Episode: 408 |
Amol Sarva:
Serial Entrepreneur:


Amol Sarva

Serial Entrepreneur

Show Notes


Amol Sarva is a backer, advisor, and mentor at 50+ companies; he has co-founded several startups, including Virgin Mobile USA, Peek, Halo Neuroscience, Knotable, Knotel, and he has developed and taught the course “Venturing to Change the World” at Columbia University. In this episode, he talks about content creation and communication with his network of around 5060 people and shares a few of his experiences in business.

Key points include:

  • 05:43: The Knotel startup roller-coaster ride
  • 10:36: Lessons learned building a business valued at $1.5 billion
  • 22:39: How to get started in the entrepreneurial world
  • 27:28: Advice on finding companies to get involved with
  • 29:43: What’s going on in Amol’s lab

Amol can be contacted by email, which can be found on his websites. To access his address visit amolsarva.com or amol.sarva.co.


One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m so excited to be here today with Amal sarva, who is a serial founder most recently of knotel. Amal, welcome to the show. Thank you. Well, we’re thrilled to be on you’ve got an illustrious roster of folks. So it’s, I’m humbled to be included. Among the first place I want to start is a practice that you have that I’ve always thought was the coolest thing. And I’m probably want to emulate. Every year in December, you send out a note to your network asking for something that they learned that near some observation, you compile those, and send it back out to tell me a little bit about that practice when you started it and kind of what you’ve learned by by doing it and give us a little bit more details about about how you actually run this thing?

Amol Sarva 01:00
Sure, yeah. I mean, you’re actually on a select list. Well, I don’t actually send it to everyone in the universe. I don’t know, maybe it’s 5060 people, something like that folks who I feel are in the arena in some way. And yeah, I just asked him a question. If they learned something interesting that year, something really worthwhile in their experience, by email, and some people reply, and I don’t know, I guess around the end of the year, folks are in a reflective mood. And usually, there’s something nice, you know, some kind of wisdom that they reflect back on me. And I guess the deal is that I that I promise a few weeks later, just to send back around everything I thought I wrote. And so I do that. And it’s just a nice way of saying a little bit in touch with folks that you don’t get to see all the time and genius. I mean, this last year was a wonderful example of asset. I mean, just in normal life, the some of the most interesting people, you know, are also the busiest, and they’re out there learning amazing stuff. And so I have found it a nice way to just stay in touch a little bit. And you

Will Bachman 02:07
have a cool way of in addition to sending out, I mean, when you’re running knotel, you would send out periodic communications, but then also from your personal account, you periodically send out notes, I mean, you’ve gone to Davos and and other types of events, you periodically will send out notes to your, you know, network of folks that you know, with just updates of what you’re thinking and what you’ve got going on. Tell me a little bit about about that range of kind of content creation and outreach that you that you do.

Amol Sarva 02:38
Yeah, I mean, that is the the broader thing, my sort of urine note is like a special case, I suppose. But I have for a long time. More or less thought that if I’ve bumped into someone basically ever, it would be a nice thing to stay in touch with them a little bit and share what’s up with me. And you know, at first I was a little nervous about it, because I was like, Alright, you just take everyone who’s in my contact list, because I’ve emailed them in some way. And you know, people just sort of end up in your contact list, a lot of the mail apps just kind of automatically add everyone in there. Not everyone spends time looking at that. It’s an interesting, overlooked feature. When when you when you look at someone’s Gmail, and you go into contacts, there’s this this bundle of things called other contacts, which is that which is the service just saving everyone you ever hit send to. And they keep it in this other little bucket. And a lot of people overlook that it exists. But actually, it’s like a wonderful history of your personal interactions with folks, you might just meet someone, once somewhere, send them an email, say hi, you know, hey, let’s connect at some point. But there is this catch all. And over the years, my list has gotten like really big, because I’ve been trying to try to be diligent over the different companies and things of always just sort of carrying those people with me, it’s like many 10s of 1000s of people. And somewhere along the way, I said all right, you know, let me just send out a, what’s going on kind of email to folks. Try to be really personal, try to be specific, try to share something that’s kind of interesting or valuable. not do it as a weekly thing, but maybe just you know, once every few months, or maybe even less frequently. And I found it early on the reaction was just massively positive. People sometimes to do apps, like these newsletters, you know, like, don’t people complain or whatever. And I’m like, Well, I mean, I have an unsubscribe link. And probably for every 1000 people that receive it, there’s like one message back that’s like, Hey, why are you emailing me? But then there’s also like, 50 that come back that are like, Oh my gosh, how about this? How about that? Or Wow, thank you or whatever. So yeah, I’ve done that over time. And, you know, if you’re sharing something really personal and specific, it’s often about things you care about that you’re working on. Some that are important. And that is, for me, it’s often, you know, my projects and business and ventures and whatever. And so there’s a whiff of salesmanship in it. But I think it’s so important that it not just turned into, like your marketing teams can extend on like, you know, the weekly 20% off coupon or something.

Will Bachman 05:21
Let’s spend a minute on your most recent venture, which maybe ended didn’t the way that we wouldn’t have hoped I was, you know, been a fan of Nortel for years. And it was such a cool company. And tell us give us give us the kind of overview of the roller coaster you’ve been on? And how it how it wrapped up.

Amol Sarva 05:43
Oh, man, what a what a bananas experience. I mean, having been in venture for many years now and started lots of companies, some of them big, and also just being connected to hundreds of other entrepreneurs and investors and stuff. I’ve spoken to a bunch over the last couple months. And so far, zero instances of anything similar to this across the collective experience of 1000s 10s of 1000s of companies that folks have been involved, it just never happens adventure. So what happens? Well, we built a company, we built knotel. Starting about five years ago, it was like middle of 2015. And we were noticing the coworking trend. And we were like, Huh, something interesting there, maybe there’s an opportunity to do something that serves enterprises better. That’s not just like a small business, like when we get a little office kind of thing, but maybe solves the broader issue of how large companies put their people in workplaces. And let’s make it flexible. So it came to be known as flex, overtime, flex office, as a distinct notion from co working, which I think a lot of people can visualize as, like, some fun place with coffee and greases and maybe cubicles or a little post offices or something. So flexible office. And it was meteoric, I mean, it got really big. We went from $0 of revenue to almost 400 million in revenue after four years, which puts us at the end of 2019. And that, that it was a really difficult period. So we work with having its troubles very publicly, which cast a shadow on us as well, however much we might have decided there distinctions. COVID just like an intense, intense, you know, one could use our product. And that was really tough. And then, on top of it all, we were going to make it you know, we were doing, we were doing far better than we expected through that cycle in terms of holding on to revenue and positioning ourselves for what will eventually be the return of people to work in a different way. Probably, we were so close. But then, you know, we were faced with an ultimatum on December 30, from some guys who were pretty close to our company, I mean, via different vehicles. They were already investors, but it was this wall street crew of folks. And what proceeded from there is familiar to me only from reading barbarians at the gate, sure some of these like, takeover kind of things. And it ended up with them, buying the company for far less than its total value would have been just 12 months ago. And just taking it over it was is unpleasant, unpleasant cast of characters and an unpleasant experience because, you know, they were wiping out equity holders, they were blowing up relationships, that whole process was pretty miserable.

Will Bachman 08:49
So it’s obviously a huge bummer. You know, it’s one of these cases where, you know, just if COVID hadn’t happen, you know, another year or two. I know what you’re raising money in terms of valuation when you were raising money. You were like, you’re a unicorn, right or close to it.

Amol Sarva 09:04
Yeah, I mean, it was like, the last finding thing we did just pre COVID it was like a one and a half billion dollar valuation on the business. 400 million in revenue run rate. It’s like, yeah, it was the biggest thing I’d ever built. And even COVID as much of a beating as it would have been. I think as the the the sort of marketplace starts turning from a health and economy perspective. That’s, that’s 2021 Yeah, I think the company would have been in a good spot, but who knows, I guess, nothing is certain in life. And well, the thing that is certain is the past. And so this stuff, once that went down, it was off the table.

Will Bachman 09:41
So obviously huge bummer. But on the you know, if you look for gleams of gold in there, what I mean? So building a business as valued at 1.5 billion, you know, doing 400 million in revenue is bigger than anything you had built before. What are the things that you can take away from that? You know, we’re like just experiences that you just can’t get in school or at a firm that you kind of have to go through learn. What are what are some things that you learn from that whole experience? I mean, there is a very long list of stuff. What’s the top four or five? Like, I mean, except for not for the end, I’m not talking about that. But like, you know, actually raising funds that kind of level, you know, building an international business, that you know, you know, bigger revenue than you had built before with your other ventures, like, what are some of the kind of just learnings that you had?

Amol Sarva 10:36
Oh, for sure. Yeah. I mean, building a big business is a complex undertaking, and having it get that big, is a tightrope walk. There, every story of a successful company, is told after the fact. And it all seems sunny and wonderful. But there’s like 1000 ways, it could have all fallen apart, and you rarely hear those stories, because like, when companies fail, they just fail for all the same reason they run out of money. And it somehow seems like that’s, you know, the default mode of all companies. And then the ones that succeed, managed to avoid all kinds of disaster and crazy interesting ways. And they become these like very unusual, specific case studies, instead of being very, like generalizable sets of learnings. There’s this line that Peter teal used in his zero to one book, where he borrows it from Tolstoy, right? It’s like, the happy family sign. All happy families are happy in the same way. But all unhappy families are miserable in their own unique way. Something like that. And so he like inverts it and says, Well, you know, all great companies? Well, I mean, it’s basically, or maybe he says the reverse that all miserable families or whatever point you think that all great companies have this incredibly unique, distinct story. And I actually don’t think so I think that there are a lot of basic mechanics, as you go from level to level, you know, you’re one person, you’re 10, you’re going from no revenue to a few 100,000, to a few million to a few 10s of millions, could be hundreds of millions, it is a well traveled journey. And there are some some really interesting patterns that are worth learning. And of course, you know, entrepreneurs don’t really get to get to learn it. Because you don’t repeat that process much. I mean, I might be in a fairly small group of people in the world that started a company that was worth a billion plus. And it’s probably a smaller group that’s done it twice, right? Like I started this company, Virgin Mobile. It’s like the first thing I ever did. And I was the junior partner with my co founders. And that became a huge business. And then 10 years later, I had this other one. So I got to see some of those patterns. And then it’s quite interesting. And I guess I have every intention of doing it yet another time or two, as I get back into it. So I guess that’s a little bit of a broad and abstract answer to your question. But we could go more specific if you want, because there are some how tos and then also, things to avoid. Because as you get to the late stages of the video game, and you start fighting the next boss at the next level, there are some things to watch out for.

Will Bachman 13:18
Yeah, what are some of those

Amol Sarva 13:21
low on the watch outs and sort of post hoc lessons. In the early going on companies, people really want to go fast. Because the longer that you’re nothing. The closer you are to the existential crisis, you know, on the first day that you start a company, basically that companies runway is just that day, if you go to sleep at night and decide you don’t want to do it anymore, companies over. And I think the mortality of companies in their, their early stages is just like super vivid. And so entrepreneurs are scared of that. They’re like, Oh, no, like, let’s get out of that. Let’s start building raise money, books and revenue, whatever, like, and then you start worrying about competitors. And I think one of the things to think about is, I think that there’s probably a natural limit to how fast you can reasonably grow. Because of the people dimension, and I haven’t heard people express it this way too often. To me. There is a debate in the world of entrepreneurship around how quickly to scale. Can you go too fast? Or is it always good to go super fast, because it gives you enough freight and kind of volume so that you start becoming invulnerable? That debate does exist, but I don’t I haven’t heard and my opinion is that on the people dimension, there is a natural limit. I don’t think you can keep 5x in your headcount for very long. I think you just you just lose control over the quality and cultural nature of the team. And when I reflect on one of the things that knotel like we found the market So easy to grow like it, it was an insane level of product market fit. And we were just against a huge competitor, the other co working players were out there. And we’re like, well, if we’re 2 million in revenue, we just don’t matter. We got to get to like 100 million 500 million a billion. And we were flying along to get to that. But the people infrastructure, I don’t think it can, it was able to match the rate of market adoption of the product. And I kind of think maybe it never can. Because I haven’t seen it either. That’s a big learning for me.

Will Bachman 15:32
So at what point do you say, did you stop kind of feeling that you knew most people or what what were you doing to try and like intentionally to try to build a certain culture as opposed to just letting it get to get you to kind of get out of your grasp? What was that like going from, you know, a startup where you just knew every person that you had hired, you interviewed? Everyone? They were people that maybe you already knew, too? How does that change over time? Does it get to the point where it’s almost out of your hands and people who you hired, who are you know, people who are hired by someone that you hired, who were hired by someone that you hired? So it’s like, three or four generations away? And you like, you see people around that you’ve never even heard of or met before? What was that like?

Amol Sarva 16:24
Yeah, I mean, that was happening. But you know, it also happens at companies that are large and well established that have been around a long time. But they have regularized their fundamental principles and their culture enough, that if they zOS meets some Program Manager, you know, 50 levels away from him, they’ll they’ll see a lot of the resonance of what has become the Amazon culture, let’s say that, if you’re trying to do it fast, as we were trying to, I think there’s some tools that are not available to you. So like, one of them is some of the some of the folks just were not. And like they weren’t, like true believers in some aspects of the culture, let’s say they had some great qualities, very psyche, amazing talent, and then maybe not an amazing, like teamwork oriented person, a little bit of a lone wolf. And that in the long run, that’s just not gonna, not gonna work. But if they’ve got lots of people reporting to them, and the thing is going to double that, you know, their responsibility is going to double over the next three months or six months, and it’s going to double again, there’s just like, there’s just know, it’s massively disruptive to try to remove that person or change them. Like on a personal level, people don’t change that fast if they ever changed that much. And if you were to change the person into another person that you’ve recruited from somewhere else, like, it’s crazy, you know, you can’t fly the plane and change all the parts at the same time, you know, so like, that was one of the the tension points in how the culture was evolving. And these were wonderful people that like they were going from being essentially hackers and kind of problem solvers to starting to become like, really big, large team, administrators. And that level of personal Change is hard, especially to do it that fast. And it’s also hard to bring someone else from outside. So that was an issue. Another issue is selectivity. When things are going to well, there is a class of folks that are attracted to the company that are there, for its momentum, and not for its fundamental purpose, and the process of solving the difficult problem that we’re interested in. And those folks are very fickle. They’re not there to like transform themselves, and closely aligned to the journey, you know, they’re there, because things are going great. You know, they’ll, whatever, they’ll talk about exits and IPOs and things when there’s still fundamental stuff to do. And so that’s, that’s a really challenging thing, because you start having some of those, and that sort of happened to us once we got past I don’t know, 75 or so people. And by the middle of 2019, we were like 500, sprawling, very global, not everyone is very centralized, which means the different geographic cultures, national cultures start playing a role. And then, I don’t know a related point, but still on this like culture theme, it’s like there are probably moments where you would like to be able to absolutely just stop the bus. Take the boat out of the water or inspect the hall and redesign it, so to speak. But if you’ve been growing 20% a month at this like crazy multi 100% growth rate per year. It’s very challenging, like A lot of the, you know, everybody’s incentives, and there’s bonuses and sales, people’s and all these kinds of things. And if you say, actually, we’re gonna get out of our current business and get into another business, that’s 60% different. But it’s fundamentally important that we make this change right now. That is like, I just, I just don’t know, I just couldn’t find the moment or the conviction to do that. But I think it is a very important thing for founders to think about.

Will Bachman 20:28
most successful founders probably wouldn’t admit to this or say it, but I remember when you were starting knotel, and we’ve been friends for a while. We were you. And you, I think you told me Oh, yeah, I’ve rented. We’ve rented a floor. I think, I don’t know if you started with the floor. A couple floors. Were you surprised at how, like, awesome, the product market fit wasn’t how quickly the company ended up growing?

Amol Sarva 20:56
Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s totally surprised. I mean, I I mean, it’s also kind of my process on companies that I don’t start with an absolute certitude and conviction about a thing. I think like, hmm, all right. You know, there’s an interesting thing going on here. There’s a bunch of mechanics, and I try to kind of make sure that it’s a well informed hunch that a few things might go in the right direction. And then I’ll try a thing and try another thing. And then yeah, then it starts working. But I was gobsmacked by what happened for us with no doubt. I mean, yeah, we had an office in a building, like a couple floors in downtown Manhattan in the Flatiron District. And we went from two floors in the building 10 times more than that, 10 times more than that. 10 times more than that, over the course of just a few years. That was just unbelievable.

Will Bachman 21:54
Now, you’ve done this several times. And you told me that you have some people come to you and say, Well, hey, you know, I’m kind of tired of my current career. I’m interested in doing what you’ve done being an entrepreneur. And but how do I get into it? I don’t know any people in this space? What’s the set of advice that you give to people who are in that situation? Maybe they’re a consultant banker, they, you know, VP somewhere, and they they want to get into the startup world, they want to get out into the entrepreneurial world, but it hasn’t really been their mill you? What, where do you tell a person to start? what’s the what’s the direction that you give?

Amol Sarva 22:39
It’s a timely question. I back in the building mode on the early earliest stages of companies right now. And I’m thinking about it, because although there may be untold countless numbers of folks who are like, Oh, I would love to start a company, you know, how do I like get that job offer? Or how do I find that partner who wants to do it, like, you know, I know zillions of people. And I’ve done this for a long time. And I am at that stage and I’m I’m like, I have like a poverty of options at my fingertips. At this very earliest step, which suggests like a real market dislocation, you know, like, I would imagine, I, I’ll be able to, like, get going in a pretty good way. And that the first few people that that join in, if they have the right kind of mindset and appetite for an early stage company like that, they’re going to they’re going to have a better probability of getting somewhere then then maybe, you know, they just were on the route or something. And so you would think, Oh, well, why I can’t, but I like noodling through. And I’m remembering back to five years ago, and then the previous cycle on the previous cycle. A lot of times the best entrepreneurs are folks who really haven’t had any experience yet. If they can surround themselves with some folks who might have a little bit, you know, and so somebody who’s cold on the other side, they’ve been in banking for a while, or consulting or whatever. They are talented, they’re accomplished, they’re ambitious. And if they’re interested in entrepreneurship, you’re absolutely right, they’re missing a lot of the middle you it’s like, I guess they could dive in and just try to start a company. And it’ll take quite a little bit of effort. They might get fortunate and might be fast, but you’ll probably spend like a year or two, trying to figure out who you need to know and how to do some of the basic things and how do you attract a few of the right people to help with some of the engineering or the product management? Or how do you start evaluating the right customers? Or how do you actually talk about it or think about it and deliver on it and certainly raising money and all those things take a long time. And so normally, my suggestion for folks who want to get involved is they should join in early stage company relatively early stage. When it’s, you know, less than 100 people, maybe more than two or three people and start seeing what some of the mechanics of the early life of the company are like, you know, how are decisions made? Who does what, you start having a network, certainly if your immediate colleagues and you start introducing yourself as Hey, I work at a startup and you start finding out Oh, these are the other people who say hi, and I’d like to get to know you. It is a an important part of the journey. I think that’s probably the best advice for someone who wants to get in there. But there is no job opening that gets posted to the startup website, that’s like, five years consulting generalist, please apply, you know, and I think that’s what frustrates many folks is like, they have these Sterling credentials, incredible accomplishments. And then they’re like hunting around for the company, they read about online about some exciting momentum tech company. And by the time those companies are kind of big and moving, they, they’re starting to specialize in the roles that they’re recruiting for. And for, for a generalist type person, you actually need to be there a little earlier, and probably not with a job post, it’s probably like, you got to get in touch with the founders. And you got to make a very open ended offer. Let me help you out. I’m passionate about this. Let me show you how much work I’m ready to do. Let me show you how clever and well I can contribute. And you’d be surprised how few of those inbound emails founders get, I mean, at no tell you, I would receive solicitation of every source from every quarter of the world and zillions of emails from everyone. But maybe like, I don’t know, five a year, we’re just super high potential folks who wanted to just get involved, does it?

Will Bachman 26:47
So how, so what would your advice be on finding those companies that are maybe at the like the 10 or 15 person size? Should you know? Is it searching for just specific products? or looking on some kind of angel list? place? Or how do you find those companies that are you know, and not one or two people still just working out of their, you know, their garage kind of thing. But they they have a few employees. But they’re still not, you know, on the cover of Fast Company or whatever. So they’re not like in the mainstream press yet, necessarily.

Amol Sarva 27:28
I think it’s, it’s not a terrible idea to just follow the financing news. Lots of companies put out a little bit of news when they raise their pre feed or their seed, their earliest financing. And so you will catch a large number of large proportion of companies that weigh the day after someone announces the financing, the financing has usually been done already, or you know, a fait accompli for many weeks. And the consumer of the press that then goes out and says something to the founder, that’s probably the absolute worst day to do it. But to look a little bit more Historically, the 90 days or the 180 days prior, and to contact folks that might have made that announcement already. And now they’re in to the hard work of of the next phase of what they want to do. Those folks might be more receptive, it might be more open, they probably don’t have a lot of budget, they probably don’t have like an open headcount, where they’re like, Oh, I need to hire some generalists. But I have found that folks like me are very open minded to the person who is so audacious as to say, look, I have some stuff and I think I can be helpful, I’d love to if you’re open to it, if there’s like a thing you’ve been thinking about that you want to talk to my way, I’ll show you what I can do on that, or, you know, researching your company, I was thinking, you know, have you thought about expanding into the UK or whatever. Maybe I can help on that. I’m trying to, I’m trying to learn and I’m not asking anything for you, whatever free consulting project, that founders are very unlikely to waste too much of your time on lengthy free consulting projects, because as soon as it’s valuable, the typical entrepreneur is a rather decisive person. And they’re just like, Okay, this person can really contribute. Let me get him in here. Yeah, and they are rare breed. It’s like it’s a very rare personality who is ready to push in that way?

Will Bachman 29:30
I have. I agree. In terms of seeing that. Tell us a little bit about what you have going on in a malls lab right now. What are you thinking about next, if you’re willing to share?

Amol Sarva 29:43
Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of stuff. I decided to just put up a shingle called popular change and just call it a studio for the time being so I can just organize my thoughts and be public about them. Because I’m doing it a little differently this time than in the past. I’m just being about it. So I’ve even just posted it, it’s like in my email signature, and I’ll send you the link if you want to post it as well. And while I’m not sharing absolutely everything about each of the projects that I’m working on, I am putting up like, okay, here’s the area I’m interested in, here’s how I’m narrowing it down. Here’s some stuff I’ve been learning. And I’ve got like four or five things in the hopper, the one that I’m quite excited about just at this moment, and I guess, the changes from day to day is a healthcare one, I have, I feel that I have discovered something really interesting in the doctor business. There’s a trend toward these huge practices and institutional groups, you know, all these big branded healthcare providers and doctors are all becoming employees of some corporate entity. But there’s lots and lots of doctors, the majority who are independent professionals, they run a practice, maybe it’s one doctor, maybe it’s three. It’s a huge part of the market, but they’re very, they’re really, like, fragmented. And they’re sort of they’ve got a lot of technology deficits. And I’m feeling like, there’s something to do there. I don’t want to sell them more stuff, because there’s just an infinite array of folks that are trying to sell software to these guys. But I’m thinking there’s something that is an enablement, kind of like a platform that brings them together maybe creates a virtual practice group. Because folks have done that. I mean, in the history of business folks have done it a lot. You know, it’s a reverse franchising kind of notion. But in these last few years, I see a lot of folks working in other low comp, local commerce areas, like there’s that hotel thing called ojo. And there’s this pizza app in the US called slice, where they federate together all the pizza shops, and provide them with a better kind of digital experience and payments and some other services. But they remain independent. So I’m thinking about something in that in that doctor space. And I’ve started doing some of the state work. I’ve got my first practice that I’m hooked up with, and I’m starting to see some of the mechanics on it.

Will Bachman 32:03
Want to ask you sort of for the the one minute overview of a few different things that you’ve done to give people a sense of what else you’ve been involved in? You built a building in Long Island City? Tell us about that?

Amol Sarva 32:18
Oh, yeah, yeah, there was that? Yeah, I built an apartment building. It was a pain in the neck, but I did it. I live in it. I love it. I learned a lot of stuff from that, which, you know, carried me into some of the next few things I did. I mean, I wouldn’t have started knotel, which is basically running office building. If I hadn’t gone through all the nitty gritty of literally just building a ground up development in New York City. And it’s what,

Will Bachman 32:46
that was a what, seven or eight story, what $10 million? Something plus or minus kind of kind of building?

Amol Sarva 32:53
Yeah, yeah, it’s like, I guess it’s nine storeys, 13 apartments, and the total project was around. Yeah, maybe 10 million. You know, there’s a bunch of bank debt involved in that. So it wasn’t like it wasn’t just all equity. But yeah. And then you know, the building is worth something, you make something. And then the retail price of desire. It’s worth doublers.

Will Bachman 33:14
You built a telecom company?

Amol Sarva 33:18
Well, Virgin Mobile years ago. Yeah, we started in a mobile phone business. And they got big, it was a prepaid service. So you could pay as you go, that was a novel idea at the time and us. And yeah, went public in 2007, which was kind of great. And virgin was one of our backers, we got to use their brands.

Will Bachman 33:40
Yep. What about tell us about Halo?

Amol Sarva 33:45
Yeah, Halo. You know, when I was a grad student, I did a PhD. And my area was cognitive science. And I ran across this, this really weird experimental result, back then, I think in like 2000, or 2001. And about 10 or 15 years later, when I was in this sort of laboratory mode. I remember that and I wanted to create a company around this insight and to see how the research had developed and Halo neuroscience is a product for boosting human performance. So we kind of package this neuro stimulation technology into something that just looks like some headset like music headset, you put it on and it sends waves into your your cortex. And it actually makes athletes and military and stuff just run faster, jump higher, shoot better. It’s an incredible boost and also for therapy and, and post injury kind of recovery. I think it’s the first company that credibly was talking about brain computer interfaces, five, six years ago, it got acquired this year by another neuroscience company. But if you’re like looking in the world of neuroscience, you see like musk. Elon Musk has some company and there’s a couple other entrepreneurs that are trying to build the next level on that. But uh, yeah, Halo. It’s a beautiful gadget.

Will Bachman 35:09
And you built a, I guess, a software company for kind of a very simple mobile phone kind of device.

Amol Sarva 35:18
Oh, yeah, well peak was my smartphone effort, we built an ultra low cost smartphone, back when there was only, you know, BlackBerry, and turned out to be a pretty decent idea. We sold a lot of them. And then in 2012, the software that made a cheap handset do cool stuff, that software was the heart of our technology, and SoftBank acquired that and put it out on hundreds of millions more phones.

Will Bachman 35:46
So I’m all for folks that want to follow up with you find out about your most recent venture, but you said you’re posting it online. Do you want to give some links? And we’ll include these in the show notes as well?

Amol Sarva 36:00
Oh, sure. Yeah, I mean, people are welcome to just write me an email and you’ll find it on my website. I think if you just typed in my name, you’ll find my websites. But yeah, mozzarella, calm. And the thing is called popular change. So you’re gonna have to navigate your way to my popular change websites. But that’s where I’m following along with people. What I’m working on, and it’s pretty cool. I love to hear from folks, whatever their interest is, whether they’re building a company already, or they’re just trying to get started. It has been a really regenerative thing this last month or two, because I no longer have a million internal meetings all day long with like, hundreds of people and lawyers and bankers and all kinds of war. Now I’m just inventing new stuff. And so it’s a thrill talking to folks it’s been, this is what I love about my work.

Will Bachman 36:48
Amal is great to catch up with you. We’ll include those links in the show notes. And thank you so much for joining today. Thank you Well

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