Jay Giraud: CEO & Founder of Damon Motorcycles – Ep. 96

About Jay Giraud & Damon Motorcycles:

Jay Giraud is the CEO & Founder of Damon, and he’s an award-winning mobility entrepreneur, speaker, and inventor.

You might not know this about me, but I got roped into motorcycles by a good friend who convinced me to watch MotoGP. I’ve always enjoyed watching the sport, and the future of electric motorcycles is just so exciting. Damon builds all-electric motorcycles that feel like they come straight from the future.

They’ve raised tens of millions in funding, and they’ve won numerous awards from Popular Science, CES, and more. But most importantly? Learn how he found a life and career of meaning for himself, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. 

Full Unedited Audio Conversation:

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2:08 – “Mostly what I do now is I raise money because the company spends it really fast. And then I put probably my second most amount of time into defining, shaping and leading a culture that I care very deeply about…And then the third thing I do is I promote the company like this. Those are probably the three big buckets of what I actually do.”

2:49 – “Damon Motors, we’re making high performance, all electric motorcycles that are the safest and smartest in the world.” 

3:11 – “I’m on a mission to help get the world off oil…What a lot of people just don’t know, and therefore don’t appreciate, is that the world depends on motorbikes, actually literally depends on motorbikes. Over 100 megacities worldwide – and a megacity is defined as 10 million people or more. There’s over a hundred of those, if you can believe that – where the motorcycle is, by and large, the only way to get around. The sidewalks are not walkable. They’re not rideable by bicycle because they’re covered in motorbikes.”

3:44 – “The world needs to get on two wheels. The emissions contribution from motorcycles is far greater than that of cars, because motorcycle engines are not emissions governed nearly to the extent that cars are. And then, of course, the safety aspect of motorbikes, that goes without saying, it’s astronomically more likely you’ll be in an injury or death on a motorbike than by car worldwide. And so at the intersection of getting the world off oil and safety is where Damon will make its future.” 

4:44 – “New York needs motorbikes, for God sake. But, you know, even though New York has extraordinarily high congestion, that 1,200 people per square mile, it’s like nothing…Jakarta has 75,000 people per square mile. And with that kind of human density in the houses, around the streets, and in the streets themselves, you can’t drop a car in there. The car will come to a dead halt immediately. It literally, matter of factly, takes three times longer to get from A to B in a car than it does by motorcycle in Jakarta.” 

6:05 – “It’s easy to take this very egocentric Western attitude that the massive low- to middle-class of people in developing countries around the world…we act like they don’t matter as much. They don’t need safety technology. They don’t need to be as safe as people are in cars here today and they don’t care about their safety. I’ve heard that a thousand times. Of course they care about their safety. There’s just no option. You can’t go to a dealership to buy a safe motorcycle. And that became this huge punch in the face for me, that they’re not afforded safer vehicles, safer transportation, because the manufacturers of motorcycles today don’t offer it. And that’s just a disgusting fail on the behalf of the OEMs of the world today. I think it’s a terrible disservice to the world.”

*8:30 – “We have the world’s only collision warning system for motorcycles. And it’s not unlike what you have in a car today, which has been around for 20 years in cars. Believe it or not, it’s been around that long. So there’s a camera right there. There’s a radar right there. There’s a camera and two radars in the back. There’s a seven-inch LCD display that replaces your instrument cluster. And so the cameras and the radars in the front, warn you of a forward collision threat by vibrating the handlebar and then the cameras and the radar in the back, warn you when you have people in your blind spots with LED lights in the windscreen, and they also show you everything behind you by feeding the rear camera view to the display in front of you…we can actually lock on and track 64 moving objects simultaneously the same way a fighter jet would lock on to a target. And as soon as that ‘target’ is  coming at you, it appropriately warns you, and buys you one extra second to react.” 

10:12 – “On a motor bike, you get cut off four times a day. And of course, the camera on the bike is recording the incident. It’s also recording its reaction to the incident, and it’s also recording what the human does in response to that reaction. And then we take all of that data back to the lab and we replay it and we’re like, ‘okay, the bike saw a car come out of an alley, the bike reacted to that car, it warned the rider, the rider reacted to that reaction and dodged the car.’ And so we have proof positive that the system works.” 

10:49 – [On the forward collision warning] “Both handlebars would vibrate. And that’s the only time that handlebars vibrate. And it’s a very visceral vibration. You can’t deny it, even if you’re wearing thick leather gloves, you know the handlebars are vibrating. If you’re looking to lane change to the left, so you don’t see the alley to the right, and a car comes in front of you, you will feel the car by way of that vibration in the handlebar, even if your eyes are looking in the opposite direction in that moment. So to answer your question, what is it like? It’s like you’re superhuman. It’s like you have eyes in every direction because the bike does.” 

12:10 – “The National Highway Transportation Safety Authority has tons of data that if motorcyclists and drivers have a quarter second extra reaction times, vehicle accidents are dropped 40%. Now we provide that one extra second…so we’re talking thousands of people not dying a year with this kind of technology.” 

15:12 – “The car is the most emotional purchase in the world that you’ll make because you’ll do 12 of them in your lifetime. And…motorcycles are even more emotional, the sense of identity that you derive from buying a motorbike is a big part of motorcycling. And so if we’re not better than every gas motorcycle on planet Earth, we’re not going to displace gas motorcycles in the hundreds of thousands or millions. And so that’s where we have to begin it. We have to begin at the top of the pyramid and then work this technology down to mainstream low-cost bikes worldwide.” 

*17:28 – (Ross) “I’m a huge moto GP fan. I got roped into it by a buddy of mine and then got addicted some years ago, five or six years ago. It gives me a heart attack to watch it. Every time is the most stressful thing. It’s so funny if you watch Moto GP and then you switch over to Formula One, Formula One just looks pathetic in comparison, I feel. It’s just so, so, so less interesting because there are these big clunky cars, they can’t maneuver. And then you watch motorcycles and it’s just nuts – one person, one machine, one body. So I’m a huge fan of that. But the eco-friendly environmental person in me has never been a fan of motorsports in their current form because of what you said – it’s kind of glorifying the endless waste of gas and fossil fuels for really no purpose except for entertainment. So Moto E is super exciting to me. I look forward to the day when Moto GP and all of the professional race sports are done on electric vehicles.” 

21:59 – “My son is a Gen Z and they’ve never driven a gas car or they’ve never learned how to change gears in a gas car. And it’s intimidating to learn to change gears in a gas car. They don’t like vibration. They don’t like changing gears…that makes motorbikes even more intimidating and they want smartphone integration and they want safety. They’ve got helicopter parents who worried about their well-being and GPS-follow them everywhere. They’re a different breed of human. They don’t want gas motorbikes and the OEM’s of today just haven’t gotten there yet. And because they’re led by 50- to 60-year-old dudes, they’re probably not going to get it.” 

24:27 – “In grade 11 nobody was really interested in class whatsoever. And I found it such a waste of time to try to be interested in class when all of these teenagers around me were so distracted from it that I dropped out and I had three jobs at the time I was in grade 11: delivering newspapers in the morning, working at a grocery store in the afternoon and working at a coffee shop…And then I went out to adult night school to finish my grade 11 and 12 while working full time. And I moved out at the time as well. So I moved out at 17 and then…my dream was actually to move to Whistler, B.C., to pursue professional snowboarding. So I quit everything at 20, moved to Whistler and got my first sponsors a few months later, competed amateur for a year and a half, competed pro for a few more years, started travelling the world, made no money but made ends meet – in between all of that and during the off seasons I had dozens of jobs. I think I’ve counted 90 jobs averaging four months per job.” 

26:13 – “In 2003…I saw the Iraq war on CNN and I saw everybody talk about freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom. What a load of bullshit. It was all about oil. And I’m like, ‘Oh, we got to get the world off oil, this is insane.’ And so I spent the next five years trying to figure out how to get the world off oil while selling motorbikes at a dealership and managing that dealership, learning all of the things that are incredibly wrong with car dealerships and motorcycle dealerships.” 

27:02 – “I don’t have a good answer for why I have to do things the opposite of everyone else. But I did eventually learn how incredibly lucrative it is to do that. How you have less competition around you. You have whitespace, you have fresh ideas. You know more than everybody else because you’re doing what others aren’t doing. So your insights and your perspectives are so much more plentiful than everybody knowing and doing the same thing…it gave me such an enormous amount of learning, the range of which things that I have learned and the depth of things by doing everything on my own. Following the path less travelled, reverse engineering everything to figure out how to kind of get ahead, and having to teach myself. It is a lot of growth.” 

*29:30 – “It’s trite, but you begin by beginning and that is the only truth in all of this…And as soon as you begin, you keep going and that’s it. And there will be times, days, months, years where you’re not sure if you’re going the right direction, but if you’re moving, you’re moving forward and that’s it. And that…it’s physics. Getting something to move from inertia is the hardest thing to do, whether it’s moving yourself forward with an idea or getting a ton of steel to move forward by putting a drive train behind it. It’s hard, you need torque and maybe torque in the human spirit is persistence and willpower. And if you don’t have that, you just won’t go. If you want things to be easier, if you want things to be comfortable, if you want others to do things for you, if you want excuses to win over desire, you won’t have that torque. You won’t have the ability to overcome inertia. You have to get past all of that, all of your reasons why not, all of your fears and sometimes just simply taking an action despite your fear is what you need, the seed of the momentum that you need.”

*34:09 – “I think following the different path is incredibly important. And I love that this is the focus of your podcast. I don’t think entrepreneurship…I think entrepreneurship is far overly idealized. It’s just not for everybody. It’s probably for 1% of people. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. There’s way easier, more comfortable, maybe even happier lives to live than this one. But it’s also super rewarding. It is super rewarding. And I say that only because it’s necessary for me to do this. It’s not necessary for others to do this to have a rewarding, fruitful life.” 

35:50 – “Studying solar and wind and alternative energy and E85 ethanol and corn fuel and learning more about drive trains for gas and electric and learning about wave and tidal energy. I just studied it all on the Internet. I just spent time for five years just saturating myself in everything. And my conclusion was we should be producing our own energy on the roof and we should be putting it into our house and our cars. Some of us will be net producers on one day and others of us will be net consumers on another. And my excess energy should be stored in my car and shared with you next door, when you have a gap in energy needs and I have a surplus, which will change every day depending on which way your roof faces and how much sun your solar is absorbing, and how many kilowatts of solar generation you can produce, and so on and so on and so on.” 

46:47 – “Confront the hard things and do them. Whatever that is. Don’t avoid the hard stuff because the payoff is in the hard stuff, the payoffs not in the easy stuff…Humans are wired for comfort. That’s an instinctual necessity for survival, we’re wired for comfort, I get it. But you’re not going to get growth and payoff in that, you’re going to get it in facing the hard stuff. So just do it.” 

47:27 “Trust me, when you’re a snowboarder and you want to make electric cars, and you’re telling the general manager of a car dealership that you have to quit on Christmas Day because you have to go chase this idea to make electric cars, and you’re crying in front of him before Christmas and you don’t know how you’re going to pay rent on January 1st and your girlfriend’s pregnant. You feel fucking crazy. And I told him that, and instead of thinking I was crazy, his mouth was dropped the whole time. Trust me this is the oldest guy you’ve seen in a car dealership, white hair, big football rings on all his fingers, gold everywhere, classic car dealership guy. And instead he told me, ‘I’ve been thinking about building electric cars for 20 years and I never had the courage to do it.’ And I still felt crazy after that for another year.” 

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