All Episodes

April 4, 2024 55 mins

Stanford rocket scientist and fintech entrepreneur Karthik Balakrishnan is integrating high-tech infrastructure modeling with video game interface design to create a software platform that allows businesses to virtually test their plans for maximum sustainability and bottom-line impact. 

In 2018, Karthik co-founded software startup ACTUAL based on a unique premise: what if you could plug your business idea into a science-backed simulation that operates like a computer game? The software platform allows users to choose a sustainability strategy, map out its various permutations, and compare those simulation results, enabling businesses to explore the full range of possibilities for their capital and implement the most impactful without real-world risks.

Hear ACTUAL president and co-founder Karthik Balakrishnan talk about how SimCity influenced their approach, combining user interface with data visualization, and why gamifying decision making is so important for the future. 

Episode Highlights:

00:00 Karthik Balakrishnan on making specialist knowledge more accessible

00:53 Conor Gaughan introduces Karthik and ACTUAL

05:45 Growing up on the coasts and aerospace engineering at Stanford 

10:45 Rocket science, entrepreneurial spirit, and the generalist mindset

17:43 Fintech, founding Coin, and risk-taking versus reliability 

27:24 Angel investing, the Pioneer Fund, and an impact-based framework 

32:55 The origin of ACTUAL, the elevator pitch, and de-risking innovation 

42:49 Real world variables and misconceptions about sustainable software  

49:15 Exciting innovations, defeating defeatism, and staying positive

53:40 Where to learn more and end credits

If you liked this episode, listen next to Peter Godart of Found Energy on Aluminum Fuel, NASA, and Engineering Impact at Scale

More on ACTUAL and Karthik Balakrishnan:

Connect with Conor Gaughan on and 

Have questions, or a great idea for a potential guest? Email us at

If you enjoyed this episode, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify – it really makes a difference! 

Consensus in Conversation is a podcast by Consensus Digital Media produced in association with Reasonable Volume.

Hosted on Acast. See for more information.

Mark as Played

Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

Dateline NBC
Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.