Ep. #960 - Empowering the Inventors of Tomorrow
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey shares the mic with Nikil Ragav. Our guest, the founder, and CEO of inventXYZ is here to discuss how we can activate the inventors of tomorrow. Segue chats on labor shortage, the value of becoming an expert on something, and finding the right talent are also in store.
Covered In This Episode
Inventions make our lives easier; one could say they make life “better” too. That is why we need to invest more in the inventors of tomorrow. It’s the goal that Nikil and his team at inventXYZ work to achieve day in and day out.
The founders also tackle the current labor shortage. And how encouraging more inventors to come out, especially the younger generation, can alleviate the issue in the tech industry. Matt and Nikil also share their insights on ensuring that functional inventions are available in the market.
Get the latest update on the inventor’s landscape in today’s Startup Hustle episode.
- Nikil and his backstory (02:21)
- How to encourage people to become an inventor (05:00)
- Limited access to basic resources to encourage inventions (06:52)
- On the shortage of skilled workers (08:30)
- How to make sure that valuable inventions reach the market (11:08)
- Helping alleviate the tech labor shortage (13:54)
- Helping young inventors (16:06)
- Thoughts on VISA programs in the US (17:00)
- About doing business in the Philippines (18:23)
- The current hiring and recruitment landscape (20:10)
- Finding talented and smart people to work with (21:32)
- Outsourcing work to China (25:56)
- New projects at inventXYZ (27:53)
- Music innovations (31:52)
- The present-day state of tech and innovation (34:09)
- Getting the right mentorship as an entrepreneur or inventor (38:36)
- On making it easy for people to help you (39:51)
- Operate at a high level to become an expert (49:25)
Equally, a lot of the time, the mentors in those spaces don’t have any real-world product design experience. Or have much exposure to how they can use AI or teach virtual reality or things like that. So I think empowering schools to provide better stuff and content is really important.Nikil Ragav
We have a project for students in algebra class to learn how to build and code their own electronic music instrument. So they actually see the point of learning about sine waves in imaginary numbers.Nikil Ragav
Entrepreneurs like to help other entrepreneurs. Inventors like to help other inventors and like to be around each other. All you got to do is ask.Matt DeCoursey
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt DeCoursey 00:01
And we’re back! Back for another episode of Startup Hustle. Matt DeCoursey here to have another conversation I’m hoping helps your business grow. So throughout the history of time, inventors have created all kinds of everything. Everything had to get invented at some point. And, you know, some inventions may go unnoticed, and some are truly profound. But the real question is: what is going to empower the inventors of tomorrow? That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about during today’s episode of Startup Hustle, which is powered by FullScale.io. Because hiring software developers is difficult, Full Scale can help you build a software development team quickly and affordably. And has the platform to help you manage the team. Go to FullScale.io to learn more. It only takes like two minutes to answer a few questions on the Full Scale platform. We’ll show you who’s available to help you out. With me, today, I’ve got Nikil Ragav, and he is the CEO and founder of InventXYZ. You can go to InventXYZ.com. There’s a link in the show notes. To that, there’s a link for Full Scale in there. There are a lot of links, so scroll down and check that out. Without further ado, straight from my hometown, and I guess, his hometown now, from Kansas City, Missouri. Well, actually, you know, I’m actually from Kansas, but we’ll just say Kansas City. Nikil, welcome to Startup Hustle.
Nikil Ragav 01:29
Thanks for having me. It’s gonna be really cool.
Matt DeCoursey 01:31
Yeah, I’m looking forward to hearing a little bit more about your backstory. And what you guys are doing at InventXYZ.
Nikil Ragav 01:41
Yeah, for sure. So I’ll talk a little bit about the background and kind of our goals here. But, you know, fundamentally, kind of as we’re talking about Ray, like everything in our world has been invented by somebody. And it’s really important in an age where all of us have phones, even kids in rural school districts have phones, and use top-of-the-line video GPUs, and talk about gaming and stuff, right? Like, in a world where even sports are using data science and AI to figure out which players to draft, I want to make sure that every single kid graduates in middle school and high school with the skills to actually invent useful things for the future. And not just learn how to fill out worksheets and maybe fill out a PowerPoint that has way too many words on it. And so, all of that, for me, kind of started in middle school, where I actually was a percussionist, like in our school band. And I came up with this inventive idea to play chords on marimbas and xylophones. Because, like, the current technique actually causes tendonitis. And my band director was like, you should go make that thing. But I didn’t know where to go to make that thing. There was no maker space or inventors lab or anything like that. My mom ended up driving me to some industrial parts warehouse where the guy there told the eighth-grade me, hey, we don’t have the part you’re looking for. But if you’ve got a 3D design file, I can 3D print it for you. And, at the time, I was totally flabbergasted that he would let a scrawny eighth-grader, who had no idea what he was doing, touch a $100,000 3D printer at the time. But that really kind of kickstarted the whole inventor gene in me. And, you know, fast forward many, many years now, I want to make sure every kid has that same kind of opportunity.
Matt DeCoursey 03:34
Because I’ve worked in the music industry for almost a decade. I’m kind of curious. Was that a three-headed mallet?
Nikil Ragav 03:42
Ah, yeah, very, very close. So it’s a mallet holder that you can put whatever mallets you like in. So if you want, you know, rubber or whatever material, and then it’s got, like, an actuator. So you can change the interval between the notes as you’re playing in real time. And smarter.
Matt DeCoursey 04:03
Yeah, I like it. And for those of you that don’t know what a marimba is, it’s a xylophone. Basically, that’s the technical word for xylophone. I don’t think anyone in the band plays the quote xylophone. It’s always the marimba or something. Yes. Yeah, exactly. Well, congrats, I think that you know, over the history of being an entrepreneur doing this show, which you know, we’re coming up on our 1,000th episode, which is kind of crazy. I’ve had so many people reach out and had so many conversations with people that want to invent, build, create something and solve a problem. I think that most people don’t. Everyone has this idea for this invention, and then they don’t do anything with it. As part of what you want to do and what InventXYZ is like, I know you say you want kids to grow up with the skills to do things. But I mean, how do we begin to actuate? Or get people that want to build quote stuff? Like you? I mean, did you have a supportive mother? And, you know, I want to commend her for. Actually, you know, not just being like, Oh, honey, you know, and taking you somewhere to build something. But I mean, I don’t think everyone’s in that situation. I don’t think anyone, I don’t think everyone’s just, everyone’s parents or even themselves are going to be like, well, maybe I should go to an industrial parts warehouse where they can fabricate something like, I mean, what’s that? What’s the key ingredient to give? The future inventors just need the basic stuff they need?
Nikil Ragav 05:38
Yeah. So I think there are two parts to that, right. One is access to the right equipment.
Matt DeCoursey 05:51
And that, like, nowadays, especially, that’s pretty broad, because yeah, like the computer to a 3D printer.
Nikil Ragav 05:57
Right, right, or the thing behind me, which is a $40,000 CNC router. So access to equipment, but more importantly, access to the right kind of curriculum and mentorship. Because at the end of the day, making most of the stuff that we use in today’s world doesn’t necessarily require big stuff. For example, I can design a printed circuit board and my own electronics, like wireless sensors or like a smoke alarm or whatever I want. And I can do that entirely on the computer and then send it off in a PCB way, for example, to get it made and shipped back to me. And I can write all the code for it on a computer, and then just plug it in via like a USB cable or something and make it work. Right. So the stuff matters, but it matters less than the guidance of how to actually use it. But I think the solution to both access questions is actually schools. And that’s because that is where the vast majority of kids spend the vast majority of time throughout the year. And schools have massive infrastructure budgets, as you know, several 100 million, if not in the billions sometimes. And they spend money on innovation labs, Career Technology Centers, and things like that, but most of the time, the access is limited. And equally, a lot of the time, the mentors in those spaces don’t have any real-world product design experience or have much exposure to how they can use AI or teach virtual reality or things like that. Right. So I think empowering schools to provide better stuff. And better content is really, really important.
Matt DeCoursey 07:52
I feel like we got away from that as a country and a culture. And you know, so I employ almost 300 developers, testers, leaders at Full Scale that are, you know, all in the Philippines. And, you know, a lot of the foreign countries that I interact with, they didn’t get away from that, you know, and that’s why they have so many people that that’s why there’s an abundance of tech talent in certain countries and places and they made some moves without I feel like the United States for I don’t know, 1520 years, kind of you looked like, so I’m almost 50 Man, I’m a few heights. So weird to say that. But, you know, when I was a kid, they had vo tech programs, and shop class was a little more prevalent, and I swear, we got away from it. And you know, and they’re the trailing vapors of that is not only a world of tech that is short on people that write code and just do all of it. You’d see a lot of, like, the construction industry is suffering from the same kind of shortage, like, we don’t have welders and just people that do skilled things anymore. And maybe, you know, getting that started again, you know, I have a few before the pandemic, I was at our office in Cebu City in the Philippines, and my wife had just enrolled our daughter and preschool, and she was really excited about the STEM program, and I was bragging about it in the cafeteria, and a bunch of our employees was laughing at me. And I was like, why are you guys laughing? And one of our developers said to me, well, Matt, we’ve been doing that stuff here for the last 20 years. And you know, we felt like it was new. We were like, Yeah, I’m in like this like we had invented something. And I kind of, you know, and then, you know, as I said, I kind of got laughed out the door on that. And, you know, I guess that really does start at the base level, and you look at certain countries, like, for example, ERG y in 2007 passes a constitutional amendment that requires all of their kids and all Have their teachers to receive free laptops and free internet 15 years later, they have an abundance of talent in that regard. So know that, Yeah, and you know, these things aren’t instant fixes, but they’re cultural within a society. And you know, now I have a seven and a half-year-old and a five and a half-year-old. Man, you talk to kids now. What are you going to do? I’m going to be a YouTuber. Yeah, good luck. Good. Frickin luck. So, alright, so now here’s the thing, it’s one thing too, I think that there’s been a lot of useful shit that has been built in life, and then it never makes it to market. It never gets into the right hands. How do we solve that problem?
Nikil Ragav 10:42
Matt DeCoursey 10:46
So let’s just say maybe more serious than building it?
Nikil Ragav 10:49
Yeah, no, I mean, I think that’s very true. And like, sort of the EdTech field, right? Where oftentimes, your product doesn’t need to be all that special. But your biggest competitive advantage is getting into a school because that means that you’ve acquired their budget for several years. And so in our case, specifically, right? What we were doing is like very much comes off as a or it came off, I should say, as a nice to have product until recently, where several states started passing mandates that every single student needs to graduate with a computer science credit. And so now there are like six states with that kind of requirement. And then there are a few that have like a K eight requirement. And they’re more coming on the way because 50 governors just signed a letter saying that every kid should have access to computer science. So what that means is now suddenly, you know, most schools have like 300-400 kids per grade, right? Like in ninth grade, for example. Suddenly, we need, like, three or four computer science teachers in every high school to achieve this. Good luck. They don’t exist.
Matt DeCoursey 12:01
Yep. And so now, if they do, and they’re qualified, they’re working for a tech company getting exactly what the elementary school will teach them.
Nikil Ragav 12:10
Yeah, exactly, exactly. And so I mean, for that matter, three times what a high school would pay to write. And so there is now a, like state mandated demand, there are not very good alternatives. And now there is an opening for me to, I mean, at the end of the day, I’m still cold calling, cold emailing, and meeting these people at conferences, where the topic of the conference has something to do with computer science, or career exploration or stem, or innovation. But if I can get in front of the district leaders, specifically superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum directors, and so on, and say, hey, look, you’ve got this mandate, you’ve got a year to figure out something to implement, instead of spending $300,000 a year per school, on computer science teachers, which by the way, you can’t find to begin with, how about us our solution, which embeds this computer science and innovation and invention across all of your existing courses? For like, a third of that.
Matt DeCoursey 13:16
Yeah. And I think that’s probably the solution to making it scalable. I think that there’s been, I mean, my whole business is based around helping founders and tech companies solve the talent shortage. I mean, that’s the whole that’s my entire business is around that. I mean, that’s, I have a very strong grasp on the why. Yeah, how and the problem is, is what you’re mentioning, so you mentioned six states, having this computer science requirement that someone needs to get a credit I mentioned or agua because I think Herbalife is a great example of systemic change in this regard. By the time you’re 15, you are required to have three years of English language and three years of computer science. Okay, three years by the time you’re 15 not a credit, you know, and that’s and you know, but the thing is, is it took you know, it’s and and you can make these changes and install this are getting moving, but it’s still going to take like a generation and a half. Yeah, yeah. And you know, the problem that’s, that’s a little bit challenging so this is not manufacturing like with you, when it comes to building cars. And you know, you have to ship a car across an ocean on a freighter and carry it around, you can ship code around the world with a push of a button. So I’m not sure we’re ever going to catch up with that, to be honest. Like it’s, we need more people doing it. So the last time I checked, which was recently, there were estimated to be between 303 150,000 open. I say tech jobs, and I mean, like technical tech jobs. Yeah, not sales jobs at a tech company. Right, right, right. That’s a huge dude. There is no major market in the US that doesn’t have a negative unemployment rate for developers. Yeah, like you’re in Kansas City, which, depending on how you want to look at our market, we’re between the 25th. And the 30th. biggest market. That’s a tiny ask Kansas City and there’s eight to 9000 jobs open. Right? Yeah, it’s having a zero-sum because if you fill one, you just open another. So it’s, I mean, this is a real problem to solve as a society and then for entrepreneurs. Now, let’s talk about the interim, though, for what we’re gonna do in the short term, because like, if you’re talking about training eight year olds right now. Not ready for the workforce.
Nikil Ragav 15:48
12 year olds, I suppose. But yes, I mean, your point, I mean, even that’s, they’re still 10 years away.
Matt DeCoursey 15:50
Yeah, absolutely, then they have no experience. So they’re really more like 13 to 15 years away. So how does an inventor or any of that, like how to me? Do you have any? I’d like to hear what your take is on the side of things.
Nikil Ragav 16:08
Okay, so that’s pretty interesting. So I think about that in a couple of ways. One, like, I don’t, I don’t know that people think about visa programs in the following way. But they really should, which is, we are literally stealing the cream of the crop from other countries, and saying, Look, we’ll get you educated, and we’ll get you a really high paying job. And don’t go back to China. Thanks. Bye. Right. We’re literally saying, we’ll just take all the best talent. And you know, like, really, I think that importing, importing talent ideas actually makes a lot of sense, because it strengthens the US. And to some extent, when Trump was President, we did the opposite of that. We will stay. Yeah, nobody even let them stay.
Matt DeCoursey 16:54
We didn’t allow anybody you know, I’m saying let them stay in their home country. Yeah. And then created a hostile environment, it actually made it worse. Because what happened was that because here’s the thing, if you Okay, so if you bring doubt over, you need to create an environment where you can bring mom, the kids like all that. And it was just so difficult. It actually made it worse, and actually widened the talent shortage. And yeah, it’s a challenge man, and even like bringing people in, and then a lot and then some people just, I mean, so at our office in the Philippines, and we’re all across the country there. And the Philippines is a very, very user-friendly environment for Americans, like it’s their official business language. English, it’s like, it’s just very friendly. There are 90% of the country’s Catholics, so you have a lot of compatible holidays and stuff like that. And a lot of folks want to come over, and then they because they’re like, oh, wow, I can make a whole lot of money. And then they realize how expensive it is to live here. And it’s and maybe all that glitters isn’t gold. And then another thing too, is it’s just a long way from home. I mean, that’s literally 13 time zones away. So yeah, now zoom and get hub and just like an A world where you can make a phone call somewhere overseas and not have to pay $9. A minute has helped some of that. But yeah, it’s gonna be interesting. Yeah.
Nikil Ragav 18:27
And I mean, I think to your point about those last two things, right, the second piece there is to increase the leverage of your existing talent. So, for example, a tool like GitHub copilot, or I don’t know, if you’ve looked at any of the large AI language models, like one of them, I guess open source ones in bloom. And obviously, there’s like GPT, three and stuff by open AI. But some of those are really, really interesting. And actually, we’re thinking about using one of those models to actually help teach people how to debug their code, because you can actually put in a block of text and then kind of format a prompt to say, like, Okay, what is the main idea of this text, and then you’d like, put answer as your like, colon, and then let it fill in. And it’ll like, populate from the existing text and try to extract key pieces. It’s like, really powerful. But you could do, you know, things like that, wherein your existing developers can output more. And now suddenly, your person who was doing the work of one person might be able to do the work of 1.5.
Matt DeCoursey 19:32
So, I think one answer is to accept the fact that you don’t have what you need here and be open to hiring people that aren’t necessarily hey, look, if you’re trying to hire developers right now, I’ll just tell you right now, they don’t want to come to your office. That’s not a selling point in the recording process. I’m actually giving a speech on this in a couple of 11 days actually, uh, it’s interesting to amplify Mr. Yeah, like founders and everywhere about recruiting tech talent. And then some of it, you just have to embrace it for what it is. And yeah, that’s the interesting thing. And this seems like a good time to mention that finding experts, and software developers does not have to be difficult, especially when you visit FullScale.io, where you can build a software team quickly and affordably. Use the Full Scale platform to define your technical needs. And then see what developers, testers, and leaders are ready to join your team FullScale.io. To learn more, and I run into some, some did I say inventors of tomorrow? Again? Yeah. My God, I need autopilot. So did I say that in the beginning? At the beginning? Oh, my gosh, we’re empowering the inventors of tomorrow. See, I need autopilot or speed or everything. Yeah, what is talking about inventions? So you know, part of, I want to clarify things, because I think some people might not know what we’re talking about with the autopilot thing. So in GitHub, there are tools and AI developers write code. And with that, sometimes they make errors, they have to look in libraries, they have to do a number of different things and tools are coming out that are essentially, like autocomplete, and kind of help them do things better, faster and cheaper. You know, one of the things that I run into a lot when I talk to folks, is that, okay, first off, I just want to clarify, there are smart people everywhere, you just got to know how to find them and look for him like, I think is in the United States, we often get a little heady when it comes to thinking that no one’s going to do it as well as we do. Which is not true. There are smart people everywhere. I think that that’s the challenge. You know, that’s the problem we solve at Full Scale is we only hire one in 30 candidates, but how do you find the one that you know that you want to find an offer for and, you know, looking for people? I think if you’re an investor, there I got that, right. If you’re an investor, you know, I think that you’re going to Well, I don’t know, I feel like I know a couple inventors. And they’re not usually depending on other people to create the invention, maybe to scale it or expand it or deploy it. But, you know, there’s a lot I don’t know. I think that some of it is, is accepting the fact that, you know, there’s a lot of people out there, I mean, whether they’re in the Philippines or Eastern Europe or Africa, like there are smart people everywhere. So I mean, to that point, and the tools and the opportunity, they figure shit out to that point, right.
Nikil Ragav 22:37
So I actually was at Google for six months, working in the Google hardware team on the pixel four smartphone. And we kind of looked like a tour of one of the factories, I mean, I didn’t actually get to go to China, but, you know, other team members on my team, like, would regularly go. And that kind of super high precision, like the printed circuit board manufacture process that goes into basically every phone, smartwatches and so on, is physically not possible to do anywhere outside of China. Because right now, those are the factories that have the capability to do it at high quality. And so like, to your point, right, smart people everywhere, in some cases, it is only constrained to certain areas to do the things that we all depend on.
Matt DeCoursey 23:32
And those may not be the US there seems to be a pretty aggressive side of policy and investment set on changing that. You see, like we obviously have a shortage. And I mean, if you just skim the Wall Street Journal, even just weekly, there is an article about some company or I mean, I mean, we’ve even restricted our ability, our wall. Well, in Vidya you say that making the grid the GPU is something that a lot of people use for Bitcoin mining and stuff like that. But these processors, we’ve actually restricted the export of some of them to not just power up everyone else to be better than we are. But yeah, that there it is. It is interesting. And why did the chip shortage occur? Because there were like two or three places on the planet? Yeah, that made the chips and they were all in Taiwan, or China, or Japan. That’s either Taiwan or China. I was actually, yeah. I was actually leaving on a flight out of Taipei. And there was a guy sitting next to me reading the Chinese language newspaper. And I looked over at him and I said, I’ve never been to China before. And he looked over at me and said, You still haven’t and then went back to reading so yeah, you should be careful with that. If you’re ever in Taiwan, they don’t want to be part of China. So he didn’t say anything to me for the rest of the flight.
Nikil Ragav 24:53
So I assume that I assume the right opening line, I guess.
Matt DeCoursey 24:57
Yeah, I was just kind of talking to myself and on some level. Once again with me today Nikil Ragav and we are talking about what’s empowering the inventors of tomorrow? We’ll get that right, we’ll get that we’ll get that right on the title. So it’s not not the first time I haven’t been able to read something. Okay, so what are your solutions? Largely, you know, we’ve talked a lot about code and computer science and stuff like that. But you got a $40,000 router behind you. Yeah, I got to believe that all your inventions are not just, you know, and what else are you building?
Nikil Ragav 25:35
Yeah, so let me talk a little bit about the curriculum we’re building. And then let me talk about some of my personal projects as well. So the curriculum that we’re building is to teach kids how to build inventions using the following technologies. So that is, data and AI, web development, internet connected electronics, or IoT, physical product design. So that’s things like 3d printing, laser cutting, I mean, CAD, first of all, to even design the product in the CNC router, and then the last little bit is mixed reality, which includes things like virtual film production, obviously, like video game design, and then motion capture, architectural visualization, and those kinds of things. And some of the projects that we’d like to see eventually with students is where they actually combine some of those pieces. So you can imagine, for example, in theater, where students are designing a prop in CAD software, then using a CNC router to produce the prop. And then in the background, they’ve got like a projector setup, where they’ve designed another bigger piece of the 3d environment in like a video game engine, such as Unreal Engine, they’re projecting that. And then they’ve got some electronics embedded in their prop. So as certain actors hit certain points on stage, different parts of the prop light up, or it moves or something like that, right, like, super hyper interactive stuff. Or another example of like, where we’re trying to go. Or what we’re already doing right is we have a project for students in algebra class, to learn how to build and code their own electronic music instrument, so that they actually see what the heck is the point of learning about sine waves in imaginary numbers. So that’s the type of curriculum we’re building. And then I can talk about some of my personal projects. But I guess you can, like React first or whatever.
Matt DeCoursey 27:39
Well, I have some firsthand experience, it’s so I mentioned working in the music industry, I used to work for rolling. That’s the world’s largest maker of electronic musical instruments, and the inventor of MIDI, the adventure of a lot of stuff. Almost all things digital roles. Start and they don’t always operate under that brand. But yeah, there’s a lot that goes into it. Like even when, if you were playing Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo Entertainment System, they bought those sounds from Roland. Right. But yeah, there’s such interesting innovation that comes with that, you know, the founder of Roland is just a Japanese watchmaker. It is Katara Takahashi and he is in his mid 90s. And still doing it man. But when he talks about some of the things that were created and invented, he invented MIDI so its Musical Instrument Digital Interface is what MIDI stands for. It was really the pioneer of digital sound and then and then just gave it away open sourced it at a time in the world where nobody did that, you know, and he realized what he had created and what it could connect to and and I would imagine that you talk about, well, kids with that’s probably what they’re going to use are similar to that. That’s the basic pillars of that if you’re going to create anything musical, so yeah, exactly. Pretty neat stuff. And you know, this was a I mean, and that was like a long time ago, we’re talking like 880 Yeah, so that’s some of that says pretty cool. And I have a lot of appreciation for people that understand that certain things need to just be given to the world. You know, that’s like I said open source wasn’t a thing in 1980 Whatever when he invented it, but yeah, there’s so much that goes into that stuff too. Like people don’t realize that they think it just a computer makes a sound like we’re all it actually has like this like crazy. Recording Studio that’s completely like you shut the door and you can hear your heart beating. It’s that Yeah,
Nikil Ragav 29:40
I think to them, when I went there, they had a grand piano in there.
Matt DeCoursey 29:43
They had these solenoids that were just playing, playing the keys at 100 Different levels of pressure and it was just like, you don’t even know that you notice the difference until about every like 10 or so I did. It’s a little bit louder there. Yeah, literally recording every single strike and all of that. And I mean, there’s a lot that goes into the things that you hear and you get used to it. We got spoiled with it now, because it’s like, I don’t know, you look at it like a field recorder and 1999 was like the size of a briefcase. And now it’s your phone.
Nikil Ragav 30:22
Right, right. Yeah, yeah. I mean, I mean, just doubling down a little bit on the music and the solenoid machine pressing the keys are second there. I mean, to that point, right? Like, sound is actually like a logarithmic scale for perception. And it’s such a natural way in math class to actually talk about some of these, like functions and like, things that seem super abstract are actually like, very commonplace. And so like, exactly as you’re saying, right? You 10x the pressure, and it seems roughly twice as loud now. And that’s not something that seems obvious at first, but that’s actually how our years work more or less.
Matt DeCoursey 31:03
Yeah, so yes, I want to hear more about your personal quests or whatever your side projects.
Nikil Ragav 31:09
Yeah. So when I moved to Kansas City, I didn’t know anybody. So I was like, Okay, let me think about some of the things I like. I used to play football in middle school, and maybe I can join a flag football team or something. So I found some group on Facebook, and I joined the flag football team. And I mean, as expected, I knew nobody. But I got put in a team where everyone was actually new to that League, which is cool. And so as a result, none of us had any chemistry, right. So like, if you watch like the NFL, and he watched players like Aaron Rodgers, or like Tom Brady, they have that chemistry so tight with the receivers that they’ll throw the ball before the receiver has even turned. And the timing is so perfect that they just know where to expect it. And the defender can’t defend that thing whatsoever. And so to create a chemistry like that, takes lots of practice. And, you know, the rec fly football team doesn’t really practice all that much. So I came up with this sort of Bluetooth watch band kind of thing, just using a simple, cheap microcontroller with a strap and a battery. But basically, I put the wrist strap on like the quarterback’s hand, and then all the receivers hands as well. And then it detects when the quarterback claps to get the ball to start the play. And then you can set a timer to simulate like the rush coming at you. So you have to get rid of the ball before the defense comes to try to stop the quarterback. And so for example, if we set it at one and a half seconds, start the timer on everybody’s watch, and then everybody’s wrist buzzes at that time, so they know to turn around. And as a result of this technology, we’re able to build that kind of chemistry, like five times faster. I didn’t work. I tried it a couple of times in prototype mode, and it was pretty decent. Yeah, it’s a little buggy. So I need to fix that. But it does, does do what it’s supposed to do for the most part.
Matt DeCoursey 33:12
I think my problem with that would be that with my size and age can I really stop my forward momentum and turn around quickly. That’s a real thing that at six four to 60 Maybe I’ll just stay on the offensive line.
Nikil Ragav 33:30
Yeah, so it can be a good blockade.
Matt DeCoursey 33:33
I think it’s really interesting that I think we’re in this. I’ve referred to this on other shows that we’re in this golden age of like creator hood and invention. And you know, I mentioned having this history around the music industry and you know, I mean, here’s the thing and like 1997 Recording an album was a very difficult undertaking to do it well. And now all of a sudden, like everyone’s walking around with a 4k camera and all this crazy stuff, it’s become very accessible. I think the same thing goes for people that invent like you look at like the Raspberry Pi yes as just a super tool is the thing like I have talked to people over the years that are using a hobby grade circuit board to do to create some pretty innovative and crazy stuff and yeah, you know you get into this world of 3d printing and all these all this maker stuff and makerspaces you know, I think that’s a new thing over granted. There were always places that creative people did creative stuff, but like the Maker Studio is like a real thing now and yeah, you know, and you mentioned you know, moving to Kansas City I was picking on Kansas City earlier for our small population, which isn’t really like a jab at KC it’s just the reality but we’ve been pretty fortunate here and and I’ve been in Kansas City most of my whole life. I’ve lived in a lot of other places, but always came back here. And you know, we’ve got a pretty robust community of things going on there. Now, whether you’re here in our town and most people are listening or not, I guarantee you there is something similar somewhere near you, you just have to go look for it and go find it. And it’s, it could be at colleges, schools, you know, a lot of what you’ll see, I think that’s probably, I mean, where else can I if I have an idea, where else are some places where I can infuse that into a reality?
Nikil Ragav 35:36
Yeah, so I actually moved to Kansas City, because I helped design a makerspace for, like underserved urban high school students. But to answer your question, there are libraries as well that actually have good laser cutters, 3d printers, like, I don’t know, at least a couple $100,000 worth of stuff that you could use and nobody uses. Again, I think the big thing is like, needing, like, some guidance on what to do. And obviously you can like go through forums and stuff, but like one of the things that we’re doing, and I mean, right now, it’s targeted at school districts, but then I think we’re probably going to offer this library publicly as well, for like, some super cheap, like, $2 a month subscription is like, we’re building this library of really short tutorial videos that are like, two minutes, or roughly, per video. And it’s like, specifically on certain topics. So for example, if you’re 3D printing, and you need to switch out your filament, because you ran out in the middle of your print, how do you do that without destroying your print and having to start again? Or like, you’re designing something in CAD, but it’s not turning into a proper shape? How do I fix that issue? Or you’re working with a Raspberry Pi? And what the heck is a digital, right? You know, understanding those kinds of things, and then building up to bigger and bigger pieces, and how do I connect to an internet service and like, what is the JSON, and so on, right? So really making them really bite sized, extremely searchable, so that you don’t have to sit through like a 30 minute video or go through the entire list on YouTube and still have no idea of what actually matters and what doesn’t.
Matt DeCoursey 37:25
Regardless of the length of the video or the article or anything, you don’t have an excuse of saying that the info, the guidance, the tutelage, the path, you can’t say it’s not there. Because, I mean, here’s the thing. So you went to pan, am I correct? Yeah. Okay, that’s a good school. I dropped out of five colleges right now. I mean, one of them was a top 10 business school, but I started a business halfway through it. And I was like, Hey, this is what I went to school to do. And I’m doing it. I’m gonna keep doing it. Now, I learned everything on Google and YouTube and you know, that sounds like such a cheap response when someone’s like, well, I want to build something. How do I do it? Google it, like, for real, like, it is a real thing. Like, there’s an endless sea of knowledge, videos, all of it, mentorship, and that’s kind of what I want to go to next is like, if you’re, like, the same way, inventors are entrepreneurs, at least most most every time. You know, there’s a component of you don’t just you might advance or build something to solve an issue you have. But if you’re building like a market ready product, you’re an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs like to help other entrepreneurs and inventors like to help other inventors and, and you know, we’re like each other. And all you gotta do is ask, and, you know, I’ve had so many people say to me, they’re like, Well, dude, how did you get started? I just kept asking people, I really just have made a living, finding people that are doing the things that I want to do, whether the way I do them or not, and I just want to talk to them. And yeah, I’ve just picked up little tidbits. Now with that there is a key ingredient and if you leave this part off, you’re not going to get much help. You need to make it easy for people to help you. Alright, so I just this morning cleared out once again, because I do this about once a week and cleared out my LinkedIn inbox of people wanting to do a coffee meeting. No explanation about who they are, what they say, what they want, what we talk about. They just think it’d be a great idea if I dropped whatever I was doing. drove all the way across town blindly met them for coffee and then went back home. And see here’s the thing I say no every time because I mean well not every time but like 99 points.
Nikil Ragav 39:50
I just give you a sense of the time you know what you’re trying to do.
Matt DeCoursey 39:54
I don’t even reply now. Now, I mentioned making a living on this and doing it myself. Like, if I wanted to reach Nikil, if I wanted information from you, or any of your input, I’m gonna say some, Hey, man, I really am, I’m gonna compliment you on what you’ve done. Right? And I’m gonna say I really, I really, really admire what you’ve built, what you’re doing. And I would love to spend some time with or around you, what can I do to make that easiest for you. And if you tell me, you’re only available at 3am on Wednesday mornings at your house, that is an hour away, then it is what it is, if you want, if you want that interaction, go make it easy for that other person.
Nikil Ragav 40:41
And you will find you get people that will help you now if you’re lying, so you actually ask the question, What can I do to make it easiest for you? Yep. Yep. That sounds right. That sounds like a good question.
Matt DeCoursey 40:49
Yeah, cuz cuz the thing, or some iteration of it something that’s like, you know, like, I’ll come to you, as the main, the main premise. Now, Zoom has made it easier to do that, or calls or whatever. But it’s like, you tell me what you can do to make it easy for you, all of it. And there’s that little fine line in the middle is don’t be like, Hey, I’d love for you to come see my space, not gonna happen. You know, go to that person and offer to do whatever it is like and don’t. And how bad do you want it? But if you make it easy for people to end, this is like, kind of turned into one of my golden rules. Because really, because of these podcasts, I get a fair amount of outreach. And people like just I don’t know, it’s like, and I want to help people, but I always help the people that make it easy for me to help them. Yeah, because I’m busy, I got stuff going on. And so to the people that you want help from so you know, it’s like, whether it’s a call or whatever, you know, just like, hey, whatever’s convenient for you tell me where I need to be or how I can do it. That’s good for you. And be flexible, right? Yeah, for sure.
Nikil Ragav 42:02
I’ve had that actually a lot of advice calls, but the other person driving, right. So, for example, like I was trying to figure out, what are the metrics for kind of, like ad tech sales, like how many cold calls per week? How do you get that to conversions of meetings, people are helping you and they’re, they’re replying and talking to you while they’re driving.
Matt DeCoursey 42:20
Yeah, exactly. Driving to load and no value activities. So they’re, they’re hyper producers, and I’m in that group. And anything you can stack on to those times, like to actually structure my day. So I don’t come to the office as much as I used to. But I definitely do drive time calls. And I just picked up a new Tesla yesterday that drove me to work today. So I’ve got even more, I’ve got even more safety around that call. But that’s the key. And you know, and just being flexible. And I think that if you know, like I said, I’ll sometimes I’ll ask if it’s someone that’s really busy, if we’re going to do a meeting, I’ll even how much time do we have, and you’ll find a lot of people will leave it open-ended because look, there’s a there’s an unspoken thing with entrepreneurs that so many people helped me when I was younger, and they took an interest in me or what I was doing, they didn’t need to do any of that. But they did. And I feel as I’ve gotten older, I feel the need to repay that and pass that, you know, knowledge isn’t meant to be kept. In fact, it’s greedy to keep it so, you know, like, and there’s, you really do look back when you get older if you’ve been successful, and you’re like, wow, you know, there’s so many people and you kind of ask why. And it’s because you remind them of themselves when they were 20 or 25. And I’ve been doing this for a while now to heal. I just actually had hosted someone in our suite at the local venue like we went to wrestling last night of all weird things to go to sometimes as an entrepreneur.
Nikil Ragav 44:08
Seeing someone get thrown through a folding table is actually exactly what you said like WWE can stuff or is this okay?
Matt DeCoursey 44:11
Yeah, but this guy had thanked me for giving him the courage to drop out of college. And he did really well afterward. But you know, that’s a weird thing. I actually have had several people read my book, Million Dollar Bedroom and feel the courage to because I was like I said that on page two. I’m like, Hey, I dropped out of five colleges. That doesn’t mean shit. As an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter, and sometimes it doesn’t. So yeah. All right. So we raised right through this episode. You know, there’s, I like to end my episodes of the show with what I call the founders freestyle. And you know, I say in my episodes I’m not the only host of the show. If those of you listening are not aware, tune into my weekly episode. With my business partner and Startup Hustle co founder Matt Watson. Matt’s done a couple things may hit three companies in the Inc 5000 shear three and it’s going to change his name to Midas perhaps. Also tune in for Lauren Conaway is weakly upset. She’s the founder of InnovateHER and if you want to learn how to sell some stuff, maybe even the invention that you make with InventXYZ then listen to Andrew Morgans talk all about e-commerce and Amazon. So, Nikil, on the way out. I mean, what’s for, you know, when we talk about, you know, empowering inventors of tomorrow? Like, what’s the like, What’s the best advice you can give to the founder inventor? That hasn’t done it yet?
Nikil Ragav 45:40
Okay, so as my CEO, for that matter, like we’re both big fans of it’s basically the same stuff that, like James clearly talks about, but make the habits that you want to form, the default or the laziest habit. So I’ll give you an example. And then, you can extrapolate it to how you would use it in another scenario, right? But the example and where I heard this concept first, and I was like, Oh, shit, this makes so much sense, is from, like, Toby, Luke Kay, the CEO of Shopify. So he talked about how, you know, in their company cafeteria, they’d have liked the entrance and then all the seats and then like the buffet line, and like a receptacle for dirty dishes, they’d had this problem where all these people would eat in the cafe, and they just leave their plates at the desk, or at the cafeteria table, right. And so they started putting posters on the wall, saying, Please return your spent dishes, didn’t really work. They made the text bigger, they made it red, they put a bunch of exclamation marks, but nothing did anything. And then someone had the bright idea to move the dirty dish receptacle from the back to right next to the doors and suddenly made it easy to help. They made it easy to help. Yeah, exactly. Now, they don’t need the posters anymore. People just do it automatically, right. So just like what you’re saying about making it easy for other people to help you make it easy for yourself to make the decisions or do the tasks that you need to do and make that the easier thing to do than doing something else. So like, make it less about willpower and make it more about structuring your systems and your environment in a way that makes it very easy to get started. Or to cold call 60 people a day or whatever, whatever it is.
Matt DeCoursey 47:38
I think my freestyle, first off, I’m gonna thank you for proving my thesis right on the helping. But it’s true human nature is human nature, like making it easier for people to do stuff, and they’ll do it. And, you know, some of that is you can sit around, and kind of wish things are different. Sometimes the smaller changes turn into the biggest results. If I had to give an inventor advice, I would say you need to understand that they’re going to call you crazy before they call you a genius. I think that anytime you want to do something new or different, it’s, you know, people are going to throw stones at it. And you have to learn to distance yourself from those kinds of people. The inventors’ minds need to run wild. And with that, though, I think you got to not try to be great at every single thing. The one I’ve had so many people, I don’t know, maybe it’s just standing out because I’m reflecting a lot. I mentioned the coming of three; I’m 47 years old. And yeah, you know, which, by the way, out of 300 employees at my tech company. I’m the second oldest person, and I’m not even that old man. Like that’s, I mean, I’m, you know, I get it. I’m not young, either. But then I think the thing is that I’ve really got people that want me to be involved in stuff all the time. And I say no because I’m trying to be great. If you want to be, if you want to operate at this high level, you can. Just the capacity that you have as a human isn’t gonna let you do that for 27 different things. You need to pick a few things and get really good out of them. And you’ll find that life will become a lot easier if people ask me a lot, how do I make more money, get good at something, get good at something and quit focusing on money because the money is a byproduct of doing everything else right. You know, and some are even coming close, but they’re real experts, and I think that you know Matt Watson. I joke a lot about how we comment on “shiny things,” and let’s not chase every single one of them. So, you know, I think that most people, especially, you know, the inventor mind, and I’m an inventor of sorts myself, I don’t make physical things the same way you do, but I actually have in the past. I’ve actually built things to accommodate other things we’re doing, and like, yeah, sometimes you just gotta take the initiative and do it. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. I think if you’re building it for yourself and your own internal innovation, who gives a shit what it looks like, you know, it’s like there’s a level of expertise there. And then, the last thing I’m going to suggest is that you know, there are 24 or 25 traits that people associate with “genius.” Genius and talent are often very misunderstood. Talent is being able to hit a target that everyone sees, and geniuses are hitting the target that no one even knew existed. Now with that, these traits are very well documented, they’ve been out for a long time, and they’re things that you can practice every day. And, you know, and they’re, you know, just Google it, traits of genius. And they’re all things that, if you have those traits, you can enhance them, focus on them, and do something. I’ve actually been studying this over the last five years quietly and privately. People keep asking me if I’m writing another book. Who knows? Who knows? I want to continue this conversation down the road because I love inventors. So, let’s go ahead and call it a day on this one and get you involved in, you know what, FullScale.io. There you go, get my final ad read, and I’m not gonna get in trouble at work. Down the road, dude.
Nikil Ragav 51:26