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When Does AI Have Real Impact? | Pryon CEO Igor Jablokov

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“Many executives have the lifespan of a fruit fly. They basically have less than six months to show impact. And they couldn’t care less if they have to adopt snow cones or AI in order to do that.”

— Igor Jablokov, CEO, Pryon

Whether you’re leading artificial intelligence initiatives inside your company or offering solutions as a vendor, you want AI to have real business impact.

That’s why it’s good to listen to Igor Jablokov.

His voice recognition company Yap was acquired by Amazon and the technology became part of Alexa. Now, he’s the CEO and founder of Pryon, which uses AI for knowledge management.

Here are three lessons from our conversation on Machine Meets World:

1. Focus on Solutions, Not Technology

Igor’s message to business leaders: “None of you are looking to buy AI, whatsoever.”

In other words, nobody really buys AI for its own sake. The goal is to solve underlying problems like “churn, fraud, risk, some sort of compliance issue, reducing costs, increasing revenue, and the like.”

“I get it’s nice that Wall Street Journal and all of the business media talks about how, ‘hey, if you don’t reinvent yourself with AI over the course of the decade, you’re not going to survive and thrive,’” he says.

“But they’re not literally talking about that technology. They’re talking about the productivity increases.”

So why do companies put technology before solutions? Igor says the answer isn’t the customers — it’s the tech industry vendors themselves.

“If you think about how these startups are born, isn’t so much with a solutions orientation. It’s like, ‘hey, here’s this interesting piece of technology.’”

2: Focus on User Experience

It sounds simple enough: make AI easy for the people who’ll use it. Take a lesson from the automotive industry, for example.

“When you go to a car dealership, you don’t give them a $50,000 check and then they point to, “The wheels are over there. The brakes are over there. There’s the steering wheels over there.’”

“And then they make you construct these things in order to build the car or the truck that is the solution that you actually want to acquire for your $50,000.”

In the world of technology, says Igor, “why would you want them to construct these different Lego pieces when you, yourself, as part of the experience, don’t like going to a car dealership and having to construct these things?”

Igor imagines a user experience of ease and immediacy. “I care about somebody not changing their user behavior,” he says.

“Drag and drop your office files, and seconds later you have an AI that you can start using.”

Also, it’s worth remembering that executives care less how it works, and more that it works.

“Many executives have the lifespan of a fruit fly,” says Igor.

“They basically have less than six months to show impact. And they couldn’t care less if they had to adopt snow cones or AI in order to do that.”

3: Focus on the Fittest

If you’re wondering what to build, consider a Darwinian approach.

“We built a horizontal platform,” says Igor, with “fourteen dissimilar POCs with many of the great brands that backed us early.”

From there, the company “started getting a feel that knowledge management was going to be big for us.”

In a sense, it was survival of the fittest — putting contenders out into the wild and seeing what rose to the top.

Photo by Mike Kononov on Unsplash

What’s Next

Igor says we can figure out AI like we figured out other technologies — until eventually, it’ll become standard.

“It’s just another new piece of technology. It’s smart software. These are the same conversations that were had when cloud was coming.

“These were the same conversations that were had when mobile was coming and brands were trying to figure out whether they should be in app stores or not. And if we’re in the app store, what does that experience do that’s different than our website?”

“As Bezos calls it, this is first pitch, first inning,” says Igor. “We don’t even know all the different ways that things are going to affect.”

“We won’t even talk about it, AI, because it’ll be table stakes,” he continues.

“It’ll just be something that by default is going to be blended in everything that you want. It’s going to be a normal part of Coca Cola running itself. Of Porsche running itself. Of Delta Air Lines running itself. And nobody would think otherwise.”

So in the future, AI will be the high fructose corn syrup business — blended into everything you want.

But for now, please share, like subscribe, comment on this article to give the algorithms what they want.

And if you’re eager for more Igor, here’s our interview from 2020.