Steve Hoffman (Awesome venture investments, the singularity, being a modern explorer)

  • 00:02:26 What is really the difference between an incubator, accelerator and a seed stage fund? How does work with entrepreneurs?
  • 00:07:10 How Steve uses his experiences as a motivational speaker to help startups?
  • 00:11:49 Can major innovation ever come from ‘Big Corporations’? How should it be done? Should we break up large Internet monopoly companies?
  • 00:21:08 Is there a ‘mid-stage’ funding desert for most startups? Can and should it be addressed?
  • 00:26:12 Steve’s favorite field(s) of investment right now?
  • 00:31:30 Why Steve is so excited about brain computer interface technologies?
  • 00:36:13 What does Steve think of the Singularity? What will happen to human jobs and activities?
  • 00:56:16 How will we co-existed with intelligent machines?
  • 01:04:19 Why wars (and life) resembles a ‘winner-takes-all’ game?
  • 01:12:15 Why Steve became a digital nomad?
  • 01:17:31 Why are some many billionaires so unhappy and don’t use their leverage for ‘the good of the world’? Or is that a myth?

You may watch this episode on Youtube – #67 Steve Hoffman (Awesome venture investments, the singularity, being a modern explorer).

Steve Hoffman, or Captain Hoff, is the CEO of Founders Space. He’s a venture investor, serial entrepreneur, and author of several award-winning books including ‘Make Elephants Fly‘ and ‘Surviving a Startup‘.

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Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcast, a podcast where I bring together some of the most curious minds on the planet. Risk takers, adventurers, travelers, investors, entrepreneurs and simply mindbogglers. To find all episodes of this show, simply go to Spotify, iTunes or YouTube or go to our website If you like this show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or subscribe to us on YouTube. This episode of the Judgment Call Podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is my business. We do at Mighty Travels Premium is to find the airfare deals that you really want. Thousands of subscribers have saved up to 95% in the airfare. Those include $150 round trip tickets to Hawaii for many cities in the US or $600 life let tickets in business class from the US to Asia or $100 business class life let tickets from Africa round trip all the way to Asia. In case you didn’t know, about half the world is open for business again and accepts travelers. Most of those countries are in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. To try out Mighty Travels Premium, go to slash MTP or if that’s too many letters for you, simply go to MTP, the number four and the letter U dot com to sign up for your 30 day free trial. Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcast. Thanks for doing this. Really appreciate that. Fantastic to be here. Absolutely. We know you as Captain Hoff and we also know you as an author of books about innovation and startups. And I just learned that a couple of weeks ago, you are the founder of the Founder’s Space down here in Silicon Valley. Maybe you can tell us a little more how this whole story developed and how you got to do all these things. So it started with me being an entrepreneur. So I founded three venture funded startups. These startups were here in Silicon Valley and I also did two bootstrap startups and my nickname in Silicon Valley is Captain Hoff. So all my friends started to come to me and they say, Captain, how do you do it? How do you raise the capital? How do you pitch investors? How do you grow those businesses? And I started to help them out informally but they had all similar questions. So I started to post the answers for their questions on my blog and I named it Founder’s Space and it grew from there. We started to bring in investors and entrepreneurs and people who could help them like lawyers and marketing people from all over the world, put them together in rooms. We had these round tables that we ran, you know, everywhere from Silicon Valley to Singapore and then that became successful and we opened our first incubator in San Francisco. After that we began to expand globally and we really grew a lot in countries like China where we have incubators in Hanzhou, Xian, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Wuhan, other cities as well as setting up operations and partnerships all across Europe and in South Korea, Taiwan, Australia. It’s been a very exciting time for us. That sounds amazing. When we think of accelerators right and there seems to be a lot of overlap between accelerators, incubators, seed stage investors, what would you describe is really at the heart of the solution that you offer? Is it the advice? Is it early stage capital? Is it the networking? Is it technology? Is it marketing? Where do you see the strength of Founder’s Space? Well, there are a lot of great incubators and accelerators. You know, Y Combinator, a whole bunch of others. What our focus has been is overseas, cross border investment, cross border entrepreneurship. So we have been working globally at first to bring entrepreneurs from all over the world to Silicon Valley to get funded. And then we expanded after that to bring Silicon Valley to the rest of the world. And that is really our strength. That’s where we’re recognized. I talked to Daniel Gross a couple of episodes ago and what he’s been doing with Pioneer is somewhat similar, I assume, I don’t know, where he basically decides about an accelerator program and investment in certain companies all in a remote setting. So he never gets to see a startup or the Founders. It’s based on a set of metrics. Could be a Stripe account, it could be a VAT traffic, it could be your installs, could be social media traction, whatever the metrics are that are being considered for that particular startup. How do you guys handle this? Do you have, it’s there like a demo day, a pitch day where you encourage the specific founders to pitch to investors? Where do you, when you say you bring people together, is that in meetings, is that through metrics, is that through a marketing push? How does that actually work? So for us, it’s very different. We actually go to the source. So right now, myself, my partners, our instructors, we go all over the world. And we actually run very similar programs to what we started and perfected in Silicon Valley, but we run them locally, whether it’s Seoul, whether it’s Latvia, whether it’s Beijing, it doesn’t matter to us. We want to meet the entrepreneurs in person. And our technique is not just to do pitch days. Pitch days are good if we want to get them in front of a lot of investors. But we, if we are going to invest ourselves and really train them, we like to dive deep on a one to one basis, really get to know the entrepreneur, what’s inside their heads, how they think, and where their business is going. And at a very early stage, identify the obstacles that they have to overcome, and see really if they should be pivoting, or if we can help them beyond those obstacles to get to the next step. Yeah. I know you’re also a motivational speaker that is kind of your main stay, right? You’ve been going into a lot of large corporations and help them find out how they can prosper and push innovation within their own system, within their own infrastructure. How does that fit into your startup venture? Oh, well, it dovetails perfectly. So I actually wrote a book on innovation called Make Elephants Fly, which is very popular. And it is all about how you do radical innovation. So when I go into a corporation, I don’t just go to motivate the team because usually they’re pretty motivated. They want to innovate. They just can’t do it. So what I go in there is with a process for how they can get their teams to actually effectively innovate. And I will tell you, it’s not easy. There’s a reason big corporations, most of them, not all, but really don’t innovate. They sit on what they have and they make attempts to innovate, but they usually end up failing. And I can actually tell you why. So I’ve had a lot of experience with this. And in many big corporations, what they do is they start with the idea. They say, we’re going to have all our employees. First, they pay lip service to it. They say, everybody’s an innovator. Everybody’s going to innovate in the corporation. Well, that’s not true. It’s never true. There’s no company where everybody innovates. Usually it’s actually a small subset of people that actually drive the innovations. And second, they say, we’re going to open it up to ideas. So whoever has the best idea will run a contest and you can submit your ideas and we will pick the best ones and we will fund those. Well, that is a recipe for failure. And I’ve seen it because when you choose the idea, first of all, it’s corporate executives choosing which ideas are best. And a lot of these corporate executives, they don’t have a clue. They’re rooted in the old way of thinking. They aren’t the innovators. So often they pick the wrong ideas. And when they pick a wrong idea, they end up validating that wrong idea within the corporate structure. So the people that were chosen to lead that idea start charging forward with that idea, believing it’s a great idea when really all it is is an idea. You know, you know, you’ve seen enough startups to know that usually what you start with is not what you end with. And it’s a long process. You start thinking one thing, but then along the way you learn so much. Well, in a corporate structure, once that idea is picked, it gets sold up the value chain and nobody want, you know, up the management chain and nobody wants to change direction, which is locks them in to this flawed idea in the beginning. I’ve actually sat with entrepreneurs, you know, teams, innovation teams and corporations. And I’m like, validate your idea. And they go and I tell them how to do it. They go out, they come back, they’ll tell me, you know, Steve, this, this idea doesn’t work. It doesn’t. It’s like the customer doesn’t really want it. And I’m like, okay, let’s kill that right away. We don’t want to waste a single more day on it. And let’s figure out where to go next. Then they look at me blankly and they say, we can’t kill this. I can’t go back to my boss. My boss approved this. And my boss’s boss approved this. We, they want me to go forward with this. So they’re locked in. They can’t change. Now the solution is actually deceptively simple. Don’t choose the idea. Choose the people. You choose true innovators. They need a selection process in the company to identify those people in the company who are really innovators. Because a lot of times the person who comes up with an idea that sounds good, isn’t the right team leader. They aren’t the right person to execute. You know, you probably know as well as I do, like there’s certain people that will break through any wall that will do anything and are very open, and are very open, very curiously, always challenging orthodoxy. These are the people you want to lead your innovation team. You don’t want a random person with a random idea. That doesn’t work. I can see you’re very passionate about that. I share your enthusiasm. There is something intrinsic to, to startup teams. And I was, I was asking Daniel about that. And he was basically making entrepreneurship and algorithms. So he said, well, if you get the algorithm right, it doesn’t really matter who executes it. Literally, it could be a machine executing that startup. But I felt like this is not my experience from startups that I’ve seen. I would describe them much more similar to what you just voiced, is that you have this, this relatively singular moment of a founder team that has enough knowledge, but also enough propensity, enough forward drive to really pivot into whatever works and then execute on this. And it takes a long time. It takes a couple of years. And you’re under an enormous amount of pressure from your investors, because we, I just made that example earlier, LinkedIn, a company that’s now considered to be an extreme success because it is, it’s part of Microsoft now made a big exit. All the investors are very happy. For the longest time, I was sharing a building with the LinkedIn team and in a different company. And it wasn’t doing so well. Nobody was really happy. The LinkedIn executives weren’t in a good mood. Most of the time when I hung out with them for lunch, they were pretty down and they were like far away from the goals that they set themselves in their own business plans and what the investors set for them. So it wasn’t an easy ride. Looking back now, it seems like, well, we just started it and then people came in and that was it, right? So we basically just managed a couple of servers, but it was a very challenging ride. And there were many years a month where the team was very unhappy and thought LinkedIn wouldn’t go anywhere. Maybe it would never make any money. And now it’s this big money generating machine. When we look at the track record of big corporations to actually use your advice, do you think they will ever get that message? Will we see a lot of innovation from big corporations instead of startups? It kind of seems a little bit that way right now, because when we see the amount of GDP that’s produced by large corporations, has really moved towards large corporations the last 20 years, which is a big surprise for a lot of people, including me, who saw Silicon Valley take off in the last 90s. And those were relatively small corporations that the whole ecosystem has moved towards a few big corporations in Silicon Valley. Do you feel that’s because Silicon Valley companies, once they get big, they’re still innovators and can be applied the same lessons to other big companies around? So there are certain companies that can maintain innovation and really get the process. And if you look at those companies, they are like Amazon, an incredible innovator. Like they have changed so much about eCommerce, about how we access the internet and power the internet, everything. You know, Google, very innovative company down to its roots. Now, most companies, though, especially more traditional corporations, just don’t have that DNA. They don’t have the structure and process in place, and they will not do this. So what we see is these big, innovative companies gobbling up more and more market share, growing incredibly fast, and the other companies just being left in the dust. And that trend will continue. However, a lot of innovation for big, a lot of big companies are growing, not just through internal innovation, also through acquisition. So they just like Microsoft acquired LinkedIn, you know, they have the money and the resources, and they know how hard it is for something to take off. So when they see it taking off, they are able to jump in, grab it, acquire it, and then benefit from the intrinsic value, the network effect. A lot of these businesses, whether it’s two sided marketplaces or social networks, like once they become big, they’re almost impossible to displace. As we’ve seen with Amazon and Google and all these big companies, they know that no matter how much they spend acquiring one of these companies with a network effect, they can then ride it the rest of the way, and they will not be challenged. And that is a problem that we face not only in this country, but globally, you’re looking at China right now, and they’re cracking down on Alibaba for anti competitive, you know, they just gave them a 2.75 billion dollar fine. That’s a big fine for a government for anti competitive practices. And some of it is just simply that the nature of technology allows companies to create monopolies. It’s just the nature of technology. And that won’t change, even if the company doesn’t intentionally want to be anti competitive. And most companies want to monopolize the market because that’s where the profits are. So we’re going to have to contend with that dynamic. Yeah, isn’t that Peter Thiel who said, if you’re not going to be a monopoly, then you shouldn’t do the business in the first place. Absolutely. I like that. But for society, it might not be so great if all of those companies are monopolies and hamper innovation, right? It’s a very fine line where you say you’re still an innovative company. And certainly when we look at Google, we would describe it as an innovative company. I would agree with this. But since they have this monopoly in online advertising, we don’t know what else we could have seen if online advertising would be cheaper. Say when Google AdWords started, most of these keywords were cheap and it was very easy to acquire traffic. Now it’s very expensive because a lot of people are in there and Google hasn’t innovated on the core AdWords in what 15 years. But if that would have changed, we would have very different actors to the way we bring brings new ideas to users. We could have seen a very different ecosystem of startups, different batch of startup site now succeeding that we just don’t see. Obviously, that’s a different reality and alternate reality. That’s hard to talk about. But I feel we would be better off if we break up these monopolies at some point. The question is how do we do it? What is the mechanism that we could employ in order to do this? Because regulation is always five, 10 years behind anyways. By that time, the regulators would actually attack that problem. It’s irrelevant. So we would break up something that’s irrelevant to most people in Silicon Valley anyways. So I don’t know if you have any thoughts on what is this fine line between we want a monopoly as a founder, but then as society, we don’t like monopolies at least after a certain point of no return. So to speak, maybe five years, maybe 10 years. Do you think we’re still able to solve those big monopolies like Google search monopoly or AdWords monopoly? It is extremely hard. This is a dilemma we face because as you pointed out, governments simply, they’re slow and they can’t even wrap their heads around a lot of this technology and the implications of meddling in it. So they’re politicians. They’re not technologists. They don’t really understand how the systems work. So they have to be very careful. We as a society have to be very careful. Should we allow more competition? Absolutely. Capitalism thrives on competition. You get monopolies like Standard Oil or at one point AT&T was a monopoly and it’s not beneficial to anybody but the shareholders of that company. Definitely not the consumers. So what do we do moving forward with technology is really tricky. I think instead of breaking them up, like look, if you break Facebook up into a WhatsApp company, an Instagram company, a Facebook company, each of those is still a monopoly. Like they each have network effects and they’re still going to dominate. You just have three companies instead of one but that doesn’t necessarily mean other players can move into the space. Now the silver lining is that technology is always evolving and new companies are always being born that have new ways of doing things. Like we’re going to have brain computer interfaces in the future where our brains connect directly to the internet. Imagine that if a startup breaks through with that. If you don’t need a phone like I’m holding here, we all have our phones, then you could literally bypass iOS and Android and Windows and Mac and connect directly to the internet from whatever device you put on your head. That’s a game changer. That’s how monopolies get broken up. What we need to do if we do anything is step in before big giants acquire the startups. Give a path for these startups to grow big themselves and to go public and not allow just a few companies to snatch up all the startups at an earlier stage and then incorporate them into their monopoly. Honestly, if Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t been allowed to simply acquire Instagram and acquire WhatsApp at early stages, relatively early stages, then Facebook wouldn’t be what it is today. Like we would have a very different landscape. So I don’t think just breaking them up is the right solution. I think allowing them not to snatch away all the innovation with their dollars is a better solution. I like that. I like the way how you put this. The trouble do seems to be the marketplace for raising funds seems to be overcrowded in the seed stage, especially during the last couple of years. There seems to be accelerators, incubators, there now is crowd funding. There’s tons of options for startups and it seems to be almost impossible not to raise a million to three million dollars. It just has to raise your hand in certain environments and it will always be someone who believes in you. But after that and you set yourself relatively ambitious goals in your initial business plan, everybody does that. So we all want to see our success come in pretty quickly. It seems to be very difficult to go to a bigger series A and even more difficult B, C, D, E. So is the future of startups that we can only say we raise seed and serious A because that seems to be available and then nothing else until we go IPO. Some companies can do this, right? They’re successful enough in doing this. But I think generally companies that need a certain amount of investment, they’ve really been hampered by this mid stage desert of VC funding that has been coming up or has been there for, I don’t know, last 15 years. Do you think that’s going to change or be going to see more VC funding in these stages or maybe someone else will come in, maybe there’s more of a public private partnership? How will that develop? Okay, so that’s a really good point. It’s something I write about in the book, my new book, Surviving a Startup. And here’s what I see happening in the marketplace. So there’s a big pool of money and a lot of people interested in getting in early to startups. You know, when the valuations are super low and, you know, with a small amount of money, they could make a fortune if they’re one of the first investors in like Clubhouse or any of these startups that just boom, take off. So that’s an opportunity. What actually happens though is that most startups, they get their initial funding and they end up struggling because they don’t really find a product market fit or they find a product market fit, but it’s small. It’s not an explosive. It doesn’t produce explosive growth. And I’ll tell you, the VC model is predicated on explosive growth. Like they need a fund maker. So every time they’re placing a bet of a venture capital firm, especially in mid stage, they need to pick fund makers because they’re going to pay for all the losses. And we all know that, you know, 90 so or percent of startups from inception through, you know, all the way to IPO 90 percent fail. They just don’t make it there. So that’s why you see this gap in the middle where it’s all these startups that got their seed funding that end up just not really nailing it and needing more money to continue or else they just die or else they can serve their money and they kind of just plot along. What we do see though is that once a company hits that explosive growth, which is, you know, not common, which is, you know, one out of 10 of really good startups, once that company hits that, then they get a lot of money. All that money piles in their valuation. That’s why we see these unicorns because when somebody hits that people know it’s going all the way. It’s going to go to an IPO or an acquisition and they’re going to get an exit. And I don’t know that we can change those dynamics because those dynamics are sort of built in to the the weeding out process of companies. You know, I’ve been around long enough to know that prior to this, there it was really hard to get even early stage funding like early, you know, now at least the early stage funding is there. People are excited. There’s crowdfunding sites and new limits on crowdfunding that were raised by the government and all angel lists and all these opportunities never been a better time to raise early stage capital. But that wasn’t historically true. But, you know, we’re getting so many companies funded in the early stage, a lot of them don’t deserve to be funded. And that’s just a fact. It’s really hard to create a breakthrough. And I think we’re going to see that trough, that mid stage, you know, companies struggling to get that next round of funding that will continue. I like your capital. Let’s take on this. So it’s actually a healthy development. No, no, no, not enough people are probably honest about that. And I love how you, how you see the world that way. When, when you look at the startup ecosystem right now, and you just mentioned the unicorns, those are the ones who most likely going to make it and they get a pipeline deal, or I call them pipeline deals, what SoftBank does, right? So they put in an amazing amount of money that is way too high from what they could get. So the intentionally overpay kind of what Google does with their engineers, what they intentionally paid them double or triple of what anyone else would pay. And the idea is to kind of, kind of crowd out the competition quite a bit. And with these high valuations, signal everyone, this is something that can go IPO. This is what SoftBank does, right? So they go in, they pay way too high valuation, but say, well, now it’s a SoftBank deal. And now it’s the only one that sector that goes IPO or goes in an aspect deal. So when you look at the next three, five years, when you read the tea leaves, what would be sectors or startups where you feel like they really could go there? When you look at, I think this is what you guys probably do as any investor would do, when you look at the seed stage right now, you have to predict what’s going to be really great in the next three to five years. What would be sectors or startups you’re really looking into right now? So we invest in all types of startups, you know, everything from biotech to space tech to ag tech, you know, to SaaS startups. But so we’re always looking at new technology coming into the marketplace that can transform industry. But what I will tell you is my favorite is always software. Like anything, the reason software is so beautiful is because software has that unique ability, unlike hardware or other things, to really lock in a customer and grow the value over time. So you can look at software companies like Amazon or Google or Facebook or any of these companies. And at the end, you know, when they latch onto the biggest cost for a startup is acquiring new customers. That is where they spent that is where the venture capital goes. Like in a company that’s working, you know, most of the money is going towards employees and customer acquisition. Yeah, I thought this as a prize that when you look at startups, you would think there’s mostly R&D expenditure, like engineers, but it’s usually 20 to 30% of the rest of the marketing and support stuff. And these are tech companies, right? These are tech companies where you expect R&D to be a bigger thing. And you know, all the other expenses combined are small compared to, you know, really customer acquisition is where it’s at. So when you acquire the companies I look for, when they acquire a customer, they never let go. They lock in that customer. And then they keep adding value to the customer, giving the customer more value. So they have no reason, even if they could leave to ever leave. And at the same time, the really smart startups not only add more features and value, they create ecosystems around their platforms. That is where those are the companies I love. So SaaS companies, you’re asking me, like SaaS has been strong for years, continue to be strong. Because, you know, the SaaS companies that do really well either create a new value in the internet, right? For a company to increase profits or efficiency. Or they do something much, much better than existing competitors. So I’m always looking for those criteria when I make an investment. Now, there are other sectors that are very exciting. So, you know, we have been investing a lot in AI. We are very excited about the blockchain ecosystem. We’re very excited about all types of SaaS and even consumer, you know, where you’re reaching out directly to consumers and creating new value there. But beyond that, I’ll tell you some of the more far out things I’m dabbling in right now. So I’m very fascinated by brain computer interfaces, you know, connecting our brains directly to the internet, I think has enormous potential to circumvent, like create a whole new brain computer operating system. And I’m looking for companies in this space. I’m looking, I think the space tech area is really exciting right now, but not necessarily in building rocket ships like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, you know, I think that’s, we don’t need more rocket ships. What we need is the other infrastructure like software infrastructure, you know, logistics, all the, you know, controls, all these little pieces of the puzzle, there are going to be startups in there that do extremely well. Another one is CRISPR gene editing, you know, gene therapies, like we have literally unraveled the source code for life on this planet, all life, you know, plant life, animal life, you know, insects, everything. We can create new species of plants and animals. We can cure diseases that have never been cured before. All this is at our fingertips and we are just beginning. It’s like the very early days of the internet, you know, people are figuring out this code. They’re recoding it through, you know, gene editing. And this will be absolutely amazing in the coming 10 to 20 years. We will be able to create biological computers. We will be able to redesign human beings and our animals. And we’re already doing this. So those are a few areas I’m excited about. I can hear the excitement in your voice. This is amazing. I’m with you with probably all of those sectors. And I think CRISPR, giving the boost that we got in there and the trust, but also the investment funds that moved in with COVID, right, into similar technologies to change RNA, that’s going to be amazing. I was just asking the other day, why didn’t we, we solved COVID, right? Or we think we solved at least one strain of COVID. Let’s assume we solved it. Why didn’t we also solve arthritis? Why didn’t we also solve cancer, right, in the same batch, in the same immunizations? And people were looking at me like I’m crazy, but I’m like, this is the same technology, right? Once we figure out what we have to change in our RNA, then we just do it, right? And hopefully that’s what CRISPR can deliver. It’s coming. I tell you, it’s coming. These are never easy problems to solve, but they are monumental. When we get them, it’ll be, you know, they’re already perfecting now, I read about it, a vaccine for certain types of cancer, where they can actually inject you and you won’t get the cancer. Yeah, that’s how it should be. I can’t believe we haven’t done that 30 years ago. Well, hopefully in the next 10 years, we can get those vaccines. I would be, I would be really excited if that finally happens. When you, when you look at this Neuralink technology, and I was watching, you know, Elon Musk’s presentation a while ago, which was a bit of a letdown, I was really excited. I’m like, Oh my gosh, he’s, he had found something. But basically he said, well, that’s what we’re working on. And we’re looking for engineers. I’m like, okay, we already knew that, right? But is there like a big jump forward what the technology can deliver? Can, how close are we to, to something that connects the internet or whatever device we want directly to the brain? If, from your gut feeling, is that something in the next three to five years that we have an actual solution on our hands or will it be like 30 years? So that is a great question. It’s actually, I’m writing that book right now. It’s called The Five Forces. It’ll come out this summer. It is all about brain computer interfaces, AI, gene editing, and how they tie together, like how they will change humanity. So let me say, I can’t talk about, you know, the whole thing right now. But let me say that this technology is coming. So already, we have a non evasive brain computer interfaces, like Interaxons, their product news, you can go buy it on Amazon for a couple hundred bucks. It can read your brain waves. Now it’s very noisy. It’s not that accurate, but it can do things like help you meditate. People are experimenting with it to help you sleep better. You know, the brain interactions help you concentrate, help people concentrate and solve problems, especially people who are attention deficit disorder that those applications are here today. A Facebook is actually working on technology right now that will be able to non evasively without sticking a chip in your brain, like Elon Musk wants to do, allow you to text message. Now the thing is in the laboratory, when they put a chip in humans brains and they have done this, they can text message. They can control a robotic arm and feed themselves. Elon Musk didn’t invent this. This has been around at Brown University, Duke, for a long time. They’ve been working on this for over a decade. So the technology is not new. The problem is it’s still in its infancy, sticking a chip in your brain sounds, okay, I can do that, right? And we can miniaturize it, which is what Elon Musk wants to do, make it so small you don’t even, you know, it’s an outpatient surgery to get it in there and you can do it quickly. But these electronics, once they’re in your brain, they can actually cause problems that are unforeseen. Like, they don’t last forever, like they start to decay and actually interact with the chemicals in your brain. And it can, and people don’t know what the long term ramifications of having electronics embedded in your brain are. So there are other technologies out there where they’re going to inject nanoparticles, they’re actually talking about that, that can penetrate the brain body barrier and actually penetrate your brain and attach themselves to the neurons in your brain and make your entire brain into this transmitter sounds sort of scary. There’s a book out there called Nexus for sci fi fans who want to read about, you know, this type of technology. And it’s totally bizarre. But they’re seriously contemplating that DARPA is funding it. There are people out there working on this. Will it happen in five years? That’s, you know, it depends what you mean. So we’ve already have the technology. It’s here today. It’s usually technology doesn’t progress in a linear fashion. It progresses linear, linear, linear, hit a breakthrough. Boom! Like everything changes. So when is that cliff? I can’t predict. Like, I can’t tell you if it’s five years out, 10 years out, 15 years out, because we don’t know all the problems with the technology yet. However, what I can tell you is it is coming within most of our lifetimes. It will be here. That’s so exciting. I hope we finally get that the, and the idea to put it, to open up your skull and put a little chip in there. It’s really scary. If there’s alternatives, I think people would see this whole development of technology in a much better light. So I don’t know why Neuralink was so focused on this. They could have said, well, that’s the current technology, right? The current generation. But that will change over time, hopefully. When all these technologies that we just talked about, they just sound like the unrem to the singularity, right? We’re a Kurzweil theme. Yes. And he’s been writing about Nantex and the way we scan our body and be in the interface directly, the face directly with machines from our brain without a computer interface or keyboard. When I ask you about the singularity, are you concurring with these predictions a lot of future risks have that this is something that happens in 2038? And if so, what do you think happens? And I know it’s called singularity for a reason, because we have trouble looking in the time past. What would you expect is development for the next 20 years and maybe you have some ideas how the singularity will happen and will it give us within a relatively short time frame? So I believe the singularity is coming. It may not be what we expected to be, though. We could all guess at how this technology plays out. But until, you know, what I love about Ray Kurzweil is he’s an optimist. Like, he paints a very beautiful picture of how this technology will extend human life and transform our existence. That is great. I tend to be more of a realist, meaning I can see the positive and the negative in releasing this technology. Now, you can imagine, let’s just take brain computer interfaces, for example, not even go to AI, just brain computer interfaces. If you release a brain computer interface, it won’t just be able to read your mind. You have to remember this is connected to the Internet. What corporations will be behind this? Do you trust Facebook with access to your brain? Do you trust that? Do you trust Google with access to your brain? Now, we’ve already seen how Facebook handles personal data, right? How would they handle your brain data? This is a question that I believe we have yet to answer. So, also, governments, like what government do you trust with access to all your thoughts? And what would they do with this data? Like, how would they combine this data with artificial intelligence? We already see that AI loves big data, right? If you have access to every human mind, you know what people are thinking, you know what input and output happens. How would you control people with that? How would companies control people? How will governments control people? This data will be used. I guarantee you, once it’s out there, it will be used. So, Rick Kurzweil says it’s a great thing, but we have to be very careful before we hook ourselves up to brain computer interfaces. We have to think really deeply about this. Yeah. The first thought that people have in mind is that now once the technology takes off, you can hack people, right? Not just computers. But you know what? This already happened. We already have this crazy manipulation. If you manipulate people enough with certain news sources and there’s been tons of neuroscience experiments, they will change their opinion on anything. It’s just a question of how long can you bombard them with what type of news? And maybe not everyone, but a big majority of consumers of this information will exercise their free will in exactly, strangely, that way that you suggested. And you don’t even have to use coercion. So, I feel like we already have that someone already hacked us and we hack ourselves constantly, right? We convince people, persuade them, we want to sell them stuff. This is not going anywhere. This is often very unconscious. We don’t know where this came from. I, you know, I study neuroscience. I completely agree. It’s going on right now. But when you hook it up directly to the brain and you really start to understand at a very deep level, the triggers of the human brain, it makes it exponentially more effective. So, what we’re seeing now, which is really scary, you know, some people believing that, you know, the elections that happened in the United States were a fraud when all, you know, when clearly they weren’t, you know, but that’s the news they’re getting. So, of course, they believe that. This will be at a whole another level when we have access to all, to a massive amount of data coming directly from our brains. And you have to remember that they want to make these brain devices two ways, not just read only. What happens when you write? Could you write over memories directly? Do you even need to convince somebody? Could you just program them to think a certain way by having two way communication with the brain? So, these are very, these are very deep issues that need to be discussed on a societal level that we need to understand. And we need to, all of us need to be aware of and actually start taking action today. Because the technology is coming. Well, there’s a huge upside, right? So, the way we can use our own intelligence and combine it with machine intelligence, there’s a ginormous upside. And I think David Orban told me this in 2040, that’s about the time when we have access to a million brains of computing intelligence that is similar to the brain. It doesn’t do the same thing as the brain, but it’s the raw intelligence for the price of a thousand dollars. And this is just incredible. I mean, we can deploy this, this problem solving technique to whatever problem we have in that moment. It’s like, not just you have YouTube where someone solved your problem, you can tell a million people on YouTube basically for free for a thousand dollars to work on your problem for a certain amount of time. And they will deliver you a solution that you can interact with. This is incredible. I mean, if we don’t solve the biggest issues on earth with this kind of technology, then I don’t know what. I mean, what else would it take? So, on the bright side, right? This is a two edge sword, like all technology. It can be put to amazing beneficial use for society and all of us. Or, you know, horrific things could also happen in the wrong hands. There could be there could be bills. Yeah. Yeah. So, but on the bright side, it’s going to be absolutely amazing. So, you can imagine a world where, you know, all of us as human beings, just our existential existence, we’re isolated. Like I can, if I’m hurt, I can feel my pain. But if you’re hurt, like right now you stub your toe or you’re in emotional anxiety, I can empathize with you, but I can’t feel your pain. And I can’t feel your joy if you’re happy. Imagine with the brain computer interface where we figure out how to transmit though and replicate those signals in each other’s brains. I could actually feel your joy. It would be humanity could come together as a single being with everybody interacting with one another on a level that we have never experienced. It could transform our conception of life. Maybe it would end war on the planet. Maybe it would get people to cooperate in positive ways and tackle big problems that seem intractable right now, like global warming, like hunger, like, you know, all of these things. Maybe it is where we are destined to head. So, on one side, it could be like Nirvana. On another side, it could be hell, right? But what will probably be is somewhere in the middle, which is what we found, you know, they’ll be good and bad, and we’ll be having to balance them just like we are now with, you know, you’re programming people on social networks, you know, and people abusing that technology for their own gain. So, I am both an optimist and a pessimist, and I really think as a human, as a human species, we have a choice to make of which direction we go. And it’s up to us. We get to decide. It’s in our power to do so because we’re creating this technology. We’re putting it to use. Nothing is predestined. I mean, I hope we get it right, and we hope we have the ability to recognize the potential there. And I think this is where we’re still lacking a little bit, how much potential is out there, and what if a bright future potentially is there with these game changing technologies. Now, we have Peter Thiel quipping, and there were a bunch of white papers before he said that, where he basically looked back into the 70s, and we had these really big plans in the early 70s about what we do to this planet in a positive way. So, we have almost free energy. That was the idea, you know, nuclear efficient technology didn’t have that problems in the early 70s. We had plans for what we do with bigger and different supersonic planes. We had flying cars. All these things never happened, right? We’d be in many of these industries outside of semiconductors, which clearly is developing very swiftly, but outside of semiconductors, we didn’t make a lot of progress. And we have this declining productivity growth since the 70s, and especially the last 20 years, counter to, and maybe that’s the way we measure it, but it’s counter to what we feel the acceleration of change has really resulted in productivity growth. Maybe it has, but we at least can’t see it in the numbers. When you look towards the next 20 years, do you think, and we have this huge debt problem, a lot of economists are very worried about that. In most developed economies, we’ve never had so much debt per GDP in the last 100 years. So, it seems terrible just looking at the numbers. When you use your optimism and looking to the next 20 years or 30 years, what would you expect happens in productivity numbers, maybe also to the macroeconomic picture? When we’re looking out in the future, it is a very, there are multiple forces acting on our economies. Technology is playing an increasingly big role. So, let me give you an example. So, there’s a startup in Silicon Valley called MoveWorks, and they allow companies to automate IT. So, most companies now have to have big IT staffs to answer all the questions, to fix problems on laptops and phones. It’s a real nightmare. Well, they allow AI to basically take over a lot of this, allowing them not to have huge IT staffs, a huge cost savings. So, we see this happening across industry. So, people at an increasing rate are being, if you talk about efficiencies, they are being pulled out of the loop and replaced with advanced AI. And that creates a huge amount of value for companies. They become much more efficient, much more profitable. We are going to see that trend accelerate. That as AI becomes better, as we’re better at gathering data, as we are implementing IoT and sensors across all of our businesses, this will only accelerate. That means at some point, there’s going to be a tipping point where the number of jobs we’re creating with technology and the number of jobs technology is consuming don’t balance out. So, right now, it’s been pretty good. We’ve actually been creating overall more jobs in our economy than we’ve been losing, except for the pandemic, of course, which is a blip. But at a certain point, there’ll be unemployment will be a big issue. We just won’t need as many people to work, because our machines will do it so much better. They can work 24 hours a day. They never need to pay raise. They never get sick. They never complain. They never sue the company for discrimination or some other problem. They’re the perfect employee. The head of Foxconn, the giant Foxconn, he’s determined, he says human beings are a problem. And he wants to get rid of them. How many people does he employ? I don’t know, half a million? Yeah, I forget the number, but it’s an enormous amount of employees like he has. And his dream is to have machines, because they’re so much easier to manage. No kidding. No kidding. I think every employer, every every employer just wants to sit back and collect the money. And then he changed their mind because they need innovation. That hasn’t happened with automation yet. Yeah, but it’s going to even create a field. AI is able to create music now. That’s incredible. Like you would never know. AI is able to create art. AI is, there’s really, at a certain point, there is almost nothing AI cannot do, even though we like to believe we’re exceptional machines, like we’re exceptionally creative or divinely inspired. AI can actually look at humans at a deep enough level and get enough data and do enough experimentation to see what resonates. Remember, art does not exist independently of us. So if we respond to something emotionally, it doesn’t matter if it’s created by a machine or a person. It’s what happens inside us that makes it art. We value it as art. So it doesn’t matter if a machine creates it. And we are going to see more and more of this happening. And at a certain point, we’re going to have to restructure society. We’re going to have to restructure our values. We might not place a huge value in the future on work. Work may be something people did in the old days. That’s when people work. Now people will have their hobbies. They’ll have their passions. They’ll have ways of creating community. Maybe that’s where people derive their identity and their self worth, totally independent of actually manufacturing and productivity. It’s a beautiful speech. You must have used this in one of your keynotes. It’s spot on. I was just thinking out loud with Michael Guasiano yesterday and he’s a neuroscientist. And he developed a model for consciousness. He sees consciousness slightly different. It’s more mechanical. It’s more of a CPU that does resource allocation than by being self aware. It’s not necessarily philosophical consciousness. There’s what should be ponder, but it is a way of deciding where we want to go, right? So consciousness basically makes a decision and an art from it is, as David Tum put it, where do we go from here? So what is the most important problem to solve? There is, maybe we’re not aware of this, but to an extent there is 99% of the information streams through our unconscious and a little bit is made conscious. And the problem is we don’t know what we don’t know. So all the other information that we have ignored is that really irrelevant or not. And that decision is, as when you think of it, it gets really shaky. But he said, well, with the data that they gather, they can come up with a model, an AI model, right, that will make that decision. If it is as good as other humans, then it remains to be seen. But he’s modeled as we’ve seen the GPT3. They scale up really quickly. And it’s only a matter of a month. We don’t have to wait 18 months anymore. It’s two or three months, and then it doubles in capacity, these models. It’s an amazing amount of speed that’s there. So he was really positive and said, well, even consciousness is going to be a machine model very soon. And so we don’t need to think of machines as this unconscious thing. They will become something we would attribute empathy to because they will behave like this. They will, when we talk to them, they will look like they have empathy for us. And that was pretty starting. I was like, whoa, I didn’t expect that. So he was very confident that will happen in five years. Again, that’s the big question. But you only need to do it once, right? And then you just roll it out. That’s the big benefit of artificial intelligence. It seems like the model generation is so much more efficient because once we have that model, every single machine on the planet can use it with humans. Even if you have a good model, say, you know, Socrates had a good model of society, but it was almost forgotten for the longest time. And even now, nobody reads it, nobody understands it. It’s not something we can just, at the click of a button, use. And I think this makes a big difference once we have machine learning. People are a little worried about that, right? So what is our place in history if machines are so much better at pretty much anything? Well, what is left for us to do? So Torsten, this is a subject I love to talk about and love to think about. So you are right. Most people are conscious, the part of our brain that processes our conscious actions is a small portion of what our brains are doing. You know, almost all the activity is happening on a subconscious level. Yet they have done psychological experiments with people. And when they asked them, why did you do that? Even if they had given them clues on a subconscious level, they actually attribute it to their consciousness. They think human beings believe they are making decisions on consciously when it’s actually happening on a subconscious level. So that is just how our minds work. Now, if you extend this to machines, the fact is, even the best neuroscientists in the world don’t fully understand human consciousness. They will argue about it. You know, some neuroscientists believe we are machines, like we are biological computers, and we are no more conscious than a smart computer will ever be. Other neuroscientists believe that consciousness is an emergent property and that there truly is a consciousness. We are not just machines. We are actually making these decisions, not just reacting to the world. But we don’t know. And it’s probably some combination of those that’s actually going on. Most of our decisions are probably being made at a subconscious level, like a machine, and then a very small number are being made at a conscious level. But what does that mean? We react to input. So you get to what you were saying. You know, we are on the cusp of building computer, AI computers, that literally can emulate human beings, like write down to our empathy, write down to the subtlest reactions on their faces, so that they will be indistinguishable from other people. We can design and build in the future. We know computers that will be indistinguishable from one another. The true Turing test, right? The true Turing test. At that point, will they be conscious? Well, like you pointed out, it won’t matter because we will have to treat them as if they’re conscious because they act. We won’t know what’s in the computer’s head. We can never know if it has achieved our consciousness. But for all intensive purposes, it behaves just like a conscious being. And then you add on top of this the fact that you can replicate this instantly across every computer on the planet, you know, that has a processing power. You can also upgrade them. Our human brains have not been upgraded in 100,000 years. Like we have the same prehistoric brains as when we were living in caves. It’s amazing what we’ve created. But these computers aren’t the same. You can like start to upgrade them and increase their consciousness exponentially. And then you get what is called an intelligence explosion, like an explosion in intelligence where they dwarf us. Do they even want us around? Are we useful to them? What do they think? Can they feel like we feel? Do they have empathy? Is empathy something we can instill in them, especially for lower creatures like us? So these are questions we don’t know what’s going to happen. People like Bill Gates and Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, you know, they are worried about this. They are grappling with what will happen and how can we exist or be relevant in a world with computers that are exponentially smarter than us? Nobody knows the answer. We’re going down this path and we will find out eventually what that answer is. Yeah, it’s something I think we have to. And I think this is why I like Sam Harris’s and Elon Musk’s input into this discussion. We should force ourselves to think about that and kind of come up with a set of options, a set of alternatives that we might be able to execute on. Because people think this is hundreds of years away and it could be, but it could also be just 20 or 30 years away. And we’ve got to have some strategies that we could follow up on. And there’s obviously not a lot of options we’ve got. One is we upgrade ourselves and then we kind of compete with this machine intelligence. Some kind of cyber in intelligence. We still have our own body. Or we become this mind version. This is uploaded version of ourselves. Where we grow more native machines, so to speak. And then the other version is we just completely ignore it and we just hope that whatever these machines come up with, it’s they’re going to respect us to some extent and leave us alone. They just go out to the universe and then they’re gone. Maybe that’s what happened all the time or what has happened maybe before and we just don’t know about. Maybe it happened with the dinosaurs. Who knows? That’s obviously very science fiction. But there isn’t a lot for us to do. But then there’s this whole other side where we say, well, is there a way to stop that innovation? Is there showstoppers we can put in place? Like a Manhattan project where we say, well, this is this is the technology that we can control. And Richmond needs a lot of resources and we can control it. And it has worked for for nuclear bombs, right? It has worked for a very long period of time. I don’t know if it’s still true because if that gets really cheap, then everyone can do it in his backyard. Do you think we will go towards a scenario where people understandably are very worried about AI and this will kind of be only done under darkness? Or do you think we will see the benefits of even these conscious, semi conscious machines? We will see those in the next 30 years. So definitely semi conscious. And it depends on what you define as consciousness. You know, consciousness, some people say ants are conscious, right? And they have their own limited consciousness based on their umbel, their sensory perception, right, of the world and their tiny brains. But within those parameters, they make conscious decisions. We don’t know, but we can speculate on all animals and insects, you know, the degree of consciousness. So if consciousness isn’t an on or off a binary, right, it could be a continuum, right? So machines right now, and there’s some philosophers who believe this, you know, computers right now are conscious, just at a much lower degree than we are, you know, but they possess some consciousness. Others think that you have to have the right combination. There’s a threshold you have to cross to actually obtain consciousness. In the future, we will definitely be seeing machines that are becoming more acting more and more like are at our level of consciousness. I’ll put it that way, right? So we already see machines that can act at the level of consciousness of an ant, right? We can build a machine that can basically replicate what an ant does. We can build machines that can replicate what simple animals do to a certain degree. Now, um, and we will be able to build machines definitely in the coming decade that start to replicate many of the functions that human beings have that go be like right now machines excel in certain areas. It’s narrow AI, right? They can like way outdo us at computing power, like processing massive amounts of data. They can, they’re way better than us at that. But you ask them like, where are you? You know, what city do you live in questions outside their specific task? And they’re really stupid. So that’s why they call it general artificial general intelligence. They have a much broader view or context of where they exist within the world. Those machines are coming, right? And what I see actually happening is we are creating millions and millions of algorithms, right? Narrow AI’s. And these narrow AI’s are going to spike and drive our economy, right? They’re going to improve our lives. We see it already in all sorts of tasks, taking on very specific tasks. We’re also working, you know, at open AI and other places on more expansive view. What could AI do if it could learn like a human being? If it could see start to see the world like a human being, they have evolutionary AI’s and all these different types of AI’s that are being developed. This is where it gets really interesting. I, you know, honestly, it’s really hard to predict when that breakthrough will come, when that AI will suddenly materialize that, you know, that simulates our level of consciousness so well that we would call it consciousness. But I will tell you that there will be AI’s in the world that we will be interacting with much like we interact with humans in the next decade. Like whether they are embodied in a human, you know, whether they’re just a voice on our phone or, you know, within our homes talking to us, we will have conversations with you. They will learn. They already, AI’s can already learn how to better communicate with people to get certain responses. Like they will understand when we’re frustrated. They will understand when we’re in a hurry and we want to get something done. They will understand when we want to make small talk and these AI’s will adapt to us and actually converse with us and we will feel like we’re talking to other human beings. This is coming very soon. We will see this, you know, within the next decade. I’m with you Stephen. I was especially curious. Do you feel like it will overwhelm our sense of fear, our sense of this is something we definitely don’t have control over. We’re not going to be the apex predator anymore and we’re going to relegate it to the dark ages. At some point, there’s going to be a ban on anything that looks like a self controlled, self conscious AI and it will only be developed on the dark net. Do you think we will go to this extreme or we’ll figure out a way to make our peace with this? That is an interesting question. Should they be banned? Will they be banned? My gut feeling. It doesn’t matter, right? I mean, the way we describe technology right now, it wouldn’t matter much. Even if everyone bans it, you only need one hacker to come up with it, release it on the internet and damage it up. Technology is like Pandora’s box and it’s already open. It’s like not just Pandora’s box, it’s like a Pandora’s box that keeps evolving, right? So literally, technology is out there. You cannot shut the lid, like you said. So even if it’s banned in one country, that country will ultimately just fall behind, right? All the other countries that use the latest AI will surge ahead of it in productivity, in military power, in efficiency, in everything they do. So we will not be able to ban it. It will not be possible because one country could do it, but other countries won’t. We’ve already seen this happening. Look at our military. Look at what we’re doing. We have said in our military, we will keep humans in the loop, right? Meaning that if we build an AI drone, an AI powered tank, an AI powered plane, that humans will always be in the loop so that we can pull the stop button, right? If this gets out of control. However, what we have discovered is that if our AI is out there fighting another AI, right, in the battlefield, both of these AIs are coming at each other. One has a human in the loop and the other doesn’t. Well, the humans are very slow processors. Humans have to take a lot of time to make decisions. The other AI will kill it, right? Because it can act instantaneously. Whereas they have to go back to this human and say, should I fire? Should I not fire? Honestly, that won’t work. So what is happening in our military and in China’s military and Russia’s military all around the world is we’re taking humans out of the loop of these robots, right? Will we wind up with Skynet? Who knows, right? Nobody knows. But honestly, we are having to do that with our killing machines, which are much more dangerous than other machines, right? It’s going to happen across the board. Literally, humans will not be in the loop. We will be taken out of the loop. What does that mean for society? Like, I can’t answer all these questions, but I can definitely pose them. It’s a great example you make. And I think the military always had, you know, on the wound there with DARPA, because the military knows instinctively if someone has a better technology, and they’re kind of out of reach, just kind of like a gun that fires 10 miles on a target 10 miles away. If you only have a gun that fires a target nine miles away, then, you know, you lose every single battle. There’s not a single battle you can win and you will take all the losses. So it’s a winner takes all game in the military. As we know, there’s only one person who wins the war usually. There’s some alliances. It’s going to be crazy because we will even be able to predict with our AIs who wins the war before it happens. Like, no, honestly, we don’t have to fight a war. Maybe just like nuclear. Actually, nuclear weapons have stopped us from having World War Three, right? For all the horror of nuclear, you know, weapons, they have actually prevented a World War Three, but weren’t for that’s what they always said. That’s what the Nobel said initially when he distributed dynamite and when we talk about gunpowder. They all say the bigger weapon makes peace because then nobody will fight you. It doesn’t really work out that way. It does make peace for a while and then it reverses itself and then it’s pretty bad. What we hope is, you know, we hope it doesn’t come to catastrophe for the human race, but we’re going to be building these AIs that you’re that, like you said, like if you have smarter drones with a better AI, fighting another drone army, boom, all the other drones are dead, right? They can outmaneuver them and kill them. You know, it’s a massacre and then we’ll also be able to predict what will happen in these battles. It will be very strange future. You know, I wonder how it’s going to play out. There is a lot of predictions and they were made in the early 90s that there’s going to be a machine against machine war, a hot war. And obviously it’s the question of how big it is between former allies of the United States and the United States themselves. And so they got very specific. The book that I read is that China, Turkey, Iran, Russia, they will band together and fight American AI and technology basically in Poland, right? And Germany stays neutral. So someone laid out these plans 30, 40 years ago talking just about robotics. Obviously the specifics were not invented yet. And that seems to be a scenario that when I look at the news every day, and he made specific predictions, the author that is between 2025 and 2028, that seems to be coming true, right? At least with the case of China, because it is strong enough and it’s kind of an ally of the US. It was a strong ally of the US in the 80s and 90s, right? So against Russia. And then it kind of moved around and now it wants more of its place in the limelight. And I don’t know, hopefully we find the solution that is that is attendable for everyone. I want to go to a different topic. And I know the future is both of our favorite. But there’s one more thing I really wanted to ask you. And that’s rare for a lot of people to make that switch. And you told me earlier, you now are becoming a full time digital nomad. What does that mean for you specifically? And why did you make that decision? I just gave up my home in San Francisco and I’m going 100% nomad. I have no home. And it’s really exciting because I work with entrepreneurs and innovators, scientists, venture capitalists all over the globe. That’s my mission. That has always been my mission. It’s my passion. I’m sure you could tell from my voice how excited I am. So I decided I’ve been rooted in Silicon Valley. San Francisco is a beautiful place, right? You almost never want to leave and there’s so much going on. But around the world, innovation is happening everywhere. It’s happening everywhere, even the most remote regions. And I want to actually enable and empower entrepreneurs who aren’t in Silicon Valley, who aren’t in one of the big innovation hubs to actually get the same resources and knowledge that we have so they can compete and they can raise themselves up. And that’s why I’m going digital nomad. So I will be traveling full time. And if any of your audience out there has something cool or amazing going on in Europe or Asia or wherever you are, Africa, please invite me. Go to and just contact me. And I could show up on your doorstep and we can, you know, have these discussions, do amazing things. I can help you with your startups. This is what I love doing. And it’s what I’ve spent my life doing. And that would be something you would do, say, as a speaker, you would, you would go, I don’t know, you go to Addis and Viva. For instance, you go to Ethiopia, you would be a speaker, you would, and there’s a bunch of accelerators there that I know, or you would basically do this on a, you just literally just take your computer, you’re going to be in, well, we can’t go to Bali right now, but let’s, what’s the place we can go. Say you go to Brazil, you go to Rio, and you would literally just do whatever you do from Rio. Is that your plan or is that you have a personal presence, presence in that particular moment, in that particular city or region? So both. So I operate globally right now, like we’re doing through Zoom and all these other technologies, right? So I can do my business anywhere. And most of technology workers can do their business anywhere. So I’m going to continue to do that. And we have incubators and partners and run programs all over the world. I’ll continue to manage those from wherever I happen to be. But I love face to face contact. Like, I would love to be sitting with you right now in a room and then going out to dinner after coffee, you know, really getting into these discussions at a very deep level. So I will do that as a speaker. You know, I’ve already been traveling the world as a speaker, giving talks and keynotes. But I also want to work hands on with entrepreneurs. I want to sit down with them, with their business plan, face to face with their team, actually really go deep on their business, which is something I just personally enjoy. You know, I wrote the book, Surviving a Startup, based on all of my working with all these entrepreneurs and what they learn. Like, every time I’m with an entrepreneur, I’m teaching them, but I’m actually learning as much as I’m teaching them. I’m learning about how they’re overcoming obstacles. I’m learning about their specific industry or their specific innovation, how they did it, where they see the future heading. So that’s the type of interaction I’m looking for. I think this sounds really exciting. I’m just reading Eric Bienos books, and he wrote a couple of them. One is called Bliss. I really like those books. And what he basically does, he uses a travel log. So his personal travel experiences usually come under a certain topic. So Bliss is to search for happiness. The one I’m reading right now is to search for genius, where the genius come from and why they’ve been developing Hange for a while and Athens for a while. And as you described, going to a coffee shop, that’s one observation I always make about Athens. Nobody ever gets up, right? So you order espresso, and then you drink another one, you eat some stuff, and then you drink, and then you order another espresso and 12 hours pass. So that’s something you don’t see in the US, right? You have a two hour meeting, and then it’s over, and you never talk again for another two years. And then you talk again for two hours, right? This is how it works here. That’s the opposite in Athens, where you talk for two days straight, and then we’ll meet again the next day. It’s a very different way to problem solving. Are you going back to China? I got to ask, because you said earlier a lot of what you did, the Founderspace affiliates there in China. Have you been to China the last couple of months? Oh, so I haven’t been to China since the pandemic started. Okay. Because, you know, it’s tough to get in, and then there’s a super long quarantine, which is painful. It’s five weeks now, right? Yeah, sitting in a hotel room, like literally. And then you don’t swap. That’s what they have put into press. I don’t know if they’re actually going to do it. They want to really discourage people going there. I think that’s the strategy. And literally, if you go, you’re locked in a hotel room for at least a month, and that is something I just, I cannot stand. So no. So I have not been in China. I’ve collaborated with some of the entrepreneurs I work with, and partners I work with remotely, but I’ve been doing that everywhere on the globe. I literally haven’t left San Francisco until now. I just got vaccinated. I’m hitting the road. So I’m fully vaccinated. That was the impetus for the change. Yeah. Well, it’s for my own personal experience, I’ve been traveling through the last 12 months, basically the same as before. There is a little bit more preplanning that you have to do. It used to be, you know, digital nomads. When we think of them, there was this party folks, the 20 year old, so just go somewhere, go to Bali for two weeks, drink and do a little work on their laptops and annoying everyone, right? That’s often, but you could say it’s a tourist, but it’s a tourist with a laptop, who’s a little younger, a little smarter, maybe that seems to be the way people define digital nomads. I’ve been fighting for a different definition of that word. And I think it’s really, really powerful is, and that’s combined to our seed of world is with A, it’s great to see other places because they have found different solutions for the same problem. Some are more efficient, some are less efficient, and there’s always a better solution. Somebody just have to look a little longer sometimes. And it gives you access to knowledge and to a different philosophy that also helps to solve your own problems better, because again, philosophy is just towards the technology. And then there’s this whole thing with languages, we’re learning a new language, even if you just do it for two weeks, or maybe for three months, that would obviously be better, but not all of us have that much time. It’s, it gives you a new way to look at your own life and your own problems, because it’s usually a philosophy baked into these languages. Is that something you want to do? Is that something you set out to do on your digital nomad journey over the next couple of years? So it’s going to take some time. So I, it’s absolutely, it is a journey, like we all go through life of self discovery, a journey of seeking knowledge and a journey of, of doing something meaningful in the world. So I’m not out to just go party with a laptop. I mean, if people want to do that, I think that’s wonderful. That’s great for them. But I get excited more by conversations like we’re having now, you know, and really thinking deeply and engaging in the world deeply, trying to solve problems, make people aware of problems. I almost, I’m tempted right now that you said that you have this, you know, a new definition of digital nomad, we should coin a new term, like I’m going on, I’m a digital explorer. I’m a digital on a digital quest. There’s a philosophy, you know, it’s a bit of it’s this how the world works and make yourself a better person in the meantime. It’s very Old Testament for me. So the Old Testament goes a slightly different direction at times. There is this, I want to become the best version of myself and I take this seriously. And obviously, you know, I make a lot of mistakes in the meantime. It’s not, it’s not something like like Jacob in the Old Testament. It’s not something you, you’re born with this genius. Some people are, but it’s usually technical genius. This, it’s a discovery process and that will never end. But it’s also without that discovery process, you can’t get to these places of wisdom. And with the greatest files, you know, wisdom doesn’t help you in the end. It’s, it’s, it kind of makes you a little bit more depressed. So what it does, it kind of, it, because you, you see what’s wrong with the world, right? Before you didn’t see it, you were completely obliterated. But it’s this, this journey that, that makes you a better person and makes people around you a better person, right? Because you, it’s a model and it makes them feel positive, more positive about the world. I think if you see these explorers, these journeyers, dangerous, right? And it’s a question of risk taking also, right? We don’t go on a one way trip on a boat. So, you know, usually we have a return ticket at some point, but there is something to it is wisdom generation. I find it hard to put my finger on this as a term. If you can help me coin it, that will be awesome. I will help you, I will work on that. So that’s my homework. And I will tell you, I completely agree with you. You know, our society in general places far too much emphasis on accumulation of wealth and raw intelligence, like, you know, achievement and intelligence. That’s what we place almost, you know, you read any newspaper, any blog, and any, you know, video, it’s about, you know, it’s about achievement, like what have I achieved in terms of, of material success in terms and, and, and how, you know, brilliant am I, but very little emphasis is placed on wisdom, like wisdom is almost left out of the discussion entirely, you know, in the, in popular culture and media and everywhere globally, not just the United States, you know, people just aren’t talking about acquiring wisdom. It’s almost like it’s fallen off the charts. So it’s really refreshing to hear you say that. Well, I think what would, what would make me reconsider certain life goals, and I’m sure you’ve done this many times too, is I’ve seen a lot of really unhappy and bored billionaires. There’s not one who’s a billionaire is an idiot or is a, is an ass, but I don’t know, my expectation of becoming a billionaire, there is something, you know, unique and powerful and positive about it. And I give it back to the world and I, I, you know, make the world a better place. I use this power to, to make, to really do something impactful. But if you go through Silicon Valley and you meet the billionaires, I mean, some of them are really humble. So down to earth, but I never felt like, are they really using it to do something very impactful? I was, I was very disappointed with the amount of billionaires we have, people who have all the money in the world, right? And who work with social media of being former shareholders, the only one who came out and did something about free speech is Peter Thiel and maybe Mark Zuckerberg to an extent, I was really disappointed by that. And that really told me there is something odd with the billionaires. The billionaire class should, well, why don’t they use their wealth in a better way and the more wise way? Maybe you have the answer. They seem to be very reclusive and given up on the world. It’s true. But you look at some billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, and they have truly put their wealth to work for the betterment of humanity. So there are those out there and Jeff Bezos’s wife seems to be following in their footsteps and really giving an enormous amount of her wealth. Jeff Bezos hasn’t yet done this, but we hope he will. But a lot of people use their wealth, whether they’re a billionaire or just a multimillionaire, to seal themselves off, to make themselves comfortable, to protect themselves from the problems of the world and think and kind of look the other way as if they’ve achieved what they need to achieve. And a lot of them, you know, like you said, aren’t that fulfilled or happy personally, right? And that’s because they haven’t really spent much time. They spent all their time making money, but they haven’t spent much time working on themselves. So a lot of them have personal issues that they’re embroiled with. And sometimes those personal problems prevent them from taking more positive action in the world. So they spent all their time making this money, but they haven’t really worked on who they are as a person. They don’t really know how to give. They aren’t really happy themselves. And then it’s very hard to give back when you’re in that state of mind. So I think coupling wealth with gaining wisdom, gaining self knowledge, understanding what your limits are and what the world’s limits are and that none of us has much control, even if we’re a billionaire, like we could get sick tomorrow and literally our life, like it doesn’t matter if you have all the money in the world and you’re bedridden, you’re still bedridden. You cannot enjoy that money. So it’s really important that people reflect on this. And while they have the power to do something, they do it because all of those things are fleeting. They are all going away. It’s only what you do with what you have at any instance of time that ends up mattering. Yeah. It’s reaching a potential, right? This is an eternal quest that in the end makes you happy because you reach, probably we never reach that place, but it’s this journey, right? When you look at geographies you want to go to, do you have a list of places in mind? Are you going on the 193 countries list? Is that something you want to do over the next couple years? I had a couple of people on who’ve done this and had a lot of stories to tell. What is kind of your focus over the next 12 months? Obviously, it depends on travel restrictions. So in my journey, quest around the world, I travel in a different way. So I don’t want to have a goal like 193 countries or see every, you know, or a goal that, you know, I have to visit all the major cities in the world or whatever it is. Even when I get into a city, I don’t want any goals. Like I have to see this monument and that historic site and that museum. I don’t want that. In fact, my goal when I travel is not to have any plans further than, you know, a very short time out unless I have to, unless it’s a big event that I’m going to or something. But like I’m about to embark across the country. Literally, I know my next schedule for the next week. And then after that, I always want to be free that if I’m enjoying the place, if I discover something there that I didn’t anticipate, I can stay longer. And then if I feel like I’ve absorbed it and I’m ready to move on, I can move on. So everywhere I go, there is, I want the minimal possible structure so that I can explore and learn and adapt and change as much as possible along the way. That makes a lot of sense. That gives you an extra freedom. I think that’s a wonderful plan for international, you know, flights and stuff. It’s usually you need some preplains or a lot of people do. In today’s world, today’s world is so beautiful. You can literally book a flight on short notice and get a good deal. You can fly into a city and you can get an Airbnb or a hotel. Like because it’s all on our phone, like literally like in two minutes, I can book a hotel or an Airbnb. And I don’t need to plan. Like I could do it all on the fly. I might not get the very best deal. But honestly, I gained something else, right? I gained this total freedom. Yeah. Oh, you’re right. This is a wonderful benefit. But once you go to places that are where there’s no Airbnb, when there’s two flights a week. Oh, you’re talking remote. Okay. Yeah. I mean, you know, say you go to West Africa, there’s a bunch of countries that’s literally one flight in a week and one flight out. So if you don’t catch it, you’re stuck for another week might not be the worst thing in the world, right? These countries and cities, they’re very interesting. But that you’re going to have some plans for the visa. So you have to pre apply for the visa and that takes two months to process. And then you have like a two window when you can actually travel. So people don’t make it easy. There’s some countries are better than others. And the strategy that a lot of travelers follow. And I think I’ve done this too, especially during the last five years or so. I plan a relatively short trip four days maybe. And then I plan if I come back, if I like it, I come back and I can come back as many times or as long as I want. And if I hate it, like there’s really difficult countries like Cameroon, if you go to Douala, it’s just, it’s just not a pleasant country. There is a lot of pleasant people, but it’s just so hard to do. There’s no internet and there’s internet and the rains. Everything is difficult. And you don’t want to be stuck there for like two weeks. Because the next flight out, you have to wait for two weeks. So that’s, and it gives you that’s I think a strategy for a lot of young people that go to a lot of countries really quickly and then say, Oh, I’ll come back to the places I liked. Yeah, that’s a whole another way of doing it. And that’s valid too. For me, I like to stay in a place a while. I just like to suck it up. And you know what I found is that I can go anywhere in the world and have an amazing experience. It can be the middle of nowhere. I can see that. You won’t have trouble making friends. No, and you discover something wherever you are. Like, like there’s an amazing every city I go to, even the city people say, never go to that city. It’s totally boring. There’s like amazing things in that city that are really beautiful and there’s people there. And so, yeah, I don’t mind going to a boring place and being stuck there because it ends up not being as boring as I as people would think. In many places, and there’s a few really unsafe places in the world, Afghanistan, you know, Somalia. Well, that’s another thing. Yeah. Yeah, exciting, right? It’s exciting. It’s totally doable, but it’s dangerous on a statistical basis. What I really felt in safer cities or somewhat safe cities, I really go to completely random places. Now that we have GPS on our phones, I just, I don’t even know where I’m going. I just get out of the subway or get out of the Uber and just walk around and have no idea where I am. No idea why I’m there. And I do this for an hour or two. And that it’s great. It gives you a bit of this pioneering spirit, right? Obviously, it’s just my mind. It’s bullshit. I can always call another Uber, but I or could ask people, but I, but I don’t take any of the aids with me that I usually would do. And I feel like a pioneer, you know, I feel like I’m exploring a frontier because I make my way back to the hotel or something. It’s stupid, right? But it uses the same senses that I think our ancestors had to really content with because their life was in danger if they don’t make it back by nightfall to the cave, right? That’s kind of the system I’m using. It makes me very happy. It works for me. I love doing that. I, you know, I like went into Copenhagen, never been there before. The first day I walked across the entire city. I was so tired afterwards. But, you know, I literally walked across, you know, I didn’t see everything, but I traversed the entire city. And I’ll just do that and just, and with no plan. And then you, you know, there’s something about serendipity, like you just stumble upon something and you’re like, Oh my God, this, this is amazing, this museum or this palace or whatever you had. No, of course, it’s, it’s something that you could have figured out in advance that was amazing and gone there. But just stumbling upon it gives you this, or at least for me, gives me this incredible joy that I didn’t know. Because when I researched it in advance, then I have all these, I have all these expectations. But when you stumble upon it, it’s like a gift that was given to you. Yeah, this is the serendipity and this, this lowering of expectations changes everything. I, I, I noticed myself, you know, I flew a lot of international first class and I was really excited. And I love the experience. And I was, I was really looking forward to it days before the flight. And because of all, I didn’t even know what would happen, how to dinner would be served, whatever. And then a couple of years later, I’ve been doing this for quite some time. I think that the drinks wouldn’t be served to me after I sat down after two minutes. I was really grumpy. I was yelling at someone. I’m like, what’s wrong with me? Right? So it’s the exact same thing. I couldn’t wait to experience five years ago. And now I’m like, I hate it, right? Why am I in this plane? I’d rather want to be home. But why are we not taking off? It was really stupid. But I, it was the exact same thing. But my expectations had changed so much, I got jaded. And the whole thing fell apart for me, which I couldn’t really explain to myself. Right? For me, I, I, I kind of, it took me a couple of days to really walk through this experience. It’s really odd. It’s true. We are so, you know, our brains, you know, when we expect something, and it doesn’t go our way, we get a very negative reaction, or it doesn’t live up to our expectations, even if it’s good, but it wasn’t as good as we should be, you know, in our minds. But I had, you know, the same experience on first class, you know, before I flew first class, the first time I flew it, it was amazing. Like, wow, this is so cool. You know, my parents would never pay for it. But now I get to actually experience it. But then, you know, once you do it enough, just like great meals. Like if you have great meals, like every night at incredible restaurants, you just get used to it. You get jaded. Oh, another great meal. Oh, the waiter’s slow. Or, you know, you start to find flaws. Yeah. Yeah, there seems to be something irrespective of how much money we can accumulate. Our brain sooner or later, more often sooner than later, adjusts to it. And we need another kick. We need another, it could be a learning or it could be another exciting experience. It seems to be never an end. And it’s by design like this, like our brain is really set up for this. Now, you know, you keep, you have to keep on exploring because it’s good for society. You have to take some risks. So society have to can take less risks and can just learn from you. There seems to be an inbuilt model that that seems to be, you know, in our DNA from 20, 30,000 years ago. It does. It’s what propels human beings, right? What propels us to become these billionaires, these moguls, or what propels us to become famous in our research field is that we always want more, right? And it’s part of our DNA. It’s part of why the human species has dominated this planet because it’s in our DNA. And then there’s the wisdom side, which says you don’t have to let your genetics dictate your perception of life. You can actually take control of that. You can actually divorce yourself from these internal drives that are always pushing you and not allowing you to enjoy the simpler things in life. And that’s where the balance comes in. Like it’s, I think all of us, you know, I truly wise people find that balance. And I think I am searching for that balance. And I hope other people find that balance in their lives. I think you’re at least 90% there. I don’t know. I think I might come across better than I am. We never talked before, but I think you already know all the right decisions in order to prepare yourself to get there. So that’s really exciting. Thanks for this, Steven. I really appreciate it. I learned so much. You’re really insightful. And I love how enthusiastic you are. It’s been a great pleasure. I want to say this is a really unique interview that you give because most of the podcasts I participate on, they’re very short. Like they give 15 minutes, 20 minutes, maybe half an hour or 45 minutes. But I’ve never had a podcast that went on this long and covered so many subjects. And first of all, you are my type of person. You are clearly curious about everything and think very deeply about everything. And it has been just such a pleasure to engage with you. I now want to just go out and have that coffee, those expresses with you and talk for hours. We have to go to Athens for this. Yes, let’s meet in Athens when you’re there and find me. This is where we don’t stand out if you sit too long. Awesome. Thank you very much for saying that, Steven. I really enjoyed it too. I hope I get to do this again, hopefully in person, but I have to figure out the camera for this. Yes. And I just want to, yes, you have to get the camera or get a camera person. What I just want to, you could do a new type of show, a video show, which is live in person over meals where you have two cameras set up. That’s my plan. Traveling through Italy, get to every restaurant I really want to go in Italy and just have lunch. There were people who did a documentary like that, but with the same, like it was two guys, they should be talking philosophy the whole time, but not from a, you know, from ivory tower angle, but from a more like center earth angle. Yeah, they’re like that show and they cut it down to like three or four hours. So I’d love to do this one day. Oh, you would be perfect for it. Meet them on the road. You would be perfect for it. So I’m saying that. I just want to let your audience know that if they want to reach out to me and engage for any reason, they can go to and hit and click contact and put my name in the subject. It’ll come to me like they’ll forward it to me or I’m on every social network. I’m on Clubhouse, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, all under Founderspace. Sounds good. Steven, thanks so much for doing this. Thank you. Wonderful. Take it easy. Bye. Bye.

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