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Sean O'Sullivan - Founder of SOSventures

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Video transcript

- So we have with us Sean O'Sullivan, and first I'll give you all a little background on the Khan Academy connection. About three years ago, we get an e-mail from you saying that you wanted to help us. And we're like, uh, okay. And so you show up, and then you know, we spend more... it was at 277 Castro, I think we were probably what, a five person organization then? Maybe, three person organization at the time. You spend a half an hour with... half a day with me and Shantanu, and you leave essentially one of our biggest supporters ever. So, you know, thank you, and that was a big vote of confidence in what we've done. It was a phase of the organization where we didn't know what it would become, and all the rest, so that was a, you know... - Well, you were already so far down the road it was obvious that you were on to great things. And here, look at the team you've got around you. You've built an amazing set of products and capabilities and affecting many millions of people's lives. It's something that anyone is lucky whether you're working here or supporting Khan, lucky to be a part of such a great social movement for good. - I knock on wood every morning. (laughs) So let me introduce everyone to you. So you have actually several claims to fame that I knew about you before, but then this morning I started doing some research about you, and you have lived a full life. So I guess right now you're most famous especially in Ireland for being on the Dragon's Den, which is essentially like the Shark Tank of Ireland. - Yep, that's right. (talking over each other) It's actually the third most popular show in Ireland, after like the Late Late Show, and the news. So it's super... like, nobody really knows the Shark Tank here, but it's, I don't know, it's probably the 50th or 100th most popular show in America, I don't know. But in Ireland, you know, I can't walk down the street without people recognizing me. - [Sal] Or giving you a business plan, and you have to be... - Yeah, exactly, all that. - And it's one of these premises where it's a bunch of investors, and they have to pitch, and you all have like money on your coffee table. - Yes, that's the one. That's the show. - And we have some footage of it. - [Voiceover] Who is prepared to enter the Dragon's Den? Inside could be the money to turn business dreams into reality. But only the bravest and the best contain the dragons who guard the prize. Those dragons are five of the country's most wealthy and successful business people. And the budding entrepeneurs who dare to face them in the den need to convince them to invest in their dreams. The dragons all know what it takes to be successful in the fiercely competitive world of business having built their companies the hard way. Technology pioneer Sean O'Sullvian runs Avego, a world leading transportation software company headquartered in Cork, and operating globaly while investing millions in start-up businesses. - My vision is to mix style and fashion with wonderful music engineering, and this is it. It's called Ig Guitars. The electric guitar industry has been dominated by products which have not been innovated for 50 years. I'm conscious of style. I like to wear clothes that represent what I stand for, and so do all my generation. This is what they want. It's new, it's cool, it's highly functional and they will love it. I am doing for guitars what Steve Jobs has done for phones. - You know one of my fellow dragons was in a rock band, a rock star, and old recording studios as well. - He was only the piano player. - [Gavin] Janet Speaks French. If you Google, it was big in the '50s. - Before I was born. But not before Gavin was born. What's the market for guitars? How many sell a year? - Yeah, so, like this approximately between the States and Europe, you've got about a million electric guitars per year. - What is the revenues that you're projecting? - I'm aiming to sell 2,000 guitars in the first year at 160 euros per guitar, so that's working out at 320,000. I wanted to retail at 349, but I want to bring that back to 299 after you know, I'm getting more efficient with production and stuff like that. - Rob, I think you're potentially a really great entrepeneur, and I think you're probably going to need more money to do this than the 35,000. So I'd like to give you a little more money than you asked for and take a little more equity than you asked for. So I propose to give you 50,000 euro for 25% equity in your company. - Okay. - Also, we have a hardware accelerator program in China that takes designers like yourself from anywhere around the world, puts them in situ, in the environment. We can put you into a program like that, and get you working directly with the factories and getting more electronics. - Oh, that would be absolutely awesome. - These are all things I'd love to work with you on future generations of products. - Um, you know, if I was working with you... I'd really like to work with you, but 25 percent. Would you do anything where you could pare that back, you know if we hit targets to 20 percent? - If you sell 2,000 guitars in the first year, I'll give up from 25 and down to 20 percent. - Okay, cool. Yeah, done deal. - Great, congratulations. - [Voiceover] A deal, and a last minute reduction in equity. Now that's worth getting out of bed for. - Take it easy. - [Sean] Take care. - [Rob] Good luck. - Was it him you were looking at? Because I didn't see the differentiation of the product. - The product is... - [Ramona] No, his product's good. - the product is different. It's absolutely different. - Sean, that sales model that he's gonna sell, pay as much as you think you feel a guitar is worth, I think that would work. (all laugh) - All right, that's it. That's Rob O'Reilly. And that deal closed, and Rob has actually since come out with some, a second generation of products. - So it worked out well? - Oh yeah, it worked out, yeah. - This is like a real thing. Cause you see this on TV shows, you don't think... - Yep, no. It's actually, a lot of times, half the time the deal doesn't go through, even after it seems like it goes through. In my case, probably they go through around 80, 85% of the time. But some of the other dragons or sharks don't actually... You know, they don't come to terms at the end. - And so this is actually a venture that you're still working on and still is... - Yeah. - You know, it's... They're producing, you know, it's got some rave reviews. It's a very unusual guitar. It has several unique features that, you know, it has a midi output, as well as the sound out. It has, it's cut out in the center, it has a balance beam, it's got plectrum. It's a nicely designed guitar. - We'll talk about it because, as we'll see, that is part of your past. Is in the music industry. - Yes. Invest in what you know. - Exactly. So we'll start at the beginning, because I mean obviously it's an interesting life so far you've had. You were born in New York, you're of Irish descent. - [Sean] New York City. New York City, Irish descent. You eventually end up back in Ireland. But how did it start? I was reading about, I mean you are one of nine children? - Yes, I was one of nine children. So I was born in New York City. I actually had a deadbeat dad, actually. So, my mother and my father got separated when I was three. We were raised in poverty in upstate New York on the welfare system. So for five or six years, my mom was raising the nine kids who were all under the age of 10. I was three. - Nine kids under the age of 10? - Yeah, at one point. But then we got older, and after, you know six or seven years of that, she was able to get a job and we sort of worked our way out of poverty over the years. But that was the start of it. You know, it's, New York state is not a great place to be growing up poor, because the weather is actually quite severe compared to California, so it could be, with wind chill or whatever, minus 40 degrees. And so when we would go to sleep at night, in the dead of winter, we'd gather in one room with a wood stove with the wood that we cut down from trees ourselves and just try to, you know, all of us, sometimes a couple people in one bed, just the six or seven people say, in one room sleeping with a wood stove. It's probably different than how you grew up. But maybe not. (laughs) It wasn't that bad, actually. - And how did you, given that start, which is a hard beginning, how did you get into technology? How did you get into computers, which was kind of your first passion, or one of your first passions, that and music? - Yeah, so my first passion probably would have been computers. Somehow saw my older brother went to college and he, this was back in the day when they still had punch cards, and I saw some print outs of work that he was doing as a computer science program himself. So I said wow, I really... It was just fascinating, it was really appealing to me. You know when you grow up poor, you don't have that much control over your environment, and to actually be able to control a computer is an incredibly powerful thing. It does whatever you tell it to do. That's really remarkable. So it was a way of getting some control over the situation and being able to develop myself and support myself. - And you even support, even when you were in high school? - Yeah, actually I had my first professional job programming was when I was 14. So I had learned some programming, and there's, in America, for the poorest of the poor there's a program called the Civilian Employment Training Act, I'm not sure if it's still around, but they basically give you jobs that are supposed to prepare you for a long time career. So they gave me a job being a janitor in my high school. And I said, well jeez, that's not the greatest career potential, and I don't understand why it's a training act if I don't really need that much training to push a broom around or a vacuum cleaner or whatever in the first place. But I found a county agency that was a couple miles from my house, so I asked the person who ran that agency if I could just have a job basically changing data tapes or printing out things just to get started, and then when he discovered I could program, and I could program better than several of the other programmers that were older professionals, that I ended up getting started that way. - Wow, wow. I didn't even appreciate... I mean, this wasn't that long ago. This was like the early '80s? - This was the... yeah, early '80s. - Early '80s that they would recommend for a 14-year-old to be the janitor at his own high school? - Yeah, like it's better than nothing because you still get to... It's a minimum wage job, but you still get some... You're working, and you're contributing to your family's situation. So it's not a terrible program, although they're obviously, they could have aimed a little higher than janitor. So I did work as a janitor, and as a groundskeeper and things like that for maybe a year before I'd found a way to get myself out of it. - And obviously you got that job, and you kept developing it, and you go to Rensselaer. - Yeah, so I got into Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute which is in Troy, New York. The oldest English speaking engineering school in the world, continuously running or whatever. The claim to fame is the inventor of the television, the inventor of the semiconductor process, the first microprocessor, and all these other... you know, the Brooklyn Bridge, all those other sort of things. And as a, I grew up like an hour southwest of there, so I was always hearing about how they were in the Mars Rover project, and all this when I was growing up. And I just said, wow, that just sounds like the kind of thing I want to do. Do really impactful, amazing things. So that's what got me into engineering. And never looked back. You know, I think that engineers have a disproportionate power in the planet to affect the world in massive ways. So, we were just talking about this a little earlier, that a lot of the brightest students unfortunately choose to major in areas which are basically service industries. Like one-to-one service industries, like the brightest kids in high school sometimes end up choosing to become doctors or lawyers. And those are things that are one-to-one service industries, verses becoming an engineer, where you have the capability to affect millions and billions of people's lives with products that you design, and impacts that you have on the planet. Which I've also been lucky to have been able to have been part of teams and leading teams that have had those kinds of changes over the years. - And that's your first experience coming out of college. And especially growing up poor, my background wasn't as dire as yours, but not that different as well. One of the things when you come out of college is that fear of, well do I be an entrepreneur and kind of risk it all, or do I at least just go for the middle class you know, pay the bills, get a car. You went entrepreneurial. - Yeah, from the beginning days like, I mean, it's really easy to go living like from living like a college student where you don't have any money, you don't have any possessions or whatever, to living like an entrepreneur, which is the same exact, you haven't changed anything. (both laugh) You don't have any money, you don't have any needs or things that would prevent you from doing it. So I was lucky enough. I had worked my way through college for IBM and a couple of other smaller tech companies during summers and what-not, so I was able to know that I also, I also knew before I graduated college, that I didn't really want to work for a large company. Because I saw, like IBM's a great company and everything, but I saw some of the best engineers that I was working with in research, Triangle Park at one point, North Carolina, that they were working on this video phone project back in 1984 or something, and then IBM the company bought ROHM, which is a key systems phone provider, for like a billion dollars. And so this team of super dedicated engineers that had been workign like eight years on this amazing product, just got exed off because of some big corporate decision that had been made 10 levels above them. And they'd worked their bones off to produce this unbelievable break, ground-breaking product and it never saw the light of day. And I said, you know, I'd rather not have that happen to me. I'd rather be working in a smaller environment where I can have a lot more control over my destiny. And so that's why I chose to start a company. That's why I think it's always great to work in smaller organizations that do have big impact. Like you have here at Khan Academy. - And at first, it was Mapinfo. This was, I mean you, it was kind of a pioneering company. Now everything, you know, Google Maps and you have all these, you know... - Yeah, so if you've ever... Has anyone ever done this? Has anyone ever typed an address into a computer and seen a street map? Can I see a show of hands if anyone's done that before? So we invented that. And that was a long long time ago. Because I'm approaching 50 like a bullet train to that wall over there. Before you can say oompa loompa, I'm gonna be 50 years old. So, um, like, it was a long long time ago. It's 30 years ago that we did this. And you know, it was a big idea back then, and it pioneered and set the groundwork for all the technology that has since developed from it. I have a total huge respect for what Google's, you know, the street view thing. They've really, you know, a lot of companies have done a lot with the technology. But we pioneered it. The first million or so people that used street mapping on computers were, 99% of them were using Mapinfo. It became a couple hundred million dollar company. It became a public company. It was licensed by a lot of the bigger companies to do it, but more importantly, the thousands of re-sellers and the thousands of local countries that were using our product digitized all the street maps using our product or made it available to their customers using our product, which sort of set the groundwork for all the mapping that happens today. So it's pretty cool. So that was my first company. I was there for seven years, and I was the president and chairman of it for then, and then I left. - It goes public, and you leave, and the classic Silicon Valley thing is oh, I've had one exit, let me go do my next one, or let me become a partner at a VC firm. You start a rock band. - Yeah, yeah. (audience laughs) That was an unconventional choice. I think I've made several unconventional choices. - I was listening earlier this morning to "Love is Pain." - Oh my god. That's from our first EP, five song EP. Some copyright violators put it up onto the Internet. - Which you were happy about. It was funny, because I saw.. The name of the band was Janet Speaks French. You actually got on the radio? - Yeah, we were Top 40 in 80 radio stations or something like that. - [Sal] Top 40? - Yeah, yeah. But you know, 80 radio stations in the United States is 2800 radio stations or whatever, so none of you would have heard it if you were even alive back in 1994, whenever it was. - [Sal] I was there in 1994. - You were alive? - [Sal] Yeah, yeah, I was alive. I was going through high school. (Sean laughs) And, I mean, what was going through your mind? Obviously music was a love of yours. You had, I guess you were comfortable at this point financially. - Actually, I wasn't quite comfortable at that point because the company was in the registration process, but it hadn't actually gone public at that point. So for awhile I was just doing it, and that was all right. I don't live like in a really extravagant way, I don't need that much money. Cause you know, it always, it's good grounding to remember where you came from. Because you could be right back there any time. You never know what's in front of you. So I've never needed that much to get by. So being a struggling rock musician wasn't that big of an adjustment for me. - And you do that for how many years? - Two years, actually. - Two years. - And then I started a technology company, an internet company. It was 1995 or something, end of 1995. And so that was back when Netscape wasn't called Netscape, it was called Mosaic Communications. And probably none of you even heard of Netscape even. (talking over each other) - We hire people older than 16. (both laugh) - [Sean] Okay, good. I forget who I'm talking to. An engineering crowd. How many of you are engineers out there? A handful. Oh, half. So, yeah, and we came up with this concept of network services over the Internet, and software for inside the Internet, which we then called Cloud Computing. So we came up with that term, I co-coined that term, myself and George Favaloro from Compaq Computer. - We should take pause there. Coined Cloud Computing. - There you go, for what it's worth. - And "Love is Pain." (laughter) - It's not my favorite song, actually. You have to probably go to the second album before you hit my favorite song. What's good on that album? "It Isn't Love". That's probably my favorite. - "It Isn't Love." You were going through some hard times. - Yeah, absolutely. I was not popular with ladies. (both laugh) - Our next company gathering, we'll have a little bit of... - We can talk about that offline. - And so you start the next company, and that was another... - It was called NetCentric. And that grew to like, say 10 million in sales. It wasn't a huge thing, and it got sold off basically in pieces to Cisco, or somebody else, I can't even remember. Like I blocked that whole part of my... it wasn't a great success at all. The investors, like myself, I invested in it, didn't make their money back on it. So it was a lesson in life. - And maybe I'm skipping, I found this fascinating, I didn't know about this. i mean, we've known each other for three years, but I didn't know this whole chapter in your life, you then go to Iraq. - No, actually, then I became a filmmaker. - Then you became a filmmaker. Oh yeah, you went to film school. You became a filmmaker. - Yeah, so I went to USC film school in LA, which is awesome. And I was making films, and made like 100 films in five years. - [Sal] Sounds like me, I just kind of... Yours are probably better. - Well, like they were little three minute videos, and music videos, and you know, lots of other things like that. But I was looking for a project, and the Iraq war was about to start in 2003, so it was March 2003 when I finally, I started working on trying to get into Iraq, get permission to get into Iraq in the end of 2002. - [Sal] Cause you saw the war was coming. The drumbeats. - The drumbeats were going, there were all these protest all over New York, LA, I filmed all that. And then I got myself in with a peace activist group called the Christian Peacemaking Team, which I was just gonna be documenting their struggles. And they were allowed into Iraq under the Saddam regime, and so I went in there. I was in Iraq when the, you know... in Baghdad when what was it called? Shock and awe began. It was actually quite an amazing time to be there and see it both pre and post. But as a filmmaker, you know, I also when you go into dictatarian regimes, they have followers called... oh jeez, I'm forgetting everything. Minders, yeah, but the minders... Oh yeah, that's what they're called, minders. Thank you very much. So they have government, like the industry of information... i'm forgetting what the name of the ministry of information was. But anyway, the Ministry of Information said we'll attach a minder to you, to make sure you didn't take photos of anything you were not supposed to take photos of. They will take you to a place where maybe a bomb went wrong, or they claim a bomb went the wrong way, or they'll take you to hospitals and show you pictures of women and children, but they won't actually let you photograph anything else. So I was ejected from the country, because I've never taken very well to rules. And so, that's where I met my wife actually, she was also a rule breaker. She was arrested by the Syrians when she was trying to cross the river into Iraq illegally. But she was in Jordan, and then when Baghdad fell, the border fell, and we were able to go back into the country. So I was there for the next 18 months or so. - Wow. This is like, you could make a movie. I'm already imagining the casting for... - Who would they cast as me? - Well, I'll think about that. I have some ideas, but I'll tell you after. And then you go back into... And I was even reading, I mean, one of your partners in this. - Yeah, Mohayman Al Safar probably, is that what you're referring to? I worked a little bit for CNN and Reuters and just doing a lot of freelance work at that point, and then after a while I got fed up with the US government's ability to execute. They couldn't get anything done, it didn't seem. So I started a humanitarian organization called JumpStart International, and we went in and we cleaned up a whole bunch of... we employed 3500 people in the end. It started with just myself and 30 guys, and then we grew it up over the time to about 3500 people. So we were actually the largest humanitarian organization after the UN pulled out pretty early. They were bombed and what not, so in Iraq-- - [Sal] This was during the war. What time period is this? - This is, well actually, there was sort of a postwar period which was from say around April May of 2003 to when the civil war started, which was April of 2004. - I see. You were kicked out, and then you come back. - I came back almost immediately. Because Baghdad just lasted for another nine days or something like that before it fell. Or five days or something. And then I went back, and I was running this humanitarian organization. And then the civil war... and I built that up, and the civil war started in April of 2004, and then I was still there until the end of that year. - Wow. And your partner in this... - Yeah, my co-founder of JumpStart was Mohayman Al Safar who was an Iraqi, and he was assassinated because we were just driving around all the time, you know, just us, visiting all the projects. So we would have 80 projects at a time. Hospitals and universities, and we'd be cleaning up or taking down skyscrapers that were bombed or burned. And then just, it was just a big manpower and engineering effort to try to clean up the city and we built a lot of housing, thousands of homes. - You must have seen some jarring... - Yeah, so both during the war and... The civil war was actually the worst part. If you think about American history, the civil war is where more Americans have died I'm sure by many factors. - [Sal] Like half a million, yeah. - You'd have 250,000 or something like that would die, verses in World War II over six years, I think we lost a million people, or less than that. So the American civil war is the worst. In Iraq it's the exact same thing. When that started in April of 2004 all the way to recently, it's been the bloodiest sort of period. - And you all were inserting yourselves in kind of the, just where there was carnage... - Yeah, so we would clean up after a terrorist bombing. And there'd be body parts, and we'd be stepping over body parts or stepping on them or cleaning up things. A lot of my workers would be injured, and I was just living... I wasn't living in the Green Zone, which is the American occupied, or the coalition occupied territory. I was living in the Red Zone. The other area, the other parts of the city. So we would just go around all the time. - I guess it was a question, what was driving you to do... - I was frustrated. What does any entrepreneur feel like, you know, when you see a market that's not being served. Or when you... just like, this needs to happen. It's so stupid the work wasn't getting done. - But you didn't think especially as a American or someone who looks European-- - Especially as an American. - Not being in the Green Zone, were you afraid? I mean, you could be a target. You could be abducted. - For sure. But there were Americans there risking their lives that had suits and guns and what not. But why shouldn't an American who's unarmed be out there risking their life for the same cause, to hopefully liberate the country and set them on their course, and leave them alone. But you know, it's... I was in danger. - [Sal] Were there a lot of folks like this? - No, there weren't many. - Yeah, cause my impression just through the news and whatever else is that you had the Green Zone that's where the civilian, the western civilians lived, and every now and then might with a huge military escort, kind make an excursion outside of the Green Zone. So were there... - And there's actually, USA Today called me at one point, I think it was around September 2004, and they said, "We think you're the last one there." (laughs) And I said, "No, the Christian Peacemaking Team." I kept in contact with, they're still around. Then they got, you know, they got kidnapped and tortured, and some of them killed as well. There were not that many people. - I mean, I'm just trying to un... - It's admirable, it's amazing to kind of go in and do this stuff, but especially, you're like the last one... Even the people who are... - Turn off the lights when you leave. - They're getting abducted, getting tortured. - I had probably most of the people I knew probably got either kidnapped or... - But I mean, in your mind, did you view this as a rational... Weren't you afraid, weren't you... You know, there's being brave, and then there's... - Well actually, what finally sent me from the country when I did leave, is because they thought actually, and I'm not that religious of a person. But what finally sent me from the country is I was blinded in my left eye, and I had cancer. Those two indicators. If it was just the cancer by itself... (both laugh) So I got skin cancer, actually. And if you look closely, they actually cut out an inch, a two inch patch. And it just kept getting worse, and I couldn't... you know, and actually the US... - [Sal] And what was your family telling you? - [Sean] The US Military hospital was very good. - They didn't even charge me anything to dig it out. - Well they shouldn't. (Sean laughs) - And then I went blind in my left eye, and that was becauase I got some infection and then the Iraqi doctor that I went to gave me a steroid, but it was a viral infection and so a steroid and a virus, it makes it a supervirus. And it basically ate my eye. And so it ate the skin off my eye, and I didn't have any skin on my eye. It was bad. At that point I said, you know, God is trying to give me a message. Because in Irish actually, O'Sullivan means the one-eyed giant or something. So there I was with one eye left, and actually amazingly, I got treatment for it afterwards, and they take your blood, and they make some sort of special potion out of your blood, and you can put it into your eye, and my eye grew back. And my vision got better than it was before. So actually, my vision's now better than it was before. - Than it was pre being eaten by a steroid induced virus. Eye eating virus. - If you have eye trouble, I recommend going to Iraq. I'll set you up with this Iraqi doctor. (laughter) - I didn't even know half of this stuff. I thought I'd done my... This is mind blowing. I want to talk more, we don't have a lot... - At the end of it, I said, you know, I am getting enough messages here. I mean, everybody's telling me. I mean, freaking NBC News followed me around for a day to do my obituary. - [Sal] Seriously? - Yeah. They didn't tell me they were doing my obituary. - [Sal] Like the guy who wants to die? No, no, no. I didn't want to die. I didn't want to die. - It looks like someone who almost has a... You know, like the guy in World War I who always wants to be at the front. - No, you know what, like... - Americans had to do something. And it was very very very frustrating to just go and do, to let the situation be what it was. And I'm proud of America, actually. I think Americans try to do the most incredible things for the planet. Their intent, what separates their intent and their execution sometimes is awful. And everyone says oh yeah, there was some ill intent in all this. And yeah, maybe a little bit. But it was mostly just misconceived in my view. And so to just let that go, it was speaking to my core that I needed to do something. And I was in a place to do something. I had some money, and actually gave, you know I started it myself. And then I got some UN funding and some other funding to keep it going. - Now was your wife with you? - Yeah. Well, she was a war reporter. So she's a little bit accustomed to it. But it was time for both of us to get out. So we got married. And I was actually then working in the Gaza strip, we built a university, Gaza Polytechnic, and I was on that trip. You know, we got married on New Years Eve, and nine months and seven days later, Charlotte, our first daughter was born. So I think that's God's other signal, was that I was not supposed to be in war zones anymore. So I was in the Gaza strip when I found out my wife was pregnant, and that was basically at the end of it, I said screw it, I'm not going to do this anymore. So I didn't. And now I've gone back and I've thrown myself at the technology. - And then you go back to Ireland. Why Ireland as opposed to... - I was using my Irish passport when I was going in and around in the Green Zone to get into the Green Zone. - As opposed to your Amer-- Why the Irish? - Well I was under the pretense that Iraqi Arabic speakers couldn't tell the difference between Irish sounding accents and American sounding accents. And actually, um.. - [Sal] And it would just be better if you were abducted with an Irish passport verses an American one? - Yeah, absolutely. It would have been better. The admission fee to get in for a visa is like 1/10 as much if you have your Irish passport verses if you have your American passport. Costs you 100 dollars or something to get in as an American, or five dollars. - So then you go back to Ireland, you, I guess because you were using the passport you started to feel, I guess you always kept some type of a joint citizenship. - Yeah, I had through my grandparents, I had Irish citizenship. So I started a company in Ireland, and now I live... The quality of life in Ireland is great. I love, it's great being there. And we've just sort of started a company a couple of companies that... - You started a couple companies, and even in your current SOSVentures, you all have backed some of the fairly well known... Guitar Hero. - Oh yeah, well so, Guitar Hero would have been a great win for us. I backed pretty heavily a company called Netflix. - Yes, we've heard of it. - It's done well. And a number of, we have about 160 companies in the portfolio. Elite Motion is one of the ones I was just talking about, is a great big one that we were the first VC in on that as well. That's a recent one. So this week in San Francisco, we're actually launching 20 different companies. On Monday we launched 10 from HAXLR8R and today, later today we're launching the Leap Accelerator program in San Francisco with 10 new companies. So we do a lot, and I manage a couple hundred million dollar fund, and we believe in accelerating companies. We're the accelerator VC. So we do a lot to try to start as many good companies as we can. Because ultimately you can try to go in and you can try to change people's lives by building a house or something lke that. But if you can change their lives by for example enabling cloud computing, or enabling street mapping on computers, or any of these new technologies that we're launching, these are really transforming tens of millions if not more of people's lives. This is what I was speaking to, in terms of the disproportionate power that engineers have to impact the quality of life of mankind. And we can, you know, that's the most impact you can have as a person. Even as a venture capitalist, that's what I look to. Is this adding good to the planet to do this? And what you're doing in Khan Academy, it was a five million dollar commitment that we made, which is a reasonable size commitment. - Huge, it continues to be one of our largest gifts ever, but especially at that phase of the organization. It was a big deal for us. - Well, thank you. But I feel honored to be a part of your success, because what you're doing is so transformative and potentially so transformative. I know you're only part of the way there, so none of you engineers need to rest on your laurels. (laughs) Because there's a lot more that needs to be done. But life is like that. You try to get up every day and do something amazing, and try to make the world a better place. That's all the guiding philosophy is about. - And what's been incredible, obviously you helped support us, but you've also turned into something of an advisor, and you've been driving some pretty neat initiatves in Ireland that we're actually hoping to eventually replicate. - Yeah, so Ireland's a little petri dish, and we've got this thing going, I don't know if Sal or any of the gang has talked about it called Mathletes. And it's an experiment that we try, and it is super cool. It is just super cool. I was just looking over some of the stats this morning. You know, we came up with this idea to try to duplicate the passion that people have about athletics, and the pride that people have about their school or their individual performance. And try to have people be as dedicated to their schools through mathletics as they would to athletics. And this is something that seems like it's working. It's early days, but in just the age range that we're talking about, from 11 to 15, evidently by running this Mathletes competition over two and a half months, the web traffic for Khan Academy is something like three and a half times as many. - For all of Ireland. - For all of Ireland. - And you all were essentially just getting started these last few months. - Yeah, and so we launched the idea. One and a half percent of all the kids in Ireland in that age range are now competing in Mathletes. If you did that across the United States, I think it would be like 70,000 schools would be competing. And it's competing at a very very very significant level. Like the top one percent of kids in the last two and a half months have spent, I don't know, we just looked at the stats. - It was 20 something hundred. - 2700 or something like that? Minutes of study. Several grade levels. - In two months. In just two months. - Several grade levels of math in just two and a half months. Now that's the top one percent. But if you take it to the top five percent, or top 10 percent, they've done several grade levels of math within 700 minutes or 580 minutes. - It's really turned into a national thing. The prime minister's involved... - The An Taoiseach, which is the Irish for prime minister. It's a ministerial form of government rather than.... the president in Ireland is not the same as the president here. So the An Taoiseach is the head of the government. And so he's given away the Mathletes prizes. We have little trophies that he gives that have been given to the schools for their competition. It started in February, the finals, and it works up like the NCAA sort of thing, where there's a whole press coverage, and there's leader boards that go out every week. People know where their schools are on the leader boards on a county level, on a regional level, and on a national level. So there's a tremendous amount of pride that people are taking in their accomplishments and the accomplishments of their school. And the teachers are getting sucked into this because they're passionate about it, and because it's exciting. And because the kids are excited. And it's potentially a really really really interesting way of, you know... We've seen that something like 350%, you know the number of people that are participating in Ireland is only doubled, even though it's just this age range. On Khan Academy now. But the engagement is like four times. So the number of page views and the number of time. So if we could duplicate that for the world, or for the United States, then you're talking about a lot of impact. I'm super excited about this. And another thing I'm excited about is there's been this fallacy that women aren't good at math. And this proves, you know, we've got an exactly 50/50 gender split for the top performing Mathletes in the country. And then even at the national competition, which is taking place next Saturday, there is a slight discrepancy but we don't know if there's gender bias in how parents, we don't know, we have to look at the data a little bit more, but it's still incredibly similar. It's 54% to 46% boys to girls at the national level. Which when you think about your day, Sal, when you were in math competitions, how many women were in the competitions verses men? - There weren't many. There were... - It's like an engineering school. One in 10 or one in six or something. It's awful. So we need to as they say women hold up half the sky, so we have to use all of our talent, all of our people to advance the planet. And more women should become more technically capable. - Yeah, awesome. Well thank you, I could go on for hours because actually (mumbling) I have a million questions about Iraq. But anyway, I mean thank you so much, this was a bigger treat than I even expected the more I got to even know you, who I've known for three years. But the more your background, my respect for you has gone to even a whole other level. So thank you for being an early supporter and continuing to do incredible things. And pushing us into the direction frankly we should be going in, which is getting more community buidling and more people to kind of really feel invested in learning. - Yeah, we're all learning here, and so each day is a joy if we just take it that way. We don't know what the future is. We can't predict what the future is. But we can measure, we can go in a lean way, and we can adapt our course on the way. And hopefully some of the learnings we're doing our little petri dish in Ireland can apply to the overall mission, which I love about what Khan Academy is doing. So great. - But thanks so much, Sal. - Thank you. (applause)