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Why You Should Start an AI Company Today

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“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Wayne Gretzky

Our century’s biggest disruptor

We’re on the precipice of something really big. Bigger than electricity, bigger than the internet, experts say. AI is already omnipresent in our everyday lives: When Netflix recommends you should watch Jane the Virgin and Silicon Valley (Any ressemblances to what I really watch on Netflix is a coincidence.), that’s a form of AI i.e an algorithm that learns from your tastes and predicts what you are most likely to enjoy watching next. Your vacuum cleaner is powered by AI. And if you live in China, even your toilet paper dispenser runs on AI!

In the workplace, artificial intelligence is evolving into intelligent assistants to help us work smarter, but also into drones that deliver the things we order on Amazon and of course into self driving vehicles (today, planes are mostly flown by AI already).

AI isn’t a new concept. It’s been around since 1956, where an MIT computer science teacher called John McCarthy coined the term, as well as the hipster beard looks long before it was a thing.

John McCarthy in his artificial intelligence laboratory at Stanford

He believed that

“every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”

AI, at it’s core, is a simple concept. Here’s the definition of Pedro Domingos an AI researcher I really enjoy learning from (check out this brilliant podcast he did on Farnam Street on the topic of AI)

What is AI ?

“AI is the subfield of computer science that deals with getting computers to do those things that require human intelligence to do as opposed to just routine processing.

Things like:
– Reasoning
– Understanding language
– Common sense knowledge
– Vision
– Learning
– Navigating in the world
– Manipulating things

These are all subfields of AI and if you add them all together what you have is an intelligence entity which would be artificial instead of natural.” Pedro Domingos

When I mentioned to my parents 18th months ago, that I was leaving my job as a marketer with the goal of building an intelligent software that would automate a lot of the annoying work I had to do previously, their immediate reaction to ask “why now?”. Indeed, AI has been around for some time and after the hype from the 70’s and late 80’s it cooled off quickly.

The “cool-down” periods my parents were referring to are the famous AI winters, early 1970’s and again late 1980’s that led to reduced funding in AI research. A notable moment was the collapse of the Lisp Machine, considered at one point a high form of AI, in 1987. (Here’s a timeline of the major breakthroughs in AI over the years for more information.).

Well, there’s 3 reasons why in 2017, things are different than 20 years ago:

  • Computing power has exploded. The cost of running intelligent algorithms on servers has dramatically decreased. It’s never been so cheap to train mathematical models.
  • Huge amounts of quality data are now available to train models. The advent of the digital economy and the popularisation of smartphones generated billions of data points that companies can now turn into learnings.
  • Quantum leaps in tech, and most notably in Deep Learning. The world’s biggest companies including the big 4 Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (‘GAFA’) have, as a consequence, have heavily invested in AI either through acquisitions or hiring of world class AI researchers. And they have published parts of their research, and parts of their codes, for everyone to use.

AI winter is no longer coming, AI spring is.

This is why my cofounder and I decided, a year ago, that the time to start building our own virtual assistant was now (well, in June 2016 really). Aiden is a smart assistant for marketers, which was built as an expert system, and then augmented by machine learning. Here are the subsets of artificial intelligence Aiden deals with, and doesn’t deal with:

Aiden is what is rudely called a chatbot, but we see it as much more than that: the virtual colleague of the future.

Here’s a quote from Phil Libin that captures the essence of how “botentrepreneurs” should see their startup:

“Don’t think of yourself as a bot developer. Don’t pitch the whole yourself like that. Think of yourself as making a great product and a product that was impossible to make even 2 or 3 years ago because the technology stack didn’t exist. So what can you do now, it’s a little bit magic that you couldn’t do before. And now is the best time to go and build those things, because the tools and capabilities exist.”

The time is now.

You can sign up to request early access to Aiden on

I’m the CEO and cofounder of Aiden (Built with PJ Camillieri) If you think this article is interesting, please don’t hesitate to recommend it by clicking the heart button below. Sharing is caring and more people will see it 🙂 Thanks!

Why You Should Start an AI Company Today was originally published in Chatbots Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Chatbots Magazine

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