Meet The Disruptors: Bob Miles Of Salad Technologies On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Dont take yourself too seriously. I’m a big believer in the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes one’s life cycle of understanding across a specific topic or area of expertise. Individually, we don’t know where we lie on this spectrum — whether we’re in the early stages of understanding a topic, thinking we know everything while stuck at the peak of “Mount Stupid,” or whether we truly are gaining the knowledge and experience to be a subject matter expert.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Miles.

Bob Miles is the Founder and CEO of Salad Technologies. After training to become a pilot, Bob studied Aeronautical Engineering and began his career at Qantas Airways as a performance engineer. Bob co-founded the digital production company responsible for The Green Way Up, a twelve-part television series that aired internationally on National Geographic and Netflix; he designed, built and operated a waste-to-fuel system to power a cross-continent expedition without consuming fossil fuels. Bob went on to specialize in product management for mobile applications and was co-founder of a connected car startup that developed networked software for consumer automobiles. He later relocated to the United States to take a position as Head of Product at a consumer drone manufacturer, where his passion for aviation coalesced with his expertise in building networked applications.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I always wanted to be a pilot and got my license immediately after leaving school, only to discover that it wasn’t the career for me — I need a creative outlet in my work, and creativity is not something you want in your pilot! After studying aerospace engineering, I joined Qantas as a performance engineer, only to quit nine months later to found my first startup. Now I’ve spent over a decade in the startup space. I love the intersection between cutting edge technology and mass market adoption. Introducing radical ideas is what drives me; naturally startups are where I belong.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work youre doing thats disruptive?

At Salad we’re introducing a radical new concept that is somewhat uncomfortable for the average web user: when you’re not using your computer, someone else will make use of it. It’s analogous to the early days of Uber or AirBnB, where 99.9% of people would’ve been uncomfortable with a complete stranger picking them up in their car, or staying in their spare bedroom. With our lives becoming increasingly digital, the sharing economy will inevitably reach the computing space. This is what we are disrupting at Salad. Most of the world’s compute resources sit in consumer homes all over the globe — idle throughout the day, but connected to the Internet. Consumer resources are overwhelmingly underutilized, while enterprise demand for compute resources grows exponentially. We’re also in the middle of a chip shortage. Conventional providers simply cannot provision enough hardware to meet demand. We’ve found ourselves amidst a compute crisis where access to processing and other computational resources is limited. Salad is connecting a massive, latent supply to an ever-increasing demand by promoting mainstream acceptance of a radical value proposition.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the first businesses I ever started was a tour company that took international students on an “Australian Outback Experience” to the family farm. I had no idea what I was doing, and this translated into a terrible performance as a tour guide. The first several tours received almost no commentary because I was so terrified of the microphone! The lesson there is to do your homework, see what your competitors are doing, and understand how they deliver the product. For me, all it took was going on a few day trips from other tour providers to understand their process and listen to their commentary, and then I was able to build on those lessons to hone my skills.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

As someone who’s always worked at the earliest startup stages, I’ve never really had a long-term relationship with a single mentor. In lieu, I turn to the wisdom of the Internet — specifically podcasts. No matter what the problem or situation you’re thinking through, there is an incredible amount of content available to help frame your thinking and guide next steps. For example, How I Built This has amazing stories from entrepreneurs coming from all sorts of backgrounds with battle stories from the early days of their companies. Similarly, Masters of Scale hosted by Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, has so much wisdom and sound advice wrapped up in its countless episodes.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has withstood the test of time? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is not so positive? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Tech founders of the past two decades have often taken “disruptive” and used it to advertise or positively frame their businesses, technologies, or ideas. It’s a trend that arose from the outlier companies that did something truly innovative and groundbreaking. Those are the AirBnBs and Ubers of the world, the startups who took ideas that were so radical at the go-to-market stage, and took them mainstream as billion-dollar companies. True disruption is asymmetrically positive — but as you suggest, not all disruption is good. If you’re introducing a competing product or service that is only incrementally better, its unique selling point can be lost in marketing messaging that relies on descriptors that are overly vague, optimistic, or nebulous. In other words, if you’re trying to use the term “disruptive” to sell an idea that isnt, you’re likely going to confuse potential customers and never gain meaningful traction. “Disruptive” is overused by entrepreneurs, as both a term and a notion.

Can you share five of the best words of advice youve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Dont take yourself too seriously. I’m a big believer in the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes one’s life cycle of understanding across a specific topic or area of expertise. Individually, we don’t know where we lie on this spectrum — whether we’re in the early stages of understanding a topic, thinking we know everything while stuck at the peak of “Mount Stupid,” or whether we truly are gaining the knowledge and experience to be a subject matter expert. In either case, it’s all relative to your moment and its horizon of expectations. Those who come after us will be even more knowledgeable. It’s essential to acknowledge that with humility. The takeaway is that no one really knows what they are doing; we’re making educated guesses through our personal and professional lives. That’s particularly true of startup founders or entrepreneurs seeking to build something new. It’s incredibly easy to be tough on yourself, so remember not to take yourself too seriously.

We are sure you arent done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’re laser-focused on the work we’re doing. In order to disrupt the cloud computing industry, we’ve spent the past four years building a sharing economy on top of a distributed infrastructure layer. Salad now rivals the world’s fastest supercomputers with tens of thousands of active network nodes per day. In the short term, we’re onboarding more third-party clients onto our distributed cloud and expanding our end-user portfolio to include diversified compute workloads. Our goal is to empower millions of gamers and everyday webizens to compete directly with conventional cloud providers — safely, on their own terms, and with sovereign control over those valuable compute resources.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk thats had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

We all found ourselves in a moment of deep shock and uncertainty during the initial outbreak of Covid, and there were just as many impacts on our business. Revenue dropped, and we experienced high turnover in the face of an inscrutable future. It was a personally stressful time. I remember listening to the Masters of Scale episode featuring Brian Chesky and finding the conversation deeply impactful. With lockdowns and travel restrictions in place, AirBnB’s core business had been completely waylaid. To hear just how they were handling the situation in real time proved to be a very valuable data point for me. Now our network is stronger than ever!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The grass is always greener on the other side.” It’s a great idiom that captures what so many of us experience: always wanting something different than what you have. I’ve always aspired to be a tech founder; now that I’m wearing these shoes, it’s very easy to lose sight of what you’ve accomplished and see where you’re at. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and recognize just how fortunate you are.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Doing the most amount of good for the most amount of people comes down to energy abundance. Humans flourish when we have access to ample energy and cheap resources to pursue activities above and beyond what’s required for subsistence. There needs to be a movement towards a rational re-evaluation of our energy production. We need to revise our politics to welcome engineering principles into the conversation — less focus on how energy is consumed, and more investigation into how we can generate more energy, in a sustainable way, with the lowest carbon intensity possible. Many have tried, and many have failed, but in my mind it holds the most potential for our collective good.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best place to find me is on Linkedin. Just search for Bob Miles, Founder and CEO of Salad!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Bob Miles Of Salad Technologies On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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