Filling the gap between micro mobility with affordable EV’s that ride like luxury sedans.
Electric vehicles are the future but we are still miles away from mass adoption.
One of the biggest constraints facing the EV market is the cost of acquisition. The best ones are just too expensive. No wonder a significant percentage of the population views them as luxury vehicles!
Most investments in the field of EVs have been directed towards increasing both the battery capacity and charging speed. However, the game-changing innovation in this industry will have to address the two main challenges: cost and single-charge distance. Whoever manages to kill these two birds with one stone will be well on their way to considerable industry disruption.
In this episode, the first part out of two, Ed Bernardon interviews Will Graylin, a seasoned innovator who is the CEO of both an electric vehicles company Indigo, and digital wallet company OV Loop. He’ll help understand the state of the EV industry and the impact they expect to make with the two companies. He’ll also share his entrepreneurial journey with us and the lessons learned along the way.
Some Questions I Ask:
- Why do we need a class of vehicles that’s so much smaller than the typical ones? (06:13)
- What makes you believe that Indigo is going to be successful? (12:56)
- How has being an immigrant impacted you in your career so far? (17:17)
- What drove you to join the Navy and get on a submarine? (21:05)
- What are the synergies between a car company and a digital wallet company? (38:10)
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- What goes into making a lightweight vehicle become stable (03:09)
- The technology and innovations that makes Indigo cars affordable (09:30)
- The difference between innovations and inventions (24:49)
- The path from invention to innovation (25:41)
- How the mobile wallet idea that was later acquired by Samsung came about (30:12)
Connect with Will Graylin:
Connect with Ed Bernardon:
Ed Bernardon: It’s only natural for us as consumers to want to do something tangible to help the climate crisis. While that looks different for many of us, it increasingly involves at least a glance toward converting to an electric vehicle. In a perfect world, everyone who wanted to, could be driving an energy efficient EV the moment they decided to make the switch, but for many, the financial constraints of the current market make that a much harder proposition.
One way to make cars more affordable and at the same time more efficient is to make them smaller and lighter, but our need for comfort can sometimes be sacrificed with smaller vehicles. What if small, lightweight, efficient cars were as smooth and comfortable as a luxury sedan and available at an affordable price.
For Indigo Technologies, a relative newcomer on the EV market, the way to level this playing field is the creation of a line of superlight, super efficient, super comfortable electric vehicles, unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. Indigo style EVs are not only a way to make electric vehicles accessible to the average consumer, but also a way to change the face of the mobile gig economy, from Lyft and Uber to Amazon, Instacart, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
For today’s guest, that drive for innovation started as a child immigrating to the United States—it inspired him to become just the resilient and adaptable entrepreneur needed to create a whole new vision of affordable, sustainable comfortable transportation.
Welcome to The Future Car podcast. I’m your host, Ed Bernardon. And today, our guest immigrated to the US when he was 12 years old, and eventually earned two master’s degrees from MIT. He started his career on the deck of a nuclear submarine and from that, he went on to become a serial entrepreneur, started several companies, primarily, in the payment app area. And now he’s changing to the car business. We’ll be talking to Will Graylin, CEO of Indigo where they’re creating vehicles that fill that gap between micro mobility, scooters or eBikes, and full-size cars and shuttles. He’s a visionary, and he’s making this whole new set of vehicles possible with a unique set of technologies. I’d like to welcome Will Graylin from Indigo to The Future Car podcast.
Will Graylin: Thanks for having me, Ed.
Ed Bernardon: I’m sure everyone is familiar with micro mobility. We see these scooters everywhere on the sidewalks now; they are electric. And then we’re also familiar with electric cars, there’s more and more of them coming on in the market. But there’s a big gap inbetween micro mobility and full-size electric vehicles. And I believe that’s where Indigo comes in. So, maybe you could tell us what is Indigo and what makes it significant in this new world of electric transportation?
Will Graylin: Well, what Indigo is, is a new class of vehicles that we’re building based on breakthrough technologies out of MIT. And this new class of vehicles is really about ultra light, ultra efficient. We’re talking about two to three times lighter, two to three times less energy than the average electric vehicle that’s out on the street today. And at the same time, significantly more comfortable. Now, the problem with going light, everybody knows that if you want to be efficient, you just simply make the vehicle lighter – lighter means more efficient. And in this day of us trying to reduce carbon emissions, it’s really important to reduce the mass of the vehicles and reduce the energy consumption. It makes absolutely no sense for somebody to deliver my Chipotles themselves weighing less than 200 pounds – and my Chipotles certainly doesn’t weigh a whole lot – in a 4,000 pound vehicle. Whether it’s gas or electric, it’s just a waste of energy. And especially if you go electric, you’re talking about drawing that energy from the grid. And that means electric cars should be considered as electric appliances much like your washer, dryer, refrigerator, even your TV set – every one of them have a little energy star rating in the back.
Will Graylin: Well, why wouldn’t cars have energy star ratings? And the only way to get that energy star rating up there to reduce the energy consumption is to make the mass of the vehicle much lighter. Now, the problem with making the mass of the vehicle light, Ed, is that they feel like bouncy golf carts. And nobody wants to be on the freeway riding on bouncy golf carts. And that is due to the physics of suspension. Because when you use passive suspension, like springs and struts, the amount of mass on top have to be adjusted to the mass of the wheel, what we call sprung mass to unsprung mass ratio. And unfortunately, you’re dealing with springs, you’re going to have to deal with the lighter the vehicle is, the more bouncy and hard to handle. So, what we have created is robotic wheels that combine the power of turning the wheels and the motor that drive the wheels to use the same mechanisms, the same magnetic induction, and same coppers, and the same magnets to not only move the wheels rotationally for propulsion but also the invention, which is invented by Professor Ian Hunter out of MIT, allows that same motor to create an up and down motion. And we can use now sensors to be able to create a magic carpet ride on a super light and efficient vehicle.
Ed Bernardon: So, you have these lightweight, smaller vehicles. You’re making them comfortable with your special suspension that you have. But we have a society that loves SUVs, and big cars, and that type of “Yes! They’re going electric, they’re becoming more sustainable.” But why do we need this class of vehicles that’s so much smaller than the typical ones you see at a car dealer today?
Will Graylin: So, let me address two things. One is that the vehicles themselves make better use of the space inside. So, while the vehicle, because the motor and the suspension are all built into the wheels, we free up all of the in-between space which is normally consumed by axles and transmissions that take up usable cabin space. So, for the size of vehicle that we bring to the market, when we call a micro van or a micro limo, these vehicles actually have more usable cabin space than the average sedan, and even more usable cabin space than the average SUV – believe it or not. You’re right, everybody’s still going towards heavier and heavier cars.
Ed Bernardon: ‘Cause you’re creating a new mentality here that “Hey, look, it might look small on the inside, but I can put a lot on the inside.” I would imagine you have to change the mindset of people when they see something like this; “Oh, that looks like a large golf cart,” or, “Oh, I can really put three people in that car?” I would think that that’s a big piece of it. We’re not used to this smaller size vehicle.
Will Graylin: We’re not used to seeing it from the outside. But even from the outside, I would say it looks kind of like a small size sedan or miniature van – minivan – but it’s even more compact and futuristic looking. But here is what people really care about: people don’t want to give up their comfort, even though they might want to be friendly to the environment. But this is why people are continuing to get heavier and heavier vehicles because it is more ride comfort when you’re in an SUV versus a Volkswagen Beetle. What we’re saying is, we’re not going to ask you to give up your comfort. In fact, we’re going to improve your comfort with our robotic wheel technology to make it feel like a magic carpet ride. And once you get into one of our vehicles, we had the Boston Globe and the Bloomberg reporters actually come and take a test drive. And they compared the difference between my Tesla, which was a P100D with air shocks. Compare that to our vehicle, which is less than 1,500 pounds and way smoother. So, we’re talking about giving you more comfort at a lower cost. Why wouldn’t you want to go there? We also let them test drive a Mercedes smart car, one of those smaller vehicles, that’s about a 2,200 pound vehicle. And that car was so bouncy that the Bloomberg reporter says, “I never want to get into that again.” But we give them comfort and we give them efficiency at the same time, so you don’t have to give up comfort.
Ed Bernardon: So the secret then, by having less weight, you now start to get the efficiency you need to gain the sustainability that you want. By having your unique technology that opens up the interior space by putting the suspension, by putting the motors in the wheels; now, the actual volume that you sit in, the cabin – even though it might be a little smaller on the outside – on the inside, there’s not much difference here. And then finally, it sounds like the last bit of all this is that typically your little cars, like your smart car, is going to bounce you around because it doesn’t have the weight and the mass. But you’ve solved that, again, with your special suspension. So, I guess that opens up a whole new class of vehicles that people can draw on. Obviously, the cost is also much lower as well.
Will Graylin: You’re exactly right, Ed. I would say for our vehicles, to us, it’s about reducing the mass. And when you can reduce the mass, another benefit comes to the equation, which is less battery required when you have a much lower mass. A 1,600 pound vehicle versus a 4,000 pound vehicle – you don’t need 100 kilowatt hour battery. So, 30 to 40 kilowatt hours is plenty good. And when you have that smaller size battery with much more efficiency, that also means much faster to charge. So, I can go to a standard level-two charger and be able to fuel up 60 to 70 miles on an hour of charge that gets me through, and I have less range anxiety. So, less range anxiety means I don’t have to put a bigger battery. So, you have a positive virtual cycle. What that means is less lithium mined, less cobalt, less copper, less steel and aluminum. So, all of that equates to less costs, which makes it affordable. And when it’s affordable, now you can scale the reduction of carbon.
Ed Bernardon: So more of that energy that is coming out of your batteries, it’s not to move a big vehicle around but it’s to move the person or the cargo. And so as a result, just inherently going to be more efficient. And I liked the idea you also brought up here is that it doesn’t end in the vehicle. Well, if you put fewer batteries in it, then there’s less cost to mine those, less energy in the mining trucks that move all the minerals or whatever that you need inside the battery. So, it all adds up on each other. So, who’s gonna buy these? Who’s your customer?
Will Graylin: So, the target customer that we’re going after first are actually those who are putting on the most number of miles. While you and I are seeing at home more, and going to the store and to the restaurants more, and having food grocery packages delivered to us more, guess who else is driving?
Ed Bernardon: That’s going to be your Uber drivers or your Amazon drivers delivering packages?
Will Graylin: DoorDash, Grubhub, Instacart, Point Pickup – you got all of these companies that are now out there recruiting drivers to help in this next economy that we have that is more digital economy where rideshare is more prevalent in the major cities. And when you’re talking about food, grocery, and package delivery, you need more of those. So, the professional drivers that are out there, they’re driving 50,000-60,000 miles per year, versus you and I are driving maybe 10,000 or 11,000 miles per year.
Ed Bernardon: You’re going to become the preferred model of the gig economy. Indigo gig economy. There’s a vehicle that if you want to be successful, save money, efficiency, help the environment – Indigo is going to be the way to go. Well, it’s not easy to start a car company, what makes you think you’re going to be able to do it?
Will Graylin: The way that we do it is just really look at innovations, and look at first principles. And I’m a very system-level thinker, and when I look at the vehicle itself, I see that in this digital age, and as we’re heading towards what we call Web 3.0, the world that we’re heading towards is more about empowering users. And Web 3.0’s ethos is about empowering users to use their own data to control their own data, their credibility. And in the old world where we don’t have as much information about the individuals, it’s harder to manage risk. So, when I look at a vehicle, I don’t just look at vehicle, I look at transportation. It’s an inherent right for people to be able to have transportation, to be able to work and have the tools for them to go and serve and do the purpose that they’re reaching out to do. So, how do we make transportation much more affordable? And did you know that the car itself is only about 1/6th the overall cost of the lifetime of the miles that are being driven by it? So, in other words, the hardware is only 1/6th of the costs.
Ed Bernardon: I was going to say, as I listened to your explanations, what makes you think you can start a car company? Much of what you said in the start of your answer had nothing to do with what traditionally is considered a car company. You didn’t say a single thing about making tires, or motors, or bodies. Because in this next generation of transportation, it’s only a piece.
Will Graylin: It’s only a piece. The rest of the cost is in the energy consumption, it’s in the insurance – insurance is a huge portion, the repair, the maintenance. So, we have to rethink how transportation is being used. So, if we’re going to create accessible transportation for the gig economy driver, but not only for them, but for all the rest of us, too. So, imagine you getting into your next Uber ride or your next Lyft ride, and it’s way smoother, and you don’t have motion sickness issues because all of the controls are controlled by robots. And you have this smooth magic carpet ride, even riding in the streets of Boston here.
Ed Bernardon: That’s quite a challenge. Especially in the springtime, right after a rough winter. Getting through all those potholes and holes in the road.
Will Graylactly. So, why wouldn’t you want to go to a much more efficient, cost effective, and comfortable ride? So, our technology is a true breakthrough. For over 100 years, we’ve been using passive suspension, so now we’re going to lighter, more efficient vehicles. But as I say, can we have these vehicles built? Absolutely. We have partners now that are helping us build our motors, partners that are helping us build our batteries, partners that are helping us build the vehicles. So, the technology for building the hardware is actually there. When you think about even when Apple came out and said we’re going to build phones, they actually don’t build the phones. It’s companies like Foxtron that builds their phones. They’re the one who’s supplying the technology. So, for Indigo, we’re looking at not only providing the technology and the breakthroughs and the patents, and having our partners help us build these vehicles and deliver them to market – we want to address the rest of the value proposition and the cost, the fifth sixth part of the costs. That means the experience for the drivers. That ties into my other company, which is OV Loop. And OV Loop is really a next generation commerce enabler and a super wallet to help enable consumers to manage and control their own data, build up not only their own credit score but their own driving score, so that insurance companies can understand that they’re a good driver.
Ed Bernardon: Well, it sounds like there’s a lot of pieces here that have to come together. It’s not just the cars, the insurance. I definitely want to dig in and get into more detail, especially on how the technology of the car itself and what exactly what you were just talking about here, like you said, the aspects of the insurance or how you interact with the car itself and schedule. But I do want to take a step back and talk a little bit about what inspired you to get into the — Well, first you were into the paying business – apps for making it easier to do transactions, and now into the car business. But if we go way back, you were an immigrant here at age 12. How did that experience play into where you’ve gotten to now in your career?
Will Graylin: In terms of being an immigrant, being an immigrant means that immigrants have to adapt to a new environment, that adaptation skills and adaptation mindset had come very early. And it was just fantastic for me to go from immediately post the cultural revolution in China, where my father as a professor at the Institute of Fine Arts over there was making $35 a month as his salary. And to come to the land of opportunity, we landed in Seattle, and it was just amazing to have that contrast.
Ed Bernardon: What impressed you the most when you first landed in Seattle and you said, “Oh, my, I never expected to see this.” Can you remember?
Will Graylin: I can. It was very distinct and I still remember today. When we got picked up at the airport, and we drove from SeaTac airport through I5 over the horizon. And there was the cityscape of Seattle with the king dome, it was still there at the time; and a metropolis – to us, it was the biggest metropolis that we’ve ever seen; skyscrapers and so forth. Not quite Manhattan, but it was amazing. Everything was clean. You have new technologies everywhere. As a 12 year old, it made a big impression. Of course, I have to adapt, I have to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture. And that adaptation, I think, is actually a help for immigrants, to be able to experience that. And I would encourage even anyone to do more traveling so that they can immerse themselves for at least a couple of months into another culture, to try to experience that kind of adaptation. And I think that’s also why a lot of immigrants are bent to entrepreneurship. You see a lot of that happening. But it was fantastic for us, for our family, and certainly for me.
Ed Bernardon: I think you’re right. If you were to say to someone, “Look, you’re going to take a vacation but no one’s going to speak a stitch of English where you go.” And you have to try hard and you have to work hard to get past it. Like you said, probably created at least the skills or maybe the spirit to become an entrepreneur.
Will Graylin: And I would add one more thing, which is adversity, and the level of adversity is actually good.
Ed Bernardon: Yes, entrepreneurs certainly have that.
Will Graylin: Yeah. You have to overcome a level of adversity. And don’t take hardship and challenges the wrong way. I think if we see them as opportunities when we run into rough spots, that just helps us get stronger. The old saying actually is quite true; “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but you have to believe that yourself.
Ed Bernardon: So, speaking of challenges, you ended up being an officer on a nuclear submarine. I think you’re our first guest ever that’s been on a nuclear submarine or maybe certainly an officer. What drove you to join the Navy and get on a submarine?
Will Graylin: Sometimes it’s serendipity, and then you just follow what your heart tells you. I had no intentions at the time when I entered college. But between my junior and senior year, I was fortunate enough to be a co-op student at IBM. I had a mentor named Brian Buckup who was a former Navy nuke. He was telling me more about the Navy. And I had a fantastic experience with him, ended up getting a management appreciation award. He was a great influence on me. And when I got back, the recruiters called, and I said, “Hey, let me explore what Brian had gone through.” And sure enough, it just seemed like a challenge, you know, studying nuclear power and joining the submarine force, I could certainly always go back to IBM, or Microsoft, or any of the other companies before going back to grad school. I was committed to going back to grad school, but I figured, “Let me go ahead and do my service, and learn at the same time.” So, this concept, to me, of learning to serve, and then serving to learn – that circular concept, to me, was appropriate for me at the time. And now two of my boys also currently joined the Naval Academy and they’re in there right now.
Ed Bernardon: Well, it’s interesting that they’re going to the Naval Academy. Obviously, they’ll be in the Navy then. So, they’re following in your footsteps rather than jumping in and becoming entrepreneurs right away?
Will Graylin: I think they need to serve to learn. Also, keep learning to serve. I think our lifetime goal is really about serving. What fulfills us the most, I think, is what impact can we make to serve and to serve others around us? And military is only one way of serving, there’s many, many different ways of serving. And for me, part of that was giving back to this country, which has given me so much; given me scholarships to go to college where my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college. It is truly a land of opportunity. So, it was great for me.
Ed Bernardon: So, I like this idea of serve to learn, learn to serve. So, now you’re out of the Navy, and it didn’t take you long and you were soon on that entrepreneurial path. So, “Serve to learn, learn to serve,” how did that help you as an entrepreneur?
Will Graylin: The Navy was a fantastic experience for a young man in his 20s to learn a level of discipline and a level leadership. But when I went to MIT, that was when I first really got the entrepreneurial spirit or bug. I had no idea what I was going to do yet coming out of MIT.
Ed Bernardon: Was that after the Navy, MIT?
Will Graylin: So, after the Navy, I went to MIT for a dual degree program called Leaders for Manufacturing. And it was a Masters in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. You can actually choose different engineering disciplines and a masters in business at the same time. So, the two gave me exposure. And this is 1998. By the time I was getting ready to graduate, I was still finishing my thesis, I caught the entrepreneurial bug. And I also discovered that I had a knack for applying technology towards a marketplace to find a product-market fit.
Ed Bernardon: What’s the secret for that? Can you reveal that? Because you’ve done several companies? How do you know “Ah! This is gonna be a good one, I have that feeling.”
Will Graylin: I’m not sure if it’s quite apparent, initially. One of my favorite classes was a product development class by Steven Eppinger when I was at MIT. And during that class, he actually asked the class a question, he says, “Okay, what’s the difference between inventions and innovations?” And, of course, lots of hands, answers. So, he finally stopped us. He says, “Let me give you my simple definition.” And I still remember it to this day, he says, “Innovations are simply inventions that made it through into the marketplace and got mass adoption. And there are many inventions, but very few innovations.”
Ed Bernardon: Interesting. That successful path from the idea or the invention to actually being viable in the market is what makes an innovation.
Will Graylin: Yes. And that takes a huge amount of entrepreneurship. And that journey, and the crossing over that chasm. And I described it as a chasm. This is the chasm – it’s like you have to cross through the valley of shadow of death in order to emerge on the other side. So, it’s taken me a while and a lot of trial and error, sticking with it. And I think half the battle is not giving up. Because there’s so many times in between that you could give up and give up on the idea because there’s obstacles in the middle. But the other part is really about just pivoting, and adapting, and figuring out how to solve the problem. And the original problem that you go out to solve may not resemble what you end up getting out to market with.
Ed Bernardon: And there’s where the pivoting comes in.
Will Graylin: That’s where pivoting and adaptation comes in. You always start with the Who; who are you serving? What are their problems? And you have to understand very closely Who first. And then once you understand the Who, then you got to attack the Why in sequence because if you have the wrong Who, the Why doesn’t really matter. So, the Why has to matter to the Who. And once you understand the Why – why should they adopt this technology? Why is this better? Why is this something that they would actually pay you for? Then you can talk about the What, then you can talk about the What features functions to solve the Why and the What pain point that they have.
Ed Bernardon: Keep the What focused on the Why.
Will Graylin: Which serves the Who.
Ed Bernardon: Well, that’s in the end, they’re the ones that are going to pay you for something, right? So, if there’s not a Who in there somewhere.
Will Graylin: Once the What is clear, then you can talk about the How. Because some people just go right into the How – “how are we going to do this?” – without answering the first three questions.
Ed Bernardon: Well, sometimes engineers love to do that; “I just want to invent something. I’ll worry about later how I’m going to sell but it’s a cool idea.” Well, pivoting, I think, is key. It’s been key in your career. Initially you funded and several of your companies were acquired, and they were all in the area of payment technologies and applications. How do you go from that world to the automotive world? Maybe, first, tell us a little bit about a couple of those companies and how they apply and how you finally made the decision, you know, “I’m going over. I’m going to be in the car business.”?
Will Graylin: So, while I was finishing up my thesis, in my last semester, I was very fortunate because I was able to cram a lot into my 1999 spring semester. And I didn’t even realize that I was setting an MIT record for taking 100 semester hours that semester.
Ed Bernardon: Did you get a special prize?
Will Graylin: Never got a special prize. And it still may be the record over there at 100 semester hours.
Ed Bernardon: Not even a plaque in the great hall or anything like that?
Will Graylin: That’s not important. But what was important was I had more free time that last semester to be launching my first company. So, that company was a security software company. And we ended up being one of the few companies that made a profit for our investors. In 2001, right after September 11th, our company was acquired and I had my first big hit, saw lots of digits in my bank account that I never imagined could be there. So, I immediately jumped into my next startup. So, I used my own capital to start my next company.
Ed Bernardon: Can I ask you one question about that? When you saw all those digits in your bank account, what’s the first thing you bought? And then we’ll get right back to that, but I have to ask you that.
Will Graylin: I don’t remember. My wife and I — kind of a funny story. The deal had closed and we were out in Burlington Mall. And we were going to go get a snack, so we needed some cash, so we went to the ATM. We did a little withdraw and then spat out this receipt. And I’d never seen so many zeros on there. It was kind of an unreal moment for my wife and I. But we really didn’t buy anything for quite a while. We didn’t even buy a new house for a while. We didn’t buy a new car at the time. And I just plugged right into my next company.
Ed Bernardon: I was gonna say, you knew where you wanted to put that money, which was, “Let’s try this next innovation, this next idea.”
Will Graylin: Yeah, that was my thought. In my next idea, we had a very interesting technology that allows us to bypass the mobile operator SIM card at that time. And I thought, “How hard could it be to build a mobile wallet?” And remember, this is still black and white phones – Nokia, and Motorola – pre-smartphone era. And I thought I wanted to build a mobile wallet to be able to have people use their smart cards to pay for card present transactions for remote transactions. Well, I was very naive. I didn’t know that how complex the payment space was. And essentially, you have a chicken and the egg problem that you got to solve when you have a two sided platform. If you have a mobile wallet, you better have a lot of merchants that accept that mobile wallet before consumers would adopt. And for merchants, unless there’s a lot of consumers already adopting it, they’re not going to accept the new mobile wallet payment method. So, you’re stuck in the chicken and the egg no man’s land. And within four months, I quickly realized I better pivot or else this company was going to die.
Will Graylin: So, we pivoted from a mobile wallet play, back in early 2002, into a mobile point of sale. So, we took the same technology, we changed the Who, we said, “We’re going to serve mobile merchants that need to accept credit cards.” The credit card is already out there, so you don’t have to worry about that – consumers already have it. So, we just got to give one solution to the mobile merchant. So, we pivoted that, and we became the first pocket-sized point of sale company in the world. That company was acquired by Verifone later. And then smartphones came along. And we said, “Well, you don’t need a separate device, so why not plug a reader right into your audio jack?” So, we became the largest supplier to everybody that was competing against Square at the time. So, we white-labeled solutions for PayPal, Intuit, and Payanywhere, and so forth. So, that company was acquired by Ingenico.
Will Graylin: So, now 10 years, fast forward, this is now 2012, and still no mobile wallet. So, my co-founder and I got together and we said, “Well, the problem is they’re still waiting for the point of sale at merchants to change before you can pay with your smartphone. So, what if we invented the solution that don’t have to make the POS change by adapting to the existing magstripe reader and turning a magstripe reader into a contactless reader and just using the laws of physics – Faraday’s law, basically, a magnetic induction through a little loop of wire.” My co-founder, George, ended up designing and implementing this. And sure enough, he made it work in the lab. Next thing, we’re writing patents and rewriting a business plan and coming out with our own wallet that competed against Apple Pay; and Softcard, which was the mobile operator’s own wallet; and Google. And we here we are this little tiny company, out of Boston, building our own mobile wallet. We became the number one rated mobile wallet on Consumer Reports, because we worked everywhere, and everybody else was still waiting for the merchants to adopt NFC. So, anyway, Samsung decided to acquire our company back in 2015, and it became Samsung Pay. And I helped launch Samsung Pay with that team there, and stayed there for three years as I committed to. After that, the mobile wallet scene is still not universal, and it’s still not everywhere, and there’s still a lot of friction in this Web 2.0 commerce environment.
Will Graylin: So, I decided to put multiple pieces together. And I acquired, actually, four different companies into OV Loop. And we’re creating the first universal wallet that has the keys and locked owned by the consumers using the latest blockchain era cryptography; to let consumers be empowered to own their own data, rather than third parties owning their own data, mining it, selling it to create more spam and consume more of our attention and time, where we’re still in the attention economy today, to giving consumers back their power. So, if you give them back their power, why not go further to not only store their bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, ID, membership, passwords, passports, and even crypto keys and NFTs. But why not store their health records, their driving scores? So that insurance company can know who they are, their work history. So that if we know that you’re a 4.9 star rated driver for Uber, and you’ve done 3,500 trips in the last year, you’re probably a pretty good driver. And if we can measure your driving score, and we know that you don’t speed, you’re conscientious – why can’t we give you better, lower cost insurance.
Ed Bernardon: But the data is stored, I guess, in such a way that only you have access to it. It’s not out there. Well, it sounds like an attractive idea these days where everyone is concerned about every move being watched. How is business? Is it being adopted? This different approach that you’re talking about here.
Will Graylin: We’re just in beta right now. And we’re about to launch into general availability in the next three months. In fact, we’re going to finish our beta cycle, and then hopefully, you’ll be able to download the application and be one of our early adopters. But we’re going to be looking at helping consumers. We’re going to be looking at helping brands and helping them create interactions with their fans with their customers. And then we’re going to be helping consumers – you and I – to be empowered in such a way that if you’re willing to share that data. Now, I may not want to share that data.
Ed Bernardon: It’s going to be your choice. Be your choice if you want to or not.
Will Graylin: But if I am a good driver, I should be willing to share that data, and then therefore, help monetize and lower my cost of insurance, lower my cost of finance. And then therefore, we can make these Mobility-as-a-Service much more accessible. Because the number one cost for transportation network companies is insurance right now. So, 5% of their drivers cause 90-plus percent of their claims, which drives up the insurance cost, but how do you. For everyone. So, unfortunately, we have the tragedy of commons here. And only when you can get to solid data and leveraging that data, can you now start thinking about how to create services that lower the cost? Remember what I said earlier, the cost of the vehicle is only one portion.
Ed Bernardon: So, you’re CEO of OV Loop, you’re CEO of Indigo – is it hard being CEO of two companies at the same time?
Will Graylin: Anything worthwhile doing is hard. But I think if we’re basing it on the right principles, and we’re basing it on the right technologies that can solve real problems in both the mobility space as well as the digital wallet and digital commerce space, then you can apply those technologies, attract the capital and the talent and the people to help build —
Ed Bernardon: Help solve the big problems.
Will Graylin: And it’s through these great people that come join OV Loop and join Indigo that helps us achieve this kind of vision.
Ed Bernardon: So, on one hand, you have a company that’s in this whole area of payments and communicating data, storing it, sharing it; on the other side, you’ve got a car company. What are the synergies between these two that probably might make it a little bit easier to be CEO of both? Because if you make one better, it really helps make the other company better as well.
Will Graylin: That’s a fantastic question, Ed. In fact, the synergies are tremendous, because we are targeting the Who, as the initial group of folks that need to have reliable, low costs, clean transportation. I’m talking about the gig economy to drivers, they are the least able to afford Teslas like mine. I can afford a Tesla. But for them, they can’t. Many of them don’t even have good credit scores. But they have the time, they were conscientious, they want to be able to earn more for their hours that are out there driving, and they’re ready to help serve society with their time and their energy, but they need the tools.
Ed Bernardon: That barrier of entry; if it’s much easier to become an Uber or a Lyft driver or deliver food, and I don’t have to own my own car. And like you said, maybe I don’t have the world’s best credit rating yet or have established one. But yet, I’m a great driver, why not make it easy for that person to have access to the ability to drive so that they can provide a service for which they can get paid?
Will Graylin: Correct. And this is exactly what OV Loop is doing is to empower individuals, for them to be able to build up their credit score, their driving score. And then when we’re ready to introduce the vehicles and create what’s called Mobility-as-a-Service. So, when we’re ready to create these vehicles, we’re going to set up service centers. In fact, we’re going to be setting up service centers in major cities in 2022. And by setting up the service centers, we’re going to set up charging stations in the service centers; we’re going to set up the ability for them to pick up, to drop off; we’re going to be able to set up ways for them to get access to these vehicles by a shift, by a day, by a week, by a month; or if they wanted to own the vehicles, they can. But it’s all based on having the right credit and the right driving scores so that they can qualify to be members. So, that’s why the two really dovetails well in serving the economy. And to us, by the way, we are not exclusive to just our own brands; we’re happy to work with OEMs to have our robotic wheel technology and the magic carpet ride experience inside of their vehicles too. And for the OV Go program, we’re not exclusive to our own brand of vehicles. And it’s the right vehicle, the right size for the right job. Our job is to focus on clean, sustainable transportation. So, for us, the OV Loop and OV Go solution, I think, can work with a variety of vehicles and vehicle types and from different OEMs. And same thing with the Indigo technology. Indigo is going to build our own brand first and build our own vehicles, and that’s a class of vehicle. But why not allow that technology for other people to build other vehicles as well?
Ed Bernardon: Now it’s time for our rapid fire section. I’m going to ask you a series of quick questions, and you can give us some quick answers. Here we go.
What was the first car you ever bought or owned?
Will Graylin: It was a motorcycle: 1976 Kawasaki 400.
Ed Bernardon: What’s the fastest you ever drove it?
Will Graylin: On that motorcycle, I think it probably maxed out at about 75 miles an hour.
Ed Bernardon: Maybe I should ask you what’s the fastest you wanted to drive it to?
Will Graylin: Now, my later motorcycle was definitely my GSX-R, I have four motorcycles right now, those can go a lot faster, but we won’t talk about it here.
Ed Bernardon: We were talking about autonomy a few minutes ago. In the future, we have what you call a living room on wheels. And imagine you’re on a five-hour trip in your living room on wheels., you’re not driving, you can have anything you want on this five-hour trip inside your autonomous living room on wheels.
What’s inside the Will Graylin living room on wheels?
Will Graylin: For me it’s a comfortable place for my laptop, totally connected, maybe an extra screen for me to have a bigger display for my conference calls and zoom calls, and then snacks and drinks.
Ed Bernardon: What’s your greatest talent not related to anything you do at work?
Will Graylin: I would say there are a lot of things that a lot of other people are better than me yet. Let’s just put it that way.
Ed Bernardon: Maybe it’s driving a nuclear submarine, maybe that’s it, that could be your greatest talent.
Will Graylin: No, there are people that are better than me at doing that too. And when they focus on being passionate about what they do and they spend time doing it, everybody can have their own special talent. But hopefully, your talent and what you are passionate about doing in work when they dovetail then that’s really fulfilling.
Ed Bernardon: That’s part 1 of our talk with Will, join us again next week where Will takes us takes us on a deeper dive into the technology that drives the Indigo. And as always for more information about Siemens Digital Industries Software, make sure to visit us at plm.automation.siemens.com. And until next time, I’m Ed Bernardon, and this has been the Future Car Podcast.
Will Graylin – Guest, Founder & CEO, OV Loop & CEO, Indigo Technologies
Currently Founder and CEO of OV Loop, Inc., a Universal Wallet and Commerce Messaging platform for frictionless commerce experiences everywhere and also CEO of Indigo Technologies, an Electric Mobility company with breakthrough affordable EVs for fleets & drivers. Prior to OV Loop, Will was the Global Co-GM of Samsung Pay, and Founder of LoopPay (acquired by Samsung), ROAM Data (acquired by Ingenico), WAY Systems (acquired by Verifone), and EntitleNet (acquired by BEA Systems/later Oracle). Will holds two Masters from MIT and serves on the Board of Directors for Synchrony Financials (the largest private label credit card issuer in the world) and Global Unites (a non-profit organization to help youths around the world become local leaders through conflict transformation.)
Ed Bernardon, Vice President Strategic Automotive Initiatives – Host
Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning and business development in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership which includes hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously he was a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011, he previously directed the Automation and Design Technology Group at MIT Draper Laboratory. Ed holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.
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The Future Car Podcast
The tech-driven disruption of the auto industry cuts across domains, from silicon and software to sensors and AI to smart traffic management and mobility services. Get the chip- to city-scale story in regular interviews with technologists at Siemens and beyond.