Back in 1993, Don Alvarez was an auditor with Deloitte’s San Francisco office when specialty retailer and coveted client company West Marine went public.
For Alvarez, the day began with WM’s management explicating the novel steps behind pricing its offering, which was followed by the requisite trip to a Bay Area printer.
The long day turned into a long night, so there was little hesitation on Alvarez’s part when West Marine’s CFO offered him a lift back to the accounting house’s office.Read More
Still, the night would turn out to have even more to offer the young auditor. Alvarez remembers that as they were arriving in downtown San Francisco at about 2:00 a.m., WM’s CFO suddenly pulled his car over to the curb and turned to him.
Recalls Alvarez: “He looked at me and said, ‘I am now the CFO of a public company and I have no talent in my organization with public company experience—will you come and work for me?’”
Looking back, Alvarez reports that he did not hesitate to issue a “yes” right on the spot, which was a welcome reply that put in motion a formal job offer that allowed him to land inside the retailer’s controller office in the following January.
Of course, the retail landscape was about to be altered as Amazon (established in 1994) and other shopping destinations began to appear online.
“I heard Amazon coming, loud and clear,” notes Alvarez, who would exit WM in 2007 to step into the CFO office at a dotcom retailer known as FatBrain.com.
“We were selling technical reference books on the Internet, whereas Amazon was selling all books,” remarks Alvarez, who adds that he was only 32 when he became FatBrain.com’s 30th employee hire.
“We were told that we would be taking the company public in 18 months, and instead we took it public in about nine,” comments Alvarez, who still marvels at the notion of an economy where capital seemed to be available around every corner.
Says Alvarez: “I remember being chastised by a venture capitalist because I was too prudent with money—he gave me a lecture on how these were unprecedented times and all that we needed to do is spend, spend, spend.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Cyngn … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Alvarez: Cyngn is a software company that provides autonomous vehicle solutions for industrial uses. So, think robotaxis, think Tesla-level autonomous driving, but in an industrial setting where speeds are low, environments are controlled, and very specific routes are driven. These are just much more simplified environments, but still, we are able to provide for them a very, very sophisticated, robotaxi-like, advanced technology, which is very disruptive.Read More
We’re basically addressing three very significant challenges that are being faced by commercial and industrial organizations today. Certainly, one is labor expense, the increasing cost of which is first and foremost one of the things that we address.
Another, though, which is increasingly even more significant, is the labor shortages that exist today that we read about constantly. These shortages are predicted to be costing the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion by 2030, which is only 7 years away.
Finally, there is the challenge of losses due to human error, which represent $200 billion worth of expense in U.S. businesses today. This is a very significant issue that our technology helps to address.
For me, it’s incredible to be a part of this organization and be able to make the impact on industrial organizations that we make. jb
“Build a broad and deep network of internal relationships so that you have real-time access to different insights and a support system when you need one.” –Donald Alvarez, CFO, Cyngn
Cyngn | www.cyngn.com | Menlo Park, CA