Gumball racing driver, Instagram star and tech entrepreneur Josh Cartu says that both nature and nurture are key to taking the right risks. Born in Canada, but now living in Hungary, Cartu has adventure in his DNA but has also learnt how to gamble in business ventures and high-performance race-car driving. The rewards of such astute risk-taking have enabled him to indulge his passions for racing, drifting, jet-fighters and collecting supercars…
RSNG How did you go from washing Ferraris to racing them for fun?
JOSH CARTU, ENTREPRENEUR ‘I believe environment definitely dictates where you end up to a large extent. In my case, my father used to ship exotic cars, Ferraris and Lamborghinis, and I looked after them. When I wasn’t, I was standing up asleep at border crossings waiting for them to arrive. Dad mixed with movers and shakers, doing deals all the time. Being next to him, I guess something rubbed off on me. I loved being around those cars and wanted more.’
RSNG But your family didn’t take a risk on you becoming a race driver?
JC ‘You’ve really got to believe in your kid to abandon everything else to do that. Instead they wanted me to get an education and a piece of paper that guarantees some kind of income as doctor or lawyer.’
‘I’ve taken plenty of risks, pouring a lot of money into some crazy ideas. Most of them didn’t work’
RSNG You had other ideas though?
JC ‘Yep. I started working for an online casino software firm and learned enough about how businesses work to launch my own. I’ve taken plenty of risks, pouring a lot of money into some crazy ideas. Most of them didn’t work, but one or two of them did, which is why we’re here now talking about the rewards.’
RSNG What’s the biggest business risk you’ve taken?
JC ‘The one I’m taking right now, which is our adventure into artificial intelligence, deep learning. It’s the biggest thing that I’ve ever done, with 30 million of my own money. I didn’t want anybody else to share this risk with me – I’m just terrified of losing someone else’s money. It’s very exciting work, but since much of it is proprietary I can’t disclose much more right now.’
RSNG Why carrying on taking risks if you don’t need to?
JC ‘OK, well, I don’t like the term ‘adrenaline junkie’ as it implies an addiction. But I do get a buzz from risk. One of the biggest issues I have is that I will build a company, it starts working to the point where it’s virtually printing money every month, but then there isn’t any way of making it a lot bigger without just completely fucking it up or risking a lot of people’s jobs. I’m a great guy to get things up on their feet, but an entrepreneur isn’t necessarily the best person to run a business.’
RSNG Identifying your weaknesses sounds like a key to success then?
JC ‘Absolutely; consistency is everything and... well, that’s where my weakness is. That inability to focus on something for a long period of time is probably why I was terrible at school. It’s also the reason why I can’t keep a girlfriend!’
RSNG How do you turn that to your advantage?
JC ‘You find someone who’s awesome at doing the same thing every day and let them do that job for you. If necessary give them a pretty big piece of your business so they have a vested interested in doing a good job too. It’s crazy at times. I’ll be scrolling through Amazon at 4am – I’m a real night owl – to check that all of my toys are the latest and greatest. I have a weird obsession, ensuring all my stuff is the most leading edge; on the ‘nature’ side of things I’d say I’m a person with an enormous ADD (attention deficit disorder)!’
‘Others may see it as dangerous but I know my limitations – most of the time I’m at 80% of my risk limit’
RSNG Which risk-takers do you admire?
JC ‘There are very, very few people that I consider role models. I think it’s just one guy to be honest; Elon Musk. I follow everything he does, religiously. He’s absolutely one of the most important people of our age. His area – renewable energy – is a huge growth sector, but it’s not something that personally interests me.’
RSNG Do you take risks when Gumball racing?
JC ‘Others may see it as dangerous or reckless, but I know my limitations. Most of the time I’m at 80% of my risk limits. A friend of mine got pretty scared because I’d drive close to the walls on one ride. But I ran my own drifting team for four years and, even though it sounds borderline arrogance, I really do know how to get pretty close to a wall in a car without touching it.’
RSNG But what happens when you push that 80%?
JC ‘Racing the Mille Miglia, the 1000-mile classic car rally from Brescia to Rome and back– where you’re supposed to slow down when you go through these old Italian villages – was really hairy. Everyone’s at the side of the road screaming for you to go faster. I pushed that 80% then. But I came to a blind hairpin and suddenly I was alongside a car transporter truck that could have driven right through me. It was three-quarters over in my lane. Had I not had the experience to manage the situation, to control the risk, I’d have been underneath it and gone for good.’
‘Next thing I knew I was still sitting in my racing seat, on a chunk of what was left of the car’
RSNG It hasn’t stopped you from risk-taking at the wheel?
JC ‘That didn’t. But a crash I had at Imola temporarily has. I didn’t make it public at the time but I cut my car in half in the Villeneuve chicane on a test day. I hit a wet patch, which sent the car into a spin. Next thing I knew I was still sitting in my racing seat, on a chunk of what was left of the car, in the middle of the track. The back of the car had split off elsewhere. When I was younger I might have risked carrying on racing, but my doctor says I need surgery on my neck first. If I put myself through that kind of G-force again without the treatment it could paralyse me. So I’ve taken time off of racing for now to focus on the business. Sometimes even a risk taker has to listen to what life’s trying to tell you.’
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