of the company. What's that first magical moment that's gonna convince an investor, convince an employee, convince a customer, and I just don't know how to build.
Auren Hoffman (08:42.337)
Auren Hoffman (08:50.772)
Dan Siroker (08:55.989)
a company that doesn't have at least that hook. Maybe there's a much, much bigger vision beyond that, but you need a hook to get them excited. And just words is often not enough. Showing is often much better than talent.
Auren Hoffman (09:05.13)
Now, how do you locate, so if you're in the, if you're a founder and you're fortunate enough to have more than one term sheet and you let's say they're all like, you know, in a similar terms range, um, like what's the step to like picking the investor, like, how do you know this is going to be a great long-term partner?
Dan Siroker (09:24.521)
Yeah, it all it's every step of the conversation, every step of the way you get to know them a little bit better. And usually during the fundraise process, they're all in their best behavior. So you should know that they're courting you, they're trying to get to it to try to get to invest, but you should treat every opportunity to sort of push the limits to try to understand how they think how's it going to be working with them afterwards. The investor who led the round I did this as any a fantastic investor. And they were they totally blew me away on every dimension. I mean, the very first meeting, you know, first of all, in this process, when I publicly pitched it, I didn't mention this, but
the end of the pitch, you have to fill out a form. Like if you want to meet with me and you have to like, you know, drop your ego, I'm not going to kiss your ring and come down Sand Hill Road, you got to fill out a form and say, I want to invest and here's the valuation I'm willing to invest at and, you know, and, and what that did. So NEA, not only did they obviously submit a great valuation, but they actually made this PDF, the multiple, it was made 30 pages around why NEA was a great fit for Rewind and why Rewind was a great company. And many of the things that weren't in the pitch, I mean, they really did the homework. And
Auren Hoffman (09:56.482)
Auren Hoffman (10:18.675)
Mmm, that's cool.
Dan Siroker (10:23.442)
That really impressed me and not only that but... Yes.
Auren Hoffman (10:25.023)
So even before talking to you, they're basically saying like, this is something that's a good, okay.
Dan Siroker (10:30.869)
Yeah, and a lot of investors make the mistake of thinking that like they have control. That is the biggest mistake they make, because the power loss suggests that the companies that are going to return a fund for an investor are the ones and that you know, the one or two companies that they have to kill to get the meeting with. And so they make this mistake is 99% of their meetings are people who are investors or companies, you know, dying to meet with them. So they don't get that right. The few companies that really matter, the ones where they're going to actually make their fund or not, they need to go to and do the work ahead of time, they need to make the PDF before that first meeting.
Auren Hoffman (10:44.575)
Dan Siroker (10:58.701)
to show that you're a great fit for them and vice versa. So that's what NEA did in a way that really impressed me. And not only that, but they also have a very long-term orientation. That's something I was looking for explicitly. I wanna be doing this company for the next 20, 30, 40 years, ideally the rest of my life. And if the investor I work with at this stage is thinking about a 10-year fund cycle, that's just not aligned. And so I love that often NEA is buying at the IPO. They did that with Cloudflare. So that's another thing that impressed me. And of course, the last thing I'll say is super important is references, references. You've got to talk.
Auren Hoffman (11:23.33)
Dan Siroker (11:28.505)
to other founders. If you've got a really interested investor, who's leaning in giving you a term sheet, every one of their founders will talk to you if it's a good investor. You know, so you got to be willing if you're even if you're not a first time, even if you're a first time founder, reach out to any company they've ever invested in. And it's a good sign when they're like, Sure, I'll hop on a call in 24 hours. That means that investors good if they're kind of ghosting you, you know, there may be there's something they don't want to tell you. So definitely references.
Auren Hoffman (11:49.406)
Yeah. Now I have found also like a lot of investors and even employees, you know, that when you're interviewing employees, like they don't even like use the product like before the first call, like, or something like they're not, you would think like, okay, like, okay, I'm going to meet with Dan, I should like try out the product, you know, um, especially if like, they don't have to like pay for it. Right. But, you know, it's like, try it out, use it a bit, um, see how, how good it is. Come with some feedback.
Dan Siroker (12:12.901)
Dan Siroker (12:17.621)
yet you'd be shocked how quickly that gets you into the top decile of investors just hey, I downloaded your thing. Oh, wow. Okay, like, what did you think? Wow, this onboarding thing. Oh, great. Okay, you actually are like, as opposed to chocolate. Yeah. Well, by the way, while we're in giving investors advice mode, which by the way, I love to do because investors love to get a founder's advice. I love to go the other way around. The other thing I highly recommend is just show up on time. You don't and it's like it's it drives me nuts that
Auren Hoffman (12:21.121)
Auren Hoffman (12:26.698)
Yeah, yeah, totally. Here's like five pieces of feedback for you. That's amazing. Yeah, I'm like, yeah.
Dan Siroker (12:45.253)
you know, if you've got a half hour zoom meeting and investors something to show five or 10 minutes late, you know, and their excuses always really late. I was sorry, I was just finishing up with another name drop calendar, you know, and that and then they look you up. At least this thing I love is that they'll look me up and like, holy shit, I should show up on time because they of course, they didn't do the research ahead of time. That's what surprised me that like, yeah, you could tell them you could tell their Oh, sorry, I showed up and some associate booked the meeting for them. They don't know who this is. They look it up. They looked me up and LinkedIn like, Oh, shit, I should have showed up. And already that puts you in the you know, I don't dismiss you out of hand. But like that just shows you
Auren Hoffman (12:52.236)
Auren Hoffman (12:59.594)
Right, right, right. They didn't even like do it like a day at a time. They're doing it like real time right there. Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (13:13.549)
Dan Siroker (13:14.753)
If this is on your best behavior, are you gonna show up on time to the board meeting? Are you gonna show up on time when things aren't going well? So that's them.
Auren Hoffman (13:20.59)
Well, I think, I think it's Sequoia that docks you a hundred bucks a minute if you're late. Yeah. And yours does that. Okay. Yeah.
Dan Siroker (13:24.673)
It's Andreessen. Andreessen Horace. Yeah, Andreessen Horace. They have this culture. Yeah, yeah. And they did buy then Andreessen was my largest investor in optimizely and in and re on the second largest now in rewind. And boy, it's when you go to a final partners meeting and Andreessen, it starts on time. It's like, and now it's huge. It means 50 people are 50 people there every single person on time Ben and Mark is there all the general partners, you compare that to like an eight person general partner meeting with somebody else night and day difference. It just it's like a subtle thing that shows who's who you know,
Auren Hoffman (13:43.278)
Oh my gosh, it's crazy.
Dan Siroker (13:52.897)
I think the quote that Ben Horowitz said, he wrote about this, why they the why punctuality is so important to the culture. And I'm kind of probably butcher this saying, but it's something to the effect of like, you know, investors and founders are both, you know, breakfast. But but you know, the investors lay the eggs and the founders are the bacon, you know, like they're involved, but we're you know, we're not going anywhere. Like we're absolutely they recognize their role as an investor.
Auren Hoffman (14:12.875)
Yeah, yeah, okay. Yeah, I like it. Yeah, I mean, it's, it's also just shows respect, right? And so, just being on time. Some people are just like, they're just the type of person who can't be on time to anything. So, and some of those people are like the smartest, most interesting, valuable people. So not everyone is the type of person who can show up on time to something. So I guess you have to give, you have to decide what you want in a, in a given person or.
Dan Siroker (14:28.683)
Dan Siroker (14:41.569)
Yeah, it's not it's not a deal breaker. But it's definitely it's one of those things that then at the end to answer your question, the end of all that I sum up all of these sort of like, instances of data, I have an investor and ask myself, is it with a, you know, full consideration of evidence of all the data points? Are they the right fit for me long term? And that's where I think investors make a lot of mistakes they make the they optimize for the short term, they optimize for the ego, what's going to look good on a tech crunch post, the evaluation, the brand of the investor, they don't think about, oh, my gosh, three years from now, when things aren't going as well as they're going today, who's going to be there to support me?
And forget three years, 10 years from now, when it really matters, maybe when you're going IPO and you wanna make sure that maybe the market's like, there's all these situations where you think, oh, I'm not gonna care about that. But if things go well, you're gonna really care about that.
Auren Hoffman (15:22.038)
Part of a good presentation is like a good story. And one of the things I like about you, Dan, is that you're a good storyteller, which is a unique skill that's maybe somewhat related to being an entrepreneur, but not exactly. How do you tell a good story in a presentation? Is it like a movie where there has to be conflict and kind of that type of thing?
Dan Siroker (15:46.253)
I have a couple of things to say on this. One is this is another reason why talking to sort of associates at venture capital firms who don't really know who you are and don't really pay attention are good. Because if you can hook them, these are people who have like ADD, they're like paint. But if you can hook them, this is a good example. It's the same thing as like your comedian going to the 10 person crowd. Like if you lose them quickly, you're not gonna actually get the laughs. And so that's another thing where I've just, to me, practice is a big part of it. Vulnerability, authenticity, the best.
marketing is just the truth. Like what is the truth behind why you're doing what you're doing? Not what you think you're doing. Yeah, not why you think that's a mistake often founders make. They make the mistake of thinking I should figure out what the investor wants. And I should think about, I should say the thing I think they want. But the thing is, if you do that, you're just gonna be playing venture capital bingo. You're gonna be saying the same buzzwords that they've heard from everyone else. Say the truth, the authentic reason why you are the right person to do this company. And even more importantly,
Auren Hoffman (16:16.266)
Yeah. Why are you so passionate about it? Right.
Dan Siroker (16:37.493)
If you don't have that, then are you doing the right company? Like if you can't tell a really compelling story for why you are the right person for this company, then how are you possibly gonna hire the world's best software engineer? How are you possibly gonna get them to stick through the tough times? And so that's another thing I'd say starts with, like founder market fit, then the story emerges naturally because it's the truth, not the other way around.
Auren Hoffman (16:58.466)
And like the enthusiasm is kind of contagious too, right? So if like, you're actually like, Oh my God, like this is amazing. It's like, I could see how that like can pull other people, whether it's an investor or employee or customer, right? It pulls them into the story rather than just like, well, I did this Gantt chart analysis of this, you know, like the, you know, landscape McKinsey world, like it's not inspiring to get people excited.
Dan Siroker (17:24.085)
Exactly. Yeah, and there's different kinds of things. I think I'm attracted to the hard companies I'm attracted to making a category, not, you know, winning slightly better. I don't want to be a 10% better, you know, tax audit software. I just I would I couldn't do that for a day. But I could do something really hard. That's audacious creating a new category, a whole new field. That's something I'm really motivated by. So that's also part of just my nature is like, what motivates me is also what tends to be a good story.
Auren Hoffman (17:37.057)
Auren Hoffman (17:49.598)
Now, I love the day I'm super interested in like wearables. And obviously that's like part of the where rewind is going to. You've announced this kind of like AI wearable that kind of like can listen to your conversations and transcribe them. But before, before we get to that, like, like.
What do you think, like, how do you get like, think of a lot of these wearables are screenless, right? You know, whether it's a lot of them are just tracking your body temperature, you know, whatever it might be. Like, what do you have to do to get like the screenless device to work? Like, there's no thing on that, right?
Dan Siroker (18:25.941)
Yeah, so I'll answer this in kind of more of a philosophical approach, and then I'll get to the sort of tangible question of the screen. So, philosophically, I think one of the most pernicious mistakes engineers make, and especially engineers in Silicon Valley who may have come from Google or Apple, is they fall in love with the sophistication of a technology instead of falling in love with the problem. I truly believe the best products come from obsessing 80% of your time over the problem and then 20% over the solution or the technology, not the other way around.
Auren Hoffman (18:54.262)
Dan Siroker (18:55.225)
great examples of failed companies that have done this the wrong way. Google Glass. Google Glass came out, it was, it started with, wouldn't it be cool if, any idea that starts with wouldn't it be cool if dot usually fails, not all of them, some of them turn out great, but usually they fail.
Auren Hoffman (19:07.53)
Why? Why is that? Like that seems like great to me. Like why is that so bad? Like, you know, it wouldn't be cool if like every time I saw someone I'd know their name or something like that, like.
Dan Siroker (19:15.725)
Well, no, I mean, that's what would be cool if problem statement. That's fine. But wouldn't it be cool if large language models could do this or wouldn't it be cool if this? Exactly. It's starting with and what happens is you become an especially if you're an engineer, and I was a software engineer, I understand the mistake I make this I still make this mistake. When you are a software engineer, you've got a hammer. And every time you see a thing, it becomes a nail. And so like if you are, for example, the creator of rabbit, and you're thinking about how do I do AI? Oh, I'm a hardware guy. I've got a hardware hammer, I see an AI nail. So let's hammer it.
Auren Hoffman (19:22.426)
I see, so the technology, it's going for the technology, okay.
Auren Hoffman (19:45.196)
Dan Siroker (19:45.249)
And so it's not about how do I solve the problem the best way. It's about how do I use my skills and the technology I know how to build and hopefully figure out a problem along the way. Humane is a perfect example of this. You know, Humane, I think they started with great intention. They started with this idea of we're all addicted to our screens. Like, that's a bad thing for society. That was kind of the and then it was actually guilt. You know, they some of the key folks at Humane were the creators of the iPhone. And then so they have the guilt of what have we done for society? And that's actually a really strong motivator. That's a chip on your shoulder. But what happened was
Auren Hoffman (20:10.921)
Dan Siroker (20:15.293)
while they were working on it, this whole AI thing came along and they're like, oh, you know, that's a cool idea. Maybe we should do AI. And so they took this great idea, this core idea, which is about a screenless and sort of a device in the world that doesn't require you to be addicted, and sort of fighting this dopamine hit you get every time you pull out your phone. And they sort of perverted it to be let's be the hot thing that's right now. And I understand all the reason why they did that. But it wasn't from first principles, let's obsess over a problem. So anyway, that's the philosophy philosophy, let me apply it to how we're thinking about it.
Auren Hoffman (20:34.944)
Dan Siroker (20:43.545)
So we are deeply obsessed with a problem. Our problem is that we are limited by our biology and we don't even know it. Our memory sucks. 90% of memories are forgotten after a week. Your memory peaked when you were 20 years old and then every year got worse thereafter. And you don't even realize it. It's one of these things, you're a horse with blinders. Yeah. And the thing is most people don't realize, that's the most crazy thing is people don't realize it. Not only that, but you're bombarded with information. You're getting, typically people check their phone 100 times a day.
Auren Hoffman (20:56.59)
or what, who are you again? Like, I don't even, yeah.
Dan Siroker (21:10.101)
and they're just overwhelmed with notifications. So we're building an AI that can think like you and act like you. That's the core of what we're building. And that's to solve that problem. Give you perfect memory, give you back an hour of your day. I have three young kids. I wanna be home at dinner every day at five o'clock. If I have a tool and technology that can save me even minutes, that's a bathroom break I can go take. Those are the kinds of things that we're building. And so with that problem in mind, we don't need a screen to solve that unawareable. If you simply had a wearable that helps you capture every conversation, everything you said, everything you've heard.
Auren Hoffman (21:27.722)
Dan Siroker (21:37.793)
It was smart and it actually was proactive. It told you things like it knows who you're about to meet because it's integrated with your calendar and it sends you a push notification of the people you're meeting with. That's all it takes. You don't need to replace the screen just because the screen is the thing you have in your pocket. In some ways, because you already have it, you don't need to replace it. So anyway, I can go long and on about this, but that's sort of the philosophy. It's like, how do we, and that's by the way, our device is gonna be way cheaper than everything else. We're not trying to do all the bells and whistles where you don't have a laser. We do amazing, the world's best microphone, world's best battery life.
Auren Hoffman (21:53.174)
Dan Siroker (22:04.621)
and something you love wearing and that's it. Nothing else, no bell and whistles, no cameras, no screens, no input devices, that's it.
Auren Hoffman (22:11.066)
The what do you think about all these? Like there's a lot of wearables around your health, right? There's like the sleep ring or whatever. There's the glucose thing. There's the, you know, a lot of them are like fitness related. They've got like, there's so many things that people are starting to wear nowadays. Like, and along the line point solution, like the glucose ones come very point solution, which maybe does that one thing super well. Like where do you think we're going with all these things?
Dan Siroker (22:39.341)
But I think it tells the fact that exists and does well, I think says something interesting about the market, which is that people wanna be better. They have this innate desire to be better, they wanna be healthier, they wanna live longer, they wanna be smarter, they wanna look good in front of their colleagues. And those kinds of tools are the kinds of tools I think motivate, if that market pull is there, it's the person who's gonna wear the glucose monitor is also gonna be the one who wears the pendant. They want to be, they have a desire, they have drive, they have ambition, they have agency. That's not everyone. I know folks in my life who don't.
Auren Hoffman (23:08.366)
Dan Siroker (23:08.613)
They're happy to play video games all day. But there's others who really want to just really be better. And for that person, I do think the likely way that they'll start is like best of breed solutions. Point solutions that are just exceptionally good. The barrier to even just wearing something or remembering to wear it or remembering to charge it is pretty high. You gotta be really good. And it has to be a problem you care about. That's where I think it's very hard. Sure, if one device can do it all, amazing. Good for them. It's just so hard to do one thing really well, let alone two or three, that I think maybe eventually there will be a device that can do a lot of these things well.
Auren Hoffman (23:24.482)
Dan Siroker (23:38.125)
But our focus right now is, you know, the way you would analogize it is, you know, the glucose monitors about your health, your aura rings about sleep, we're really about your mind, like our product is wearable to help you do, you know, to do what your mind could do if it had perfect memory to be able to actually give you that insurance, you don't have to take notes anymore. Notes, if you think about it, is like this crazy I think we do writing down taking notes. That's the best way we have today to remember. Well, and so that's the substitutes, we're trying to replace that and give you perfect memory so that you can get more time your day to focus on things you you're passionate about, maybe things in work, maybe your family.
Auren Hoffman (23:57.494)
Yeah, yeah, totally.
Dan Siroker (24:07.118)
Definitely not, you know, drafting an email that an AI can do for you.
Auren Hoffman (24:10.702)
It's funny, if you think of devices, obviously a smartwatch like your Apple Watch has been a very successful device, but I don't know, you know what the number one app I use on my Apple Watch is? The time. The time is to me the most valuable thing. That's what I use it the most for. I'm like, oh, actually, it's like this thing we've had for centuries I'm actually using.
Dan Siroker (24:25.349)
What? Yeah. It's true. Yeah. Which by the way, reminds me like one saying that I've learned definitely the second time as a founder, I should have known the first time is this saying, I think HP popularized it and was around for a long before that. It's the saying that the main thing is that the main thing should stay the main thing.
And this goes to hardware, it goes to solving the right problem. It goes to your watch should be really great at giving you the time. And anything often times, you know, founders and technologists can get obsessed with how cool if, and that's where I met with like, what if, how cool if it could do all these things and nobody is like, you could do all of these things and not a single person who sees it understands what it's for. Um, and so that's the, you know, at least that's the thing I've seen firsthand when I was at Google and now certainly the only thing is I've ever done that had been successful has been nailing a single problem really, really well. And.
Auren Hoffman (24:55.17)
Auren Hoffman (25:00.619)
Dan Siroker (25:17.71)
you know, being 10x better than the alternative.
Auren Hoffman (25:19.582)
Yeah. And that I could see why first of all, it's like more exciting because there's these shiny objects. Cause getting like 10 times better somewhere, like, you know, it's like, it, it takes you one X time to get to the 80% solution. And then it takes you 10 X time to get to the 90% solution. And then it takes you like a thousand X to get to the 99%. So it's just like, it's not that fun to go to these like 0.1% increments, but that is actually what like really gets you there in the end.
Dan Siroker (25:45.088)
Dan Siroker (25:48.725)
Absolutely. And by the way, that the to do that really requires you to be somewhat in public, you can't do that in an ivory tower, like you need that feedback loop of users early adopters. Again, this is where I see companies like Google and Apple and like humane really missed the mark is that if they you know, it was maybe it was it worked back in like the 70s. And now they've sort of cargo occulted from this sort of like, Big Bang launch, you know, we're these brilliant technologists in this ivory tower. And, you know, how lucky are you that we've got this silver platter of a device we know you love? Whereas if instead they came up with a version that was a 10th, you know, the scope.
and earlier and iterated with users, they would get such they would really understand the problem, by the way, much better. That's it's not because people are doing it's not people are consciously making the mistake, they just don't know what they don't know. They don't realize the problems that they need to be solving. And so they just said, as a hammer of a technologist finding nails, they just keep adding new things and new devices, a new scope, that doesn't solve a problem. It's technology in search of a problem.
Auren Hoffman (26:30.38)
Auren Hoffman (26:39.394)
Yeah, in some ways, like Magic Leap was like, it's some of the most brilliant technology. They raised billions of dollars, but they actually never released anything that everyone could have gotten in anyone's hands.
Dan Siroker (26:46.721)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yep, absolutely. Yep. Yeah. And by the way, General Magic, I don't know if magically, maybe an example, I think maybe we're magic is the problem. General Magic had the same problem. This was like, all the early Macintosh guys, I think it was a spin off. And it was in a never launched. And actually, I think Tony Fidel in his book talks about this, like he worked that he saw that he was an intern really early on. And he's like, obviously, one of the first folks to actually be successful in, you know, a non Apple hardware company.
Auren Hoffman (26:51.99)
Now, in the-
Dan Siroker (27:13.665)
in building Nest and like I think he saw the pain of like what happens when you have a bunch of technologists with too much funding frankly, and who go off and they just you know they ask themselves wouldn't it be cool if and they never launch that's the craziest.
Auren Hoffman (27:19.979)
Auren Hoffman (27:24.278)
Yeah. I mean, it was good for semantically, but I mean, general magic was great for society. Like it actually ended up like really moving the technology quite a bit. It just wasn't good for general magic. Right. Like their shareholders didn't do as well, but it ended up being like great for all of us. Like, cause like so many other companies got spawned at it and like, they had these amazing people who ended up going to do other stuff and so like some ways like, okay, like, well, like great. It's the, whatever they raised a couple hundred million dollars. Like it was probably like a really good use of.
Dan Siroker (27:34.397)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, kind of like Xerox part. Yeah. Yeah
Auren Hoffman (27:52.694)
like money for society, just didn't get their financial return from it.
Dan Siroker (27:57.906)
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, Xerox PARC is probably the same. Xerox PARC, never got any commercial products, but it spun off basically every major innovation in computing.
Auren Hoffman (28:00.246)
Xerox PARC is the best example, right? Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (28:06.354)
Yeah. I mean, some of you have to say, okay, well, that was really good for society. Um, it was better for society than many, like, you know, successful financial companies were right. Um, now speaking of society, okay. So like we're, we're almost certainly moving to a world where like way more stuff is going to get recorded. Um, you know, whether it's, um, our video, our, our screens, our audios, our interactions with other people, et cetera. And obviously there's some like.
Dan Siroker (28:15.177)
Auren Hoffman (28:33.794)
really good things about that. Like you can remember stuff and you know, you can go back and you can, you know, like, um, you know, et cetera. But like, there's also some like, you know, more scary things. I'm sure you've thought about, like, you know, where do you think like it nets out in the end? Like, how do you think we're going to like live in that world?
Dan Siroker (28:49.993)
Yeah, boy, I think about this a lot. I mean, I ultimately, you know, I think a lot about, especially with wearables, I think a lot about what's the value to the person wearing it, what's the value to people around them, and then what's the value to society writ large. And so, you know, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if I felt like we're only solving the problem for one of those three constituents. So a couple of things I'll say. One is, in general, recording and capturing and storing and sort of remembering what was said is a good thing for society.
often it can be used as a way to protect yourself too. A lot of people today in society get gaslit, they're victims of politics, they're victims of one thing being said one time against narcissists. So there's a general utility for the bad guys out there. Often, some people will criticize recording as an invasion of privacy. And sometimes it's usually the bad guys who are the ones that have the biggest complaints there who are like, oh my gosh, how can, what happens if my locker room talk gets, you know, recorded and shared?
But what's interesting about what I, you know, you asked me where I think this is going. Eventually, nobody will care. And the reason why is not because of what we're doing, but because voice cloning is so good today, it's indistinguishable from what you said. The fact that today you could get canceled for some hot mic moment before a live interview is gonna be completely irrelevant because every single thing that you heard, everything that comes through a microphone or through speakers that sounds like a person could be entirely AI generated. And when that becomes well-known and...
Auren Hoffman (29:43.265)
Dan Siroker (30:11.925)
and well done and a lot of people get attempted to be canceled, but it turns out to be fakes. I think people's entire argument against, of course, there'll always be people clinging to the past, but anyone who's like rational and thinking about, okay, is there really a risk for me here? Their argument kind of washes away because anything they're afraid that might get recorded that's going to get put out in public, that's going to get them canceled, you know, it could easily be said, oh, that was just an AI generated recording. So I think that's where we're heading.
Auren Hoffman (30:20.396)
Auren Hoffman (30:34.446)
Well, it's not just cancel. That's just like, you know, maybe, you know, you say something unflattering about someone you love, your brother or something like that. When he wasn't in the room. Um, you know, we all have done that before we said something unflattering about a friend. We don't want to really hurt their feelings. We should, we've never maybe said that to their face, but just in a moment of weakness, you know, we said something to somebody about, you know, that, you know, we're humans. We like to gossip. Now, you know, if they like somehow.
found that out, you know, they could be sad or, you know, like, Oh, I can't believe Dan said that about me. I mean, you just can't imagine all these little things happening. Um, if like essentially, you know, if the truth always comes out, right. Um, you know, all these like little things, you know, in society happening. So there's lots of like little things that could happen too, right? Not just like, okay, someone got canceled for something like huge.
Dan Siroker (31:03.747)
Dan Siroker (31:25.205)
Yeah, I sort of buy that argument, but I also think society would be better if people didn't gossip behind each other's backs and they called people directly to the face. And I also think people's behaviors would change. People would be much less likely to lie. They'd be much less likely to gaslight somebody and not because they're oftentimes doing it maliciously because maybe they misremembered it. Our memories are very bad. We're all operating under this assumption that we generally know what we said or what we're doing. But a perfect example of this is courtroom testimony. Time and time again, it's so easy to show how you can coerce a witness into a-
Auren Hoffman (31:30.134)
That's true. Yeah, I agree with that. Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (31:45.921)
Dan Siroker (31:53.089)
saying something that they think is true. They absolutely with all their heart, with a polygraph, they'll say it's true, but it actually wasn't true. And so I just generally think that, yes, there are situations like that where norms will have to change. Personally, I don't gossip behind people's back. I assume that something I say to somebody, somebody else will hear. And even if I did say something unflattering, I don't think the person I told it to will tell them like, these are all these kinds of hypotheticals that I think generally are gonna be pretty rare. So I think that the Net Benefit Society greatly outweighs the negatives.
Auren Hoffman (32:18.134)
Now the transparency like in a corporate setting, like obviously there's companies like Bridgewater, which are like more transparent. They record almost every meeting. They allow people to rate one another and stuff like that. Like have you brought that level of transparency into the company?
Dan Siroker (32:35.193)
No, no, no. The rating thing I think is kind of interesting. This thing a dot collector, you can download an iPhone app to do. I do like radical transparency. And we do 360 reviews every quarter. For everyone on the company, I got reviewed by everyone I review the everyone else. So we do have that within our company every quarter, which is a very good cadence. It takes like 15 to 20 minutes. I think a lot of founders think, oh, this performance review stuff like that's all just a bunch of big company stuff. But we've really nailed that. And I think that's built a great cadence of accountability and performance of the company.
But I'm glad you mentioned the former, how they record every meeting. Because what's interesting is, Ray Dalio has said this numerous times, he's seen him say the same thing on interviews over and over again. Because you ask them, Ray Dalio, you're a hedge fund. Like, what are you doing? Like, you're recording every conversation. Isn't this a huge liability risk? Now all of a sudden you have a lawsuit and discovery, and he tells a story of like every time that a lawyer, some ambulance chasing lawyer comes to him and says, hey, I've got a wrongful termination lawsuit. I wanna butt, they shake him down for money. Ray says, great.
I've got every recording of every conversation you've had this employee happy to send it over, and they dropped the lawsuit. Like the moment the lawyer knows that you have this to defend yourself, they know they can't get away with you know, what typically happens, which is a you know, he said, she said kind of situation where ultimately, you have to pay a settlement because the damage reputationally of fighting it is worse than the actual so that is I think, a huge protection to companies is actually in hopefully companies acting, you know, in doing the right thing if they are then it's an asset, not a liability to record your meetings.
Auren Hoffman (33:34.818)
Auren Hoffman (33:47.798)
Auren Hoffman (34:00.054)
And did you guys record your meeting? Like you, like if you have like, so if you have like a one-on-one with someone, you like record and then like other people can access that in the company? Okay.
Dan Siroker (34:02.029)
Yep, have a good meeting.
Dan Siroker (34:08.021)
No, not the one on ones. No, no, the team meeting jazz for the one on ones we record, you know, we both have it's sourced locally. So we have a recording of the report of the meeting. Sometimes I talk a little faster if you notice. So sometimes my teammates say, I like to record and go back and say, What did Dan really mean? What did he say? So yeah, we definitely do
Auren Hoffman (34:19.886)
Okay, got it. And, and like where else do you think like society goes as like, you know, as, and it doesn't have to be wearable. So you have, you have like, you know, you may have a little device at home. You have cameras everywhere. You have all these types of things. Like you just couldn't imagine just like more and more of our life is already being recorded. Um, you know, and, um, you know, some people are worried about putting Alexa in their kitchen or something, cause it might start like recording what they say or, you know, all these other types of things, you know, so.
Like, where do you think we end up?
Dan Siroker (34:53.141)
Yeah, and I think where we end up is a society that is, you know, massively more productive, massively more present. They're not distracted. You know, technology is, it augments their natural limitations. It doesn't compete with their attention. It helps them live a better life. And that, and, and here's my prediction. And I know this with a hundred percent certainty, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years from now, people look back at today and just be shocked at how we could live our lives the way we live it today. You mean you lived your entire life and you forgot 90% of what happens after a week?
Like that's what you did? You thought that was a good idea? Like what happens if your kid says something and you wanna remember it later and you forget? Like you're just gonna accept that? You know, and like, you know, you're gonna have a meeting and you, wait, wait a minute. You got, hold on, grandpa, you're telling me that in 2024, people chopped down trees, turned them into rectangles called paper, took sticks with ink at the end of it, and wrote things down to try to remember something? Why didn't you just record the meeting? You know, and like that will be so shocking to them in the way that today, maybe the future seems shocking to us.
Auren Hoffman (35:50.798)
Dan Siroker (35:51.085)
But I'm absolutely convinced that today people will be living far worse lives than our descendants will.
Auren Hoffman (35:57.406)
Okay, I love the optimism. A few personal questions. You have three young children. I saw you tweet recently how tough it is to run a startup while parenting. What's some of your advice for parent founders?
Dan Siroker (36:12.585)
Yeah, boy, I have a long list. I should probably just put out a bunch of tweets here. First of all, it goes back to what I said earlier. The main thing is that the main thing should say the main thing. So that's true both of family and of work. So when I'm in family mode, I am not distracted. I'm not, you know, on my phone. I'm thinking about work. I can't stop that. I'm background processing. But what I've learned is a skill, and this is maybe, I hope my kids don't watch this years from now and be like, Daddy, is that what you're doing? I can read with perfect clarity, with voices, a kid's book to my kids at bedtime, and at the exact same time,
Auren Hoffman (36:29.823)
Dan Siroker (36:41.709)
be thinking about a product trade off or technology, you know, like, I can, I can, the human brain is amazing. Because I've read these books like a million times, I can. And so that's something I do do. And I'm sorry, you know, Luke, if you watch this later, I am doing that. But the thing that I also think is important from work perspective is that the main thing says the main thing because I look back at my days of optimisely, I was younger, I didn't have kids, I was working my ass off, the you know, the company was in my apartment, you know, and I made up for lack of prioritisation with just sheer hours. But
Auren Hoffman (36:46.686)
I definitely could not do that.
Auren Hoffman (37:05.355)
Auren Hoffman (37:11.12)
Yeah, you're playing ping pong or whatever.
Dan Siroker (37:12.313)
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And the thing is, you probably know this as well is like, if you look back at the times, as a founder, and you look and say what actually mattered, what actually ultimately changed the trajectory of the company, it's just a handful of things, you know, the thousands of things you did, and that I did back then, most of it didn't matter, you know, and so you if you have this lens of, okay, I have to figure out what actually matters, what is the main thing that if I focus my time and energy on today, I'm willing to let other balls drop, because they're ultimately probably not going to matter. That mindset, I think is very important. Because if you don't, you're gonna feel guilty, you're really
I didn't get back to that candidate fast enough. I didn't, oh, there's this hot take on Twitter I could have posted. Like there's always something you can do as a founder. You're never done. And so having that constraint of like, I'm just gonna focus on the main thing. I'm gonna be ruthless with my time. I'm gonna be at home for dinner at 5 p.m. every day. I'm gonna put my kids down. I'm gonna read them a story. Like that I think is having those constraints is really helpful. And another way to put it is, if I took me today, the CEO I am today, that is ruthlessly prioritizing my time and put myself in...
Optimizedly, Dan, 10 years ago when I was running my last company, I would be so much better. You don't realize how much better you can be when you have this constraint of these little human beings that you need to keep alive.
Auren Hoffman (38:17.486)
But there are like, there just, there is a constraint on number of hours. Like that is a really important thing for founders and not just for founders, for like anyone who's like, you know, trying to do something important, right? And like, or do you not agree? Like, like
Dan Siroker (38:32.921)
No, there is. But if you have like a two by two matrix of like, plenty of hours, not as many hours ruthlessly prioritize, not ruthlessly prioritize. If you have, you know, it doesn't if you don't ruthlessly prioritize, you might succeed with plenty of hours, but you certainly aren't going to succeed if you don't have a lot of time and you don't ruthlessly prioritize. So if you don't have a ton of hours that you can surely just throw with the promise, imagine that just like, you're just buying more EC2 instances, you're just throwing machines at the
Auren Hoffman (38:40.513)
Auren Hoffman (38:45.847)
Auren Hoffman (38:55.67)
Right, right, you just, you have less compute, so you have to come up with a better algorithm, essentially.
Dan Siroker (38:59.041)
You just got to that's exactly you got to come up with better algorithms. And that's what I've learned is how it's algorithms and how I get leverage through my team, how I set context, how decisive I am, like all of these things are algorithms I've learned that are the you know, necessary, but not sufficient necessary, but not sufficient approach as a CEO to be successful, you know, and still, you know, we'll see how that pans out. I hope to write a book on this. Once we're smashing success, I can look back and say, Hey, look, I should I told you so, you know, the book is still being written.
So I feel like I can't quite credibly say you can have it all. You can have three young kids and do a startup, but so far so good.
Auren Hoffman (39:33.058)
Well, there are trades on the other side too. Like you might not be able to go to all the soccer games you want to go to, or the, you know, you might be able to go to the main school play, but not the side school play or, you know, whatever. Like how do you decide there? Like how to make those trade-offs.
Dan Siroker (39:49.293)
Yeah, I mean, to me, it's a question of just blocking the time. And then in that time with my kids, I do the best I can. Like I said, I'm at home for dinner every day at five. I'm, yeah. Yeah, exactly. And boy, I mean, it's always, you should see how productive, between 4.45 and 5.00 p.m. today, at 5.00 p.m. every day, I am so productive. I get exactly, I have 15 minutes left of the day, I can get so much done. And this just shows you that we as humans don't even realize limitations we're under. Like the.
Auren Hoffman (39:57.306)
So that's pretty hard as well, just like getting home at five is like, I mean, for most of us, that's like kind of impossible. Right. We sing it impossible.
Auren Hoffman (40:16.064)
You're not logging back on at eight or whatever? Or? Yeah.
Dan Siroker (40:18.709)
I am occasionally. Yeah, once the kids are down, maybe I'll but I've been I like spend time with my wife. But you know, if you know, she goes to bed early, yes, and I'm probably slacking and that kind of thing. So I'm not completely, you know, but the other thing I should say, and I don't mean this as a deterrent to kid people who have young kids are gonna have young kids and want to start a startup. But I also don't really have any hobbies. You know, like I've chosen the things I focus on our family work, everything else I kind of caught out. Maybe I watch a Warriors game everyone so often, I mean, watch it with like
Auren Hoffman (40:35.191)
Auren Hoffman (40:39.788)
Maybe you're, and that means you're maybe spending less time with friends than you used to or, you know, these other types. Okay.
Dan Siroker (40:46.529)
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Friends, hobbies, all of that gets cut when you've got, you know, young kids and hopefully one day when I get older, I'll be able to rekindle some of those friendships. I hope my friends forgive me. But you know, and then I'll also be clear, like when I say that somebody who looks at it from the outside might think, well, isn't that so sad, but I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. Like there's something so fulfilling about putting all your energy into your family, putting all your energy into your work, and just getting so much back. You know, that's where, you know, I could not be happier than I possibly am. And like, do I miss out that I couldn't, you know,
Auren Hoffman (41:10.655)
Dan Siroker (41:16.077)
go pay, pick up a basketball, it'd be nice, but like, you know, I vastly prefer, and if anything, if I was doing it the whole time, I'd be thinking about, you know, the company and about the cool things, ideas, you know, or making a robotic hand with my son, you know, like those are the kinds of things that, you know, when you have that joy in your life, it's hard to sacrifice it for other things that you think you should be doing, like hobbies, like skiing and stuff.
Auren Hoffman (41:35.71)
Yeah, okay, interesting. All right. A couple more questions. We like to ask folks. What is a conspiracy theory that you believe?
Dan Siroker (41:44.713)
Interesting. I used to and now it's getting more consensus. I'm gonna keep coming up with some ideas for you. But one of them was I used to think higher education was a total ripoff and scam. I thought that was a conspiracy theory. Now it's I think mainstream but I said this. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I think energy will be free and abundant. That's not really
Auren Hoffman (41:55.734)
Now that's very mainstream. Yeah, now almost would be the conspiracy going the other way or something. Ha ha ha.
Auren Hoffman (42:12.446)
Like, like, basically, like the cost of energy has been going down, but you think it's going to it's going to just keep going down. Yeah.
Dan Siroker (42:18.085)
It'll ask them to do it. Yeah, it'll ask them to do it. And then people will maybe do a couple ads here or there or something. Like it'll it's like the both the combination of just much better. I mean, this is a common thing you see on Twitter, but like, you know, the vast amount of energy we receive every day from the sun to power the entire the entire world from just a day of sun energy. And of course, there's all kinds of nuclear innovations coming out. And there's a lot of incentives to make energy free. So I think that's likely going to be the future.
Auren Hoffman (42:36.172)
Auren Hoffman (42:42.442)
If that happens, like we'll see massive technology process. So if the cost goes down even by 90%, right? So it doesn't have free, but let's say it's 10% of what it is today. You know, you could, then you could use 10 times as much energy for the same price. You could just see like lots of things change.
Dan Siroker (42:45.353)
Oh, NASA, NASA.
Dan Siroker (42:55.821)
Yeah, and even better for most of society that doesn't have enough energy, you know, that they're limited, they're bottlenecked on sustenance from energy, their lives and livelihood will go dramatically up. I mean, I think that people, you know, like you and me who have plenty of energy, we're going to have marginally better lives. Maybe there's something that we'll be able to do. You know, AI will be able to run all the time in the background. But for folks who really are going from zero to one, that's going to be completely changing the standard of living. So I think that's going to be one major change.
I really want to get you I used to ask this interview question of what's an opinion you hold that most people disagree with, which is kind of just like, conspiracy theory question, it sort of shows, do you think from first principles? Here's one, can I tell you one? This is this may be gonna make you lose entire all credibility in me, and maybe all of your listeners will stop. But here's a really crazy one. Okay. I don't think death is inevitable. I think what makes us our mind is an emergent property of our body, and it's possible to emulate what makes us in a non biological substrate likely digitally.
Auren Hoffman (43:26.911)
Uh huh. Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (43:32.266)
Yeah, let's go for it.
Auren Hoffman (43:51.948)
put our mind in the cloud or something like that.
Dan Siroker (43:53.505)
Yeah, this is commonly called mind uploading, but I think this idea that death is inevitable is a coping mechanism that we tell ourselves, we tell society to help us cope with the idea. But I think death being inevitable is such a defeatist point of view, that death in and of itself is such a waste of life. Life is precious. You spend decades of your life accumulating knowledge and history and context and relationships and that, and I believe, and this is, I strongly believe this, at some point in our society, the vast majority of deaths will be elective, not.
Auren Hoffman (43:58.54)
Dan Siroker (44:22.645)
accidental, not because of disease, it will be I'm ready, I'm prepared to die. You know, what today is called euthanasia, which is kind of a weird fringe thing that's by the way, growing quite a bit in places like Canada, that will become the norm. And people might occasionally, you know, get run over or something. But like the vast majority of death will be because somebody says I'm ready and prepared. And that's the other thing I have, maybe a very strong point of view on is I don't think people want to live forever. You know, when I say this death thing is not inevitable, people like, Oh, is this gonna be horrible? We're gonna have all these like, oligarchs who live forever.
Auren Hoffman (44:29.07)
Dan Siroker (44:49.453)
At some point, I've seen people who say they're ready to die. They've lived a good life, but I don't think, yeah, I don't think it's at 80. I think maybe it's 150 years old, maybe it's 200. But at some point they're like, I did the thing I wanted to do. I achieved my mission, my purpose. I got to see my grandkids grow up and I'm kind of done. Yeah, you know, there are people who get there. It's such a joy and beauty to see and the opposite is so heart wrenching. Somebody who is, who gets cancer and it just isn't ready. They're clinging for every minute like that. And I'm not ready to, I'm one of those people today. I'm not ready to die. I hope if I'm on my deathbed, I will be ready by that point.
Auren Hoffman (44:52.814)
They're done. Yeah.
Auren Hoffman (45:13.463)
Dan Siroker (45:19.122)
But I'm not. And so I think it's a noble pursuit to try to prove the world wrong that death is inevitable.
Auren Hoffman (45:25.162)
Yeah, I love that. That's awesome. All right, last question. We ask all of our guests, what conventional wisdom or advice do you think is generally bad advice?
Dan Siroker (45:33.741)
Um, boy, there's so much of this. I mean, I generally think investors, about 80% of investors are net negative in terms of advice, 10% are neutral and 10% are helpful. So it's really, and it's sometimes hard to tell the difference. Um, here's.
Auren Hoffman (45:45.184)
of the advice or of the people.
Dan Siroker (45:47.993)
of the people at the given time from any given investor and sometimes the best investors give you bad advice. Usually that's because and here let me just explain why this happens. Investing is a very hard thing to do. You often and what happens is you your feedback loops are all screwed up like you can be an amazing investor just happened to bet on the wrong companies who for whatever reason fail because it's not under control. You kind of you send money you help but at some point it's out of control. It's out of your way. And you just have your first couple years are bad and then you got sort of tainted as kind of a bad investor. Those aren't actually as damaging because they usually lose their job.
Auren Hoffman (45:49.95)
Yeah. Right, of course, yeah.
Auren Hoffman (46:06.134)
Yeah, of course.
Dan Siroker (46:15.341)
The ones that are the most pernicious, and you should think about this when you choose an investor, they're the ones who got lucky early. They got into a company because they happen to know a person, and then they have this, and then the problem is for their brain, oftentimes if they become billionaires, they don't have feedback loops. They end up in this situation where they will give feedback or advice because of the things they saw, and it could have been the things they saw, the company was successful despite them, not because of it. It's so hard to get causality right. So I'm not saying this to be malicious investors. If I were an investor, it's really hard to know what the price is. God, I have my lived experience, I know what worked for me, but...
that might not work for a new company and a new founder. So anyway, so that's one thing is I do generally think.
Auren Hoffman (46:47.606)
By the way, on that, I recently I'm an investor in a company and they asked me for some advice, the company is doing really well and I'm like, honestly, like, I don't know, like you guys are doing so well. Like it's like my main advice is like, you're doing great. Like it's just like, it's like, it's terrible. Right? Like sometimes you just don't have that much to add. Like you're not in the, in the weeds with the company. So you could just be like, you could just be giving advice because you want to be helpful. Like, you know, there's a human need to try to be helpful because you want to help these people along.
Dan Siroker (47:01.477)
Auren Hoffman (47:15.906)
You like them, you've invested in them, but like, I know sometimes you just don't know what to say.
Dan Siroker (47:20.997)
Yeah, yeah. And that's where the thing is, I think the best investors are willing to say I don't know, most investors feel when they're being asked, they got to give an answer because that's their role and their responsibility. You've got a good investor, if they're willing to at least admit they have that feedback loop, it's like, do I know if I know that answer, if I don't know, say I don't know, don't just start spewing out things of data points. I do think when it comes to this topic of advice, because some of your audience may be interested in this, the kind of advice that I think generally is good advice is the meta advice. It's not the tactical advice. It's the how do you
Auren Hoffman (47:24.93)
Auren Hoffman (47:28.718)
Dan Siroker (47:50.157)
It's the questions, like the very first question I got from amazing investor at my first company, very first question when I met him was Peter Fenton. He asked me, what's going to make it so that you love to work here in 10 years? That's the very first question, not tell me about the company. And he wanted and at the time, I had no context for why he's asking me this, what it was. Now in hindsight, 10 years later, when I was kind of hating my job, I was resentful, I was trapped. That was such a powerful piece of advice and even, you know, I look back at the times he was helping me most.
Auren Hoffman (48:01.443)
That's a great question. Wow.
Dan Siroker (48:18.509)
was when he was pushing me to do the things I was loving, the things that was giving me energy. At the time I felt selfless doing, or selfish doing that because it's like, the company needs me to go like solve these problems. But like, if you were the founder, back to a point you made earlier, if you're not passionate, you're not excited, you're not telling the story with its full gusto, how are you ever gonna bring people up the mountain top doing something, you know, intermountable, pushing a boulder uphill when, you know, when you're not in it 100% yourself. So that's the best message, advice is meta advice, not like, should I hire this sales VP or not, or what should our comp plan be? It should be...
Auren Hoffman (48:27.506)
Dan Siroker (48:47.273)
It's the things that are like the patterns around how you work, what gives you energy, that kind of thing. Now I've completely forgotten your actual question. What was the question about? Yeah. I think a lot of bad advice falls in the category of when interests diverge between the investor and the founder. And a good example might be like YC, which I love and I did when I went to 2010, has a bias toward pushing founders to do easy...
Auren Hoffman (48:54.466)
What conventional wizard more advice than generally bad advice? Yeah.
Dan Siroker (49:16.749)
companies. I know Sam is very, Sam Altman is very famous for saying hard companies are easier to do, which I totally agree with. But like, if you just look at the distribution of the kind of companies that come out of YC or any kind of accelerator, they all tend to be more B2B than B2C. They tend to do, you know, and they tend to be more safe, conventional, you know, and I actually think maybe this is and again, I don't know, I'm in my own little ecosphere and Twitter, but I do think I very, very much believe what Sam Altman said, which is like hard companies are much easier to do than easy companies.
It's easier to recruit, it's easier to get investment, it's easier to motivate, inspire yourself and others. So maybe that's conventionalism is like, don't just do another B2B SaaS company because you think you can be successful. Because the thing is, here's the thing what I learned at Optimizely, which was, I was very proud of it and glad, but it was a B2B SaaS company solving a specific problem. After a while, once you achieve that, then what? What's your purpose, what's your mission? That's part of what I got to satisfy at Optimizely. Yeah, it gets competitive.
Auren Hoffman (49:53.462)
Auren Hoffman (50:04.906)
Yeah. And if it's also not that hard, it gets super competitive. Right. Yeah.
Dan Siroker (50:11.125)
Yeah, so three years in optimize, we had done it, we mission accomplished, we built a product I wish we had in the Obama campaign to make it easy for anyone to do a B testing. And that kind of fell out of love with the company. And that's the thing. Here's maybe another meta piece of advice. Most founders, they just want something to succeed. They don't think about what then what happens after you succeed? What about competition? What about your own motivation? What's your passion? What's your desire? And I certainly was in that camp the first time. That's partly why this company, I really started the other way around. Like, what's the company, the idea, the problem that even hold there?
Auren Hoffman (50:28.471)
Auren Hoffman (50:36.578)
What am I going to be excited about like 20 years from now? Yeah.
Dan Siroker (50:38.209)
Yeah, what am I excited about every day and sold for that first selfishly, because selflessly that will make me much better recruiting much better at getting investors, you know, and building a great product is if I've got that fire driving me every day.
Auren Hoffman (50:50.862)
This has been awesome. Thank you, Dan Siroka for joining us on World of Deaths. I follow you at D Siroka on Twitter. I definitely encourage our listeners to engage you there. This has been a ton of fun.
Dan Siroker (51:02.393)
Thank you so much, really pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Auren Hoffman (51:04.95)
Alright, that's great.
Dan Siroker is the co-founder and CEO of Rewind AI. He also co-founded Optimizely, and he was the Director of Analytics at Obama’s first presidential campaign.
On this episode of World of DaaS, Auren and Dan discuss how Rewind raised its Series A in public, and how the unconventional move benefited the company. Dan shares insights on creating a compelling pitch and the importance of practicing and honing the pitch through meetings with investors.
Dan also discusses the challenges and opportunities in building screenless wearable devices, and what future wearables could look like. Auren and Dan explore how wearable AI tech could affect cancel culture, transparency, and surveillance. The conversation closes with Dan’s advice for parent founders and his thoughts on conventional wisdom and advice.
Follow World of DaaS @WorldOfDaaS
Editing and post-production work for this episode was provided by The Podcast Consultant (https://thepodcastconsultant.com)
Erik and Auren discuss the startup founder mindset and what it takes to be successful in tech. Erik shares the career strategies and frameworks that have allowed him to found multiple companies and a venture capital firm.
They also discuss unconventional financial arrangements that could allow more people to found companies, like income share agreements and equity pooling. Erik also shares some of his insights on podcasting and why it’s one of the best ways to learn.
To learn more about SafeGraph, visit https://www.safegraph.com
To learn more about Flex Capital, visit https://www.flexcapital.com
Avlok Kohli is the CEO of AngelList and the founder of FastBite and Fairy.
Auren and Avlok discuss the underestimated impact of AI and how it could be creating a tech mega cycle. Avlok explains the importance of unique data as a moat for companies building on top of large language models, and how this technology can disrupt incumbents.
They also discuss the rise of Dual Threat CEOs and their outsized success in early stage venture capital. Avlok makes the case for why more current operators should start funds, and explains why they’ll thrive in the changing VC landscape.
You can find Auren Hoffman on Twitter at @auren and Avlok Kohli on Twitter at @avlok.