In the Room with William Santana Li, CEO and Founder of Knightscope
In today’s episode of The Room Podcast, we open the door to the frontier of hardware and autonomous technology with the founder and CEO of Kinghtscope, William Santana Li.
William has been on a mission to change the national security landscape with robots. William started his 30 year + executive career in the motor industry at Ford Motor Company. Starting as a product design engineer in their electronics division, William rose through the ranks and incubated strategic new concepts during his tenure, such as their environmentally conscious models in the late 90s.
William went on to become the Director for M&A which was a catalyst to start his entrepreneurial journey. After Ford, William founded GreenLeaf, the 2nd largest automotive recycler in the USA which raised $250 million and acquired 22 companies in 11 months. After GreenLeaf, William became President and CEO of Model E corporation, pioneering the “subscribe and drive” philosophy in California.
Most recently prior to founding Knightscope, William was the Chairman and CEO of Carbon Motors Corporation, which developed the world’s first purpose-built law enforcement vehicle- William’s foray into the intersection of hardware and security.
After decades and hundreds of millions of dollars raised, William founded Knightscope in April 2013 with the mission to develop technology that will predict and prevent crime, a $1+ trillion negative economic impact on the economy. On today’s conversation, Madison and Claudia sit down with William as we chat about his unique founding story after being an entrepreneur and executive for 30 years, and dive into topics such as different ways to get funded, how robots are fighting crime in the US, and the future of robotics and technology in public safety.
Let’s open the door.
Key Theme 1: Educating founders on funding options beyond venture capital
William has raised hundreds of millions of dollars during his career as a founder and executive and has been on both sides of the equation having raised venture capital, acquiring businesses, and a whole lot more. William explains that due to all the companies he has built and transactions he has been a part of, he has “done more financial engineering than actual engineering” during his career. Due to William’s experiences, he has a unique perspective on how taking venture capital, which seems to be the default way to finance a company in 2022, isn’t always the best option. William explains what types of companies may be a fit for venture capital and why there are circumstances why that is not the case. William shares how he built Knightscope and took it through IPO without raising venture capital.
Key Theme 2: How robots are fighting crime in the US
William explains how crime has a $1+ trillion negative economic impact on the economy and how Knightscope’s goal is to cut it in half. William asks us to imagine a world if we could make the United State of America the safest country in the world. It would change everything for everyone. William walks through key use cases and examples of how the Knightscope robot has been able to track data, alert authorities when there is an incident, share relevant real-time imaging related to crimes that happened in an area, and empower human security guards and enable them to be more effective.
Key Theme 3: The future of robotics and technology in public safety
William, Madison, and Claudia have a broader discussion about the future of robotics and autonomous technology in the context of public safety. Understanding how Knightscope security robots are helping with security today, William shares his view of how Autonomous Data Machines (ADMs) more broadly can be leveraged to revolutionize the security industry. One key unlock that ADMs are positioned for is high-quality eye-level visual data that is unparalleled to security cameras. If law enforcement is able to access high fidelity eye-level imaging that unlocks a universe of data that can now be leveraged to know what license plates have been in a crime area, what the faces of criminals look like, and more, national security can better allocate resources.