The S.B. Questionnaire: Max Drucker

Chatting Empathy and Gadgets with the Entrepreneur Behind Carpe Data and Social Intelligence

Max Drucker of Carpe Data and Social Intelligence

Paul Wellman

Max Drucker of Carpe Data and Social Intelligence

“I have been told that I don’t always make good first impressions,” Max Drucker tells me candidly.

I couldn’t agree more: When we first met about six years ago, Max was in my face, complaining about a ticketing situation during the film festival. He was an abrasive, big-picture person, thinking outside of the box, and he was absolutely right about the matter.

He went on to teach me new things in a field where I was supposed to be the expert. I’m forever grateful and have come to greatly admire Max for his intelligence.

He is the CEO and president of Carpe Data, which evaluates and scores prospective customers for life insurance companies. In November 2010, Insurance & Technology Magazine named Max as one of its Top 10 “Innovators of the Decade” for his usage of social media as an analytical tool.

He first used that idea to help companies assess job applicants. “I felt that employers were already doing the Google search,” explains Max. “But that violates the employee’s privacy.”

So he cofounded Social Intelligence as a social media background screening company. “The only things that are relevant are given to the employer,” he explains. “Therefore, the job applicant’s privacy is protected against illegal discrimination.”

The company eventually evolved to include insurance companies, primarily to fight workers’ compensation abuse at first. And thus Carpe Data was born in October 2016.

In person, Max is engaging and full of energy, a charismatic live-wire. He was born in Los Angeles and escaped by attending Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where he studied political science and economics.

Right after graduation, at 21 years old, he was hired by Apple as a quality assurance engineer. “It was in incredible turmoil,” he recalls. “It was around the time that Steve Jobs was coming back to the company, and I had already decided to leave.”

But he stayed in the Bay Area and founded E-Coverage, the first online insurance company. “It failed brilliantly,” he admits. “It was a casualty of the dot.com era.”

But he persevered and then, with Michael DeGusta, founded Steel Card, the nation’s first online auto insurance company. “I had a unique opportunity to live anywhere I wanted to live,” he says, “and I chose Santa Barbara/Montecito. “ He’d spent time here in 1992 working for Cliff’s & Co., delivering pizza. “I felt I was living in paradise,” he tells. “I loved the lifestyle.” In 2006, they sold Steel Card to Lexis-Nexis for cash.

“I’m an entrepreneur, through and through,” he says. “I love building. I love building teams. I love the highs and lows of the start-up. I like making money and spending money, but having it is not important. You want new challenges. I always want to do better.”

Max Drucker answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your motto?

You don’t get what you don’t ask for. I think that is a generally a good approach to the world — don’t expect things to just be given to you. And also: Seize the Data!

What do you like most about your job?

Inventing new products that have not previously existed. More than seven years ago, we created the concept of the “social media background check,” years before anyone else had contemplated such a thing.

Today, we are building a whole range of data products that incorporate social media and other forms of alternative data for insurance in ways others haven’t conceived of yet. It is super creative and exciting to be inventing things that can truly move the needle of the $1 trillion-plus insurance industry.

I also get great satisfaction from employing an incredible team of local Santa Barbara talent and doing it all from downtown in the Balboa Building.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The balance of creativity, productivity, and family. I need a solid mix of getting shit done combined with love from my significant other and four kids.

What is your greatest fear?

Being irrelevant. I want to be of value to others, and most importantly my kids.

Who do you most admire?

Elon Musk, even after an incident involving the death of my Tesla Roadster battery. I know it might be a little cliché; however, I admire his attention to detail and commitment, all the while putting everything on the line, multiple times. The world needs more people like Elon Musk.

What is your greatest extravagance?

See previous question. My Tesla Model X is somewhat gratuitous based on my limited driving. And SBIFF Platinum passes.

What is your current state of mind?

Insane and exuberant. We live in crazy times, and my work and life are crazy too, and I wouldn't want it any other way!

What is the quality you most like in people?

Empathy. I like people who care about people and things beyond themselves.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Arrogance. It is so unnecessary.

What do you most value in friends?

People that challenge me yet are patient with my various ridiculous ideas. I have been known to be all over the place, and it is great having friends that can handle that.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Enthusiasm. When I get excited about something, it becomes my sole focus, whether I like it or not.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Presentation is everything. It is what it is. Why is everything so hard???

Which talent would you most like to have?

Extended focus. I have less of an attention span than my 2-year-old.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to be a little less rough around the edges.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Building a company in Santa Barbara that has employed more than 200 people over the years. I love Santa Barbara, and I like to think I have contributed something to the community. And each kid is an equal greatest achievement. Not to forget: getting Jennifer Smithwick (aka “Jen the Babe”) to commit to marrying me is also high on the list.

Where would you most like to live?

Here in Santa Barbara, although I wouldn’t mind mixing it up and living closer to the beach. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Colorado, London, Holland, and New York City, but I don’t think it gets any better than S.B.

What is your most treasured possession?

I actually make a point to not get attached to any single material object. I used to like things like watches and cars and such; however, it feels quite liberating to not really care about anything not living all that much. I do love my gadgets, however, such as my OLED TV, plethora of Alexa and Sonos devices, Nest cameras, Ring doorbell, Hue colored lights, Ember smart coffee mug, and generally anything that has to do with the Internet of Things and autonomous driving.

What makes you laugh the most?

Bojack Horseman on Netflix. It is a amazing blend of self-awareness, humor, and parody that is spot-on. I think it is the single greatest show on television, and I get great satisfaction every time I rewatch the series.

On what occasion do you lie?

To avoid unnecessary conflict. Sometimes being right is wrong and wrong is right.