Where did you get the idea for Soar Robotics?
Honestly, everything started as a need. I had been investing in diverse industrial sectors and in many cases, I needed a solution to increase efficiency and decrease the costs in the projects and companies I was involved in. This was especially true in the energy sector, where we were looking for ways to scale our renewable energy operations. Using drones and aerial vehicles seemed like a great option, so we interviewed people across industries to learn more.
This process showed us that the critical thing is the intelligence autonomy and the software component for an industrial solution. This inspired us to start work on Soar Robotics' cloud-based AI products and to turn drones into mission executing robots.
You are also an angel investor. What do you look for when investing in a company?
The number one thing I look at is the team, and there are two traits that I look for in founders: adaptability and coach-ability.
Doing business is a very dynamic process. You have to keep innovating, creating a proactive strategy, and continuously learn new things.
As an investor, I’ve had a chance to see many startups grow, and this has been an educating factor for me. That’s one of the reasons why we try to create a culture in our company around coach-ability.
What got you into this industry?
Curiosity and the need to learn and innovate is the main motive behind every one of my decisions. This was true when I decided to get a Ph.D. and also when I decided to start my first company. My passion for learning new things and to tackle problems is what led me here and helped me conceive Soar Robotics; we are a technology company that tackles real-life issues. It’s another perk to learning new things -- you can get your hands dirty and work on an applicable solution.
Has anything surprised you when launching the business?
The whole crowd raising process has had the most profound and surprising effect on us. Every day, I receive many messages via LinkedIn or Republic about how people see the need for our technology. It is a tremendous experience.
The interest and need for our technology has been beyond our expectations. We have been thinking about the areas that we have domain experience, but surprisingly, we receive a lot of emails from industries we didn’t expect to hear from. This has been really motivating.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
The number one reason is to learn from the wisdom of the crowd. The current state of VC funding is very narrowly focused and isolated.
I believe ignoring the crowd wisdom is the main reason why most startups fail to turn themselves into a profitable and sustainable business.
Large groups are collectively smarter than individuals, and that even applies to specific areas like robotics or AI. By pooling our investors' thoughts and ideas, we are better equipped to problem-solve and complete product development. We continuously receive excellent feedback that expands our vision in many fields. This is helping us apply our solution to solve problems beyond our knowledge and imagination. That is precisely the reason why we see everyone who invests in our company as part of the team.
The number two reason is our belief that the right to invest shouldn't be limited to some group of individuals.
The VC industry is the number one wealth creator and everyone should have access to this vehicle. I think this is the only way we can sustain economic growth in the age of AI.
How did you meet your co-founder?
I’ve known Deniz for a long time as a great engineer. I first met him while he was working in another startup. We always kept in contact. Then, as I was thinking about the possibilities of aerial autonomy and use cases for the industries I was involved in, I talked with Deniz and we started to think together to create a solution. That evolved into the products we develop at Soar, and we decided to start a company to validate our approach and solution.
What have you learned as a founder — any unexpected skills?
The main thing that you learn as a founder is mastering the art of connecting the dots. This is true for product development, innovation or sales, and marketing. The whole process is about connecting the dots and turning them into lines.
This also requires high adaptability, which is a skill that you must learn and perfect. As a founder, there are lots of things that you can't predict from the start, so you have to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of the business.
What is your superpower?
Persistence and curiosity.
What's your kryptonite?
Pessimism and ignorance.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I start every day with yoga. Then, I go to a local coffee shop. Coffee is one of my passions and I have always gone to one local coffee shop in every city I have lived in. I like getting to know the baristas and owners.
I then start working by reviewing my daily jobs and analyzing my weekly progress. Every day, I try to connect with someone from a different industry. I really value client communications, so I call them and collect feedback from customers as often as I can. I also try to arrange daily times with the team to discuss technical issues and challenges.
I am based in LA, but I am always on the go. Part of our team and our partners/clients are in Europe, so I somehow divide my time between here and there. I travel a lot and try to explore new things and new areas all the time. This is also how I run my business: we tackle new opportunities and new regions whenever possible. Our motto is to deploy, touch lives, and solve real-life problems relentlessly. This is how we started Soar Robotics, so I have no problem flying 10 hours to meet with a potential client or partner, and to learn something that can make me a better person or for my business to grow. I consider myself a nomad. For years, I organized my life accordingly, and I have houses in Lisbon, NY, LA, and Istanbul.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I don't know how to define unusual, but I eat only one course a day. This has been my routine for a long time, and well before fasting became a popular diet option.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do?
I am a pro scuba diver and kite surfer. I love sailing and being on the sea and most of my travel involves diving and surfing.
What's something you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew more about playing musical instruments and composing music. I believe music fosters creativity in every phase of life, and good composers are the best strategists in life.
What's the one or two books you recommend everyone read?
It is quite impossible to recommend one or two books for an interview that is going to be accessible for years online (!). I think everyone should read the classics, especially Homer and Dostoevsky, if they want to have a better perspective and understanding of humanity.
Who is someone that has changed your life?
My wife. She is my best friend, mentor, and my better half. We have been through many phases of life together. We met in college, moved to different countries, went to grad school, started companies, traveled, and grew up together.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Be more compassionate and buy more bitcoin.