Entrepreneurship

Ep 1: Jon McNeill - DVx Ventures

November 30, 2020
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Entrepreneurship
November 30, 2020

Ep 1: Jon McNeill - DVx Ventures

Jon McNeill Is former Tesla President and Lyft COO and currently Founder and CEO of DVx Ventures. He joins us to talk about Entrepreneurship, Mobility and Tech.

Background

Jon is a very well known entrepreneur and executive, but for those of you who don't know him, here is a bit of his background. He started his entrepreneurship journey early, in a small farming community in Nebraska. After college he joined Bain & Company, then went on to start six companies and sell five of them (the sixth is still quickly growing). In 2015 he joined Elon Musk at Tesla as the President of Global Sales, Marketing, Government Relations, Delivery & Service and and took them from a $2B to a $20B run rate. He then joined Lyft as their COO where he helped take them public, and grow from $800 to $2B. Most recently he returned back to his passion of entrepreneurship and founded DVx Ventures, a company who’s goal is to create successful companies and turn the venture model on its head. He’s also a board member for Lululemon, CrossFit, Tekion, and TrueMotion.

Jon's Highlights

Interview Highlights

On Entrepreneurship

Source: Bloomberg Finance
Oh, gosh, I don't think I have a favorite business cause I've enjoyed them all. It's almost like choosing your favorite child.. I think, you know, the first six startups I did, it started to show me that there was definitely a method to starting and launching companies from an idea to scale. And then being at Tesla taught me a lot about operating at scale. And so I found that at scale, I was using a lot of the skills that I developed as an entrepreneur, just with a much more amplified impact. And that was a lot of fun.

On Product Market Fit vs Go To Market Fit

At Lyft, it was amazing to see the product market fit. It is almost magical to open up an app and ask for a ride, and somebody shows up in a couple of minutes and takes you where he wants to go. Like it's magical... Being inside of a mobility business like that ride sharing, and then eventually scooters, I had P&L responsibility, so I saw the numbers and the numbers reflected the fact that there wasn't a go to market fit in two ways: one was what the acquisition costs was for either the customer and or the driver didn't make sense where the LTVs, the long-term value of the customer, the driver, and the unit economics per ride didn't make any sense either. And so that product market fit had pulled those businesses out into the market and into rapid growth. But the go to market fit problem hadn't been solved years into the business. And it's not as some of these businesses are worthless. I mean, they're worth a lot. But they could be worth a lot more if they're in much more durable if they had that figured out. And so we've made a commitment in our businesses to figure out not only product market fit, but really having a discipline around go-to market fit and making sure the go-to market economics make sense and the inner economics makes sense.

On making people talk about you at their dinner table

The make them talk about your dinner tonight was a principle that we came up with at Tesla, because we had trained so many people in such a short time that we didn't have time to do standard training when we were launching the Model 3 at Tesla. So we had to come up with a principle that we could teach across 33 countries in 36 languages in less than a minute, so that people got the essence of Tesla and the essence of Tesla is these really crazy cool customer care stories where people just take care of Tesla owners or even Tesla non-owners, they just take care of people in a really cool way. And that kind of just permeated across the culture in a really special way. And so we wanted to capture it in a statement and that statement is like, if you're, if you're in front of a customer, who's going through a tough issue and you, and you're wondering what to do, start with, what could you do that would be so awesomely unbelievable that they would talk about you at dinner tonight and use that as your bar to figure it out.

On career motivations

Source: TechCrunch
And as I got closer to thinking about joining Tesla, Elon called one day and said, "I have a question for you". I said, "What's that?" He said, "Tell me about the meaning of your work". And I started to talk about True Motion, actually, how we're saving lives. And he said," Imagine doing that at a big, a much bigger platform". And so that really got me focused on working on meaningful companies and problems. Cause he ended that conversation, he said, just "Think about this. What are you going to say to your grandchildren when you're sitting on a porch and you're explaining to them what impact you've had in your work life? On this world on the planet on humanity". And so that's like he introduced that bar to me. And so that's a bar now that I really think about. And so in terms of the way that my career is now shaping up, I want to work on meaningful things with people that I love and work on big problems and really apply first principles to the way we solve those problems and attack those problems. So that we're simplifying along the way and do that with world-class people who are committed to each day, getting up and making what we do better, and not taking any comfort in the status quo. But really trying to push ourselves every day to get better, better, better. And so I think those are the kind of kinds of things I think about now.

On AI 

I think, you know, a lot of people talk about artificial intelligence, which is actually the machine becoming much more intelligent without human input. And I think a lot of people misunderstand where we are today...I think a lot of people mistake where we are now, which is essentially in the machine learning age with artificial intelligence, and artificial intelligence is quite a few steps beyond machine learning. And I think there's obviously, you know this, there's a lot of loose use of the term AI. In my experience, 90 some percent of that now is to describe machine learning, not real AI. And so I think that's, that's one thing that I think it's important for people to understand as they start making investments in this area, whether it's in their company, for projects that are being done or for products that they are thinking about launching that they really understand the nuances between these different stages of learning and clearly machines and chips are super powerful today, and can do some really amazing things. But most of what we're seeing is the output of machine learning.

On the impact of AI in the future

There's a couple of interesting areas that I'm personally investing in and excited about. So one is fraud. It's really hard for human beings to stay ahead of other human beings that are bad actors and AI is a wonderful tool in that arsenal. I think roads, a problem you and I have worked on, for the better part of a decade. I think, you know, when you think about a million people worldwide are killed in car accidents, in motor vehicle accidents annually; in 95% of those are the result of human error. And so that technology is going to be really important. Cause there are a million people that don't have to say bye to a loved one every year. That's just an amazing uptick in quality of life. And then I think health, like we're seeing the power of these models to do genomic, to gain genomic insight and then to bring drugs to market very, very quickly and to simulate the impact of those drugs before they even go into human trials. And so, the vaccine efforts that we're seeing now, are possible because of this technology. And that to me is like super duper exciting, cause I think we're going to have health advances, like we've never seen in humanity before and that's, that's just super awesome.

Episode Transcript

Brad Cordova:

Hello, super AI nation and welcome to the Super. heroes podcast, where we celebrate the innovators of the world. I'm Brad Cordova, CEO of super AI and  I'll be your host today. This podcast is to inspire you to dream big and execute even bigger. We have a very special guest on the podcast today, Mr. Jon McNeill. He's a very well known entrepreneur and executive, but for those of you who don't know him, here's a bit of background.

He started his entrepreneurship journey early in a small farming community in Nebraska, where he asked his dad for some Nike's and his dad instead of buying for them, said: " Hey, figure it out ". Long story short, he started a paper route and not only did he get those Nike's, but he also bought himself a car and put himself through college.
And after college, he joined Bain & Co, he went on to start six companies and has already sold five of them. The sixth is True Motion and still quickly growing. In 2015, he joined Elon Musk at Tesla as the President of Global Sales and Services and took them from $2 billion to a $20 billion run rate.
It's quite impressive. He then joined Lyft as their COO and where he helped take them public and grow them from 800 million to $2 billion. And most recently he returned back to his passion of entrepreneurship and founded Delta V, a company whose goal is to create successful companies and turn the venture model on its head.
And in addition to that, he's on the boards of Lululemon, CrossFit, Tekion and True Motion. So bring out your notepads and for your sakes, soak up this man's knowledge. I know I did. Hello, John.

Jon McNeill:

Hey, Brad.

Brad Cordova:

Great to have you on the show. This is our first episode and so nice taking the maiden voyage with you.
I guess a bit of deja vu for maiden voyages for me. That's right. Yeah. So, John and I met about 10 years ago at the Harvard Innovation Lab and we went on to found  True Motion together. And True Motion is an AI telematics platform that serves some of the biggest insurance companies around the world. And that was certainly a very eventful journey journey. Um, I remember our, our other co-founder Joe and I, we'd be at the ILM in and have a bunch of problems  and we would, drive up to in Servio where John was a CEO and we would definitely come back, feeling much more relaxed. Yeah, let's jump into it. So I've noticed some trends in your career. One being entrepreneurship, the second being mobility and the third being tech. So I'd love to dive into some of these topics. I mean, just to start, how did you, how did you learn about entrepreneurship and what motivated you to take the leap?

Jon McNeill:


Well, like you mentioned, I learned about it through necessity, as a kid. Cause we didn't have much extra money sitting around our household. And so, like I had to figure out ways to buy my own clothes and eventually buy my own car and pay for my own education. So, that taught me about just pure entrepreneurship, I think like anybody that starts a small business. And so I learned that along the way and then got to college and went to work after college. Because I really wanted to learn as much about businesses I could in a short period of time. So I got like enough to get good to work at Bain & Company, and Bain had started an investment practice, an investment firm called Bain Capital. And I got to spend some time there. And it was there that I discovered ironically, that I was an entrepreneur. In meeting with entrepreneurial teams. I was jealous of the teams across the table. And as much as I enjoyed being a spreadsheet jockey, in evaluating their businesses, it seemed like what they were doing was a lot more interesting than what I was doing.
And I was more drawn to that. And, so I got a great piece of advice, to listen to that voice and go pursue it. And that, a piece of advice was from one of the partners of Bain Capital, but also,  my dad who encouraged me to jump back in to being the entrepreneur he saw as a kid.

Brad Cordova:

Wow. That's amazing. Cool. And so since then, you've, operated many times, at businesses of all different scales from zero to massive high growth public companies. Do you have a favorite or what's your sweet spot in retrospect?

Jon McNeill:

Oh, gosh, I don't think I have a favorite cause I've enjoyed them all. It's almost like choosing your favorite child. Like I think all of them have been awesome. I think, you know, the first six startups I did, one of which we did together, it started to show me that there was definitely a method to starting and launching companies from an idea to scale. And then being at Tesla taught me a lot about operating at scale. And so I found that at scale, I was using a lot of the skills that I developed as an entrepreneur, just with a much more amplified impact. And that was a lot of fun. I think the thing that I really walked away from Tesla with was the importance of doing really meaningful work, having a mission, orientation and trying to solve bigger problems. And that was one of the most inspiring things I think I took away from that time.

Brad Cordova:

Well, super interesting. In terms of mission-based companies, I'd love to jump into Delta V. There's so many interesting things there to unpack. I read the Medium article. You wrote about the stark differences between having product market fit, which everyone talks about and, having go to market fit, which I think less people talk about. And I think there was a quote, like "selling dimes and nickels doesn't create a durable long lasting business. Eventually financial physics wins." Like tell us about that. That's really interesting.

Jon McNeill:

Yeah. Like, at Lyft, one of the things I observed was, it was amazing to see the product market fit. It is almost magical to open up an app and ask for a ride, and somebody shows up in a couple of minutes and takes you where he wants to go. Like it's magical. And that product market fit was repeated when I first I saw the first, e-scooters deployed on the streets of San Francisco. The product market fit was amazing. All of a sudden people were taking those instead of walking or taking short car rides and, so you could see product market fit right in front of your eyes. Being inside of a mobility business like that ride sharing, and then eventually scooters, I had P&L responsibility, so I saw the numbers and the numbers reflected the fact that there wasn't a go to market fit. And, in two ways: one was what the acquisition costs was for either the customer and or the driver didn't make sense where the LTVs, the long-term value of the customer, the driver, and the unit economics per ride didn't make any sense either. And so that product market fit had pulled those businesses out into the market and into rapid growth. But the go to market fit problem hadn't been solved years into the business . And it's not as some of these businesses are worthless. I mean, they're worth a lot. But they could be worth a lot more if they're in much more durable if they had that figured out. And so we've made a commitment in our businesses to figure out not only product market fit, but really having a discipline around go-to market fit and making sure the go-to market economics make sense and the inner economics makes sense, you have a really valuable durable business in the long haul.

Brad Cordova:


I think that makes a ton of sense. And I, I wonder if maybe the root of this is the kind of short-term focus of Wall Street, or even the VC model to drive valuations and I found it interesting that you guys structured Delta V as in an evergreen fund. Are those kind of concepts in any way related, because I see the way you guys structured, it kind of really aligns incentives in that doesn't sound like you guys are collecting fees in the typical way. It's about equity investors on a big stake in the company, along with the founders. Do those have a relationship or what was your reasoning behind that?

Jon McNeill:

They definitely have relationships. So the first principle behind it is alignment. And what I've just learned over time is that the better alignment you have, the less vibration you're going to have in the journey, the less friction you're going to have in the journey. And so I've seen businesses again, like rideshare, where there's a misalignment and it doesn't feel good to wake up every day knowing that there's a population of drivers or riders that really dislike you, and that kind of misalignment, I think isn't healthy for business in the long run. And so what are the things we were trying to do informing Delta V was to find the purest alignment we could with investors. And essentially we've come down to a formula that as you say is no fee, no carry. The only way we make money is if we grow the value of the companies that are part of our portfolio, and that is pure alignment with investors, it's the only way they make money, too. And so there's not the added friction of us taking fees, whether we're performing or not, the only way that we get paid is if we perform. And so it's based on that first principle of alignment, and that's where that came from.

Brad Cordova:

Yeah. I find that super interesting and makes so much sense. And you look at how Warren Buffet set up his early partnerships. They were aligned. How do you think this is going to change VCs? Like Chamath Palihapitiya has been very, fairly outspoken about the VC model, SPACs are coming out. Do you think people will follow along or do you think they're just the incentives aren't such that it'll be intriguing for people?

Jon McNeill:


Like, I think that there is going to be a shift there's sort of been like, venture funds in general, private asset funds have been structured the same way, really for almost 60 years. They haven't changed much and they've changed a little bit around the edges. But really haven't changed much in terms of the 2 and 20 structure. The 2% annual asset fees are for assets under management and the 20% carry. And there has been though, I think a steady movement towards these kinds of moral line structures. And actually it was an early conversation I had with Chamath that really got me thinking about these kinds of structures, because it was something that he was trying to do in the kind of the first iteration or two of social capital. And then I ran across the folks at Sutter Hill who had really found quite a bit of success with this model. And then I found that there were several dozen others would form funds this way. And, as I talked to folks that were in the venture and private equity and growth equity space that confided that if they could have a redo on their firms, they would go. They would convert to an evergreen structure from the beginning or adopt an evergreen structure from the beginning because of the alignment and because of the way the economics flow. But it's hard for some of them because they've spent decades, literally courting limited partner investors who need some liquidity and pension funds need liquidity. And oftentimes a university endowments need liquidity. And so it's very, very hard for those firms to walk away from those LP relationships. A little bit easier for a new entrant to do that. Although KKR Accel just raised an evergreen fund and they're, you know, fairly well established. So we'll see, I think there will be a trend towards this, towards more and more of this kind of alignment because investors have a big appetite for this. But I don't think you'll see a full scale change just because of the limited partner dynamic, where some investors need some institutional investors need liquidity.

Brad Cordova:

That's super interesting. And I was reading some of the principles behind Delta V and by the way, the Delta V term is particularly also special to my heart.

Jon McNeill:


No, it came because as you and I started to crack the telematics problem, which really started... When my son was turning 16, I was scared death he was going to kill somebody texting while driving, and I wanted to find a solution to that. And then, you and I found each other and we started to work on, could you do telematics on the phone, to prevent accidents like that and give drivers feedback on how they're driving and there were several big technical problems that we had to solve. One was how do you know that phone is in the drivers, that's the driver's phone versus somebody else's phone. But the other problem we had is how do you tell the difference between somebody hitting the brakes really hard and crashing? And that's all about the change in velocity. And so we used to talk a lot in the shorthand for change in velocity is Delta V. And so we used to talk a lot about, trying to pinpoint that problem. And so like Delta V can also represent acceleration, not just deceleration. And so when I thought about forming a firm that would take ideas and accelerate those ideas out into the real world, I couldn't get Delta V out of my head in terms of the name for that.

Brad Cordova:

Yeah,  I really loved that though. When I saw that, I was pumped about that. Yeah, I was just reading some of the principles behind the company. High-impact ideas, rigorously researched upfront, a commitment to a perfect product, a commitment to both product market fit, go to market, to world-class teams with deep operating chops and permanent capital. That's amazing. And, how many, I don't know if it's public, but how many companies, are you guys investing in hundreds of companies or is this going to be like a few that are generated out of your own head? Or how are you guys planning on structuring?

Jon McNeill:

We only work on our own ideas. And so we're building companies from scratch from our own ideas. And so that means each partner can probably take on one to two of those things a year. And so it'll be not a Blitzkrieg, but a pretty focused strategy. As we built these companies and each partner takes on the role of the, kind of the founding CEO or the, what we call the originating role, to originate that company and get the idea off polished, get product market fit, get go to market fit, and then start the scaling process  and bring a team in that is excited about scaling and really meaningful business.

Brad Cordova:


Awesome. Amazing. Good stuff. So maybe we can jump into some career stuff in Tesla. I know people would be dying to hear about that. So you've done a lot, John. What drives you at this stage in your life in career?

Jon McNeill

When, Elon and I were getting to know each other, I kept saying, like, "I don't think I'm your guy". He wanted somebody to come in and take over the market facing responsibilities at Tesla so that he could spend time in his first love, which is engineering. And so, but as I looked at the business and the scale, just saying, "I don't think I'm your guy. I think you need a big company, a big company guy". And, and he said, "no, that's exactly what I don't need. I actually need a fellow entrepreneur because we look at risk in a similar way". And as I got closer to thinking about it, he called one day and said," I have a question for you". I said, "what's that"? He said, "tell me about the meaning of your work". And I started to talk about True Motion, actually, how we're saving lives. And he said," imagine doing that at a big, a much bigger platform". And so that really got me focused on working on meaningful companies and problems. Cause he ended that conversation, he said, just "Think about this. What are you going to say to your grandchildren when you're sitting on a porch and you're explaining to them what impact you've had in your work life? On this world on the planet on humanity". And so that's like he introduced that bar to me. And so that's a bar now that I really think about. And so in terms of the way that my career is now shaping up, I want to work on meaningful things with people that I love and work on big problems and really apply first principles to the way we solve those problems and attack those problems. So that we're simplifying along the way and do that with world-class people who are committed to each day, getting up and making what we do better, and not taking any comfort in the status quo. But really trying to push ourselves every day to get better, better, better. And so I think those are the kind of kinds of things I think about now. So thinking about what I'm doing and how I'm spending my time.

Brad Cordova:

Yeah, that's amazing. I think one of the big things that I've learned is just a huge thing about people. And, I read a quote,  that you said "success in businesses is 90% who you're working with and 10% of what you're working on". I found that quite powerful. How did you, how did you choose your partners at Delta V?

Jon McNeill:

So ironically, that quote comes from my first job out of college. I was at Bain and I was assigned with a few other people, a small team of like six to a meatpacking client. And so we had to go back, live in meatpacking plants, which is not the most pleasant environment to be in. And our boss could tell we were kind of bummed out cause other people in our class were getting assigned to tech companies and media companies and coming back with great stories and we were coming back covered in all kinds of stuff from him. And, and he pulled us aside one night and said like, "Guys, I think you need to understand that you're going to find there's a paradigm of work and that is, what your work is, who you're working with is 90% of the joy you'll get out of a job. And 10% is what you're working on. So it's 90%, you're working with 10% or what you're working on." And he's like, "this is a great team and we're going to have a blast together. We're going to have a big impact on this company, but we are going to have a blast together. And he's like, I can hand pick this team because I wanted the kind of team that would really be special together". And it turns out he, his axiom was right. Like I found when I violated that principle, that work can get really miserable really quickly. And, so when it came to choosing partners, there are people that I've worked with that I've got great respect for their capabilities. And when we're together and we've been working together, we've made each other better. And as a unit, we're much stronger than we are as individuals. And so it was pretty quick for me to circle names of people that I really, really wanting to do this with. And knowing that we passed that 90% rule with flying colors, and don't get me wrong, super enjoyable we're working on, butI learned from these people and have great respect and admiration for the people that are working with on a daily basis. I'm learning from them.

Brad Cordova:

That's awesome.  I also really like some of the stuff  you've talked about, even just the people you work with, but the people who work for you,  there was a quote about listening to the people on the front line of the business and helping managers get out of the way. And  I liked that story about make them talk to you about you at dinner tonight. What's your idea behind that, or talk about that more. I find that really interesting

Jon McNeill:

There's a great management hack I learned from a mentor of mine named Fred Missoni and the management hack is like, if you want to fix a business and you want to, or you want to know what to do as a CEO, the fastest way to figure that out is to go to the front lines. Because the people that are on the front lines, dealing with your customers are putting up all day long with the kind of headaches that the customers bring them about your product. And so if you want to know what needs to be fixed, go sit  in customer support centers and listen to those calls and then listen to the people. And you're going to have a to-do list that's going to keep you busy for months when you come back from an interaction like that. So the hack is like, go to the front lines and figure out what's going on. I learned this also from reading this book, is by Sam Wolton - "Made in America" , where he would do the same thing. And, you not only find out what's going wrong, you also find out what customers want that we're not providing yet. And so it's magical, in that sense. So it's a hack that I've learned. And then, you know, the make them talk about your dinner tonight was a principle that we came up with because we had trained so many people in such a short time that we didn't have time to do standard training when we were launching the Model 3 at Tesla. So we had to come up with a principle that we could teach across 33 countries in 36 languages in less than a minute, so that people got the essence of Tesla and the essence of Tesla is these really crazy cool customer care stories where people just take care of Tesla owners or even Tesla non-owners, they just take care of people in a really cool way. And that kind of just permeated across the culture in a really special way. And so we wanted to capture it in a statement and that statement is like, if you're, if you're in front of a customer, who's going through a tough issue and you, and you're wondering what to do, start with, what could you do that would be so awesomely unbelievable that they would talk about you at dinner tonight and use that as your bar to figure it out.

Brad Cordova:


Yeah, I love that. That's super interesting about operating at such a big scale and having a simple plan focusing on the customer. You took Tesla, I think you were at 4 billion and you 5 x-ed it in 18 months and there aren't really many playbooks on that. How did you get through that? Like how'd you deal with the stress? How how'd you get through them?

Jon McNeill:

Yeah, we were at 2 billion in revenue and then we went to 10 over the course of three years and then on our way to 20 and it wasn't me, it was like a huge team, obviously, with unbelievable Product design and engineering and manufacturing and supply chain folks and sales, delivery and service, like just incredible team. But there weren't playbooks for any of this stuff like growing this fast. And so we really had to rely on simplifying and first principles and really be disciplined and focused about what problem we were trying to solve. There couldn't be a shiny object, we weren't chasing around kind of just the latest kind of shiny object or idea because there wasn't time. We had a product to deliver and we had to like put all the infrastructure in place to deliver that product. So it was really focusing, and the context was just forced focus. But we had to get really clever and creative about how we would scale because people hadn't, nobody'd done that in hardware, especially hardware that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Nobody had done that before, in that kind of time. So we couldn't reason by analog. We just had to reason by first principle in really kind of original ways. And in some day the cases at that time will be written and folks will be able to learn by analog from those. But we didn't have that luxury, cause there weren't any cases we can look at.

Brad Cordova:

I've always been intrigued about Tesla's kind of $0 marketing budget. I wonder, I kind of throw this around in my head, whether this kind of correlation between having go to market fit and your marketing budget is a big one. I mean,  what are your thoughts on Tesla's marketing tactics, let's say versus Uber and Lyft's, or other one of these big hardware companies.

Jon McNeill:

I think Elon's committed to perfect product, meaning that it doesn't have to be perfect when it's released, but you got to get to perfection. You got to be striving for perfection, because if the product is perfect, people will talk about it. They'll rave about it. And so like another way to say that is make a raveable product. And like, I don't know if you've ever hit the accelerator in a Tesla, but when you do, it's literally like a rocket ship. And it's the closest thing to drive in a jet. You can get that kind of feeling which you can get on land. And so he would push us to think about superlatives, achieving superlatives in the product. Not in marketing at all, but in the product. So could we make the quickest car, could we make the safest car? Could we make the most technically advanced car? And if we could do all of those things, then customers would rave and we could live on organic marketing, because a lot of it would be viral, and referral. And so the engineering teams were great, at that time led by an awesome executive named Doug Field. And Doug, had a team of folks that was able to design the safest car. So every one of Tesla's models is the safest in its class in the world. They are the quickest, they're the only cars that are updated, you know, kind of on a weekly basis. So they actually get better over time versus depreciating over time. It's kind of wacky cause it, it breaks the depreciation curves that a lot of banks use to finance cars. Cars actually get faster, they get more range, they get more features. And so the depreciation curve really gets messed up. But more than anything, there was an excitement and a passion about the product. And that's what enabled us to systematically. Like we had to develop a system to do this, but to market with zero $. And part of that was just neat. Like we didn't have the $2,000 per car to market that our rivals did, the traditional car manufacturer. So we had to figure out a different way.

Brad Cordova:


Very cool. I'd love to move some, to some ideas around AI, clearly close to my heart and was a huge, obviously piece of Tesla and True Motion. You've seen all this stuff firsthand. What's maybe something about AI that people commonly misunderstand.

Jon McNeill:


Well, I think, so I started messing with this a long time ago. In the late eighties, I was working my way through college at a trading firm in Chicago and the board of trade and board of options exchange. And we were writing trading algorithms to hedge derivatives, and it was quite complex. And at the time there was this new computer manufacturer called Sun. And Sun had managed to make a network out of other computers. So it kind of a progenitor that to the idea of the internet, where they could, you can write code that would take advantage, not only of the machine you were writing on, but all the machines that were attached to that machine. And so we started to, we had a very small team of like six engineers and one of the guys on the team had some experience in something called neural nets. And so we started to write neural nets to see if we can take advantage of the learnings, all the data that was passing through our algorithms to make our algorithms better. And we kept running into compute problems. The chips weren't fast enough and our math probably wasn't ideal. And so I started to learn early on about the kind of intelligence that you could build into machines to help, to make problem solving faster, better, etc. And I think, you know, a lot of people talk about artificial intelligence, which is actually the machine becoming much more intelligent without human input. And I think a lot of people misunderstand where we are today. So there's, as you know this well, like I try to explain to people there's kind of robotic instructions, which is if then statements, if this exists, then do this, if this exists, then do this. And they're very kind of simple and straightforward and it can get complex, if you've got a robot doing really complex things like surgery. But basically this whole kind of train of thought starts out with robotic constructions, machine instructions. And then there's machine learning where you can take large sets of data and get inferences and insights off of that set of data. And you can start to apply similar rules, if this thing happens, then we'd like you to trade in this way, and if these conditions exist, we'd like you to take it, we'd like to do this kind of a direction with a decision, etc. And so I think a lot of people mistake where we are now, which is essentially in the machine learning age with artificial intelligence, and artificial intelligence is quite a few steps beyond machine learning. And I think there's obviously, you know this, there's a lot of loose use of the term AI. In my experience, 90 some percent of that now is to describe machine learning, not real AI. And so I think that's, that's one thing that I think it's important for people to understand as they start making investments in this area, whether it's in their company, for projects that are being done or for products that they are thinking about launching that they really understand the nuances between these different stages of learning and clearly machines and chips are super powerful today, and can do some really amazing things. But most of what we're seeing is the output of machine learning.

Brad Cordova:

Yeah, I agree. A hundred percent. I see kind of a bi-modal distribution where, either people are like, Oh, these are robots that are gonna take over the world and they can do everything or people who are just like, yeah, this does nothing.
There's, it's rare to find someone kind of, kind of in the middle. So it's interesting. And then we're running up on time. So I'll kind of accelerate some of this, difficult question, but what do you see the biggest impact of AI in the coming, let's say few years or decade?

Jon McNeill:


Well, I think there's a couple of interesting areas where I think AI, that I'm personally investing in and excited about. So one is fraud. It's really hard for human beings to stay ahead of other human beings that are bad actors and AI is a wonderful tool in that arsenal. And so I think fraud is one area, and minimising fraud and cyber crime in general. So making the cyber world a safer place. I think roads, a problem you and I have worked on, for the better part of a decade. I think, you know, when you think about a million people worldwide are killed in car accidents,  in motor vehicle accidents annually; in 95% of those are the result of human error. And so that technology is going to be really important. Cause there are a million people that don't have to say bye to a loved one every year. That's just an amazing uptick in quality of life. If we can improve road safety, and then I think health, like we're seeing the power of these models to do genomic, to gain genomic insight and then to bring drugs to market very, very quickly and to simulate the impact of those drugs before they even go into human trials. And so, the vaccine efforts that we're seeing now, are possible because of this technology. And that to me is like super duper exciting, cause I think we're going to have health advances, like we've never seen in humanity before and that's, that's just super awesome. So I think across those three areas, those are the three areas that I think the most about with AI that I get really excited about. And there's obviously a lots of other applications, but those are the three that excite me the most.

Brad Cordova:

Cool. Yeah, I totally agree. All right. So, with four minutes left, time for the rapid fire round, so three questions. What is, what is the one thing, you want to leave as, as your legacy? When we think back at Jon McNeill ?

Jon McNeill:

Jobs, like I grew up recognizing how important a job was to like my dad and our, just our family. And so my biggest, my biggest thing that I think about is creating jobs.

Brad Cordova:


If tomorrow, everything was gone, your memory was wiped clean, and you knew this was coming and you got to write down one or two things to get you where you're at, let's say in half the time. What would you write on that piece of paper?

Jon McNeill:

Oh, goodness. A super hard question. I think Education has been a gift that I'm super happy to have received, really paying attention to the people that are around you in a lot of ways, the learnings that can happen, but also that the relationships that can lead to really interesting things in your life. Ad yeah, just being present with that.

Brad Cordova:


Awesome. Okay. Last question. So what is your vision for Delta V in the future, in one sentence?

Jon McNeill:

What we want to do is see if we can create a company that can create companies and do that in a systematic way. And so if we prove that, like I'll be smiling ear to ear.

Brad Cordova:

That's awesome. It's like a, it's like a meta company.

Jon McNeill:

Yeah, exactly.

Brad Cordova:

Cool John. Well, it was really awesome to chat with you and really, really interesting for me. So thanks for taking the time. I know you're a busy guy. I will talk with you soon.

Jon McNeill:


All right Brad. Awesome. See you.

Brad Cordova:

All right. Cheers.

Jon McNeill:

Cheers. Bye.

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