Interview: Hardware Guru Luke Iseman of Y Combinator

Luke Iseman Talk

You probably have already heard of Luke Iseman. He worked at Make, he has been regularly featured for his shipping container communes, he designed and sold growbots and now he is the director of hardware at Y combinator. Basically he is one of us. He is also an athlete on a ketogenic diet that has some experience to share about pushing his own limits.

You had been a vegetarian for a long time. Recently you switch over to a low carb ketogenic diet. What inspired the change? How long has it been? How is it going?

Short answer: interest in multisport endurance training + being more awake. I’ve completed several centuries and a marathon years ago, but I’ve never successfully trained for multiple sports at the same time. And, I’m mildly narcoleptic: not falling over while we’re talking level, but I can certainly sleep through flights and probably shouldn’t drive long distances at night. I’d been pescatarian, with lots of cheese + eggs, for most of the last decade. After reading “Natural Born Heroes”, I googled ‘ketogenic narcolepsy’ and found an initial study showing some improvement in daytime wakefulness. It’s been about 5 weeks since i switched to mainly meat and vegetables. So far, results seem promising: I’m less sleepy, and I’m putting in substantial (for me) weekly miles on both my bike and running sandals. I’m far from strict: basically I’m getting few carbs during the day and then drinking several beers most nights. There’s pizza a few times weekly, too. And, it’s good to have some meats back: I didn’t realize how much I missed pepperoni and wings.

I recall you visiting me in New Mexico years ago. I live over a hundred miles from the nearest airport. You had purchased a bike from Wal Mart and rode it to my house. What kind of activities are you doing these days?

Yeah, and then I returned it to your nearest Wal Mart in better shape than when I bought it:) I’ve been traveling and trying to integrate workouts. Often, I’ll bring my bicycle: I pack basic tools, panniers, and a giant fabric bike bag, allowing me to repair minor damage and ride away from bag check. (pro tip: virgin atlantic doesn’t charge for checked bikes) A 2hour run during a 5hour layover in Manila was one of my most enjoyable per hour visits to a country. For this and any other in-traffic workout, my welding respirator is essential.


Pulse & Bloom is a beautiful biosensor project that went to Burningman. How did it work?


It worked sporadically: I’m still not sure why some of our power failures and other strange errors occurred. We recharged an array of deep-cycle batteries on my 1kw solar array atop a shipping container in our camp, and I hauled them in an ice cream trike the several miles to the installation each day. Any time it rained, we’d all sprint to disconnect things power before things would short out: playa dust is a really fine alkaline powder, and it gets in everything then hardens with moisture to a firm, conductive cake. My friend Sam built the electronics and did a great write-up here. Look for our metallic horses and breathing forest this year!

You seem to be an expert on supplement stacking. What kind of nootropics are you into? Is there anything that really helps your focus?

I was taking like 10-15 vitamins per day, but I stopped most awhile ago: eating a bunch of veggies and eggs appears to provide more absorbable forms of all the vitamins you need. My usual daily substances are coffee, provigil, and beer. I recommend cycling off of each for at least a few days per month, to keep your tolerance low. A cup of coffee after a few days without caffeine is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever experienced. I also consume mass quantities of salt and hot sauce. Seriously, I bet I’m at 10-100x the RDA on sodium every single day. Not sure what’s up with that, but my blood pressure’s normal and it doesn’t appear to be producing any other problems…


What are the three most significant things you do each day to feel amazeballs {Meditation, Sleep, Diet, Supplement, etc?}

Exercise, a bit of progress towards building something new, and laughter: loud, often inappropriate, public displays of happiness 🙂

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1 Comment

  1. I have never met an Iseman that didn’t consume mass quantities of sodium. The tradition carries on!

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