This interview is about the future of our cities, and the technologies and companies making that happen.
To learn more about that today we get to interview Shaun Abrahamson. Shaun is managing partner of Urban.Us, which is venture capital firm that invests in companies re-imagining city life.
Dave Kruse: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Flyover Labs and this interview is about the future of our cities and the technologies and companies to make that happen. And so to learn more about that today we have the interview Shaun Abrahamson and Shaun is the managing partner of Urban US, which is a Venture Capital Firm that invests in companies reimagining the city life. So, Urban US has invested in about 26 companies like Dash, Architizer, Onewheel and Block Power. So Shaun is really in the middle of the kind of the transformation of urban areas and the technologies that are making that happen, so definitely excited to learn more. Shaun has quite a background. He has a Masters in science from MIT and MBA from the Berlin School of Creative Leadership and a Bachelors from the University of Cape Town. He has done some travelling and all over I should say. So yeah, so Shaun thanks for coming on the show today.
Shaun Abrahamson: Sure. Happy to be here.
Dave Kruse: Yeah. And so I was going to jump right into you know why focus on companies and technology for urban areas, but the last comment I had, I mean that is pretty diverse schooling you’ve had between the continents. How does – yeah I guess maybe you want to just tell us a little bit of how that came about and your background first, because you have a pretty interesting background.
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, I guess there’s some interesting points to the story, but– so I was born in Cape Town and so the first Under Grad was the University of Cape Town which really was just close to home and if you ever see the place, it’s sort of a hard place to leave. So that, I don’t have much more of a thoughtful explanation about that. But I landed up coming to the US, so I had this family that moved to Boston and I wanted to visit them and as part of schooling in South Africa you have to do a certain number of hours. I did engineering, so you have to work a certain number of hours and landed up doing an internship at Boes, which was fantastic and at some point, so I went back sort of two years in a row and at some point near the end of the second internship, the team that I worked with asked me which school I was going to next and I was sort of surprised, because I thought I was done with school. So they said okay, we’ll write you a recommendation so if you get an engineering school and so that was sort of the introduction to MIT. It took me a while to realize like how great MIT was, but when I figured it out I was like, okay, yeah so I understand why this was cool. And then the Berlin school was a little complicated. I had invested in a HR Native investing around 2006 and landed up talking to a board member at one of the companies and he was a pretty senior publicist at that time, and I was sort of saying to him, look the thing I really struggled with is you know I started engineering; I became sort of the product person and then I really was trying to understand how you launch products and I was like those marketing sort of weird star, I don’t understand any of this and he was like, ‘Oh! I’m just helping start a school in Berlin. It’s like the best creative and advertising people. You should check it out.’ It was pretty radical. It was sort of you know one conversation, learned a little bit more and I joined basically the second class for the Berlin school and you know it was fascinating. I mean for people who sort of understand communications and marketing, a totally different type of skill, right. Like I mean it couldn’t have been further away from engineering. You know but these are the types of people you know you’re just sort of talking away and they will come up with the three words that summarizes your idea perfectly; all that sort of hand sketch in 30 second, representative story board and so it was amazing. But I think I’m not creative. I’m better at engineering than I am at communications, but it certainly gave me a good appreciation for you know how it’s sort of great and in some ways sort of beautiful, a great communication can be.
Dave Kruse: Interesting! And you said you started at an Angel Investing in 2006. How did you get your start and what was that first company you invested in, if you remember?
Shaun Abrahamson: Oh boy! What was the very first one?
Dave Kruse: Or one of them?
Shaun Abrahamson: So it’s funny. I think that like angel investing memories are very selective, so I won’t remember any of the bad ones, right and I’ll – so I think one of the first ones was SOFTtalk. They could do scheduling platforms for doctors. It’s about nine years old now. And yeah, it was sort of you know – I want to claim that there is some sort of process, but there is total Forest Gump random sequence of events that led to you know sitting with the Founders and getting excited about the idea and then wiring them you know too much money, to the amount of money I had, which was good because it motivated me to try and be helpful, but I suddenly panicked when I realized how much of money it was. So yeah, no, it was – that was kind of really good, extremely really good you know sort of learning experience of the first investment.
Dave Kruse: And how did you get that? Did that just come out of your own funding for that when you were starting angel investing back then?
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, so I was part of a small team that I would say that sort of – that Google people that had gone through the first dot com sort of fast and they had worked together on a company called mail.com which had IPO-ed and it had been quite the vessel and then like pretty much everything of that era, it sort of slowly disappeared or quickly disappeared depending and you know the sort of the team had sort of boot strapped their sort of second company together and I was sort of lucky enough to join early on. And then you know when we went on to raise money, it sort of got an M&A offer and I think everyone sort of looked around and said, I remember when you had a lot of paper money. This feels like real money. We should totally take some of this and yeah, the next thing. You know at the time I thought it was a lot of money, but then realized that it was no money at all, but that didn’t stop me from starting the angel investing.
Dave Kruse: Nice. And what – yeah I mean your education is probably one of the most interesting I have done in all the interviews. So what did you start doing then after you got your MBA in Berlin? I mean it sounds like you already had started angel investing. Did you just kind of continue down that path?
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, so I continued doing that. I mean angel investing is really good. I mean I think it’s much more professional now than it was in its day, like 2007, 2008 and so you know I did angel investing part of the time and then was doing work around the thesis project that I did at the Berlin school, which was sort of organizing online communities, so I landed up doing projects. I did one with Starbucks which was pretty interesting to try and reduce paper waste. So basically just trying to find different ways to – you know to do sort of a call for solutions and then work with teams. You know trying and basically find interesting design teams that could approach the problem in a sort of new and novel way and so I worked with a couple of smaller companies. Starbucks was probably the biggest one and a few others. There was a company, there was a program called $300 House, which was basically trying to design a $300 house. There was a friend who had started TreeHugger you know designed a sort of ultra low footprint in apartments. He is very interested in energy efficiency and so sort of was applying these ideas to these projects. Its what’s sort of happening in Paris all with angel investing and so it took me a few years and eventually I am like okay, I can maybe bring these things together. You know some of the problems that I feel like we’re interesting with sort of early stage company building and funding and so slowly. It was a little bit slowed down, but four years ago I find the object and overnight kind of came out of that.
Dave Kruse: Okay, got you. So four years ago you started essentially full time investing? Is that or was it…
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, yeah exactly.
Dave Kruse: Okay, interesting. And you mentioned that back when you started angel investing and I remember those days, back in 2006, 2007 you know it wasn’t as professional. Do you think the professional – now that it is more professional you think that’s a overall good thing or is it – yeah, what are your thoughts on it?
Shaun Abrahamson: Like I’m always mindful of – I mean sort of I think the baseline is you know what’s sort of Latin rules of amateur. It’s like you do things because you love it. So I think I probably have some bias towards amateurism if you like. You know I think the challenge although you stage is probably, it has in common with a lot of other activities is would be sort of focused on the money; it just doesn’t work out and so I think angels that started of informally and got sucked into you know okay, I really get this and I sort of find maybe a thesis or an approach that I like. I think you know that’s worked out well. It feels like there’s certainly more people who just – you know this is more of a career and its sort of more focused on the finance parts or the making money part. So yes, I mean I think it’s – you know I think the way that the ecosystem works, you’ve got sort of continuing new angels. You know unfortunately as you have sort of technology companies succeed, there’s some percentage of people who walk away who’ve been maybe informally helping their friends because they just enjoy doing that, advising. And then sort of find themselves writing more cheques and then having to explain you know why this money is going into this sort of high risked approach to investing and I think that’s a good way to start. I mean that was certainly the case for me. It’s been the case for a bunch of people we call investors. I mean it’s kind of how I met Stonly and to some extent how I met Mark and Antony, our partners. We all sort of were informally doing things and then got pulled into formalizing or professionalizing if you like.
Dave Kruse: Nice. Yes, and yeah that was going to be – that’s a good segway to what you’re doing now in the US and so good work. Yeah so can you kind of tell us how yeah, Urban US came about and you kind of started a little bit there and why you chose kind of the urban investment thesis?
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, so some of the early conversations with Stonly was sort of focused on, he just sold a company and was getting into this. You know I am happy to spend a little bit of time advising the company and so you know the first is how do you structure advisory agreements and then it becomes how do you do investments. And so we had met and we were having those conversations and then you know as we talked about investment, we got into this discussion about okay, if you’re going to be a generalist investor or if you’re going to try and cover sort of all of what’s happening in tech, that seems super hard. It would just seem – like four years ago it seemed like we reached a point where you know the tech was starting to infiltrate a lot of different sectors, maybe all sectors in the economy and it seemed to me like it would be helpful to have some domain expertise in order for some focus. And so you know we talked back and forth and at the time one of the interesting things that was going on was there was a group called C40 Cities. C40 was I think the 40 largest sort of metro areas of the cities in the world and at the time I think it was shared by the Mayor of Greenberg. And they were trying to figure out essentially what were the repeatable, almost impactful city policies that looked for a climate change and so they were starting from the sights of that you know cities are about 70% of CO2 emissions and then you sort of layer in the idea that sort of iteration is going to – urban population is going to 2X within about three decades. So you sort of land up completing that. Okay, so climate change is effective in cities and so you know if you were going to rebuild cities, also redesigned or changed how you operate them, what would that be like and so C40 was basically a roadmap of policies and when we look at that, well these policies are super interesting but you know who is building? Who is going to build the sort of products and services that actually make the policies possible and that led us to you know sort of reaching out to founders and trying to understand who is working in and around cities and ultimately we decided that we would work together. We would you know start to actually go through the process of sourcing deals and making investments as really just a proof of con – like an MVP for a fund basically and it was a necessity for a few reasons. So when your sort of getting to – well, okay lets redesign cities, I mean the first thing is our reflex was okay, we got to go and talk to Mayors and you know you sort of go through the process and the Mayor is the super influential, but you suddenly run into real estate and then you run into you know automotive companies and then utilities and it’s like okay, there’s lots of other important stake holders, there’s lot of interesting sectors and unfortunately these sectors have a few things in common which the very smart venture folks that I know was very cautious about. So for example, sometimes you land up selling to government; definitely not a favorite thing for the top performing VC’s. You know they sort of – you get this sort of wise chuckle and you sort of know that somewhere they have a few anecdotes and some terrible experience; it’s that kind of chuckle. So they are like ‘Wow! I don’t know if that’s the best idea, but that’s interesting.’ And another thing just to make it more interesting is there’s a lot of hardware, right. It’s sort of software maybe used in the world, but at some point, if you touch the physical world you tend to land up with some hardware and that’s also not sort of the favorite thing in the venture world and again, for some of the best performing funds, I think these are sort of good guiding principal; like avoid government and avoid regulation and avoid hardware. But we were like okay, if we are seriously about doing this, we kind of have to figure out how to do those types of deals and so yeah, we started and sort of two years in, the deals have seem to be working with the deals we shouldn’t have done.
Dave Kruse: Like for instance or example or do you have one on your mind?
Shaun Abrahamson: So if you think through the first portfolio, we had a company – one of our first investments was an irrigation controller. So a team based in Denver that was sort of very focused on water and efficiency and municipal water systems and sort of had together an irrigation controller that in their estimation at that time like cut water use by 30%. And so the thinking was okay, this is interesting if you go and look at water use in municipal water systems. So forget about all water used, but certain you know very expensive infrastructure would be built to move water around. About a third to a half of that in the US is going into peoples’ yards, okay. So okay, if we could make a 30% dent in that that seems good, those are decent sized numbers, but yeah, with hardware right. So manufacturing in the US, you know taking all sorts of risks with connected hardware and they’ve been growing phenomenally. I mean there’s now about four years in and they are doing great. They’ve got a bunch of additional products ideas and they think probably most importantly I think they are coming up on like 4 billion gallons saved.
Dave Kruse: Wow! And how does it work? Does it sort of – yeah, how does it work, the technology?
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, so they – so I think like in sort of large scale agriculture there are basically a bunch of ways to monitor evaporation rates so you could look at humidity and wind and a bunch of factors and you can basically figure out an effective evaporation rate and so you know what this controller is doing is sort of figuring out where it is in the world and then getting very localized weather information and then effectively correcting how much water is probably going to land up in the ground based on you know all of these you know evaporation related plans and then of course rainfall or predicted rainfall. And so the end result is I think they are doing 40% plus on sort of baseline in terms of savings.
Dave Kruse: Wow!
Shaun Abrahamson: So if you take your existing control and you plug this in, without really doing anything you get 40% improvement.
Dave Kruse: And what’s the name of that company?
Shaun Abrahamson: It’s called Ratcheo [ph].
Dave Kruse: Ratcheo [ph], yeah I think I’ve heard of that. I must have read it – yeah, that’s wow! That’s interesting.
Shaun Abrahamson: So it’s weird. I mean it’s still I think – the connected home was very interesting at one point to think this is on the back of something nifty and acquired by Google, so it didn’t seem so terrible. But yeah, the idea that the seed stage fund would sort of actively seek out hardware, I wouldn’t say it was heresy, but it certainly didn’t look smart. I’m still not sure if it’s smart. I want to be very careful because it’s still early on, but you know things that looked like they shouldn’t have worked or they shouldn’t have grown quickly seem to be doing fine and that’s sort of one example.
Dave Kruse: Well, they always say, the kind of only way to create outsized returns is due to things that people think are crazy, otherwise you know you might as well invest in the stock market and yeah, you’re doing whatever all the other VCs are doing makes. It kind of you know makes it hard, so. So yeah, I mean I saw your portfolio and it definitely stands out and its different and…
Shaun Abrahamson: I mean for me one of the most – I mean what was interesting is sort of looking at different venture strategies, at least at a sort of a high level as you invariably come back to sort of some combination early on or there’s some keying in products and markets and the Founder of Sequoia, you know Don Valentine was obsessed with the size of the market that people you know operate and write. It sort of felt like you could adjust for everything else, including the team, which obviously doesn’t make old teams happy. But you know you can correct for everything except you know what’s ultimately the market that you’re playing in. And so one of the things I think that we are in some ways is kind of fortunate about what we landed and I’m focusing on is the noticeable problems, right. Like if you pick a problem that is of any decent scale in one city and you think there’s another 100 cities that have a similar problem, so water infrastructure being one, the numbers are never small, right. The math is really simple and the addressable markets are big and so in that way you know yes, there is a risk, but I think to some extent there aren’t any small problems for the areas that we look at.
Dave Kruse: Interesting. And below kind of your overall urban investment thesis, do you have like certain buckets that you kind of look at like transportation, water, energy, health, infrastructure? I’m just throwing stuff out here.
Shaun Abrahamson: Oh yeah! No, you got everything, you got most of them. So I mean its high level so we think about mobility; so just broadly sort of discrete things that moves around. So it could be transportation for people, it could be logistics, but there’s a lot of what the fine cities and sort of moving things around or moving people around. You know the built environment is sort of classic, you know what people see the skyline, roads, bridges, etcetera, sort of a hard infrastructure and then you sort of touched on a few of them. You got sort of energy systems, water, waste. You know you think about public health and air and so that’s the sort of like what we’d just called utilities and then the last group, which is not the least important but is sort of a celebrity, which is typically something that local governments are doing and so how do you improve delivery of services by local governments. So those are the four buckets. And then you know within that we’ve got some – I would say science fiction inspired ideas about things that we think would be interesting, right. So spoke to the team about this idea of elastic housing, right. But how do we make housing more responsive so that it could be more affordable and can sort of change more quickly depending on if you have sort of more single people or you have more families, but housing is regularly adapted, but it all feels very slow you know. And some of the lead sort of road infrastructure, you know if you could build out bike lanes more quickly, would more people use bikes. You know is that a planning problem, is that an implementation. You know where in that universe could you sort of more quickly make biking a safe option from a physical infrastructure perspective. So you know we tend to meet interesting people. There’s lots of people who sort of researched and thought about these things and they are asking different questions and so we follow some of those threats and then hopefully at some point you still have religion in that. It’s almost like you go to Google and your searching like oh wow! Of course someone thought about flying cars. There’s got to be 10 of them and eventually some of that happens with start-ups. It feels like as soon as you start to get into an interesting problem, someone will stop and say oh! We’re working on that, which is kind of cool.
Dave Kruse: And so have you invested in the kind of the Si-Fi areas? Have you invested in the companies? Are you looking for companies? You kind of create these thesis? Do you kind of go out then and accelerate pursuit or just kind of wait. You see if your antennas up to see if you hear of any companies in those areas?
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, so that’s interesting. I think we’ll sort of study a problem and we try different ways to signal that we have an interest in an area, so you know one of the things that we did early on was try to figure out who had similar interests so we could – at this point we’re kind of – about 80% of the teams we invest in come through your introductions from the network of about 1,500 people and you know that group started off as something like 80 sort of friends and other people that we discussed Urban US with. And so we got into this rhythm of we would send an email update like every two weeks. We still do that, a slightly slower cadence sometimes. But in that email we would say, you know here are some things we think are interesting. It’s either a trend or a piece of research or an observation and a decent number of people would read it and a small percent would respond and say, actually I just came across a company working on you know flying cars and so at one point we got a lot of flying cars. But we’ll get responses because we’ve told this sort of community of people you know this is very interesting to us and then yeah, they sort of make the connection. So yeah, I guess we’ve got a very large extended team that sort of anticipates and sort of responds to you know interesting questions.
Dave Kruse: Got you. Interesting! And what was one of your – you know you mentioned the one irrigation company. That was like a little older one. Do you have like another company that your excited about that you more recently invested in and its okay to…
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, when I got this on email, I am like I can’t play favors with kids. So as a general – you know I was talking about one that we sort of recently did a funding round. So there’s a company in the bay area and the team is basically predicting building damage from earthquakes and so they are taking – so one of the things that’s sort of fascinating about setting these new stock on the stand, sort of how much available public data there is and so even seismic data, building data. There’s a lot of public datasets, historical damage and so they trained you know an algorithm that you know can look at an earthquake and then predict the range of damage against individual buildings, and so that’s used in a few different ways. One is to guide first responders. To say okay, if an event happens, one we could create simulations that are very realistic. But if in fact something does happen or when something happens, we can try and isolate the places where there’ll be the most need by effectively simulating damage and then directing first responders to where they are going to be needed the most. You know it has some other implications in terms of planning, so that now you can run simulations and figure out you know relative allocation into infrastructure and then you start to bump into areas like insurance. So it’s a super interesting area to have where as a practical matter and you can save lives and then you know sort of more general settings you can manage you know more efficiently the lot of infrastructure and finance. Yeah, and you know we think it’s definitely – natural disasters are something that you know we think machine learning will have – you know there’s a lot of other natural disasters where they could use a similar approach and that seems quite interesting to watch that grow.
Dave Kruse: So who would their clients be? Would it be cities and governments or the building plan apartments or insurance companies?
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, so it’s all of the above and that was one of the interesting things early on. I mean it was – yeah, there are a lot of different stakeholders and I think that’s one of the things we’ve started to notice, is a lot of the solutions in cities benefit a lot of the stakeholders and then you get to this interesting question of who should be or who is likely to be your first customer, and so insurance is interesting. Insurance is probably something that benefits most from this sort of data exhaust of their core operation, which is first responders, sort of the training and sort of guiding. In part because the first responders land up helping to correct predictions, right. So they show up somewhere and one of the predictions is off by some amounts. You know the damage could be rated medium and its higher than medium, then you can tune those things sort of. Some of the first customers are actually helping to improve the product. But yeah, so first is local governments; its fire, police and some first responders. You know the state level coordination and then people forget that the people who respond to, first responders tend to be the military. So then you fairly quickly find yourself like okay, well how are all these people coordinating and its – you know you’ve also got volunteers. So yeah, I think they’ve – as they’ve gone they found that some of their initial customers were local governments and sort of federal agencies and now even individual private and volunteer groups are participating.
Dave Kruse: Wow! Interesting, okay. And on a more of a macro level, this is always a tough question. Maybe very – I mean you’ve kind of touched on this multiple times probably, but I’m always curious if you know you think a lot about the cities and kind of where they are going and where they are at now. Like are there certain trends or things that you think about or you see that might be surprising to somebody like me who probably doesn’t spend as much time deliberating or where do you see things headed and yeah, just curious if you have any thoughts?
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, I mean I don’t know if we use the word predict. I mean I think what’s interesting about those founders that we meet is they tend to have a clearer idea than we are ever going to have, because they’ve sort of gone really deep on a specific problem and so I think we have a couple of ideas of things. So one of the interesting things is I think probably the biggest change, which is probably obviously which is in how we grew out. You know it’s sort of interesting, this movie from – I think the Museum of Modern Art in New York, reconstructed the move from 1911 and you know there’s electric trams, there’s steam boats, there’s horses and there’s a handful of cars, because at that point I think Ford had produced maybe 10,000 cars total. And you know within a decade or a little bit more than a decade, Ford’s producing 10,000 cars a day and so you sort of get this thing of like okay, so the economics have fundamentally changed and cities have never looked the same, right. It’s a meaner defining characteristic. So then we’re trying to look at, so what thing do you look at where you think okay, the price is really going to decrease rapidly and you could see some new types of transportation. So obviously autonomous is one thing where you know the hardware is getting cheaper and the software you know – the hardware on the computation side is getting cheaper, essentially getting cheaper and then the software, you know we can do some crazy stuff with machine vision for example. So that seems interesting. Autonomous is definitely going to have an impact. But then you sort of tease that out a little bit more and you’re like well, what’s harder? Is it harder to fly an autonomous aircraft or you know drive an autonomous buss to be like a congested pedestrian, you know sort of peak hour traffic with lots of pedestrians and flying looks a lot easier, right. So I mean this is not my observation. I think this is a bunch of people who have sorted of invested in vertical takeoff, electric aircraft. This is the thesis and the thesis is you know doing autonomous slides, I think it’s easier. So there’s some weird things like that where it’s a little bit unintuitive, but all the pieces for autonomous flights are getting very cheap and so we may land up with these interesting sort of hybrids of you know autonomous long haul trucks and then you know a 30 mile range, you know a personal quad copter which seems very viable. So yeah, so it’s hard, but I think there’s a lot of things getting cheaper at the same time and I think anytime that happens you know people can experiment and they can adopt very quickly and then you know I think that has a lot of implications and you start to think about where do people live and then how does property tax work and then who pays for infrastructure and you have a lot of sort of crazy things that could happen as you make a dramatic change to mobility.
Dave Kruse: So it sounds like you know a little bit about these flying drones and of course I am ready for the self driving cars so I never have to drive again, but the personal drones, you know you’re right. Like in some ways the technology seems a lot simpler for a personal drone, at least like the navigation and you don’t have to worry about hitting people the same way or you know anyways. You know how soon do you think – do you have any idea how soon you might have something that – wasn’t Japan going to have something for like – for the Olympics or something they are working on something pretty soon. But realistically how soon do you think we could actually see something like that?
Shaun Abrahamson: I mean so I think the core pieces of the – you know I think there is always sort of you know what does engine failure look like. You know but I think you can borrow a lot from – you know there’s aviation that has sort of explored a lot of these things with helicopters, but I think I want to say Dubai has a current pilot. I need to go and check, either its planned or its about to start, and then I think there is – then there is a bunch of regulatory, but you could see a lot of places in the world where like San Paulo has the biggest you know private helicopter fleet in the world, right. So what would it take for them to start, but they also have some of the worst traffic in the world. So what would it take for them to start thinking about this? It’s not the case like in a city like New York. I don’t think there’s sort of over flights of helicopters. You can fly up to the edge of the city, but you can’t fly over, but yeah. So then I think it’s – I mean I think the technical pieces are there. I think the regulatory is always a place where okay, you start to think about you know who stands to lose, because a lot of this type of analysis was like okay, well who is going to resist this particular change, so yeah. And then yeah, there’s some very – we have an investment in the electric aircraft company. It’s not focused on sort of one or two-seaters. It’s sort of medium or short wall for different – just because we think sort of regional travels are sort of very interesting. But yeah, I think the technicality – I think a lot of what’s happening at the moment is we sort of see things as, okay that’s sort of like something that would have been science fiction. But yes, okay we have all the legos and someone’s going to build that and it will probably work and then it’s more of a question of okay, so there’s public safety, which is a good reason to push back on stuff and then a lot of vested interest that will you know sort of slow things down, and so it’s hard to predict sort of adoption or the way things will happen first. So yeah, some of those things may not happen in the US first if you look at sort of the progress even for commercial drones. There are places in the world that have far fewer regulations and it’s sort of easy to get up and test, so it will be interesting, yeah.
Dave Kruse: And do you – let’s see, I think we’re almost out of time. I got a couple more questions. Do you have five more minutes?
Shaun Abrahamson: Oh yeah.
Dave Kruse: Okay, alright. So, I was curious, you come from the business perspective, but you know if you were – became Mayor of Miami or if you were an advisor to the Mayor of a large city, what would you kind of tell them to do in order to kind of embrace the technology or prepare for it or you know you talked about how mobility is going to kind of change the idea of taxes and everything. Yeah, I mean this is like a huge question, so I don’t know. This is a whole podcast in itself, but yeah, if you have any advice you would give yourself as a Mayor or something for another Mayor, I’m curious?
Shaun Abrahamson: Look, I think probably the most interesting place to sort of test that I think has the most upside, right. So starting from the idea that you know we can figure out the technology, put the regulatory side away for a moment. But the thing that’s hard to predict is how people are going to react, right. So are they going to get super excited and within 10 years we’ll go from no Smartphone to everyone having a Smartphone. So if you could do that with like electric bike share, that will be kind of cool, right or the other things that could grow at that scale and I think mobility offers a lot of options, because it sort of addresses the question of you know access to opportunity, right. If you have a two hour commute because of you know the peak hour traffic, that really sucks and its going to change sort of what your options are, how much you see your family; it’s economic opportunity and quality of life. So I think the way in is through mobility and then I think there has never been sort of more legos. Like at start you had a few sort of legos to play with in mobility. A lot of them were sort of big rail or subways, like sort of big expensive projects and now you have a lot of things that are relatively light weight, right, because you know I think bike share is sort of docked. Bike share systems in the US I think are in the order of let’s say 3,500 plus a bike. In China they’ve got dockless bike share which is a free standing for about 200 bucks a bike and so you sort of get back to this, you know this thing of like okay, well if automobiles drop by 10X or more than 10X in price, yes you’ll have more buyers and similarly if you can drop the price of bike fleets by factors of 10, you can have much bigger fleets and maybe more people try it out. So I think the main advice would be you know to go all in on finding a couple of smart mobility policy people; go and talk to I think anyone in the space of automotive, you know traditional tech. There’s so many people looking for places to pilot and you know maybe in addition to solving underlying problems you get some economic upside, you know new jobs, you know sort of more livability, better economic opportunity. You know I think all those things could happen within a relatively short timeframe, and you may even get some sort of Jetsons effect if you throw in some cool takeoff aircrafts. So yeah, I mean I would really – like I think I would love to see some Mayors go really all in on you know lets push very, very hard on figuring out how to sort of quickly trial new mobility options.
Dave Kruse: Yeah, there’s not a lot of and then we should go onto my other questions, but anyways this is an interesting topic, because I mean there’s not like a lot of cities that I think of like, wow! Those guys, you know they have stated like we’re open for experimentation and we want to figure this out and we want to like – we wanted technologies to come here and we’re going to be very – our regulatory environments going to be very friendly and oh yes, I know. You actually might know of some cities that are doing this, but it looks like I haven’t come across like…
Shaun Abrahamson: No, I think there are and I think looking in fairness, you sort of look at the number of things that you could trial and then you think about the various risks, right. So there’s public safety as soon as you get into autonomous vehicles, those are a very real concerns and then you know bike share, like you know dropping a huge bike share, a cheap bike share fleet on a city as they do to sidewalks, etcetera. So you know then you got a bunch of new inexperienced riders. There are lots of stuff to consider. So I do think that there’s a lot more conversation. I think one of the challenges is because there is so many new options, I don’t think like city planners or policy makers are used to dealing with so much change at once and – I mean I see – I mean we find it overwhelming as people who sort of go into the world looking for new stuff and then even you talk to pilot companies and they have the same problem. You talk to automotive, it’s really like you know – you know you just sort of frantically trying to turn over every rock and see what’s happening and what opportunity there is. So yeah, so I think there is interest and there definitely are cities you know sort of – you know I think even in Miami, even the state of Florida has pushed really hard to make it easy to test autonomous vehicles. You know so there’s definitely work at different levels of government and you know I won’t make a list of who is doing the best job.
Dave Kruse: Yeah, so you may have to work with different ones, so yeah.
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah. Well no, I mean I think – look I think there’s also different starting points, like I think in a lot of ways when you look at just density. So if you go to a European city that most of them were not designed. They were adapted to accommodate cars. You know adding back biking and more pedestrian space is relatively easier then. You know I think I saw an example of Barcelona versus Atlanta, like in population they are very similar. I think the density in Barcelona is like 2X or 3X, probably more and so then you think about like okay, what would it take to add a transit system to Atlanta and its crazy. It’s like 10X the cost, easy and so yeah, you don’t – that’s not going to be an option, unless everyone is going to move from the suburbs into downtown. So Atlanta is going to get there differently. They are probably a great market for autonomous cars, so yeah.
Dave Kruse: Got you, okay.
Shaun Abrahamson: Sorry, I’ll let you get to it. I know you have more questions, okay.
Dave Kruse: And this is the last question. So we’re almost out of time and this has been great, but yeah, I am always curious, what do you like to do when you’re not thinking about the urban environment and technologies and what you like to do in your personal time?
Shaun Abrahamson: Personal time is – you know so work is sort of all consuming and then you know in personal time its family. I have a nine and 11 year old and yeah, they just grow up too quickly, it’s kind of crazy. You spend a lot of time thinking about what the world will be like and then you know so they are at once inspiring to think about what their life will be like. But yeah, I just like to hang out with them. The last project involved, they wanted to do hair, so that was our last project. It was like okay, that’s a real option. So yeah, it’s like if sometimes hairdressing or hairstyling, well I’m onboard.
Dave Kruse: Nice, I love it. Yeah, I got a five year old. I’m lets – my hope is that she’ll never have to drive from a dad perspective. So got to make sure these – fine driving.
Shaun Abrahamson: Yeah, I mean it’s really wild. I think it’s like it’s sort of hard to get – when you go through some of the things about kids and after school, what school did they go to and then you say well okay, let me remove the sort of carpool or just you know someone has to get them somewhere, like what happens if you could you know sort of get them anywhere. Yeah, it’s kind of wild.
Dave Kruse: It is. Well yeah, well excited for whatever comes, but yeah this – yeah, this has been great. Shaun I really appreciate your time and your thoughts and your energy and it’s really fun to hear what your working on and what you’ve done and it’s great for cities. So I really appreciate what you’re doing and for coming on this show.
Shaun Abrahamson: Oh! Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Dave Kruse: Definitely. And yeah, I’ll be off to track kind of your progress over the years and that would be great. So thanks everyone for listening to another episode of Flyover Labs and as always I greatly appreciate it and we’ll see you next time. Thanks again Shaun. Thanks everyone. Bye.
Shaun Abrahamson: Bye.