Posted on April 28, 2016
Co-Owner of Successful Startup Purchased by General Motors Was Turned Down at 35 Jobs
Image credit: General Motors
When Dan Kan was about to graduate from college he applied to around 35 jobs in finance and was rejected by almost all of them. Left with few options, he found work at a startup called UserVoice, which is a platform that collects feedback from users for different companies. Fast forward just a few years, and Kan is the co-founder of Cruise Automation, which General Motors just purchased for $1 billion cash as well as a lucrative stock agreement.
The Kan Family Shares an Entrepreneurial Energy Across Generations
What’s unique about Kan is his vision, energy, an unflappable calmness and his willingness to risk – along with connecting with the right people and encountering just a bit of luck. Having been raised in a family full of entrepreneurs, Kan reported to Entrepreneur Magazine that not did his Mom start up her own mortgage broker and real estate business, he and his brothers would utilize map books, a photocopier and a good deal of tape to logically plan out his mother’s routes to all of her real estate prospects. That too was a niche solution, because Google Maps did not yet exist.
"Not just having an idea or executing on an idea -- it’s all about the connections that you have and the people you know and the people who support you,” says Dan.
Dan’s brother Justin is another Kan entrepreneur who was the force behind Twitch in its earlier online video platform incarnation, Justin.tv. The shared entrepreneurial family energy still continues on where Dan shares an apartment with one brother that’s connected to the apartment with the third brother. Dan insists he wouldn’t have gotten to where he is today, if not for the help of Justin and other Twitch company members, who helped him get his name out there in Silicon Valley.
Dan's 2014 family Christmas photo - Image credit: Daniel Kan
Cruise Automation Was Not Dan’s First Entrepreneurial Attempt
Success did not come to Dan Kan overnight, and Cruise Automation wasn’t Kan’s first start. He was determined to win and absolutely fearless. It may be that very fearlessness to risk that put Kan over the top. Known as a savvy pragmatist and extremely hard worker as well, there wasn’t much that stood in Kan’s way. He has always been the one in the group to propose the next opportunity, challenging everyone around him by asking “What if?” and never stopping his belief in his and his team’s ability to create success.
Never one without bold ideas, Kan’s unflappable demeanour comes out of his overwhelming practicality. The couple of companies that Kan started before co-founding Cruise Automation were Appetizely and Exec. Appetizely built iPhone apps that promoted coupons for the restaurant industry during low business times. Exec was a personal assistant service available on demand. Both were notable and very well-executed, but for different reasons Kan sold both of them and then moved on.
Autonomous Driving Technology at Cruise Automation Strikes a Chord
It was in 2014 that the driven visionary joined a colleague friend to work on Cruise Automation. Kyle Vogt had been part of his brother’s Justin.tv original team, as well as a founding member of Twitch. Vogt, Kan and his brother had also interned together during college years. Vogt had been interested in the autonomous driving concept since his teenage years, and by association Kan got the autonomous driving bug. Although he could not divulge any information about Cruise Automation’s technology to Entrepreneur Magazine now that it’s part of General Motors, the billion dollar+ sale price for it makes it a very hot property.