Ep. #1141 - The Road to Autonomous Vehicles
In today’s episode of Startup Hustle, Matt Watson and Anand Nandakumar, CEO and Founder of Halo.Car, talk about the road to autonomous vehicles. Listen to them as they discuss helping the world move away from gasoline to electricity through autonomous vehicles. Matt and Anand also share their experience of being an engineer to becoming a CEO.
Covered In This Episode
The dream of safe autonomous vehicles has existed for a few years. Halo.Car is working to make the dream a reality.
Listen to Matt and Anand talk about solving the logistics of getting autonomous cars to customers. They also discuss how to pilot cars remotely and why redundancy is essential. In addition, the duo provides insights on the challenges of taking on the role of CTO, the struggle of saying no, and some words of wisdom.
So what are you waiting for? Join the conversation in this Startup Hustle episode now.
- Anand’s background and journey (1:17)
- Working on autonomous vehicles at Uber (3:52)
- Solving the logistics of getting a car to a customer (5:20)
- The cost of booking a Halo.Car (6:55)
- Why Uber is not profitable (7:33)
- How to pilot the cars remotely (8:36)
- Where will the remote car drivers be located (10:32)
- Why redundancy is important (12:20)
- Serving as the CEO and CTO (14:59)
- Hiring the right CTO (16:29)
- Biggest challenge as an engineer-turned-CEO (18:18)
- The challenge of people management (23:34)
- The struggle of saying no (24:42)
- Halo.Car’s 12-month goal (26:44)
- How does the future of autonomous cars impact the business model? (28:09)
- Saying no to using the remote piling for other types of vehicles (32:20)
- Focusing on Las Vegas (33:30)
- Words of wisdom (36:41)
We’ve been working on this for the last four years. Majority was R&D, massive R&D engineering. There we unlocked the IP that is required to unlock files, several partners to get it actually done. So to a point where we will be the first in the world to commercialize this. We got the first-ever permit any government entity has ever designed to permanently do this. We drafted it with DMV and Nevada and got it passed here in the state of Nevada. So we will be the first ones to launch this. And just very, very shortly, in the summer, we’ll be launching this fully commercial; a fleet of cars will be fully unmanned, remotely driven on public roads with actual paying customers.– Anand Nandakumar
The great thing about startups, right is you can move very fast, and you don’t have all that kind of those obstacles of the corporate environment like working at Uber or someplace. They’re like, oh, you can’t do this, because of this, because of that, or whatever. And you’re, it’s freeing to just kind of go do all those things. But it’s also super scary because you don’t have those guardrails or people to help you like. You just have to figure this shit out.– Matt Watson
It is extremely difficult to build a bagel like this, for the resources that we ever have, we don’t want to burn too much money. We have to be extremely careful about how we burn money, extremely careful about how we dedicate resources to improving and creating the IP. So not every CTO, quote, unquote, that you want to hire might have the same mindset as, like, come in with limited resources and make a big impact. That’s a really difficult, you know, skill to have and develop. And luckily, me coming from a very lower middle-class background, I can see the value of money value of every dollar that we spend, which has to have a much bigger ROI, right? So that mindset is also very difficult to find in engineering talent.– Anand Nandakumar
People management is extremely difficult. It’s one of the most time-consuming things that is, you know, ever, ever done, right? But then the interesting thing happens, once you unlock this alignment, once you have a very clear alignment of what the yearly goal is for the company, and what is a quarterly goal for the company, and what your KPIs are, and OKRs are, then it becomes extremely clear, that gets pushed down to the entire organization. And then, their respective goals can be set for the individual team from the overall goal that I set for that quarter. That becomes extremely easy. And anytime there’s misalignment, we always go back to this, what’s the goal for the quarter? This is what we’re going to hit. These are the things that are required. So that it becomes extremely easy to align, but also it’s also a deficit, right? It’s like a double-edged sword if we don’t set the goal properly. If it’s too ambitious, everybody is going to chase a ghost. It’s incredibly hard to land a very, very good product if the milestones are not set.Anand Nandakumar
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt Watson 00:00
And we’re back for another episode of the Startup Hustle. This is your host today, Matt Watson, very excited to be joined with a non from his company Halo today. They are doing some really cool stuff with automating transportation in Las Vegas. And it’s a new startup, they’re doing some really super cool stuff. So excited to talk all about that today. Reminder that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is powered by FullScale.io. Hiring software developers is difficult, Full Scale can help you build a software team quickly and affordably and has the platform to help you manage that team. Visit FullScale.io to learn more. Anand, welcome to the show, man.
Anand Nandakumar 00:36
Yeah, thanks for having me, super pumped to be here.
Matt Watson 00:38
So you know, my first question for you is, how did you go from software engineer to CEO of a startup? That’s my favorite journey. I love that journey.
Anand Nandakumar 00:52
I know it’s a wonderful journey. I gotta embrace it every day, every day is you always think about that. And like, I was just a software engineer before. Now this is one of the people are working for us.
Matt Watson 01:04
Yeah, how did so tell us a little bit about your background and that journey? I think it’s a super interesting journey. I did the same thing. I went from software developer to you know, entrepreneur and CEO, and always a cool story.
Anand Nandakumar 01:17
Yeah. I come from India, originally born and raised there, very lower middle class family. I did my bachelor’s Computer Engineering there. I had a knack for computers. The first time I saw the 286. And knew, this is it. This is where my life is gonna go. And I never ended chasing that journey of you know what a computer could do. Right? So that took me into England where I did my masters and machine learning way back in the day, my date myself, your audience here, but 18 years ago, and then that led into another set of hole opening of different carrier. And a lot of software from there. Obviously, we shouldn’t it was not big at all back then nobody knew what to do with it. You know, now my grandma talks about it. So they’re, they’re like, Hey, have you heard of this thing called church equity? Yes. You know, this is all making a huge comeback, right? So I did pretty much everything a software engineering would do. Did that for about 16 years, and I ended up leading a lot of teams and divisions. My primary core of expertise is anywhere with computer vision, machine learning, lots of hardware and video streaming. Those are kind of my pillars of expertise area where I cornered myself and my interest in. Before starting Halo, I ran Ubers perception teams for their self driving cars and trucking program. So very interested in that field, because I personally wanted to make a big climate impact. And as you know, if we think about transportation, majority of emissions are under transport, transportation is coming from private cars. Okay, there’s 41% of all Trump transportation based carbon emissions coming from private cars. What if we can change that to all electric? That was my vision? That was the idea. But then the problem is, we simply can’t make enough electric cars, like the traditional gasoline cars, we just can’t even manufacture. We don’t have enough infrastructure to mine, the lithium that’s required to make the turn 80 million cars that are the US. So then I was like, how, if that’s the case, and how do we transition the world away? Then it dawned on me that it’s just car ownership is a problem. We have to completely rethink the notion of car, as its its current form of how do you get access to a vehicle to make the world move away from it? That idea was where I said, Okay, fine, I need to leave Uber now I need to go find a way to move the word away from gasoline cars to all electric. That’s the journey that brought me to where I’m at at the moment.
Matt Watson 03:52
So when you were at Uber, you were working on some similar computer vision, like autonomous vehicle stuff at Uber as well.
Anand Nandakumar 04:00
Uber is very different than what we’re doing Uber, what we did was full autonomy. That is level four, level five, right, the car will have to do everything by itself. The difficulty with that is it’s a incredibly hard challenge to solve. Yeah. You’re trying to make a car think by itself is basically an AGI for the car. Right? It’s basically general intelligence for the car, you have to unlock to overcome all the random edge cases the car is gonna see like a human. So it was incredibly hard, incredibly, incredibly hard. So then that’s when I decided okay, this is not the mission that I want to solve my life. I don’t want to use my entire life for this. It’s going to take 30 years, but my vision is how do we transition the world away from gasoline to electric? All I want to do is get a car to a customer and EV to a customer. Let them drive it’s fully charged. Let them drive home whatever they want. When they done, they don’t park we spend 20 minutes average to park a car Are today, right? Why not give the time back to the customer. So they drive the car wherever they want, drop it walk away, the car is gone. And while all I wanted to solve was the logistics of getting a car to a customer, and getting the car away from a customer, if I can solve that without somebody inside the car, everybody wants to use the car.
Matt Watson 05:20
Right? And so you’re doing that by remote piloting of cars.
Anand Nandakumar 05:24
That’s exactly right.
Matt Watson 05:25
Which is is super cool. So have you figured out all the you know, the ratios of like, how many people you need to pilot the cars and figured out the whole business model of that and? And how to scale that? Have you figured that out?
Anand Nandakumar 05:41
100%. So we we’ve been working at this for last four years. Oh, wow. Majority was r&d, massive r&d engineering, they were unlocked the IP that is required unlock file several partners to get it actually done. So to a point where we will be the first in the world to commercialize this. Okay, we got the first ever permit, any government entity has ever designed to permanently this, we drafted it with DMV and Nevada and got it passed here in the state of Nevada. Okay, so we will be the first ones to launch this. And just very, very shortly in the summer, we’ll be launching this fully commercial, a fleet of cars, be fully unmanned, remotely driven on public roads with actual paying customers.
Matt Watson 06:25
So I thought I thought I read you guys, we’re already doing this in Las Vegas today.
Anand Nandakumar 06:29
Yeah, we’re doing that manually. That is when he comes to hit on a car and request a car, one of our agents is sitting in the car, okay, driving it to you, I’ll deliver the car to you, once the car is delivered is exactly the same experience to the customer. It doesn’t matter whether somebody’s sitting in there or not. Okay. Where it becomes a difference is for us the cost of operations comes down drastically removed personnel of the car, right. Okay. That’s a big unlock for us.
Matt Watson 06:55
And so did I see online that you charge $12? An hour is that what what do you charge the consumer?
Anand Nandakumar 07:02
Yeah, total dollars an hour or flat rate per day? There are two types of vehicles that we should offer the customer a Kia Niro. And they said we bought. So they can come in anytime they can request it. Just they don’t need to download anything. They just go to hit on our car and boom, they can book a car.
Matt Watson 07:18
Well, $12 an hour is a lot cheaper than just an Uber ride. Yeah, right. I’ve been to Las Vegas a lot of times, and it seems like it’s 15 $20 Minimum just to get around the strip from one hotel to another, right?
Anand Nandakumar 07:33
Absolutely. If you think about Uber, it’s very interesting. The economics that is very difficult to crack. Right? When you think about it, the biggest cost of Uber operations is a driver in the car, they have to pay the driver that he needs 24 hours an hour. Yeah,
Matt Watson 07:46
but But Uber takes most of the revenue, not the driver. So it’s like, I feel like the problem with that model is actually Uber.
Anand Nandakumar 07:53
Yeah, no, absolutely agree. I mean, that’s the 100% Agreed, right. But if you think about why they are not profitable is because they have to take so much money out of revenue. And they have to pump it back into the market to make it a big incentive for the drivers to come back. Because when the drivers realize they don’t make actual good money, they make minimum wage, they all start leaving. So now what Uber has to do is push a lot more promotion, saying, hey, weekly targets, you want to hit these kinds of bonuses, you need to hit these kinds of targets, if you hit you’ll get this, this kind of reward, they have to pump all those money back into marketing and ops to keep the drivers coming back. That’s the biggest difficulty Uber is facing, right. Yeah.
Matt Watson 08:36
So to remotely pilot the cars, do you have to do a lot of modification to them? Or is it just adding a couple of cameras on the front? Or how much customization do you have to do to the car,
Anand Nandakumar 08:46
we do a little bit of work not massive, but definitely quite a bit of work. If you think about it, we have six cameras, we integrate into the car, multiple computers that we do, everything that we engineer in the car is redundant, right? If one fails, there’s always a failover takes over. If that fails, another one that takes over. We have all the networks in the car with us as T Mobile AT and T Verizon everything connects in the vehicle at all times. And that’s how we make like incredible connection to the vehicle. Then Then comes lots of low level circuitry that we’ve engineered into the car to give full vertical access to the steering, throttle, braking, turn signals, lights, horn, every single thing that you would do inside the car, we have done it fully remote.
Matt Watson 09:28
So key and GM already allowed that or did you have to work with him to custom do a bunch of stuff.
Anand Nandakumar 09:34
At the moment, we did not work with any OEMs we engineered it all in house. Okay. We don’t own our IP end to end. Well. So
Matt Watson 09:42
then how did you? I mean, did the cars have some kind of API’s that allow you to do that? So for like, how do you how do you get access to that?
Anand Nandakumar 09:49
We have to go super low level another vehicle and understand how everything operates ourselves.
Matt Watson 09:54
So you had to hack the car?
Anand Nandakumar 09:57
Pretty much yeah, pretty much. Yeah. Uh, yeah, well then then not not only get access to it, but now you have to commercialize it, you have to productionize it, harden it, make it extremely reliable, right? And work in these crazy heat conditions here.
Matt Watson 10:14
Yeah, cuz the last thing you want is a car driving 70 miles now a remote and all of a sudden it just stops.
Anand Nandakumar 10:22
You don’t want that to stop at any time. Yeah, I’m pretty bad. So we don’t drive at 70 miles an hour remotely, we limit ourselves to 24 miles an hour when we remotely drive the car.
Matt Watson 10:32
Okay. Yeah. Interesting. Well, so the so is your vision to have all of the drivers like in the same city? Or? Or is your goal to have drivers that are like offshore somewhere? So their salaries are a lot lower to achieve this? Or what is? How do you think that’s gonna work?
Anand Nandakumar 10:50
Yeah, I think the way we think about the businesses, there’s enough margins to make when you remove the driver out of the car, that can be split and shared quite comfortably. Our vision is to employ remote pilots here in the US inside the country, to allow them to drive that allows us a few things. Number one is, it obviously helps them bring the latency down as close as possible, if you keep the remote pilot as close as possible to the actual deployment definitely helps bring the latency down. Number two is you can build our own infrastructure to make sure security super high safety super, super high. Number three is we have the control on training our pilots to be as safe as possible, and follow our internal guidelines and process and protocol. Right. That helps a lot. And then other the other big one is cities love it. They all love creating jobs. And when we create jobs, we get a right away to come in and help them draft new policies, new safety protocol in place, and get even better at you know something What, like what we’re doing?
Matt Watson 11:53
So is your goal to have all the remote pilots in the same urban area? As the as the cars
Anand Nandakumar 12:00
at the moment? Yes, they’re in the same cities as deployment in the future, that might change a little bit. It might be per quarter into the country, we might have them in that quarter and might change strategies in the future. But for now, we only have one city that will only last Vegas. So all of our pilots are here. Yeah, that’s it, right?
Matt Watson 12:20
We have the same issue for the redundancy of the pilot to write like, they have to have super redundant internet and electricity and all that kind of stuff. 200%.
Anand Nandakumar 12:29
I mean, so if you think about all of our inspiration came from avionics or aviation, right? Or in aerospace, where you don’t have a backup, you don’t have an option to fail. You have to make it work. Yeah. So they go redundancy. So if you think about aircrafts, that has seven different tiers of redundancies, like to make sure always is on the sky, right? Very similar to us, we’ve made sure that when the cars remotely piloted, they always have a connection, whether it’s in the car is redundant, or when they’re inside our building, every possible internet connection is redundant. The stack is redundant power redundant, as multiple source of power that comes into the actual workstations. So all that is made sure to be redundant. So when they’re driving car, they can always drive the car no matter what happens around them.
Matt Watson 13:20
Well, so that that’s interesting, though, because that prevents you from having employees work from home and do this, right. Like, they can’t roll out of bed and like, oh, they need me to go pilot this. I gotta take this drunk dude home from the club in Vegas, right? Like, you they have to be in your office. Right? So you gotta have like a whole call center sort of Office center of people that are sitting around waiting to do this. Yeah. Equipment.
Anand Nandakumar 13:46
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, think about it this way. Right. So it’s a really positive thing. Because a life of an Uber driver, they have to sit in the car all day long heat, whatever weird conditions, and then they have to take crazy passengers all the time. They don’t want to be talking to everybody. They don’t want to just be in the car putting miles on their own car. Yeah, this case, they’re coming for a desk job, right in the five with good parks, they have snacks, lunch, everything’s there. They just do that job. And then they go home and spend time with family. Yeah.
Matt Watson 14:22
So what does it cost to? You mentioned you could rent the car for the whole day. What does it cost to rent for the whole day?
Anand Nandakumar 14:28
Yeah, but $80 Plus insurance and taxes.
Matt Watson 14:31
So it’s gonna be cheaper to sleep in the back of the car than the hotel?
Anand Nandakumar 14:37
Possibly, yeah. It was a mid city.
Matt Watson 14:41
In San Francisco. It’s gonna be way cheaper.
Anand Nandakumar 14:43
Oh, seven is gonna be way cheaper. Yeah, sure. Maybe we should give a tent as well. Comes with the car.
Matt Watson 14:50
Oh, my goodness. It’s funny, but it’s not really funny. Yeah, that’s the world we live in.
Anand Nandakumar 14:57
That’s why we live in.
Matt Watson 14:58
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Anand Nandakumar 15:32
Well, I did not find my hands in the card code at all. And luckily, we’ve got incredible talent that’s way smarter than me to come join the company to build our app for us. So that’s lucky. But I do run the product and overall engineering everyday. That’s my core expertise. That’s my core talent. So I do that every single day, I’ve filled in gaps with other people that I joined the company to take over marketing, operations, and all that kind of stuff. So we brought in experts in the industry, some of our testing operations folks come from this industry for 25 years of testing actual vehicles that were built for OEMs. And tested OEMs. They come in and do all of our operations and testing, instead of me being part of that, right. So that’s the whole point, the experts that we hired came in and took over so I can focus on the product engineering really heavily.
Matt Watson 16:23
So would you say you’re also the CTO?
Anand Nandakumar 16:25
Yes. I’m also the CTO and the CTO at the moment.
Matt Watson 16:29
Yeah. Well, I, that’s where I’ve been recently, you know, I’ve been the CEO, but still the CTO, right? Like, that’s a, that’d be a difficult thing, I think to hire a CTO because I feel like I would potentially micromanage them, right? Because it’s like my expertise. So you’d have to hire somebody that you trust unequivocally more than yourself almost. Like it’s a hard hire. I feel like
Anand Nandakumar 16:52
it’s an extremely hard hire. If you think about it, they not only have to be very, very strong and engineering and and like also tech itself, but they have to be very strong and vision. Yeah. I mean, think about us, we’ve been thinking about this. For years, I’ve been thinking about this for four plus years. So I’ve developed so much intricacy in how I want this product to be built and engineered. Right, a brand new person to come into the company and take over all of engineering and execute, the way that we want execute is extremely difficult. Another another thing reason why I’m kind of reserving that for myself as, as a hardware company, it is extremely difficult to build a bagel like this, for the resources that we ever have, we don’t want to burn too much money, we have to be extremely careful about how we burn money, extremely careful about how we dedicate resources to improving and creating the IP. So not every CTO, quote, unquote, that you want to hire might have the same mindset as, like come in with limited resources and make a big impact. That’s a really difficult, you know, skill to have and develop. And luckily, me coming from a very lower middle class background, I can see the value of money value of every dollar that we spend, that has to have a much bigger ROI, right. So that mindset is also very difficult to find in engineering talent.
Matt Watson 18:18
So as going from an engineering manager to a CEO, what just curious, what are you what has been the biggest struggles for you? I mean, you hired a Chief Operating Officer or somebody to kind of help run all the things that are not your expertise, or what I’m curious, like, what has been that journey for you and the struggle for you that you’ve had to learn?
Anand Nandakumar 18:37
Yeah, I’ve hired one incredible CSO Chief Strategy Officer, she was x VC, ran detect fund in the past, she left that come join us. She’s running a whole bunch of the operations in the marketing side, customer acquisition, customer strategy, how should be approached getting new customers in? Because we’re a direct consumer product? What are the strategies that we need to take there to ramp up our revenue? The other one is also she’s also my ally for fundraising. So we do fundraising together? Because fundraising is a really difficult challenge, specifically, when it comes to hardware companies. Sure, it’s it’s not easy. It’s not a SASS company, right? Specifically in this market, right? It’s extremely difficult. And every day, just being one person is extremely difficult, so many intricacies in terms of running a process. So it’s super helpful to have someone who’s done this before, that comes from the other side of the table to be on our side. So we can actually see through emails when when investors say something in email, that’s not what they actually mean. It’s completely different. So how do you decipher that? How do you understand what they’re looking for? How do you cater to that is a very different skill.
Matt Watson 19:53
So I’m curious, what did it make you nervous at first going from engineering manager to CEO Oh,
Anand Nandakumar 20:01
yeah. 100% The challenge is, yeah,
Matt Watson 20:04
like a lot a lot of imposter syndrome there of like, Can I do this? Am I the right guy for the job? Like, what am I doing? Like, I’ve just, I’m just curious.
Anand Nandakumar 20:13
I mean, luckily, my first job was, I was 23, when I, when I took the first management kind of position where I joined as an engineer, and I ran a team of 50 people. Nice light. So I just got very early exposure to management, right. And I clearly knew that’s where my strength is combining the engineering prowess and people skills is a very important merge for me, right? Yeah. But though that mindset, and now it’s very different. In a bigger organization, you have a lot of resources to support you, as engineering manager, you have a HR team, you have finance team, you have payroll team, you have, you know, all these kinds of teams to help you mitigate problems. But in the young company, you’re everything. Yeah, you’re the HR person. Yeah, you’re the you know, the finance person, you have to look at the burn, you have to look at the bookkeeping, not only that, you have to make sure all the toilets don’t get clogged. Every everything.
Matt Watson 21:16
That’s, that’s what makes it that’s what also makes it fun. Because, you know, working in a corporate environment, for me is sort of hell, because it’s like, everywhere you look, there’s obstacles, like, you can’t do this, because of that, or this is the way we’ve always done it, or this person’s got to help and blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, there’s just all these obstacles everywhere, that slows everything down. And that’s the great thing about early stage startups is like, the only obstacle is you. So you can move as fast as possible. And your car’s back. You’re right there. Ready to go. You know, you’re that’s the great thing about startups, right is you can move very fast, and you don’t have all that kind of those obstacles of the corporate environment like working at Uber or someplace, they’re like, oh, you can’t do this, because of this, because of that, or whatever. And you’re, it’s freeing to just kind of go do all those things. But it’s also super scary, because you don’t have those guardrails or people to help you like, you just have to figure this shit out.
Anand Nandakumar 22:18
Yeah, 100%. So like, for instance, one of the things that we have to do, and this is something that I learned in this venture is, how do you define a goal for a quarter? Right? How do you define a goal that’s not too ambitious, that’s attainable, but at the same time pushing people beyond their comfort zone, right? That is incorrect. Sounds simple. But it’s so difficult to land it properly, where not only the team are able to hit it, but at the same time, they are just pushing them out of the comfort zone to push that extra last mile to make sure it’s getting delivered. So the goal is set that way is and it doesn’t kill the company at the same time. Because if we don’t hit the milestones the right time, we’re going to run out of money. Right? So that’s a biggest difficulty in understanding all these kind of leveraged livers and make sure our our goals are set properly for every quarter. That’s been a very difficult challenge.
Matt Watson 23:20
Well, and it’s hard to cross different departments, right, trying to do that for an engineering team is totally different than a marketing team or sales team or what have you. So it’s yeah, it’s difficult to motivate all these different people in different ways to do
Anand Nandakumar 23:34
Yeah. And people management is extremely difficult. It’s one of the most time consuming thing that is, you know, ever, ever done, right. But then the interesting thing happens, once you unlock this alignment, once you have a very clear alignment of what the yearly goal is for the company, and what is a quarterly goal for the company, and what your KPIs are, and OKRs are, then it becomes extremely clear, that gets pushed down to the entire organization. And then their respective goals can be set for the individual team from the overall goal that I set for that quarter. That becomes extremely easy. And anytime there’s misalignment, we always go back to this, what’s the goal for the quarter, this is this is what we’re going to hit. These are the things is required. So that becomes extremely easy to align. But also it’s also a deficit, right? It’s like a double edged sword if we don’t set the goal properly. If it’s too ambitious, everybody is going to chase a ghost. It’s incredibly hard to land a very, very good product if the milestones are not set. Right.
Matt Watson 24:42
Well, I think one of the other keys to those goals is then when when anybody else has any other idea or project they want to do you ask like does it serve that goal like is this an opportunity is a distraction? Is it help us towards the goal of what we’re trying to achieve? Or do we say no? Right like it it helps you force that saying no as well, a lot easier.
Anand Nandakumar 25:02
Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting. It’s hard to say no, but 95% of the time. Yeah. It’s so, so difficult to say no. And it also is sometimes demotivating for the engineers and the team. And but end of the day, you only have a few bullets to hit the target. And you have to set the target, right. And you have to make sure you conserve your bullets. You have to prepare, plan and be dedicated, and focus. So hard. Focus is the only way a startup can succeed.
Matt Watson 25:38
So my, I just started a new company, it’s called At Capacity. And we do digital marketing, especially programmatic Google ads. And we’re in that same situation of like, who is our target customer, we sell into marketing agencies or big franchises or individual home service companies. And it’s like, the product direction, and everything changes dramatically based on the answer to that, right. And so that’s the hard thing. And the fun thing about a startup is you are trying all these different things and trying to figure out, okay, where do we get the most traction? Which direction do we go, but you can’t do all of them. Because it’s, you know, for us, it’s like, what a big franchise wants versus like an individual plumber wants is different, different things like 60% of it might be the same, but the other 40% is wildly different. And the a lot of startups die, because they don’t say no to one or the other. Right? They try to do all these different things. That’s that’s the struggle is saying no,
Anand Nandakumar 26:32
yeah, struggle is the hard part. Right? That’s a hard part to say no. Do lots of people do make sure the company is always on target. It’s always focused. Yeah.
Matt Watson 26:44
So you mentioned your goals earlier. So you said your guyses goal to go live with us with paying customers you just ate was like July was the summer, the summer? Okay, awesome. Yeah. And I’m gonna figure out how to get to Las Vegas to try this. I want to see it in action. So the so what are your guys’s goals? For like, the next 12 months? Do you have a goal of getting to a fleet of 10 cars? 100 cars or you know, like, what are your goals?
Anand Nandakumar 27:11
Yeah, we’re already at 20 cars right now. Right? So we’ve hit a pretty decent goal this quarter, right? We want to hit like a bigger number, we did that. The overall goal for this year is we want to get to about 75 cars, and fully driverless fully deployed with real paying customers.
Matt Watson 27:28
So if you have 75 cars, how many remote pilots do you need?
Anand Nandakumar 27:34
It depends on how we gain our customers all depending on the number of customers, I would say anywhere from 20 to 35 remote pilots that we will need, depending on how well we scale, how good the revenues, how the utilization of that fleet is all that kind of matters. But in general, about 25 to 3035
Matt Watson 27:53
minutes. So I have to imagine this is extremely capital intensive for you guys, right? Because you have to buy these cars, customize them by all this equipment, like even going from 25 to 75 probably seems like a giant mountain to climb. Right? from a capital perspective.
Anand Nandakumar 28:09
Yep, absolutely. Yes. The interesting thing here is we we’ve made sure that we can retrofit the car very successfully for very low cost that we’ve achieved. We achieved that last year late last year was our biggest, q4 milestone for us, right? Then we started driving the cost of that stock down drastically, this first quarter this year. And then the second quarter this year, the same milestone is going further and further to a point where we have the targets set to what we need to hit to unlock scalability. That will happen late quarter third, right. So what happens then is it’s interesting that the world has come up with beautiful financing mechanisms for cars. We’ve been financing cars for, you know, hundreds of 100 years, maybe around 100 years, right? So we don’t have to worry about financing the cars. We can work with partners, we can work with fleet operators, fleet management companies, and we just tack that fleet and deploy. So we as a company, we can still focus on Tech, we can focus on tech operations. We’re still a tech company, and we don’t become a fleet management company. Yeah, so it becomes a very different story to partner up with them in
Matt Watson 29:26
the future. And so when you guys modify the car when I saw pictures online, it still looks mostly like a totally normal car. It doesn’t look like way most cars which look like some sort of like futuristic thing covered and nothing but equipment like they don’t even want like a car anymore, right? Like your car still looks like a normal car.
Anand Nandakumar 29:41
Yeah, that’s another mission of the company to write to elegance and the graceful nature of a factory vehicle should not be lost. We will retain that as much as possible. The way we integrate our sensors to be very non intrusive, very lean, easy. In fact, we want to retain the right So value the cartoon. Yeah, yeah, that was gonna say that’s a big huge one, right? So if we cut too many cables, we drill holes in the car, we lose resale value. So we don’t do any of that.
Matt Watson 30:10
Nobody’s gonna buy one of those Waymo cars. No, ain’t gonna happen,
Anand Nandakumar 30:16
not gonna happen. They can’t resell, that they have to make the money back. The unfortunate reality of autonomous cars is so expensive to build one autonomous car with all those sensors. So the payback period for them is far beyond the actual lifetime of the car. So how do they expect to become profitable is a big question mark, in my opinion,
Matt Watson 30:38
I’m sure a common question you get though is how does how does it impact your business model? When eventually if they figure out how to do fully autonomous cars, though?
Anand Nandakumar 30:47
Yeah, so let’s think about it for a second, right. Our premise, the whole reasoning, my side of the company is we’re strongly thesis that Donald scars are not going to happen anytime in the next 510 years. That’s that’s it, right? So 10 years is when who I’m thinking and my background, my research says that 10 years is when they can start becoming commercial, which means now they have to focus on adopting as many rides as possible to make a profitable venture out of it, that’s going to take them another 15 years to drive the cost down to a moment where they’re profitable venture, right? So they’re 25 years in my opinion, behind. The way I operate as Halo is our our fleet operators, we get the revenue literally right away we are we have revenue right now we have customers that are paying it right now, we have a clear path to profitability in the next year. Right, which means a payback fares for our cars are already paid back, it’s not going to take us 25 years. Plus, by the time they get to a commercial deployment in 10 years, we have a massive fleet. We’re such a big company that either we can just work with them, or we’re going to be building our own autonomy on in parallel anyway, that’s going to make us even better improve the capabilities of our Ma pilot. Think of it as a exoskeleton for industrial workers. If you add autonomy on top of humans capabilities, improve their efficiency, improve, their throughput improves, they can now drive in areas where they couldn’t drive before. So all these kind of new things unlock
Matt Watson 32:20
you, I’m sure. We talked earlier about saying no and all the different opportunities. But along the way of all this if he also thought about using the remote piling for other types of vehicles, you know, be it on a military base or a forklift or train or boats or all sorts of other things like the guys looked at applying this to other fields as well.
Anand Nandakumar 32:42
We definitely thought about it, but definitely said no. It’s it’s because it’s just a you never know what the can of worms could open when you try a new use case. The crazy part of our military is you have to upfront commit, before you can actually build something, right. That’s the biggest difficulty for the military and DOD is you just have to make a massive upfront investment. And then when we start engineering and all this integration to different vehicle factors. We’ve seen so much unknowns before and we don’t want to even touch that at the moment. This is way too complex. That’s going to deviate us massively from our existing goal. So we’ve thought about it but never really went to it.
Matt Watson 33:30
So do you guys see? Do you guys have any goals for getting outside of Las Vegas?
Anand Nandakumar 33:36
Not just yet this year only Vegas, focus hyper target, hyper focus on just one city one state, get to the deployment that works, scale it, reduce the cost of operations down have a path for profitability, then create a playbook and go to other states.
Matt Watson 33:53
So they see on your website that you support all of Las Vegas or looks like there was a couple areas that you do or don’t support.
Anand Nandakumar 34:01
Yeah, so all of Las Vegas manual. That is when you come into Summerlin and request a car, we will come and deliver a car to you with someone sitting inside the car, they will drive it manually. But we’re launching full driverless first zone it’s all zone based about 1.2 square miles based in downtown region downtown Las Vegas. So we’re launching the first zone of operations that is fully driverless and that will happen sometime this summer.
Matt Watson 34:27
Is that where Fremont experience and the golden nuggets?
Anand Nandakumar 34:30
Yeah, yeah, arts district. Okay, yeah, it’s very nice. You should come check it out.
Matt Watson 34:36
Yeah, I’ve been there before I even did the the know what’s the zip line? Yeah, I even did the zip line one so yeah, I got the full experience. Experience. Yeah, I even got pictures with the fake Spider Man and Mickey Mouse I’m sure so nice. But I saw I thought it’s on the map here. There’s a red area. Is there a certain area you guys don’t do? We’re all
Anand Nandakumar 35:00
not in the airport. That’s it. Oh, the airport. Okay, cool.
Matt Watson 35:04
So you won’t be able to do airport pickups? Not yet. Okay, that requires a whole separate like, licensing. Yeah. Oh, the government is awesome, aren’t they?
Anand Nandakumar 35:19
Sometimes they’re great. Sometimes it’s tough. So we have to face what we have to face. And we took a oath in the company saying that we’re going to do everything right by the book. So that’s why it’s a red zone. Otherwise, the green zone? Yeah.
Matt Watson 35:38
Yeah, I watched the– I think it was on Showtime. It was a story about Uber, I can’t remember was called now. It was super fascinating, you know, all their legal battles with the city. Super pumped. Yeah. That’s a great show. Yeah. Very fascinating. Yeah. If you need to hire software engineers, testers, or leaders Full Scale can help. We have the people in the platform to help you build and manage a team of experts. When you visit full scale.io. All you need to do is answer a few questions on our platform match you up with our team of fully experienced embedded engineers. At Full Scale, we specialize in building long term teams that work only for you learn more when you visit full scale.io. So as we wrap up the show today, I’m curious if you have any, any other words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs out there? And I would say, especially software developers are like, Hey, can I be a CEO of a company? You know, can I make that leap? Can I you know, can I go for engineering manager, I have a product vision, go be a founder, the CEO making that leap? You have any words of wisdom?
Anand Nandakumar 36:41
If you never try, you will never know.
Matt Watson 36:44
There you go.
Anand Nandakumar 36:45
So just go do it. We all you can always get a job.
Matt Watson 36:51
Yeah, I think I think the key to what I would always tell people is whoever has the real company vision for what you’re doing needs to be the CEO, right? The the whoever’s CEO needs to have the company vision. And you can always hire people around them to do the things that are not an expert. Right. And so at my last company, I was in charge of kind of like you I was, I was in charge of the technology and marketing because I have really a knack for marketing too. But yeah, like sales and support. Our chief operating officer ran all of that. And so it was a good mix. Right? So I think the key is just surrounding yourself with the the weaknesses you have and being real about that. And and then over time you learn a lot. I’m sure you’ve changed and learned a lot over the last four years.
Anand Nandakumar 37:35
Being a CEO as well, right? Yes. Oh, my God so much stuff I’ve learned in the last three months. Yeah.
Matt Watson 37:42
Yeah. All right. Well, thank you so much for for being on the show today. Again, this was Anand Nandakumar and his company is Halo. It’s Halo.Car. Check them out. And if you make the Las Vegas definitely check out trying renting one of your cars this summer. So that’s gonna be awesome.
Anand Nandakumar 38:02
That’d be fantastic. Thank you so much for your time, Matt. Nice talking to you.
Matt Watson 38:05
All right. Thank you guys. Thank you.