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The VentureFizz Podcast: Sam Liang - CEO & Co-Founder of Otter.ai

May 18, 2020

The VentureFizz Podcast: Sam Liang - CEO & Co-Founder of Otter.ai

For the 174th episode of The VentureFizz Podcast, I interviewed Sam Liang, CEO & Co-Founder of Otter.ai.

This episode must have been fate. I subscribe to an email newsletter about podcasting from PodReacher and they had recommended Otter for transcriptions. I had been looking for a way to include a transcript for each podcast episode on VentureFizz, but I wanted something that was accurate and cost-effective. No, this is not a commercial for Otter, but I tested out the product and was blown away by its accuracy. If you go to our recent podcast episode, you’ll now see a full transcript available, which is powered by Otter.

Anyway, a few weeks later after becoming a fan of Otter, I heard from their PR firm about having Sam as a guest on our podcast. When I took a deeper dive into his background, things just got even more interesting.

Sam is one of the original creators of Google Maps… yeah, you know the app that you can’t live without. He is credited for developing the blue dot feature. After Google, he launched a successful startup that was acquired and now with Otter, he has a very big vision in how their platform might even change our lives.

In this episode of our podcast, we cover:

  • Sam’s background including his PhD studies at Stanford under famed professor, David Cheriton.
  • The story of his involvement in creating Google Maps and the blue dot.
  • The details on Sam’s previous company, Alohar, and the acquisition by Alibaba.
  • A deep dive into Otter in terms of its many use cases, plus the complexity of their platform and its use of AI & deep learning.
  • What the future might look like if you could document and search all of your conversations.
  • And so much more.

Interview Transcript

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Sam thanks so much for joining us.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Thank you Keith for having me here.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Yeah, I'm excited to talk to you because, um, it just so happened that when one of your PR representatives reached out about having this interview, I just started using Otter, so it was like one of those perfect scenarios of. I love this product and wow, I'm getting an opportunity to speak to the founder of otter and then to learn about your background of what you've done before that is extraordinary. So it's this is a, this is an exciting opportunity to really dig, you know, dig deep into your background and all these great things that you've built. So, but before we get into all that let's let's talk about, you know, kind of your foundational year so where'd you grow up. What were you like as a kid.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Sam thanks so much for joining us.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Thank you Keith for having me here.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Yeah, I'm excited to talk to you because, um, it just so happened that when one of your PR representatives reached out about having this interview, I just started using Otter, so it was like one of those perfect scenarios of. I love this product and wow, I'm getting an opportunity to speak to the founder of otter and then to learn about your background of what you've done before that is extraordinary. So it's this is a, this is an exciting opportunity to really dig, you know, dig deep into your background and all these great things that you've built. So, but before we get into all that let's let's talk about, you know, kind of your foundational year so where'd you grow up. What were you like as a kid.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Um, I was born in Beijing, China, I grew up there. It was a very wealthy time for China that time. So, a lot of a hardship. You know, the even food was not sufficient. At that time, but we managed to survive. Then I studied computer science at Peking University in China. Then after that, I came to the United States for graduate schools. At first I went to Tucson, Arizona. And I studied computer science for my master's degree. The, I met my wife there actually at Tucson. So, really good memory with Tucson, Arizona. Although it's really hot and love playing, I don't know if you've been there such a wonderful 

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Ive been to Arizon, not the Grand Canyon yet which is shocking because it's like, the number one spot I haven't been to yet that I absolutely need to. How did you get into computer science like what was your first computer like, what was the passion there.

Sam Liang, Otter 

My, my older brother studied computer science. So that made it easy when I saw him programming. Well, at that time, especially in China, computers were very rare, actually they were in this a special computer room, and you have to change clothes you have to take off your shoes don't make, make sure you don't bring in dust into the machine room. So it's totally different than what we have today, you have a supercomputer on your palm. And those days. Yeah, even the number of hours we can use those computers were very limited. So, it's, it's totally different time.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Now, you ended up at Stanford and what I saw was. Third time's the charm you applied twice and you are accepted the first two times but third time you were.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, it was you know I wasn't the smartest kid and I tried multiple times, and they turned me down, and you know I was persistent. Eventually they took me. And the electrical engineering department actually has a very interesting system to be qualify for a PhD for the PhD program, you have to pass the qualification exam. For that exam, you need to have a live interview with 10 professors, and every professor it all happened maybe in a week for hundreds of students. And each one will meet with 10 professors, and they will test you grade you ask you questions and they will, you know give you a score. They normalize the score for each professor, you know, based on the curve, and then they add up your you know your total score. Then they rank all the students, they only you know pick the I forgot the number, the top students in the rest are eliminated. So, I was lucky I passed. And then I had to choose my PhD direction. So I was lucky to convince a professor David Cheriton, to take me. And he asked me hey you know what did you do in the past, you know, show me your transcript. So I got a number of A pluses on my transcript in and impressed him. So he took me as a student and I work on my PhD thesis, with him for several years and I'm glad he let me graduate, because, actually it's really tough, you know some other students may take 10 years to graduate. So I. It took me a little bit shorter than that.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So, what were you studying, what was the, you know, the PhD in like what was your research. 

Sam Liang, Otter  

I was in the electrical engineering department, but between the E department and a CS department they, there is not a strict line to separate the research areas is basically between the two departments, you can choose any professors to work with and any topics you want to work on so I chose Professor David Cheriton in the computer science department. I just, you know I was really passionate about large scale distributed systems, networking. That turned out to be actually really critical to build large scale internet services, if you look at a service like Google or Facebook, it's tremendously complicated, because you're handling, you know, a huge amount of data, huge amount of traffic every day, how do you make sure you can manage that huge amount of data in a very reliable way with high performance and low latency. And, and you have you know thousands of machines, working together. It's immensely complicated so you know I was doing research in that area, that definitely helped me a lot, afterwards, you kniw when I was working at Google and now been working on startups for 10 years, you know, with otter, you know, we can talk more about that you know tremendous amount of voice data we're handling

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Exactly as it scales it's just one of those things that you have to, you have the foundation and know how to to accomplish those critical objectives. Now, but did you think you want to stay in academia like when some people stay in research but then you moved out of academia and onto Cisco right.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, initially I was thinking to be become a professor, staying in academia, but in in Silicon Valley. After working in Silicon Valley and and looking around at Stanford, we said, Wow, actually the industry is more exciting. You know you saw those at that time. Early two year 2000 to 2003 and Yahoo was a high flying Google just started at that time. In that they started in 97, you know, my professor David Cheriton gave them a check of $100,000 to start a Google. So at that moment I was, I was heads down working on my sensor that didn't pay too much attention to Google at that time. You know, you need to be focused to, to actually pass the high bar of the David Cheriton I mean, he is extremely tough guy to work with, because you know just too smart. You know I always feel so much pressure there. But, yeah, looking around in so many startups. While some fail some, some succeeded. But I felt like okay maybe someday I should, you know, build a startup myself. And also, you know, from David's shirt. I mean, he has been teaching us that, you know, don't just work on a small problem, you know, look at a large problem, a big problem that, you know, if you solve it, you can change the world. So, I learned a lot from him. Because not only he funded the founders of Google and VMware and he had multiple startups himself. So, I felt like okay that's actually maybe building a company can generate bigger impact than going to academia.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz  

Got it, ok. So then you worked at Cisco and Tropos networks, but then you landed at Google, which. Talk about what you were first working on at Google and then, you know, how did that transition into what we all know now as Google Maps.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, when I first started the Google so I was working on a different project. At that moment, it was 2006, there was no 3g network. So, there was no smartphone. But there was a laptops, you can carry a laptop, although it's much bigger than it is today. But when you're taking your laptop you go to, you know, visit some places in a restaurant, there is no there's no internet there. So at that moment we work on the project to create a metal Wi Fi system that. The idea was to put a lot of Wi Fi routers on the light poles. And we use that to cover the entire city so no matter where you go, you always have Wi Fi connection. It sounds really crazy, at this moment because everywhere you go, you have the 3g or even 5g now, but at that moment. It was experimental project. So, I work on that project first we actually covered almost the entire mountain view city here with Wi Fi signals. And while working on that. I was doing testing. You know, in Castro Castro Street, we're in downtown Mountain View. I use my laptop and connected to our Wi Fi network I realized that, Oh, actually. I can actually determine the location of my laptop based on the Wi Fi routers, we’re connected with. So that's when I started the Google location platform project. Of course you know we are. I'm not the one who invented this idea there were other companies working on similar ideas too. But we actually build a really large scale system at Google. 

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So with that, like so was this like your 20% time that you started working on this or was this like, did you have to, you know, pitch this idea internally and start working on it full time.

Sam Liang, Otter  

I don't remember exactly. I thought it was interesting so I just started working on, I think it was a 20% project that time, then a 20% become, you know, 50% and 80% and actually over 100% later. Don't know exactly when, but at some point, Apple, you know at that time was Steve Jobs was planning to launch with the first iPhone, and they need a really a killer app on the first iPhone. So map would be fantastic app. So, they contacted us in Google's work together. I mostly focus on the back end system on the server site and there are a separate team that built the, the mobile map, but together we create the blue dot system that allows the map, the mobile map to show a blue dot to indicate your current location and the way you move around it will track you, and well help you navigate, you know, turn left or turn right when you try to look for the restaurant.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So this is in your on this patent so you're one of the inventors of the blue dye.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, there are a number of patents there. We actually won our team won the Google Founders Award,I was part of the team.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz 

Why blue? It could have been red it could have been orange

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah red looks a little less dangerous, I guess. Blue is more pleasant.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Did you work with Skyhook wireless at all. Do you remember that company that was the original iPhone location awareness technology is company based out of Boston I don't know if that connects the dots at all but.

Sam Liang, Otter  

I have some interaction with them but not a whole lot myself.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So, over your time at Google like it you know before you moved on, like. Where was, you know, the whole Google Maps product, you know, and and what are your thoughts on where it is today.

Sam Liang, Otter   

Well it was 14 years ago that's, that's when we started. Um, well obviously this is today this is a must have right way you move around when you visit a new place we look for a new restaurant. This becomes the default map. And, you know, people are taking it for granted. Now, you know, if you always have the Google Map available, even if you're traveling overseas. At that time, you know, when we first started we we thought it was be, it would be big, but we didn't know it will be this big. It just, you know, when you make it so accessible and easy to use. The usage will grow exponentially actually beyond your initial anticipation.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Yeah. So, what's it feel like to have a product that's used by so many people and pretty much everybody uses Google Maps,

Sam Liang, Otter  

Making you feel good and I it make you feel like you made an impact. Your work is not wasted. I know, actually there are a lot of programs. Well, a lot of products on the market or even within Google a lot of products, they're, they're never launched. People spend many hours on their days and nights and, you know. Some project were never launched or some sort of launch and then failed. You know, it's hard to predict, but, you know, of course, it's. You need to have the vision, you need to understand there is a market there is a need, and the technology needs to work. And you need to figure out the right user experience everything has to be aligned for a product to succeed. So I'm really glad that Google map was so, so successful.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So after Google, you went to be a founder of your own company and you know it's, it sounds like you're working while you're an ER at DFJ so you're working with Tim Draper, and then back with Professor Cheriton so. So what was the company that you found it after leaving Google.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, the company. The name was Alohar is a little weird name at the, you know, aloha is the Hello, in Hawaii, and then we just add a letter R at the end. Some people actually told me that they don't like the name because sounds like pirates talking. But the idea was actually pretty crazy at that time. The, I don't know if you familiar with this company called Foursquare.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Of course, everybody was checking in and becoming a mayor.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Right. So, around that time 2008 to 2010 Foursquare was actually really popular, you know they invented AI concept, checking. So you go to a nice restaurant you check in and tell your friends. It's pretty cool. But, you know, I was asking the question. Okay, check in, it's interesting, but actually takes multiple steps to check in. You have to unlock your phone first. At that time there is no facial recognition, you have to type in the PIN code, unlock it, find the app and, you know, tap on a few buttons, then check in. So, we were thinking that okay can we automate everything without any manual operations. So the idea was we can track a location passively in the background and automatically figure out all the places that the user visit the exact time you enter the restaurant the exact time you leave the restaurant, you know when you're moving, you're driving or moving around, or when you're just sitting down. So, can we automate that. And then the bigger question was this actually, if we are able to do this location tracking and location pattern recognition. It can actually enable a lot of new applications. One application we created was for family members to stay connected, you know, the parents and children. Everyone has this app, they can always see where everybody is, you know, one night, leave work and pick up the kid and daycare, my wife can see that I got to the daycare. And I pick up the kid, sometimes actually we had to, you know, coordinate because you know maybe one person has to work overtime and we have to have the other person to pick up the kid, and sometimes they miss communicate and nobody pick up the kid. And so you know when I arrive at Safeway the grocery store my wife would get automatic notification and she'd sometimes call me and say hey remember to buy a meal or remember to buy some bananas. There's a lot of applications, especially when you're traveling there's also interesting you know when you're visiting Paris, you want to remember all the places you visited, you can create a travel journal and all that. So that was the, the Alohar system we built. It actually went pretty successful. And these days actually with COVID-19, a system like that tracking system actually will be really useful this is actually what Korea, South Korea has been doing. They use a mobile map to track all the COVID-19 confirmed cases, if you're close to a confirmed case, they send you a notification automatically and say Hey, be careful in that area, there are confirmed coronavirus cases. And actually recently I see Google and Apple are trying to do something similar. Yeah so that concept, you know, we actually, I believe we are the very first one who did that for both Android phones and iPhone. 10 years ago.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

It was a platform right where were you creating your own apps or other app developers creating apps on top of your platforms?

Sam Liang, Otter  

Mostly a platform. Yeah we did created a couple apps ourselves but we had a lot of other developers building applications on top of it. One of them, I don't know if you heard about is called mile IQ. It's a automat mileage expense tracking system. It's really useful for small and medium business to track their mileage expense and use to deduct taxes, and also for business travelers if they drive their own car for business, they can actually get reimbursement, based on the mileage, they drive in the past they have to like manually track the mileage that they drive every week, which is actually a big pain you have to document it for the accounting and auditors, to make sure you know there's there's no a fraud and with mile IQ it is automated, they actually use our SDK in iPhone and Android to do the tracking and automatically calculate the mileage that can be actually one really successful. The whole system was built on top of our platform, and all the data actually stored in our database, and that company. If you search on the internet. They were later acquired by Microsoft. With a very good price.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

So, and then your, your company was acquired by. Was it a division of Alibaba like auto NaVi or.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, auto NaVi  is actually the sort of the Google map in China. And at that moment we were actually raising a new round of funding we got offers from top VCs, and then we also got acquisition offers from some Silicon Valley companies and Alibaba. Learn about that and join the beating, and that time, you know, we thought, okay, you know with auto Navi is, you know, they have lots of users there, you know, this can be really interesting to generate big impact. So, eventually we took their offer, and auto Navi actually was immediately acquired by Alibaba. So actually we know that later. It's actually, it's probably the decision on the Alibaba side as well, because the Alibaba actually already had board member on auto Navi and the Board of auto Navi decided to make this acquisition.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Let's talk about otter so as a, you know, as I kicked off the conversation. I first heard about your product through an email newsletter that I get called pod Reacher so it's focused on podcasting and they had done like kind of a ranking of transcription services, and it was something I knew in the back of my head that I probably shouldn't have transcription of our podcast interviews on you know the post. And it just I didn't know what to do, because there's a lot of different options out there. Yet, this was a very timely survey, and you know it ranked otter number one, so I just jumped to otter and signed up and it reminded me a lot of my experience with zoom, I've been a zoom user for probably a year and a half now put away by was the level of accuracy that I got returned because I've used other providers before and it was like, it's more of a headache than what it's worth, because it's not accurate. Right. But you like. So first what led you down the path of starting the company. And how did you get it to the point where it's so, so accurate.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, that I would give credit to our AI team. You know, we've got some amazing AI scientists in our team. These. The system, you know is pretty amazing, actually. The. If you look at the teams at Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. Each of them actually have hundreds of people working on this type of problem.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

The Alexa team must be enormous.

Sam Liang, Otter  

I don't know exactly their headcount, but it's it's a pretty big team. And there are several reasons. One is that we are actually focusing on. When you have a podcast you're usually having an interview with one or several other people. It is a conversation between multiple people. This is actually a lot more complicated than the Alexa use case. When you use Alexa, you say a hot phrase like hey Alexa to wake it up, then you ask a short question. Like, what's the weather tomorrow, or give a command. Like, you know set an alarm at 3pm. So it's a very short question or a command issued by a single speaker. So their most of their system were built to optimize for this case even Google. The biggest use case for them is Voice Search. You know you try to search for something by issue. That's the search request by voice. The, the system, other Google later you know I have something on YouTube as well, but they're still there system actually doesn't work very well for this type of human to human conversations, which happened in the podcast or even more broadly, for, like, millions or billions of business meetings in product team you have project meetings, you have stand ups. There's business and marketing people are having phone call zoom meetings all the time. And now you know everybody's with COVID-19, you know, people are working from home. Then how do they communicate they have tons of zoom calls or Hangouts, or, you know, WebEx calls. People talk a lot to communicate. But if you look at the history, you know more and more data are actually being captured and analyzed. But still, majority of the voice conversations, is actually all lost. You spend so much time talking to each other to communicate. But the voice data is mostly lost and wasted, actually. For all those meetings, you can take many notes on a piece of paper, where you try to type in a computer. They all have their challenges and pain points right on. If you take notes on paper notebook. First of all, I cannot recognize my own handwriting. Secondly, when I need to look for information. I don't know which page it was on, you cant search. Yeah. Well, if you take notes on your laptop. It does take your eyes off the,the, the other people from the other people. You just you're not having eye contact with them. And, you know, it distracts you.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

It has so many use cases. Yeah like my background before VentureFizz was recruiting, and I would talk to lots of people every day. Right. And I became a really good typer it's the one course in high school that I'm very grateful that I took. Because I was able to type as the person was talking and getting the key elements, but if I had this instead I could relax and listen instead of, you know, trying to type while the person was talking.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, that's that's exactly what trying to do you know the having this all this back to back the zoom meetings. I find it extremely stressful. It's even more stressful than meeting people in person. I tried to understand why one reason I found why was that when you're having a video conference you're staring at the small computer screen for an hour. It's actually really stressful. And, but with otter, at least, it can help you in a certain way that you have the peace of mind that the information is captured all the information is captured and everything is searchable. One reason we created this word, we look at in Gmail Why is Gmail so so successful One reason is that Gmail search works so well. Anything in the email you can find it instantly, you know, even it was like three years ago you can find it instant. But if you look at all the time you spend in meetings. I can't even recall clearly, you know, like three days ago somebody told me about that product, you know, who is that guy, you know, you know, did Did he say $1 million or $2 million. I cant find that information. So we see actually with otter. All of this becomes so easily accessible. So not only is this a personal tool it's actually we see this is more powerful when your team use it because it's all about collaboration information sharing in a team to make it successful. When we have a meeting with 10 people. Not everybody is paying attention all the time, especially when you're working from home remotely you're handling multiple things. Sometimes the kids needs attention. Sometimes a dog is barking. But with otter. It's actually much more powerful than the closed caption with closed caption, even if you can see the caption. It's gone within seconds. Once it's gone you can't find it anymore but with otter, you can scroll back. You know 10, 15 minutes, or you can just search for keywords quickly. And the other aspect is that the for business professionals. They're often time. They're double booked. You know, you cannot go to all the meetings. But if you know your colleague will otter this and share the otter note with you, then you can decide to actually to skip a lot of meetings. To save time, you could cut your meeting time by 20% 30%. Because when you get the otter note, you can no just glance at the transcript or look at the highlights in the otter actually. Now, lets you highlight important parts, so your colleagues can just highlight 10 sentences. And that's all you need. Maybe just a couple minutes you get all the, all the information you need without spending one hour. Joining the meeting live.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

You know we are, you know, in this crazy world right now, the COVID-19 pandemic. But it's interesting to see how people are adapting and you know zoom is now pretty much a verb, you know, people just saying video call is now called zoom. I mean, in your business has been seeing tremendous growth like your integrated with zoom, you know it's five x increase in usage over the past month, students are using it so the use cases are you know exploding so. You've raised capital so you've raised 23 million to date. Recently led 10 million, what would like what's the plan for otter moving forward.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Want to continue the exponential growth. Someday, can we become another zoom. Of course in a different type of business, or different type of service. We do see otter provides a new way to collaborate, a compliment, zoom and other video conferencing system for remote work for working from home, as well as actually, you know, you can use otter for in person meetings as well. It works on your laptop it works on mobile devices. So, we're building this collaboration productivity and new product to, you know, improve collaboration and community communication. The. Another actually interesting trend, we see is that a lot of conferences are canceled due to COVID-19, and they're moving them online to every two events. In the past two years, we actually have been working with a number of high profile, conferences, for example, TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in starting in 2018, they started to use otter to live transcribe all the speeches and panel discussions, and they made the transcript available to the attendees. This actually additional value for those attendees to subscribe to the conference.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

I think it's fascinating how, like voice is like new. right, or highly relevant like more relevant than before like just you know even basic use cases of the voice remote. Like, like, if my kids have to actually like punch in something with the remote to change the channel on the TV they'll like freak out now. Voice recognition on the remote is hit a button and say what they want, right, it's just, you know, it's just so

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, we, you know, we recognize that the voice command and Alexa, Google Home is. They are all very interesting, but otter is actually focusing on a different type of problem that actually voice happened even more on a very an even bigger scale, because for voice command, you know, it's every time it lasts a few seconds, and in a day, you know the limited number of times you need to talk to a device. You probably spend much more time talking to other people in meetings of costs, of zoom meetings. And those products actually don't support this use case, and, and this is actually what otter focus on. And the way thing is actually has even bigger scale than the voice command.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Or maybe it'll be someday where every word you speak is actually taken down for historic reference.

Sam Liang, Otter   

Of course you know the people are concerned, I totally agree. That's, you know, we think eventually it will happen, it just, you know, your entire life can be Ottered. Of course I mean you want to protect the privacy you want to protect the confidentiality and make sure the access control is strictly enforced, so don't leak data. But you know what, everything is Ottered in a system. In fact, give you a lot more information insights, which is awesome I think it just opened the door to a lot of new applications.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Yeah, education, another one like I just think, the way. Students are able to learn now very visually with YouTube or something like this were. So I'm running on the treadmill, if I'm watching Netflix or something I can't hear, because my wife, my beats wireless aren't loud enough. So I started getting used to watching closed caption television. I was worried so much about you know probably not capturing the whole, you know, visual, right, I'm understanding what's going on, way better so now I've started watching TV normally with captioning. And I think if there was a professor teaching me, and I was able to, you know, actually see the word spoken as well like like looking at otter doing what it's doing right now, it would be, I think, better for me for learning.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, absolutely. We see online education can really benefit from these new technologies and new products. That's actually what a lot of universities are doing now. We're working with UCLA UCSF, Tulane University, they deployed otter one motivation actually was to help students with harder hearing, where, you know, they cannot hear very well, or some other learning disabilities. Some people, you know have just trouble. You know, understanding quickly. And so with otter you know to enhance their learning experience. And now, like, not just the those students need otter you know with online classes today. Just, you know, as you said, this actually provide a new channel for them to learn in his argument, the voice, and the video. Now, the additional piece of information you can use, and the transcript, can be, you know, generated live. It's searchable it's, it's also in really easy to share with other people. When you share with other people, you know, you know, you can, again, quickly. The algorithm will be able to summarize the information as well, not just the raw transcript. So, I want to make clear that the. This is just the beginning of a long road ahead of us. transcription is just the first step to capture the voice and convert that to text but we won't stop there. The next step is to understand the conversation. What's the content, what's the knowledge, what's, what's the question they ask, and what's the answer for that. Right. Later you could ask otter and say, last week, who told me about that newest speech recognition thing. What's their accuracy and how many users do they have, you can ask otter those questions and otter can find it from all your past conversations.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Well, for other entrepreneurs that are building products like what what advice would you give to someone that is trying to, you know, like how do you avoid cool technology versus solving a real problem right because there's different technology that's really groundbreaking, but doesn't necessarily have you that actual product market fit so what advice would you give to entrepreneurs on building cool technology but actually solving a real world problem.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Yeah, I wouldn't say we can give advice. At this point, you know, we're still small we're still growing, and just some experience to share of course, the definitely try to, you know, Target, a big problem rather than solving a very tiny problem, you know, in this case we see in the potential size of the market is so big, basically, if you think about it, how many hours does each person talk every day. How much communication is done via voice communication. You know you can do some, you know, back the envelope calculation. It just is tremendously big number. And of course you want to make sure your technology is mature enough to solve that problem, you know, if you, if we were doing doing this, 10 years ago, actually, the technology wasn't good enough. The the interest. The error rate is so high, it's not feasible it's not usable. Today, you know, with all our new invention, we're able to get much higher accuracy although is not 100% accurate but we are at a state that is is feasible it's a usable, although it's not perfect. So they are the product market fit is always a tough question. How do you find it. You know, do you know when you find it. And of course, they're always competitors out there. You want to move fast, you want to grab the market, Google, Facebook Amazon they're, they're always a potential threat. But they're always new startups that proved that. Oh, they can move faster they can provide a better experience and zoom is a great example. When zoom was born in 2011, their was WebEx or Google Hangouts was free or Skype. Right, GoToMeeting, but if Google Hangouts is an independent business, I don't think they can survive, you know zoom just completely crush them. Even if, you know, Google has an infinite amount of cash behind it. 

Keith Cline, VentureFizz 

So what do you like to do outside of work when you're not building Otter.

Sam Liang, Otter   

I'm actually recently I was talking with my friends, they said, You know, I just have so many zoom meetings every day cuz I'm really stressed. So I gave myself a challenge. It's I call it a zoom mileage challenge, or the meaning, every hour I spend on zoom I said, I have to run at least one mile or do some workout to burn hundred calories. so I've been running a lot, actually I look at my, my Strava statistics, I saw my weekly mileage has been going up steadily since the, the COVID-19 happened. So, running a lot. I actually beat my own. Zoom hours. Last week I run like 63 miles. So I don't think I had 63 hours of zoom. So, that's good.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz 

Yeah, I like, I mean I've been working out a lot more my kids, workout probably multiple times a day because they just like what am I gonna do now like I can't really watch you know YouTube for so long. And you know schools online so it's yeah I mean,

Sam Liang, Otter  

and I you know I it gave me, it helped me relax. When I'm running, and it helped me actually think creatively. When I'm running I often get, creative ideas.

Keith Cline, VentureFizz

Well, Sam thanks so much for taking the time to walk us through your background all the great stories and great companies that you built and, obviously, you know what you're up to now with otter I'm excited to see what what the future holds for the company.

Sam Liang, Otter  

Cool, thank you so much.


Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.