Welcome to the Join Up Dots business coaching podcast interview with Mr David Baggett.
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Introducing David Baggett
Todays guest, joining us on the Join Up Dots business coaching podcast interview is Mr David Baggett.
A man who seems to have an absolute passion for building stuff.
As he says “I have been writing and commercializing software since childhood. My goals are the same now as they were then: to solve difficult, practical problems with software”
With a talent for writing code for computer programmes, and an eye for potential start-ups he has had astonishing success.
Success that quite simply could leave him sitting on a island doing nothing for the rest of his life, due to the $700,000,000 Google paid him for the Cambridge, Mass-based ITA Software Inc.
But that is just a tiny part of what has made David Baggett who he is, as he has steadily worked on his life, his career, and projects since leaving University with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science.
How The Dots Joined Up For Dave Baggett
Even before that he would grab every opportunity he could to develop his skills, and for five years between 1986 and 1991 in every school break he would work as a developer on Xenix and Mach operating systems, and then went on to co-found ITA Software in 1998.
For all you computer game lovers, also know that he was the first employee hired at the video game developer Naughty Dog, where he co-created the first two instalments of the Crash Bandicoot games for PlayStation.
But for me, and this is what I want to touch on, as I like this fact very much, is he seems to have a completely opposing view to the overnight success, get rich quick practice that has taken control of the world over the last few decades.
He works slowly and steadily, building his work in almost secrecy until 100% comfortable to release to the world.
And now with his latest venture Inky, an email organising system gaining more and more interest ,he once again is giving birth to something that the world is looking for, and will bring even more success.
So, are there similarities between building computer games, and business platforms?
And what does David Baggett see in the world today that he wishes that he could have built?
Well let’s bring onto the show to start joining up dots, as we discuss the words of Steve Jobs in todays Free podcast, with the one and only Mr David Baggett.
During the show we discussed such weighty topics such as:
How Minecraft is a complete waste of time and is officially the most boring game ever invented (pls Note that Mr D Baggett does not agree with this statement!)
How his brain works in a strange way, and therefore many people see him as crazy because of it!
Why it is, that incredibly rich and successful people don’t know really know what they did to achieve the astonishing wealth and success!
How as a child he had a love for Lego and building stuff, which is still with him to this very day….he loves the process of building!
How he saw Ebay start-up and though “What a stupid idea, how can there be that much junk to sell in the world!
How To Connect With David Baggett
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy
Audio Transcription Of David Baggett Interview
When we’re young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:26]
Yes, hello, bear world. How are we? Are we ready for another episode of Join Up Dots hundred and 81 today 181 I can’t believe you know, I can’t believe I’ve got to Episode 10. And then people are listening to Episode 100. And now 191. And I love doing it and I hope it comes out but I love doing it because I get conversations with people where To be honest, in the real world wouldn’t even talk to me and I’ve got a chap today that probably would turn away if I come near him. And the only connexion that we’ve got is that we’ve got the same Christian names. I’m David. And he’s David definitely not Davey, and we’re talking about baby later. He’s a man who seems to have an absolute passion for building stuff as he says. I’ve been writing and commercialising software since childhood. My goals are the same now as they were then to solve difficult practical problems with software. And with a talent of writing code for computer programmes and an iPad potential startups. He has had astonishing success success that quite simply could leave him sitting on an island doing nothing for the rest of his life due to this 700 million Google paid but a Cambridge mass based ita software. But that is just a tiny part of what has made him who he is as he has steadily worked on his life, his career and project since leaving University with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science. Even before that he would grab every opportunity he could to develop the skills and for five years between 1986 and 1991. In every school break, he would work as a developer on operating systems and Ben went on to co found it a software in 1998. Now for all you computer game lovers also know that he was the first employee hired at the video game developer at Naughty Dog now be honest, I’ve never heard of Naughty Dog. But he created the first two instalments of the crash Bandy cool games for PlayStation and I’ve mentioned that to people and I’ve got really, that’s fantastic. I’ll be honest, I have an odour those either but but me and this is what I want to touch on as I like this fact very much is he seems to have completely opposing views. To the overnight success. get rich quick practice has taken control of the world over the last few decades. He works slowly and steadily building his work in almost secrecy, until 100%, comfortable to release to the world. And now with his latest venture Inky, an email organising system gaining more and more interest he wants. Again, he’s giving birth to something that the world is looking for and will bring even more success. So are there similarities between building computer games and business platforms? And what does he see in the world today that he wishes that he could have built? Well, let’s find out as we bring on to the show to start Join Up Dots. But one and only Mr. Dave Baggett. How are you Dave?
David Baggett [3:03]
Great. Thanks, David.
David Ralph [3:05]
I’ll come on Dave, you could do better than that. That was it.
David Baggett [3:07]
Well, that was just such a humbling intro. I’ve been not sure who you were talking about. But that guy sounds great.
David Ralph [3:12]
That was the biggest build up I’ve ever given someone. And as I was reading it, I was thinking I don’t understand a word I’m saying this means nothing to me, or is it a software in zednik Mac operating systems? It is isn’t. I’m glad for people like you, Dave, because you do stuff that I just couldn’t begin to do. But I do have I do have a problem with it. And I was having a rant earlier. And I know it’s nothing to do with you, but you are in computers. So I’m going to tarnish you all with the same brush. Why are windows getting harder and harder to use every time I have to update?
David Baggett [3:48]
Well, I mean, that’s actually, that’s a very good question. Actually, I don’t I don’t think you’re you’re painting us all the same brush at all, when you ask that I think everyone in the industry knows that Microsoft sort of lost it’s way. You know, around the time where the Department of Justice trial, they got tonnes of scrutiny, they got a lot of abuse from the government, they got sanctioned. And then after that, they seem to lose their way. And, you know, really haven’t done much innovative since then. And it’s one of these cautionary tales about, you know, essentially being a monopoly or being a super powerful company that grows to 100,000 employees, and how difficult it is to keep it fresh and keep it innovative, and not let it just become a stifling bureaucracy. And I think Satya Nadella is the new CEO is starting to make the changes that are necessary to make Microsoft more competitive.
David Ralph [4:41]
But I haven’t just lost their way they’ve lost their buttons, the things that I don’t like is everything. Now I do I hidden in corners of my screen, and I don’t know what corner to go to, to do stuff. Why can’t I have buttons in front of me?
David Baggett [4:55]
Yeah, and I think, I don’t know who really was responsible for that design decision. And I everyone blames Steve Austin off ski who was the leader of the windows team then but I’m not sure it really was his fault. But clearly, they didn’t do enough user testing with that, because I have to admit, I found it and still find it somewhat bewildering myself. And I think they were trying to do a hard thing, which is merge the new tablet mobile form factors with their existing desktop, obviously, very entrenched desktop market share and get the best of the best of both worlds. But, and there are some really neat, I think positive design ideas in in what they called Metro now is called modern. But there are these kind of head scratching things like what’s the what’s up with the putting your mouse in the corner that I don’t think anybody has a good answer to and I certainly agree with you, I’d rather have a button than a than a move the mouse to some invisible position kind of thing.
David Ralph [5:50]
Yeah, this is totally bizarre. So I asked a question in the intro, what what do you look at out there and think are If only I could the design bad? That is good piece of work?
David Baggett [6:02]
I look at a lot of things Apple does that way. You know, and I think the thing that really has appealed to me about them from a design standpoint, just their they’ve been really minimalistic, historically on their in their design. But they’ve also really sweated the details. I mean, even back to the original Mac, you know, they actually and Steve Jobs famously talked about this, they actually cared about the fonts looking good. And they put a bunch of effort into just plain text being pretty. And you know, the iPhone, sort of a cliche, right, everybody talks about the iPhone, and we don’t know what will happen to the iPhone, whether it’ll continue to innovate. But certainly when it came out in 2007, I just remember physically holding that device, the first iPhone, which kind of seems clunky now compared to the newer ones, but at the time, it was just such an amazing feeling and looking device, and that you just kind of knew that it was going to be popular. And you knew that with Apple’s gravitas they could push that into millions and millions of consumers hands.
You know, so that would have been a really fun one to be part of.
David Ralph [7:14]
So you buy into the ultimate sophistication is simplicity kind of
David Baggett [7:19]
deep? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, and one of the things that, you know, coming back to the Microsoft discussion, one of the things that we’re trying to do with pinky is is is that exact minimalism, we’re trying to achieve that in a male client. And if you think about outlook versus Inky, if you’ve used in key, I mean, outlook has probably 100 control surfaces, and he’s probably got, you know, 20, and he does all the same stuff. It’s just that when we, when we have a discussion internally about user interface, unless somebody can make a compelling argument to keep a control, we take it out. And you know, in some cases, we have to put things back because it becomes too hard to discover them for users who are not used to it. But in general, it leads to a much cleaner, design that simpler, a lot more white space, a lot more breathing room for the user interface elements and ultimately, less fatiguing. And so one of the things that we think a lot about is, email is something you spend hours on, you really need to have not just a functional interface, but a non fatiguing one. And so that minimalism plays into that. And I think Apple is certainly a beacon for that kind of design. They’re not the only ones but they’re certainly in technology. an exemplar that. The other thing I think is really interesting about Apple is and I sort of called this in, in 2007, I sort of looked at the iPhone and said, You know, these are the first guys who actually combined it world class technology with a luxury goods mentality. Yeah, you know, in the same way that somebody would pay a lot of money for an arm as bag. It’s not because the bag costs a lot of money to make, or it’s somehow has magical powers. It’s a luxury good. And we hadn’t seen prior to the iPhone era, I don’t think that mentality really brought to bear in technology. And you can see now all the tablets that come out are kind of inspired by the iPhone, iPad design, aesthetic. But people still gravitate to the Apple devices, and they still are perceived as kind of the luxury versions of these things. And that, I think that was a really interesting transition for our industry to go through.
David Ralph [9:23]
The thing that interests me about is how your brain works. And I had loads of conversations with people. And I think to myself, I obviously don’t think in the same way, because on some of you, and we can talk about inky now, because it’s a kind of Outlook with a brain, it seems to be able to know who’s sending your stuff. So it’s not just a lot of stuff that comes in and you’re spending all your time going through it. But I would have just bought outlook and hotmail was that you just had to put up with it. But you can look at stuff and you can make decisions on how to change things now that that’s a different way of thinking, isn’t it? That’s the kind of brain that I haven’t got. And many people.
David Baggett [10:04]
I mean, I think it is and to some extent, it’s a blessing and a curse. There was this famous Cassandra figure in mythology, you can see the future and the whole narrative around her was that’s good and bad. If you can see the future, and you can see that something can work better. In some ways, that’s a big advantage, right? I mean, you can start working on something before anybody else, it does lead to a frustration that I’ve had pretty much my entire career, where in the early period of working on something, the vast majority of people, even people who know me pretty well tend to think what I’m doing makes no sense or is crazy. And, you know, I’ve seen that repeated every single time, when we did crash banega for Naughty Dog, people just thought that was utterly insane that this little seven person development company out of nowhere, would compete with the likes of Nintendo on their marquee product. And, you know, we could sort of envision a future where the graphics we’re different, there was a more organic kind of look to it, we sort of we had this window into the future that made it compelling for us, but other people just simply couldn’t see that. And, you know, with Rocky and outlook, your comparisons abs, I kind of think of Outlook and the current crop of male clients as being email one point O clients, they’re kind of characterised by how dumb they are, they don’t really understand anything about the messages, all you can do is kind of sort and filter by subject line and that sort of thing. And the goal of thinking is to make it so that it’s really understands what your mails about. And for the vast majority of messages that come in, he knows what it should do with them, put them in a special view for social messages, for example, you know, extract the information about when your package is going to be delivered from a shipping confirmation. The idea is that it actually understands, at some level what your mails about. And, you know, that’s obviously a hard thing to implement. And there’s a whole bunch of complexity around the techniques used to do that. But the fascinating thing is that here again, kind of envisioned a future where whether we do it or not, there’s going to be intelligent email client on everybody’s device that understands all your mail. And even now, I get a lot of pushback on the concept or feasibility or the wisdom of working on it. So it’s quite interesting that it’s both, there’s both good and bad to this kind of being able to see the future.
David Ralph [12:23]
It must drive you mental, you must be sitting there watching a film and stuff and your brain going out like I should do that better. And I could do this better. And it doesn’t only work in your business, when you’re at work, you’re not sitting at home, dissecting every kind of storey line of films and TV in the same kind of way of our I should have gone this way they should have done that way.
David Baggett [12:43]
No, I mean, and to be fair, it’s not like it’s, it makes it sound superhuman, it’s really not. I mean, I know a lot about a very, very small number of things. And I think deeply about them. And I have some insights about them. But the vast majority of other stuff. I don’t know any more than anybody else, nor do I have any more sophisticated thoughts on it. So certainly anything like entertainment, I have no clue, really. But But even beyond that, I mean, there are plenty of examples of things that I looked at at the time and thought were the stupidest thing ever, and ended up becoming huge businesses. The poster child for that, for me is eBay. I remember when I was working at Naughty Dog, and then a ita, eBay was sort of becoming a big company. And I just thought this is just so dumb people are not going to sell their junk on the internet. And even if they do, how much junk is there to monetize? And it turns out, well, there’s a whole lot. You know, so you missed
David Ralph [13:35]
it. Yeah, man, didn’t you miss the packet?
David Baggett [13:37]
Well, Pierre Omidyar made, you know, billions of dollars became, you know, 10 billion or whatever from from that. And I remember at the time, my analysis of it was that it wasn’t going to go anywhere. So I don’t think anybody, even people who have these kind of occasional glimpses of the future, I don’t think any of them would say, those are pervasive or in any way perfect. I mean, I feel bewildered by the direction technology takes just as much as anybody else. I think, if not more,
David Ralph [14:05]
I’m confused by technology. I’ll be honest, and I’m getting to that state in my life that well, when I was growing up my I used to ridicule my father because he couldn’t programme a video and you remember the days when you used to have to tell me what to do? And if he was
David Baggett [14:20]
flashing 1212 o’clock? Yeah,
David Ralph [14:22]
absolutely. All that kind of stuff. And he used to go on going out tonight, can you tape so and so and he used to find a tape. And literally every tape in your house had don’t tape over and somebody’s name on it, because they taped something and hadn’t got around to watching it. So used to spend hours rummaging around for a tape that you could record. And then you used to programme it. And when you had that problem, if they wanted to record two things at the same time, and you just couldn’t do it, one they were going to miss, so I had to decide. And I used to sort of ridicule My dad is only a video you can just programme it. But I’m easing in now when my kids get a new phone. And if I can’t use it, bye, bye, I’ll see to another child. And they bypass me and annoys me, Dave, and noise.
David Baggett [15:06]
Actually, you know, in my household, my daughter, for some reason is the one who knows how to use all the devices. And I usually have her set everything up for me, I’ve just totally given up on being the expert. Now, this entire new, I know what I’m an app developer rights. I mean, the usability of these things is improved. But the complexity is also improved in complexity is also increased. So there’s just so much to learn. And, you know, my daughter being 12 is focused on being able to communicate efficiently with her friends. And so she knows everything about all the apps that do texting, and emoticons and that sort of thing. So it’s kind of fun to watch that. But it is also humbling, you know, and to get to the earlier point about the VCR programming, I’m always frustrated by how hard it is to print. Talk about something basic, I just want to print a document, usually that ends up being hard. And I’m always confronted, you know, I’m in the technology business, I have been my whole life. And yet, as an industry, we’ve still failed to make printing actually work. It’s just even
David Baggett [16:10]
David Ralph [16:11]
Yeah, the last time you scanned and you scan it, and it makes that noise. And when it goes off somewhere and you don’t know where it goes into
David Baggett [16:17]
David Ralph [16:18]
Yeah. And then you think well, oh, save it to my desktop. And main, you can’t find it mer scanning is the world’s worst. Now I,
David Baggett [16:25]
you know, you sort of get you sort of get to a deep, I think philosophical motivation for me personally, which is, that’s the reason that I started working on email, even though email is an unsexy space, a lot of people would scratch their heads about whether there’s anything to do an email, certainly that was the case in 2007, when I started seriously thinking about it. And the reason I started working on is because email really sucks, it was incredibly painful, as an executive, for me to go through 800 messages a day, one at a time and try to do the right thing with that. And I just realised, this is not possible for humans to do, we’re going to have to have some kind of software assistant that does the majority of this triage for us. And so I started thinking really seriously about how can we apply some of the techniques developed in the academic literature around machine learning and natural language processing? How can we apply those to this domain and make something like outlook but something that understands what the mail is about, and that the genesis of the whole thing was really that frustration with the existing tools?
David Ralph [17:35]
I remember time when we had no email. And I said to my colleague the other day, remember, when we used to work together, and we had no email? You know, what do you think we did, because you spend half your time dealing with emails, and he sort of said, Well, we must have worked because you spend all your time. But I created this brilliant system. Dave, and this is trademark. This is the world’s best filtering system, but emails. And when I used to go off on holiday, or vacation, and I’d come back, you’d have about 600 emails sitting in your folder waiting to go, I used to spend the first day just going through them methodically. And then I realised what I would do when I come back, I wouldn’t touch them at all, I wouldn’t even go into my emails. And anybody who wanted to tell me something would come up and go, Ah, I’m glad you’re back, blah, blah, blah. And after three days, if no one said anything to me, I delete the lot. And I realised after four years of doing that, that is the way to go. Because nobody ever leaves the unsaid if I send you an email, they will come and tell you, oh, I sent you an email, boom. And I will tell you what’s in email. And so that’s that is the greatest system, if you could build that into Inky, that it just deletes every single email. And then people would come across the desk and actually talk to you face to face. Productivity would go up, morale would go up, you would solve the world’s problems day.
David Baggett [18:52]
I think you’re I think you’re actually right. And all seriousness aside, I mean,
people have a term for this. It’s called declaring email bankruptcy,
where you just say, I’m just deleting all my mail, I’m not going to answer it. And it you know, I think, and to be honest with you, people have actually asked for that. And Nikki, we had specific users asked for, can I delete all my mail and one button click?
People? In all seriousness, well on it.
David Ralph [19:20]
My idea is always too late.
David Baggett [19:23]
Well, it doesn’t mean you can’t still monetize it somehow. I mean,
but you know, the thing about that is it’s doesn’t it highlight the complete dysfunction around the inbox, the fact that the most expedient thing for you to do is just delete everything. Hmm. In other words, all that stuff you received wasn’t really very important. And rather than slog through all 600, you just delete them all. Because Yeah, there’s 10 important things in there, but you never going to find them, and they’ll just pop up again. It just sort of highlights the whole dysfunction of the thing.
David Ralph [19:52]
I used to work with this girl, I wasn’t gonna bring this up. And I won’t mention her name. But if she listens to this episode, she will know who she is. And she used to annoy me. And she used to annoy me because she used to sit about two inches away from me and email me across. And I used to think, and it was always David, could you do this? David, could you do that there was no please, or anything, it was just David do this. And it used to sort of really wind me up. So I started ignoring them. And she would start sending more, and she would send me emails chasing up the email, which seemed bizarre. So I thought what I will do, I’ll create a folder on Outlook, that I direct them all in. And I will have her name with in subtitles ignore. And he came across and say to me, oh, have you? Have you received any of those emails? I would say to it, oh, let me have a look over there in the name, ignore folder. And she’d know that I was ignoring her. So this was the sort of big fun thing. And then she came over one day as I was walking past and she said, Oh, David, I sent you an email and I wasn’t near my desk. So I couldn’t point this ignore folder out. So I said to her, I haven’t got it, I just haven’t seen it. Well, can you start printing them out and putting them on my desk. And so even though she was like two inches away, she would actually write this email, send it to the printer, and then leave it on my desk. And so I created this other folder, which was a bin, and I had the same thing around it her name and just ignore on there. And I just started like throwing them in. And it became like, it became something that everyone in the office seem to know. But unless that she wasn’t brave enough to confront me on it, she never actually tweaked. And she must have sent me emails for three years, and she never wants followed up on anything, they all sat in my ignore folders.
David Baggett [21:40]
Well, I had a similar experience not quite as as frustrating as that, but similar. And it’s led to a design decision. And Inky, actually, I don’t know if you’ve noticed an outlook, the sender can set the priority of the message and make it show up with a little red exclamation point in your message lyst. That’s part of the male standards. It’s called the priority. It’s a header that says the priority. And I had one customer early on at ita that basically, she set the exclamation point on every single male she ever sent me. And so I just made a filter rule that strip the exclamation point. So I never saw it again. But as a result of that, actually, we don’t show the exclamation point. And we never show any visual difference. based on whether someone said that or not. We have to decide how important or relevant a message it is. And that’s what this that’s what determines the prominence given to the message and the interface, not what the sender thought. person. I tried to point out to this person that if you mark everything important, that means nothing’s really important, right? Because they all have the same status again.
David Ralph [22:45]
Yeah, that’s absolutely right. Yeah, that is if everything is important. What Where do you get this scale? You can’t judge anything. Can you
David Baggett t [22:53]
like prioritising everything one?
David Ralph [22:55]
Absolutely. I’m going to take you back in time, because I’ve enjoyed that part of conversations so much, I’ve actually forgotten that I was recording a show, I just started getting into rent mode. So if we go back in time to the young Dave, were you always messing around with computers? Was it an absolute absolute natural fit that moved you in? Or was there a moment in your life that you stumbled across it?
David Baggett [23:21]
Hard to say, I mean, I started when I was seven. So that’s about the frontier of my memory at this point. But I know that before that I played with Lego a lot. So certainly the building the building bug bit me very early. And then I ended up even though I’m I’m old enough so that not many people, my age had computers when they were seven. My dad was an electrical engineer, and he actually put together from parts a computer, it was a kid computer. And so my first exposure to computers was very early. And I don’t remember not being fascinated by it once it worked. In fact, I remember very vividly, after six months of working on assembling this thing, him turning it on. And me just being absolutely amazed that it worked. You know, I had kind of, because imagine, you know, you’re a seven year old kid. And you’ve watched all these pieces go together. Lego like but you know, there’s soldering involved. So it’s more complicated than Lego. But you still don’t grasp, you know, how does this thing actually work? You know, electronics is not it’s not very obvious what’s going on with electronics, when you just look at the device, right? Yeah. So being a seven year old kid and watching him turn this thing on and the screen come up and have words on it was just amazing, I still remember it. And I don’t know whether it was that kind of miraculous moment that that hooked me or not. But essentially, ever since that moment, I’ve been really obsessed, probably to a fault with creating something out of nothing using soft, where, you know, essentially, the equivalent of making something out of Lego, except for the Lego is just kind of thought you don’t really have a physical. There’s no physical materials involved. But you’re still creating something. And that’s that kind of creation process has always been really an obsession. And for me,
David Ralph [25:18]
it doesn’t surprise me at all that because the tagline to the show is connecting our past to build our future. And one of the things we try to get across to people is if they are looking for the passion that ignites them in their life, and they’re in jobs, but they don’t really like whatever, look at the things that you did when you was a kid and the stuff that you didn’t get paid for. But you just love doing it. And there’s a good indication that you will still like doing it. So the fact that I start off the intro as today’s guest who seems to have an absolute passion for building stuff, it didn’t surprise me at all, when you went back in time. And you said yeah, Lego, because that was the natural fit as a small child, wasn’t it to build things? Yeah, or ethics models and sort of making planes and all those kinds of stuff. It’s the process of taking something and and building it. And so did you think that is true? Do you think that most people fundamentally forget what they were put on earth for and the things that naturally ignited them as a child and just get caught up in the rat race and responsibility?
David Baggett [26:20]
Well, I think, yeah, on the ladder on the latter point about the rat race, you know, absolutely. day to day life is a distraction from from passion. That’s for sure. And the other thing that I’ll mention is, I, you know, I People often ask me, you know, they sort of rhetorically asked me, well, it must be really easy for you, since you’ve had startups that worked before, it must be easy for you to convince people that what you’re doing makes sense, and they should invest in your company and all this. And, you know, it’s absolutely not true. It’s fascinating how untrue it is. And it leads to a greater observation that I’ve made, which is, people are very risk averse to the extent that they’ll even tell you, you’re a idea is dumb to protect you from wasting your time. And so there’s all this kind of negative feedback from the world. I don’t think it’s intentional, I don’t think people are trying to make you not do your, you know, follow your passion. But I think there’s just this kind of, it’s, it’s partly, you know, you’ve got to have a real job. And you can’t just go off and do something crazy the kind of rat race argument that you made earlier, but it’s also just a awareness of doing things that are too hard, that I think fights against the average person’s willingness and desire to follow his or her passion. And and I’m not sure what the solution is. But I always, I always think about that. And when I talk to young people, especially, I try to get them to think that way. Like, well, what do you think about this? And what do you care about? And why are you worried about what your friends think or what some random person you talked to yesterday thought and, but it’s, I think, psychologically hard to follow your passion.
David Ralph [27:56]
I think one of the problems we’ve got and this is a theme that we get into it, as well as about the education system is somehow flawed across the world. And so many people tell me that is it lacks inspiration, and there’s not enough in there to, to find that spark that you had an ignited poured petrol over it. So when you come out of the education system, you ready to go, you really know what you want to do. It kind of dwindles away, dwindles away until you’re ready to go. And then you look out and you think I gotta get a job, oh, I’ll get that job. Because it’s easy one to do. And you, you almost create a path out of necessity, more than actually following something that is going to make you happy.
David Baggett [28:33]
I have a great story about that. I think it’s a little more nuanced than the way you put it. But I think there’s certainly a lot of truth to what you said. I think that the education system is certainly in the West at least, is really good at creating passion around the things that are acceptable to study, obviously, you know, mathematics, or science, or particular kind of literature and literary and analysis, certainly not comic books, or graphic novels. Right. But, you know, James Joyce, that would be acceptable. So I think that the, the things that you’re allowed to study and be passionate about the education system, in genders, that kind of passion, and people who are ready to receive it. What it doesn’t do, though, is allow passion in other areas. And my specific storey is that when I was in high school, which is, you know, ninth to 12th grade, in the US, I had a math teacher who was really a brilliant math teacher and an excellent math teacher at that, and, and really taught me a lot of great math and made me love mathematics. But one of the things that he said, In all seriousness was, you know, Dave, you would be a lot better at math, if you didn’t waste your time on the computer so much. So, you know, and he’s, that’s a factually true statement, I would have been better at math if I hadn’t spent a lot of time on the computer. But it highlights that, at that time, you know, the late 80s, even was not an acceptable thing to do to spend 10 hours a day, programming your computer in your basement. from an academic standpoint, it certainly wasn’t from a social standpoint, either. But from an academic standpoint, here, and now I think, you know, because we’ve seen a bunch of people get incredibly rich doing it. Now, it’s kind of more acceptable. You know, I don’t think anybody would say you’re an idiot for working on your computer at home, circa 2014, because, well, you might be the next Bill Gates, right. But then it was really not encouraged by the education system until college and university was totally different for me. And that was a very high encouragement environment for computers. But prior to university, it was really frowned upon.
David Ralph [30:47]
But let’s play the words of a famous Hollywood actor that he made a speech recently, and it’s gone viral. This is Jim Carrey, and it says a lot about what I think the world need on a daily basis. This is Jim Carrey,
Jim Carrey [31:00]
my father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [31:26]
Is that the kind of message that you would say to your 12 year old daughter?
David Baggett [31:31]
Oh, man, absolutely, absolutely. I think if you’re lucky enough as she is, and as I was to be born into a situation where you can follow your passion, without any real risks here life, you absolutely need to do it. You know, if you are in a place or an environment, that’s very dangerous, maybe you can’t do this. And so I think we can’t we can’t make the broad generalisation that everybody should do this. But I think anybody who grows up in a reasonably affluent environment should do what they want to do with their life. And if they have a passion, absolutely. go after it. And I think one of the Defence mechanisms for, for me historically, being incredibly passionate about things that other people thought didn’t make sense sometimes. And that’s still true today, by the way, there are lots of people don’t think what I’m doing now makes sense. Not being on a not being on an island. You know, sipping Margarita is just an example of that. Right? But indeed, you get. Um, yeah, I mean, people always ask, I mean, I think it’s, anybody who knows me, well is not surprised at all. But I think people who don’t know me are incredibly puzzled, like, What is wrong with you that he would keep working, you know, 80 hours a week? When you don’t need to? Yeah. But it’s that just because I want to create something awesome, right? That’s the reason. But my defence mechanisms always been just to completely own it. And so people who think working on mail is crazy. I just tell them, yep, I’m a crazy rich guy. And that’s what I’m doing. You know, and it’s a great thing that I have money because I can actually fund doing this thing that nobody thinks makes any sense. Now, that’s actually changed over time. So now a lot of people do think it makes sense. But this is, you know, when I started in 2008, basically, nobody thought it made any sense. But I would just own And so yeah, it’s Yeah, maybe it’s crazy. We’ll see. Because
David Ralph [33:31]
I’ve read a lot about you over the last couple of days, I do a lot of virtual stalking. And it seems to me that the media almost wants you to live on an island, it seems to confirm something that rich people get away with something, you know, I don’t know what it is. But there hasn’t been an awful lot of, you know, I’m talking to you. Now. I think you’re a lovely guy. I’ve never met you before. But I just think that you You sound like the most lovely guy and we go out for a beer and we play porn and all that kind of stuff money just be perfect. But by saying to my account that because you’ve got that much money, you should do things in a different way. But you can’t be just normal. And I don’t get that.
David Baggett [34:13]
Well, I mean, we could talk about that for an hour. The the media coverage of technology in general is really pathological. And I think not only do people want to imagine that you’re just in it for the money. And once you have that, you’re going to buy yachts and things and live on an island. I think it’s it’s much deeper than that. In fact, I think that the media coverage centres around wanting to portray people who have had success as being different, and somehow, you know, super heroic, and not like regular people. And so there’s all this back analysis of, you know, what a genius to think about this stuff. I mean, you see it with the really huge monetary success storeys like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry and Sergey Bill Gates, I mean, you see just so many pieces that essentially try to analyse, you know, why was this? How were they so amazingly prescient, and how could they be so smart? And they’re just different people. And, you know, having met a lot of these kinds of people, you know, is that a conference last year, in fact, where I literally sat next to someone who everybody knows this person, the person is a billionaire, created one of the brand name companies and technology? And I asked him, you know, I said, Hey, I’m working on a consumer thing now. So how did you guys, you know, how did you crack the nut of getting traction with consumers? What was your secret? And, you know, what was the magic stuff you did? And he just said, we had no idea. We just tried a bunch of crap and some stuff work. And we still don’t really know why. And I think if you actually interviewed, you know, these hyper successful people, yes, a handful of them will be supremely arrogant and believe they are unique snowflakes and different. But the majority that I’ve talked to, I think, if you interviewed a lot of them, I think the majority of them would say, look, I mean, we positioned ourselves well, by learning some stuff and working hard. And we did a good job, but the actual outcome was kind of lucky. And it’s a game of probabilities, not certainties. And I think they may not say that to Time Magazine. But they’ll say it to you privately.
David Ralph [36:25]
Well, yeah, because I, I’ve had that conversation time and time again, over the shows. And it’s not surprising that extremely wealthy people can’t just pinpoint one thing, because nothing is achieved on one thing, it’s all those tiny little stuff that I do on a daily basis, that builds up, you know, and how it’s absolutely small potatoes, but I’m getting huge listening figures for this show. And a lot of people are saying to me, how are you doing it? How you doing it? And it’s very difficult to say how you doing it, you want the show to be quality, you want to do things slightly different leaving other people which will help. But at the end of the day, it’s all those kind of things that build out. But people don’t see that? Do they? They want a definitive answer, there’s got to be a quick route is the American Idol syndrome, as I call it, singing one song and you’re playing Madison Square Garden? That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna follow suit.
David Baggett [37:19]
Yeah, I think it comes back to an incredibly deep seated aspect of human psychology, which is even going back to the pre science era. People wanted explanations for things they want to know, like, why does the sun come up every day? I want to know. And I think in the same way, people deeply want to know, what did that guy do to get all those listeners? What can I do to replicate that? And the answer of well, you know, he did a really good show. He worked really hard. And he got lucky. Like, that’s all great until the last part, which is, yeah, but I can’t necessarily make myself be lucky. So that that’s not a very satisfying answer. Unfortunately, universe doesn’t make anything satisfying. It just is what it is. And I firmly believe, having seen you know, for 40 years, the various successes and failures and technology. It’s true that they’re all people who do things that are ended up being amazingly huge impact. They’re all really smart. And they all did a great job. They all executed well, they were all clever. They also were all in the right place at the right time. So there was a certain luck factor there. And like I said, most of those people that I know, will readily admit that. But that’s not what you know, CNN wants to do a storey on this guy got lucky. That’s just a weird storey. Right? They want to figure out what’s the deep truth about how you make a billion dollar company? What’s the answer? People want to know? What’s the, What’s the reason? And the answer. The other reason being? Well, it was kind of being in the right place at the right time getting lucky. That’s kind of a crummy answer.
David Ralph [38:58]
When I easy is it kind of crazy, but it’s it’s the truth as well as you Everything is, but you don’t like to hear it?
David Baggett [39:07]
Yeah, I think that’s really, that’s really true.
David Baggett [39:12]
You know, and so
David Ralph [39:12]
so do you think you were lucky Ben? Dave?
David Baggett [39:15]
Yeah, of course. Absolutely. I mean, I think I’m one of a very large number of people who worked really hard and did good quality work in my space. But I think I also got enormously lucky with respect to the timing of the things that I did. You know, for example, you know, crush panic, who was essentially the mascot game for Sony. And the reason that happened was we worked in relative obscurity, making a really technologically impressive, beautiful game, built around a cute character. So it was all ages. You know, not No, no violence really, and, and we did all that on purpose, right? That was all intentional. But the reason that and it became Sony’s mascot character was because Sony themselves had tried and failed four times to make their own mascot game internally. And we were kind of the only thing left around that was a plausible candidate. And so even though you can imagine, they didn’t like the idea of seeding the mascot game to a third party. The alternative for them was to not have a mascot game at all. And that was just not going to happen, right that you can’t have a game console and not have a mascot game. And so there we were ready to slot right in and become Sony’s marquee character. And that’s the difference between selling 150,000 copies of a really awesome game, and selling 3540 million copies of a really awesome game. You know, same thing with Minecraft, right? I mean, Minecraft is this incredible phenomenon. Everybody wants to know, how do I replicate that? Everyone’s making voxel games now. Minecraft was a great game. There are also 10,000 other great games that were made at the same time that you don’t know what they are. Why was Minecraft, the one that caught on a whole bunch of whole sequence of kind of random events. I don’t
David Ralph [41:08]
get that game. And so my son plays that and I go in there and I go, you’re just chipping away? What are you doing? And he just seems to be sticking holes and making ladders. And I go, this is just rubbish. No, it’s not. And he sits there with me. And I both chip away at things and stuff. That really is the world’s worst game. And they’re making it a movie as well.
David Baggett [41:29]
I actually think Minecraft is a really amazing game. And I’ll tell you, my two insights on Minecraft watching my own. I say that you’re
David Ralph [41:36]
wrong. No matter what you say. I’ll give you some I am the show. You should agree with me.
David Baggett [41:43]
Some things to think about on that. One is it’s really like Lego. Right? So the same reason Legos compelling. That’s the reason these building games like Minecraft are compelling because they’re essentially virtual Lego. Now Minecraft is not at all the only one of those. It’s just the one that everyone’s heard of. The second reason is, and this is the insight I got from my son. You know, I said to my son, so you’re playing Minecraft with Noah? Who lives literally 100 feet from you? Why don’t you go outside, knock on Noah’s door and see if he wants to play outside? You know, of course, the cynical dad complain, why don’t you go outside and play right? But his answer was actually really profound. His answer was, because Dad, I can’t build buildings in the real world. And I can’t just light stuff on fire in the real world and not get in trouble in Minecraft, I can do those things. That’s awesome. And I can do them with Noah. So the, the virtual illness of the environment is really empowering, especially for kids. Because they can’t move huge amounts of Earth and make buildings or you know, they can’t, they can’t explore, you know, lighting stuff on fire. They’ll get in trouble. But they can do that in a virtual world. And they can do it with their friends.
David Baggett [42:57]
David Baggett [42:57]
does that change your? So
David Ralph [43:01]
what I do, I pull the plug out and say to him, go and burn down a tree or something, do something fun out there. Get out in a real world because I will pass my son’s bedroom and I can hear him shouting. And he’s obsessed with FIFA 15 Xbox, and I go in there and I go, are you playing with Oh, he’s on his own. And he’s just shouting, shouting, shouting. And part of me kind of goes home. In the old days we be out in our bikes, having fun and all that kind of stuff. And my wife goes, that’s progress. And I go, Yeah, okay. It is progress on things like Xbox and stuff that’s playing football games, I can see that. But chipping away digging holes, is not going to work is it? It’s just rubbish and making a movie of it. What you’re going to do sit there and watch other people dig holes, that’s even worse.
David Baggett [43:48]
Well, and you know, the fascinating thing too, is that most of the money from these things comes from merchandising and cross licencing. So talk to one of the founders of Rovio, who does Angry Birds. And I said, how many units have you guys shipped? Because in my day, if you ship 10s of millions of units, that was a absolute world beating success. And so you know what he said, around 2 billion, they shipped 2 billion units of Angry Birds, which I totally believe but it does tell you how much the world has changed. But he said at the same time, they make most of their money from merchandising, you know, those plush toys and that sort of thing. They actually don’t make the majority of the money from the games. I’m just getting old and miserable. And I Davey you’ve made You’ve made me very rented. And I don’t know what’s come over me. Well in Minecraft is one of those things that really has become an obsession for kids. And it’s always worth understanding them as much as you can, even though you can’t be a kid again. One of the things I’m really struck by with Minecraft is my kids will watch videos of people for some reason, most of whom are British, by the way, playing Minecraft. So the they’re not even playing Minecraft. They’re watching Dan and the diamond mind car show where Dan is playing Minecraft, and they will sit there and watch this for hours. It’s utterly fascinating to me that not only is Minecraft compelling to them to play, it’s compelling to them to watch.
David Ralph [45:18]
The attics, that’s the problem.
David Baggett [45:22]
It’s like virtual crack it
David Ralph [45:24]
is. That’s exactly what it is. That Dan and he’s diamond car has become a dealer. That’s the problem,
David Baggett [45:31]
you should get Dan on your show and find out you know what makes him tick,
David Ralph [45:34]
I’m gonna I’m gonna do that. I’m gonna do that, and I’m gonna break him. I’m gonna break him to the point that he admits that Minecraft that he’s a complete waste of time, that is my challenge.
David Baggett [45:43]
Or you should you could throw the gauntlet down and see if he can convince you that Minecraft is actually good. I think you’ve learned
David Ralph [45:49]
by now, I can’t.
David Baggett [45:53]
Good luck with that absolutely
David Ralph [45:54]
not going to get me what I want to do, actually, because it is the theme of the show. And we’ve had a very different show, because we haven’t sort of delved back into your past as much as we would normally is play the theme in it’s the speech that Steve Jobs did back in 2005. Because I would be fascinated to know that your stage now whether you actually go with the words that he says and you can, you can track your pub. So this is the words of Steve Jobs, and then I can ask you about him afterwards.
Steve Jobs [46:23]
Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leaves you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [46:58]
So I know that when we spoke about that speech before the show you wasn’t aware of it or you didn’t remember it. Now you’ve heard it cold. Is there a resonance to you and your life to where you are now?
David Baggett [47:10]
Yeah, absolutely. And there’s that’s true of a lot of stuff that he says I mean, he’s a controversial figure in many ways. But I think he does speak to the heart of this, which is exactly what I believe about startups, in fact, which is, you know, my methodology for startups is not envision the final product, and then assemble a team to make it. In other words, envision all the dots connected, and then connect them. It’s not like that at all. It’s find something that you’re passionate about, is really hard. And get the smartest people you can to become world experts on that area, on the subject matter, whatever it is, and work with them to figure out what the right thing is to build and then build that. And so when people like asked me, in the early part of any of the things I’ve worked on, how are you going to make money? what’s the what’s the user interface gonna look like? What’s what hardware? Is it going to run on? You know, what’s your go to market plan, the first few years of any of these, it’s like, I don’t know any of those things. I don’t even know what we’re doing yet. All I know is that this is a big area with tonnes of really hard problems that matter 2 billion people or more. And I’m going to get really smart people just think about that all day and all night for a few years. And we’ll build stuff. You know, we’ll prototype things. But we’re not going to pretend that the thing we’re building is the final thing, we’re going to learn what the final thing is we should build. And then once we figured that out, then we’ll build that. And I didn’t really intend inky to work this way. But it did exactly work that way. Again, we ended up doing three iterations of what we call the core messaging engine. And we’re still operating on the user interface and the overall design. And in some extent, we’re still figuring out what is the right combination of all the things we’ve done and thought through, what’s the right packaging of those that makes a really, really unassailable product for the market. And, you know, there again, I think people want certainty. They want to know, they want to have this idea that you’re this businessman. And from the beginning, you think through everything, and you just execute on a plan. And there are always elements of, of startups that are like that. It’s good. If you do backups, for example, and your data centre doesn’t catch on fire, and there are execution, things like that, that you can screw up and that you can do precisely from the beginning and are well understood. But there’s a lot of it, especially in software, where it’s just a process of discovery. And I think assembling the right team to do the discovery process is the critical thing. And then secondarily, you know, allowing the team the freedom to think about it to discover basically, and that. And I think what what Jobs is saying there is figuring out what the dots make in terms of a long term picture. You’re not going to know that in the beginning, but it’s good to start putting some dots on the page.
David Ralph [50:13]
And you can he’s absolutely right, you can turn those dots into stepping stones if you plan.
David Baggett [50:19]
Yeah, and I think, I think he’s embracing something which most business people find anathema, which is uncertainty, and not knowing the answer for a long time. And I think if you really analyse the meaning of what he said, there, it’s we don’t know what the final picture looks like, we just know that we’re doing something in an area that’s important. And we know that if we do enough work on this, and we have the right people, we’re going to find some stuff that’s really cool, creative and valuable. And that’s not the way people typically think about business. I think people typically think a business driven from a more historic waterfall or manufacturing approach, which is, if you’re building a bridge, you completely know everything about how to build that bridge, the only thing you really have to do properly is not screw up building it and execute properly. If you’re building a new software product that’s going to change the world or an iPhone, that’s going to change the world. You don’t even know what you’re building for a long time, because you don’t know what the thing is until you’ve iterated a bunch and tried a whole bunch of things that didn’t work and kept some things that did. So I think a lot of the way business thinks about develop developing stuff is incompatible with Jobs, this vision
of this process of discovery.
But the process of discovery is exactly what leads to things like the iPhone, these incredibly innovative out of the box products.
David Ralph [51:55]
Today, so do you have on your timeline, if we say about Beyonce, a series of dots that link you to where you are now Is there one that is a defining one a big dot, but you kind of go Yeah, that really was where I started becoming who I am today.
David Baggett [52:13]
I mean, I don’t know about in terms of my life, I mean, in terms of the current startup, Inky, it was definitely clear. Once we’d gotten the third version of the core engine, mostly baked, it was definitely clear that that was the right. That was the right thing, that we weren’t going to have to redo that. And we had removed a lot of the technical risk around the project. And there always are these moments where you’re really unsure the things going to work out the way you predict. Because some things are hard enough, so you’re not sure if you can do them. Right, if you’re building a bridge, there’s no uncertainty, you know, you’re going to be able to build a bridge, right. But if you’re building a software product that’s pushing the edge of the envelope on the devices capable of you know, or what’s possible for people to learn how to use or whatever criterion it is, you may be wrong and just fail and not be able to make it fast enough or not be able to make it work well enough or whatever. And so there are always these moments on these projects where you get the sense of Oh, thank God, we actually figured out how to do that. You know, I thought we could, but I’m not, I wasn’t sure until we did it. And now it’s very comforting that that’s behind us. And we had very similar kinds of experiences with ita software, which was about travel search, trying to solve this really, really deep problem of if you’re trying to go from point A to point B, and there’s thousands and thousands of flights you can take, what are the best options? And how do you search them all? And how do you present them to people really hard problem, not clear, you could do a comprehensive search. And eventually we figured out how to do it. And that was really, really comforting. But all during that development period, we had no idea what the outcome was going to be didn’t know for sure that we would be able to do it.
David Ralph [54:00]
Well, I have no doubt that you’re going to be successful. And I have no doubt that inky is going to be probably not as good as my delete or function. That’s that’s probably the the best thing that email could have. But it works so easily. I could just bring it in now boom, five years down. But what I want to do just before is send you back in time. And this is something that I’ve got over all you technology, guys, because I have created time travel. And I’m going to send you back in time to have a one on one with your younger self. And if you could go back in time day and speak to the younger version, what would you say? And what age would you choose where we’re going to find out because I’m going to play the theme now. And when it fades, you’re up. This is the Sermon on the mic.
David Baggett [55:07]
So here in the malt shop, I’m going to give myself advice.
People are going to give you lots of feedback, a lot of it negative and you need to listen to all of that feedback and understand it all. But don’t let that change your fundamental view about what you’re doing. Always view yourself as the ultimate arbiter of what you should be doing with your life.
David Ralph [55:30]
Dave, how can our audience connect with you, sir?
David Baggett [55:34]
So they can get to me on Twitter. dm Baggott, the MBA GG EDT. And I’m on Quora as David baguette I, I typically answer anything, anybody asked me on Quora? If I know the answer. And then email, they can email me at d. m, be at inky calm.
David Ralph [55:55]
And if they’re going to send it by slow mail, they’ve got to find out the island. You’re sitting on fast, I imagine.
David Baggett [56:01]
Well, you know, it’s it’s not. It’s not that hard to find out where I am. And it’s not an island. But you get a very slow response if you send me a letter. Absolutely. Unless you’re unless you’re the IRS or something.
David Ralph [56:14]
Absolutely. It always works that way, doesn’t it? Thank you so much for for spending time with us today joining those dots. And please come back again, when you have more dots to join up. Because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. Day back. Thank you so much.
David Baggett [56:30]
David doesn’t want you to become a faded version of the brilliant self you are wants to become. So he’s put together an amazing guide for you called the eight pieces of advice that every successful entrepreneur practices, including the two that changed his life. Head over to Join Up Dots.com to download this amazing guide for free. And we’ll see you tomorrow on Join Up Dots.
David Ralph [56:58]
Yes, hello there. You know, during the show, I was looking through the iTunes reviews that everyone’s left. Oh, I’ve had some amazing ones. Well, every single one is amazing. They’re all five star. Why will they not be five star? Because it’s a five star show. But I haven’t seen one from you. Is it something I’ve said? Is it is it me Please tell me is it may well if it’s just not oversight, please make amends by going over to iTunes and looking for Join Up Dots with David Ralph. And if you could find a few moments to leave a five star rating and review our would be absolutely amazing. And it will really push my show further up the rankings and make it more of a show that I want to deliver to you on a daily basis. So if you could do that, thank you so much. And I tell you what, I might even come and mow your lawn this Sunday.