Just Two Thir­tysome­thing Pro­gram­mers…who now own a bil­lion dol­lar startup

…who now own a bil­lion dol­lar startup

Industry Leaders - - Content Features -

If you look up Dan Kan on any search en­gine, the first thing you’ll find is that the 29-year-old en­tre­pre­neur was re­jected by 35 po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers. Does it ring a bell? Alibaba founder Jack Ma was re­jected from 30 jobs, in­clud­ing KFC which he set out to buy later. Dan is the co-founder of Cruise Au­to­ma­tion, a startup that was bought by Gen­eral Mo­tors in March for a head-turn­ing cash and stock deal north of $1 bil­lion. Un­like Jack Ma, Dan is yet to buy one of the com­pa­nies that re­jected him. There’s plenty of time for that!

En­trepreneur­ship runs in Dan’s fam­ily. His mother started her own real es­tate busi­ness in Seat­tle in 1990s. Dan’s older brother, Justin, who is also an en­tre­pre­neur, launched the on­line video plat­form Justin.tv in 2006, which later be­came Twitch. Through­out his life, his fam­ily has been a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion and sup­port to him.

Even now that he is the co-founder of a $1 bil­lion uni­corn, Dan still shares an apart­ment with his brothers who con­trib­ute im­mensely to the Sil­i­con Val­ley. As you know, the con­nec­tions have helped him gain a foothold in Sil­i­con Val­ley. Re­la­tion­ship build­ing can be ex­tremely im­por­tant in Sil­i­con Val­ley. With the right mind­set, one can – out­reach to peo­ple and to­gether, cre­ate some­thing of value. It’s hard to build a net­work

or­gan­i­cally, and Dan is grate­ful that he has his brothers who share the same in­ter­ests and the ecosys­tem with him.

Dur­ing his se­nior year of col­lege, Dan wanted to be noth­ing more than a fi­nancer. He ap­plied for 35 jobs, mainly in the fi­nance sec­tor, and re­ceived 33 re­jec­tions! One of the most fruit­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties he re­ceived was for teach­ing English in South Korea. How­ever, he opted for an op­por­tu­nity to work with an emerg­ing San Fran­cisco startup, User­voice, Soft­war­eas-a-ser­vice (Saas) com­pany cre­at­ing cus­tomer en­gage­ment tools.

Af­ter a brief stint with User­voice, and en­cour­aged by his brothers, Dan started a com­pany, a cou­ple of times. In 2011, he es­tab­lished Ap­pe­tizely, a startup that built iphone apps for res­tau­rants that lured cus­tomers with coupons dur­ing pe­ri­ods of low traf­fic. Dan had built more than a two dozen apps be­fore Ap­ple said it wanted all the Ap­pe­tizely iphone apps to be com­bined into one be­cause the func­tion­al­ity was so sim­i­lar. Now, Dan couldn’t of­fer to each restau­rant its own app, and so within a few months of launch­ing, he shut Ap­pe­tizely down.

Later that year, Dan launched Exec, an on-de­mand per­sonal as­sis­tant ser­vice. Most cus­tomers ex­clu­sively used the app for house clean­ing. And so, Dan piv­oted the startup to fo­cus on house-clean­ing on-de­mand ser­vices. While the app was more suc­cess­ful than any of Dan’s pre­vi­ous app, the founder wasn’t pas­sion­ate about it.

In 2014, Dan sold the on-de­mand per­sonal as­sis­tant ser­vice to San Fran­cisco-based on-de­mand ser­vice com­pany Handy, a ris­ing star in the on-de­mand space. Af­ter selling Exec, Dan

part­nered with Kyle Vogt, who was a co-founder against Justin.tv and Twitch, to cre­ate some­thing new.

Dan Kan has been ob­sessed with the fu­ture of mo­bil­ity, es­pe­cially ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and au­ton­o­mous cars. The same year, he joined Vogt to be­gin work­ing on Cruise Au­to­ma­tion. The Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pany de­vel­op­ing au­ton­o­mous-ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy is best known for hav­ing cre­ate a self-driv­ing car startup kit that al­lows buy­ers to con­vert any Audi A4 and S4 to a self-driv­ing car for $10,000.

In March 2016, the world’s largest au­tomaker, Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. bought Cruise Au­to­ma­tion, then a 40-per­son startup, for a whop­ping $1 bil­lion. Dan Kan and Kyle Vogt have now be­come the youngest se­nior di­rec­tors at Gen­eral Mo­tors, a role most auto-in­dus­try vet­er­ans would have to work hard for at least two or three decades to get a shot at. Not even the swanki­est job in the Wall Street would have got­ten him where they are af­ter the deal.

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