Podcast Episode 2

Startups vs. Big Tech: How small innovators can thrive amidst technology giants and the dynamics of acquisitions.

Anderson Amaral, founder of Scoras Digital, is an AI product strategist and technologist. His exceptional track record includes co-founding a stealth-mode AI startup and holding leadership positions in the fintech industry. A recognized expert in AI, Anderson’s journey showcases the industry’s potential and innovative spirit.

Listen to the Episode Now


Ryan: Hi, and welcome everyone to the AiFounders podcast show. Our podcast is dedicated to celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of AI innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionary founders and the captivating stories behind the movements they have built. I’m your host, Ryan Davies, and I have the honor of hosting today’s engaging discussion, which is going to be incredibly interesting. It’s “Startups vs. Big Tech: How small innovators can thrive amidst technology giants, and the dynamics of acquisitions.” And I have the pleasure of interviewing our special guest, Anderson Amaral. Anderson, thank you so much for being here. I’m excited to dive in.

Anderson: You’re welcome. I’m happy to be here as well and even happier to know that other founders are going to watch as well. Perfect.

Ryan: Yeah, Anderson is an AI product strategist and technologist. He’s the founder of Scoras Digital and has worked on some amazing projects. As we discussed in our preamble before, we’re going to talk about some of them in this episode, which is really exciting. Anderson is internationally recognized through AI and product development awards, solidifying his role as a thought leader and innovator beyond his social media prominence; his achievements include co-founding a stealth-mode AI startup and holding leadership positions at major fintech firms. He has an extensive educational background and consulting expertise that underscore his significant contributions to the fintech sector, driving innovation and growth in the area.

Regulations in AI

Ryan: I think diving right in because this is an incredibly interesting topic, especially in AI when we’re talking about startups versus Big Tech. It’s David versus Goliath. We talk about that in almost every industry, but I especially think it seems prominent, still, with everyone trying to come up with the next big product and big service and big idea. We talk about big tech. Who is big tech, and what can a startup do to get past that initial stage of getting taken over before even getting started with an idea?

Anderson: Excellent. I think most startup founders right now are not technical people. Consequently, they don’t even know that their idea can probably be copied from one day to another by big tech, and their business can vanish in one day. So I think the first thing is to be pretty honest with themselves. That includes VCs as well. I think everyone is lost, and a lot of new technology is being released every single week. As I used to say to people, I think in the last 12 months, we have had more advancements in the AI industry than in the last ten years. Just to mention here, a Python framework that every AI person now loves or hates, the right link chain, was released in November or October last year. And that allowed a lot of people, Python developers, new data analysts, and so on, to talk to large language models and create new AI products. Everyone is now seeing that it’s possible to create a new app and release it or just type a prompt and ask AI to create an app and publish it for you on the Apple Store, Google Store, or wherever. Even technical people are lost. Can you imagine those who are not technical but are eager to build something new and raise money, etc.? I’m not saying that I know everything and so on. Even though I’ve been working on this for 26 years, I think I’ve never been so lost like now as well.

Ryan: We talked about it before we got started here, and it’s just so interesting. As you said, it’s getting easier to start new ideas and rapid advancement, and there are things to even get you jump-started. You mentioned there was even a very interesting site to develop AI-related things, so that’s creating a bunch of challenges, isn’t it, for startups? By the time you get your ideation, by the time you get through those first couple of business-building stages, you may be behind again all of a sudden.

Anderson: Exactly. I would advise everyone before, even VCs and founders and co-founders and so on, to go to websites such as “There’s an AI for that.” That’s the name; it’s by far the best website on the internet for you to know if someone has already created something. I know LinkedIn influencers, and some of them probably go to this website and find something new because everything that’s being released is there in the AI industry. So, let’s say you’re managing that, and you’d like to be able to create an avatar of yourself in 15 minutes. Probably, it’s already there. Someone has created that. So there’s an AI for that dot com. That’s the name of the website, and probably your ideas are read there. That’s a way to make people more down-to-earth before they start an idea. It’s also a caution to VCs and investors in general before making big investments and so on. I came from a previous startup where we raised about 20 million dollars, and we were about to raise another 50 million, but then the crisis hit us. The thing was gone, and a lot of us came from big tech backgrounds. Looking back at the beginning of the year when that happened, I don’t think that was worth $20 million. The things that you’re building could be built by, I don’t know, $20,000, maybe less. Of course, I was surrounded by non-technical people with a lot of influence from other big tech companies in California. But as I’m saying, even as technical people, we are lost right now. We don’t know the future; we don’t know what’s going to happen next. We’re expecting models that can interpret images, and they will be released next year, and suddenly, everyone now has access to that. So you can just upload a picture, and it will be described. It’s crazy to think about where you’re going to end up, especially because we don’t know. I feel like this is all for now, but at the same time, I think we’re not prepared to tackle that and bring that to ourselves and extract the maximum value. We’re all excited, but we’re just at the beginning. I think it’s like the dot-com era a few years ago. We were having something similar but on a bigger scale. It’s something bigger than the dot-com bubble going on right now.

Ryan: It’s almost out of control, the growth, and just how, as you said, how fast it is, and the multiplication of ideas, expansion of ideas. Do you find that the small tech is really niching out and carving out very specialized areas of the AI industry, while big tech is trying to keep up with that and replicate what they’re seeing? Is that the trend you’re noticing?

Specialization in AI

Anderson: Yeah, it’s a good point that you mentioned. I think people should focus on things that cannot be easily copied by big tech and probably smaller niches, things that no one can do that easily. For example, I speak Portuguese. So I’m trying to see things that non-Portuguese speakers cannot do properly. So, building things with a 200 million market share to target. That’s a thing that I was studying for months, if not years, before launching something, and it’s really profitable. People can think about that, but they’d have to study it. It’s not easy; you need to know your location; you need to identify a problem, just like you’re talking about some industries. There’s always a profitable market, and it’s one of the industries responsible for real advancements in the AI industry. There’s always room for growth. I’ve already built some things for AI assistants for famous people in that industry, so I have plenty to talk about these and related things as well.

Ryan: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And again, we’re talking about Startup vs. Big Tech, and you kind of touched on a couple of key points. Big Tech has access to data that startups don’t. They have an unlimited data lake to draw from in terms of information, but they don’t have and it’s the same as almost like a retail shop or anything like that. It’s that idea of creating a local pond you’re fishing in. So startups being able to understand, and you’ve started startups like a number of them, you’re very successful. Has that been a focus for you to understand? Are you trying to compete against Meta and Google and all of these types of things? You’re really competing against your local market if you will, and that’s how you carve that out. Can you touch on that a little bit in terms of how you’ve been successful with that locality and understanding?

Startups’ Need for Unique Data

Anderson: Exactly. There is a new concept that we call “data valuation.” As models are becoming commodities, everyone now has access to AI models, and everyone has access to supervised machine learning. Most of the technology behind AI, machine learning, is open source, so you don’t need to pay to have access to it. What may differentiate you from other companies, other institutions, and so on is how original, unique, and massive your data is. If you have original, unique data that no one else has, you have a product. Everyone keeps talking about the models, and they are important, but now they are a medium; they are a way for you to go further. Not necessarily the big tech companies are going to have your data. If it’s not necessarily profitable for them, it can be profitable for you as an individual.

The Importance of User Experience

Ryan: You just touched on something absolutely perfect again, which I think you excel at. And you kind of teased us a little bit before about some of the things that you’ve created and some of the work that you’ve done. But you’ve sort of mentioned that this bottleneck that exists right now and where big tech is kind of taking over and where startups are going to succeed isn’t necessarily around coding anymore or identification of that. It’s around user experience now. That’s what it comes down to: Can you create what’s there and turn it into a unique user experience to differentiate yourself from what big tech is doing? I know that’s an area of specialty for you. Like you said, product and user experience, as opposed to this raw coding, is where that evolution is happening.

The Importance of User Experience

Anderson: Perfect, Ryan. I have really good friends in California who hired me to help them create the core things for their accounts as well. And one of those companies, by the way, I have like five or six clients that my data software has helped them. So one of them, of course, they are paying us. So we’re working for them. But I don’t think it was a good idea. They wanted to do something with Excel files and so on to automate things. I’m trying not to speak about the idea they had, but then suddenly, Microsoft released something that I didn’t talk about three or four weeks ago. And then I was so happy. I said, “Guys, look now, now it’s easy. Look at what Microsoft did. They integrated Python with Excel.” But instead of being excited, the guys got really disappointed and said, “Okay, Anderson, that means the bar. Now it’s lower.” It’s going to make it easier for us to build it, but of course, they are thinking, “Is it really worth investing more money in this and paying these guys from South America to work for us? They’re getting expensive. We don’t know where we’re going to get to.” That’s one clear example. Yes, you’re totally right. When you talk about UX, user experience is getting more and more important because coding is getting easier, and high-quality code is getting easier as well.

GitHub Copilot, you have whatever open-source Copilot to help you. We have a GPT engineer. I used a GPT engineer to create pricing models for a chain of restaurants. Recently, I just started a prompt. GPT engineer creates for you, sends Pythons, and then you run those prompts that do pretty much the same as a GPT but less buggy because in GPT, you just ask it to do everything for you, not necessarily works and spends a lot of your open AI key if you’re using OpenAI. But Engineer GPT created a Python script, and it worked. Like, I didn’t even touch anything. I didn’t need to code in Python, and that code was for something working. People can now create games with that. What about the design? What about the UX? The combination of things people really like to spend their time on. At the end of the day, we’re all still fighting for attention. The way you spend your 24 hours is where the money is going to be. So this bar is getting higher and higher because now the code is getting easier.

Ryan: That’s exactly right. We’re talking about how you’re going to carve out how startups survive. Like you just said, I know that what you’ve really focused on is focusing on that localization, focusing on where big data is trying to do everything still at that 30,000-foot level because that’s where the profitability is. It’s not at that ground-level, grassroots type of thing. And with AI, well, we still say it’s so far advanced. It’s really like you’ve said before; it’s in that preschool stage. It’s in that elementary school stage. It’s nowhere near any form of maturity at this stage.

Democratizing Access to AI

Anderson: Excellent. I’d like to discuss one of the ideas that we are about to launch. Well, I have a partnership with some other companies. What I can say is that we are focusing on things that people will actually use. So that’s the idea. What I can reveal without disclosing the details of our stealth mode AI startup is that some of these ideas aim to democratize access to AI. We understand that every business owner today, regardless of their industry, whether it’s a hairdresser or a bakery owner, is contemplating integrating AI into their business. However, we are well aware of the excessive costs involved. You can’t just tell someone, “Okay, you want an AI system. First, you need to sign up with GCP, AWS, or Azure. Then, you need to acquire an AI solution like Hugging Face. After that, you require a data engineer to set up the data pipelines. Finally, I can develop and implement an AI system for you. Only then will you have an AI system that can interact through voice, schedule meetings, and assist you. It’s simply too expensive for people to assemble an entire team just to have such a system. While the demand is there, the ease of access isn’t. One of the ideas we’re currently working on is geared towards democratizing access to AI assistance for everyone globally. I’ve heard that some clients are testing our solutions. Now, you might wonder why we have six or seven ideas rather than focusing on just one. The AI industry is quite complex. What if someone comes up with a brilliant idea? That’s why we’re exploring multiple avenues. Some of these ideas have already been launched on the Apple Store and Google Play, and they are performing well with subscribers. I also own a data software company. Therefore, the ideas associated with our Stealth AI startup primarily involve subscription-based services and products. This approach streamlines the process. Customers can easily make a purchase, which accelerates our growth. Scalability is closely tied to this approach. I encourage everyone to visit ‘There’s an AI for that dot com.’ If you find an interesting idea there, feel free to discuss it with me. I’d love to hear new ideas as well.

Ryan: Amazing. Thank you, Anderson. Thank you for joining us today. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on the Aifounders podcast show. We greatly appreciate your time. To our audience, your feedback and support are essential in helping us bring more fantastic content your way with exceptional guests like Anderson. Until next time, this is Ryan Davies signing off. Thank you, everyone, for tuning in. We genuinely value your time. Anderson, take care. Everyone, be safe out there. Thank you. Goodbye.

About Our Host and Guest

Director of Marketing – Ekwa.Tech & Ekwa Marketing
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AI Product Strategist & Technologist
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“It’s not about raw coding anymore; it’s about user experience. Can you turn what’s there into a unique user experience to differentiate yourself from what big tech is doing?“

– Anderson L. Amaral –