The Future of Innovation – 2019 AT&T Business Summit

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, everyone. So I’m Kevin Delaney. Thank you, Kate, for
that introduction. The people I have
with me here today embody each in their own way
the future of innovation. Now you might say the
woman sitting next to me has always been
driven to succeed. She’s a lifelong car enthusiast. She turned around
eBay’s consumer to consumer business,
vehicle for vehicle sales, revving up double-digit
growth before taking off to found her own
connected car company. And welcome founder and CEO
of CarForce, Jessika Lora. Thanks for coming, Jessika. [APPLAUSE] Next to her we have Danny. From the moment his dad brought
him his first Windows XT DOS operated computer, he’s
been hooked on all things tech. He worked in
lifesaving robotics, and then he and a colleague
set out to create a new market. The result is Temi,
which is a trailblazer in personal robotics and indoor
navigational technologies. Welcome, Danny. CEO of Temi, USA– Danny Isserles. [APPLAUSE] And our final panelist
is a published author, an accomplished musician,
an anti-bullying activist, a medical researcher, and
a seasoned TEDx presenter. She’s also 13 years old. So welcome to our
patent pending inventor and one of Forbes’ 30
Under 30 for science and innovation, Gitanjali Rao. Welcome. [APPLAUSE] So we’re going to
start with you. I think a lot of us
would love to understand, where does your drive come
to research and invent? Where is that? Yeah. So I’ve always been interested
in the idea of helping people ever since I was in
first or second grade. It’s just been something
that I’ve always done, is I’ve always known the best
thing to do is to help someone. And it was just a
feeling that– it makes you feel good
inside when you do that. And then in fourth
grade once I started to get more into science and
discover my passion for STEM, I started to look at things in
more of a scientific approach. So for the longest
time, I just called it using science for
kindness, or using science to help others, which is
exactly what innovation is if you really think about it. So I think it was just the
correlation between the idea of helping others and the
idea of using the latest developments in tech and the
latest developments in science in order to solve big problems. So using science for
kindness– that’s great. Yeah. What do you do when you
encounter a hard problem like lead in water
or opioid addiction? How do you tackle that? Yeah. So the first thing I do
when I encounter a problem is I dream way too big. So one of my first
devices that I created– which is a device that
helps detect lead in water– initially, I wanted to
completely remove lead out of water around the world. I don’t know how I was
planning to do that, but it was like solving global
warming with one solution. So it was pretty
much impossible. But then I really had
to take a step back. I was like,
Gitanjali, slow down. There’s more stuff
to do before that. So one of the biggest
problems that I saw was the idea of diagnosis
or detection of lead in water, because
a lot of people didn’t know that there
was lead in their water. And that seemed to be
the bigger problem. So I had to take a step back,
and I had to focus on that. So the biggest thing
that I do, as soon as I see a tough problem,
is I dream way too outside the box, which lets me
back myself down a little bit. So you started at solving global
warming and then back down to a kind of incredibly
hard problem– Yeah. [LAUGHTER] –which is lead in water. Yeah, I like to
challenge myself. [LAUGHTER] That’s great. It’s inspiring. Jessika, I want to turn to you. Can you talk to
us about CarForce? What’s the origin? You were working– you’re
in Deloitte and eBay, and then you started
your own company. What’s the story? Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve always been a
data-driven decision maker. I think my entire
background speaks to that– former data science–
and then went on to NASA to do bioinformatics,
went on to Deloitte in the middle of the recession. I think many of you
can probably relate to that being a time
of incredible growth, contrary to maybe how the
history books may put it. All of us, I think,
during that time were doing a lot of
stepping up, leveling up, because we were all short
staffed during that time. So Deloitte was a very
data-intense period, and I was leading the
information management– There’s that expression– –projects. –never waste a crisis. Churchill. Yeah. Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s one of my favorite
mottos, actually. That was not planned. That was good. So we went from there to– once the recession
ended– to eBay Motors. And I would say the
common theme across all of these experiences
was the usage of data, or the ability to create a
big data lake for consumption by businesses. And data is only that
if it’s not consumed. It’s not any more
than a raw component. But I think the important
thing is to do something, to glean some metric,
glean something from it and create insights. And I think that’s incredibly
invaluable for a company. So CarForce, in a way, has been
created from the last 20 years or so of my work experiences. And I would say the reason
that it’s very focused on the automotive side is I’m
an auto enthusiast born into automotive, I think as
a lot of folks may know– oldest of three daughters
born to a car collector. So the apple does not fall
too far from the tree. Are all three car enthusiasts? Oh, yeah. OK. Yeah. In fact, my sister is actually–
she runs operations for us. She’s here in the
audience as well. OK. Hello, sister– [LAUGHTER] –wherever you are. That’s excellent. Danny, I want to– so tell me as a personal
robotics company, can you talk about what the
state of personal robotics is and how Temi fits into that? Yes. So we set out to
do something which we think is almost
impossible, and that’s where we find our challenges. So we constantly
say in the company that the personal
robotics market is a non-existent market. Everybody has been trying,
from the very big companies to the smallest
ones, to build this– first of all, to
define the need, why would we need
a personal robot? How would it collaborate
with a human? It’s kind of an oxymoron, too,
the personal robot [INAUDIBLE].. Yeah. Yeah, and I think
from the beginning, our main mission
using the robot was to reconnect humans using the
robot, because the robot is displayed out there in
the innovation showcase. And you can see, it’s
first and foremost a telecommunication
device trying to tackle one of our biggest
ways of communication this day which is this. So how am I communicating
with someone like this when sometimes
they’re sitting in front of me? But to go back to
your question, so– And people see it
out in the hall. It kind of looks like a
tablet computer mounted on a moving base, right? That’s the– Exactly. The invention there is
the navigation system enabling the robot to actually
see humans, detect them, work with them in various ways. The navigation is Linux
based, but then the UI is Android based. So it’s very, very
easy to shift the use of the robot for
any space or sector, whether it’s health
care, whether it’s retail, or hospitality,
and in homes. And I think we are succeeding. Our vision from
the beginning was to define clearly use
cases and understand why it’s more than a
gimmick, a fun thing to have, and actually make it
as useful and as needed as our personal phone. And so the Temi is out in the
world, you can go on your site. You have a Black
Friday sale, I saw, coming up for anyone
who can probably wait till Black Friday
to buy it maybe. Are there any uses
out in the real world that have surprised you as
particularly clever, or– because you’re saying
personal robotics is a market that doesn’t
exist, and I imagine people bring their own uses to it. So the uses that surprise
us are usually, I’d say, small stories where we’re
mostly surprised by, we, ourselves, are building
the machine and discovering it and what it can do while
we are building it. Yeah. So just a few months ago, we
started ramping up our activity in developing the use cases. And we start with one idea. And I think it happens
almost in any innovation, that you start at one point,
and through the process, there are so many shifts,
so many surprises. And we’re happy to discover that
this device can do much more than what we thought
it could do and create our experiences which we
couldn’t have imagined from the get-go. So one thing I want to
turn now and bring you all into discussion about– innovation, and what
we all can learn from how you’ve approached it. And Jessika, maybe
I’ll start with you. You worked in a big company– eBay and Deloitte before,
and NASA, and so forth. What do you know about
innovation now at CarForce that you didn’t know before? Oh, that’s a fantastic question. A lot is the short answer. I think innovation comes from– when you’re at a large company,
I think one of the things that I remember thinking when I
was at a few large companies– and as a consultant for
Fortune 500 companies– you get to see a lot
of leadership teams that are maybe stuck
on something that you get to come in and help out. That’s the whole point
of strategy consulting. So I think what I saw was
you really should never be in a position where
you isolate innovation to be its own division,
its own team, and its– and by the way, I
say that, and I’m about to sort of
contradict myself. OK. But I think the
problem with that– Consultants, former
consultants, are often good at containing two
ideas in their head, right. I know, just
simultaneously, yeah. You should cut costs
while we’re billing you millions of dollars. Precisely, you get it. Yeah, OK. That’s it right there. That’s this foundational
premise, yeah. Yeah, precisely. No, so I think one of the things
that frustrated me sometimes working within
large companies is you’ve got this innovation
department that’s working in a silo. And meanwhile, you
may have employees that have been in
their position for– I think at eBay,
we had people that had been there for 15 years
and the company was 17. So that, to me, was– that’s kind of a legacy. We’re talking about
big data, that is a library of
information that’s stored in someone’s mind. I think it’s to the detriment
of a company to ignore that and to not tap into that
human capital and the amount of information that’s living
within each of those employees. So I would say to
the extent that you can interview your
own employees, figure out what the
challenges they are facing, what the opportunities,
and ask the question, if you had an endless budget,
what problems would you solve, and what do you think that
this would do for the company– I think the staff that’s already
there has a really good idea of what that is. Oftentimes, they just don’t
have the tools or the resources to go out and
pursue those ideas. Just to focus on
one– the thing you said, just for a
minute– you said you shouldn’t have an innovation
team that’s separate, right? I did. OK. And then I said I am about
to contradict myself. So I do think you should
have some tiger team, or I guess it could still be
called an innovation team. But I guess the problem isn’t– having a dedicated innovation
team is a good thing. Having a dedicated
innovation team that works in a silo
away from everybody– that’s the bad thing. OK. Great. So I do want to be very
specific about that. And before I move on– I’m going to go to Danny next– but your background is in data. Yes. I think a lot of
corporate America, corporate global
companies, hope that data is the key to the insights that
are going to allow them to have a real business breakthrough. As someone who has wrestled with
that, do you have any advice? I think you’re on
the right track. I think that is
the right notion, is I think we’re at a
place today in society where we have more data
collected than we’ve ever had before. And I think it’s just
the tip of the iceberg. I think if you project
that trend forward, we’re going to have– I think the good thing
is we’re moving in terms of storage capabilities. I saw Nadella sitting up
here on the stage talking about the future
of cloud computing. And I think we’ve got
the right component. And you talked about,
again, building teams, digital solutions
with components. And you do have to
think of it that way. You have to think of
data as a component to your future strategies. But again, data in a silo– and I think that’s really the
theme that I’m going to try to drive here– is anything in
a silo is to the detriment– OK. –to the company. So all these things
need to be integrated. Danny, I want to turn to you. You have a startup company. There’s some pretty
big companies that have been
involved in robotics and other ones– the traditional
industrial robotics players, and then companies like Google
and others have come in. How are you competitive in that,
given that sort of competition? And how do you maybe
tie innovation into that and how that plays a role? First of all, in
our journey, we’ve met with all the big
players, the biggest ones. And I was very happy to
discover that eventually even Sergey Brin is a human being. And he started with an idea,
and he has his problems. And so that– Sergey Brin of Google
is a human being? Yes. OK. I can– [LAUGHTER] Anyone want to debate that? [INAUDIBLE] yeah. I met him in person. OK. I– Me too, right. I saw it. So for me, it was
very, first of all, comforting to understand
that these people that we’ve been looking up to– and I’ve
been looking up to these tech giants since my childhood. They’re eventually people
with ideas, with problems. And there is no reason
to think that I can’t do what another person can do. I’m not saying I’m– I’m not nearly as smart or
whatever, but I can try. So I think this is the base
to try and play in this field where huge, huge
players are playing. That’s the first thing. And the second thing– I very much believe that– I tell this to my
employees sometimes that– I’m using Google
again as an example. If Google wants to
open a startup pop-up store in New York investing
$6 million in two weekends, they can. We can’t, but what we
have is creativity. I think the lack of,
sometimes, funds or staff just drives you to be more
creative with your idea to find faster ways, newer
ways, unexplored paths. And I use our size as
a tool to run faster and to explore directions
that haven’t been explored rather than try and
walk the safe path. And so that sort of
grit and scrappiness are your competitive advantage,
in a way– your scrappiness. And do you– my guess is that
you need to recruit talent who– do you have a test
for people who you’re hiring to see whether
they can be scrappy enough to run alongside you? By now, I’ve learned to
recognize them by conversation. Yeah. I look for– a lot of the
questions I ask in an interview are creative situations. This is the budget you have,
this is what we’d want to do. What would you do? Yeah. And you can very, very easily
see people who want to do– who want to play it safe by
what they studied in college, and others who come
with their own ideas, with their own intentions,
and want to invent everything from the start. So although sometimes
as an employee, it’s someone who will need
more direction or more taming, it brings more to my team. So you want people
like Gitanjali whose– Exactly, yeah. –going to come in
with a massive vision. [LAUGHTER] What do you– I want to pull you in. What can business people learn
from youth about innovation, do you think? What’s your– OK, there’s a couple. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, let’s– So– –I’m taking notes here. –I think the
biggest thing that I think schools are also
really emphasizing right now is hands-on learning. And I literally asked my dad– I was like, dad, what
do you do at work? And he’s like, I sit
at a desk and do work. [LAUGHTER] And I was like, and? And he’s like,
that’s literally it. I tell people what to do. And I was like, then– He probably has a
lot of emails and– Yeah. Right, yeah. I read emails, yeah. Yeah. But I feel like if there
was more hands-on ideas, tools, technology, involved
in offices, in whatever jobs people are taking up,
then not only would it spur more innovation, but
it would also influence more people to come up with ideas. So I think that’s one
of the biggest things. And then the second– Do you know what that– is there
anything specific in education that you think people
could– could be adopted in the workplace,
like any specific– Yeah. –experience that you’ve
had that your dad would benefit from? What’s your prescription
for your dad? [LAUGHTER] Prescription for my dad– OK. Having a more– yeah. OK. So there’s one science
class that I’ve been to, well, this year– yeah, high school. But in this science
class, we don’t just take notes from a board. It’s like, they flash
up a slide show, and then you don’t
usually take notes. What happens out of
that is your teacher gives you this random situation. You’re like, how do
we use macromolecules in order to solve this problem? So I think more than just
identifying the concepts, it’s the idea of applying the
concepts to the real world that really affects it. So we have an economics
class in our school, and it teaches you what money
is and what a credit card is. And that’s probably about it
for real world experience. So I think it’s the idea of
applying just basic knowledge into the real world and talking
about how it affects humanity and how it affects people. Yeah, OK. I’ve noted it down. We’ll talk to your dad after. [LAUGHTER] How do you think– one
thing that you said earlier I think was really important,
this idea that you think big. Mm-hmm. And so you have people,
like a lot of us, who are sitting in
front of our computers sending emails all day. It’s hard to think big
given that reality, often– Yeah. –to tell the truth. Sometimes you go and
get a cup of coffee and hope that you’re going
to expand your mindset. But how do you think companies,
on that specific question– how can we all think bigger
about tough problems? So I’m not allowed
to drink coffee, so that doesn’t work for me. OK, coffee. It’s probably better
to stay away from it. Hot chocolate. Hot chocolate. Yeah. OK. But– So more hot chocolate
in the workplace? More hot chocolate. [LAUGHTER] Is that the– I think it’s very
spur of the moment. That’s how my ideas come up. Being exposed to just problems
that you see on the news, that’s how my ideas come up. I’ll be swimming, and I’ll be
like, this is life changing. I’m going home and
working on this. Yeah. So– Then there’s that idea
that we go for a walk and you get your best ideas. That’s exactly– yeah. It’s just being able
to observe everything. I carry a notebook
around me always, always writing down ideas. It’s really pretty, it says
“full of ideas” on the front. But– What does it say? Full of ideas. Full of ideas. Yeah, and so– it’s
really cringey. But I’ll be walking around
and writing notes in it just based on what I see. And eventually, it turns out
to be some of my biggest ideas and some my best ones, and some
of the ones that have received a lot of recognition, and
something that’s fully fleshed out and ready to go to market. Yeah. So I suggest more
coffee, I guess. It’s just– Or hot chocolate– –being able to
continue to observe– That works. More hot chocolate, yeah. That’s great. So I want to– and I like the idea of this
notebook full of ideas. Or those of us who are
attached to our phones could have files full of
ideas that we have on there. I want to talk a little bit
about all of your visions for your– what’s next for your area. Jessika, maybe we’ll
come back to you. Sure. Technology, cars– where
is this all headed? Such exciting places. I listened to a talk last year
by the chairman of Porsche, and he did– he had a
picture of a street, and it had tons of horses. And then the second picture,
as you guys can imagine, had no horses. And he said we’re
in a place in time right now where over
the next five years– automotive will see more change
than it has in the last 50 years in the next five. And I think that that’s spot on. For CarForce, this is
extremely exciting. CarForce– I think we jumped
in without explaining, what does CarForce do? So CarForce, simply
stated, is on a mission to collect, organize, and
analyze the world’s vehicle service data. So in a sense,
it’s a very large– I think everyone up
here, we’re punching above our weight in a way. But we have to, because
I think there’s just so much opportunity. But in another way,
it’s extremely focused. We only look at
vehicle service data, and I think that that’s
really our mission. So from a– where we– That’s the data that
comes out of our cars and that the technicians
might actually enter? Fantastic question–
it can be that. It can be the real time
data, the deep sensor data that’s embedded within the car. And that’s getting– to give you
a sense of that, in the ’70s, the average car had thousands
of lines of software the moment that it was produced. Today, the average vehicle will
have over 200 million lines of code. So these are machines
that are very complex. Kind of frightening. Yes. It’s kind of exciting, though. 200 million lines. Yes. [LAUGHTER] Yeah, it’s hard to comprehend. And I think that
that’s just, again, as we move toward autonomy,
that’s the tip of the iceberg. We’re heading into a space
with more data all the time. And from our perspective,
our big overarching mission is to be able to have a place,
a destination, for that data as it comes off of connected
cars, autonomous cars, electric cars, to go live in. And to your point, it’s not
just the connected data. it’s also the historical
data, the repair data, when you think about where you
guys go and take your vehicles, or where someone takes their
vehicles when you’re in them. They get them
repaired somewhere. And there’s a lot
of– back to silos. There’s a lot of data
that gets siloed. Is there a specific business
or innovation opportunity that you’re excited about
that you have not tackled yet? Ooh. Oh, wait, well, that’s
kind of the beauty of– I think that’s what you
were talking about– when you’re a small
company, you get to go after what you care about. I’m going to have to come
back to you on that one. OK, that’s fine. Danny, your vision for the
future of personal robotics– what is keeping you up at
night as you think about that? Usually what keeps
me up at night is Rick and Morty–
new episodes. [LAUGHTER] Rick and Morty episodes, OK. Or your dog waking
you up, right? [LAUGHTER] Yeah. But when I’m done
with that, it’s keeping up with the pace
constantly of the involvement of technology. We invent something one day. Two days after, there’s a new
version, a new update, a new– and we’re not compatible. And we constantly
have to be ahead of the market,
especially when we’re trying to invent the
market or create a market. In general, I am very much
aiming for personal robotics to become as normalized as our– the beginning of our
personal robotics at homes, the voice
assistance, for example. So that’s where we’re aiming as
a robotics company, and yeah. There’s a lot of– yesterday, Michelle Obama
said there’s swervers and box checkers. So I’m very much of a swerver. So at night, I constantly
make sure that my team checked all the boxes for me. Yeah. [LAUGHTER] Your team checked all
the boxes for you? Yeah. OK. [LAUGHTER] He’s a hybrid. Excellent. And you don’t have a
notebook that has– that full of ideas or– Pardon? You don’t have a
notebook that is full– Oh, I have a
notebook, by the way. It’s notes on my phone. That’s constantly. [LAUGHTER] OK, good. Gitanjali, what
is ahead for you? What’s the– and do you–
one of the questions is you’ve done lots of different
things– publish books, done research. Do you imagine starting
your own business someday? Yeah, so that
question before– it was like, what’s
the end for you– so that took me back to
Mrs. Obama’s talk yesterday. And she’s like, there’s no end. You’re always becoming. Yeah. And so that’s exactly what– I never stop. I keep going with
something or the other. The other day, I was like,
I need more stuff to do. So I started a new project. But– [LAUGHTER] What’s the new project? Can you share? It was about a week ago. I’ve been working
on an app that helps detect and prevent
cyberbullying, especially in schools. OK. So a week ago, I was like,
I need to work on that. And yeah, it’s on the
Google Play store– not fully furnished,
but in beta version. And I’m working on
fleshing it out. So yeah, but I
think I definitely would like to start a business. I’m very interested in
biomedical engineering in genetics. Another one of the devices
I’ve been working on is a device that helps diagnose
prescription opioid addiction, but I’m barely
scratching the surface. There’s over 20,000
genes in our body, and we haven’t
figured out a solution to every single problem
in the world, have we? And so just recently, the FDA
finally finalized, I guess, or approved– that’s the word– approved this drug
for cystic fibrosis based on the latest
developments in genetics. And so that type of step
is very, very intriguing to me– how just by editing
a gene through CRISPR-Cas9, or whatever process, you’re able
to create solutions to create cures to big, big diseases. So I definitely want to start up
some sort of biomedical device business so that I’m
checking off all my boxes. I want to be a researcher, I
want to be an entrepreneur. I want to just work
with technology, and I don’t want to
be at a desk every day reading emails like my dad. So– [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] Do you have any– we’re
going to wrap up here. But do you have any
advice for all of us in terms of how to
make our businesses and ourselves move forward
into more innovation? I think the biggest thing is
just looking into the future, and exactly– keeping up with the
latest technology trends. I know people who decided
to keep things old school. And that works. That works to a certain
extent until you start getting into hardcore
science material, where you need to use stuff like
virtual reality, mixed reality. I can’t think of a whole
bunch of technology on top of my head,
but things like that. So I think the
biggest thing is being able to keep up with the
latest trends in technology and reaching out to
more kids like us, and being more flexible
with their ideas– because no offense
to all of you guys, but I think kids come
up with better ideas. [LAUGHTER] Excellent. [APPLAUSE] Sergey Brin is a human
being, and kids come up with better ideas. I think– You heard it here. –no one is going to dispute
those true statements. We’re almost out of time. Jessika and Danny,
maybe you could– what advice do you have for
people who want to better tap into innovation in
themselves and their– Yeah– –colleagues and businesses? I’ll jump in, and I’ll
be really brief since I know we’re out of time here. But I think to bring two big
ideas together– so yesterday, Satya Nadella talked about a
purpose-driven organization. And that was just on the tails
of the Thomas Friedman talk, where he talked about change,
and these global climate change, but in a different way. And I think to
summarize both of those, what I would urge all of you
in the audience is to really listen to both of those
messages summarized as follows, which is change will either
happen to you or by you. And I think to
Gitanjali’s point, empower all of your
employees to not just be the email guy but to actually,
when someone asks them, what do you do,
be able to answer, I am driven by this purpose. And every day I show up at
work, and this is what I do. And this is how we
are embracing change, and this is what our company,
our organization, is doing. If you can imagine what
we’re doing as startups with just a few
dozen people, now imagine what you guys have with
tens of thousands of employees. And if they all had
that same vigor, that same energy that we have–
the three of us up here– this future’s looking
pretty bright. I worry that we’re a little
too hard on Gitanjali’s dad. [LAUGHTER] That’s true. Hi, dad. [LAUGHTER] If he’s here, sorry. Hi, dad. [LAUGHTER] Danny, can you just
say in a word, what’s your advice on innovation? In two words, be
curious and dare to try. And dare to try. OK, that’s a great way to end. Jessika, Danny, Gitanjali,
thank you very much. This is a great discussion–
really inspiring. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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