Water can flow, or it can crash. Water is formless, shapeless. It becomes the form of whatever container you put it in. This famous idea from actor and philosopher Bruce Lee is a part of the mission behind H2O.ai (H2O). At H2O World New York on October 22nd, H2O.ai celebrated its vision to make every company an AI company with its growing community of makers and builders.

H2O.ai has developed enterprise AI and machine learning platforms to give companies the ability to easily access and leverage data throughout their organizations. Its open source platform, H2O, allows the entire open source ecosystem to contribute to the development of AI, and contributed to the development of newer platforms such as H2O Driverless AI, an automated machine learning tool that takes some of the most difficult workflows and achieve the highest predictive accuracy by making them easier to interpret, and H2O Q, its newest platform, which helps business users and aspiring AI companies make AI apps.

While many companies attempt to embrace AI, they often lack the resources, especially when recruiting top data scientists from tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, whose compensation packages can exceed $1M.

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Aakriti Srikanth, Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and Co-founder at Ahura AI – AAKRITI SRIKANTH

“I see a lot of potential in H2O.ai to accelerate machine learning and to improve the workforce,” said Aakriti Srikanth, Co-founder at Ahura AI and a Forbes 30 Under 30.

“There is a huge talent shortage for data scientists in many companies,” said Sri Ambati, CEO and Founder in his opening keynote. “H2O.ai solves this problem by giving teams easier, simpler and cheaper AI platforms that implement machine learning algorithms.”

H2O World New York featured sessions from many of the H2O.ai employees (or “makers”), as well as representatives from some of the top companies in financials services, insurance, and more, including Goldman Sachs, Nationwide Insurance, Disney, and Discover Financial Services, among others, all of whom have adopted the company’s technology, including open source H2O and Driverless AI, to further their AI journey.

A core requirement of any company focused on AI is putting together a strong team.

Wieyan  Zhao, Director of Data Science at Nationwide Insurance said, “What matters is the skills that you have, and are you good at, for the things we want you to do…we have people coming from more than ten countries, speaking more than fifteen types of languages; the diversity gives you perspective when you come into the room and try to solve the problem.”

During his H2O World session, A Decade of Data Science: The Nationwide Journey, Zhao explained how Nationwide’s core modeling team has a 10-to-1 ratio of data scientists to operations, with a diverse background and skill gives that helps them bring unique perspectives during peer and model reviews for each project.

Part of building a strong team, comes from having technology that lends itself to collaboration and brings technical expertise where an organization may be lacking it internally. To that end, H2O.ai boasts of attracting a large cohort of Kaggle Grandmasters, the data science equivalent of a Chess Grandmaster, to lead the way in building algorithms and new capabilities that data scientists can use in their day to day work. H2O.ai currently employs 13 Kaggle Grandmasters, roughly about  10 percent of those that exist globally. This gives H2O.ai customers the expertise necessary in the platform.

“One of the things we’re doing in addition to building Driverless AI itself is building a platform that allows data scientists and engineers to collaborate and to store and share models and then deploy them,” said Tom Kraljevic, VP of Engineering at H2O.ai.

“H2O.ai just makes modeling so much faster. Not only to produce data products, but we also created a platform for our customers,” said ADP Principal Data Scientist, Xiaojing Wang.

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The H2O.ai team onstage at H2O World New York AAKRITI SRIKANTH

“Customer love” was a constant theme throughout H2O World, and Ambati compared the AI ecosystem to a team sport. At H2O.ai, this means uniting internal team members and external partners with a shared mission that challenges the status quo and creates a strong community that will build incredible things with AI. In fact, H2O.ai takes customer love very seriously, turning two of their largest customers, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo into investors in their recent funding rounds. “When customers become investors, that is the true test of advocacy,” said Ambati.

Goldman Sachs Managing Director, Charles Elkan, gave a keynote at H2O World where he spoke about The Promise and the Perils of deploying machine learning in the realm of finance. He gave the example of a healthcare company that was able to utilize machine learning to analyze patient responses and follow up with a database of clarifying questions, allowing a physician to review these answers and apply his or her experience and understanding on a deeper level, greatly increasing the physician’s productivity.

“In order to be able to create something awesome like a great data science team, we need to be able to take those chances organizationally with people so as to produce those great outcomes we have been looking for,” said Krish Swamy, Senior VP of Data and Enterprise Analytics at Wells Fargo.