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