Moonshot Thinking and Betting on Bold Ideas (Female Founders Summit ‘19)
Good. Morning I'm very excited to be here as sherry. Mentioned, I am currently an investor, at Google Ventures, but. Have previously, had, a lot of different roles and I, thought today what would be most interesting, for you guys is, to talk a little bit more about Google X and some of the sort. Of crazy innovation. What, I learned there what I worked on, and. And. Yeah happy to see you guys grab you guys up feel free to grab me after and happy to chat more. So. I always start out with this comic. Which I just really like. To. Read it I. Feel. Like this is a good summary of my career so far. So, I I'll. Start with X so I joined X, I got the call to join X about four years ago I was living in London and, they basically said this is a really small group, of engineers. And. We. Are. Working on it's sort of this crazy Charlie. And the Chocolate Factory. Esque Innovation. Lab and. We. Aren't, entirely sure that you as a non engineer, will be all that useful but like we're willing to try come, on over move. To X and so I said sure and. Since. Then X has become this moonshot. Factory. It's. A team of engineers. And entrepreneurs and, designers, and artists, and working. On really these really bold ideas. Breakthrough. Technologies, that are potentially. Going to change the lives of millions or billions of people and. How. We define moonshots. Is with these three circles so starting, with a huge problem something again, that affects millions or billions of people coming. Up with a radical solution usually, something, that requires, starting. Over and you'll hear me talk a lot about that sort of going, back getting, rid of all of your assumptions and completely starting over and. How you're thinking about this problem and then, the, the, key that makes it sort of Google X a Google X fit is breakthrough. Technology so. We want there to be some, kind of breakthrough, technology. That makes us think that there just might be a chance that, that solution is possible in, the next say five or 10 years. And. So this is a quick video it's, a few years old and some of you guys may have seen it but I just absolutely, love it I think it sort of best represents. What X is all about. The, actual, moon shot is wonderful, inspirational. Poetic, beautiful involved. Great technical challenges, genuine, heroism, it brought the world together but, think, about the, Polynesian Islander. On the dugout canoe deciding one day they were gonna go that, way no one ever been that way before, no one even knew if there was anything that was before it was amazing, and it, changed, the world people. Can set, their minds, to. Magical. Seemingly, impossible, ideas. And then, through, science, and technology, bring. Them to. Reality and. That then sets other people, on fire there other things that, look impossible might, be accomplishable, Galileo. Said to here up you know in thinking big and, what. He represents to me as both curiosity. And Wonder, that humanity, had that he had that pushed him and drove himself to invent, and work on that first telescopes, that allowed us to see the moon and here we are these aviation, pioneers, were figuring, it out as they went no one really knew how to build an airplane right nobody not a fly an airplane it was amazing, and crazy, and wonderful and they wanted to explore, many. Years ago the. Great British explorer. George Mallory who was to die on. Mount. Everest was, asked, why did he want to climb it he. Said because it is there there's. So many challenges, in the world, and you. Can feel taunted by that you know and sort of oppressed by that or you kind of say how, might you think differently, about this everyone.
Else In the world is working on the next 10% if, you can be the one that delivers that ten times improvement, you. Have a chance to really change things if you want cars to run at 50. Miles per gallon fine, you can retool, your car a little bit but, if I tell you it has to run on a, gallon, of gas for 500, miles you. Have to start over you need a lot of courage in this work and you need a lot of persistence one, of the things that's really critical, is not only of the curse that you've trying every day or thinking big, even if you don't really 100%. Believe it's possible like you, might think this might be possible have the courage to try that's, how the greatest things have happened you, don't spend your time being bothered that you can't teleport from here to Japan because, there's a part of you that thinks it's impossible. Moonshot. Thinking is choosing. To be bothered by, we, choose, to go to the moon in this decade and, do the other things not. Because they. Are easy but, because they are hard, humanity's. Progress, has been a series, of amazing audacious, things from the very small and personal up to the great big and grand and we, are a species of moonshots and to me that's like a really amazing, poetic inspiration I, think our. Ambitions. Are a glass. Ceiling on what we can accomplish when, you find your passion you're unstoppable you can make amazing things happen it's, been true throughout history I believe in the human spirit I believe that they're always going to be crazy people who get out of bed one morning and say you, know what I think, I can build a space elemental students do it but I think that if we become afraid, to take these great big risks, we, stop inspiring, people we stop achieving. Things and the biggest nightmare scenario, because that we won't have what it takes to solve the really big challenges. When tennety said that, we would put a man on the moon it's about the fact that he said we don't know how to do this yet and we're gonna do it anyway and that sends, chills up, everybody's. Fun because. If that happens what couldn't we do. So. As you guys might imagine, from, the video X, is very, focused on its people and we. Tend to hire sort of t-shaped, people so these are folks that are the. Best in the world incredibly. Knowledgeable about, their specific area, but, also sort of have that curiosity. And flexibility. To. Be creative, more broadly and to think outside of the. Sort. Of reigns of their discipline, and. One. Of the things that we spent a lot of time on at X was, how, do we make, the process of innovation both. More, efficient, and as, repeatable, as possible, as possible we really wanted to create something that you, know this wasn't a unique lab, where we were doing something that wasn't possible elsewhere, we wanted to figure out sort of what, are the key pieces of this that would, make innovation, possible, anywhere and. So how we did that was, we started out with this process, so we started out with lots and lots of ideas as you can imagine and. We created this process, so we would start with a, team called rapid evaluation so this is a group of, engineers. And, artists. And designers and. Sort of anyone that you could think of purposefully. Very, multidisciplinary. And they. Literally. Their goal is to build prototypes, as quickly as possible so they have a, big lab space they have an entire wall of different, kinds of duct tape and. They, just kind of tinker and try to get put, things together and figure out one. Of the actually, one of the techniques that they use that I really like is we, used to start out, we'd. Have these big whiteboards everywhere and we. Would start out by listing, all of the reasons someone would have some great idea for a project and be really excited and ready to go and we. Would start out by listing all of the reasons that that project wouldn't work so, we would have a list about you, know regulation, wouldn't work or certain pieces of the technology, would fail or, like people would think it was weird or, whatever, we would have this very thorough list and then, rapid evil is really there to go through, systematically.
Through That list and cross things off by building prototypes, running, experiments. Kind of getting things out into the world as soon as possible, so. As you, can imagine a, number, of things were killed in the rapid eval phase and. We actually for a while had stickers, with crumpled up pieces of paper that were sort of a badge of honor that you would get if one of your ideas was killed you could put it on your laptop and then. Once, things make it through rapid eval they would end up in the foundry, and the foundry, was really the, question of the foundry was is this, a real business that, can go, and out into the world and make an impact and so, in the foundry when we looked a lot more kind. Of beyond the tech at the. Business side is there something what does this look like when it hits the real world what's the go-to-market all, those kinds of things and about, I would say about half of, projects, that make it to the foundry become, X, projects, and then. Once something becomes an X project it's sort of like a startup it's kind of what you guys are doing now it's a small team people. Are sort of running as quickly as possible and, we, tend to try to make it sort of two to five years is. The ideal time that something will be an X project before we either realize, this. Is a terrible, idea we can't do this or it, gains, legs and graduates, and we used to have a graduation, ceremonies. With that graduation, caps and the whole deal and goes off and becomes its own business, or. You know its own kind of standalone thing so. I thought. You guys might be interested some of you are probably familiar with a self-driving, car but. I, thought, you'd be interested in kind of what are some other things that we're working on it X so I give you a really quick tour here you go so. What, is Project, loon so this is a network of high-altitude balloons. The, goal is to provide network coverage, to the millions. And billions of people that don't have it in the world the. Balloons are they float sort of above whether they're in the stratosphere and they use the various wind currents, to. Steer themselves and. One. Of my favorite things about this project I'll tell you in a little bit but. Definitely, started out as a crazy idea, and part of the name comes. From the idea that we thought it was sort of a loony idea. So. Another one this is the first project I worked on project, wing the, idea is kind. Of can, we deliver the, way that we deliver things right now we have, very small Amazon packages, in these big trucks. Are. There is there a better way a more, sort of carbon friendly way to, deliver goods and services whether that it's consumer. Goods that are coming to your house or emergency. Medicine that's going over you know a flooded Road in the developing, world so. This project is also a great example of when I first started, we, had all these amazing engineers. And folks that were working on it and their, first idea, for, what they were gonna focus on turned out to be a terrible one and we had sort of the best of the best in the world and they had decided on this idea and we. Put it out into the world and got a bunch of feedback and realized, it was.
Not. A great place to start I won't say it dumb idea because I loved that team but not a great place to start and quickly. Pivoted and worked on something totally different. So, and this is an example of sort of what the package, delivery might look like. So. A, third, example and. I'm just whipping through these to give you guys a sense is Makani so, how, many folks have heard of Makani I find that that's one of the lesser known ones so, the, idea here is the. Typical. Is kind of re-engineering, the dynamics, of cost, and wind energy so, how can we make wind energy accessible. And affordable for everybody and how, they've looked at doing it is can. We take basically, use the same, principles. Of the wind turbine but, let's take away 90%, of the materials, the big sort of steel and, everything, else that goes into it and replace that with smart electronics, and materials, and you, totally change the calculus. Of sort of the affordability of wind so. This is an example of imagine, this is like the tip of the. Windmill that's going in a circle without any of the other materials, needed, I thought was that was cool so. This was my personal favorite you kind. Of see it so it's a smart contact, lens so one in nineteen people in the world has diabetes, my, very best friend in college had diabetes and, it, the way that we manage it is terrible you're poking, your finger you're drawing blood it's painful, it's expensive, and. You get terrible data from it and so this is a contact lens that can actually measure the. Glucose, and your tears continually. So that you wouldn't have to prick your finger for blood. And this is also an example of one that went, out to become its own company so we decided that life, sciences, kind, of needed its own space and we started a new company and under, the alphabet umbrella called verily, that's, looking at how do we take health data and unlock better health outcomes, for people, around the world. So. That's, a very, very quick, run-through, of some, of the examples of the kinds of projects, that I was working on it X and I, thought it would be interesting for, this, crowd is some, of the things that I learned at a very high level so this today. And tomorrow will, be full of a lot of very specific sort, of nuts and bolts you. Know how do you get moving and what you're doing so, I thought this would be interesting to start with just something very high-level is what I saw in the, last 8 years working. In London and X, and @gv so. You heard this in the video but one of the first things that I. Really, have learned from this is the. Value. Of 10x. And not 10% and. Astro. And the video talks about you know if you're Regis you have to go back and redesign the car and what does that look like but I think a lot of the the. Projects, that I see that. We're, successful at X and even now at Google Ventures looking, at potential, startups the. Really inspirational ones, are the ones that look at sort. Of how can we we stepped all the way back and we you looked at it in a new way was sort of courage. And, a new, sort of bravery, as to how we, could solve this problem. Kind, of going all the way back to the beginning and self-driving, cars are a great example of that right like we when, we started doing the self-driving car project we. Really started, from Sebastian, Thrun who, is the founder. Of that project had, hadn't. Lost his best friend in a car crash and said we have to do better. Than the millions of people who are dying in car crashes how, can we do that and rather, than saying let's make roads, safer less making cars slightly safer what he said we have to start over we have to take, this completely out of human's. Hands humans, are responsible for most of these crashes let's, kind, of like take let's see, if we can totally change this, so.
That's Something that I see again and again and again. In Google, X projects, and. As. Part, of this you see a lot of failures so this is actually one of the early, loon, balloons so in the stratosphere, much, colder conditions, and. We learned quickly that the materials, were using would explode so we would build, these huge balloons very. Enthusiastically. Launched them into the stratosphere and they would immediately explode, because it was too cold and. So again. Like having a culture where, when. People failed, or, when we had these beautiful. Explosions. That. People had spent months working on these we would actually celebrate. It so we'd have tea meetings and people would clap. And, get bonuses, and promotions and, stickers and you know we made it very much part of the culture and I, think you hear that a lot but it's very impressive to see that actually. In action. So. The, other thing I mentioned with rapid email is trying to make contact. With the world as quickly as possible and. The. Way that we did that at X was really through these messy prototypes. So, this, is the one, of the first examples of, sort, of the electronics. That goes beneath the balloon for, Project loon and as. You can see it was it. Was so messy and so ridiculous, looking that, actually kind of as a joke when we first went to test it in the wild, we made this sign that said it was a harmless science, experiment, you know if lost return I, think was Paul yeah and you, know we'll give you a reward big, dollar signs and it was sort of a joke on the team and. It. And the reason why we could do that was because it looked so ridiculous. And we were like very conscious, that we had made this thing that purposefully, was. Duct taped and looks like kind of a mess and. This. Is probably a story for another day, but we ended up being quite glad that we had put that sign on it as we did lose track of the first one that we tested, a couple hours from here and. We ended up finding it because it was reported, on the local news as a UFO. So. Third. Thing that we learned it was very much falling in love with the problem, so something, at X. That. I think it was one. Of the ways that I was able to add immediate, value, was that I wasn't, an engineer, and that I wasn't in love with the technology, inherently, and so, I was, able to sort of look at we, quickly discovered that if a team was saying hey you know we're really excited about this. Technology and, we think it could have a lot of impact, but, we weren't exactly sure, what. That would look like that that tended, to be a bad sign, and was a project that we shouldn't pursue and. Actually one of the most recent projects, I worked on at X was. A project, we had hired 30 engineers they done a ton, of great work they've. Been working on it for two years, and. The idea had come from someone, very senior whose name I will not mention but who you would recognize and. We. Killed it basically. Sat down and we said there's, a ton of engineering, here there's, a ton of great work this team is fabulous, but. The team itself as we sat down to go through what. Is the impact gonna be here sort, of how how. Do we think this is really gonna impact the world they, decided, to kill it like they were the ones we had a moment, moment, of truth where everyone sort of we, asked like what do you think we should do with this and everyone raised their hands and said we should kill it and so we gave all of them our free vacation and, a bonus, and they all found new, projects to work on it X but. I think that kind of being willing and open, to that kind of like don't fall in love with the tech it's something that I see all the time on, the. Investing, side as well and then you have to really be focused on is this solving a problem is this really useful. So. The last thing I'll mention is especially, because, we're here in Silicon Valley, there's. So, much ethos. Around, the lone genius, innovator. With, you know too much beard, or too much hair in the, basement, city alone you, know solving, the world's problems and I think it's, pretty clear, to say, at this point that that's just not how innovation happens, and. That we have to break out of that myth and in fact at X really. When we started making progress I mean when I joined it was still very early days but. When we started making real progress was, when we had this very diverse team and so you, know a couple, in X we had not only engineers. And designers and product folks and marketing and all the things that you'd expect but, we also made a ton of progress because we hired a. Seamstress. Who, worked on the, seams, for the Loon balloons, and found a new way that, would withstand all the environmental pressures, and we hired Marines. That, would go and extract. The balloons from the oceans when we were doing testing and they would fall in the middle of nowhere and we had to go get them but just.
As Examples of you. Really have to have this diverse team, very. Multidisciplinary, everyone. Sort of pitching in together and, the idea of this lone genius. Innovator, in the basement, like just has to go. So. About. A year ago, I had, spent several amazing years in X and I, started, to become really curious about I felt, like I didn't understand what happens. After. This. Kind, of innovative, exciting first phase what happens when you really hit the road of like, fundraising. And growth and scale and so that was when I moved over to be an investor, at Google Ventures and. Google, Ventures is now GB, but, it was started in 2009, we. Have 300. Portfolio. Companies, we've, invested, in everything from uber. To nest, flat iron health, really. Spans you know all sorts of industries life, sciences, commerce, commerce. Enterprise. Anything. You could think of and. What's, unique about GV, is that we have this, team of folks. Who are just sort of at the disposal, of our portfolio, companies so we have designers, and engineers and. Marketers and all sorts of people who are ready to help and, jump in and help these companies kind of like build their bold ideas. So. Here's a sample of kind of a handful of our portfolio, companies and it's been an amazing, year it's been so, different going, from sort of Google. X engineering. Culture not. Many people wearing shoes, very. Informal. To, sort of this VC, world, with. Much more polished people. Coming in with decks dressed. Up although, you can always tell when people aren't used to wearing a suit and they show up in a suit and. And. It's been sort of fabulous journey but it's what what's been really interesting to me is that, those. Four things that I showed you earlier are very much sort. Of the same lessons that I would take away from from, being an investor for a year so things. Like 10x. And not 10% and having an amazing team and not being the lone genius, inventor. In the basement and you. Know so it's it's interesting, to see on both sides of the table those are still the lessons that you take away, so, in. Closing. Before, you guys run off to you know very busy two days you. Know I share the story one because, I hoped that there would be some nuggets that would be useful to you but, also I really, hope that you guys I can, encourage you to. Share, your origin. Stories and your experiences, with each other I think we really do have an amazing, group here and I. Would love you guys to really take advantage of, this, next two days chat. With people kind, of get beyond business card swapping, and like really share kind of what your story has been and what you've been up to and. I'd. Also like to say that the. Diverse we've all heard the diversity, stats about, venture. Capital and innovation, in tech and it. Honestly. It really is appalling and we have a ton of work to do but. In. Seeing. Group I loved seeing groups like this because, you, guys I think you know the research also shows, that. There's. A ton of business value in having very diverse, teams diverse, opinions diverse. Experiences. And I. Think we're, sort of poised to, be a generation. That paves the way for the next so I hope, you guys have a, phenomenal. Two days and you really get to enjoy this experience and, I do hope that you share your stories. And, experiences. With each other thank. You.