William (“Bill”) Santana Li is the Founder of Knightscope. He and his partner, have formed a company in response to […]

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William (“Bill”) Santana Li is the Founder of Knightscope. He and his partner, have formed a company in response to the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook and Boston Bombings. He has a passion, for creating an affordable platform to reduce both crime and economic burden in places of every facet of society with the right fusion of technologies and social engagement.

Knightscope builds fully Autonomous Security Robots, which are a very unique combination of self-driving autonomous technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence, to give our nation’s 2 million law enforcement and security professionals, really smart eyes and ears for them to do their jobs much more effectively.

Mr. Li earned a BSEE from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the University of Detroit Mercy.

 

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Autonomous Security Robots with William Santana Li

 

Brett:

I’m excited about our next guest. He is the Founder of Knightscope. He and his partner, have formed a company in response to the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook and Boston Bombings. He has a passion, for creating an affordable platform to reduce both crime and economic burden in places of every facet of society with the right fusion of technologies and social engagement. Please welcome to the show with me, William Santana Li. William, how are you doing today?

William:

Good. Hey, Brett, how are you doing? Greetings from Silicon Valley.

Brett:

Absolutely. Glad to have you here. I think he liked to go by Bill. So we’re gonna go by Bill for the rest of today. That being said, Bill, would you give our listeners a little bit more about your story, and your current focus?

William:

Sure, Knightscope builds fully autonomous security robots, which are a very unique combination of self-driving autonomous technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence, to give our nation’s 2 million law enforcement and security professionals, really smart eyes and ears for them to do their jobs much more effectively. Coming up here on April 4 will be our eighth anniversary, which is kind of vague because you know, it’s 20,000 startups in Silicon Valley, like 95% of them end up failing. So we’re pretty excited about building this crazy set of technologies and actually have it working in the real world. We’d hold contracts from Alaska to Rhode Island, operating 24/7 across the nation, we’ve operated over a million hours thus far. And crimefighting technologies have actually proven to work.

Brett:

Amazing, can’t wait to dive into that because it’s such a unique topic and so timely, given the state of a lot of things. So we’ll dive into that here in a second. But I want to take a step back, though, first one Bill, and I want you to help our listeners and myself get to know you a little bit better. I believe we’ve all been given certain gifts in this life. These gifts are given to us to be a blessing and a help to others. Some people call it a strength. Some people call it a superpower. But I want you to go back maybe to your university days or your high school days.  want you to think about maybe one or two gifts that you believe you were given, and how those gifts help how you help and bless people today?

William:

I think one of the things that I realized when I started was the time. It is really important. I didn’t come from a wealthy family. I ended up kind of smashing stuff in together as quickly as possible to graduate as quickly as possible. So during high school, I went through stuff here in university, California, Berkeley after my sophomore year, and then at Yale University for some summer sessions, and then crammed everything into Carnegie Mellon during the summer and added all that up and was able to graduate a year early. You know, entrepreneurs can create jobs, can define technologies, can build brands, but you know, the one thing we can do is create time. So that was kind of important. And I think the other thing that is rather different from me than others is I kind of like to look at things from a systemic standpoint. Unfortunately, our scholastic system and our corporations breed silos or into the functional experts. So if you started your career as a buyer in purchasing, then you became the supervisor in purchasing, then the manager, then the director and the executive director, and then the vice president on purchasing. You’re really good at purchasing but your ability to actually build or run anything is really limited. Similarly, in school, we’ve got mechanical engineers and software engineers and historians and biology people, but intertwining those and mixing them is not really encouraged. To me, it’s like during interviews, I always ask, Hey kind of what’s more important as customer services and finances, the technology, I thought the best brand and nine out of 10 candidates will pick a functional area. And that’s like asking a Formula One racecar driver. You know, please tell me what’s more important than this. Steering or the brakes, like you, have to have everything kind of work together. And for a startup like we are, it ebbs and flows over time. So, and I think of thinking of things holistically as opposed to I got to be really good at customer service, or I got to be really good at technology. That’s not how the world works.

Brett:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. And so I want to try to encapsulate that. So time and being efficient and thinking of ways to speed up and have and get your studies done and you’re running a company building something from scratch in Silicon Valley. So you’ve always looked at time and efficiency and another way. And then on top of that looked at big problems from a systemic standpoint, a broader and saying, “How are we? How are we solving these problems? And what are the things that are in the way to solving that? And we’ve got to change that, reimagine that”. is that a fair summary, Bill?

William:

Yeah. I think if we fast forward to Knightscope, kind of looking at the country’s issues if you would have asked me for eight years ago, hey, we’re gonna be in the middle of a pandemic, the robots are immune. And literally, the entire country after what happened over the summer, and January 6, is going to be looking at reimagining public safety. And you’d be in the right in the middle of it, I’d say, Yeah, kind of Hollywood sci-fi. Movie plot. And but you know, here we are, I think from a systemic standpoint, that may be your viewers may not be fluent in. The US Department of Defense has a $700 Billion budget, there’s one person in charge, and we give the troops every level of capability you might ever imagine. And there’s a Northrop Grumman or Lockheed Martin, or Raytheon, or Boeing to build whatever he or she might need in a theater of war. There are two plus a million soldiers. That is not the case on our own soil. So the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Homeland Security effectively have no federal jurisdiction, over 19,000 law enforcement agencies, and 8000 private security firms. And we’ve got 2 million people on the ground that wake up every morning and willing to take a bullet for you and your family. And the level of technology that we provide to them as a country is certainly beneath the dignity of this nation, we effectively have them trying to secure the country with the technological equivalent of a number two pencil and a notepad. And in that case, there’s no risk capital, there’s no one single person in charge, there’s no strategy, it’s systemically broken.

Brett:

Wow, that is staggering to hear that and having family members served in the Marines and the army. And I had no clue of those stats. So let’s dive in right into exactly what you’re doing to take that head-on. What are autonomous security robots? How are they helping to bring change to what you just talked about?

William:

Sure, the strategy is twofold. The first one’s a little bit easier than the second one. The first one is just to provide a physical deterrence. So if I put a mark law enforcement vehicle in front of your home or your office, criminal behavior changes, Alternatively, if you’re driving down the highway, and there’s a marked police car on those side of the road, I don’t care what speed you’re doing, you’re gonna pump those brakes. And that is similar to our machines that are behind me. If you’re trying to steal a car at a hospital at three o’clock in the morning, and you pull up in, there’s a five-foot-tall, 400-pound machine roaming around on its own, there’s no one remote controlling it, there’s a strobe light going, it says security on the side, you have no idea what it does, you’re gonna steal the car down the street and not there. And that’s literally what’s been happening with our clients across the nation. So that kind of the simple part, just physically being there stops a lot of negative silliness from happening. The second part is a little bit more complicated. So these machines generate over 90 terabytes of data a year that no human would ever be able to digest. And we put that in a format that an officer or guard can utilize, and the machines can then provide 360-degree eye level, high definition streaming video, we can run a thermal scan, we can treat your mobile device as if it’s a license plate and kind of be on the lookout for that device. Same with license plates. The guards can speak through the machines as if it’s a mobile PA system. So it’s basically providing the guards and officers really smart eyes and ears and having their eyes ears and voice on the ground and being able to be in a lot more places at the same time. And then that force multiplier is what is driving a lot of the crime reduction that we’ve seen with the application of technology across the country.

Brett:

So my mind has me thinking, Minority Report here, Bill, so I know you’ve probably heard this a lot.

William:

No, never heard of it. Minority Report, Star Wars, Robocop, I haven’t heard of any of them. No idea what you’re talking about.

Brett:

So help us with the biggest, I guess, false beliefs or maybe fears that like us American citizens or anyone really looking at like, our data or security or freedom? So I know there’s probably so much out there that is just so unreasonable. So what’s the biggest false belief of what you do? And how does it overcome that maybe the challenge of some of the fears that someone like myself who’s learned about this first time would have?

William:

No false belief, the robots are coming, they’re coming to kill you. And they’re going to take all your jobs. I mean, sorry, I practiced that this morning a few times. The level of silliness just happens every decade or two. Let’s just go backward in time. Think about when electricity first came on board, whoa, I’ve seen that kill people. Like I think it’s the work of the devil-like we shouldn’t mess with that. Or the first automobile across a dirt road. Or you’ll never see a banker ever again, ATM machine is going to replace everybody. And this silliness and madness go on through society and through the media, every 10, 20 years. And all I asked your viewers is to do this simple plot, please pump plot me the employment levels from 1900 to 2021. And I think you’ll find three dips, probably 1929, probably 2008, and 2020. Alright, I don’t think a technologist was behind those dips. There’s probably a banker or some other extraneous activity that that happened. I think the robots are here, and they’re here to help. We’ve helped a law enforcement agency issue an arrest warrant for a sexual predator, we helped another law enforcement agency apprehend an armed gunman, we helped the domestic abuse case, we helped the security officer apprehend a retail thief, we stopped the fraudulent insurance claim. And the list goes on and on and on. So if you want to learn more, you can just go to knightscope.com/crime, and then you’ll see a huge list. And we’re just getting started. So I think the way to stop the silliness, and we can talk about it financially if you’d like is just results. If you can prove that technology can be helpful to society, people start understanding that it can be helpful, and science fiction and Hollywood have done as a service and disservice over the last three decades.

 

Autonomous Security Robots with William Santana Li

Autonomous Security Robots: “Today people who hold cash equivalents feel comfortable. They shouldn’t. They have opted for a terrible long-term asset, one that pays virtually nothing and is certain to depreciate in value.” – Warren Buffet

 

Brett:

Love it. Love it. Absolutely. Did somebody try to encapsulate? So we got physical determinism first thing, right? Like a marked police car, let’s say on a side, it’s going to slow people down. These autonomous security robots can be that first line. The second part is the data that it’s collecting and the ability to speak through the machines. And or have eyes and ears on the ground in more places, more times to help and then the next thing is actually lowering crime, looking at the data, and looking at the evidence of what things are having. Is that a fair summary so far?

William:

If you just let the crazy founder for 30 seconds go nuts, like, let’s say so we have a slightly long-term ambitious goal to see if we can make the United States of America the safest country in the world. And as crazy as that might sound, just for a moment pause reality, and let’s say we’re actually able to deliver that. Talk to me about the impact on property values, your home. Talk to me about the viability of someone’s local business. How about the municipality budget? What about taxes? What about infrastructure, what the negative economic impact of crime is every single year, $1 trillion. You want to talk about tax efficiencies, crime has a negative impact of a trillion dollars every year. It’s a hidden tax, we all pay in blood, tears, and treasure. And if we’re able to cut and or eliminate that, talk to me about the impact on society.

Brett:

That is amazing. So the vision of having the US the first country the safest country in the world, using Autonomous Security Robots. We’re here with, Bill, William Santana Li, you can find him at knightscope.com. So, Bill, I think that’s amazing. So let’s talk about some of the more innovative cities or places that you’re using this currently right now. And how has law enforcement applied at you and come alongside? Give us a standpoint from that.

William:

Sure. Our clients are basically anywhere. You might see a security officer or guard across the country. So half a dozen, fortune 1000 firms, we’re nearing half a dozen hospitals, major corporate campuses, like a Citizens Bank or Samsung rail, airports. So the Houston airport, for example, manufacturing plants, I think we’re in a sixth or seventh casino. Again, anywhere you might see an officer or guard is a significant opportunity for us. And if we can give these brave women and men in uniform on our own soil, magical technology literally at their fingertips, then they can actually do their jobs much, much more effectively.

Brett:

Let’s take some action here or give us some calls to action. What can the average citizen do to help further your cause to persuade those in power to open this up? Because that is staggering. The fact that there’s, you said, $700 Billion is for national defense. To increase our domestic defense? Is that what you’re saying?

William:

Yeah, and to the benefit of society, what is the first role of government is to protect its citizens? Right? I think one of the crazy things that we’ve been able to and if you can go to knightscope.com, you can see our “master plan”. The master plan is threefold. One, don’t rally 1000s of investors to come back to the company. We announced today that we just topped over 21,000 private investors across the country and actually across the globe. You can deploy our machines at your facility. So it could be you know, rail transportation, government facilities, indoors or outdoors. And you can go to knightscope.com/demo and learn a little bit more with a private session with one of our executives. You can also join the team. Obviously, we’re recruiting and we’re hiring lots of people despite the pandemic. And then if you’re more technologically astute, you can get brave and download the Knightscope app off the Google Store, Apple Store. And there you can go to a particular location that you think Knightscope can be helpful. Take some video and pictures and give us some additional information and we can follow up directly.

Brett:

Amazing. I want you to maybe wrap up this Podcast with a story. I always like to bring this thing to life. So what is the story? What got Bill and your partner, Stacy Dean Stephens in 2013? Give us a story of the backing and the start of Knightscope.

William:

Back to 2013. Let’s see. I guess the personal motivation and the professional motivation for me. The professional motivation is, I’m a former Ford motor company Executive, spent 10 years in Detroit, working on four continents, every functional area, I believe autonomous or self-driving technology is going to turn the world completely upside down. I’m in kind of violent disagreement on the path to commercialize that technology. Over $80 Billion has been invested in self-driving autonomous technology as 200 companies working on it. And their collective revenue is about zero. No one shipped anything, I believe Knightscope is the only company in the world operating 24/7 fully autonomous without any human intervention with real clients generating real revenue and real-world conditions. So I think we’re taking a different path from a personal standpoint. I was born in New York City, someone hit my town on 911. I’m still profoundly pissed off about it. So the rest of my life I’m dedicating myself to better securing our country. When we started in 2013 no office, no technology, no revenues, nothing. We had a PowerPoint. And no one would believe in us and what we wanted to do, I was told the following: “Hey, Bill, you’re out of your mind, this will never work. It’s hardware and software, too complicated. You should pick one. And physical security is not an investment thesis you need to go away”. So like good entrepreneurs, we kind of ignored everyone and just went off and did what we said we were going to do. And now we have a track record of these machines operating across the country. We’ve generated over $10 million a lifetime revenue. We have 1000s of investors. We’ve operated over a million hours and we’ve got recurring revenue for a recurring societal problem. So I think probably the message the founders and entrepreneurs out there is don’t let anyone ever tell if you know down deep down to the bone that you’re right, you just need to force it to happen.

Brett:

Absolutely love that. And with that maybe you can give us the best-kept secret to scaling because that’s truly remarkable. 24/7, fully autonomous. Something, that I’ve never heard of any company ever doing before. So what is the best way to scale? And to do that? I mean, just give us one secret? I know, that’s such a big question. But what was the one thing that changed the most for you guys, when you implement that secret?

William:

It’s not something I’m necessarily proud of. But it’s kind of reality. I have founders asking me like, how did you do this? You know, what amount of time should I spend on raising capital? And how much time should I spend on the business and I’m like, well, you need to spend about 100% of your time raising capital. And then you can spend the other 100% of your time building the business. And no one cares that you’re putting in 80, 100 hours a week, for years on end to go build something that you believe in. And that’s why picking what you want to do is really important, you’re going to have to be madly in love with it. Or you’ve got to have like, a little bit of a screw loose to be building a company in the first place. But you’ve got to be so passionate about what you’re doing, that you will do unrealistic, irrational things, to force an outcome to happen. And that’s what we’ve had to do over the last eight years. And I’ve got an awesome team behind me that’s stuck with it. And now we’ve seen the fruits of our labor, but it’s messy. You know, what’s the diet for a founder, the diet is in the morning, you get punched in the face for lunch, you get kicked in the stomach. And then for dinner, you get body-slammed, and then you got to get up the next morning and put a smile on and get back into the ring. And you just got to keep pushing forward.

Brett:

Amazing, absolutely love your passion. It is contagious. And so that being said, Are you ready for the lightning round?

William:

Oh, what’s the lightning round?

Brett:

There we go. Knowing what you know now Bill, if you go back to your 25-year-old self, what’s the one Golden Nugget you would make sure that tell yourself to do?

William:

The world moves around three things, people, cash, and relationships. And one of the things that I’ve got 1000s of people I’m connected to now I think I failed miserably in my early days of continuing to build out a network of people. I’m catching up now. But there’s a lot of missed opportunities from high school and college and the early work years, where you lose contact with people or whatever. So you know, it sounds silly but keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date and connecting with folks. And make sure you keep those relationships alive is really important because you never know where folks might end up. You know, someone I met, I don’t know, 20, 25 years ago, she just became the Chief of Staff for Major US Federal Government Agency, like you never know who’s gonna end up where, right. So having those relationships is kind of really important.

 

Autonomous Security Robots with William Santana Li

Brett:

Beautiful. People, cash, and relationships made, keeping our relationships going and a priority. The second question, what’s the number one book you’ve recommended, or gifted the most in the past year, Bill?

William:

Easy. Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. That details out what founders really have to go through that misery that I was just speaking of? Ben puts it in a pretty, maybe not succinct, but the detailed manner of the hell and stupidity that entrepreneurs have to go through to build their respective companies.

 

 

Brett:

Excellent. What’s the number one obstacle your company is currently facing?

William:

We’ve got an opportunity to build a $30 Billion company, we’re a complete outlier. And capital is a big problem. You know, $130 Billion goes into startups every year 80% into software companies 10, 15%, into biotech and 5% into other, and then a small sliver of that might go into robotics or hardware, and all about zero goes into physical security. So not proud of it. But I’ve probably done more financial engineering now than then, than actual engineering. But we’ve raised over $70 million to build all this technology behind me from scratch. And a lot of entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to go through the madness to raise capital for building a company that’s in the national security interests of the United States of America.

Brett:

Very well said. Thank you for sharing that. Next question. What are you most curious about right now?

William:

So last year, I made six predictions regarding the pandemic, and unfortunately, all of them came true. My wife thinks I’m being too pessimistic, but I, unfortunately, think we’re going to be stuck with this nightmare till 2024. You know, if people are going to act silly and be ignorant, not want to take a vaccine, and continuing to travel and all kinds of not healthy stuff going on, like this is gonna take a long time. And I’m curious as to what the final outcome is gonna be? I’m hoping that everything clears up soon. And that we end up with the roaring 20s. Not with the same ending, though. Going forward.

Brett:

Yeah, very well said. And the last question is this Bill, and then we’ll let you go. After all your success, after building something that a lot of people said couldn’t be built, and still being in the midst of building it more and more, trying to solve the vision of helping create the safest country in the world with autonomous security robots? How do you stay centered, Bill, in your values? And how do you stay encouraged to charge forward to reach new goals?

William:

As I said, most founders have a screw loose. So we have 21,000 investors that have backed us and have an unwavering commitment to what we’re doing. Equally, we get a lot of hate. And what I encourage founders and entrepreneurs to do is you got to take that negativity, and use it as fuel. And so little Jedi mind trick but the more you tell us to know, the more we’re going to show you you’re wrong and should never, ever bet against Knightscope.

Brett:

Beautiful, absolutely love it, Bill. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you a little bit more. For our listeners who want to get to find you and learn more about the company, what’s the best place for them to connect and find you?

William:

Visit knightscope.com, you can also look me up on LinkedIn, if you send me a request, though, actually mentioned kind of where you met me or heard, because I get all kinds of odd requests to which I don’t always accept, but happy to do that. So check us out on knightscope.com if you have any further questions actually, if you go to securityrobot.com all the way at the bottom, there’s a little blue icon. If you click that, that is not customer service. That is me answering investor questions seven days a week 7 am to 7 pm Pacific Time.

Brett:

Excellent. So that’s knightscope.com. I want to thank you Bill for helping us get to know you Bill Santana Li, out of Silicon Valley. That being said, I want to thank our listeners also for listening to another episode of the Capital Gains Tax Solutions Podcast as always, we believe most high net worth individuals and those who helped them they struggled clarifying their capital gains tax deferral options, not having a clear plan is the enemy and using a proven tax deferral strategy such as the deferred sales trust is the best way for you to grow your business. exit your business, even raise capital for your business. Please Rate, Review and Subscribe. We appreciate you want to learn more about that you go to capitalgainstaxsolutions.com. We appreciate you listening to another show and hope to talk to you soon. Bye now.

 

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About William Santana Li

Autonomous Security Robots with William Santana LiWilliam (“Bill”) Santana Li has served as our sole director and Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) since April 2013. Mr. Li is an American entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience working in the global automotive sector and founding and leading a number of startups. From 1990 to 1999, Mr. Li held multiple business and technical positions at Ford Motor Company across four continents.

His positions at Ford ranged from component, systems, and vehicle engineering with the Visteon, Mazda, and Lincoln brands; to business and product strategy on the United States youth market, India, and the emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and South America; as well as the financial turnaround of Ford of Europe. In addition, he was on the “Amazon” team, which established an all-new modular plant in Brazil. Subsequently, he served as Director of Mergers & Acquisitions.

After internally securing $250 million in the financing, Mr. Li founded and served as COO of GreenLeaf LLC, a Ford Motor Company subsidiary that became the world’s second-largest automotive recycler. Under his leadership, Greenleaf grew to more than 600 employees, 20 locations worldwide, and annual sales of approximately $150 million. At the age of 28, Bill was the youngest senior executive at Ford Motor Company worldwide.

After successfully establishing GreenLeaf, Mr. Li was recruited by SoftBank Venture Capital to establish and serve as the President and CEO of the Model E Corporation, a newly established automobile manufacturer that focused on the “Subscribe and Drive” model in California. Mr. Li also founded Carbon Motors Corporation in 2003, and as its Chairman and CEO until February 2013, focused it on developing the world’s first purpose-built law enforcement patrol vehicle.

Mr. Li earned a BSEE from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the University of Detroit Mercy.

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