Jeri Ellsworth

Invention as a way of life

Jeri Ellsworth is a tinkerer, inventor, and entrepreneur who grew up fixing toasters and building race cars – then moved on to inventing the future of AR at Valve, CastAR and now Tilt Five. Jeri’s got a unique take on bringing innovation to market – and a healthy appreciation for the human side of technology development. Listen in and discover how a quirky kid from rural Oregon transformed herself into a Silicon Valley powerhouse.

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About this episode

Talking with Jeri Ellsworth is like taking a trip into an alternate reality where young women race cars, build computers from scratch, and being crazy-innovative ideas to market. Check out these highlights from our wide-ranging conversation.

-How Jeri got into auto racing as a teenager (4:30)
-How an insurance salesman taught her how to be relatable (10:17)
-What she learned about hiring employees with passion for their work (12:11)
-How the virtuous feedback cycle of mentoring kick-started her career (14:25)
-How she broke into hardware design in Silicon Valley (19:58)
-The high-stakes, hair-raising process of building a mass-market electronic toy (23:41)
-How an “easter egg” hack for a new toy drove viral interest & sales (28:44)
-How “white knights” elevated her early experiments in video streaming (30:32)
-That time Gabe Newell flew to silicon valley to have lunch with her (33:09)
-How CastAR was born out of the wreckage of the Valve AR group (37:54)
-How growing from 20 to 90 people in 6 months stalled development (39:50)
-What Jeri learned about innovation after rising from the ashes of failure (42:50)
-How bad personalities can kill a team’s spirit and stall project development (46:29)
-The role of fast, messy iteration in early product development and customer focus (48:41)