Artificial Intelligence in Industry with Dan Faggella

Saying that your company does artificial intelligence might still have a slightly cool ring to it if you're talking to one of your peers at a conference, but it doesn't mean very much to venture capitalists today, who've been battered with machine learning and artificial intelligence in every pitch deck they've seen for the last three or four years.

I wondered, from a venture capitalist perspective, what makes an AI company's value proposition actually strong? What is it that makes an AI startup actually seem like a company that maybe could use AI to really win in the market? Not just to be another company that says they're going to do it or says they are doing it, but where can it actually provide enough of that competitive edge to make a VC want to pull the trigger?

Getting a grasp of the answer to that question seems pretty critical.

This week, we speak with Tim Chang, partner at Mayfield Fund in Menlo Park, California. Chang and I both spoke at the Trans Tech Conference, held every year in Silicon Valley, focused on wellness and health-related technologies.

Chang talks about what it is about an AI company's pitch, product, and market that actually makes AI an enhancement to the business in a way that's compelling to someone who wants to invest potentially millions and millions of dollars.

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Tim_Chang_-Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 1:33pm PST

If one wants to start a general search engine, they're going to have to compete with Google. If one wants to start a general eCommerce platform, they'll have to compete with Amazon. But the same dynamics play out on a smaller scale. There are going to be some established players, some big tech giant, be it IBM or someone else, who already has a product.

When it comes to getting a new AI product out to market, how does one compete with the big guys?

This week's guest is Mike Edelhart, who runs Social Starts and Joyance Partners, seed stage investment firms out in the Bay Area. Edelhart has invested in a number of companies, and in this episode, we get his perspective on not only the patterns among successful AI startups and where AI plays a role in their competitive strategy, but what a "land and expand" strategy looks like for a new product that already has larger and more established competitors.

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Mike_Edelhart-Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 8:41am PST

A lot of AI in the press is CMOs or marketing people talking about what a company can do in a way that really is aspirational. They're speaking about what they can do, but in reality, the things that they're talking about, the capabilities won't be unlocked for maybe a year or more. These are just things on the technology road map, but people speak about them like they exist now.

This week, we speak with Abinash Tripathy, founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Help Shift. They've raised upwards of $40,000,000 in the last six years to apply artificial intelligence to the future of customer service, and we speak about the hard challenges of chatbots and conversational interfaces, as well as how long it's going to be until those are actually robust. This in opposition to how people at large companies might put out a press release touting their own chatbots that simply aren't capable of doing what they say they can to any meaningful degree.

We also talk about where AI can augment and make a difference in existing customer service workflows.  Even if we can't have all-capable chatbots to handle banking or insurance or eCommerce questions from people, where can AI easily slide it's way in and actually make a difference today? In this episode, we draw a firm line on where the technology currently stands.

Overall, though, this episode is about the challenges of actually innovating in AI. We talk about why it really is the big companies that do a lot of the actual cutting edge breakthroughs of AI and why others are going to have to license those their technologies from large firms like Google and Amazon.

We also discuss why companies maybe need to have a realistic expectation about where they can apply AI, as well as why actually innovating and coming up with new AI capabilities on their own might just be wholly unreasonable given their data, their company culture, and their density of AI talent.

Read the full interview article on emerj.com

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Abinash_Tripathy_-Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 11:07am PST

This week we interview a leader at Facebook. Jason Sundram is the lead of World.ai at Facebook, which is one of their efforts to work with public data around roads and population and other projects of that kind. But Sundram is also highly involved in the Boston office here, where Facebook will soon have around 650 employees. Many of them focus on data science and artificial intelligence.

Last time we talked about personalization in AI with Hussein Mehanna, who was Director of Engineering at Facebook at the time. This time, we'll talk about two topics that all established sectors need to be focusing on:

  • How does one build ML and data science teams?
  • How does one pick an AI project?

For business leaders who are considering hiring data science talent or thinking about how to start with AI in terms of making a difference in their bottom line, this should be a useful episode.

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Jason_Sundram-Mixdown.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 9:53am PST

One of the promises of artificial intelligence is aiding humans in making smarter decisions. Whether it's in pharma, retail, or eCommerce companies, the idea of being able to pool together streams of data and coax out the insights that would help make the best call for the organization to reach its goals is the promise of artificial intelligence. As it turns out that same dynamic is sort of happening in the public sector where AI is now being used to inform policy.

This week we interview Professor Joan Peckham at the University of Rhode Island. Previously, she was Program Director at the National Science Foundation. PhD in computer science and she runs the Data Science Initiatives at URI. The University of Rhode Island is home to DataSpark, an organization that helps policymakers inform the decisions that they're going to make about the economy, the environment, the opioid crisis, a variety of social issues, based on deeper assessments of the data.

The ability to find objective insights might help policymakers make better decisions about where they allocate budget and what decisions are made. Right now, policymakers are beginning to tune into artificial intelligence as a source of informing their decisions. The same dynamic will likely play out in the C-suite, particularly when the data is actually there.

For more on AI in government, visit Emerj.com

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Joan_Peckham-Mixdown.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 2:01pm PST

Sales is a big part of any sort of B2B firm. We speak this week with Micha Breakstone, co-founder of Chorus.ai. He holds a PhD in Cognitive Sciences from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and prior to starting his own company, he studied for a few years at MIT and was working on NLP at Intel.

He speaks with us this week about where AI is being applied to sales, answering questions such as:

  • How can managers better train salespeople?
  • How can salespeople better find the patterns that lead to closing a deal?
    • The next appointment?
    • A bigger contract?

This is a nascent domain. There are very few companies are actively leveraging artificial intelligence in their sales process, but in the two years ahead we'll likely see more and more firms who are.

For more information on Ai for sales enablement, go to emerj.com

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Micha_Breakstone-Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:16pm PST

Close to a year ago, we had an interview here on the AI in Industry podcast with Jeremy Barnes of Element AI. We visited their headquarters in Montreal, and we'd interviewed Yoshua Bengio a couple years before that. Jeremy had brought up one point in that interview that I really like and that transfers its way into this conversation, which is that businesses should think not just about being more efficient with artificial intelligence, but places where they can actually make a real difference in the bottom line for the company beyond shaving off some savings.

In this week's episode, we focus on compliance and analyzing contracts. At first, one might think about such an application in terms of cost savings. We speak with Shiv Vaithyanathan, an IBM fellow and Chief Architect of Watson Compare & Comply, about the following:

  • What's possible with AI when it comes to analyzing contracts, and, most importantly
  • Where is the business upside for AI as it relates to contract analysis. How can we analyze contracts not just in a way that saves money, but that allows us to optimize our deals for revenue, for the likelihood that they'll go through?  What's that farther vision?
Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Shivakumar_Vaithyanathan-Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:27pm PST

Episode Summary: Recently, we were called upon by the World Bank to do a good deal of research on the potential of applying artificial intelligence to health data in the developing world. Diagnostics was a very big focus of the information that we presented. It appears as though diagnostics is an area of great promise with regards to AI, and that's what we're focusing on in this episode the podcast.

This week, we speak with Yufeng Deng, Chief Scientist of Infervision, a company that focuses on computer vision for medical diagnostics. We speak with Deng about the expanding capability of machine vision, including what kind of data one needs to collect and what is now possible with the technology.

In addition, Deng also speaks about how Infovision found a business problem to solve using AI, and in that he provides transferable lessons to business leaders in a variety of industries.

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Yufeng_Deng-Mixdown.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 1:54pm PST

Artificial intelligence plays a role in the future of retail in terms of a deeper understanding of customers going beyond intuition. This week, we speak with Pedro Alves, CEO of a company called Ople, based in San Francisco. Alves was previously the Head of Data Science at a number of companies in addition to being Director of Data Science at Sentient Technologies, one of the best known AI firms in the Bay Area. Sentient has raised upwards of $200 million.


We talk with Pedro about the future of retail, the future of understanding customers with artificial intelligence. Essentially asking under what circumstances would a retailer need to go beyond intuition in order to inform their understanding and their ability to influence the actions of their customers or their users. In addition to that, Alves talks with us about what has to happen to AI as a technology to become more accessible and within reach of existing enterprises. Knowing now all the points of friction for bringing AI into an existing business, he talks about the transition points that he thinks are going to have to happen over the course of the years ahead in order to make these technologies more accessible to companies.

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Pedro_Alves-Mixdown.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 12:26pm PST

A lot of machine learning applications in business can be boiled down to some form of decision support. There are big decisions like deciding whether or not to merge or acquire another company, and there might be smaller decisions like whether or not a tumor has enough traits that make it seem like it's worth a surgical procedure or if it's worth leaving alone.

In this particular interview, we talk about the domain of decision support, specifically in tax and accounting. There are few firms that know more about tax and accounting than Ernst & Young, and there are few people at Ernst & Young who know more about artificial intelligence than Sharda Cherwoo. Cherwoo is a partner at EY, and she is also the Intelligent Automation Leader for the Americas division of its tax practice.

Cherwoo talks about where decision support is being influenced by machine learning in accounting and tax today, the initial experimentation traction, and results. She also paints a picture of bigger decisions that might be automatable by machine learning software. The focus of this episode may be on tax and accounting, but here are transferable lessons for business leaders in all industries that revolve around how machine learning can help inform decisions made by human experts.

Direct download: AI_in_Industry-Sharda_Cherwoo-Mixdown.mp3
Category:Artificial Intelligence -- posted at: 12:44pm PST