Dallas, USA - CEO
Interview made by Cyril Bruyelle in May 2017
Fred is a successful serial entrepreneur based in Dallas, Texas. After founding several companies in the finance and insurance industry, he most recently created Robokind, a high-tech robot company whose mission is to create cost-effective and inclusive education for all, especially children with autism. As you will see, he strongly believes in and worships the “American Dream”.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I’ve always wanted to be a businessman. Maybe in second, I wanted to be an athlete, but I wasn’t good enough at anything.
With whom would you like to have a coffee?
Probably I’d like to have a coffee with Jack Nicklaus. I was a big fan of his. He’s both a brilliant golfer, an interesting business man and a semi-philosopher.
He’s been a very big real estate developer. He built condos and golf courses all over the world. He’s got one of the biggest golf course design business in the world.
If you could choose something that could be taught in every school in the world, what would it be?
I think children should be taught about economics and how things really work as opposed to sort of generalized philosophy. I pushed my daughter to go into an English major. When I look at people in business and I respect them, a lot of times they either hold an English or History major because they know nuances and they know how to express themselves well. So I think that’s a wonderful background.
To you, what’s the main characteristic that all human being have in common?
I think almost everybody wants to have connections with other people. I know people who get into hibernation status but then they sort of go off wacky. I think people need interactions.
To you, who is the happiest person on earth?
I read in a survey recently that the happiest people on Earth are the Danish, which really surprises me because their average income per persona is fairly low. But they have a lot of services available. Or possibly the Dalai-lama.
If you were President of the US, what would your first reform be?
I think he’s trying to do what he has to do. Some things must change, like the healthcare system and the tax codes. That’s what needs to be done because they’re too dysfunctional together.
What do you need?
I just need continued good health and maybe a little luck on the way. But I’m on the stage where I don’t need a lot other than that.
What would you do if we gave you 1 million dollars now?
It wouldn’t mean a lot to me. It would have to be a much bigger figure than that. I don’t really need a lot of things anymore.
In fact I’m in a stage in life where I’m trying to reduce… I had a big house, we sold that, we’re in a condo and then we’re moving to an even smaller condo. Not for financial reasons but because it’s just easier and better. There’s not a lot of things that I want materially speaking. I sort of like more just the freedom to do what I want to do everyday, to travel where I want. No some sort of neat car or something like that.
I believe in a theory, it’s called “bigger box”. I believe that in essence, society wants you to work hard so it gives you what I call bigger and bigger boxes. But as you get older in life you find out that a lot of those bigger boxes are meaningless. For instance, if you’re in 2200 ft² house you’re perfectly happy with everything you have. When you move to a 10 000 ft² house you’ve got more issues with zones, things breaking. Yeah you may seem like it’s so wonderful but after a while what’s the big difference? So, when people try to make money and then try to accommodate a lot of things or buy a lot of houses they’re just creating a more complicated life for themselves, and nothing that makes them happier.
And by the way the same thing can happen with travels when people are always in motion. The act of motion doesn’t mean you’re actually doing something or concentrating on something.
Which innovation, realistic or not, would greatly ease your day-to-day life?
Our company is a robot company and we are building robots for children with autism and teaching robotics and coding to kids. We’re about to finish up a 3D avatar, we’ve been working on it for 3 years. That’s our new innovation and when we get it we think our company is going to be much more successful.
Do you think your life is easier or more complicated than the life of your parents?
Much better. First of all, just physically, I am an athlete I play tennis all the time, I used to be a golfer, now I’m more of a tennis player. My father sort of stopped everything at forty back then and had a heart attack at 55. The new world with all its possibilities is one thing: the communication, the reading, the phones it’s just wonderful. But I also take care of myself much better than my father did. I’m in much better shape. I’m 67 and he was half on his way inside his coffin by the time he was 60 so I’m having a much better-quality life.
What’s the news that affects you the most in your country these days?
I think a lot of this terrorism affects everybody because it sorts of creates a fear where and shuts down the world. To some extent I think the government of the world who gets in are important to everybody. For instance, in France where you had the last socialist guy (François Hollande), it was obvious that what he was trying to do wasn’t going to work. And then you wonder about the stability of a lot of these countries. It’s just important to everybody that Europe stays stable. A lot of the news that comes over there in terms of what’s happening is right now sort of disappointing in terms of how things are going. I just want the world to stay stable and not have all these breakdowns.
If you had to create a company, what would it be?
I started this education company that help children but we’re doing it with robots because we can create perfect lessons with the robots and create much better education than the school system does, because a lot of the teachers are incompetent, or they can’t really present the lessons or they don’t have the skills. We can do it in a much cheaper base. So I’m hoping we can build this into a major company.
What are you afraid of?
Probably the biggest thing I’m afraid of right now is cancer, because I’d like to live another 15 or 20 years. I have a lot of friends who are going along fine and then all of a sudden, they have pancreatic cancer and three months later they’re dead. I’m hoping that I can keep my health for a while and not lose it. I’m hoping I’m not feeling any aches and pains that suddenly become something more than they are.
Close your eyes, you are in 2100, what do you see?
First of all, I see some amazing vehicles on the road, everything is self-driving. I’m looking at my window and all these cars are going, looking fantastic. Roads don’t matter anymore there are 4 levels of traffic and they are on almost magnetic planes. There are no more telephone poles or anything like that. There are some giant buildings all over the place that are much bigger than what I was used to.
What is the most beautiful thing that you’ve seen in your life?
Probably honestly the birth of my son. It was just much more emotional than anything else I ever experienced. The second one is nice too but the first one, you can’t even express it.
If you had to write a book about the current world, what would you be the title?
The book I would write is called « Future self ». It is a book that would explain that people must put the present at the service of the future. Not just live each day without thinking about tomorrow. We have the responsibility to prepare the future.
Who is God for you?
I don’t believe in God.
Which of your country's cultural specificities are you the proudest of?
The absolute can-do attitude in America, that anything is possible if you work hard and innovate. And if the idea is good other people are willing to pitch in.
I also think Dallas is a real can-do city and what I noticed here is that a lot of things are done by people that get together and solve problems. I like this concept that you sit down, you work on things, you get them done yourself, you’re responsible and you can get other people whom you will rally to your cause and do things.
I’ve started 8 business and I’ve been turned down on others. When I had good idea things worked out and people jumped in. It’s very exciting. There’s a lot of neat things that the spirit here of being entrepreneurial is a real part of the US.
What’s happening also now is that more and more of these people want to work on their own, work for themselves, thinking of ideas. A lot of things are possible. I think there’s a lot of mobility as a result of that. With my first company, it took me basically four years to change my whole financial situation. I went from where I actually had to pay for a movie with a bag of quarters to where I was pretty well set. So there are a lot of things possible in this 4, 5, 6 -year time frame if you really want to make it happen.
If you could do any job regardless of money, what would you do?
If I had the skill which I don’t have, I wouldn’t mind being a professional golfer. I was once a 2 handicap in high school so I was good but not good enough. And there is a huge gap between somebody like what I was and a real professional golfer. Now I’m about a 12 handicap. But just to have some tremendous skill in your body at that level would be pretty neat.
If you had to explain our planet to an alien, what would you say?
I would say that we’re on a planet that is in its early period of this unbelievable evolution of the human species. I don’t believe we’re going to go away but I believe that with all the advancements we’re making, it’s real early in terms of how we’re going to evolve. I read the other day that they think now our species is 7.2 million years old and we came out of Europe, not Africa. When you think that probably for 4.5 or 6 million of those years not much changed so to speak. We’re early in terms of what’s about to happen. Hopefully we won’t overload the Earth in doing it.
And you, which question would you like to ask the world?
I would like to know if people are optimistic about their life or pessimistic. To see where people generally really stand. That would be interesting to me.