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Jennifer Byrne is the CEO of Arrived Workforce Connections. Previously Jennifer was responsible for market expansion initiatives leveraging business model and technology innovation for government, healthcare, and education providers around the globe at Microsoft after joining as the Chief Security Officer for the Worldwide Public Sector Division in 2014.

Prior to Microsoft, Jennifer was a leader in Cybersecurity, having held technical, sales and executive positions at companies such as Intel, McAfee and Symantec. She began her career in technology as an Information Security Analyst and Engineer serving US Government clients.

Her first career, which remains her passion today, was in the non-profit world working with under-served populations.

We discuss how to use tech innovation for optimizing the human experience, the importance of tech access to underserved communities, and how we can all do something small every day to make a difference. 

Thank you and congratulations to Jennifer on her new role as CEO!

Transcript powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome to the show. My name is Eric Wright. I’m gonna be your host for the DiscoPosse podcast. This is a really enjoyable episode featuring Jennifer Bryne.

Jennifer. Between the time we recorded and now when we released, we can proudly say that we can say Congratulations to Jennifer on becoming the CEO of Arrived Workforce Connections. Jennifer has such a storied history in the industry, but more than anything, the reason why she’s been successful both in work and in life is because how she gives back in her approach to thinking about what can we do to give, especially to underserved communities and to the broader community.

This is a great discussion and we cover a lot of ground. We didn’t get a chance to go specifically into her new role as CEO because it was in the works and had not yet been announced when we recorded. So big thanks to Jennifer for giving me the chance to record while she’s in the throes of transition. And Congratulations again. So please do follow the link and reach out to Jennifer and give her a good shout out and a Congratulations. I got to give another shout out.

Speaking of, to the fine folks that make this podcast happen and to really celebrate a fantastic year we’ve all had together. So remember when you have anything in the world of data, in the world of compute, in the world of cloud, you need to protect those assets. How do you do it? Go to the people that have you covered for everything you need for your data protection needs, whether it’s On-Prem, whether it’s in the Cloud, whether it’s Cloud-Native. They’ve got stuff for SAAS, they’ve got your team’s protection SharePoint. You name it.

It’s really important because if you can’t go and say I got Veeam, they got me covered. You’re at risk. No risk equals a great world. If you can reduce risk, it’s easy to think that you’re in a better place. So let’s reduce risk together. Go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. You can check it out. They got a really cool campaign running, but I really and truly enjoy the team and I love the products and I’m very proud of the way they’ve approached things and they got a brand new CEO.

So let’s celebrate this together. So go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. And while you’re protecting, make sure you protect your data in transit as well. If you’re not using a VPN, you definitely need to think about why this is so important. We’re in a dangerous world. Let’s make sure we reduce the risk exposure when you’re surfing the Internet. Whether it’s out in the world or even at home, go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse. You can check out ExpressVPN. I’m a user. I’m a customer. I really like it. So go check it out.

Oh, yeah. And buy Diabolical Coffee. All right. Enjoy the show.

Hey, this is Jennifer Byrne. I am the President of Digital Future Consulting and the former CTO of Microsoft US division and about to start a new venture as the CEO. And you are listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.

Jennifer, thank you very much. This is very exciting for me for a variety of reasons and, of course, for my listeners. But selfishly, I think I really do the podcast just so I can meet amazing people like yourself. You’ve got a really strong sort of storied career. You’ve done stuff that I find really inspiring in your approach to the way that you treat people, the way that you empower others, the way that we can use technology. And you talk so much about empowerment through technology. And this is near and dear to my heart because I’m a nerd at heart, and I love technology, and I love the Nerd Bits, and I love getting excited about it.

But I also have to see that what really gets me is what we can do with it. And so we’ll talk a lot about the path to digital transformation and the human empowerment that we can create along the way. But anyway, let me first of all, for folks that are new to you. Jennifer, if you want to give a quick introduction, and then we’ll talk about, first of all, digital future consulting and of course, much more that you’ve got going on.

Yeah. Thank you. Eric. I’m excited to be here, too. This is why I love to be on podcast because this is when you get to talk about all your favorite topics. So the big anchor in my career was the years I spent at Microsoft as the CTO, ultimately of the US division. Although my first CTO role at Microsoft was in the industry team, and I joined Microsoft in 2014 as the chief security officer for the public sector group. Because I’d spent the previous 20 odd years in cybersecurity at Intel McAfee Symantec into startup and way back when I was an InfoSec analyst working for government agencies back in the late 90s.

So that’s my career. I left Microsoft when I had felt like I’d put in my time in big corporate America and felt a calling to do something a little bit different. I had run a couple of innovation projects in my last role as CTO focused on digital skills, and it really started out really simple because we needed more people to know how to use Azure. You cannot drive cloud consumption when there aren’t enough employees in your customers environment than no Azure. But you start to pull the thread on that one, and it’s really not about Azure.

It’s about the skills that you need in order to learn Azure. And then it’s a bigger skills conversation. And all of a sudden, you’re outside of the walls of your customers environment and you’re into communities thinking broadly like, how do we get skills to happen? Because the world is getting more digital and you don’t know that any better than you do when you’re in this industry trying to make that possible. And then it just kind of occurred to me as I’m sitting in communities like Louisville, Kentucky and Houston and Syracuse, New York, that there is this unintended consequence of technology that I think, Eric, you know, and all of us who have been in this industry, we’ve been in the business of talking about how amazing technology is and all the fantastic things they can do in the world, how many problems it can solve.

And it is largely a positive passion that we all believe in. And yet the unintended consequences that it creates a need for skills that a lot of people don’t have. So how do we solve that? And by the way, that skills gap follows socioeconomic, existing socioeconomic rifts in society. And so it is a problem that takes more than technologists to solve. But it felt like a worthy thing to be doing. So when I left Corporate America, I decided I would spend a little time in the future workspace.

So I started a small consulting agency and I work with startups and advise companies. And that’s super fun. It keeps me fresh and also spend a lot of time just doing research and talking and thinking about future work, which has led to a role as a CEO and a company that is playing a small role in that space. So anyway, that’s the nickel tour around me and my career.

Well, there’s so much to, so many threads to pull on. And I think you hit this really strong thing that especially as technologists, where it’s a bit of a bubble. I get concerned about the echo chamber of raw technologists who are all on Twitter, and they’re all at the events. And we all sort of like chatter amongst each other. And that’s fantastic as a way for us to kind of like, build new things. But for people that don’t know what SoMa is in the Bay Area, and there’s so much of this country and of the world that’s beyond the very tech centric Silicon Valley, the New York Bank sectors, like all this amazing stuff in between.

As a technologist, I would go to events, and I would talk about how we’re into other areas, right? I go to Wisconsin. This is one thing that was amazing to me. You go to Wisconsin, there’s these incredible technology companies. And at first I was like, just like the stupid, arrogant guy that lived in the city too many years. I was like, That’s funny. Whenever I reference Wisconsin, I always think of like a dairy farm or something like this, like people with cheese hats.

By the way, that does happen in Wisconsin.

But it was humbling to realize that they have really done leaps and bounds of advancement in how they’re leveraging technology to do a lot of these flyover state things that the rest of the tech ecosystem kind of forgets, goes on. And I was happy when I realized I’m like, this is what matters. These are the stories that need to be told, not how I can get Bank of New York Mellon to go from VMs to containers. That’s neat. But when I can talk about people that never worked in tech suddenly becoming programmers and using no code and using the cloud.

And they were from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. That’s the exciting part to me. And I love that you’ve done research in this area as well, and you’re really working hard to broaden your audience.

Thank you so much. I love what you said about Wisconsin because the specific epiphany I had, and it happened in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was at a ribbon cutting event for a makerspace. It’s like a nonprofit and they renovated it, and they created these conference rooms, and they were really just in the business of helping very small entrepreneurs build the things that they wanted to build. And I had this, as a Microsoft executive, you’re there to stand at a podium and say kind words. We’d sponsored some of this.

I loved the project, but we give them some dollars. That was really, some total of what we did was lend our name, our credibility, give some dollars. I flew out to Louisville, and that was what we were going to do. And it was so clear to me that that was actually just in the broader context of things. Such a small contribution to the grander picture of a really healthy, inclusive digital future because the real work was being done by the people in the facility. The real work happens at the ground floor on the street level.

And I was spending all my time on the 28th floor of a beautiful building in Bellevue, Washington, thinking about programs and thinking broadly and top-down. And I got all the attention. I got all the attention, but I wasn’t really the solution. So when you get down to the street level, if you’re in Wisconsin and people have real problems and they’re vary from a technologist perspective, they’re great problems because they’re discrete problems. They’re bounded. So you can attach technology to a problem at that level and actually generate a difference.

The distance between action and reaction and a small problem is very short. The distance between action and reaction and a really big macroeconomic or global problem or something that would be worthy of a corporate initiative is very long. So if you want to measure impact, then get down into the street and start doing stuff, and that was really when I thought, okay, I can see how this stage of my career could come to a really wonderful and positive end. And I could have the beginning of something else that would be fulfilling for me and also just measurable enough for me to feel like I was making a difference.

This is the interesting dichotomy of, as you said, becoming sort of the face and voice of technology and transformation and all these things. We have to have the evangelists and the advocates and whatever the title is going to be next year when we’re no longer developer advocates are no longer cool. Whatever the new thing is going to be. And it’s this weird thing that I sort of struggle with all the time of being able to get out and meet with people and listen to them. When I do a keynote, it’s to listen to 500 people, to watch their reaction as we’re talking about something and change the way that I tell a story and change the way that I look at what’s next based on that live reaction.

Plus, after the fact we get to talk to people on the ground and you really hear what’s true. It’s very easy to get this Ivory Tower super presenter mode in. But now the advantage you get is pairing that opportunity where you can write books and be a speaker and do all these things and do the ribbon cuttings and then also really be mindful and humble about who’s really doing it. Like you said, this is the true sort of boots on the ground, the unsung heroes, the real transformation is all these other people.

So it’s just weird. I feel bad sometimes, in fact, a lot of friends of mine that are in the public speaking space, they’ve chosen just like to stop. We need to open the stage up for more people. The hard part is when you’re good at public speaking, you get asked to do more of it, and you’re sort of stuck. Like, Why is Robert Downey Jr. In a lot of movies? Because he’s a great actor. So is it his fault? I don’t, not that I’m Robert Downey Jr., for a poor example.

But I mean, I love that you’ve been able to strike this beautiful balance of being close to where it’s really happening. And I find people that have trouble. Sometimes they get a little hung on the idea of looking down from the stage.

It’s tough to find the right altitude. And I will say in defense of good speakers everywhere, that we all have to move forward together. And so it’s the three-legged stool analogy. Two legs just won’t do. So we all have to be doing all of it. And by the way, look, I’m in your podcast. I love to talk about this stuff. So it’s the daily drip of being able to talk about the things that matter, and hopefully in a way that’s helpful to other people is important for me, too.

When I got out of Microsoft and you just do a bunch of stuff and you’re trying to cycle through what I realized I was doing eventually was trying to find the right altitude. I didn’t want to just talk about the problem, but I didn’t want to get so down into the weeds that I was lost in something that felt like a passion project but wasn’t going to create some kind of impact on the world. And so then you sort of get into the problem space you’re in, what does the ecosystem look like?

A tech background really helps because it’s kind of a design thinking or systems approach to things where you’re trying to understand the inner work I was in the future workspace and am and thinking about how do we democratize access to skills, but also how do we change the power structure such that people themselves have the ability to leverage the things that make them better if it’s a skills course or whatever, into a better job, because that’s not how the job market works. It’s very top-down.

So if you’re at the bottom, you just wait for jobs to come to you by way of a job advertisement on Indeed. So if you want to go invest in yourself and get a new skill, it’s a really uncertain business model, right? I mean, that’s not how people think about it, but if you’re a business person you’re like, I don’t understand the ROI of that. That course is going to cost you $12,000 in a year, but you have no actual guaranteed return because you have no way of proactively advertising yourself.

The only platform that exists for that is LinkedIn, which is fabulous, but LinkedIn from a demographic’s perspective is the higher end of the job skills, sort of like in healthcare, treating what they call the worried well, the people who are already healthy and they just want to get healthier. Like LinkedIn is a proactive profile building platform is for people who already generally have a job and they want a better one. But we have this whole section of the workforce that doesn’t. They’re just struggling to get living wage who are very interested in building capabilities and experience that will provide a better path of the future.

But we don’t have a path for them to do so in a proactive way. And so that was when I started to understand in this skills job space what the ecosystem started to look like, where the power was, where the connection is, and then from there, you can figure out, okay, what could we do from a tech perspective to solve that? So that’s all my long, winding way of saying for me, I had to figure out what altitude I could be relevant in this process, and it took a year to get there.

What I respect about how you just described it and your approach to it was just that you have to take a hypothesis. You have to test the hypothesis. You have to live amongst the results and then bring that back to the hypothesis and effectively run it through this machine. And that’s really what makes, it’s very easy for the, I’ll say the pundits, as I call them, right? That it’s easy to sit back and talk about the future of X, but yet never be committed to saying this is how it’s going to go and then writing it down and saying, I’ll pay $1,000 if I’m wrong, like, you’re effectively skinning the game committed to the outcome because you are getting close to who will be affected by it. You’re looking for, especially a population that’s, like, under represented population.

It doesn’t even have to be such a sort of distinct niche. It is 30 plus percent of the United States as an example, and I’m Canadian. My funny accent gives me away sometimes, but I live in New Jersey. There’s so many people who, like, we take for granted. And I say we meaning the Twitterati, right? We’re complaining. Everyone’s talking about the great resignation, and it’s a proud thing. I’m like, yeah, that’s right. Because people are saying, like, oh, it’s disgusting that they’re going to make me go back to an office.

Did you go to Whole Foods today? Yeah. There’s 1000 people, that’s their office. Those people that made sure that you got your well crafted latte and your fancy artisanal steak. They don’t have a work from home option. We have to remember that as a community, it’s not just the community of, like, it’s the community of existence. It’s so easy for us to get just wrapped into, like, oh, yeah, Linkedin is for everybody. I love LinkedIn. I love that it’s a great tool, but it’s very easy for us to just say, like, oh, this box is the Earth.

Right. Yeah.

Totally. You know, I agree. That’s the challenge. It’s a big challenge. It feels like something that could make a difference. And I love when I see my own peers trying to solve the technical aspects of that problem. And many of them are whether that was the intent or not. Microsoft isn’t the only company. There are many that are trying to. IBM, as an example, are trying to democratize access to technology by abstracting the complexity out of it, which is the inspiration behind low code, no code, the abilities or capabilities and whatever platform you’re in.

And digital skills. All the companies are spending a ton of money to try to solve that problem. So I think it is something that we broadly recognize as an issue. The problem is that it is an issue that’s so intractable in its nature because it’s embedded into the kind of the economic structures of our society that you just need a lot of creativity and effort to make a difference. And, you know, I have two kids in their twenties. My daughter is an aspiring artist and works at a restaurant, and it’s tough to watch it.

My son is in his last year as a computer science major, so he’s figured out how to have a career that will pay money. But I’ve got an equally bright, hard working kid who didn’t make that choice, and she’s going to have a tougher road. And I see from her first hand how the world is not built to serve her in her needs given what she wants to do with her life, and that’s okay. Like she made her choices eyes wide open. But there’s stuff that we could fix that would make it better.

And it’s just not about handouts or anything. It’s really just about rethinking the problem in a new way. And if you can make your society healthier, everyone benefits, it is a shared infrastructure that we’re in after all. So that becomes very personal to me on that level. And trying to figure out how to solve it becomes super important.

Yeah. There’s a real challenge in that. The business world, especially the tech startup ecosystem, is very driven on quarter over quarter measurement and growth. But to have the long view, this is why philanthropy and corporate don’t line up in the pure money sense they often can, because it’s a tax deduction. And at least we’ve created a way in which that it can incent people to give back in that way. But what we really need to do is create programs and put people in front of people and show them, that story is there.

I think democratization is a great way to talk about it now. Like you can become a Twitch streamer and you only need to just do the thing that you did, right? It’s the potential is there, that is something like that. You can go on YouTube, you can learn to program through. You can take Harvard Business School courses on YouTube, right. We’ve created opportunity like as far as content and tech access, although Internet access is still not 100% available. Right. But connecting people and giving them a path.

I think this is what’s missing and like mentorship. So I’d love to get your thoughts on this. What have we got today that’s not being used, right? Because we haven’t connected people to show them how to embrace and leverage it.

Yeah. Well, I think it’s a slightly different problem depending on industry. And again, this goes back to your Wisconsin comment that we all think we understand that the edge of the horizon, as we see it, is the actual edge. And it’s not right. We all live in these universes. And so that question for people who are in whatever space where they can move toward Tuck In at Varleys, in the way we would describe it. Computing, right. Coding all those jobs is when there are things that we can do there.

And I think it has a lot to do with a bigger corporate investment and nontraditional learning skills. We could dissect that problem, and I’m very interested in it. There’s a job taxonomy of the future, piece of work that needs to be embraced by the Fortune 500s and 1000s so that HR and people managers recruiters can understand what they’re even hiring for, because once there’s clarity on what the job of the future looks like, there’s clarity on the skills required for the job in the future. And once you have that, you can start to rewrite job descriptions.

You can start to think about the way you recruit. You can start to signal out to potential candidates what they even need to do in order to be eligible for that job in the future. And I think that will sort itself out because you get smart people in that swath that understand the problem and can solve it. But there’s this other technology conversation that it’s easy for computing technologists to forget, which is that in a factory, automation in a factory means that somebody who is actually doing knobs and levers on a control panel is going to move to an iPad, and that iPad is going to require some level of digital context or fluency, that for you and I, might not be the biggest deal, but for people in industries, it will.

There’s a lot of manufacturing and light industrial that works on paper today because they haven’t had a business model to do anything else. Like the solutions factory, light industrial is really interesting if you look at it as an industry, because it’s a very long tail industry where you have a few companies that are big, but most of the revenue or a lot of it is driven through small, independently franchise. If you will branch factories or installations or smaller companies because they are providers to bigger companies, they don’t have a business model for adopting technology.

They don’t have the revenue to do it. And so it exists on paper. But as that automation flows down, you’re starting to require workers to have a level of digital skill that they don’t have. So a manufacturer of a conveyor belt technology that gets put into a factory might require a certification to use that technology. The certification, if you had, it might actually allow you to go find a job that pays $3 more an hour because it’s a little bit more advanced. That scenario exists in almost every industry and that’s technology, and those are digital skills and their digital skills importantly, that once obtained, actually provide a path toward a better living wage.

So for me, that’s the part of the problem that I’m most interested in. It’s ignored. And yet we’re talking about the people who, in aggregate, are the lifeblood of our economy. They are the people who make things and make things work. To your point, the folks in Whole Foods or the people solving real problems in Wisconsin. So I’m interested in that technology and how we help that profile of worker.

Yes. And I probably sound like a dark individual sometimes how much I sort of trash the peer group that I live amongst. But this is just because sometimes it bothers me that they don’t see beyond the rather often myopic view that they have of their frame of existence. And fair enough, it’s not even intentional. It’s just more that when you get people that are very outward about like this is what the world looks like. That’s what your view of the world looks like. It’s not really representative. The whole sort of learn to code as this trope of like, oh, that’s the future of work.

Right?

You need to learn to code like, no, it’s not possible for many people. I’m a technologist. I have a whole host of things that I probably would have had to take pills for when I was a kid ADHD and all this different stuff. And I’m also dyslexic, so it’s horrifying for me to write code. I do it, but more out of necessity. And I live with a wealth of anxiety while I’m doing it. And I have skills that most people never got exposed to. You know, I always say I grew up on a farm and I became a technologist, but that’s because my dad was a technologist who took the leap and got out of the farming and made this jump.

Most people don’t have that luxury to leave their ecosystem or their geography. They can’t leave where they live. There are a lot more limiting factors that are forgotten. I think sometimes, which is a little bit frustrating.

Agree. It’s a big problem. Anyway, it’s a lifetime of work. So I’m in an area where I don’t think I’ll ever run out of interesting things to talk about and good stuff to do. So Yay for me. Good job security.

That’s right. What’s a good example of something that you’ve really seen that strikes home, it’s like this is the power of people getting access to technology that you’ve recently seen that’s excited you.

Well, I mean, I haven’t seen it yet in the space I’m in, which is why I’m in the space I’m in, kind of thinking about the other industries where this hasn’t happened. But I’ll tell you, I follow a lot of nontraditional education providers, and I listen to their stories is kind of my daily good news. And so companies like General Assembly and there are many others, have a constant stream of success stories where people have made the leap from whatever they were doing that was not satisfying into jobs that are and, of course, those are tech jobs.

But I think it’s fantastic. So I think it is actually happening all around us. And if there weren’t a ground swell of that, however, the media may or may not be able to report on it. It’s a harder thing maybe to report on. I think it’s behind a lot of this great resignation, which itself, I think, is fantastic news. And it’s happening because people are looking around and they’re seeing their friends and their family or their peers make a leap and all they needed. It’s like all the little penguins are standing at the edge of the glacier, and they just need one of them to jump and everyone else is kind of following.

And I think that’s starting to happen. That’s behind the groundswell and the very fact that there is this great resignation, the very fact that people are, it’s kind of a take back the night moment are starting to say, yeah. No. I mean, sure, I had my unemployment benefits are out, by the way now, and I’m still not going to go back to that crappy job. Sorry. I’m going to figure it out, is exactly what is at the birth of any big social change. So I’m excited.

And, of course, because of my kids, I hear it all the time. I hear my daughter say, if you use the word gig one more time, I’m going to die. We know what that means, and we’re demanding something better. So I think there’s good news, even in the bad news, because it means that people are going to sort of accept, not stand for accepting less. You remember 20 years ago, the issues with the big box retailers, where there were all sorts of lawsuits and generally speaking, I think we all had this collective sigh like, oh, yeah.

It must be terrible to have a part time job in much of America because you don’t get your hours published. Even today. Did you know that they’re, like, 26 million workers who do not know their schedule more than a week in advance? How do you live a life when you can’t figure out what you’re going to be doing next week?

Yeah. When the alternative is you need to find a second part time job, but they’re constantly conflicting or you’re always up in the air. I remember the early days of working two retail jobs, and on Sunday you would find out the schedule for one. And on Monday, you’d find out the schedule for the other. And then I’d have to race to see if I could get shift coverage. And that was just me for part time jobs. But I was in school, so it didn’t hurt me. There are people that have families, but that’s their reality.

And it’s easy to forget sometimes that’s just so much millions. The sheer numbers. This one thing always boggles my mind is that if you just look at the sheer numbers, it’s very easy to lose track that, well, 300. That means that 307,000,000 people don’t have that problem. But there’s 26 million people that do. That’s a giant number. We should all be a little bit horrified. I love the great resignation from the idea. Somebody on not too long ago is Michelle Seiler Tucker, and she’s focused on helping people to build their business for sale, to how to get out of the business and make it viable for purchase.

And she goes through this whole program. And she says, the funny thing is we have these weird stats that we hear all the time that are like, 90% of startups fail and all this different stuff. And she’s like, Well, we’re actually lying when we say those things because according to the Small Business Administration for the past 24 months, in fact, 75% plus or, I forget the exact number of businesses, are thriving. And in fact, businesses that are more than 20 years old have a 90 plus percent failure rate.

So it’s actually the reverse that those of us who are like, I’m done, I’m going to build my own thing. I’m going to do my own thing. We are the next generation of statistics that haven’t been realized yet.

Well, as somebody who just took a CEO role in a company with not that many people in an early stage in market, but just barely, I am excited about that. That’s great. My odds are better than I thought they were.

Yeah. It’s an unfortunate trope that we take this old thing. It’s the same way that, its possession is nine tenths to the law and all these goofy sort of stats that we get tossed around almost like fortune cookie sayings that become wrong quickly, but they’re still printed somewhere. So we still call on them. I love this idea that, I’ve even seen through my own company that people that we hired as business development reps and BDRs or SDRs, their cut in basically dialing for dollars people, right? Like, they get on.

Like, they get on. They’re doing cold calling. And you see someone, you like, oh, he seems different, right? I couldn’t figure out this one seemed like he’s got something going on. And then I see him in LinkedIn, founding a new company. I’m like, oh, that’s neat. Then I see him launching a series A. I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s there. So what you’re creating now, Jennifer, is that small group of people. Those are also future founders that you’re probably empowering because they’ve seen that it can be done now. That’s magical to me.

Yeah, I think so, too. I think it’s exciting. We’ll see what that looks like in the future. If it becomes a competency to build a company. I don’t know how that works from a kind of macroeconomic perspective, but for sure, you do see your point around monetization, you do see so many more people thinking creatively about how to monetize themselves. So sometimes that shows up in our world as the founder of a tech company. But Twitch streaming the long tail of social media advertising. I think that it’s harder than it looks.

But there are a lot of people who are starting small businesses and figuring out how to effectively run them through social media platforms, which I also think is exciting. Upwork, Freelance. There’s a dark side to all those stories, but there’s a positive side to it as well that we’re starting to have a more distributed notion of what work looks like that not everybody has to work in a big company for the rest of their lives in a single career. We can do different things. So I think that’s exciting.

Yeah. And this is actually interesting that you brought that up, the idea that there is a dark side to many of these things as with anything. The hard part is that we’ve got such rapid access to that side of the story much faster than the good side. I remember when I was in Toronto and Uber was making its way into the city, and I was a nerd. I was like, that is really exciting. I can just get a car on my phone. It’s like, super cool. The people at my company, I worked at Raymond James at the time.

So I’ve got all these people that are running an investment firm, and they’re like, what is an Uber? They had no idea what I was talking about. I’m like, watch this. I hit a button and then Yukon XL pulls up on the road and door opens. Hop in, guys, we’re going to the party, and we would have this idea of, the disruption of it. And I was excited by the opportunity for disruption. Unfortunately, there are people that were not going to do financially well through it, and they would be facing challenges when it came to City Council trying to regulate it.

What ended up happening was you’d have, of course, very strong voices on either side. And you would hear people who would say, like, I’m a mother of three kids that are under six. I can get my mother in law to help me watch the kids from 09:00 p.m. Until two in the morning every night, and my husband takes care of them in the morning. So result, I get to work 5 hours a day and I make money and I feel safe.

You hear stories like this, it’s like she can’t work for a taxi. She can’t work at a regular job because it requires four till ten shifts. All of a sudden, we’ve got this incredible story again, counter. There are difficult sides of it as well. But like that opportunity, like Upwork and those opportunities now are there. I’m excited by it. But I also know that a lot of people don’t often see there’s risk and balance to kind of any new thing that we take on in this style.

Well, I think another way of saying that is that if you’re in the business of creating disruption, which is what Uber was in the business of doing and Airbnb and has become the North Star or the greatest aspiration for anybody who’s trying to be a founder of a tech company that matters, then the measure of your success may be that you cause so much disruption. You actually create unrest at social policy levels. Because I’ll tell you, I was at Microsoft when all that was happening, and I was traveling around the world talking to a lot of government leaders and ministries of finance in smaller countries.

And they wanted to know, like, the big question was Microsoft, what is your view on the uberization of work and technology. And what is the role of a tech company in that space? Because after all you’re creating a lot of this, and it’s actually causing a lot of unrest, especially in countries that have a little bit bigger of a social safety net and therefore more investment and a sense of responsibility for dramatic shifts in the way industry works. So it was a big thing to your point. I kept thinking, Well, this is a hard conversation, but if we just take the longer view, it’s probably going to end up in a good place because we are trying to solve the next generation or the next version of our problem.

But we’re making progress. There are as many success stories here as elsewhere. And let’s not forget that if you at all believe in free markets or in the wisdom of markets, there’s a reason why Uber was successful because they addressed an unmet need.

Right.

And it wasn’t even a technology, if you think about the components of the technology behind Uber, that’s not where the innovation was. The innovation was in the idea. And so personally, that’s my inspiration. If I want to go do something, of course, I want to be disruptive and make a big change. I’m not thinking I need to do it in technology. There are other technologists who will go be CEOs of companies that are in Cleantech or doing something crazy cool with AI. And that’s not me.

I think from an innovation perspective, you can just innovate by thinking of a fresh solution to an old problem and bring all the existing tech that already exists to play. And if you’re lucky, people get really uncomfortable. But you’re also making life better.

Yeah, because you hear it all the time. Like, these two sided markets are incredible. Their right for disruption. Next door really became a thing. It quietly was worth all of this money because it had such a vast growth. I had never heard of Nextdoor in my life. My mother-in-law. She’s like, I’ll go on Nextdoor and find something. We’re looking for a contractor. I’m like, what the heck is Nextdoor? Then I dig into it. I’m like, Good golly. This thing is worth billions, but it was just that, right?

A two sided marketplace. You had people that need to be serviced on either side. This is fantastic. Everything needs to be like, all it takes is a little bit of an idea, and you can close the gap. And what it satisfied for me was, I solved the problem. I needed to get a hose fixed and somebody else solved a problem. He’s trying to build his cottage and pay for his family. And so he found a little tiny gig that he could fit in in an afternoon.

And I didn’t need to write an ad in the paper for it. We’ve come a long way, and it’s magical that we can create this opportunity. I think I’m with you on Disruption. Sounds like a dark word sometimes, but it really means that in the same way that forests naturally will burn from that, you can only get new growth because if the forest continues to grow, it creates shade, which stops growth below the shade line. But it is hard to have that macro view when you’re micro affected.

And I think that’s what we become very overly attuned to is that this is affecting me now or someone I know now. And therefore I must have some kind of a feeling about this that’s bad.

Yeah. Really. Well said. We’re in exciting times, may you live in interesting times as the proverb sort of tongue-in-cheek says, right.

Yeah. And the thing that I really want more people to look at is how they can directly do things. And this is what I’d love to get your thought on. Jennifer, where can we, if we, as a people have, say, technology skills or something to share, where can we have a direct effect? Do you see the opportunity for us to empower people, to empower other people? I think this is the missing two sided market.

I mean, I have narrowed the list down to a few things. I think there are an endless number of things. It’s more of a mindset of do I take responsibility? What is my role in this problem? From there? There’s a lot of things that we can do. If you’re a hiring man, I’ll just throw it to you. If you are a hiring manager and I am a hiring manager now. And I’m finding myself saying, don’t be a hypocrite. Do what you think is the right thing to do.

Are you allowing yourself permission to look at novel skill sets when you’re looking for people? Because if we’re talking about a more I mean, ultimately, what we’re talking about is that we are going to live in a more digital world. And if we’re going to allow people an opportunity to survive and thrive in that world, but they don’t have a four year computer science degree, how are we going to address that? So looking at novel skill sets, allowing online certifications to be enough, looking at potential and broad capabilities rather than five years of Python and your previous job and a four year degree at this University, I think it’s hiring managers, the unsung hero of Middle America or middle management corporate America.

We really have a huge amount of influence on what the future of work looks like, even though you may not get any credit for it. So I think thinking about that, you have a very direct role to play in shaping the next generation of workers through your actions, and it will require risk, and it will require creativity, and it will require harder work. Diverse teams are harder to get to productivity as we know. So that’s something. I was always inspired. Microsoft was a fantastic company for many reasons, but also from a culture perspective, there was a culture of giving and giving back to communities.

I don’t know if it’s better or worse than any another company, but it was wonderful there. And I was so inspired that I had many hundreds of technical people on my team throughout my tenure there, and most of them if you ask them what they did in their free time, they were spending their Saturdays teaching robotics camps or coding skills and doing hackathons with kids and in their communities. And I think that is fantastic, especially when you get to underserved communities and communities of color or women or girls and STEM.

I think boys are just as important as girls, but wherever you find people who might need a little extra help getting yourself involved and I don’t think enough people are doing that. I would say also, I don’t see a lot of technologists in this policy conversation. We’re talking about getting really steeped into future of work, that would be something I’d rather see. And I guess my last point of advocacy would be for us to stop, to be very careful not to assume that technology is computing technology.

There are all sorts of solutions out there that are technology outside of our industry, and they are creating jobs. And if we can make sure that the people working on an offshore oil rig are adequately trained in the underlying technology concepts and the applications and use of their industry, that is a path forward in factories and event hospitality, health care, finance. There’s all sorts of non computing specific technology that the world needs to know how to use. And if we can give people those skills, we create a lift for everyone, so it doesn’t just have to be coding.

I think skills is such a great description of what we can empower like technology can be software, mechanical. It can be lots of different ways that we can create new ways to interact with systems. But systems isn’t always technology. There are people systems. There are very human systems that are out there that can be optimized, and I exploited to such. It sounds like a negative word, but exploited in, like, properly leveraged. So people in hospitality, even the simplest things. I used to be a shoe repair man, so I was a cobbler with a rare treat that you don’t get too many people that could say they’ve done that.

And I worked in a mall at the entrance to a subway and we had all this throughput. But the first thing I thought about was treat this like a system. How can I make sure that I can optimize the flow of people when it was rush hour, optimize the flow of shoes going through the system, right? Knowing how and teaching people who are not technologists, who I work with, how to think like a system. I taught them systems thinking. And I was at high school education.

I had no other than just my strange nerdish need to find optimization and everything. I got this, and I looked at the wall of stuff that we sold, and I started organizing. I’m like, what would entice somebody to come to the front of the store. And so I made the display differently. And I sort of built this journey through the little tiny store. And the funny thing was, six months later, we won a marketing award for a shoe repair by Cadillac Fairview, which is this big mall.

And they’re also pension fund as well. So the people that I worked with, what it taught them was that we’re amazing. We all have something we can do, something that we can reach for. And then the two guys that I worked with, went to get their own stores. And then one guy went independent, and he started his own shoe repair. That was entrepreneurship and even entrepreneurship with a paycheck just thinking about systems thinking and thinking about optimization and thinking of ways we can do that.

We created a better human experience for our customers and for each other, and no Comp-Sci degree required. It was pretty cool to see that we could pull that off.

I just literally love what you just said. That whole systems thinking approach, the idea of being able to discern a pattern out of chaos. If there was one higher level cognitive skill that I think in our education systems, we should be teaching, it’s that. And I’ve heard enough of these conversations that we’re all educators who agree, but I think they’re still in the minority. There’s this, I don’t know, this is going to be super geeky, so maybe not helpful. There’s this architect, a famous architect who I think was, I’m sure, a teacher at a University.

His name is Christopher Alexander, and he wrote this seminal book in architecture called The Timeless Way of Building. And I had a lead architect on my team at Microsoft who said, “You’ve got to read this book”, because what we don’t ever remember is that the underpinnings of anything we do when we’re designing a technology system are the very same underpinnings that architects use when they’re designing space or mechanical engineers are using when they’re designing roads and bridges. And they are all in their most fundamental elements, designed to reflect a human experience.

And it was a very big turning point for me to get clear on the fact that number one, technology is ultimately only ever an expression of our human experience, of the world around us. We just reflect ourselves in the things that we build, whether it’s a bridge or an application. But if you can start to cognitively, kind of grasp how to discern patterns, how to understand connections and relationships, then you’re much more equipped to understand the world, understand the problem you want to solve, understand where you fit in the world.

And I don’t think we do that enough. But that book, if you ever want to read a 400 page book on architecture. But he talked about how cities are built and how a house is built. A quick example. You intuitively know when the front door is in the right place of a house, we intuitively know this. We don’t need any training. And when it’s right, it’s when there is enough of a pathway to a front door. When it’s wrong, it’s where the front door is right on the street.

And the reason for that is that a house represents an intimate, personal space. And so the front door placement is a way of allowing us to slowly get closer to our space and allowing enough distance for people who are going to come into our space to do so in a slower and thoughtful space. You don’t want someone abruptly in your face in a first conversation, nor do you want them abruptly in your front door. And so it’s just a way of saying, oh, interesting. That’s why certain design elements in architecture makes sense to us.

It’s not because we know anything about architecture. It’s because we know everything about ourselves and technology is that way, too. But you can apply that thinking to anything. And I think then the world starts to get more understandable, like people get lost in the world of technology. We just feel like it’s passed us by or we don’t get it. And I’m here to say that you actually do get it, on some level. You actually totally understand it because it’s built on the same patterns that are echoed throughout your life.

And they’re human.

Yeah. This is the magical thing of seeing it. And actually, I always laugh at my favorite example is everyone smiles on it and will say, like bees when they create honeycombs, they’re perfectly hexagonal. Like, that’s amazing. It’s like bees know math. I’m like, I think you’ve got it backwards. These are patterns in nature that we’ve discovered, and we’ve built math to represent these things. And then we teach math as if that was the skill. But it’s actually the capturing of the pattern, not necessarily the learning of the task of measurement.

That was the zero to one thing that happened one day, the reason why the apple striking the head as being the sign of the start of gravity, whether real or not. As if the Apple knew what gravity was and just had to tell Isaac Newton, by the way, here you go, here’s an idea. It was a variety of things that suddenly was like, aha, but it was the recognition over years of looking for a pattern and then seeing it. And it can be very small things.

That’s why, even like, said servers in restaurants. A great friend of mine, he’s been working as a server, and he goes now like he has a SWAT team of servers. And they go into new restaurants like Gordon Ramsay’s little TV show where they like, ‘You’re doing it all wrong. And here’s how you do it’. And they teach people how to optimize the flow for customer experience, including the chefs and all these interactions. And he says, what do I teach people? He says, “I hand them this as the most bizarre book that you wouldn’t think you’d hand to a restauranteur.

But I give them The Goal by Eli Goldratt, which, if we are in technology, is the foundation of the Phoenix Project, which is the entire DevOps movement, is based out of this idea of how do we optimize flow. And Goldratt wrote this book, in I don’t even know, it was like the 60s or 70s. Talking about the manufacturing industry and lean manufacturing led to lean startups and lean development. And just like, we think that the bees know math, no. Here we are. So here’s somebody teaching a serving crew at a restaurant.

And then when it comes to taking on technology, those group of people, they start to look at this system now and go, you know, it’d be better is if this menu was done this way and they are now driving the experience for the developers and for the restauranteur and saying, like, ‘It’d be better if we put the system here’. And they are invested in their own outcome. But then, as a peer group, it raises us all to be able to just ask a question, don’t just come in and do it.

That’s the beauty. It’s like when your kids say, why, for the first time, you’re like, oh, that’s cute. And then it becomes very uncute because they ask why about everything.

So true.

But then you realize it’s beautiful because they are genuinely questioning it. And you’re like, I’m so happy you’re doing that.

It’s so good. I mean, we could just get super nerdy here, but it is a reminder that through our evolution, we are born optimized to understand the world at a very intuitive level, how that happens. Neurologists can have the nature nurture conversation that happens all the time in the AI spaces, you know, like, does the system have to start from scratch, or can it be built in with a few things to give it a head start? Because people are. Babies are born with the way we function neurologically is optimized to be a reflection of the world already around us.

And that’s why things make sense to people all the time. But it’s important because it is a mindset shift of, I start from a place if I can. The world is not foreign to me. Any manifestation of the world, technological or otherwise is not on some level foreign to me. It is simply an expression of the laws that I was born that were internalized in me the moment I was born, that we are optimized for the world.

And it’s just a matter of patience and understanding and study and observation that I can become more efficient and efficacious in that world that I start from a place that I can.

I’m curious, who are the people that you look to as more recent inspiration? Like we can always look to the philosophers of old and sort of our early teachers. But who do you see that you find is reflecting a new existence and doing it well, nowadays?

I think I look at people who are talking about this. So there’s a gentleman, Erik Brynjolfsson, who’s now at Stanford, and now I’m going to forget the name Stanford Digital, something other. He was at MIT, and he is an economist and technologist who talks about future work. And so much of what I understand is from his work. So I think everyone should follow him. But then there are the innovators, like the Elon Musk’s of the world. I know he’s overused, but the reality is there’s this charm of not getting so excited about the fact that he’s solving a big problem that I think is exactly that mindset of you have to get yourself into a space where you feel like if you just thought about things, use that kind of root cause analysis and ask a bunch of questions about why things work the way they are and uncover your assumptions about things that you actually can get to a very rich understanding of the world around you.

And from there understand how you can affect it. So I don’t follow a lot of people on a daily, weekly basis. But those are two. For the world itself, Ian Bremmer, I’m a huge Ian Bremmer fan. Nobody knows who is. He runs a group called the Eurasia Group. He talks about world and world politics, and I think he applies that kind of thinking to the realm of politics and policy and global affairs. And so I think maybe it’s more about people who I think use that mindset and apply it to whatever it is that they do that I’m inspired by.

I pulled over a book just because I literally wrote this down because I was listening to Antifragile. It’s Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Famous for Black Swan and a lot of things. And the one quote that jumped out of me says, to be a successful philosopher King, it’s better to start as a King and then become a philosopher. I find that it’s the practitioners that are truly creating the next philosophical discussions because before it was always from academia, then teaching the world how it’s supposed to work.

But I find this is an opportunity, we can turn it on its head. And much like you talked about Elon Musk. Right. First principles thinking even in the smallest format and things we do of like, why is it that we do this thing this particular way when you see people that are doing stuff in practice and they’re saying, I don’t want to go to an office, they’re saying I can become a gig worker. I can become my own landscaper. I can start my own shoe repair.

I can start a startup using no code and low code just because I’ve got a problem to solve. But it’s very much often people with lived experience that then just can take this and almost question the philosophers of old and say, I think we can do something here. I think where we’re going to see ten years from now, a lot of stuff going on that’s already happening, but it won’t be realized in public effectively until the next wave of startups kind of make it to whatever status is where we look for unicorns, or just the fact that longevity. We will see more longevity in small businesses, and people will see those new statistics.

And that’s the future of all of us. Actually, this is a fun part when you’re looking at the future of things, and we’ve clearly gone through very literally a Black Swan event with what’s gone through with the pandemic and what’s still continuing with the pandemic, of course. But are the things that you looked at five years ago that either are holding true or maybe even were accelerated because of the most recent 18 months that we’ve gone through.

I have to just take a second to go back to five years ago. So I’m literally like, wait, what year was it five years ago, 2017. Where was I then? I think that my understanding of how problems need to get solved on a small level kind of back at the very beginning of this conversation. That the boundaries of a problem matter that actually has a relationship to this whole democratization distribution of technology knowledge, because when you let everyone solve their own small problem, I think there’s a bigger aggregate effect than when you assume that only a few organizations or there’s a real centralization of problem solving capability and all the money and power and intention flows to that.

And I was seeing that in the context of a lot of the digital transformation projects that we were running, and if you go work for the big Fortune 50 at some level, you’ve got to get C-level people to sign up for projects that are extremely so expensive that the board has to approve. And they have very dubious ROI because it’s an innovation project. How do you know it? It’s an experiment. So it’s not that you don’t see it at that level, but they only work when they were inspired by people who are actually out in the field, whatever the field is in, whatever industry trying to get very specific about a problem.

And that was when I realized, oh, my gosh. The democratization of skills is important because you need to empower everyone to solve their small problem, and that’s going to create a shift in power. Right knowledge and efficacy being power if you let people solve problems and you give them technology, then they’ll do it. And of course, remember, I have a son who can Twitch and all that sort of stuff has been in my house for a while. So I’ve kind of seen that, too. So I’d say that would be the pattern that has stayed true, and I think it’s going to continue to shift.

I didn’t know it was going to look quite like this, though.

Having kids. I’ve got four kids and I’ve got 20, 18 and 5 and 2. So I’ve got quite a range of things that I’ve seen, and I sort of laugh now, people that have young kids, especially that we all know about sort of the YouTubers and these Blippi and Ryan’s Toy review. And there’s all these very popular things. And there’s one kid, who you look at his videos five years ago, and it was just basically filmed on an iPhone, not even a good iPhone, but an iPhone seven or six, whatever it was at the time.

And this year, he was in Fortune reporting 26 and a half million dollars in revenue.

Wow.

He’s eleven years old. There is very unicorn-like capabilities in exploiting these. Finding the pattern, exploiting the system that allows you access to uncover and use that pattern. And that’s kind of cool. The economy is so different now, but I think I’m like you. I like the democratization, and I think the last 18 months, though, not anybody in the world wouldn’t trade away. What we’ve had to go through as a society. What we have to do is find the best of what we did. And I think the great resignation startups moving to everybody’s mindset, people realizing you can just do things on the Internet and you can begin to generate revenue.

It’s a new economy, it’s a new world. The one thing we didn’t get a chance to talk to, but it’s still early on. So I’m going to have you back because I want to get your first few months of experience. So I have to say Congratulations in advance that as this is out and people are listening. You are the CEO of a new company and you’ve been involved, so, in the last couple of minutes here and I apologize. I don’t want to box you in, but just as a bit of a teaser to what’s coming up next for you, Jennifer.

Well, we’re going to go through a big rebranding renaming event, so I’m hesitant to talk about too many of the details here, but it’s a company that’s in this future workspace from an industry taxonomy perspective. You put us in the HR tech space, but I’m concerned about workers that are not in the tech industry. I’m concerned about workers who are not on LinkedIn, and I’m interested in how we can within the existing ecosystem of how people find work, which is through staffing, agencies and employers. How can we give people access to a proactive profile building capability that allows them to find work to go out and find work?

They advertise to agencies and employers based on the profile they build for themselves. So I got the advanced certification. I was making $18 an hour. My profile has changed. I have really great five star ratings from my last two employers. I’ve got a few verified skills, and now I think I could earn at least $23 an hour. How do you do that? What’s the platform in the marketplace that you build to do that? So the company is already kind of in that space and a little bit narrower because product market fit is important.

But that’s the aspiration of the company. And ultimately, I think it’s providing that LinkedIn active profile building capability to the rest of America, and then hopefully the rest of the world.

That’s amazing. And Congratulations on the big move. And I’m excited about the future there, inevitably, with you as part of the leadership team and then heading it up. They’ve got success ahead for them. And so it’ll be exciting to watch. So it’d be great to be able to see post rebrand. I know that’s always an interesting challenge for any organization, so it’s always fun that we get to be secretively leading up to it. But this will be, actually the said timing, as it were, this will probably be pretty close to when you go live.

So I’m excited about that. Jennifer, if anybody wants to reach you, of course, well, I have links to your website. And where can folks find you if they want to get connected?

Well, I think by the time this publishes, I’ll have a whole bunch of new contact information, but I am a big fan of LinkedIn. I use it and I’m on it all the time, and people reach out to me all the time there, and I always reply, so that would be probably the single best way to find me.

Excellent. You’re better human than I am. I’m the worst, because the thing I get the most at these days is people trying to sell me explainer videos on LinkedIn is particularly good for prospecting. And for whatever reason, once you have a very public voice, people see you as a great prospecting target for a lot of things.

Thank you. But I’m so grateful for that platform, so I really take it seriously. I do try to kind of be somewhat active. I post all my podcasts there. Not that everyone wants to listen to me. And I just try to be useful on the platform. And I try to be grateful for the people who reach out there because you never know any. Of course, there’s lots of sales pitches, but that’s okay.

And like you said, I’m really mindful of the effect that it can have. And really, the last job that I took, it was kind of funny. After I was at the company about three months, the human resources team, they phoned me up and they said, hey, Eric, we realized that we don’t have a resume of you. We’re supposed to have one on file. So can you do us a favor? Can you write up and send me a resume? Because that is the future of work for a lot of people that there is no more filing the CV and sending with a cover letter.

It was, somebody sort of found me on LinkedIn and they followed my blog and we met an event and I interviewed with a bunch of people. And the offer comes it was a very different world. But yet the old classic practices like, we’re supposed to have a resume on file somewhere just to say that we looked at it, which is crazy.

I know it’s kind of crazy. And when you get into the lower end of the wage scale, resumes are just not even necessary because you get people early in career. So I will say one of the features that we have is this video capability. So kind of like TikTok where I can film myself answering questions and in three minutes, a recruiter or a hiring manager can get a very good sense of. Can I show up? Can I talk? What have I done? What’s the look and feel?

What’s my authenticity? Am I real? I’m not even my actual person. So I think that’s the future, especially for a lot of those jobs where you just need to make sure, I’m going to be serving people. You need to make sure I can serve people.

Yeah, that’s right. I am very excited to dig in on this one. So there you go. Once the new name is unveiled, we can have you back on. We can do a deep dive into what you and the team are doing.

I would love that. Thank you. Such a fun conversation.

Great. Thank you very much.

Alright. Thanks, Eric.

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Rob Carpenter is the CEO and Founder of Valyant AI, the first Artificially Intelligent “Digital Employee” to work directly alongside employees in customer facing roles. Valyant’s AI “Holly” works in fast food restaurants to greet customers at the drive-thru post, answer questions and take food orders. The revolutionary nature of this technology is that it pulls AI from being a hidden back-office tool, to something that feels like a real staff member, which humanizes a brands personality and brings the AI
experience front and center to a physical location.

We discuss the power of their technology, the ethics of AI and the effect on jobs, plus how to empower people with technology and in the startup ecosystem.  Another great chat that is a must-listen for founders everywhere.

Check out Valyant AI here: https://valyant.ai/

Connect with Rob on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-carpenter/ 

Thanks for a great chat, Rob!

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Hey there. Welcome to the DiscoPosse Podcast, and this is one of those fun ones because you actually get to hear the really fun technical snafu that happens right in the middle. But it doesn’t cut into the conversation, which is one you’re going to enjoy from Rob Carpenter. He’s the founder and CEO of Valyant AI, which is something that’s really, really cool because he talks about the idea of AI as a digital employee. This is especially being used in the area of conversational AI in fast food ordering.

So really, really cool. In fact, I bet you’ve already used one and you don’t even know it. And speaking of conversation, you want to have a great conversation. Let’s talk about data protection. I know it seems an exciting some days, but you know why it’s unexciting because you need to make sure that you’ve got Veeam to protect your assets. And that means everything from your On-premises world to your Cloud to your digitally native experiences that you’re running in Microsoft Teams, Office 365 and there’s many more neat things that are coming, so hang on tight.

You’ll see lots of good stuff. But let’s save the conversation because no one wants to have that Monday morning conversation. What app to the app? It went away this weekend and we can’t get it back. That won’t be a problem if you use Veeam, so go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. They are the leader in data protection and real true anywhere, always on availability for your application. So get it done. Go to vee.am/DiscoPosse. See what it’s all about. Speaking of protection, remember that as you’re moving around and you’re on the road, or even if you’re just trying to protect your identity and protect your data in transit, the best thing you do is use a VPN.

I know I use one, especially for not just day to day stuff, but being able to make sure I can do testing against my services from different parts of the world to see what the behavior is and what latency is. So whether you’re an application tester or whether you just want to make sure that you keep your identity safe, you can use ExpressVPN. I’m a fan of the team and love the product. So the easy way to do this, go to tryexpressvpn.com/DiscoPosse.

I make it really super easy by just naming it after me, but go check it out. And one of the places you should make sure you do it. Don’t go to coffee shops, get your own coffee, go to diabolicalcoffee.com and while you’re doing that, strap in. This is Rob Carpenter, the founder and CEO of Valyant.AI, and this is an absolute must listen. He’s a fantastic human. We talk about EO, we talk about Valyant, and we talk about a lot of things. Enjoy.

Perfect. My name is Rob Carpenter, the founder and CEO of Valyant AI. And you are listening to the DiscoPosse podcast.

Alright, I feel like I should have, for this one, I should have your platform introduce us, Rob. Because first of all, I’ve listened to a lot of content, so I am excited by what we’re about to discuss. This is something that’s near and dear to a space of study that I’ve been in and looking more around the business side of it and the idea of conversational AI, I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of great folks on the show who are in the space and it’s just so exciting.

It brings interesting emotions when we talk about the advantages and what the potential displacements are. So there’s a lot of really good stuff that I’m going to love hearing from you, in your real first world and first person view of it. So before we get going, Rob, if you want to give yourself an intro for people that are new to you.

Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it. So just new to me. I’m originally from Alaska, so I grew up right on the Bering Sea at the top of the Aleutian chain. Probably one of the more random background you’ll hear out of somebody.

That’s a first. That’s a first. Definitely a win.

And we literally have like grizzly bears roaming around in our backyard and we could go out and fish from the bank and catch 20, 30, 40 pound king salmon. So this is a very interesting life, but very early on, I really had a big interest towards entrepreneurship and starting businesses. I just kind of looked at the people that are living the life that I want to live, other than astronauts, what do they do? And almost every one of them were entrepreneurs, people who had built and founded companies.

So I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and started to kind of get an idea of how a different part of society work that I didn’t fully understand and ended up getting an undergrad degree in entrepreneurship. Ended up in 2010 out in Denver, Colorado, got an MBA with a specialization in enterprise technology management, founded a mobile application development company, did my first M&A transaction ever. Acquiring a company in India took a year and we literally run into problems because we are using the wrong type of ink on our paperwork.

So there’s a tremendous opportunity, grew that company to seven figures in revenue. But like anybody listening to this podcast, I mean, service based businesses are just really hard. You are constantly out hunting and killing, and you’re only as good as your current project portfolio that you have. And it was exhausting. And so when I ultimately came up with the idea for Valyant AI, I was just really excited to transition into a product based business. And so I’ve been running this company now for five years is making that transition.

Wow. And this is a great place to start, Rob, because by the time you can say what you’re doing. You have to have been doing it for a while when you’re in the product world, especially one that’s in the area of AI, and you’ve chosen your specific, targeted customer niche, which is the right thing to do, because too many people, you can get big eyes at the buffet, as they say. It’s very easy to think of too many use cases. But five years in now, when was kind of the first time you felt like you could really go to the world and say, we’re here?

Like this is something that takes a while to develop to even get to that MVP kind of customer ready environment, right?

I mean, you talk to anybody that’s in the conversational AI space, and there’s a little bit of puffy in your chest for a few minutes. Then there’s a little bit of actual bonding, and within 20 minutes, you’re in a therapy session. It’s amazing how quickly you end up in that space. It’s hard. And I think we’ve been at it, like I said, for five years, we’ve seen a lot of companies come and go. We’ve had our own serious kind of soul searching. Do we need to look after another industry?

And I think conversational AI and maybe to some degree, AI in general is just so hard because you can do proof of concepts or really simple demo fairly quickly. I mean, literally, in a weekend, you could put a demo together. But then when you actually try to bring a product to market, it is just crushingly and painfully hard to get to a true, fully functional, especially for what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to emulate an employee. I mean, it’s hard enough to get Google Home to understand my wife when she asks for a music request.

Let alone something that as capable as a human. When did I think we were going to be there? I mean, at any point you ask me, I’m like we’re three months away. We are so close. Just another three months and then another three months and then another three months and a painful statement that has always stuck out in my mind. It was either the CTO or the CEO of SoundHound said, it takes three years to realize you’re ten years away.

And so I desperately hope we’re not ten years away now we are in market. We have a product. We are automating orders today, but like anybody in the AI space, we do have human in the loop backup support. And so the question really is, how fast can we reduce the reliance on those humans in the loop and get to a point where it’s just pure AI without any outside support?

This is the real interesting thing. And when we talk about what it is that you’re doing, it’s an experience that will be viscerally understood by people because they’re going to know what it’s like being on the other side of that little box. So Rob if you want. Let’s give a bit of a walk through of what Valyant is doing and where your first customer use cases are.

Yeah. So when we initially came up with the idea for what became Valyant and kind of early on, knew we wanted to pick one industry. I mean, it’s good conventional wisdom. Pick up each head, own it, and then strike out into other industries from a place of strength. And so I sat down. I kind of came up with my own rubric of ten to 15 categories and then identified roughly 20 different industries. We were at that time a future solution in search of a problem. So it’s like, where could this technology be applied?

And so we ultimately settled on the restaurant industry. Now there are some cons to the restaurant industry that people are familiar with in terms of low margin, a lot of price pressure, things like that with things like point of sale systems, there’s a lot of pressure and commoditization. So there are some challenges to the restaurant industry. But relative to some other big market verticals, like take retail. For example, the nice thing about restaurants is you tend to have a more limited domain set, especially as you look at quick serve restaurants or fast food.

You might have 75 to 150 different menu items, a couple of permutations on there, and then maybe a few hundred other key terms, catchup, fork napkin, things like that. But if it’s a very limited domain set. And although I don’t always agree with everything, Kai-Fu Lee says, if you read this book, AI Superpowers. He talks a lot about the importance of kind of a vertical integration approach, at least in these early stages of AI. And I do fully agree with that. And so we decided that restaurant was really where we’re going to make our mark.

And so we’ve pretty much been super focused on it in five years. And we’ve turned a lot of companies way and a lot of other verticals. And we’ve just tried to stay hyper, hyper focused on this one key space. And then for us, specifically, what we look at, where we see the most demand from the market is around drive-thru automation. So there was interest prior to COVID, but over the year and a half of the kind of first round of COVID drive through became one of the most important areas inside of the entire US restaurant industry.

And you’re talking to $865,000,000,000 per year market. A lot of the quick of restaurants we talked to, they were up 30% year over year. So you look at how painful it’s been for sit down, you know, high-end, fast casual. Those restaurants all suffered under COVID, fast food boom. I mean, they did huge business, and 90% to 95% of that business was done through drive through. So it was just serendipitous place for us to be having three years of kind of wind in our back at the point that all this came about.

And I was on a call this morning with the restaurant operator, and they’re already seeing another big surge in terms of demand for drive through as we go into kind of the Delta variant of COVID. So we hyper focus on that one specific use case. We manufacture our own hardware. We stick it inside the restaurant. It hooks into the technology that the employees use for their headsets to talk to the customers in the drive through. We currently process everything in the cloud. The goal would be in a year to move towards edge computing so we can do everything on site, even when the Internet goes down.

And then we have our own proprietary speech to text engine, NLP engine. And then what I refer to as the natural language generator or just kind of more vaguely, just the logic engine. It’s kind of a common sense brains of the system. So we’ve developed all those systems in-house to specifically address this one use case.

There’s so much good stuff I could do an hour on each subset it to you. So first of all, just the fact that we refer to QSR. I love this quick serve restaurants because fast food is like a pejorative at this point because you just think of just negative connotation of food. But as an industry like you said, the address of a market is fantastically huge, especially now that people are moving to this idea. They want to get out of their house, but they don’t want to be sitting in a restaurant in a risk situation.

So it’s kind of a really good mix. But quick serve restaurants like you said, they they’ve got a specific target, and it’s a very repeatable thing. And the first thing that I think of and I know people are listening and thinking, isn’t this going to get rid of somebody wearing that headset? And that’s why I want you to allay those fears, because I know a lot of my own reasoning that I do not believe that. But first hand, you’re in this, that’s got to be, I’ll say, a common if not a top objection when you talk about the value of what you can do with Valyant.

You know, and for whatever it’s worth Interestingly, when we talk to end customers, employees, the brands, some of them bring it up. They’re generally not worried about it. It tends to be all of the media interviews, and it’s about 100% that it comes up. So I’m glad we’re addressing it right out of the gate, because it is a very important topic for us to touch base on. So specifically, what we’re talking about right now is labor repurposing. So the person that’s in that order taker position. And this was something that I learned along the way, 90% of all QSR restaurants across the country that order taker is also doing sometimes three or four additional jobs to order taking.

So it’s not a dedicated position. So really, what we’re doing is we are automating a task, and that task may take that order taker 50% of their time, but they still have to process payment. They still need to fill up soft drinks. They still need to clean up after spills. They’re being pulled in multiple different directions simultaneously. We talked to one at a top seven QSR brand and their order taker on averages, doing five jobs. And so the critical thing for them is like we just need to automate this task because that person’s life is really hard.

Turnover is really high, and there are only certain subsets of their employees that they can even put into that position. So it’s a really critical challenge for them to figure out how to backstop all those employees and just make their lives better. That, I think is a kind of microeconomic view of the situation. If you also step back and look macroeconomically at the service and specifically restaurant industry, there’s 1.4 million unfilled positions in the United States today. So even if we were taking a whole position, which were not just task automation, there’s still not even the people to do those jobs.

I mean, you go anywhere and you’re going to see help on these times on pretty much every single business. Look at the airline industry, especially as our economy that starts to recover over the summer. It was a nightmare. I mean, look at Spirit Airlines, right? I mean, those guys practically went bankrupt because they had to cancel, like, three weeks worth of flights because they just literally didn’t have people to work. Alaska Airlines, they’re near and dear to my heart, they were forcing executives in Seattle to go out and do baggage handling work on the Tarmac executive.

You’re talking of VPs of marketing or chief operating officers hauling luggage because the labor shortage was so acute for them. So we’re really helping these restaurants because they cannot find the labor and on average, within the industry turnovers 150% to 300% per year. So you have a really hard time finding somebody. When you can find someone, you’re refilling that position one to three times per year. And if they do stick, that person’s being asked to handle five different jobs simultaneously. And that is a perfect application of AI or, more generally, probiotics.

When you don’t have enough people to go around, the job is monotonous. It’s dangerous. It’s boring. Automate it. Let humans focus on the things they’re better at than doing something that is just a repetitive task over and over and over again. How’s that?

That’s perfect. Number one, you’ve affirmed my belief in that we are not removing roles were, in fact, elevating people into more opportune roles. And I love that such perfect examples. And thank you for bringing numbers to it as well. We can see the impact there. It’s frightening, right? People think of this idea that we’re like, of course, last night, as we’re recording this, the news hit that we’re creating the Tesla Bots. And so immediately there’s this, somehow that Elon is looking to get rid of the citizens of Earth and replace them all with robots.

And it’s, like you said, it’s such a media frenzy reaction, just because it’s something to talk about that they know can trigger someone to listen. And I guess when you’re in that business, that is your that’s your business is getting people to listen, getting people to read. And these kind of tropes are so easy to latch onto. But like you said, when it comes down to it, the people who you’re talking to that are going to use these systems in their own environment that they’re working in, they’re like, thank you, Rob. Bring it on.

Yeah. And I think, too. I mean, we got to get a little more nuanced with things as well, because the innovation has always been part of human society. It’s woven into the fabric of the American psyche. What we need to be concerned about, which is why I think this question is important, and we should talk about it is the pace of innovation. If we look and we step back and we say 100 years ago, turn to the last century, something like 95% percent of the entire US Labor Force was involved in the agrarian industry.

And I don’t know about you, but I really love going into my office and sitting at my quiet desk with a warm cup of coffee or playing Ping pong with my team or grabbing a beer for a happy hour versus being out and working with livestock or out picking vegetables. Not that there’s anything wrong with those types of jobs, and that’s obviously critical to our survival as a species. But if you look at where we are today, it’s something like 1.3 or 1.4% of the entire US Labor Force is still involved in the agrarian industry.

So we have more food than we’ve ever produced in the history of human civilization. And we went from 95% of people involved in that to one and a half percent. That is innovation. Innovation is not bad. That has made a lot of people’s lives a lot better. I think, where we have to get concerned. And I think this was maybe a bigger fear five years ago. But it’s just the pace of innovation too quick, because there’s a natural attrition of jobs every year and the creation of new jobs, like, 20 years ago, who would have thought social media manager would be such a critical position and how it is. So like that’s innovation.

If the pace of innovation is too fast, that’s when it creates problems, because then you’re losing too much of the workforce before you can replace it with new jobs. And I think that big fear does come down to some element of conversational. Ai, automating, service based work and white collar jobs. And then I think the other big part of it was everything going on with self driving cars, for example, like truck driving. That’s the number one profession in 26 States in the United States. So if all that gets automated and then all customer service work gets automated, that’s a big problem.

But going back to the Tesla Bot and what we’ve seen over the last five years in these kind of AI updates of where self driving, we’re still not even at level four. So things that we thought would be easy. Elon Musk was promising we would have it in 2017, still aren’t even really ready in much of a real way for a beta consumption. And so I think that’s maybe alleviated some of those concerns. Are these things coming? Yeah, absolutely. Will there be self driving cars in the decade? We thought it out.

But by stretching out the timeline for innovation, I’m actually significantly less concerned now because, yes, jobs will be destroyed. But the new jobs are going to be created while we wait for things like self driving car to hit level five and actually be able to work in a place like Alaska where there’s snow everywhere and there’s nothing really tangible for the cameras and the light are to really play off of. So we’ll get there. It’s going to stretch out a lot more than we thought it would five years ago.

And that’s going to give us plenty of time, I think, to replace those jobs with new jobs.

And in a way, you bring an interesting point, I think, isn’t the fact that we talk about the potential innovation. It becomes an antibody to the removal of value of the current human counterparts that are doing the stuff, the fact that we have these discussions and we talk about the potential to reach the specific areas that we’re aiming for, that we’re not there yet. It gives the industry and humans a chance to kind of go, if this is coming, we better start to innovate processes and companies.

And the way that we work like, I’ve never known anybody that automated themselves out of a job. They’ve automated themselves into a better opportunity almost every time. There are, very certainly, some specific roles that, like mechanical robotic process automation. That type of stuff did replace some things. But again, if we looked at the numbers, it’s such a small portion of the global industry and the ones that it is. In fact, it was literally killing people to do this work.

Right.

This is stuff that shouldn’t have been done by humans. We just had no choice because we weren’t born with the machines. So that’s an interesting thing.

I think the perfect case study for this is right at 100 years old. And that was Henry Ford and the Model T. And he was one of the very first kind of industrialists to bring in this idea of automation and mass manufacturing. And when you have one manufacturing line and you start to automate 20% or 30% of that mass manufacturing line. People get scared. And he had employees. He had family members. He had people from the community that were literally picketing outside of his factories because automation was destroying jobs.

This is 100 years old. And what happened is that by automating things, he was able to bring down the price of the Model T so that more people could afford it. So then what happened? More people bought it. So he opened a second line and a third and a fourth and a fifth and a sixth. And before you know it, you’re employing exponentially more people than you ever employed before. And you’re doing it because you’re becoming more efficient with your use of capital. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen here.

But that doesn’t mean there’s still not concerned in the short term, just like there was 100 years ago when people were picketing out in front of this manufacturing facilities.

The other thing as well is the acceptance of the new innovation becomes a baseline pretty easily the point leading up to it seems like a forever moment. Like my example, actually, I used this in a presentation recently at work, and I said, like, you know, Elon went to first principles when it came to space travel. And we said, like this, everybody told him it couldn’t be done. It’d be silly to do it, just even in that specific one area. He then said, I’m going to land the rocket, not just going to send it up.

I’m going to land it on a launch pad. And they said, this is crazy. It can’t be done. And then one step further, he does it repeatedly. And now Jeff Bezos goes to the edge of space, and he lands the Blue Origin rocket nose up. And not a single person said anything about it, right?

They were just like, yeah, that can be done now.

Yeah. Like, it was like, if it hadn’t landed that way, people have been like, whatever dude. They would have been angry at him. And so it allowed us to move the conversation to something new, which was okay now that we can do this repeatedly, what can we do with this availability of technology? And now this is. And there’s an interesting thing as well. People said, well, we’re lining in the pockets of Elon as an example. And look, I’m not going to go. I don’t want to have a discussion of the weight of the billionaire or whatever the challenge there.

The result of the work that they’ve done has resulted in the US government saving a $150,000,000,000 in spending while still sending objects to the ISS now. So then it has had a significant benefit to the entire, every citizen of the United States has benefited as a result of that. So it’s definitely there.

And this is going to be a whole new world for innovation, right? I don’t really even think it’s a question of if anymore, within a few years, the SpaceX, Heavy Falcon Rockets, they’re going to be landing people on the moon. They’re going to be landing people on Mars. And by doing that, you’re going to need habitation, you’re going to need food, you’re going to need water, you’re going to need rocket propellant, and SpaceX will do some portion of those. And the companies that come behind them will do some portion of those.

But they’re not going to do all of them. They probably won’t do more than a few fractions of single digits of everything that has to be done. And so it literally opens up entire new worlds from an innovation standpoint, from a work standpoint, from an economic opportunity standpoint. And so, hey, are they automating parts of a rocket manufacturing process that used to be manual? Yeah. Is that reducing a few jobs that used to be there? Yeah, for sure. But they are now producing dozens and eventually hundreds more Rockets that could have ever been done before.

And through that process, opening up a whole new world of economic activity. Absolutely. That goes back to that kind of more macro economic view that economies are dynamic. You were meant to automate stuff. That’s been part of civilization since we invented the wheel that allowed us to do things faster and more efficiently, and that will continue to be part of our future.

So looking at, I apologize, my video is suddenly decided. Speaking of the amazing thing of technology, and yet somehow a simple laptop can’t keep up with humans and what.

I’ve been there. I get it.

What I love about what you and the team are doing, Rob is again, very quickly jumping to the human value and impact that you can have with what you can do. So conversational AI has had its really, really interesting adoption in a lot of different areas, and some people didn’t even realize like it starts mostly in text. But the voice conversational AI, where have you seen the challenges and the real wins in bringing this product to market?

Yeah, I think the core of the challenges I’ve kind of learned the space over the last almost half decade now is sort of the daisy chain effect. Conversational AI has multiple critical path things that all have to happen in a row. And if any one single element in that process has degradation, then everything after it is degraded. So let’s say just using kind of easy numbers here, you have five critical processes within a conversational AI system. If every one of those systems is just degraded by 5%, take speech to text.

If you have a speech to text engine that was 95% accurate, you were talking about a world class product at that point, but you still have 5% degradation from a 100. If you have four things after that for a total of five and each one is accurate, you’re still talking about an end result that’s wrong 25% of the time. So you have to have every single one of these elements operating at 98, 99. 99 and a half percent accurate so that you can achieve something like 90% total success of orders, in our case, over the course of the entire interaction.

And so that’s the extremely hard problem. None of it can be just good or good enough. Literally, every one of your core elements basically has to be world class or close to world class to get to a point where you are automating the vast majority of the orders that flow through a system. So I think in a nutshell, is the hardest part of building a conversational AI platform.

Yeah. And this is the challenge. Like you said, the demos are easy to spin up when it goes well, it’s easy to get to a very simple MVP, but I’ll go back if anybody’s watch Silicon Valley sort of a famous thing, and it comes up with this visual. We can take pictures of food, and I can show you what the food is. And he takes a picture of the hotdog, and it says ‘hotdog’, and they’re like, yeah, we did it. And then the next one is not hotdog.

So if it works, it works well. But then very quickly the edge cases become core use cases, especially in conversation, because it’s such a nuanced thing to do with.

Yeah, the entire product is edge cases. There really is no happy path in these types of environments where we’ve seen the most customer facing conversational AI adoption is when it’s really like limited term or just one meaning you ask Alexa a question and it answers and you’re done. And for those guys, they’re effective on kind of world classes. They can do one round of context follow up. Our average interaction with the customer has a minimum of ten, and we can have some that are 20 or 30 in terms of asking, answer, asking and carrying on a more true type of conversation of what you would expect from an employee.

And so you have to carry the context through from all of that. You have to carry the nuance through from every one of those. Every single time you request a new response from the customer, you are opening yourself up to an edge case because they might say something like “nah”. You and I, we understand “nah”, that means no. But let’s say simultaneously the customer said that kind of quiet or their car radio is on or like we had last week, there was a leaf blower in the background.

And suddenly when speech to text treads to transcribe ‘nah’ that comes back as ‘yeah’. So you have in one moment completely inverted what the customer said and you might be 15 turns into a conversation. And the AI is an 100% accurate. You missed one small word. And now suddenly you may have failed the entire interaction of that conversation and taking the conversation off of a cliff, basically. So it’s an entire business of edge cases and the cliffs surrounding the start and end of the conversation are steep and painful if you don’t get what the customer is saying perfectly.

You brought up a really great point and we talked about the nuance. Even we say, we all speak English, everybody I should say. Even that just the fact the arrogance that I would automatically go to we all speak English. What the challenges is the we’ve got sort of dialect. We’ve got accents, nuances of the human language to then add it to the fact that you’re ordering things that are called like, can I get a double Foogly Moogly? This is not even easy stuff to be able to translate, right?

No. And that’s still on the speech to text side. I mean, there’s other things like, can I have the two for four? It’s like, okay, well, what’s the logic that goes into that? Is there two chili dogs count for that? Is the two the price or the quantity? Is four the price or the quantity? And so there’s innumerable number of amalgamation of how these restaurants will package their food and their condos together and allowing the system to intelligently understand the core basis or principles, rules in every one of those situations.

And then in something like, can I have the two for four? Basically, each of those words in there are super critical. And so if you just miss one word or mistranscribe it, it can wildly change the output of what the customer was actually intending to say to you.

And just even, such a great example is it two four four? Or two for four? Like, there are so many words sets, which I even find that I’ve tried to use speech-to-text with simple dictation. And it just creates this giant run-on sentences. And I often thought there’s got to be some way, some shortcut that can be used to say period, comma.

But when you say them, it writes out the word and you can see. And then what happens is the frustration drives me to feel that the tech is failing, which I know it’s an unfortunate human reaction, but it’s actually, I just haven’t figured out how to best interact with it.

Right. We are seeing I will say that element getting better. I think this job and building this company would have been so much harder, bordering on impossible technology aside, a decade ago, purely from a customer psychology standpoint, that was right around the time that we started seeing Siri, Alexa, and Google Home start to enter into the marketplace. Fast forward today, and there’s hundreds of millions of these units sold. And so everybody in one capacity or another has interacted with one of these systems or likely heard somebody else interacting with one of these systems.

And that is helping to start to kind of train customers a little bit more like in normal communication. We’re extremely fast. We tend to be a lot more vague. There tends to be a lot of nuance. It tends to be a lot of emotion and internal Ty and body language that all feed into our communication with each other. And I think people, as they’ve now gotten more and more used to interacting with these systems, they tend to be a little bit more halting, tend to be a little bit more direct, and ideally, if they can be a little bit louder and a little bit more patient, every one of those systems helps the accuracy of the system in terms of understanding customers.

Such a good point. And so this is a funny story based on that. The platform that I’m recording on, it’s called SignalWire. I actually had Sean Heiney, who is their chief product officer on this. Sean was great. And I started using the platform. One of the advantages is that it allows you to actually stream multiple sources of audio simultaneously, actually multiplexing audio.

The advantage to it is if you have four people on or if you and I talk over each other, we can talk over each other and it continues versus the, I’ll say, other platforms have the problem of digital cut off where as soon as one person starts to talk and then you and then they both start talking again. So this platform gets rid of that. However, when it starts to happen, we naturally accounts for it, like the people I talked to will stop talking if they hear me talk at the same time. I’m like, no, no, no. I was just sort of adding color to it like.

We can all talk at the same time. It’s actually fine.

We’ve learned to behave within systems that are common now. And like you said, no one really doubts. Hey, Siri, do this thing or hey, Google, do a thing. We’ve actually kind of, we’ve normalized it, which is kind of nice.

Yes, I would agree.

Now, on the technology side, you’ve talked, and if you don’t mind, I’d love to dive in. You talked about currently, of course, you’re sending data to the Cloud. That’s the easiest way to do this because you want to make sure is it the most computing powers there create the most viable centralization. It’s a great platform approach. But you talked about the move eventually to do more stuff at the edge. And that is important because we’re going to see more. You know, first of all, just the risk of power loss and data loss and other things could impact it.

But then you really open the doors to interesting, unique use cases once you can have a real full edge presence.

Yeah, it’s really critical. And we’re finding, at least within our industry, there’s definitely a lot of concerns from these restaurants. Some are in major Metropolitan areas and have fantastic high speed Internet, and a lot are in really rural areas with really bad Internet connections and even where we are now almost ready to go into 2022. There’s still restaurants in some cases, I know that are on dialog, and so in those situations, it really precludes you from being able to your product to market if you don’t have it capable on the edge.

So where we’re at right now is we just are starting in the more Metropolitan, more well connected areas, but it opens up basically the entire rest of the industry. If you can push it to the edge and you wait until the middle of the night and you push downloads and updates to the system and things like that to keep it current. And it’s a lot more from a kind of a device. It software management when you’re so distributed like that on the edge versus just having one core platform that’s in the cloud, that’s significantly easier to interact with and to modify, but at least for us and for our industry in our use case, that edge capability is going to be really critical for us in the future.

The other thing that’s interesting is as a founder and knowing that you’ve got to stay focused, how did you maintain that? You talked about, at the start, that you’ve actually had to actively turn away folks that have brought lots of hats? Rob, you’re doing this. What if you just did here? How do you maintain that real Pragmatic approach, especially not just because of you, but your entire team has to ultimately stay aligned on that vision of what you need to get done first before you branch out.

Yeah. I mean, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard, and I think this is a problem that every entrepreneur and business owner faces and kind of determining their model, which is, are we going to have one sort of generic system that’s going to work well or work okay in a lot of different industries? Or do we just want to have an absolutely best in class product, but in the foreseeable future, it’s just hyper focused on one space. And I’m not actually a engineer. So I definitely come more from a business development operations type of background, and it’s hard to turn away a 500 billion dollar company that wants to talk to you about voice AI capabilities.

Generally, what I’ve done, which has been helpful for me, is I just throw out high barriers to entry for them, because for these big companies, it takes nothing to waste a startup time. This could be interesting. Let’s see if all those guys over there want to go and work on this for free or, nearly free for six months or a year, and then we’ll see if we want to do anything with it. So it’s been a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy to stay focused, because I have taken those meetings.

I have talked to those companies, but then generally, I just throw out high price points to them. And then in the back of my mind, I’m like, okay, well, if they pay this, then I can go higher. One, two, three people. They can focus on adapting our platform because at the end of the day, it’s just software, right? So it can be adapted to any industry. But it takes focused time and energy and concentration. And in pretty much every one of those situations, then the companies come back and said, like, okay, well, it’s not that big of a priority for now, and it works out in that way.

And it’s a way where we’re not rejecting them or leaving a bad feeling with them. We just kind of lay out the case, the background, the reason it goes into it and then throw a big figure in front of them and say, hey, if you pay this, we’ll do it. And I think especially right now within the conversational AI space. There’s so many people working on it. There’s so much going on. I think there’s a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of real technology, there’s a lot of hype, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors.

And so it’s very choppy waters for companies to figure out how they want to navigate this process. And so by throwing that barrier up, it’s pretty much kind of kept everybody out and allowed us to just stay on our sort of happy path from a go to market strategy. That’s just how it made sense for me.

Yeah, it’s great. And when you talk about that, there’s a lot of folks that are talking about the space, and they have technologies versus like yourself, where you’ve literally chosen, you’ve laser focused on a use case, you’re delivering it, you’re growing with Lighthouse customers. You’re doing that really, really strong methods of don’t do B until you’ve succeeded at A versus people that are like talking about A, B and C, and then maybe dabble in D. But they can create a lot of noise for you.

I don’t want to call it competition, but how do you do noise reduction against that stuff? Because eventually your customers will be like, hey, Rob, some other people are approaching us because of course, you go to Google and you look up Valyant. And the first thing that comes up is not Valyant because somebody’s buying ad space above you, which is the first site you’re doing well is when people are buying ad space above you. So Congratulations on that.

Yeah. I’ll tell you what, ironically, we’re in a situation right now where customers are not a problem for us. So it’s nice if we just really don’t have to focus much energy there basically everybody in the market want this technology. And so I think we’ve done a nice job of sort of positioning ourselves out there. And so as I look at the top ten biggest brands in the entire United States, we’re talking to or working with half of them. And so these large organizations or finding their way to us.

And that’s been really helpful, too, because then I’m not trying to work my way up through cold calls or introductions or other marketing efforts and having to kind of work my way up the chain to somebody important that can actually make the decision and sign off on projects and determined to move forward. So I think that portion of it has been extremely healthy for us, but I might need to go look and see who’s bidding against us and put some energy in it.

The other thing is just as a technology side, it’s very easy to look at the wonder of what’s possible. And as you go and you take on like adding new features or adding new customers, and you’ll see the expansion into potential, like taking on this idea of moving more tech to the edge. It’s a real undertaking where you have to invest into it. So when you’re making decisions like that as a founder, what’s your thought process around, where you have to be 100% revenue generating versus how much can I put into the longer term growth and viability?

Yeah, I think, and I’m assuming here a little bit, but I don’t think there’s too many of us that are in this hardcore AI space that are really trying to bust new pathways into markets that have never existed that are hyper profitable because it’s just huge amounts of work and huge amounts of investment into the technology. And you have some level of just sort of carrying costs for every single customer. And so the more you can improve the platform, the more you can bring down those costs and improve your unit economics.

And so something like Edge, your hardware, those are decisions I think bigger decisions are. For how long should I keep trying to drive towards perfection versus focusing more on just trying to be profitable on a per unit basis? And I think at least from my perspective, I really view conversational AI as a true kind of customer service automation capability across dozens or hundreds of markets as a blue sky opportunity. So I would rather keep investing like crazy to get the product as capable as possible and then be able to push into as many additional spaces once we can transition out from a source of strength versus just trying to dig in on the unit economics and staying smaller and trying to make each one of those locations just a little bit more profitable.

So I think it’s a land grab right now. A lot of different companies have grab space in a lot of different industries. We have three to four, I think very real competitors that have good technology in our space that we’re actively competing with to try to grab land in this space. And I think we will continue to see this at minimum, for another five to ten years. And then I would expect conversational AI to start going through a similar type of market consolidation that you’ve seen in a lot of the other industries prior to this.

Yeah. And the interesting thing, of course, is because folks like you and I were a bit more aggressively focused on the the competitor space. And in the end, there’s such a huge consumer environment for this stuff. There really is. If you spend so much time focusing on the competitors, you get lost chasing them instead of chasing your business. And it’s so we always have to be mindful. But of course, the the inner nerd in me is always like, you know, where are we technologically aligned with somebody? And make sure I can always think about differentiation without being stuck on like, they changed their messaging again.

You can’t be attached to folks that are in a parallel space too much.

Yeah, I would agree. And I still think there’s some challenges and some education for the market as well. We recently ran into a situation where a company in our space was telling potential customers like, hey, we’re 90% plus accurate, and they’re just kind of leaving out that. But we have some people in the background that are fixing things on the fly to help us get to that number. And so the customer wasn’t quite as sophisticated enough to ask and the other company didn’t bring it up. And so there is still an element, I think of kind of smoke and mirrors out there.

This is a very unconsolidated, unstabilized market. It’s a bit of the wild wild west. There are no norms, there are no level systems to compare against. There are no independent third parties to verify capabilities and stuff like that. And so we see companies throwing out pretty stretched metrics relative to what we see, both in terms of what state of the art technology and when we test what’s their system actually capable of. And so that’s been kind of an interesting process of bringing this product to market and kind of navigating against the sales and marketing that maybe sometimes there’s somewhere between kind of disingenuous to just sort of withholding information because customer didn’t know what to ask.

Yeah, that’s a tough one. Like you said, especially when it’s a new technology and new space. No one knows that there’s a Mechanical Turk hiding behind the scenes and all that stuff.

Yeah. Google spends billions of dollars developing their Google home system. And I heard a number at one point that said they still have up to 30% of interactions being reviewed by a human. So it is the very dirty secret of the industry of which everybody that’s in it understands crystal clear, and those who don’t understand it and who are trying to figure it out and who are trying to find a way to take advantage of this technology. They often find maybe murky, kind of maybe feel like they were a little misled.

And so I think there needs to be a lot more transparency on our part. And as a technology group as we bring these technologies to market to be real clear about where things work and where things don’t work.

I don’t want to put a limit on the use cases that you’ve got because I’ll say it’s more focused and that you’re less likely to bump into the need to do real deep like sentiment analysis. There’s obviously points where that would come in. I would imagine.

Yeah. For certain.

When someone starts yelling into the speaker like Samuel L. Jackson, you’re probably, time to make sure that somebody taps the headset and get to listen to this like versus some of, like the call center AIs, they’re much more. I feel I’m about to say it, they’re much more challenging to implement because they’re specifically going after doing stuff like continuous sentiment analysis to gauge the health of the call because they’ve been a different long form conversation to attack.

So I don’t mean to say it’s harder. It’s a different challenge that they’re solving. Yours, where do you see the variability and what you can start to do with some of the deep capabilities in NLP and actual analysis?

Yeah. I mean, again, going back to, I mean. We are taking in live conversations on. The vast majority of the conversations we are taking are being handled entirely by the AI, and it took us a long time to get there, but that is a very real product with very real capability. I do believe what we’re doing is exponentially harder than something like sentiment analysis. That is extremely valuable to those companies credits. They’re probably making a lot more money than we are as we’re trying to grind out this hard space, but think about it with that sentiment analysis example.

If it doesn’t work correctly in one to ten cases, does anybody know? Does the end customer know that they care? Does the call center rep on the phone that they know that they really care? Maybe if the sentiment picks up, the call is going really bad, it goes to pull in a manager or they just use it to monitor it after the fact, but it doesn’t stop the core capability from happening. The customer and the call center up still did their call. Could it have been better?

Probably. They still did their call with what we’re doing and with what other companies in our space are doing. If we miss something, the whole call goes off the rails or theoretically can go off the rails if it’s not recoverable and it’s front and center with the customer. So it would be more accurate to say that the call center person is actually an AI trying to carry on a conversation with the customer. That’s much harder than just passively monitoring stuff and tagging it for data or analysis or flagging it to pull somebody in because it doesn’t fundamentally break the core product.

If it doesn’t work, if we go off of one of our edge cases, it fundamentally breaks the product.

Yeah, that’s the interesting thing. And anybody would go through this I just think of the last interaction they had with somebody through an order process at a quick serve restaurant. Odds are the last thing you did. We as humans, made a mistake doing the order or when they do the read, that’s why they do the read back. And I love it. It’s like, do you want to? Actually, no. Let me go with number two instead of number one. And then it’s like, okay, we’ll do that. Is there anything else we can help you with?

Okay. What I’ve got for you now is X and like, that rapid validation and the fact like, there’s so much that can go wrong in the seconds leading up to that, they’ll be like, actually I want number two, not number two, number three. I mean, yeah, number three. Just writing those words down. Yeah. Big deal. You transcribe it. That’s basically a glorified transcript. But actually taking that and turning it into an order.

And responding intelligently in that situation. And maybe you could parse all of that and you got what you needed. But maybe you have to parse all of that. And the customer was still ambiguous. We had a situation when we were working with the restaurant chain here in Denver called Good Times, where we were automating breakfast orders. And so we had a one customer I remember came up. He was like, hey, could I have six sausage burritos? No, no, wait.

Actually, I want three bacon burritos and then sausage burritos. And so it’s like, do you want nine burritos? Do you want six burritos? There’s a lot of ambiguity in there. And so then the system also has to have context. And so that’s an area where we see the company spending billions of dollars, and they’re just scratching the surface of context. Yet for any company that’s trying to do customer service automation, where they’re directly talking to a customer, you have to be able to manage a tremendous amount of ambiguity and related context and then try to respond as we talked about early on with the daisy chain issue perfectly every time.

And you might have a minimum ten turns back and forth, and all you need is just one of those to go wrong. And then the entire thing could be a failure. And so it’s a very painful and exacting process to get to a point where you have a product that is kind of widespread, adoptable and scalable within the industry.

It’s an amazing time to be in this world, though, that we can do this, right? Like to think of the technology that enabled you to do this and that you and the team have chosen to take it on and your succeeding. What a fantastic world, isn’t it?

I love it. I mean, not to be corny, but, I mean, I still get goose bumps when I review sessions, and it’s just perfect all the way through, because I know how hard and painful and grueling that work has been to get to that point. And so when I can sit down and listen to a minute, two minutes, two and a half minute order, and everything flows perfectly throughout the entire order. It’s like, oh, my God, it’s live. It’s real.

It took us a long time. This is a product. It’s such an exciting experience. And truly, I couldn’t be more excited to be in the AI space because this is ultimately going to be the brains of everything. Right? And I think I don’t see it as much as I would like, but there should be a lot more coupling, I think, between robotics companies than AI companies. And if we throw a sort of full circle here, back to the Tesla Bot, there’s maybe one or two Nobel Prizes that’ll be one by an engineering team that can actually pull off what Elon Musk talked about yesterday.

But let’s say that they do. It’s still an extremely capable system that is going to be a paperweight unless it has the brain of an AI behind it. It has to know to be able to carry on conversations with people around it. If it’s about to drop something on somebody and somebody says, stop and yells it at the robot and they’re in an echo-ey warehouse. It’s got to pick that up perfectly the first time and do exactly what was requested. And customers, as we found, just because they’re so ambiguous, they’re not going to write a script for a robot to go and get their mail or go buy them a gallon of milk.

Must talked about like, the system is going to have to be intelligent enough. Somebody’s going to say, Go get me milk. And the robot is going to have to intuitively know what go get me milk means, which is like, turn around, walk to the door, open the door, walk to probably a car, get into the car, drive to the grocery store, walk into the grocery store, go get the milk, pay for it, and then repeat all the steps to get back. And that is where AI lives.

And so it’s just such an exciting time. Industry wide. It’s just in its infancy. It’s going to be really fun to watch this technology evolve over the next 10 to 20 years as it just continues to get smarter, more sophisticated, and starts to proliferate into more places that ultimately, I think, will make our lives better, both as consumers and as employers and his coworkers.

And I want to tap into something that, as technology, amazing. Our place in the world to be able to do this is pretty fantastic. Yeah, I was going to say, what are the risks that we have? But I don’t want to take a dark turn. I want to tap into something else that I saw in your bio. You’re a member of Entrepreneurs Organization, so EO has come up a lot. I’ve had, when you do a couple of hundred of these interviews, you eventually bump into this common things. And EO comes up a lot.

I love to hear. Rob, how did you discover this? And what’s been the value that you found from being a part of that organization?

Yeah. So for anybody listening, who doesn’t know, EO stands for Entrepreneurs Organization. So it’s basically an international networking group organization where entrepreneurs come together. So here in Colorado, we’ve gotten extremely healthy chapter. I think we’re 160, maybe going on 200 people that are in our organization. And every single month, they’re putting on different events. So a couple of days ago, a guy that owns a brewery here in Denver, gave anybody who wanted to a tour of his brewery and gave everybody free beer and talked about the business and the economics of it, things like that.

There was a lady that owned a bunch of restaurants. She gave people tours of her restaurants, explained how they work. She had a very cool kind of collective thing going on where they renovated an old warehouse, and they had, like, a dozen of different restaurants inside there. And you go sit at any restaurant, you can get food from multiple restaurants. Talked about kind of where the evolution that she saw restaurants going. At one point, I think two years ago, we brought in a guy from the military who was the one that found Saddam Hussein.

And he talked about all the work that he had to do to be able to kind of track down where Saddam Hussein was. So it’s just fantastic and intellectually exciting to be around similar people that are trying to grow companies. It’s amazing how many times we all run into the same problems. So to be able to chat through those problems, share experiences of how you’ve overcame those issues, could be partners, can be fundraising, could be legal, can be challenging customers, because ultimately, at the end of the day, it is lonely at the top of an organization.

You don’t want to complain to your direct reports and bring them down. You need to kind of sometimes bottle some of that stuff up, and you just try to keep people kind of excited about the mission and the goals and pushing forward. But then you really do need people that you can lean on have similar experiences that have been what you’ve been through. So the tours, the networking, the speakers, like, those things are fun. But I think the core of EO is what’s referred to as forums.

And so within our bigger chapter of 160 to 200 people, it breaks it down. And everybody gets put into a forum of about five to sometimes ten people kind of on the bigger end of the spectrum. And you get together once a month. And then everybody talks about, like, hey, here’s what I got going on here’s. What’s working here’s, what’s not working. You can give each other experience shares. You can lean on each other. And then even within our forum, we’ll bring in speakers. And it could be speakers to give you education on business, life goals, they could help you with relationships, retirement planning, succession, things like that.

And so it creates this community of people that know what you’re going through that can help you. And that can support you, be it in business or be it in life. And then because it’s an international organization. If you travel to or pretty much any kind of major city, globally, there are chapters of other EO members there, and I’ll regularly get emails of, like, an entire forum that are flying out to Colorado, and they’re like, hey, if there’s anybody local that wants to meet up, let us know.

And you just get to meet all these cool people. I attended one with a group that came up from Costa Rica and really hit it off with a guy he owned a custom software development company. I had just recently left my custom software development company. We connected on everything. And by the end of the night and a bunch of beers, he gave me free access to use this place in Costa Rica whenever I wanted. And so it’s like, what are you going to get those types of experiences in your day to day life when you’re just kind of bumping into people?

And so it’s obviously something that’s near and dear to my heart as I was able to quickly pontificate on it. But I think for anybody that’s running a company, I would just highly encourage you to check it out. It’s just nice to be surrounded and able to interact with just really cool people.

I think I was calling goodness greater policy cameras, last time from Sheets & Giggles. He’s in Colorado, and he was the first one that turned me on to the organization. And then, like I said, probably half dozen other people now. Since then, he brought it up. I’m like, I got to get closer to this. And I’ve actually looked at the organization. It’s good because there’s, like, a minimum as far as the range of folks who can get involved, it’s very targeted. It’s not like a hangers on Reddit group.

This is people who are active. You have to have a certain amount of active revenue. You’re really and truly aligned with a community of people that are doing something. And it’s it’s just so refreshing to me to see that because there’s community for technology, there’s community for so many things. But for founders, it’s a really difficult and lonely spot to be sometimes and have that peer group accessible without having to engage advisors and ultimately, like, everyone wants to give you ideas because they know they can get a hunkier company.

That’s ultimately what a lot of the people that. I want advice from people that are living the life not who just want a taste of mine.

Right. And that is exactly what it is. And I think you also hit on something that was kind of important to me, too. Is it’s not the hanger honors because I went to two or three of the other big kind of national global sort of groups kind of like this, and they just tend to be stuffed with consultants and people that kind of want to live in your orbit. Again, as I go back to my forum, everybody’s roughly in a range from a revenue standpoint, there’s just one guy that’s in the hundreds of millions from a revenue standpoint.

Everybody’s got similar sized organizations in terms of the number of people that they have. And because we’re all living it, we can all collaborate. So in my custom software development company, I crashed and burned with my partners and they bailed out of the company. I’d say at least half of the people that are in my forum, my group of about nine people. Well, probably half of them have had partnership issues since I’ve been in the group, and that’s a lot of experience that I can share.

One guy mentioned that’s in the hundreds of millions from a revenue standpoint, he’s able to give a tremendous amount of advice to us that aren’t at that stage yet that are still growing and building our companies because he’s done a lot of the things that we’ve done. We even have one guy in there that’s managing partner of one of the law firms, and he very kindly, you know, we’ll answer questions and give us some at least sort of direction of where to go from a legal standpoint and things like that.

And so it’s so helpful. And a lot of us will find, we’ll start forum and we’ll just kind of feel like heavy and it’s difficult. And by the time I’m done and we all go get dinner together after forum, I just feel like light and happy and just kind of rejuvenated again. So it’s just sort of good for my soul anyway, to just be around really interesting and exciting people doing cool things. Yeah.

Because like you said, when you go to meet ups and just like general, like event driven organizations, you tend to get a lot of people who are like they’re entrepreneurs. I’m not saying that one isn’t right or one is better or whatever. But you don’t want to be in a group where you’re surrounded by people who just run Shopify. So I know as a guy who runs some Shopify store, I got a successful coffee business, but I don’t have the same thing to bring to the group versus my experience and the advisory and real side.

So yeah, you can see the cut line where.

Plus those meetup groups, they are wonderful. They tend to be a lot more superficial. Might be the best way to put it. You don’t get really deep from a connection standpoint. You might share some ideas here about some cool companies. People come, people go. There’s a lot of transients to it. For our forum, we’ve got real strict requirements on attendance because we really believe that time together, sort of build bonds and build connections. In October, my forum and all of our spouses. We’re all flying to Napa Valley together. We rented a house together.

We’re lining up different wineries that we’re going to go to different restaurants. We’re going to go to in two weeks. We’re all going to meet up at a Lake out here in Colorado, and we’re going to bring our families and our kids. And so it’s a lot, I think, more consistent and much deeper ties than what you might see in some of those other organizations. Yeah.

And it’s finding the group of people who are aligned in a like, it’s tough to find those two things together. You can find a lot of alignment. But then if they’re so disparate in where they are company position wise, it sounds like such a great organization. I’ve heard nothing but really respectful words spoken and folks that are part of it. So I do recommend that. I guess in closing, sadly we lost couple of minutes in the middle because, for anybody that still watching on the YouTube, they’ll see that I’m on a phone instead of on my regular rig here.

Rob, I’d love to get your advice for folks that are getting started, and especially now, COVID and the state of the world means we’re going to be remote longer. It’s a great opportunity, I believe. Are there opportunities to be had? And so for folks that maybe were on the cusp, people that are already remote and thinking, maybe this is my time to start up my entrepreneur mindset. What advice do you have? Kind of today. It’s August of 21. What can the next three months be for somebody who wants to think big?

Yeah. So if you already have your business idea and you know what you want to do, then just get started. It’s the most critical thing. I just finished reading a book called Super Founders, and they talked about what was the number one key to people’s success. And the kind of read it too long didn’t read is past success, which sounds cheesy, but it actually makes sense. So people that have started companies are then more likely to be more successful and are more likely to build a billion dollar companies having done it in the past.

So I think it’s just like anything. You need experience and you need time. I think a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs, they try to make their first company a billion dollar company. So goal one is just our, goal two might be go easy on yourself. Don’t think you have to build the next Uber or next Microsoft with your first company. Think of it in terms of training for a marathon. And your billion dollar company is running to the marathon, right? You need to do things leading up to that.

The easiest place to start a new business is a service based company. There are so many opportunities in this country right now. It’s astounding I think of anything, it doesn’t have to be super exciting. I mean, it could literally be a landscaping company. It could be a house cleaning company. It could be a painting company. People out there are desperate for services. As a quick example, my wife and I are going to remodel our basement. We’re adding a bedroom and a bathroom when we initially got it quoted about 18 months ago to now, not only have prices gone up, about 220%, we had to bring out, like 15 contractors to just find one contractor that wanted to take the project on.

And so there’s huge opportunities out there for people to just start really good service based businesses. Not only I think is there sort of a lot of opportunity from a work standpoint. I think a lot of people out there think that it has to be this big, grandiose thing and it really does not. So start a service based company, get good at it, deliver great customer service. Build a business number one, potentially get yourself out of the rat race. You’re able to create a job for yourself.

You’re able to create income for yourself. Maybe you’re able to then have an exit and sell the business and you use that capital to start your billion dollar company. Or kind of more like I did. I got the service based company to a good place. And then I came up with the idea for my billion dollar product based company. I hired somebody to run my service based company for me. And then I went full time on the product based company. So you open up a tremendous amount of freedom for yourself.

If you just are owning a business and just running a business, just start. Go easy on yourself. Consider service first and focus on coming up with your billion dollar idea while you’re already working for yourself and making money.

That doesn’t inspire people to just sort of take a breath and think about what the possibilities are. I don’t know what is. So, Rob, thank you very much. It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you for writing me out during my technical troubles here today. If people did want to get connected online or elsewhere, what’s the best way they can do so?

Yeah. Feel free to just shoot me an email. It’s rob@valyant.ai or find us online or any of our social media sites.

That’s a beauty. Excellent. Rob. Thank you very much. Lots of great lessons. I’m bullish on the possibility for Valyant. I like what you’re doing. And as they say in the world, you bet on three things the three Ts, team, TAM, and technology. And the reason it starts with team is because you can tell when somebody has potential in something you don’t even need to know where something is, but you know somebody’s got the potential. I would bet on your team.

Thanks, Eric. I really appreciate it.

Excellent. Thanks very much.

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Slater Victoroff is the Founder and CTO of Indico, an enterprise AI solution for unstructured content that emphasizes document understanding. He’s been building machine learning solutions for startups, governments, and Fortune 100 companies for the past seven years and is a frequent speaker at AI conferences.

What is very interesting is that Indico’s framework requires 1000x less data than traditional machine learning techniques, and they regularly beat the likes of AWS, Google, Microsoft, and IBM in head-to-head bake-offs. 

Slater and I discuss AI, AGI, how to relate these topics to newcomers, how Machine Learning and ethics come together, and also how MMA relates to how he tackles startups and team building.

This really is like a lesson in AI and Machine Learning and really taps into the subject for both newcomers and veterans of the field. 

Check out Indico here: https://indico.io/

Connect with Slater on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/sl8rv 

Connect with Slater on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/slatervictoroff/ 

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Peter Voss is the world’s foremost authority in Artificial General Intelligence. His company Aigo has created the world’s first intelligent cognitive assistant. Peter and I discuss the power and responsibility of AI, the impact of AGI vs AI, and how we can empower people with AI to do amazing things (and get rid of the need to do repetitive mundane things!).  Peter is an early creator in the AI ecosystem and coined the phrase Artificial General Intelligence.  

Check out Aigo.ai here:  https://aigo.ai 

Connect with Peter here:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/vosspeter/ 

Sponsored by the 4-Step Guide to Delivering Extraordinary Software Demos that Win Deals - Click here and because we had such good response we have opened it up to make the eBook, Audiobook, and online course, more accessible by offering it all for only 5$


Sponsored by our friends at Veeam Software! Make sure to click here and get the latest and greatest data protection platform for everything from containers to your cloud!


Want to ensure your privacy is protected? I sure do. Privacy is a human right and the folks at ExpressVPN make sure of that. Head over to ExpressVPN and sign up today to protect your safety and privacy across any device, anywhere.


Aeva is a technology architect, team leader, mentor, and industry veteran with a career spanning 20 years, several startups, and multiple Fortune 500 Companies. Aeva’s areas of expertise include open source strategy, cloud computing, hardware security, and database development and consulting. They currently focus on Confidential Computing at Microsoft Azure, building the next generation of secure cloud-native application services.

You can catchup with Aeva at https://twitter.com/aevavoom

Learn about the Confidential Computing Consortium here: https://confidentialcomputing.io/wp-content/uploads/sites/85/2019/12/CCC_Overview.pdf