Neil Patel

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In a recent podcast episode, Tyler Duvall, a visionary leader in the transportation and technology sectors, shared insights from his journey and discussed his role in shaping the future of transportation infrastructure. 

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Maryland, Tyler’s background in law and experience at prestigious firms like Hogan Lovells and McKinsey set the foundation for his transformative career.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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    A Suburban Upbringing

    Tyler’s childhood was marked by the idyllic backdrop of suburban Maryland. Raised in a household with a lawyer father and a schoolteacher mother, he was exposed to a world of professional service providers from an early age. 

    Since his grandfather was also in law, Tyler was immersed in the quintessential Washington D.C. experience. This background gave him unique insights into both the functional and dysfunctional aspects of the area, including its notorious traffic problems.

    Early Career

    Following his upbringing, Tyler pursued a traditional career as a suburban kid from D.C. He started on a path toward becoming a lawyer, attending college to play sports, and then law school. However, it wasn’t long before he realized that being a lawyer was not his ultimate calling, and that he wanted to do something more positively disruptive. This realization led him to make significant career changes.

    Tyler’s competitive nature, while a valuable asset, occasionally posed challenges. His love for competition was evident in his legal practice, where he delved into the world of transactions and securities law. 

    Tyler remembers doing a lot of private equity transactional work and drafting a wide variety of commercial agreements. He also developed an understanding of how these commercial contracts unlock value. This period of his career provided him with invaluable insights into the workings of how business is conducted, particularly in the United States.

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    Hogan Lovells Experience

    During his time at Hogan Lovells, the largest law firm in Washington D.C., Tyler worked with a diverse range of clients, including telecommunications companies, hotel chains, and biotech firms. This exposure to various industries broadened his understanding of the business side while supporting clients in their transactions. While the job was demanding, it served as a crucial learning curve.

    Around two and a half years into his legal career, Tyler began considering alternative career paths. The tech boom of the early 2000s was reshaping the professional landscape, and opportunities beyond traditional legal roles were emerging. 

    With the dot com boom, even lawyers less than 5 years out of law school were getting general counsel jobs at public companies and helping raise hundreds of millions of dollars. He also noted many of his law firm colleagues were moving on to commercial opportunities in career pivots. 

    Federal Government Experience

    It was during this pivotal period that an unexpected opportunity arose to enter the federal government, a move that resonated deeply with Tyler, given his D.C. roots.

    Joining the federal government marked a significant shift for Tyler. Given his upbringing in the D.C. area, working for the federal government held a special significance. The experience allowed him to step outside the realm of law and immerse himself in the world of transportation policy, a domain he was eager to explore.

    Transforming Transportation Policy

    Over his 22-year tenure in transportation, Tyler worked on initiatives to engage the private sector in infrastructure development, challenging traditional models. His work focused on modernizing U.S. infrastructure, bridging the gap between outdated systems and emerging technologies.

    Tyler recalls a conversation with a friend who was nominated to be the Assistant Secretary for transportation policy at the US Department of Transportation when the Bush administration came into office in 2001. Tyler was offered the position of a special assistant to support the Office of the Secretary with all aspect of transportation policy, from funding to regulations to operations. 

    He accepted, and in retrospect, he considers it a brilliant move for his career. One of the main things they explored was how the private sector could help fund and finance infrastructure. They looked into models that were very successful in countries like Europe, South America, and Asia.

    Tyler talks about how America does have the biggest systems in the world, but are some of the most poorly performing assets. Around this time, he was ready to transition and received a call from Dominic Barton, the head of McKinsey & Company who was in Shanghai at the time. The outcome of that interview was Tyler accepting a management consulting job in an emerging practice area at McKinsey – infrastructure.  

    The training Tyler received during this stint, which included projects all over the world and culminating in work in Puerto Rico, would pave the way for a new opportunity. A representative of a private equity fund in Greenwich Connecticut, SVP, reached out to him with an offer to serve as CEO for a major toll road in Austin, Texas. He worked for a while as the CEO of SH130 and then COVID hit.

    The Birth of Cavnue

    On March 12, 2020, the day before the US went into lockdown, Tyler was approached by Brian Barlow and Jonathan Winer, co-founders and co-CEOs of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP), about the opportunity to start a new venture called Cavnue. 

    The founding vision for the company was to revolutionize transportation through smarter, technology-enabled roads that would make connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) safer and more efficient. 

    Having worked on similar ideas and projects during his time at McKinsey, Tyler was excited to assume the role of Cavnue’s CEO and co-founder along with Jonathan and Brian. 

    Cavnue’s mission is to create an integrated platform that seamlessly combines hardware, software, and real-world operations to enhance the efficiency and safety of road networks. The company’s first project, which they are currently executing, aims to turn interstate 94 between Detroit and Ann Arbor into the smartest and safest road in the world. 

    And just yesterday, Cavnue announced a new project to build the country’s first autonomous trucking corridor in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation. 

    Cavnue’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Integrating diverse cultures and perspectives, particularly between engineers and transportation infrastructure experts, presented a unique hurdle. 

    However, Tyler’s extensive experience of working with a variety of companies while at McKinsey provided the foundation to bridge these gaps.

    Revolutionizing Roadways with Smart Technology

    Cavnue’s vision for smart roadways goes beyond mere automation. It aims to create a comprehensive system that provides road operators and road users with a complete understanding of what is happening on the roadway, significantly increasing safety and efficiency. 

    By leveraging cutting-edge technology, Cavnue envisions a future where roads are not just physical structures but intelligent, data-driven ecosystems. The entire ecosystem includes cameras, radar edge compute capabilities, sensors on poles, and equipment to understand everything that’s happening on the road.

    Funding the Future

    To realize this ambitious vision, Cavnue raised an impressive $130 million in its initial funding round from major strategic investors. The capital is being used to deploy hardware, build the software platform, and support operations. The valuation reflects the immense potential that lies within transforming road networks into highly efficient, future-proofed assets.

    Storytelling is everything which is something that Tyler Duvall was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.

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    As Cavnue continues its journey to revolutionize transportation, Tyler’s leadership and forward-thinking approach serve as a guiding force. With a clear focus on empowering people and driving innovation, Tyler’s vision for the future of infrastructure promises to reshape the way we navigate our world.

    Conclusion

    Tyler’s journey from a competitive spirit to a visionary leader in transportation and technology exemplifies the power of passion, innovation, and perseverance. Through Cavnue, he is pioneering a new era of smart road technology, ushering in a future where roads are not just physical, but intelligent, data-driven ecosystems. 

    With a steadfast focus on people and a commitment to transformative change, Tyler’s impact on the transportation sector is poised to be nothing short of revolutionary.

    Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:

    • The transformative journey from a competitive spirit to a visionary leader in transportation and technology is reshaping the future of infrastructure.
    • Early exposure to the professional world in suburban Maryland, with a lawyer father and schoolteacher mother, laid the foundation for unique insights into the complexities of the Washington D.C. area.
    • Initially pursuing a legal career, the realization that it wasn’t a true calling led to making significant career changes, setting the stage for impactful contributions.
    • Tenure at Hogan Lovells, the largest law firm in Washington D.C., provided invaluable exposure to a diverse range of clients and industries, offering a deeper understanding of the business landscape.
    • Transitioning to the federal government led to stepping beyond the confines of the law and delving into transportation policy.
    • Over 22 years in transportation led to spearheading initiatives to engage the private sector in infrastructure development, driving efforts to modernize U.S. infrastructure by integrating emerging technologies.
    • As CEO and co-founder of Cavnue, the vision for smart road technology aims to create a comprehensive system, revolutionizing transportation by enhancing safety and efficiency through intelligent, data-driven ecosystems.

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    Neil Patel

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