Intro: This is Berkeley Talks, a Berkeley News podcast from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley. You can follow Berkeley Talks wherever you listen to your podcasts. New episodes come out every other Friday. Also, we have another podcast, Berkeley Voices, that shares stories of people at UC Berkeley and the work that they do on and off campus.
[Music fades out]
Victoria Howell: We have an exciting evening tonight. We will be introducing our speaker who will be thrilling us I believe. It’s a surprise to all of us exactly what he’s going to present, but I will tell you that everybody in the audience is fairly intimately familiar with all the things that he’s invented. As you know, I just said we’ll be recording. Our speaker will talk and then we’ll still have time at the end for Q&A as you experienced last week. So with that, Jasmine, it would be great if you could take it away.
Jasmine Lau: Thank you. Good evening everyone. My name is Jasmine Lau. I’m a third-year EEC student here at Berkeley, getting my certificates in entrepreneurship and technology and design with the Sutardja Center and Jacobs Institute here at Cal. I really enjoyed the classes here with SCET because I could find myself working with a lot of creatives and innovators from all corners of campus and around the world. So since my freshman year in high school, I’ve been working on a plethora of technical projects, what I like to call my little inventions. But there were only tiny contributions to the world of [inaudible] Adam Cheyer to this speaker series.
Adam, like many of us, have a knack for little inventions, only he successfully launched his projects to share with the entire world. He was recently the co-founder and VP of Engineering of Viv Labs, which aims to provide intelligent and controversial… not controversial, I’m sorry, conversational interfaces to devices and services everywhere. He’s also famous for being the co-founder and VP of engineering for Siri, which most of us probably know and use very often. He worked alongside with Apple after the acquisition as director of engineering in the iPhone and iOS group. And he had two other largely successful startups, Change.org, which Berkeley students are rightfully on way too often and Sentient, which helps researchers, innovators and companies solve problems through complex and large-scale artificial intelligence. So Adam has so many more inventions, collecting like 38 patents to his name and he’s also a very talented magician from what I’ve heard. And I’m really excited and humbled that we get to hear from him, specifically about his contributions to user interface and artificial intelligence applications in today’s world. Hopefully we get to learn tonight the secrets to his magic.
Victoria Howell: Adam, welcome.
Adam Cheyer: Thank you so much. I’m happy to be here again with you all. So thank you for that introduction. My name is Adam Cheyer. I used to be a researcher in academia like many of you I’m sure are today, but eventually I found my way towards entrepreneurship. And really what I’m going to teach you about today is why I think entrepreneurship is the single greatest change engine that the world has ever known. So I’m a huge fan, I try to encourage people, if it’s in your DNA, if it’s who you are, please go out and try to take your ideas out into the world. And the second thing I’m going to do is I am going to share my secrets, not my secrets of magic, you can maybe figure those out or not, but I’m going to teach you my secrets to how to become an entrepreneur, how to take an idea from conception all the way through impact.
And I’ve been lucky enough in my career to have touched the world in some small ways. So Siri has been used by more than one billion users on multiple billions of devices. Viv Labs is now resident… the technology lives on hundreds of millions of Samsung devices under the name Bixby. It’s the most scalable open ecosystem available to a conversational assistant, much more so than some of the other competitors. Change.org, as you know, has more than 425 million members and Sentient has done some really important things in both the application and the innovation of machine learning. So those were all some ideas that I took. I’m going to tell you a little bit about my stories and then I’m going to tell you my secrets of how to do it yourself.
So I’m going to just start with telling you a few things that maybe you don’t know about Siri and then I’ll dive right into the meat of my presentation. Many times people ask me, “Well, where did the name Siri come from? What does it mean?” And I always have a naming scheme behind my companies, you can ask me about some of the others, but Siri, we envisioned it as an assistant that you could converse with, that would have a little bit of personality. We wanted a human-like name that wasn’t too common. Microsoft had already done a product called Microsoft Bob, we thought we could do a little bit more exotic. We wanted it to be short, able to be spelled pretty easily, pronounced pretty easily and we created a list of candidates and Siri rose to the top and I’m going to tell you a few of the reasons.
So our CEO, he was Norwegian American, Dag Kittlaus, and he said, “Siri means beautiful woman who will lead you to victory,” so it’s kind of a Norse goddess metaphor. I had two favorite meanings for Siri. One was, I’m a magician, I enjoy secrets and Siri means secret in Swahili. So a secret is something that I know that other people haven’t figured out yet perhaps. I’m going to be sharing some of those secrets of entrepreneurship with you today, but to me, Siri was a secret, something we were very working on. Our domain name used to be stealth-company.com with a dash because we weren’t going to tell anyone what we were going to do and we’re going to change the world and so we played on that secret metaphor. So Siri to me is a tip of the hat back to our Stealth-Company days. And then finally, my name is Adam, I have a son who’s named Noah and I like not the junior relationship, but I like some naming relationship between parent and child.
And so Adam was the first man in the Bible, we’re all descendant from Adam according to the Bible. We’re also all descendant from Noah because there was the big flood and he was really the father of us all as well. Both have four letters, both are kind of old time biblical, so there’s a relationship between me and my son through the names. And with Siri, the project I worked on before Siri was named Iris and so I see Iris as the mother and Siri as the child. And if you think about Iris and Siri, the names are reversed, so there’s some relationship between the two. So that’s just a random story about Siri that maybe you don’t know. A few other things just quickly, Siri, many people know when Siri was launched on October 4th, 2011, so almost I guess 10 years ago this year, but what many people didn’t know is that before Apple launch Siri, it was actually a small startup company called Siri. I was a founder with Tom Gruber and Dag Kittlaus.
October 4th, 2010, so 10 years ago this month we launched the original Siri that was different and some ways better, some ways worse, but it had a big vision, it had an open ecosystem. It was my dream to make Siri kind of the next internet that people would just ask a question and say, “I want to know this or do that,” and Siri would help you get it done for every service in the world. So that was the original dream of Siri. We launched a free app in the App Store and two weeks later, we get this call and we hear, “Hey, it’s Steve. What you doing? Want to come over to my house tomorrow?” And we’re like, “Steve Jobs? You’re calling our office?” because remember, we were pretty stealthy. We had no sign on the door, no phone number on our webpage and yet, somehow Steve Jobs called us about two weeks after launch, actually right around now, 10 years ago.
And we went over to his house and he said, “I want to buy your company.” We said, “Thank you, we’re flattered, not interested, goodbye,” and we left. Obviously that wasn’t the end of the story. He convinced us that we might change the world more with Apple than without and so we joined. The last thing I’ll mention is that it seems like an overnight success. Just launch a free app, two weeks later, Steve Jobs calls you and a little bit of quibbling and then two months later, you’re working at Apple trying to make this next thing. But what many people don’t know is that the first version of Siri was in 1993, so the instant success actually took, I think it was something like 17 or 18 years, 17 years at that timeframe to create.
So I had been working as a researcher, I created a prototype that I thought was beautiful and really had the vision for Siri as a multimodal, conversational way to interact with all information in the world. I’ve been pursuing that vision for, I don’t know, way too long, since 1993, still not entirely successful, but I keep trying. So I just wanted to let you know that the Siri that came out of nowhere was actually years and years of research and hard work. But after doing all that research, all of that work, I then hit on the idea of how to take it into the world, maybe it’s through entrepreneurship. And with that, I will get started. How do you start a company? How do you take this idea that maybe you’ve been thinking about or working on for a long time and take it into the world?
You actually need, I say three things to become an entrepreneur. So here’s the three lessons and I’m going to teach you each of these lessons. The first thing that you need is a differentiated idea. I’m going to actually show you a slide, I prepared some paper slides. So if you’re going to work on an idea, it could be a small idea or it could be an idea as big as the internet. I say pick something big, pick something exciting that will change everything, that can touch a billion people. Because if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to spend all your time working on it anyway, so you might as well work on a big idea rather than a small idea, just because you’ll have bigger impact, bigger payoff. So once you have your big idea that can touch a lot of people if successful, you can’t just tell people about it, you need to build a prototype and you need to explain how is this magical, crazy idea better than the competition.
Now, why do I use the word magic? Because I say that an entrepreneurship and a magician are exactly the same. An entrepreneur needs to imagine an impossible future. Think about Siri. 20 years ago, if I told you you could pull a device out of your pocket, it would know who you are and where you are and you could just talk to it using your words and it would not only talk back to you, but do things for you, book that reservation, buy a movie ticket, you would’ve thought that were magic. So an entrepreneur has to imagine an impossible future that’s desirable, that doesn’t exist, because if it exists, don’t do it as a company… a big company is going to do it better than you. They have more customers, more money. So you have to reach far as an entrepreneur, dream big, dream magical, but you have to be very clear, why would we want such a thing?
And with Siri, that was important. Before Siri, there weren’t any large-scale, mass market conversational assistants that you could talk to, so we had to define that market and we did it using a prototype. And I don’t know if you’re interested, but I happen to bring with me the very first prototype of Siri. This is the one we use to show investors to prove to them, why can’t they just use Google? Why can’t they use apps? The iPhone had just come out. And so here is the first version of Siri. I carry it around in a little box. Let me show it to you. Go back to my overhead cam.
So we have a bunch of cards. This is obviously the paper version of Siri, we also had an electronic prototype, but I want you to see that the cards are all different, you can see them and they’re not in any special order. I’m mixing them up, I’m shuffling them as we go. All different, no special order. Now I’m going to need someone to help me with this. Victoria, you could do it or if you could unmute someone, name someone, I need a volunteer to help with this problem.
Victoria Howell: Why doesn’t Jasmine do it? Jasmine, can you help out?
Jasmine Lau: Yeah, of course.
Adam Cheyer: OK. Thanks, Jasmine. I’ll tell you what to do in just a minute. You’re going to help me choose the problem to solve. So back then, in 2007 when we started Siri, Google was the technology everybody used, but I said, “Siri is going to be better than Google in three ways.” A search engine just would give you links and then you’d have to go read the pages. Siri is going to answer the question. That’s the first way. The second thing is that with Google, you can only work on one task at a time, like do this and then do that.
With Siri, I wanted it to handle multiple tasks like dinner and a movie at the same time. Help you work through, “If I take this movie, then I can’t get to that reservation or if I take this restaurant, it’s too far from that movie.” And the third is I wanted it to be conversational so that you could talk to Siri and say, “Well, what about the next day? How about the day after that?” and be able to converse. You can’t do that with Google. So with this, we’ve got a shuffled deck of cards. What I’m going to do is I’m going to move my hand over the card deck and at any time you say stop and that’ll help me choose a card.
Jasmine Lau: OK, stop.
Adam Cheyer: Right here. All right, I want to get the exact card you’re talking about. I’ll do it a little bit closer.
Jasmine Lau: OK, stop.
Adam Cheyer: OK, cool. Put my finger down right here. Excellent. All right, we’ll actually take out two cards. That’s fine. Let’s see if you guys can see them. All right, Jasmine, now you chose a card from this deck. It’s a shuffled deck, all different options. I don’t know what card you chose, you don’t even know what card you chose. Let’s ask Siri. So if you notice on the back of every card, there’s like a little button. Let’s see, I’ll hold it right here, kind of a circle. All you have to do is you push the button, let me get in the… and it’ll go be beep, beep. No, I’m just kidding. I didn’t actually implement [inaudible 00:17:01] recognition in my paper prototype of Siri. But what I did do is I implemented what’s called natural language understanding.
I can ask any question and it will answer me. Watch this. So your card that you chose right here could be a red card or a black card. Siri, what color is the card? Now I’m going to type it by spelling, watch, C-O-L-O-R, color. And then I flip over the next card and that gives the answer. It says, “Your card is a red card.” Maybe, I mean 50-50, could be lucky. What would be harder is if I asked what number it is. Maybe you picked a six or a two or a king. It’s a shuffled deck, you chose any card. Siri, what number is that card? N-U-M-B-E-R, the number is an ace. “You picked a red ace,” says Siri. I mean, I don’t know, this is not artificial intelligence, but maybe. Now if it’s red, this card could be a diamonds or it could be hearts. Is it a hearts? H-E-A-R-T-S, Siri says, “No, it’s a diamond.”
Now every card in the deck has exactly one match. So if I were to ask Siri, “What’s the match?” the M-A-T-C-H of your card, well, if this works which would be crazy, I mean I don’t know what card you chose, Siri says, “You picked a red ace of diamonds,” so the match would be the other red ace, the red ace of hearts. And that means the card that you chose out of the entire deck shuffle deck was the red ace of diamonds. Now, investors, Google cannot do this. This is different, this is better, this is a magical prototype. Siri can answer the question, not just give you links. And I can refine that question like a conversation, is it black, is it close or is it spades and it’ll answer me. But I also said Siri could handle multiple tasks at the same time, like dinner and a movie.
Now, we actually pulled out two cards for you, Jasmine. We have a second card here, I don’t know what that card is. Siri is going to answer the question at the same time. Now this was the color pile. “Siri, what color is Jasmine’s other card?” color? Siri says, “It’s a black card.” No way. This was the number pile. “Siri, what number did Jasmine choose for her other card?” She says, “You have a black queen.” Now if it’s black, it could be clubs or it could be spades. Is it spades? “It is indeed spades,” says Siri. And every card in the deck has exactly one match. So if you chose the black queen of spades, the match would be the other black queen, the black queen of clubs. And that means you also chose the black queen of spades.So that my friends is an example of what every entrepreneur needs to do when they’re creating a company. It’s have a big idea, something that seems magical but is also possible. And you want it to be differentiated, you want to be very, very clear, why is this better than anything else that I can get on the market today, including Google or anything else? Oh, and I had one other story, just random story before I continue. Siri used to do all this functionality like what’s the weather, get me a sports score, all of that kind of stuff, but they’re also a little bit of personality. So many people love to ask Siri all sorts of questions, not those domain functional questions, but kind of the chatty questions. And I used to run Apple’s implementation of Siri, I got to see the logs. Do you know what the number one question that people ask Siri, the non-functional, just a chat question? What would you ask Jasmine? What kind of questions would you ask or maybe your kids ask if they’re playing with Siri? Any ideas?
Jasmine Lau: Are you real?
Adam Cheyer: Are you real, that’s a good one. I see in the chat there’s, “What’s the time?” that’s functional, “What’s the weather?” I saw one, “Can you marry me?” Actually that’s in the chat, we’re seeing it. That’s actually the second most popular. And the single most popular question is-
Jasmine Lau: Who are you?
Adam Cheyer: Close, it’s always about relationships, it’s, “Do you love me?” is the number one most popular question. We implemented all those types of questions back into our prototype. Let me show you. I have to cut the deck and kind of clear… start a new conversation, so to speak. So if we were to say, “Do you love me?” I would say, “Siri, do you love me?” I have to type it, sorry. L-O-V-E and Siri says she loves me, she gives me a heart. So there it is, number one question people ask Siri. All right, so that’s the first lesson. When you have an idea as an entrepreneur, make sure it’s a big idea, a magical idea. And we really did this with Siri.
We didn’t do it obviously with paper cards, we had a software prototype, but the idea that everyone had an iPhone in their pocket in 2007 with Google on it, with apps and we said, “We’ve got a question, we’ve got a problem to solve, can you solve it using Google? Here, you have five minutes, I’ve got some money on the table, can you solve it using Google? Can apps, smartphones, wifi, the internet?” and they couldn’t do it. And then we pulled out Siri and solved it in like 30 seconds. That was a way of showing why is our idea better than the competition, that’s important for every entrepreneur. OK, so that’s step one. Lesson two, let me get lesson two.
Now that you have your big idea, bring up the slides again, you’re going to need a team to help you on this quest. Now I’ve determined, at least in my view, that there are four skills you want to have in your founding team. Now you don’t need four people necessarily, maybe you can handle one or two or even three of the skills, but it’s rare that one person is world-class in all four areas. So what are the four areas? You need a visionary. You need someone with the big idea and who sees the long view, who understands how this is going to impact the world and that may take 20 years or 30 years, but they see it, they know it. You need a marketeer, someone who can actually sell that vision to investors, to customers, to potential employees. They need to know the right way to send that message of that big idea. It’s often not easy to boil it down into the right words.
Number three, you need a product person. Because the idea is so big and so powerful, you may not get there in one step, so a product person is going to build a roadmap. They’re going to say, “Great idea. We’re going to start here with step one, then we’re going to do step two, then we’re going to do step three. Here’s why we prioritize and order it in that way and here’s how we’re going to get to that end goal, step-by-step being successful as we go.” And the fourth is you need a builder, someone who’s going to stand up and say, “I will deliver this on time and on budget, this roadmap. I’ve got this.” So those are the four skills. And so every entrepreneur who wants to start their game changing company out there, you should be thinking, “Which 1:00 am I or which ones am I really great at? Where do I focus?”
And then once you know that you want to build up the credentials and the skills and the capabilities to really be great at that one or two or those skills that you pick. But then the next part is if you need all of these skills in your founding team and remember, when investors are looking to fund something, team is probably the biggest part of the equation, ideas change a little bit, implementation, they don’t expect you to have a ton built out yet, they’re betting on a team to be able to carry off this big vision, that means you need to find other people to work with you on this.
Victoria Howell: Adam, Kalen Schlagel has a question while you’re on that slide, which one do you consider yourself or ones?
Adam Cheyer: Oh, that’s interesting. I worked at SRI International for a long time and they’re good at kind of putting… you sort of need to be a one man or one woman shop. You have an idea, you write a proposal, you sell it, try to pitch it to the researchers, then you build it and then you write the publication, you file the patent. And so I’m pretty good at many of them, but I’m not world-class. And so I say what I think I am best at is I have big ideas about where the world is going or where it should go. So I would say I’m strongest as a visionary. I can pitch marketing ideas a little bit and I’m comfortable speaking in front of an audience, but when I met Dag Kittlaus, wow, he is way better than I am at telling a story in marketing. He’s a marketeering CEO, I go, “This guy will be able to do it.”
I have ideas about the product roadmap, but getting into every little nook and cranny, I can find better people to work with me on that. Tom Gruber was really our head of product and design and really drove it. And in terms of building it, I’m very good at the early stages, building the prototype, but I know there are better software engineers in the world who can create a commercial quality version of what I do. So I would say I’m a visionary first. I’ll build the prototype to be able to communicate the vision, but then I’m going to go hire a team and say, “Go build this,” and I’ll work with a product and design person to get everything perfect. Thank you for the question, that’s a great question.
So I’m going to tell you once you have your picture of who you are and what you’re good at and you’re going to need to find people to compliment you, I’m going to use the story of Change.org. Change.org, what is it? It’s a petition platform with hundreds of millions of people trying to work together. And really the idea of getting different perspectives on a problem and getting sort of collective IQ on a problem is so important for Change.org, it’s also so important about startups. So how do you find the right people to compliment you? It’s one of the scariest things because if I’m not a marketeer, how am I going to know a good marketeer when I get one? How am I going to meet marketeers? I’m an engineer. In the engineering building, we don’t have a lot of marketeers hanging out there. How do I meet someone? How do I find someone?
So you need to be identifying what you do, going out and finding those people, where? Well, classes like this, an entrepreneur class, that’s a pretty amazing way to network and meet people with different skills from you. And when you’ve identified what you are and what you’re not, you need to be on the lookout and actively seeking out people and trying to spend time working with people who are not like you. Not easy to do, but you want to spend time. And the other thing is it’s going to take a lot of gut feel and for that, I’ve created an exercise that we can practice. So first, we’re going to need some money. This represents the money that we’ve raised, that we’re going to fund because when we raise money, we start a team, almost all of the money goes to the salaries anyway. That is the biggest expense, so we have to find the right people.
I’m going to take our cards back, give them a shuffle. Let’s give them a cut or two. So what we’re going to do is try to find the right people. I’m going to show you how the game works. We’ve got a bunch of money. First of all, I’ll need someone to help me again. Jasmine, do you want to do it or Victoria can-
Victoria Howell: Actually, why don’t we ask Rishi to help if that’s [inaudible 00:31:38].
Adam Cheyer: Great, Rishi. Wonderful. Hi, Rishi. So we’re going to try to find these four skills, the visionary, the marketeer, the product person, the builder. These represent our candidates. We have lots of cards. Every card is a different candidate we could hire for a position. So we’re going to use our gut feel. This exercise is going to help us tune in and use that intuition that we have about is this the right candidate or not? This is the biggest decision we make because when you have a co-founder, it’s like a marriage, it’s not easy to get out of it and it’s messy and you want to pick the right person.
So what you’re going to do is you’re going to take these cards, let me move it, I’m going to have to deal down for you, but you’re going to weigh each candidate. You’re going to go, “Ah, visionary? No, I don’t feel it. Not sure.” And you just keep counting down until you’re like, “Yep, this is the one right here.” You’re going to mark your choice by taking one of the dollars, you put it down on this deck and then you lock in your choice, all right. So that’s how it’s worked. Now I’ve just done the first one for the vision person. You start now, from now on, you’re looking for the marketeer. I’ll pick them up and just count down and you feel it and let me know when to stop.
Rishi Modi: Mm-hmm, OK.
Adam Cheyer: But this is an important decision. The whole company rides on your decision.
Rishi Modi: Let’s keep it coming a little bit. See if we-
Adam Cheyer: All right.
Rishi Modi: OK. Stop.
Adam Cheyer: Right here?
Rishi Modi: Yeah, right there.
Adam Cheyer: All right. We’re going to lock in your choice.
Rishi Modi: Feeling good about it.
Adam Cheyer: All right, there it is. So now we’ve got the visionary, the marketeer. We’re looking for the product person. All right, over to you, Rishi, product person. You know what to do. Man, this is intense, this is so important.
Rishi Modi: Yeah, that’s very important. OK, how about now?
Adam Cheyer: Here?
Rishi Modi: Yep. Actually, no, take the last one out, last card, so right before that.
Adam Cheyer: Here?
Rishi Modi: Yep, that’s [inaudible 00:34:08].
Adam Cheyer: All right. We’re good. Lock it in.
Rishi Modi: All right.
Adam Cheyer: All right. We’ve got one more to do. Oh, I brought a $100 bill. This is for all the marbles, Rishi. You got to get it right. This is for the builder. Man, you got to pick the right… if he can’t deliver [inaudible 00:34:26].
Rishi Modi: I mean, it’s all about [inaudible 00:34:28] so the builder has got to be the most important.
Adam Cheyer: It is. I’m a tech guy so I believe so, but they’re all important.
Rishi Modi: Mm-hmm. Continuing, yeah.
Adam Cheyer: Oh man, the pressure.
Rishi Modi: I’m putting a lot of weight on the builder.
Adam Cheyer: No, pick a good one. Get the right skills…
Rishi Modi: Right there. Yeah, that’s the last one. Yep.
Adam Cheyer: You’re sure?
Rishi Modi: Yep, I’m confident.
Adam Cheyer: All right, man. There we go. So we’ve had all these different candidates. We spend time with them, we look at their resumes, but what matters is we need to get the best in the world at these choices. So let’s see how we did. Going to spread them out. All right, so we had card, card, card and card. Those are our choices. I don’t need these anymore. So how did we do? So the first one was the visionary. Out of all of these possible choices, could have picked any of these things, we need the best in the world, ace of diamonds. Now the reason the ace of diamonds, the only candidate, is that the diamonds are at the end of the rainbow. The visionary can see the long path and how we’re going to lead to glory, to diamonds. Now I think that’s pretty impressive, but remember, I chose the visionary so maybe I did something, but from here on it’s all you, Rishi.
Rishi Modi: Yep. Feeling pretty good about it.
Adam Cheyer: Marketeer, we chose the ace of hearts. Now, that marketeer makes you fall in love with the product, that understands it and just really feels it. This is the only candidate out of the entire deck that could have done that job, so we’re on a good path, you’re doing fantastic. All right. Number three, the product person. Product person is ace of clubs. The product person has to really think about the step one, step two, step three, really dig in and define that product and step one, step two, step three, only the ace of clubs could do that. I think that is the absolute perfect candidate. But you and I know as kind of tech people maybe, it’s the builder that really matters.
We have a lot of money, if we can’t deliver this product, it’s all over. You went deep. I would’ve maybe stopped a little earlier, but we’ll see. The builder can only be the ace of spades, the guy who’s really going to dig in and do it. So Rishi, out of this, the full set of possible candidates, you used your intuition, you thought of exactly the right choices to put together the team. And with this team, you’re going to be able to raise money and go off and build a product and be successful. That’s a huge step. You need the right idea and then you need the right team. Excellent job. Thank you so much, Rishi.
All right, we’re well on our way. So there’s really only three steps to entrepreneurship. It’s so easy, it’s that easy. You need the right idea at the right time, you need the right team with the four skills, the visionary, the marketeer, the product person and the builder. And then with the right idea and the right team, you can now raise money. Now, you can go to investors, you go, “I’ve got a big idea, it’s differentiated. I’ve got the team to pull it off, world-class in every department,” they’ll give you money. And now it’s all about execution and I have something to say about that. Now, the way it works is that when you raise money, that money gives you time. In fact, you can calculate the number of days until you die as a company, literally. Why?
If you raise $1 million and you spend a certain amount of money every day, you’re paying out your office costs, you’re paying out the salaries, you can figure out when are you going to run out of money. And the whole game as an entrepreneur is with the time that you’ve bought, you have to produce more value than you spent. It’s in your control if you make efficient decisions. So if you kind of mess up and you pivot too many times and you don’t produce something good, when you run out of that money and it’s time to raise more money, they’re going to look at what you built and say, “No, I don’t see it anymore, it’s not worth anything more.” But if you do something great in that time, you can now raise more money at a higher valuation.
And entrepreneurship is like a stair step, you earn the right to get onto that first stair. You have so much time, maybe a year, maybe a little more. And if you produce value, you can now raise money at a higher valuation and that gives you more time. And it’s a game of raising money and getting bigger and bigger in terms of valuation, producing more and more value. And then at the end, you either go profitable, in which case you control your own destiny. Now, if you’re making more money than you spend, you can do this forever, so you don’t need to ask anyone for money anymore or you exit. You’re going up in value, you’re going up in value, well at each step, it’s going to be about double. If you’ve raised money at a 10 million valuation, your next round has to be at least at a 20 million of value.
Then after 20, you have to raise at 40. Then after 40, you’re getting close to 100, then 200, then 500, then a billion. Every time it doubles, it’s an exponential curve, that’s a lot of pressure. And so you need to choose, if you’re not going to go profitable soon, you need to get off the merry-go-round at the right time, exit either as an IPO or through an acquisition. And if you can’t produce enough value and this increasing urgency to double every time, then you die. A down round is a terrible thing. So how do you do that? How do you create value at each step? You have a certain amount of money, certain amount of time, because every time you hire a new person, that shortens your runway but you can produce a little more, so hire the right people. We learned about that in the last lesson, but this is how you do it.
So important or efficient decisions is really what’s going to make you successful at every step of that staircase and how do you do it? Steve Jobs says, “People think focus is saying yes to the thing we’ve got to focus on, but that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundreds of other good ideas there are. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things,” and that’s the key to efficient decisions. And you’re in luck. You say, “Well, how do I do that? How do I make the right decisions?” I’ve come up with a little exercise to help you practice. While I get set up, could you help choose someone who’s going to help me in this exercise? Victoria, would you pick someone to join me?
Rishi Modi: I just promoted a student.
Swetha: Why don’t we have Pranati do this one?
Victoria Howell: Yeah, let’s try Pranati.
Rishi Modi: OK.
Pranati Modumudi: I’m so excited.
Adam Cheyer: Hi, Pranati.
Pranati Modumudi: Hello.
Adam Cheyer: It’s a lot of pressure. You saw what Rishi went through, but [inaudible].
Pranati Modumudi: Yeah.
Adam Cheyer: So I’ve got another little game that we’re going to play. Let’s see if I can make this a little bit easier to read. We’ve got all of these choices just like in life. There are so many things we could do. You could imagine these being candidates to hire like we did in the last round-
Victoria Howell: Adam, because we have a lot of engineers in the audience and mathematicians, they’re pointing out that five and six are not in the right spot.
Adam Cheyer: Ooh, thank you very much. I came to the right place. 1, 2, 3, 4 [inaudible] thank you. Obviously, we want to be nice and clean and neat. So the other thing that we have is we have some money here. I have five coins. Think of those as your tokens. And the final thing I want to point out before we start, as we look at efficient decisions, so each of my three lessons is based on one of my companies. The first one was based on Siri, how to make a big idea, differentiate, a prototype. The second was on Change.org, it’s all about people. This one is going to be based on Viv Labs. I told you we always have names like Siri started out as stealth-company.com. Viv, we actually started out… again a very obscure name, we called ourselves sixfivelabs.com. So 65 was like this core number. I’ll tell you why a little bit later, but this is going to be a Viv themed game.
So with that, here’s how the game works. Think of these as options, but as Steve Jobs said, “Making efficient decisions, innovation is about saying no to 1,000 things.” So the way that’s going to work is that you’re going to pick a token and you can choose any option, you could prioritize any feature, you could choose to hire any candidate. But when you choose some example, this is going to eliminate all of the choices in the column and in that row. So you’re going to be focusing not only on the yeses that you choose, but the nos that that eliminates. If you’re focusing on this priority, this feature, that means you’re not focusing on 1,000 other features and balancing that is so important. So Pranati, over to you. You get to choose any of these options, but that will eliminate all of the other options in that row and column.
Pranati Modumudi: So I get to pick five for each?
Adam Cheyer: Yeah. Let’s start with one, which do you choose?
Pranati Modumudi: Four.
Adam Cheyer: Four, you’re sure? We’re going with this feature, this candidate, four. OK, if we do that-
Pranati Modumudi: Seven.
Adam Cheyer: Wait. First, if we do that, because you’re not just saying yes, you’re saying no to all of the others in this row and all of the others in this column. That really helps bring clarity to what you’re doing. OK, we’ve got four. You have four more tokens.
Pranati Modumudi: 17.
Adam Cheyer: 17, interesting. All right, that eliminates these and that eliminates these. All right.
Pranati Modumudi: 25.
Adam Cheyer: It’s getting tougher. That eliminates these and that eliminates these two more choices. There’s only one perfect combination to win the game. Execution is about making the right decisions, the right choices. One mistake will change everything.
Pranati Modumudi: Six.
Adam Cheyer: Six, so that eliminates this and this and that only leaves with one more piece, so that is the choice that you came up with. You chose 4, you chose 6, you chose 13, you chose 17 and you chose 25. Well, Pranati, I’m happy to tell you, you made exactly the only choice you could have made to be successful. Now, you might think I’m just saying that, but I want to prove that to you. First of all, I know we have some mathematicians here, could someone please add up these numbers and put it into a chat or just say it out? So we’ve got 10, here we have, let’s see, 30, 40-
Pranati Modumudi: 65.
Adam Cheyer: 65, perfect. So if you look at this, we have five coins, but they’re not all the same. I don’t know if you can see it, these two are quarters, 50. And these three are nickels, 50 plus 15, 65, interesting. Just a coincidence perhaps. And actually at the beginning, I kind of said this is going to be themed around Viv Labs. We had right here on the front this number 65 and I said 65 is so important and the numbers that you chose add up to 65. Now, one reason 65 was so important is the secret name of our product was Viv. Later on, we came out with a product called Viv. If you think about Roman numerals, you get VI, it’s a 6 and V is 5, 65. If you had chosen one more or one less, the whole number has changed.
Now, it’s not just that. You could have said there’s maybe some other combination like if I had picked a three and seven, that might have still added up to 65. So that’s not the only choice that I could have made to get this 65 coincidence to happen, but what I didn’t tell you is on the back of every card, we have message. So we have words written. So we have Siri and Lingo and IPO and goes out of business. I’m glad you didn’t pick that one. Nice job. We have Alexa and Wit.ai. Every number had a message, had a word on the back, but you chose exactly this sequence. Let’s see what it says, what it means. On the four, it says Six Five labs. Interesting. That’s actually the name of our company when we started Viv Labs, we called ourselves Six Five Labs. Behind six, you chose rebrands as. All right, Six Five Labs rebrands as. 13, Viv Labs, that’s exactly right. That’s what we did. That was the exact path, the decision we made. Six Five Labs rebrands as Viv Labs. 17 is acquired by.
Now, thank goodness it wasn’t that goes out of business number or folds, that would’ve been bad. Now acquired by, not Google, not Facebook, not Amazon, but you chose Samsung and that’s exactly what we did. That was the exact decision path that we chose and you managed to get it exactly right, so wonderful job. And the key lesson there is when you’re executing on your business, you’ve raised money, you’ve got the right team, it’s all about making the right decisions. And to do that, you need to focus not only on the yes, “Oh, I want to do this, I want to do that,” you also have to focus on what that eliminates. You have to say, “If I do that, if I hire this candidate, that means I’m not hiring this candidate, this candidate, this candidate. If I prioritize this feature, that means I’m not giving full priority to these other features.” And you need to weigh that in a balanced way to make efficient decisions and hopefully that will help you on your path.
So with that, I think I’m at the end of my talk. My summary is, I’ll bring up my last slide again so you can see it, so today I presented to you three ideas to entrepreneurship. First, have a big idea that can impact lots of people and show, don’t just tell people, build a prototype to show people why this is better than the competition. Be very clear. Siri, you can answer the question, not give you links, you can refine the question like a conversation. Google doesn’t do that, apps don’t do that with that context and that short path and you can handle multiple tasks at the same time. Then once you have your big idea, like with Change.org, it’s all about people coming together to collectively work together, you need the right founding team skills. You need a visionary, a marketeer, a product person and a builder.
And then finally, once you’ve raised your money, it’s about making efficient decisions. Focus not only on the yes but on the no, saying innovation is saying no to 1,000 ideas. And you have to weigh that balance and that will hopefully let you produce more value at every stage so you keep getting more and more successful as you grow and that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. So thank you very much and with that, I open up to questions.
Victoria Howell: Adam, my hair has changed because I’m pulling it out, I am stunned. We’ll have our magical students come on in and ask some questions. Cameron, you had a question. Thank you.
Cameron Smith: Hey, Adam. Thanks for entertaining me and the rest of the students here. That was truly magical and amazing and I appreciate the efforts you’ve gone to to present a very engaging and memorable panel or webinar, whatever this is. So I was just curious if you have any comments on your personal ideas about where humans and computers should combine or not combine and for you, as the visionary person, how you feel about this trend of human-computer interaction in any interpretation of that, privacy or tech or…
Adam Cheyer: Yeah. It’s an interesting and complex question. There’s a book that John Markoff wrote, he’s kind of the well-known… he was a New York Times writer for a while. He wrote a book called Machines of Loving Grace that explores a lot of this question, so you might enjoy it. And he really places this on what is the role of AI and machines and humanity and really pitched it as two sides. He says, “In some visions,” and this is where I like to live and he talked about Siri and non obviously, he put it on what I view the right side is he said, “computers should be a tool to augment human intellect.” So he called this duality IA versus AI. And so IA is intelligence augmentation and what that means is it’s about us.
Tools are just amplifying our capacities, our knowledge. They’re there to just help us be better, but we are first. And for me, Siri was always like that. All of the things I’ve worked on is trying to be a tool that helps an individual or a community extend and amplify their capabilities, but they’re in control, they make the decisions. The other side, AI, is a vision where the machine knows better than we do in certain ways and can actually make the decisions for us and take us out of the loop of those decisions. So maybe a self-driving car, if you’re hands off the wheel and once we get to level five and we’re not even paying attention, it’s making the decisions for us and it’s removed us from that process. But that also gets into kind of scary areas. I have a friend, Bryan Johnson, who started a company called Kernel. You might have heard of Neuralink, Elon Musk started Neuralink. Kernel is Neuralink on steroids, couple years before Elon Musk did this.
He’s literally talking about brain machine implants where he literally wants to put computer chips in our brain. And for people who don’t think that will happen, it already exists. If you think about cochlear implants, the way cochlear implants works is they literally open up your head and do brain surgery. They put in chips and link them up individually to neurons. Then they sew you back up, they put a microphone and software processing the input signal that stimulates electricity on the neurons. And your brain learns, through neuroplasticity, how to adapt and understand these completely new signals, even though they are very different than the signals that used to come in. I’m like, “Whoa.” So if you can do that, if the machine of the human brain can adapt to inputs and you can bind the two together, how far is cochlear implants from the idea that I can just think of something and transmit it to you and you’ll be able to interpret it or I can have infinite memory that’s now accessible in my brain?
I’m not sure I want this, but I actually believe that in my lifetime, we will have more of these kind of, I’ll call them cyborg like situations. I’m not happy about it, but I think technically, we may get there. And as opposed to people talk about general AI and machines going to become smarter than humans soon, I mean Ray Kurzweil published a book, The Singularity is Nearer, and he says that within this present decade, there will now be machines that are generally more intelligent than a human. It’ll be like literally an extraterrestrial, a new type of intelligence will exist on earth and we will no longer be at the top of the food chain and intelligence. I don’t believe that at all.
In AI, yes, we can apply it in very narrow tools, but in the case of general AI, meaning what a two-year-old does, take a few examples from one situation, extract what’s meaningful and then apply that lesson in an entirely different context, we don’t have machines that can do that today. And I haven’t seen any approach proposed that makes me feel we’re on the right track. In order to get to general intelligence as opposed to much narrower intelligence, I don’t think that will happen in my lifetime. I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen much. So I’m more bullish if you say, maybe more scared about the cyborg piece, but I hope that humanity leads and that the role of AI in computers is only as a tool extender to our capabilities, not as a replacer, not as something that takes over many decisions for us. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but [inaudible].
Cameron Smith: I think that was really interesting and informative and it makes me think, well in your perspective, is Siri more fallible or less fallible than humans?
Adam Cheyer: Is Siri less fallible? I think Siri is a tool, it’s an imperfect tool. It was all about finding the shortest path to a task, so how can you shorten time to task? If I know you well, if I have context about you, I don’t need to ask you lots of questions because I know you. But if I don’t, I need to ask questions, but I should learn from that. And so the idea of Siri is using language context, using long-term context of what it knows about me, when I say, “Get me a restaurant tomorrow night,” it will know enough to go boom and be able to automate that task under my guidance, but it will be able to infer over time.
For instance at Viv Labs, what we did with Bixby, we built in a platform that any time a third party developer requires that the assistant ask a question of the user, that question will always be learned upon. And if the user answers in a consistent way, automatically the AI will stop asking that question for the user. And then the user, if it ever says, “Wait… it gets something wrong, I don’t really want Mexican food even though I’ve ordered it 100 times in a row, I can always go to one place and say, “I’ve inferred that you wanted this,” and change it. So we’re trying to shorten the task and make that universal and built in. But it’s certainly not in control, it’s only trying to help you get to the job done. So obviously, humans are running the show when dealing with Siri and Siri is quite imperfect, even in the paths it knows.
Victoria Howell: Adam…
Cameron Smith: Thanks you so much. I have so many other questions, but I’ll let pass the torch to the other students, but thanks, Adam.
Victoria Howell: We’re going to be doing some magic here. We have about 12 questions. I don’t know if we’ll get through all of them, but we have about 15 minutes, Adam, and I think Amrita’s question is next.
Amrita Bhasin: Hi. My question is I’m interested in ethical AI and I wanted to know why was Siri’s voice made female? And then why do you think so many AI assistant voices like Google Home and all these different AI are default female? I know you can change the accent and the gender, but it seems like it’s default female, so is there some sort of science behind making the AI voices female? And how does this affect how people perceive AI?
Adam Cheyer: Right, great question. So Siri was not default female when it first came out in many of the countries that it launched. It was in U.S., but in France and in Australia, it had a male voice. And when we first came out with Siri in 2011 by Apple, it was a mix. Some countries had female voices, some countries had male voices and it wasn’t possible to change at that time. Siri, in terms of dialogue, the words that it used was always gender-neutral, so there was never any prescribed gender assigned to Siri. So if you ask Siri, “Are you a man or a woman,” it would say, “Neither.” It would never say, “I’m female or I’m male.” And the fact that that people ascribe certain tones to male or female, we chose a range of tones, again in different countries, different languages. So some are what would be prescribed as clearly more male sounding and some were female. But at least in my approach and in what we had always envisioned for Siri, I wanted a user to be able to prescribe what they thought they wanted Siri to be.
There was a backstory for Siri. We had to answer very important questions in a consistent way. If you’re going to be able to converse with an entity, you need to be able to answer questions like is it male or is it female? And we chose neither. Is it human, machine, AI or other? What’s the relationship to Apple? Is it an employee? Is it a fan? Is it independent? What tone do you take with all of these kinds of questions because the responses that you get. So we wrote a backstory with answers to those questions and then we dribbled out clues about those answers through some of the chat things that I referred to one of my magic tricks. So if you used to say, “What is your favorite color, Siri?” it would actually give some interesting revealing information. I don’t know if that’s persisted in the nine years since then, but it would give interesting perspective on is it male, female, human. Hidden in the answer to that other AI machine, you got something, you’re like, “Oh, that’s an interesting response. I guess Siri is,” it’s backstory.
So I know there is some research on genders and how people perceive it, I’m not up on those. In my vision, I did not want Siri to be perceived as either female or male. And the Apple version that we rolled out did not. It was a mix. We could only partition based on countries. And then immediately after year two, we allowed people to toggle the voice to their liking. My son just thinks it’s the funniest thing to put an Australian voice for both speech recognition and text to speech. And he’d be like, “Hello,” or English and he’d be trying to speak to Siri and it would speak back and he thought it was the funniest thing when he was growing up. And that’s for me what it should be, allowing the user to define the Siri that’s in their mind. That’s why we’d never put a face.
People ask, “Why isn’t there an avatar?” It’s like, I want it to be more like a book. When you’re reading a good book, you form your own impression of what that character is like and my impression will be different than yours. And we wanted to let the users engender their own conception. So today, they probably say green and purple and blue and they’ve lost that nuanced trend. There’ve been a lot of people working on dialogue I see in the corners. In the old days, it would say something like, “There’s no exact word for it in the English language, but I guess the closest thing to your spectrum would be a greenish,” something along those lines. Anyway, next question.
Victoria Howell: We’ll go with Jonathan and then Kush and then Peter. And Jonathan had a question that’s a great follow up on something you just said. Jonathan?
Jonathan Zvi: Yeah. So my question was, do you have any books that you’ve read on entrepreneurship that you could recommend to all of us?
Adam Cheyer: That’s a great question. Honestly, when I became an entrepreneur, I literally did not know what I was doing. There weren’t entrepreneurship classes I had taken, I didn’t have an MBA, there weren’t conferences to go to, I didn’t even know any entrepreneurs, so I’ve always taken the approach of just make it up and go for it. And I broke every rule. So for instance, every book I’m sure you’ll read on entrepreneurship says, “Focus, focus, focus is the key, otherwise you’ll never succeed.” None of them said, “Start three companies at the same time,” and yet I did and it worked out OK. Siri was my day job, Change.org was… or Sentient was my night job and Change.org was my side, side hustle project at the same time. And it worked out, all three of them were successful.
So I’ve always personally had a little bit of a distrust somehow about entrepreneurship books. I’m a magician, so I’m a skeptic by nature. I’m like, “All right, what are they selling?” and I don’t know. So I don’t have any entrepreneurship books that I will recommend. However, meeting entrepreneurs and hearing their stories as best as possible, I think is interesting and informative and it’s different than reading a book. So I guess if I were to pick one, there’s a book called Mad Men of Mobile. So I don’t like the title, I don’t like a bunch of things about it, by Danielle Newnham. I was featured in one of the chapters, but basically, I would look for books that are about entrepreneurs that are in the space that you care about and just hear their stories, don’t tell them how to do it.
And when I give you my lessons, take them with a grain of salt, but learn from stories and then think about them not as, “This is the way it has to be done.” It’s just think of them as, “This is interesting, I’ll consider it, but then I’m going to do it my own way.” If you find your own way, that’s the most important thing. So I hope that answers your…
Jonathan Zvi: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Adam Cheyer: Sure.
Victoria Howell: Kush, if you’d like to go next? And then Adam, just so you know, so we get feedback for the speakers, I’m going to go ahead and just post the feedback link while Kush is asking his question.
Adam Cheyer: Great. Hi, Kush.
Kush Garg: Hi, Adam. Absolutely a fan of Siri Change.org and of you. I really think you helped create some of the products that have really changed the world, yet it seems the initial idea wasn’t something that was really quite obvious. So I really wanted to know from the perspective of a software and product engineer and you as a visionary, what fields or industries do you see exploding within the next 10 years which perhaps most of the world currently right now isn’t really looking for? I guess, where do you see the next great transformation happening?
Adam Cheyer: Yeah. So that’s a great question. Thanks for asking. So one of the tools that I did in my career, and I think you should all do this, it’s been one of the helpful things is in 2004, for me, it was the 10th anniversary of the web. My first web browser was 1994, so 10 years in. I said, “That’s interesting. The web is taking off. I see certain trends going, I’m going to make 10 public predictions for the next 10 years.” I took a month and I read analyst reports and whatever was hot at the time and I came up with those 10 predictions. And once I had that, that gave me an informed opinion about major trends.
About eight years later, you can actually find this on the web, I presented at a conference and said, “About 10 years ago, I made 10 predictions for the next 10 years of the web. This was the presentation I gave, and I’m going to score myself on how well I did.” Some were really good. My top three predictions directly turned into the three of the companies I’ve started. So one of my controversial, in 2004, things was I said, “Social networks are going to go mainstream.” Now, this was crazy to me, I wasn’t even sure. Facebook was just starting, I’d never heard of it, LinkedIn existed, but it was a niche market. But I go, “Relationships between people and trust networks are really important. I think this is going to go big.” And then a year and a half later, 2006, MySpace became the number one trafficked website in the U.S., by traffic, crazy.
I made other predictions. A lot of them were about data going to the cloud and that convenience would overcome privacy. Back then, the idea that a company would host it’s most secure data and someone else’s servers, not behind their firewall was like a gasp. But I go, “Ah, but it’s so expensive and such a pain in the neck to install your own firewalls, it’s all going to move to the cloud. And once it’s in the cloud, machine learning will now have enough data that it can actually be really, really useful. That’s what’s missing when everything is on my local laptop or behind a company firewall.” So those were my three best predictions. And I turned companies, machine learning for Sentient, Change.org for social networks and then I said, there’ll be a new user interface to access all the data and services now available in the cloud and that became Siri.
So in 2013 or so, I made those predictions and then I made five predictions for the next five years, so basically from 2015 through 2020. And you can go back and see how did I do on those. So it is now time, I’m still early, but it is exactly the time when I need to go back and score myself on those five predictions and make my 5 or 10 predictions for the next year. I think you should all do this exercise for yourself. So I’m not going to tell you my views because why would you believe them anyway? You need to do the work to understand and believe them yourself. Ask questions like, “Is Bitcoin going to be a fad or is it going to just become everything? Augmented reality, is it going to crash because Magic Leap was too early and really messed it up? Or is Apple going to come out with something and make it mainstream or will it always be niche?” Things like that or pick any topics that you have.
I’ll give you two that I’m thinking about and I won’t tell you what it is. One is, I think there may be a shift towards privacy. And I haven’t determined if and when and what the triggers are, but back in 2004, I said, “Convenience is going to trump privacy and so everything will move to the cloud.” Now, I’m saying there may be a triggering event coming that there’ll be such backlash, it almost happened with Facebook when everyone was unfollowing Facebook because of the amount of privacy they had, I think there could be an event that sends us all back to a different form of privacy. And the other is decision-making. One of my mentors was a guy named Doug Engelbart. If you don’t know him, please look him up. Type in the, “Mother of all demos,” into Google.
In 1968, he did a demo that foreshadowed everything that we do in personal computers today. When others were using punch cards, he invented the mouse. He used the first text editors, the first hyperlinked multimedia documents, the first video conferencing, everything. And he did it because he’d said, “The world is going to be faced with global important problems. Pandemics, climate change, human rights, animal rights, hunger, poverty, these are big issues that unless we can get better at collective problem solving, we will not survive as a species.” And it feels to me right now that the world is really… his early predictions are more tangible than ever. And I think there may be some real important work done in this area where there’s been very little in the past. So those are two that I’m thinking about, but I haven’t yet committed to my five or 10.
Victoria Howell: Thanks, Kush, and thank you, Adam. Adam, I’m conscious of your time. We have a lot of questions, but I’m wondering if you’d be able to take Peter’s questions still?
Adam Cheyer: Sure. I’ll take one more. Last one.
Victoria Howell: Peter asks about everybody’s maybe favorite or not favorite topic. So Peter, you want to ask?
Peter Flo Grinde-Hollevik: Absolutely. Thank you very much for a magical talk, Adam. I once had the pleasure of attending a series event called Fuckup Nights in Tel Aviv, where multiple entrepreneurs would come and talk about their biggest failures. And my question to you would be, if you were invited to such an event, what failure would you talk about and what did you learn from it?
Adam Cheyer: Yeah. So I have a different answer than I think everyone else at that conference will be. First of all, I’m an eternal optimist, so I keep trying and I never go back and second-guess a major decision in my life. I make the decision, move on and I never see it as a failure. I see it as a learning moment, but I don’t define it, my decisions, my path, as a failure. Sometimes I’ll try something and it doesn’t work and my response is, “Huh, that’s interesting. I wonder why it didn’t work?” And I think about that and I learn from it, but I never consider it a failure. So that’s part of my answer — I am constantly striving for the goal and if I haven’t succeeded yet, I don’t fail unless I give up. So for me, failure is giving up and I’ve never given up yet, I haven’t given up yet.
I haven’t succeeded on pretty much anything, but I haven’t given up, so it’s not a failure. It is just a learning point and it’s going to take a little longer than I thought it would. So by this definition, I think everything that I have done has been a success and everything that I’ve done has been a failure. People say, “Wow, you created Siri. You must be so proud.” I’m like, “Yes, I’m proud and we had an incredible team, we accomplished a lot,” but what came out and what the world knows of it was such a tiny fraction of what it was supposed to be to the point that when I was at Apple, getting paid millions of dollars, working on a product that I had created and worked on for 18 years with a team I loved, I left because they weren’t going to go down the path that I thought would get me to what I wanted to accomplish.
So I said, “OK, I’m going to leave. I’m going to try again, I’m going to start another company, Viv Labs, to be what I wanted, which is this open ecosystem where it’s not what Apple tells Siri to do or codes in the intelligence, it’s the entire world like the web.” For me, that was such an important part of the vision. I almost got there with Viv and Bixby and Samsung, but they didn’t market it. No one knows what Bixby is. It’s frustrating to me. Around hundreds of millions of devices, no one uses it because they don’t know why they should use it, but we created the most powerful and extensible assistant in the world. So it’s a failure, but it’s also a success. I learned so much and financially, it’s a success, we got it out, people use it, but it’s a failure to me because I haven’t achieved my goal. So I would say everything and nothing is a failure. I don’t know if that’s the answer you want, but that’s my answer.
Peter Flo Grinde-Hollevik: Thank you very much, Adam.
Victoria Howell: Adam, I’m aware that we’re out of time. But you have a second year in college right now and everybody in the audience is in college right now and so I’m wondering if you have any thought that you would leave us with that you might also have told Noah?
Adam Cheyer: Sure. Well, if I tell Noah he won’t… I’m just dad, so he’ll go, “Dad, don’t lecture me,” but I can tell you because you’re not my son. Actually following on from this thing, I won’t call it a failure, but perhaps my only regret as I look on the career so far is I wish perhaps that I had discovered entrepreneurship earlier. So I was in my mid-40s before I ever tried to start a company and I had no idea how to do it and then it’s been the greatest thing in my career. Why? Because if you can have the right idea and find the right team and raise money, it is the best job in the world. You control your destiny. You make good, efficient decisions, you can execute, you’re going to be successful. And if not, you’re working with people that you love on a problem that you care about and you’re paying yourself a decent salary.
There’s literally no risk and you’re learning lessons. If you don’t succeed yet, then you’ve learned a lot to try again. So for me, if entrepreneurship is in you, my lesson to myself is like, “Wow, this has been like… I’ve worked in big companies, I’ve worked in research labs, I’ve worked in other people’s startups, starting your own company is, for me, the most fulfilling job. And I wish I had started a little earlier. So you’re already 10 steps ahead of me taking a class like this or attending a lecture like this, I didn’t have any of this. You are surrounded by 258 participants who might be your future teammates or network people and they also care about entrepreneurship. That’s way more than I had.
So I guess the lesson that I would tell my son, I go, “Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.” Not everyone fits one of those four skills, not everyone wants to have the joy and the frustration that comes with trying. But for me, it’s been such a good thing and I almost wish I had taken advantage of it a little bit earlier and maybe at a time when I was surrounded by a whole university filled with other interesting and super smart people like you all. So I guess that’s my final message.
Victoria Howell: Well, thank you for being with us. It has been such a stunning treat. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. We appreciate it. It’s been incredible. You’re always welcome here and you really are magical. Next week, we have a little bit more magic, the magic of someone creating a meatless burger. We have Pat Brown here from a Impossible Foods. So Adam, thank you, thank you. I’m sure people will be interested in getting in touch with you. I don’t know if there’s some way to connect, if there’s anything that you would recommend?
Adam Cheyer: Yeah. You can find me on LinkedIn or send me an email. I’m email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victoria Howell: There you go. Have a wonderful evening and thank you for such a treat.
Adam Cheyer: OK, bye.
Outro: You’ve been listening to Berkeley Talks, a Berkeley News podcast from the Office of Communications and Public Affairs that features lectures and conversations at UC Berkeley. Follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts. You can find all of our podcast episodes with transcripts and photos on Berkeley News at news.bekeley.edu/podcasts.