Prannoy Roy's First-Hand Experience Of Latest Tech Innovations

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  • Published On: September 29, 2018
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In this three-part series of one hour each brought to you by Prannoy Roy, we look at some actual products being created, some top secret, some soon to be launched - each one has something really special and mind-blowing. We meet many of the actual innovators who are helping design a better world for tomorrow. This week, we talk to a founder who is also the heart and soul of The Playground: Bruce Leak, Founder and COO, Playground Global.

Here is a full transcript of Bruce Leak's interview with NDTV:

NDTV: Thank you very much Bruce for joining us, I know you're slightly busy at times, right?

Bruce Leak: More than we like, yes

NDTV: More than you like

Bruce Leak: Always a privilege though to speak with you

NDTV: It's wonderful and I find this probably the most inspiring place I've been to anywhere. And that's saying, maybe not much, but I love it and it's your brainchild along with the team. God bless you and what made you think of it and what's the objective behind it?

Bruce Leak: I think I really appreciate the compliments. When the 4 of us got together to found Playground it was really about thinking about how could we give back to the next generation of entrepreneurs. The 4 of us have been through more than a dozen start-ups, in the last 13 years and we've really had a great experience and we want to make sure that the next generation kind of has all the tools and the capabilities to not make the same mistakes we've made when we were young

NDTV: Right, right

Bruce Leak: And then we can participate in their journeys and enjoy the ride that they're all going on

NDTV: And learn from them as well

Bruce Leak: Hopefully we can all make new mistakes instead of the same ones

NDTV: Mistakes will always happen. Now they call, there's a lovely word for it, pivot, right? That's actually a mistake

Bruce Leak: Yes, it's a large adjustment, maybe to a mistake

NDTV: But you've got to pivot all the time. For youngsters who are watching this, there will be occasions when you have to change course, there will be setbacks, etc, right?

Bruce Leak: Things never go as you expect. And that's why fundamentally we invest in great people, who want to go change the world and how they actually effect that change, no one's exactly sure. They've got an idea today and they're going to follow that idea as far as it can go and maybe bounce off that wall and correct into another direction. We just want to make sure that at the Playground here we have everything they need to make them as successful as possible. And so we think of ourselves as a start-up. There are a lot of old large venture capitalists here in Silicon Valley, huge businesses that have been very successful over time. And we're a start-up and we need to do things differently, we need to be able to move faster, we need to be able to be more creative and we need to learn from our own mistakes

NDTV: Exactly

Bruce Leak: So at the Playground we want to make sure we have everything a start-up needs. So beyond just, you know, money, we want to make sure they have a great environment, we want to make sure they have all the tools they need, technical support

NDTV: You give them a huge amount of technical support as well. You have a team that really guides all these youngsters, right?

Bruce Leak: Well, I think you know, having mentors and having seasoned technical professionals helps them once again not make mistakes that have been made before. It points them in the right direction so that they can focus on the core differentiation for their business. And of course, you know, beyond technology, I mean, you also need food. And here we are in the cafeteria

NDTV: And the music, which you've just lowered, but it's my music, '60s, that's the best sign

Bruce Leak: I think so it's...

NDTV: You're a well brought up child

Bruce Leak: It's proven music, we wouldn't want to experiment on the environment. But engineers love food, and we have more than a dozen companies here and they collaborate over lunch, over breakfast, over dinner, talking about, you know, partners that work well, lawyers that might add value, advisors, and also just hiring great talent

NDTV: And you were saying earlier that you don't hire any competing two, so they can all exchange ideas

Bruce Leak: Our investments are always in companies that don't compete with each other

NDTV: So there's no worry about that

Bruce Leak: And because we want to be able to fully support each one of them and you love all your children the most of course, and so you don't want to have children that are going to compete in the marketplace

NDTV: And then they won't talk to each other, and won't sit at the same table

Bruce Leak: Yeah exactly. So we want them all, they're all at different stages and they're all in different industries...

NDTV: So you've done some thinking before you started this. Little bit?

Bruce Leak: Little bit. We just want to create an environment which really works

NDTV: Wonderful, wonderful

Bruce Leak: And there's no place in Silicon Valley where start-ups can come together and you know, know that they've got each other's backs. And kind of live the dream of creating the future

NDTV: You know I've walked past all this amazing tech. I just wanted to ask, what is this? Why are there three?

Bruce Leak: This is one of our companies. A company called Right Hand Robotics and actually these buttons were done by one of our technical staff to make it so you could operate this robotic demo

NDTV: Without being inside

Bruce Leak: Without being inside the secure operations room. And unfortunately the green isn't a perfect green, but it's still...

NDTV: Talk about perfectionism. Oh, okay, you pressed that it got it started

Bruce Leak: Yeah, so this is a company called Right Hand Robotics and they create a robotic hand, they call it the right hand for the right job and it focuses on a machine learning, to understand how to pick up a lot of different devices quickly, and across a large range of devices, or products

NDTV: Wow. Fascinating. I love this. And you just press that and it stops

Bruce Leak: You press the red button and it's done, press the green button and it will start. It's going to have to take a little scan of the space

NDTV: Oh it's scanning it right now.

Bruce Leak: Yup, and then it should start

NDTV: Okay, wow

Bruce Leak: It's having trouble with that purse

NDTV: It noticed there was one more there

Bruce Leak: It has to finish its job before it can move onto the next one

NDTV: I see, wow. That's unlike me. Now talking about food, I think you've done one terrible thing

Bruce Leak: What's that?

NDTV: May I ask, may I complain, that where all the lovely dessert is? You can't do it quietly. This is really unfair on...

Bruce Leak: It was a little devious to our engineers

NDTV: Look at this. Let's just move back a bit

Bruce Leak: Basically, what they found is...

NDTV: So if you're going to have dessert here, what happens?

Bruce Leak: You have to walk up tp get your dessert and then everybody in the room hears

NDTV: Oh so you're binging today

Bruce Leak: While you're here you can play with these little pixels on the screen, you can flash them around, and it's rare that you get to see physical pixels. I actually spend a lot of time...

NDTV: Yes, exactly, of course

Bruce Leak: You know having physical pixels move around, actually as you said, you get to hear the video as it plays NDTV: Yes, it's lovely

Bruce Leak: It has a kind of a soothing, you know musical sound to it and you know, brings you straight to the frozen yogurt machine

NDTV: It gets worse and worse

Bruce Leak: It's a new edition

NDTV: Alright, wow, lovely, I must try that later

Bruce Leak: But let's go take a look at the shop where we do a lot of rapid prototyping and help some of our teams out.This is one of our prototypes

NDTV: No wonder you call it a playground, this is what you do for your life. I want your life

George: Work hard, play hard

Bruce Leak: So this is an electric version of the go-cart and you know right now we have an operator. It's very dangerous, it's incredibly powerful, which is probably a mistake we have it inside


Bruce Leak: Actually it does have a purpose, which is every year we have summer interns come to the Playground, and last year they created a robot that would go make coffee and bring it to your desk. A very important feature for engineers

NDTV: Wow that's amazing

Bruce Leak: And this year the plan is to have the summer interns make these go-karts drive autonomously. Because, you know, it's hard to get reliable help like...

NDTV: I mean if I got in I'd go straight through the glass

Bruce Leak: So let's take a quick look. We'll start here in actually the quiet side, not too quiet, but this is actually the self-serve corner

NDTV: And the electric go-cart is also a start-up?

Bruce Leak: No, it's an intern project. So it's really more of a technology demonstration. In here is where we have a lot of 3D printers that our portfolio companies can use

NDTV: 3D printers, okay

Bruce Leak: They can be used to make prototypes. These are fairly standard AVAS kind of industrial 3D printers. There is someone printing something on this one. This other printer is actually one of my favourites though. Because it's essentially an ink-jet printer that uses liquid polymers to print plastics or rubber, and then a UV light to cure them. But because it's inkjet it can mix different polymers, so it can mix rubber along with plastic in the same print. Here it is mixed with a rubber section connected to a hard plastic section, but you can mix them, you can actually mix them together. So you can get different hardnesses of rubber. And so if you're making a product with a button you can decide what you want that button to feel like. Or if you're doing a prototype of a hand, you can actually print the bones in hard plastic, but you can put the joints in rubber and you can put a skin on it that has a feel to it. All in a single print without trying to change from one printer to another printer technology

NDTV: That is lovely

Bruce Leak: It's pretty exciting

NDTV: Very exciting

Bruce Leak: We'll move on through to the next room, which is the main shop where we do a lot more of the mechanical prototyping. And George, who you've already met, helps run the shop and operate all the equipment for...

NDTV: He's the person, I want his life right?

Bruce Leak: Yes, he has a good job. Unfortunately he does have to do the bidding of the portfolio companies, so if they need something, sometimes he has to work and make it, but generally he can decide how he wants to go about doing that

NDTV: Lovely

Bruce Leak: Sometimes he goes about doing that by using his 1950s spansaw, which we bought for basically a dollar per pound. Unfortunately it cost more to ship it than to buy it

NDTV: I can imagine

Bruce Leak: But it has...

NDTV: So this is 1950s you say?

Bruce Leak: It is. You want to show off some of that amazing technology here?

George: Absolutely

George: This is the state of the art as far as spansaws go. Wiring bm was developed afterwards and basically made some of this technology obsolete, but at the time this machine was built it was the best. Three speed, fix gear transmission

Bruce Leak: Manual transmission

George: So you have 3 fixed gears, you have hydraulic table feed

NDTV: Okay, right, right

George: So if I were cutting a large, long steel, 13 inches thick, I can hydraulically adjust the height of my cart. I can set this as a certain feed rate and a certain table pressure with this pressure regulator and it literally bolts material down to this table and comes back an hour later

NDTV: Wow, lovely to have this

Bruce Leak: It's a 1950s robot

George: Yeah. It's an incredible machine. They do not make anything close to this. This is the lowest speed, so imagine you're cutting a huge block of steel, the blade is literally crawling


George: It takes a very long time

NDTV: Nostalgia

Bruce Leak: And then the latest table saw that has facets, what's it called, finger stop?

George: It has a touch sensor. So if I were to, I don't know if the indicators are on there, but if I touch the blade it will detect a changing on the blade and if you do not disable the interlock, what it does is, it will sense if any skin or in this case just metal, it will throw a cartridge into the blade and stop the entire system

Bruce Leak: So if you can touch that with your finger it will instantaneously stop the blade, before it gets more than a fingerprint

NDTV: I'm not going to test that

George: The CEO of the company did it on live TV

NDTV: Brave guy

George: Got a small scratch

NDTV: A small scratch on something that powerful is not bad

George: It can save a lot of fingers

NDTV: Wow that is amazing

Bruce Leak: Technology, that is amazing

NDTV: Tech and safety

Bruce Leak: Tech and safety. So at Playground we spend a lot of time on robotics. The go-cart that is going to become animated and we also have a robotic dog here. I believe this is the only Boston Dynamics dog in this activity

NDTV: It's quite frightening actually

Bruce Leak: Once in a while he goes and plays in the parking lot with the real dog. He's gotten a little more cranky over time, maybe it's arthritis, but he's got a little more attitude than he used to. This is one of our favourite toys at the Playground. It's a 3D metal printer. You can take a look inside

NDTV: Wow, so it's printing them out as we speak

Bruce Leak: It's printing

NDTV: That's the finished version, but it did that

Bruce Leak: Basically it takes a layer of metal powder and spreads it across the center and then a laser scans out the pattern that you're making, so that basically the powder melts into the pattern and then it goes down a layer, there's another layer of powder on it. So it's basically scanning every layer. So we're printing something like this, out of titanium which is the metal powder that's in there right now. So it's very light and the amazing thing about titanium is it has a bouncing property to it. Unfortunately, this one's non-uniform, so when you bounce it you don't know exactly where it's going to go

NDTV: Beautiful, good for practicing, actually for cricket

Bruce Leak: We also have small ones like this. It's actually a superball.

NDTV: This is predictable

Bruce Leak: We're using this technology, this is actually a commercial product that we use to help our portfolio companies. one of the things we've learnt in doing that is in order to crank this ball, it needs all this supporting material to hold it onto the platform while it was printing it. And unfortunately since you're using titanium powder, the support material is also out of titanium. And so it's kind of hard and expensive to remove. It takes time and money and people. It also prevents you from being able to print certain objects. And in doing kind of extensive research in this field so extensively, we found a company, that we later invested in and helped develop 3D. And this company is able to print this ball without any support since we're using the same powder technology. And because of that...

NDTV: You save...

Bruce Leak: We save all this material which is thrown away. You save a lot of time and electricity as well and on top of that, since the ball doesn't have to be mounted to the metal platform, not only can you print the number of balls you can print them up in spaces as well. So there are more things printed at one time

NDTV: To get from here to there, a brilliant algorithm or something?

Bruce Leak: Basically they realized the support material really doesn't fundamentally support this, the powder doesn't support this. What it was doing is preventing the metal from expanding. As you're making it from the bottom going up, difficult to close. So what they do is nail it down to the bottom. What this new company does is they model all the stresses that are on the metal, so the design's ready before they even start printing it. And then they counteract those stresses as part of the laser process across multiple layers. And so they can actually know where the stresses are, where it's warping and they prevent it from warping. They've already modeled the whole thing before they make it

NDTV: Brilliant. They've got a patent on that?

Bruce Leak: They do

NDTV: I bet they do

Bruce Leak: They have their beta units on right now and by the end of the year they will be shipping new units so people can create things that weren't possible before . For example if you needed to print something in enclosed housing you wouldn't be able to get the support material out of the middle because there's no access to it. So you won't be able to print that thing with traditional 3D metal printers, but with this one you can. They call them holy grails, that weren't possible before. And so that's an example of additive metal manufacturing. Here's an example actually of subtractive metal manufacturing. This is a 3D access mill that runs with an ethanol coolant on. You can see a little bit of vapour right around that metal tip there, it's spraying alcohol on it in order to chill it so it doesn't get too hot and that allows the system to run cool, but without any liquids in the way so things come off clean. And so we can use the vacuum table to hold down the material we're cutting. Because the vacuum doesn't get sucked up

George: You don't have to worry about collisions or a fork holding device. You can cut the entire outer profile of a part without having to flip it over. So many, many parts can be done in a single operation on this machine versus two on another machine. And also you can machine a part the size of the table

NDTV: And this is 1950 as well? I'm just kidding

Bruce Leak: It's a little newer

NDTV: Yeah. 2015

Bruce Leak: Pretty much. He's making some parts actually for one of our companies that has a user interface control, they want to prototype, that goes into an automobile. So they're building a little dashboard control by building some pieces out of aluminum

NDTV: Lovely, lovely. Precision

Bruce Leak: And of course we saw some right hand robotics earlier. Here's some other examples of clean things that have come off the 3 access mill. For example a drone mold which just comes off from a cup of aluminum in the mill

NDTV: So that was done on the mill, I can see that, yeah

Bruce Leak: And then similarly we do a lot of sensors which are cameras. This is a 360 degrees lens that we prototype by cutting the model out of acrylic. We also cut out the mold of aluminum just for fun, but it gives you a feel for what the shape of that bottle would be like

NDTV: The smoothness and perfection is amazing

Bruce Leak: It is impressive. And an example that came off the rubber-plastic printer is a bunch of buttons with different hardnesses of rubber. So you can decide, even before you manufacture, what you want the buttons to feel like

NDTV: Okay, so you get all of these and then you say I'll go with that one

Bruce Leak: I'll go with that one and I want that button to have that much hardness or that much of give. And they have a newer version of that printer now, that in addition to rubber for the sole and hard plastic for the upper, that can print colours

NDTV: Oh wow

Bruce Leak: And so now, not only can you have different hardnesses of rubber, but different colours, so with the right size you can just print your tennis shoes

NDTV: So these are my future shoes here right?

Bruce Leak: Yeah, well think about the customization possibilities if you're printing it for yourself. Not only can it have your own pattern, your own design, but it will actually fit. You can scan your foot and make sure that the shoe actually molds to your foot and decide how much rubber you want under your toes, under your sole

NDTV: This can allow a lot of individualisation

Bruce Leak: Yeah, mass customization they often call it

NDTV: Oh mass customization

Bruce Leak: Yeah. So there is some basic idea and then you just make it perfect for you. Actually the 3D metal printers are being used for that today and one of the biggest uses of titanium is in healthcare. They use hip implants or implants because the titanium isn't reactive to the human body. And so if you need a particular tooth implant they're going to have to design it for you. You don't want to wait for that

NDTV: You have a mass idea and then you customize it to a patient

Bruce Leak: You just adjust it. Same with hip joints. All the hip joints are a little bit different to be the right size, but the big idea is all the same


Bruce Leak: Similarly we have another manufacturing tool here which is actually a large mechanical cutter, so once again a vacuum table. And then we can put cardboard or we can put textiles here

NDTV: Vacuum table means...

Bruce Leak: It just holds it in place. And we can cut a pattern reproducibly right, so some of our companies make wearables and so they need to cut textiles or fabrics. They can do it, ths pattern, over and over again reproducibly. Here we can also use it for making packages for consumer electronic products. So you have a prototype. What does the box look like when it comes in? Do all the pieces fit? How do you hold them so they don't move around?

NDTV: Very important, yeah

Bruce Leak: And so we can do that here very quickly and make sure everything works well before it goes to the factory. The whole idea for a start-up is to save time and money. So once they can get through the process quicker, they can get to the market before the competitors and they can spend less money, which makes it more efficient. This is one of our other exciting tools. It came a little later in Playground's history, it's called the 5 access mill

NDTV: 5 access

Bruce Leak: And so it can change the thing that holds the stock product. And so here it is spinning it as well as it can move the cutting tool in 3 dimensions. The holder moves in 2 other dimensions and that allows it to make a 5 access cut. They're using a jet of air to hit some fins around the outside of the window and it's spinning on its central axis

NDTV: SO a jet of sir, oh so this is spinning all the time, that's why it's clean

Bruce Leak: So nothing sticks to it. It turns out they actually use this in marine applications for the captain of a boat. In a storm you can't wait for the windshield washer to come back if there's something in front of you. And so they spin the window and keep it clean. And so you'll see over here that this has a large number of different tools it can change to do different fine detail. So this one will cut a large flat surface, but that this this little needle-nose one will cut tiny holes. Draw a line inside of it

NDTV: Love it. The precision of it is real impressive

Bruce Leak: This one is a real robot, it can do anything. And it can do it in a production cycle where you just put in the raw materials and tell it to go do that. It's running a programme and it can change tools and holder and position and then it's just executing that programme

NDTV: Fantastic

Bruce Leak: It's incredibly powerful, can cut ceramic, cut titanium, cut iron, cut stain steel. So from a prototype/production point of view it can pretty much make anything

NDTV: Yeah you can already see quite a huge amount

Bruce Leak: This is used in aerospace to make rotor blades for a turbo fan

NDTV: Okay, where you need precision

Bruce Leak: And you're cutting it out of titanium or something like that. We finish the tour back here, so some of our other 3D printers can do very thin wall thickness

NDTV: Like for what?

Bruce Leak: For very precision. Like if you want to have, you know, geometry that has very fine detail that you want to be able to manufacture. But you need to prove that the design is correct before you make thousands or a million of them. This one on the other hand can print on a very large format. It can print an entire motorcycle helmet in one print because it's big enough

NDTV: So you can create a motorcycle helmet here?

Bruce Leak: Yup. And then finally this one can do a clear polymer. And these are some of our testing chambers for environmental testing to see how these products last over time. We can cycle the temperature from very hot to very cold. They can survive outside and we can recycle the humidity. You can make it very cold and humid, hot and dry

NDTV: So you put a product there and see how it survives?

Bruce Leak: Yeah you see how it breaks down

NDTV: Amazing

Bruce Leak: We can go next door and take a look on other labs

NDTV: No wonder you learn something everyday, don't you?

Bruce Leak: We learn things all the time, that's part of being at the Playground.

NDTV: Exactly

Bruce Leak: There are always new frontiers that we never tried before, in fact there was one we did here in our reliability lab

NDTV: It's called a reliability lab

Bruce Leak: Yeah, so basically it's a test lab. These are some more of the environmental chambers. What they're doing here is they've got products that they want to actually have sensors connected to as they're heating it and cooling it . At what temperature does it stop working

NDTV: Very important for India where we have 47 degrees centigrade

Bruce Leak: Also just humidity. How long can it last. This is one of the favorite testing machines, it's called a drop tester. These little suction cups can hold a product at a very precise angle

NDTV: Oh I see

Bruce Leak: You can put it 1 meter, 2 meters, and then you drop it onto granite

NDTV: I'm not dropping my phone on this

George: Actually we've dropped a lot of phones on this. So you can drop it on the side, in the corner

NDTV: With the suctions you can curl the angle

Bruce Leak: Repeat it, repeat it. The amazing thing is then you have some very bright lights and a very high speed camera right here. It can go upto a million frames a second and so the goal is to see how this performs in slow motion. Lets see if this is working. Basically you see the shock wave that runs through it as the thing falls apart. So the interesting thing about this high speed is that you know the battery door always comes off when you drop it, but it's not necessarily the battery door fault, right. It could be something higher up that gave away first, that then created this cascade, that then created this door to fall off

NDTV: You can see the very minute...

Bruce Leak: Exactly and so this guy's at very high speed so he just bounced. They barely move in that way

NDTV: Million frames a second

Bruce Leak: So it's quite fun

NDTV: Not bad, not bad

Bruce Leak: This is another tester, called an Instron. It can put very precise amounts of force either pushing or pulling and it can do that repeatedly forever. You can decide, by pulling on this thing when is it going to break or by pulling on it 100 times, or 1000 times this much will it break? Or pushing on it this many times that much

NDTV: Okay. Wow

Bruce Leak: And it's super repeatable. So you know exactly from a calibration point of view...

NDTV: The stress levels...

Bruce Leak: What the stress levels are that can make it break. Finally we also have, see the metal floor here is a little funny

NDTV: Yeah

Bruce Leak: One of the things you have to do with consumer products and a lot of electronic products is you have to test them again shock, electrostatic shock

NDTV: Yes, yes

Bruce Leak: So you walk them against it and you shock it, is it going to break. This allows you to shock something repeatedly at different levels of voltage and electricity in order to see where it fails and why it fails

NDTV: Okay

Bruce Leak: Also, can't have enough robots. Why do we have a robot in a reliability test lab?

NDTV: Yeah

Bruce Leak: Well it turns out that these days a lot of products have gyroscopes and accelerometers. And if you want to test something with accelerometers you have to run it through acceleration

NDTV: Yeah

Bruce Leak: Robotic arms are really good at creating acceleration forces

NDTV: Okay

Bruce Leak: Testing and calibrating whether it's actually reading accurately. And how long do you do that until it stops performing. So that robotic arm gets a lot of use. You ask about burning. There's a vacuum pump back there with a bit of water and one of our companies created a product, it's actually a product that is bouncing over there, the white product in the screen. It's a pool sensor. It keeps track of your water chemistry. It can know your chlorine levels, pH levels, you don't have to dip a stri[p, test the colour. It tells you on your phone app put in 2 blue pods and 1 green pod, in order to make your hot tub safe. One of the things we learnt, this just pulls apart. You think I broke it?

NDTV: Yeah I thought yeah

Bruce Leak: It just pulls apart. This is the sensor, floats in the pool, this is just the casing. It's got an antenna that has to be able to cmmunicate back up to the Internet. It's got a little battery, and a little electronics that talks to the battery that floats in the sensor

NDTV: I see

Bruce Leak: And this whole thing floats. We learned while this plastic was waterproof like almost all plastics are waterproof, what it is not, is water-vapour proof

NDTV: Oh yes

Bruce Leak: Water vapour is actually a very small molecule and normally that's not a problem because the amount of water inside this will equalize and then you're done. And so having a little bit of humidity here, a little bit of humidity there, not a problem

NDTV: Right

Bruce Leak: Too much humidity inside would actually work its way out. Because the concentration would be even, right

NDTV: Right. The problem is if you put it into a cold pool and it's floating, the bottom of it is cold and that's hot

Bruce Leak: And the outside air is warm. And so you'll get humidity that goes in, then condenses because it's cold. Then when you condense the liquid out of the air, then that air becomes dry and more humidity goes in. It just keeps going, and eventually it fills up with water and it sinks and the electronics stop working

NDTV: Yeah, yeah. So how did you crack it?

Bruce Leak: It took a long time to figure out what exactly was happening because no one could believe where the water was coming from. What we do is we put duskin in it, the white powder you get with electronics which sucks up moisture

NDTV: Right

Bruce Leak: We said well there is moisture, we'll just put that and that dried out the air inside, which sucked in more moisture and so it filled up faster if you put duskin in it

NDTV: Oh my God

Bruce Leak: We were like okay, well that's interesting. There are actually plastics that are completely impervious to water vapour. But what we ended up doing for this product, you can see right here, is this thing, electronics, are completely coated in a poxy, so it doesn't matter if they get wet because they won't get affected by the water

NDTV: So even a product like this requires a lot of thinking. So simple

Bruce Leak: So simple, right

NDTV: Thank God I'm not designing

Bruce Leak: Well it shows you that none of the 4 founders had made a pool product before. We had never made those mistakes before

NDTV: But what you know is there will always be a surprise and a mistake

Bruce Leak: Of course, you have to learn

NDTV: I can't imagine that that could do that

Bruce Leak: You're not alive if you're not learning. And so we have portfolio companies here of course. We have our electronics lab. We get the privilege of having some electronic equipment that other start-ups would just dream of. Very high speed oscilloscopes or network analysers. We can look at frequency spectrums and do RF testing. Maybe they would rent something like that. We just have it available because across dozens of start-ups it makes perfect sense just to have it here, save time, money


Bruce Leak: And of course we have technicians

NDTV: So you would have invested in this?

Bruce Leak: Absolutely

NDTV: And everybody, all these companies get these. Lovely

Bruce Leak: And of course we have technicians that help with that


Bruce Leak: You always need meeting rooms of various forms and sizes

NDTV: I do want to explain something that you explained last time, that these are completely soundproof?

Bruce Leak: They are

NDTV: Completely soundproof

Bruce Leak: We can go in one of the smaller ones, they're super popular. Because in these open environments where you want to work, where you want to know everything that is going on with everybody else in the company. That's the type of super bandwidth communication that allows these companies to move so quickly. They're not writing reports and sending status updates, they can just hear what the other people are working on and if something doesn't correlate with what they think it should be, they just tell them. And that's the great thing about a small company, it moves so fast. But the downside of hearing everyone's conversations is that sometimes, when you have to think, where you have to have a one on one meeting, where you have to have a performance review or a hard conversation, you need some quiet space. And you don't want to have to go very far

NDTV: I understand that

Bruce Leak: But we'll come back to that. The other thing you need besides quiet space, is you need caffeine

NDTV: Another food

Bruce Leak: This is the 24 hour version of when the cafe is not serving breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We have manual transmission caffeine, we have automatic transmission

NDTV: I did have coffee from this, it's very good

Bruce Leak: It is and it actually has an innovation which is refrigeration for the milk

NDTV: Ah, yes yes yes

Bruce Leak: Its automatic, you can still have your cappuccino or latte without thinking very hard

NDTV: You don't have to move those things and...

Bruce Leak: It's funny because some people like moving the knobs

NDTV: The analog feeling

Bruce Leak: Yes.

NDTV: Okay

Bruce Leak: Moving the stick shift

NDTV: But actually this does exactly the same thing

Bruce Leak: Fabulous job. It has 2 choices, you have the espresso and the coffee beans, and you can choose between the two just by pushing the button

NDTV: And it moisturises it or something

Bruce Leak: And it runs android of course

NDTV: Of course

Bruce Leak: And in addition to coffee you have salt and sugar right, so you have all the food groups in one place

NDTV: Okay. My God. You've got your priorities sorted out. Food must be right on top, they're right

Bruce Leak: Engineers don't think very much beyond what they're working on and an empty stomach is very distracting

NDTV: It is. And mood creating, yeah. Lovely, absolutely inspiring

Bruce Leak: I think we have a conference going on in our meetup lab, yes. Unfortunately we won't be able to go in there but this is the space for you know, bringing in outside speakers, talk about how to recruit talent, how to incorporate your company, how to ship products

NDTV: Lead a team

Bruce Leak: Lead a team, Management 101

NDTV: So this is where start-ups go in and listen...

Bruce Leak: Yeah and often they have their company meetings here as well, which is going on right now. One of our companies has graduated and come back to use this for an offsite for the day

NDTV: Okay. When you say graduated, it means what?

Bruce Leak: It means they're no longer physically in our facility. They've gone big, they've moved on

NDTV: But they're still completely part of...

Bruce Leak: They're still part of our family. We love all our kids of course. We can try hopping in here, get a little feel for the quiet. You can even bring a camera in if you want

NDTV: We can go in here and the audio?

Bruce Leak: They can hear us maybe

NDTV: They can hear us, we can't hear them. Shout. Shout

Bruce Leak: No

NDTV: Speak up

Bruce Leak: Anyway so they're great for video conferences, they're great for one on one meetings

NDTV: Oh clever

Bruce Leak: You can see over there, they have different formats across the hall there. And you have one which just has a desk so you can go and get some quiet time, focus on getting homework done

NDTV: One person, two people, four people

Bruce Leak: Yeah

NDTV: Brilliant

Bruce Leak: Active ventilation. We have a sensor, it knows we are in here so it's just blowing some air through to keep it fresh so we don't fall asleep. And turning the light on

NDTV: Lovely

Bruce Leak: Did you see Iron man the last time you were here?

NDTV: Earlier today I stood with him

Bruce Leak: Yeah

NDTV: It's made from waste material or something, right?

Bruce Leak: It is. It's from Thailand it's actually from, I think. My favourite part is the thermostat. Unfortunately, the battery is dead on the nest thermostat

NDTV: What is it?

Bruce Leak: It's a nest thermostat. I don't know if you've watched Iron man, but it used to be that if you got cold here, the nest thermostat would light up and his eyes would turn red

NDTV: Okay

Bruce Leak: And he was powered by the nest thermostat which was quite exciting

NDTV: Lovely, lovely. My God

Bruce Leak: A few video games

NDTV: That's my generation, yeah. Those things can be very addictive you know Bruce Leak: That's true

NDTV: I don't know if you've ever been through a period of...

Bruce Leak: It's that whole personality, addiction

NDTV: Yeah, yeah. College days addicted to table football

Bruce Leak: I had an Apple too when I was in college and we had a pile of video games. One of my roomates, actually in these trailers that we talked about earlier, was so addicted to the Apple too that he almost flunked out of Stanford

NDTV: My God

Bruce Leak: Because he spent all his time playing video games instead of doing his homework

NDTV: It can happen. It really can happen. Hopefully he's done very well after that

Bruce Leak: This is one of our audio test labs. In this day and age when microphones are so important and the ability to you know, hear people, for robots to hear people in distance we need to have a sound environment for testing the microphones. Also testing the speakers, making sure the audio reproduction is the best quality

NDTV: Right. Wow. Amazing. One of the best photographs I've ever taken is me on a million dollar bike

Bruce Leak: Yeah, sounds great

NDTV: These are all from different movies or something?

Bruce Leak: They are. Let's go take a look. We use them as design inspiration, just in that ....

NDTV: They're beautiful designs actually

Bruce Leak: It goes to show. These are all motorcycles, but they all have different personalities and they have different attractions and different strengths and weaknesses. They're all custom made and it shows how all variations are possible in something as simple as two-wheel transportation. Just, they're so different, the personalities, each one. My favorite is the one with the visual gas cage

NDTV: Okay

Bruce Leak: So you know how much gas you have because you can see it

NDTV: Just come and have a look at this. This is the amount of petrol you have

Bruce Leak: You can also see whether your filter needs changing

NDTV: You don't have to open up, take it out, just see it

Bruce Leak: And finally you have, if you look over here, when you open the throttle you can actually see the carburretor. Open it up, go ahead and give it a spin

NDTV: Wow. This is so...

Bruce Leak: And you can see that this has been ridden recently because there is some oil splatter there on the window. This one, let's see if I can get this correct, I know this one was in The Accountant

NDTV: The Accountant, the movie, yeah

Bruce Leak: And it looks like the seat wouldn't be comfortable but it's actually quite comfortable. Maybe you should try this one

NDTV: Okay. I've never tried it

Bruce Leak: It has a bit of a spring to it because it's hanging out there so far. You can straighten it up yeah, here straighten these guys out

NDTV: I never had a motorbike as a kid. So this is a dream

Bruce Leak: And this one, let's see, this one I believe was in Transformers

NDTV: Transformers, okay

Bruce Leak: And this one was in the Fast and the Furious. So one of the Fast and the Furious movies

NDTV: Oh right, right, right, right. Wow. Just lovely to have these, as you say, as design

Bruce Leak: It just shows that. And then we have a fifth one over here, that you have to think about, who your product is for and how to make it approachable and attractive and compelling and also certainly, useful. Once again it has a...

NDTV: It's similar to that one yeah

Bruce Leak: Gas tank. It's a good one. But you know different kind of shock absorber, headlight, option, funny different wheels, more of a saddle. I love the practicality of it. They took the leather and they rapped it around here to make sure...

NDTV: You never get the heat

Bruce Leak: You don't get the heat from the engine


Bruce Leak: Probably scooters would be better more appropriate for the Playground. These are quite exciting just the same

NDTV: A bit of history is important

Bruce Leak: Yeah. I don't know if we mentioned anything about the tree. The tree in the Playground is actually, we had someone from Missouri come in and build the tree and they actually brought some of the chunks with them. They are the same company who built the trees in New Zealand for Lord of the Rings. But these were originally two separate buildings. And you can see the part where we have cut out the hole between the two buildings and there is actually a post hiding beneath the tree that holds up the whole thing. And we then put the steel across the top. Originally these buildings were built in the '50's and they were supposed to be cannaries. A tomato cannary. I actually talked to someone who worked in one of them and their mom had worked here. And there was a railroad track run through the parking lot to bring and take away the tomatoes. When you hear about the Silicon Valley you think about the apricot trees and there are some still around

NDTV: Are you secretly an architect as well?

Bruce Leak: No, no, we had help of course. Professional help. But it needed a lot of work. This building didn't look much like this when we got it a couple of years ago. There were holes in the ceiling but they weren't skylights. We just had rain coming in

NDTV: Rain?

Bruce Leak: And there was no heating or cooling, not enough power and some of the floor had to be demolished and reconstituted

NDTV: But I love the natural cement

Bruce Leak: But everything we could keep we kept

NDTV: This is original?

Bruce Leak: This is original. You can see some of the trolley marks they had on top. Not all the paint lines came off but it's kind of like an archaeological dig. You can see what's underneath it all. The posts are all original. And we took our Playground red and painted up the fire pipelines

NDTV: The effects are subliminal. They might not realize it but it must make a difference somewhere

Bruce Leak: One thing we did, that I think made a big difference, was that this was all originally painted white with old lead paint. We took that and almost regretted it in the process of sandblasting it back into wood. And the reason why we almost regretted it is because it took almost over a month. They said it would take two weeks but it took over a month. And because it was lead, they had to wear suits. And it looked like Beijing in here, powder everywhere and...

NDTV: And somehow you still feel this is healthier

Bruce Leak: Oh absolutely, it has this much more organic, attractive feel to it. We put in more skylights. We put in the HVC and one of the crazy things about putting in the cooling inch on the roof, is that the architect calculated that it was cheaper to put in 40 small ones than one big one. But it was going to take them days to lift up the 40 units up to the roof. They had to close off a few areas around, while they were lifting up all these things up to the roof. So one of the other engineers said we don't have to lift all of these up with forklifts alone. He suggested we use a helicopter. They were able to one one morning at 8 o'clock. 40 units were just sitting in the parking lot. The helicopter operator and within 39 minute, less than a minute spent per panel, they had all the units up on the ceiling. It was a dance choreography move

NDTV: In 39 minutes all done? Wow that's brilliant

Bruce Leak: I wouldn't even have thought of that, but now I'm like, of course

NDTV: Thank you, thank you, thank you so much Bruce. I can feel the energy and information and I hope at least a bit has been transferred.

Bruce Leak: It was an honour to have the talk and I'd love to have you back anytime.

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