On a recent episode of
Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Vic Gundotra — a longtime high-level executive at Microsoft and Google — talked about his current startup, an easy-to-use home heart monitor that has gotten FDA approval.
That link will take you to the highlights of that discussion, or you can listen in the audio player above. Below, we’ve got a lightly edited transcript of the whole conversation.
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Transcript by Celia Fogel.
Kara Swisher: Today in the red chair is Vic Gundotra, the CEO of mobile heart monitor maker AliveCor. Vic is a longtime techie, spending 15 years at Microsoft and seven years at Google, where he’s best known as the person who led Google’s social networking effort, GooglePlus. In November 2015 he joined AliveCor, which helps consumers monitor their heart health from their smartphones. Vic, welcome to Recode Decode.
Vic Gundotra: Thank you very much, Kara.
You’ve had quite a history. Let’s talk a little bit about you, because where you came from is super interesting. Talk how you got to tech in general and then to AliveCor in the end.
Well you know, when I was a kid I was a hardcore nerd. At a time when that wasn’t necessarily cool.
Where did you grow up?
Right outside of Washington, D.C., in Maryland. And I loved programming at a very, very early age, about 11 years old, and it was far easier to program than talk to girls, so that’s what I did. My teenage years, I coded nonstop.
And why? What got you into it?
You know, there were some bad things that were happening in my life, in my personal life, that I had no control over. But when I sat down as a 12- or 13-year-old in front of a computer, I had control. I learned programming, it allowed me to build beautiful things, I could compile them, fix the bugs, and they were mine. And I was hooked.
What got you into it, though?
When I was 10 years old at my school, there was a principal who had the insight to pull about 10 kids out and said, “I’d like to teach you computer programming, machine language, AdaIC work. And I somehow was selected, I did the class, I found it exceptionally boring.
Until one spring I ran across an article in Byte Magazine and they showed you a trick. On the Apple computer you could hit control break and you would drop into the memory buffer and you could look around and see what was going on. In fact, the trick was you could redirect the graphics buffer to a printer. And it just dawned on me that I could interupt my video games and take what was in the graphics buffer, redirect it to the printer, and now my school books, my covers for my books, had Lode Runner — it was a popular video game — screens on them.
I went to school, for the first time I was cool. Everyone looked over and said, “How did you do that?” And then I remembered everything I learned in the machine language programming class, I understood how to read the memory buffer, and I was hooked.
Right. And then you did it on your own? In college?
I did it on my own, I studied every book I could get. I couldn’t understand Byte Magazine when I was 11, and one day when I was about 18 I realized I understood every article from programming to databases. I did it all.