Daniel Holle is Product Manager for Google X Loon, building stratospheric internet balloons. Before Loon he worked on Android, where he launched the Android Auto entertainment system into hundreds of cars globally. Daniel is an entrepreneurial mind, as he founded and helped built various startups, incl. SmartThings (sold to Samsung for 200 mUSD). He is an advisor to startup and VCs, and an inspirational innovation speaker. Daniel holds a master degree in International Management, as well as a PhD in Technology and Innovation Management. He lives in San Francisco, California, and is a great fan of excellent espresso.
→ Daniel, you have spent your career at the forefront of technological change. How do you describe your work to others, and how is your work affecting change?
NO_PRODUCT - NO_MARKET - FIT. I work at the very early stages of product development and business building. Often there is a mind blowing technology, or at least a concept for it, and I am asked to bring it to life. That means finding a product - market fit, when no product and often no market yet exists. I turn these technologies into products, bring them to market and build the businesses around it.
→ If you had $10M (or $100M, or $1BN) of your wealth to bet/invest in one future technology, what would it be and why?
CREATIVITY. Any technology that can free up, improve, and harvest +human+ creativity will have immense value in decades to come. Machines, algorithms, AI, etc. will automate an increasing part of our personal and work life, at times to better extent than human work. I believe human creativity will be one of the last frontiers for machines to concur, and thus any technology, business or social framework that enables more human creativity to be extracted will be invaluable in the near and far future
→ In your opinion what does it mean to be a radical leader and how does one get better at being one?
ZOOMING OUT. Often my teams are getting stuck in the detail when working through problems. This is were only incremental progress is made. Once in a while, I encourage my teams to put down the pencil, lean back, and zoom out. Zoom way out from the current problem framing, and then zoom out more. Physically roll your chair back from the table. Picture your desk, then your building, then your city and your country from space. Then look at the problem again. Your view will expand, and so your solution space.
→ What do you wish you knew when you were starting out your career that you know today?
SELL YOUR IDEAS, NOT YOUR TIME. Many corporate jobs pay you for your time. 40h/week for x salary. Flat. With rare financial upside. And little encouragement to be bold, audacious or radical, as the risk vs. benefit equation is rarely supportive to do so.
If you want to unlock your best self, and get paid for it at a magnitude of a flat paycheck, you need to start selling your ideas, unbound from time. I admittingly myself bounce back and forth between these two worlds still, based on my risk/reward profile of a life phase. However I now clearly see the magnitude of your impact and outcome, when you start selling yourself, your ideas and your creativity.
→ What’s the single best piece of radical advice you received in your life (so far)?
YOUR TIME IS THE MOST VALUABLE THING. Many years back, a veteran entrepreneur and very successful founder of many startup companies told me this:
“Don’t think your first company is going to be your big success. It will be your 3rd, 4th or 5th project. Go out there, try, try hard, learn and grow, but also pull out hard if you don’t believe in it or it is not advancing fast enough. Pull out, start the next one, especially when it is early in your life. You will have learned so much, and be even faster and better on the next one. Because your time, your own life time spent, is the most valuable thing in your company”.
This stuck with me for years (and I applied it later when I closed my startup despite millions of funding lined up). It encourages me to regularly zoom out and evaluate progress, set and measure personal goals, and never get stagnant or protective about maintaining a status quo that does not feel amazing anymore.
→ What is the most enlightening book you have read and why?
NO BOOKS. Yes, those books, that fountain of knowledge for centuries. The truth is I don’t read books. It is not my medium of knowledge that is easily consumed for me. I made it through academia, even for a couple of degrees, until I acknowledged to stop reading books. I consume podcasts, videos, blog posts instead, but my biggest fountain of knowledge are conversations with smart and inspiring people, with diverse backgrounds and opinions. The most enlightening talks are often with older people, looking back at life, which give you an amazing sense of zooming out and real big levers in life.