Bryan Talebi, CEO of Ahura AI & Alex Tsado, COO of Ahura AI interviewed around their background and passion for making the world a better place through AI and advanced technology.
You Are The Co-Founders Of Ahura AI. What Drew You To Artificial Intelligence?
Bryan– Growing up with less than the bare necessities, opportunity has always figured prominently in every job and team I’ve had the privilege to work with. I’m humbled by the majesty of nature and the world around us. Our responsibility is to help colleagues, peers, and greater humanity by inventing the tools and knowledge they need to participate and lift up their lives. AI provides an actual, scalable path for companies and populations to increase learning and a culture of ongoing learning ten times over. We are in a race with ourselves to a certain degree. Innovation has gotten us to a certain point, and now society needs to catch up. AI technology helps us prevent workers and people from feeling or even becoming irrelevant in the workforce.
Alex– As a child growing up in Nigeria, I’d watch my neighbors hand wash their cars, and it’d involve multiple buckets of water and lots of soap. But I couldn’t help but think about the pain of trekking 1 mile to fetch those buckets of water. So I would constantly figure out how to wash my dad’s car while using much, much less water, about 20%. I draw on these memories, and it’s clear that before I was 10, sustainability and efficiency were central to my understanding of how to keep mother earth alive. AI is our greatest technical tool to achieve this sustainability and expansion of access today. AI gives you the support to make much better decisions than you would without it and automate a significant amount of tasks so you can serve many more people with the same resources. It’s as if I was able to wash five more cars using the same resources as my neighbor.
Briefly, Share Some Of Your Backgrounds?
Bryan– I grew up from humble beginnings in a home in the eastern desert of Iran with no running water and electricity. We were Turkish refugees before coming to the US. I taught myself quantum physics and quantum mechanics before becoming one of the youngest engineers at Nasa at age 16. I’ve always been obsessed with how people learn and how that affects their life story and accomplishment arc. Ahura AI is at the intersection of all of my visions of success for humanity. Ahura AI is at once a catalyst for uplifting humanity to learn and thrive. We also empower other underprivileged populations with access to learning on a grander scale, leveling the playing field to enable society to reach its full potential.
Alex– I’m the ultimate operator, jack of all trades but master of none. As a quicker learner, I create paths and instructions on almost any discipline then get out of the way so the actual experts can achieve their dreams much sooner. My approaches result from my education from Columbia and Kellogg, full-stack dev at Goldman Sachs, leading product and the deployment of the first NVIDIA AI GPUs on all large public cloud platforms, and non-profit work advising African governments on critical considerations for their AI strategies. I continue to be excited by all of these, including my time consulting at Bain, setting Ahura Ai on its path to educating ten times more people on our planet.
There Are Many Artificial Intelligence Ventures & Noise In The Machine Learning Space. What Fundamental Problem Are You Trying To Solve, & How?
Bryan– To scale personalized learning to as many workforces and people as possible. We do this by providing a platform that learns the way a user does. We help a manager see how their teams are progressing through the curriculum. Finally, we personalize learning and help users learn three to five times faster, enabling them to focus, retain, and enjoy the experience to incentivize them to return. At the same time, they build a learning culture that works for them.
Alex– We are addressing the massive need for upskilling and digital transformation in American businesses today. Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, and other large organizations have dedicated a billion dollars each to prepare their workers for this future. However, managers can’t track how their workers are upskilling, and without a personalized experience, workers can’t maximize the very little time they have to study.
Help Me Understand Your Points Of Difference. What Informs Your Approach?
Bryan & Alex– We have designed the secret sauce for delivering personalized upskilling potentially for every worker on the planet. People learn differently depending on the context. When you compare shy vs. the brash extroverts or the happy vs. the angry person who’s just spoken with a demanding customer, the challenges become apparent. We use AI to understand that context and alter content delivery to optimize for improved learning and retention. We are the only prominent company taking this approach today. We can do that because of a team that includes the inventor of Google translate, Nvidia AI veteran, and sharp minds in design and storytelling from Apple.
What Do You Think Is Essential For A Venture That Also Includes A Visible Impact Commitment?
Bryan & Alex– It’s essential to recognize that this is not the norm in business today. Thus without opening your minds to new approaches, you’ll find it more time-consuming, more expensive, more complex. A concrete example is when we were integrating facial recognition into our solution. The most-used solutions are incredibly biased, and when used for life-critical decisions, place millions of people in harm’s way. You don’t find a 1M image dataset lying around. Moreover, building and training one can cost millions of dollars, a cost most engineering teams cannot spend to reduce the effects of bias from these models.
Approaches I’ve seen work are ones where the organizations build their business around impact, not sugarcoat their business with impact. With our facial recognition challenge, we found that our approach of offering free licenses to charity organizations and governments in developing communities allowed us to work collaboratively with them to generate labeled data more cheaply and quickly. It also helps our product managers actively think about their use cases as we design our core product. This affords us certain robustness that you’d rarely find in other companies, in addition to positioning us to improve the quality of human lives.
Do You Feel That You Can Be Successful In Both For-Profit & For-Good Efforts?
Bryan & Alex– We definitely can. There is a great need for powerful applications of the technology we are inventing. Applied to the education space, we empower people whose primary form of skilling is digital, without access to a teacher, to get much better results. Thus, AI makes them better placed to protect their jobs, maintain a sense of purpose and control their livelihoods. We are already seeing them happy to pay for this so, we expect to be profitable.
What Innovators Do You Admire?
Bryan– Steve Jobs completely rewrote the rules of how we experience computing. Not surprisingly, Elon Musk comes to mind because he re-imagined two major industry sectors and took on the large establishment with Tesla and SpaceX. How much time do you have? There are so many to choose from.
Alex– I’ll mention 2. The first one built a unicorn, 1 billion dollar company without raising funds beyond the seed round. You rarely see this anywhere on the planet, but he did it with Calendly, an inspirational model for every founder. His name is Tope Awotona.
The second one is a good friend, who recently turned 30 but has retired already after building two billion-dollar companies based in the African market, a market most Americans will tell you has no potential. He is Iyin Aboyeji. He founded Andela to improve the tech-talent access dynamics for companies worldwide and Flutterwave to make it easier for Africans to build global businesses that can make and accept any payment. You’ll notice both of them are Nigerian like me, and they belong to the incredibly long list of Nigerians who’ve been changing the world. I’m glad they are starting to receive appropriate recognition.
What Do You Think About The Future Of Humanity? Do You Feel That Innovators & Technologists Are Altruistic As Well As Progressive & Mindful Of Profit?
Bryan & Alex– The current trajectory shows the opposite. The USA and the West currently dominate the global economy, and innovations from the USA are mostly not progressive, altruistic, or trying to improve society. They are simply making a relatively small group a lot richer, which historically leads to deadly revolutions.
When we dig deep into the issue, the siloed approach to education, the push for STEM in the west today has groomed engineers who simply don’t have what it takes to do good for society and move it forward. They are very myopic, don’t think about the societal context of decisions they are making. They just ship the cargo as fast as possible, grow Facebook as big as possible, so they make as much money as possible. Hence the west is facing a serious crisis. As an innovator with a mindset toward improving society, I addressed this gap for myself by diving deep into my liberal arts education at Columbia. By going above and beyond to learn about real history. Not what CNN or the Western media tell you; true history of how things have come to be the way they are. And thus, I am aware of the implications of technology solutions I build. I hope more people recognize this challenge and come up with systemic ways to address it. Otherwise, the only way the future of humanity is a prosperous one is if another part of the world rises to dominate and dictate more sustainable and responsible ways technology is to be used to improve society.