What motivates this tech entrepreneur’s passion for innovation?


Welcome to another episode of Founder Focus, a CBT original series that dives into the inside stories behind some of the automotive industry’s most impressive entrepreneurial journeys. Join us for intimate conversations with innovative entrepreneurs and the great companies they have built. Today, host Steve Greenfield, founder of Automotive Ventures, is joined by the co-founder and CEO of Otonomo, Ben Volkow, who oversees strategy and vision for the company, Ben has extensive entrepreneurial experience and a successful track record, having founded three additional ventures.

Related: This auto retail expert shares why it’s important to be a student of the business

Volkow is a trained engineer and has always had an affinity for computers. Working in the technical world has its advantages, but Volkow says his day-to-day currently is very different. In the early days of his career, Volkow was working with the cloud, communications, networking, and security, all of which are used today at Otonomo in the automotive space. With the automotive market becoming a software market, Volkow believes he can contribute with his previous experience.

Volkow’s latest company, Otonomo, is a leader in connected car data that is driving mobility. The inspiration behind the business came from a request from one of Germany’s top OEMs. This OEM decided to contract Volkow to build a vehicle date platform that could compete with others on the market.

“There is always another mountain to climb,” says Volkow. “You need more revenues, you need more people, you need more OEMs. So I try and enjoy the small things, good recruitment, good analyst coverage, a nice funding round, an important contract with the customer, partnership.”

Early last year, Otonomo agreed to go public by merging with special purpose acquisition company Software Acquisition Group Inc. II with a valuation of $1.4 billion. While Volkow admits that the merge wasn’t perfect, it did present a lot of new opportunities. Funding and long-lasting infrastructure will enable growth and the methodology at Software Acquisition Group, aligned with Otonomo’s vision.

From Volkow’s perspective as an entrepreneur, less is more. Challenges and obstacles don’t just go ahead. Even ‘small’ problems need to be addressed head-on or they will fester and often pop back up at inconvenient times. Volkow also recommends that entrepreneurs build their businesses to scale. Using shortcuts to run fast to the market is risky. Scale will come with success. Think big from day one.

To hear more from Ben Volkow and Steve Greenfield, be sure to watch the entire episode of Founder Focus above.

Did you enjoy this podcast episode of Founder Focus? Please share your thoughts, comments, or questions regarding this topic by submitting a letter to the editor here, or connect with us at newsroom@cbtnews.com.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date or catch-up on all of our podcasts on demand.

While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest auto industry news from CBT News.