MITCH THROWER ON CNBC:
"TECH TITANS OF TOMORROW"
Unidentified Man: --Disruptor’s Summit. All morning, we’ve been talking to the next generation of inventors, social media giants, and soon to be mega-millionaires. Some are already millionaires. We’re looking maybe for some billionaires here.
Our next guests have certainly disrupted things in the world of startups. Joining us now, and I may--you know me with my pronunciations. This is Divya over here. Divya Narendra, co-founder and CEO of SumZero. Did I get that close?
Divya Narendra: That’s right.
Unidentified Man: Okay. Mitch Thrower, founder and CEO of bump.com. And Duane Tursi, Principal and Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Yottabyte, not--or Yottabyte. Yottabyte. Not Yottabyte, but I like--Yoda sounds a little--
Duane Tursi: I like Yoda. Sounds smarter.
Mitch Thrower: Little green guy.
Unidentified Woman: But then he has to speak in Yoda speak, you know?
Duane Turse: Yeah, little green guy.
Unidentified Man: Let’s just go around the horn real quick just to explain to viewers who don’t know what products you guys have created and are working on. What they actually are.
Mitch Thrower: So, the Bump Network is a communication platform tied to your vehicle. And what it enables people to do is send communication via license plates, or the information in the smart car. Either car to car. You can also send business to vehicle. You can send government to vehicle, so things like--
Unidentified Man: So, how does it work? So, if I’m in the car--
Mitch Thrower: If you’re in the car.
Unidentified Man: If I’m in the car and I see another car who just passed me like Joe did yesterday, how do I send him a note?
Mitch Thrower: Well, if you’re moving, you have to use your voice. Because it disables texting and driving. But if you’re--
Unidentified Man: And I can send it to anybody? What about--so, if a guy cuts me off, I can talk to him?
Mitch Thrower: Yeah. Correct.
Unidentified Woman: Is it in [unintelligible]?
Mitch Thrower: He has to actually be in the system, and it is completely tied to being voice activated. So, it’s only voice.
Unidentified Man: So, if people are going to be flipping the bird over this digital, I mean it’s going to get bad. It could.
Mitch Thrower: Well, you know, if you look at crowdsource decounability, there are 250 million people on the road right now and there’s no way to communicate with them. And the first place people’s minds go is to, “Well, that person cut me off.”
The reality is, when you’re driving into the mall and you get special parking because your license place was read and you’re a member of the system, that’s very different than kind of a consumer to consumer interaction. As well as--
Unidentified Woman: I would imagine that, you know, you’re hoping that, for example, there might be a little bit more citizenry going on between cars. So, for example, you’re trying to communicate to the car in front of you, “Hey, dude. You forgot to turn your lights on. It’s a little foggy. You might want to do that.”
But in reality, I think Andrew is probably close to the truth. More people are just going to use it to abuse each other.
Mitch Thrower: Well, and the communication platform, just like email. You know, there are people that email things that are not supposed to be said. And there are people who email wonderful things. The commercial part of it. You know, the government vehicle, “Your car is about to be towed. You should move it.” The business vehicle. Things like, “You’ve just arrived at Coachella Music Festival. Here’s a discount on all the songs.”
Unidentified Man: Right. I want to talk about how you monetize that in just a sec, but why don’t you give us just a 20 second preview?
Divya Narendra: Sure. Real quick. Yottabyte is to the Cloud what Microsoft Windows is to the PC. So, we’re the first Cloud operating system.
Unidentified Man: So, the whole thing exists in the cloud, including--so, you have to be connected at all times for this to work.
Divya Narendra: There’s the beautiful thing. So, there’s the problem with the cloud. Businesses can’t readily adopt the Cloud because you need to be connected. With us, you have the ability to have a private Cloud inside your business, as well as connected to the public Cloud.
Unidentified Woman: So, that solves the problem of who owns your stuff in the cloud, you think?
Divya Narendra: Absolutely. I think the cloud is an asset game. Businesses own infrastructure today.
Unidentified Man: Either way. A Cloud service provider, so you can shift your workloads to the Cloud, or while you’re running your stuff inside your four walls, the businesses can run.
Unidentified Woman: Who are your clients? Who are you targeting?
Divya Narendra: So, we’re targeting the enterprise businesses. We’re also targeting Cloud service providers to build Cloud services for their customers using our software.
Unidentified Man: And what are you doing over there?
Duane Tursi: So, I run SumZero.com. And SumZero is an online community for professional investors. Specifically hedge fund analysts, mutual fund analysts, private equity analysts. And what they use the site for, among other things, is to share their investment ideas, their proprietary research. We have a job recruiting tool on the site, as well.
Unidentified Man: So, you’re sort of crowdsourcing ideas for the buy side, and I’m curious though if there are issues that develop around that, in terms of people grouping together to buy shares of stocks. Either they’re going to say that they’re doing it all independently, but some may be doing it together. And what that ultimately means in terms of disclosures later.
Duane Tursi: So, the entire community is predicated on transparency and accountability. When people join the community, their names are associated with whatever they post. Their names are also associated with their employers. So, there’s definitely, there’s a significant pressure on them to be as honest as possible. And all of the members of the community can rate each other’s submissions.
Unidentified Woman: And you actually require your members to share their investment ideas, right? It’s not like, you can if you want to. It’s like, you have to if you’re part of this community, right?
Duane Tursi: It’s a reciprocity-based platform. So, in order to access other people’s content, you have to share some of your own.
Unidentified Man: Let’s talk just businesses, in terms of how you think about your business, how you think about the time rise. And all of you have venture money in your firms, I’m assuming? So, it’s not just your own money. It’s other people’s money and they’re going to assume that they’re going to get an exit.
So, at some point, and we’ve talked about Instagram a lot this week during this Disruptors series. How do you think about an exit? Do you think, “You know what, this could be integrated with Facebook and I just have to hope to God that Mark Zuckerberg is watching and he’ll buy me.” Do you think to yourself, you know--
Unidentified Woman: [Unintelligible].
Unidentified Man: Or that there’s other social financial networks and I have to merge with them. Or do you think I’m going to pursue an IP? I mean how do you think about this larger--
Divya Narendra: Well, for me and for us, we’re about disruption right now. There’s a lot of work to do in the IT industry. We’re not looking to sell out at all. There’s a lot of work to do to shake up the norm.
Unidentified Man: Your venture investors expect you, though, to exit in how long? What’s the time horizon for them? Because I assume that you have to manage your business for their benefit at some level.
Mitch Thrower: We have private investors. We’re privately capitalized, and so the goal is to build the most profitable business possible and to--your question about monetization. You know, the punchline is, you can develop a communication platform around your vehicle. The coming of the connected car. But the revenue model is built around our software.
Unidentified Woman: Are there any car manufacturers that are investing in you?
Mitch Thrower: We’re in discussions with different car groups about connected.
Unidentified Woman: Who?
Mitch Thrower: I can’t say what groups we’re in discussions with, but you know, if you can imagine a world where they can touch now all the people who own the exact same vehicle, and all the people who own the exact same vehicle can connect with each other through this membership software platform that we built, it becomes very powerful.
Unidentified Man: Right. Where are you finding most of the people that you’re working with? Meaning, coming out of--we’ve been talking a lot about education and engineers that are needed for a lot of these businesses. Is that a challenge for you?
Duane Tursi: It’s definitely a challenge. You just, I mean we’ve tried all kinds of avenues. I recently actually spoke, back at Harvard I went to, they have a Hackathon event there. So, I think the twins and I, I don’t know if they mentioned, but we went and gave a talk just to get to know students at a younger age. So that, you know, when they are looking for a full time position, we’re one of their calls. But, of course, you know [unintelligible].
Unidentified Woman: Do you have to train them up yourself, though?
Duane Tursi: Yeah. I mean it’s an educational process, and part of it is always selling yourself and your concept and, you know, how you’re differentiated from other offerings. But, it’s hard, you know? I think it’s definitely a challenge for every [unintelligible].
Mitch Thrower: Similar for us. We’re a little bit different. Most people think about companies who do what we do as being from either of the coasts. New York is growing in terms of its technology businesses, and of course Silicon Valley. But we’re headquartered in Michigan, and it’s a little bit different.
So, there’s [unintelligible] University, continuously going on there. We’re insourcing a lot of really great talent there. There’s a lot of folks. It takes a lot of technology to build an automobile and so forth, so we’re finding a lot of really good engineering.
Unidentified Man: Who can write code? You?
Divya Narendra: I took some computer science, but I wouldn’t call myself--
Unidentified Man: Have you written any code?
Duane Tursi: Not in the last couple years.
Mitch Thrower: I don’t write code. I used to write code.
Unidentified Man: You used to write code?
Mitch Thrower: Yes. A long time ago.
Unidentified Man: How old is everybody here?
Mitch Thrower: 44.
Duane Tursi: 37.
Divya Narendra: 30.
Unidentified Woman: [Unintelligible].
Unidentified Man: You know, Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist, always says that one of his criteria for investing in a company, and I’m sorry to tell you all this, I think he will not invest in you if you’re over 28 or 29. He believes that actually the greatest disruptions come with these younger levels.
But I’m also curious about a different question, which is, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, you guys have all had--well, you’re a little bit different, but you guys have had other jobs before you did this. So, talk about that sort of shift, in terms of getting out of a day-to-day job where you have a salary, and deciding, “I’m going to go jump into the deep end,” if you will.
Mitch Thrower: Well, this is my second disruptive play. The first activity was a company called the Active Network, Active.com. Went public this past year and a business--I’ll leave it to the management team to explain, but it really is a revolution in how people initially registered for athletic events around the world.
Unidentified Man: So, you were always on this path, I guess.
Divya Narendra: For me, I haven’t had a job in a long time. I had a business prior to this that we grew and build and subsequently sold. So, it wasn’t really a job, per say.
Unidentified Man: Let me ask you one other question. We talk a lot about politics here and its impact on business. Is that something you guys think about at all? I mean does the election matter to you, in terms of the issues that are facing your companies and your businesses and decisions that you’re making around them?
Divya Narendra: For me, it’s my customers and our customers buying, and it’s their comfort level. Like right now, it’s a trepidation and a caution. It’s not necessarily a fear.
Unidentified Man: Oh, wrong answer. I mean you’re a young guy and he just gave you the wrong answer.
Unidentified Man: He gave me the wrong answer?
Unidentified Man: Yeah. Trepidation and uncertainty about what’s going on.
Unidentified Man: No, no. I’m curious. We’ve got to go in a second.
Divya Narendra: Well, you know, it’s the customers. That’s how they’re feeling and they’re not buying.
Unidentified Man: I buy into it completely. It’s just others that don’t.
Unidentified Man: Politics matter to you?
Divya Narendra: Commercially, it’s great for us to figure out how to deliver information about people that are attending different political events. But I think it’s very important, especially for the capacity for, what we have is in the disruptive space, we have disruption built upon disruption right now. And that’s what’s enabling the speed of disruption, and politics affects that quite a bit.
Duane Tursi: You know, as a startup person or as an entrepreneur, especially at our stage, we don’t have the resources to get involved with government. But, I will say that with our business especially where transparency is very important, in an industry that maybe hasn’t been as transparent in the past, some recent legislation has been very good for us.
For example, the Jobs Act has been I think a very positive change for us.
Unidentified Woman: Interesting to know.
Unidentified Man: Good. Guys, this was great. Thank you for the conversation. Thanks so much to Divya--