Daniel Powell: “Never thought I would start a company, but building is in my DNA.”
When I was a young kid if I wasn’t playing baseball, I was probably in my basement building things. This included a hovercraft to a remote control robot that could fire a paintball gun remotely (which our neighbors quickly called the cops on me for). When I was in High School, we were required to do community services, so instead of doing the normal service a program I started a community service program called Sports for Kids with a couple friends that ended up going on for over 10 years, and donated thousands of pieces of sports equipment. It was less of a surprise to my parents when I decided to move back home and begin starting my company. Outside of my career, I played baseball most of my life and rugby in college. I now spend most of my free time with my rescue dog, Clifford, training for triathlons (hoping to complete a full Ironman in 2020), and cooking up some new recipes.
~ Daniel Powell, CEO - Optimal Dynamics
Q: Why did you choose your present industry at this time?
Optimal Dynamics has leveraged over 30 years of R&D at a world-leading research at Princeton University to bring advanced AI and Machine Learning system to logistics and supply chain industry. The technology has been a long time in the making, but when I started the company, the timing wasn’t actually in my thought, as I saw an opportunity to bring AI and Machine Learning to an industry that has famously lagged behind. It was more coincidence that the global supply chain industry has experienced a wave of new technology over the last 5 years, going from an industry nobody cared about to one of the hottest places to start up a company. This wave of new technology has actually opened more doors than anything, making the hunger for this type of technology from the industry greater than ever. In the end, the good timing starting Optimal Dynamics was half forward thinking, and half luck.
Q: What is the best/worst moment you can remember in your career?
The worst moment of my career was probably the first couple of months of raising our first round of capital. I was starting my company out of the bedroom in my parent's house and got rejected from investors more times than I could count. After a while, I began to doubt what I was doing, but the silver lining of the story was probably the best moment of my career, finally closing our round. At the time, I was 26 years old, and finally having investors who believed in what I was doing started me on the greatest journey I’ve had in my life.
Elon’s track record of starting amazing companies is truly second to none.
~ Daniel Powell, CEO - Optimal Dynamics
Q: Who is your role model or hero?
Elon Musk, but as a hero, more than a role model. While there have been people start larger companies, Elon’s track record of starting amazing companies is truly second to none. In addition to a pure tech company with PayPal, he also started a car company and a rocket company at the same time. While what he did is truly heroic, I do strive to have a more work-life balance he is famous for having (even though I often fail to do this).
Q: What is your favorite book?
'Freakonomics' by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt.
Q: Do you use any specific method or system to run daily operations of your business?
It started from day one with who I hired. I made sure that every person who I brought on to Optimal Dynamics were intelligent, did not need to be managed closely, and had a chemistry that would fit well with the rest of the team. The combination of all of this creates an environment that doesn’t need any “methods” or “systems”. Our team not only naturally communicates well, but learns from each other, and because of this, it enables us to innovate extremely effectively and build amazing, world-class solutions.
Q: Looking back - if you could advise a younger version of yourself to do something different - what would it be?
Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. It is so easy to pretend that you know everything, but it is amazing what you can learn by just keeping your eyes and ears open. While I have learned a lot, I am still very young, and am sure in 20 years someone will ask me this same question and I will have entirely new things I wish I knew when I was 27.