In Otter Words: Tim Draper
12:33PM Jun 25, 2019
Hello, welcome to In Otter Words, an audio series that looks at how people are using real time translation in different roles. I'm Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research. And our guest today is Tim Draper. Tim is one of the best known venture capitalists in the industry. He's the founder of Draper Associates, DFJ, and the Draper Venture Network, among other initiatives, and his firm's investments have funded some of the most important and best known companies to come along since the earliest days of the web, including Coinbase, Twitch, Skype, Tesla, Baidu, Hotmail, and Solar City to name a few. Today, we're going to be talking to Tim about how he uses Otter in his work. Tim, great to have you with us. Why don't you tell us a little bit about how you use Otter.
I am possibly their most enthusiastic supporter. We are using it. And and we're using it for almost every venture meeting. Any time a new entrepreneur comes in the door, I ask if they mind if I record, and then we record all those meetings. And what's happening is I'm able to go back and look and say, "Oh, wait, how much money were they raising?" Or what were their revenues? Or, wait, what was the main part of that business? And, you know, what customer did they talk about in the meeting? And it's been incredibly valuable to me. And I love the calendar feature, because I don't even have to type anything in. It says you're meeting with Joe Schmo from ABC Company, from Newco or whatever, and then, up comes Joe Schmo, Newco. and then I'm recording immediately.
And then the other thing that's really great is I'll watch the text. When I'm rereading it, I'll reread the text. And then I'll go back and I'll say, "Wait, that text doesn't make any sense." Because sometimes it records, sometimes the transcription doesn't work that well. And so I go, well, it's in this area, and then I hit the audio button. And I hear just what was happening at that moment in time. So I think that there are going to be all sorts of amazing applications here. And I think some of the real value, I think, is going to be when everybody's kind of comfortable with it. And they say, you know, they assume everybody's going to... it's going to record for everybody, but then everybody's going to get their own transcript of it. So everybody can remember the meeting, not just me. So, the more Otter users, the more valuable Otter becomes. In the bigger picture, I could see Otter running in the background in every office in the U.S. or in the world. And actually, I guess any English-speaking in part of the world, and anybody who is in any of those meetings will have instant access to all that data. And I think that's incredibly valuable. A lot of people are a little bit nervous about being recorded, at least at first. But after a while, they realize this is you know, people aren't thinking about this as some legal document, because the translation's not probably good enough to say it, to do anything. You know, just like every other industry where there's this sort of people say, Oh, isn't this hurting our privacy? I actually think we all kind of get over the privacy because the features are so strong. And I think that's true in the case of Otter.
Great perspective, Tim. Thanks so much for that. One thing I'm trying to get a sense of is the kinds of problems that having access to Otter has helped for you. I imagine, before you had access to this, people would take notes at meetings, but what kinds of issues or challenges has the tool been able to help you with?
Well, I mean, I think I interview something like eight entrepreneurs a day. And then once a week, go through with my partners, associates and analysts and say which ones we want to fund. Or we decide which ones do we want to fund. Well, a lot can be forgotten during that period of time. But you get into the habit of recording everything. And, yeah, I mean, what's great is I also take a picture of the founders when they come in, so that, in Otter, I have the picture of the founders, and I have everything that everybody said, and so that I can glance through and go, oh, yeah, I remember those guys. I remember that woman or whatever. And they've made, you know, that was a really interesting business. And a lot of the reminders pop in. Because I mean, if I'm... if I do eight a day, even if I only do five days a week, that's 40 entrepreneurs I've got to remember when I go into the meeting, and I think it's a lot better, they just have it right there and easy for you.
Oh, absolutely. And thinking about your portfolio companies or the entrepreneurs with whom you work, have there been any examples of Otter usage that have enabled companies to be more nimble?
You know, what's interesting is about, with each of our meetings, I say, "Hey, take a look at this." And what's great is the real time transcription is kind of an amazing demo. And they, many of them, say, What's the name of that, and then they type it in. I'm not sure what they're all doing with it. I haven't ever asked. I think that there, I think generally people... this thing spreading, it's going to be a big deal. It's very exciting. And keeping track of all the things that you do in a day is a very difficult task. And. you know, you can have a notebook or you can type it into notes on your iPhone or whatever. But this is so much better and so much easier. Pretty easy to refer to, too. So if I need to search for something, it's pretty easy,
Right. And it when you see it for the first time, it really does seem kind of magical, one of these holy grails we've been thinking about in technology for many years. And it is kind of amazing, not only to see it working, but to see it update in real time and correct itself as it as it figures out what people are really trying to say.
Yeah, yeah, I... the way the engineers behind Otter have got it, they really understand language.
I wanted to switch gears a bit and talk about initiatives beyond your core investing activities. Looking at your website, I was intrigued by both Draper University and Draper TV. They're two different kinds of education initiatives: one in person and when using the webcast model. Otter is already being used for many podcasts. What do you see as its potential for these kinds of environments?
Yeah, we get a lot of really amazing speakers at Draper University. We've had founders of Airbnb, Tesla, we've had Elon. We've had founders of Uber and some of the biggest and best companies in the world. And they, and then we, and we record them, and we put them up on Draper TV. So our goal really is for our students in the university have a great experience, but also for those people that aren't able to go to the university to be able to learn from these extraordinary people how they might build their business. So we think that Draper University is a... First of all, it's in amazing places. It looks at schools in a totally new way. And Draper TV is a great offshoot of that. Which, by the way, also has a TV show called Meet the Drapers which allows the viewer to invest $100 or $1,000 in the companies that they see presented to me and my dad, my daughter, and my sister.
All of those things can easily use Otter because, while they're being video recorded, there isn't a text transcription. And we could easily just incorporate that in real time on the... during the show. We can incorporate it in real time for the students. It's interesting. When I saw Otter presented, when I saw people presenting on stage, and Otter transcribing on the side of the stage, I noticed that I would listen to the person and then I'd say, ah,, I didn't quite catch that. And I look up and there's Otter. And they give me the words that the person just said, so I can better understand what they're talking about. It's going to be a valuable tool for education, too. So we're, I'm excited about that, too. In fact, we're hoping to incorporate Otter into our next hero training class.
Oh, that sounds really great. You know, another area you've been passionate about is the role of innovation in reforming state government and California's government in particular, I could think of a few applications there such as say, aggregating voter feedback or sharing transcripts of town halls. In fact, I kind of see this complementary to some of the education examples. In one case, you're recording and sending it out to the public. And this is a kind of return path, going from the public back to decision makers and other elected officials.
Wow, that would be very powerful. If town hall used Otter, because then people could... you know, it's a big effort to go out to town hall and sit in uncomfortable chairs for three hours while they deliberate. It's a lot easier to listen to the presentation, in an audio form, or, better yet, to look at a transcription and then jump around and look at things some of the people said, from an audio, through the audio. It does have huge implications for democracy. It opens people's doors to reach them, even if they can't make it down to town hall. And then they can probably participate better in the democracy than they can right now.
Sure, tremendous potential there. I wanted to close by asking you about some complementary technologies, you may be looking at, perhaps things that are based on machine learning. Certainly the audio chat we're working with right now is highly complementary to Otter. We've also seen machine learning make strides in real time translation. What do you see emerging to help build out this ecosystem?
Well, it's interesting, I think that there's a really interesting connection with all of the administrative assistant software that's out there, whether it's Sonia or Linda, or heavy or whatever. There's about 15 of these administrative, like, secretaries online. And I could easily see that that secretary online, would incorporate Otter into the calendar. It would tie the discussion with Otter into whatever the to do list is to come up with a, you know, an outcome. I guess these are features that Otter could add. A lot of those things are starting to happen. An application we haven't talked about is the press because it keeps the press honest if you record, too, And so it's not a bad idea to when you're doing an interview to use Otter because then two things happen. The journalist gets an opportunity to recheck their work. And you get an opportunity to protect yourself from a journalist that kind of goes awry. So I think there are going to be some really interesting new applications.
And then tying Otter into everything from... you know, you can put it in your car and make it a transcription. You can help.. It,can help you write a book and help you with a podcast. If you're in a podcast, you have the ability to record everything and then print it out as text. There are going to be so many applications that none of us have ever thought of. But I think just having your world around you recorded. for whatever reason, turns out to be very helpful.
Fantastic. Tim, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today. For our listeners. If you want to keep up with Tim's initiatives, you can visit his website at timothydraper.com. Or follow him on Twitter at @timdraper. As for me, you can visit my website at reticleresearch.com or follow me on Twitter at @rossrubin. If you'd like to check out my podcast, it's at techspansive.com. And of course, please do check out Otter. Its website is otter.ai. And you can follow the team at @otter_ai. For In Otter Words, thanks for listening