Podcast Episode 3

Starting up in AI: Balancing big hype and being first to market

Tushar Bhatnagar, Co-founder and CTO of VidBoard AI delves into the dynamic landscape of AI startups and the delicate balance between innovation and business. His valuable insights emphasize the importance of finding the right niche, offering user-centric products, and clarifying AI access. Explore Tushar’s transformative journey in AI entrepreneurship.

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Ryan : 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 that they’ve built. I’m your host, Ryan Davies, and I have the honor of hosting today’s engaging discussion on starting up in AI, balancing big hype, and being the first to market with our special guest, Tushar Bhatnagar.

Tushar is a research scientist and the co-founder and CTO of VidBoard AI, and I am so excited to have him here, Tushar. Welcome today.

Tushar : Yeah. Hi, Ryan. Thank you for having me on board, and it’s an amazing experience. Let’s see how it progresses. I’m really excited about it.

Ryan : I’m really excited about this topic too. I think it’s something that we’re talking about AI hype, and we’re back in that whole faster speed kind of mentality. So, what does that mean? And what does that look like? And who better talk to than you about this? You’re the co-founder and CEO of Alpha AI Tripsero and LawDiktat, with a focus on technology and legal tech initiatives. You’re also actively sharing insights on research, technology, and start-ups in various formats. At vidBoard.ai, you lead a team in video content creation. You’ve been recognized for your analytical skills and contributions to AI-driven technologies, with a strong presence in AI and tech communities. I know that you have a passion beyond just your businesses into mentorship, research, innovation, and growing this space. What a great guest to have here when we’re talking about this topic. , I would challenge to say that we couldn’t find someone better for it. I’m excited to jump in here. Let’s talk about AI hype before we got started here when we were having our kind of intro and, going through and talking about what we were going to cover here, we kind of compare this to the dot com bubble and everything that happened there, the pre-bubble burst where everybody was getting involved in almost that gold rush of the 18 hundreds where you hear AI right now you hear those two letters, and everybody wants a part of it. What does that look like to you? What have you been experiencing regarding the acceleration, not only in terms of the technology but also the amount of people who want to get involved in this space?

Discussion on the Topic: “Starting up in AI – Balancing Hype and Speed”

Tushar : I was probably a toddler when the dot com bubble burst. I couldn’t experience how exactly that happens, but I’m glad that I could experience it through the journey with an AI the whole AI space. So what happened with me is that I was more or less a hands-on developer initially in the initial days, and gradually, I pivoted towards performing many experiments. However, I was made a lead of the R and D department and a couple of start-ups that I was working with during the early days. So that is when I randomly came across content online, YouTube, and some really old research papers from the 1980s and 1990s. And I started reading about IoT, a lot of automation, self-driving cars. It was quite an in-thing between those initial days, as a courtesy, that I ended up joining a lot of research-focused groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. And there was a lot of information, like right now it’s a lot of news articles that come out during those initial years, it was a lot of search papers coming out. Many people are talking about their research and, you know, showing some proof of concepts and whatnot. And that highly intimidated me initially. That is when I felt that it was something new, something different, and I needed to go at it like it initially; I thought that it was a bit out of my reach, and as a person like me, I could not digest it. It’s like I want to be at the forefront of anything that anything new that’s happening. I’m so glad to see that I went to the UK; I’m currently staying in India. I was in India as well. So, I went to the UK for my higher education. I did my masters and specialized in the AI space. And I, during the whole journey of my master’s thesis and all those things, looking for a job. And at the same time, I started interacting with many people. And luckily, there were a couple of networking events, such as Cogax; one famous event happened in Europe and, especially, in the UK. So I ended up visiting Cogax, which was a reality check that this is how fast the world is progressing. The world has already reached a state we haven’t even started yet. And that was again an intimidation state of intimidation state that was running through my head. So that is when I decided to see how I can commercialize whatever I’ve been working on. So, be it my research or the prototypes I’ve been working on. And that is what led me to meet founders based out of incubators. So I talked to a couple of founders based out of set SQUARED that’s in Bristol. And then I went to the Natwest Accelerator based out of London, then Capital One, then there’s the Boric Incubator, and there were a few more. So, I connected with many entrepreneurs and worked as a consultant and a mentor, both simultaneously with these start-ups. And that is what led me to understand that it’s not always about being at the forefront and inventing new stuff. It’s more about revamping or redesigning how things can be built. So it’s more about, for example, if it’s there, if you have some content, you want to create some new content from what already exists, you call that terminology paraphrase. So, you paraphrase that particular content to build something. So, in a similar fashion, you remodel and rework the current way projects are built, and by using AI, you just make it into something bigger and better. So that’s what my forte has been on. My focus has usually been up on applied AI.

Ryan : That’s amazing 

Tushar : So that’s how things have been. 

Tushar’s Journey and Experiences in AI

Ryan:  That’s great; there will be a recognizable journey for many people regarding the intimidation factor, like, am I over my head here? However, it’s an incredibly fascinating space, demanding the breaking of barriers and pushing personal and business limits. You’ve ventured into this realm before, both with larger corporations and start-ups, even revitalizing and improving spaces. Now, in the current AI hype, especially as a founder, how do you balance the need for speed when the field is evolving rapidly? How do you recreate your space and maintain a competitive edge?

Tushar: The primary challenge for start-ups is generating viable ideas. Personally, I emphasize that selling AI directly is challenging because people struggle to see its intrinsic value. It’s not AI that sells; it’s the product utilizing AI that gains traction and significant valuation. Start-ups should refrain from building on existing products’ missing features, a common pitfall even for venture capitalists. These features are often absent initially due to the incumbents’ choices, but they will eventually incorporate them. Thus, instead of competing in this manner, start-ups should focus on making a unique impact within a specific product space. Balancing between innovation and being the first to invent something in the rapidly evolving AI field is essential. It’s rare to be the sole pioneer since the landscape evolves quickly. So, the focus should be on finding the right market fit for a product. For instance, when developing a product in the AI sector, you should aim to create unique value in the domain.

Ryan : Perfect.

Commercialization and Redesign in AI

Tushar: So when it comes to similar products, we compete in terms of pricing and features that could be offered. Some competitors have substantial funding. Our unique selling proposition (USP) is not being dependent on the technology they’ve built. We don’t compete on avatars, voice cloning, or pricing. Instead, we’re building a comprehensive video suite, creating a different niche like Canva did with a marketplace for content and assets from various sources. We provide a one-stop solution for creating digital content, including videos, infographics, and posters.

Ryan: That’s great, and I’d love to explore more about your approach, considering the fast pace of the AI market and the competition. How do you navigate this as an entrepreneur? Have you had to pivot or make strategic changes?

Tushar: In one of our ventures called Alpha, we focus on applied AI. We execute and implement various AI technologies. For example, we recently implemented models from Meta. Alpha is our rapid prototyping, testing, and knowledge-gathering platform. We assess if a technology is viable for commercialization and whether it fits our business goals. If it doesn’t, we shelve it. Alpha has supported start-ups like Vidboard and Tripsero. We siphon off research, validate it, and apply it to practical applications. For instance, LawDiktat handles legal tech. It’s about experimenting, validating, and moving useful technology into our ventures, all while maintaining a bootstrapped approach to business.

Balancing Speed and Solid Foundations in Start-ups

Ryan : Right. And I think that’s a key point, like in any start-up. It’s a big thing. Make sure that you’re being very thrifty. You’re being very penny-wise when you’re spending from that perspective. But how do you balance that as a start-up again? It’s very challenging to you; you have to go fast. Like that’s in, especially in this AI market, you have to be fast because you have to be either first to market best in the market or biggest, well, biggest ain’t happening. We know who the biggest are, and that that’s just not even possible today. So you must be best or first, and it almost has to be first. But at the same time, you have to be sensible in how fast you’re going because if you go too fast, you’re going to make mistakes. So, how do you balance that thought process of speed being critically important? But you still need to put a foundation in place to ensure you’re doing things properly. How have you been able to balance that?

Tushar’s Journey and Experiences in AI

Tushar: I’ll answer this question by using LLMs as an example, as people often refer to it. The best example is the APS provided by OpenAI for conversational purposes like chat APIs. They have provided these APIs, which are cost-effective. For instance, if you need to perform Q&A on your local data or use junior models, you can quickly do so using OpenAI’s services. However, after validating your business model and identifying where you can apply this technology to enhance customer value and your product, you need to have an open discussion within your team. You must decide whether to depend on OpenAI or fine-tune open-source models and create models to support your business. This decision helps balance your approach. It allows you to market quickly and test your updated feature set. Once you’ve confirmed its commercial value, you can decide whether to continue with third-party integrations or develop your models.

Ryan: I think that answers the question. If you want to expedite your market entry, it’s crucial to consider why you’d like to host large language models (LLMs) at your end. For example, hosting a substantial LLM can cost around $2,500 monthly. If you acquire 1,000 users, the costs increase significantly. Start-ups must consider this when deciding how to accelerate their growth and development.

Finding the Right Balance Between AI and Business

Ryan: So you’re deeply involved in mentorship and committed to advancing the AI field. Balancing intellectual property with contributing to the greater good and sharing knowledge is a critical part of the AI community. In your case, when you face areas where you lack expertise, and as you mentioned, you don’t know everything, how do you engage with the community to enrich the AI landscape and everyone’s experience in the AI world?

Contribution to the AI Community and Mentorship

Tushar: It’s more about sharing one experience while going through the journey of various experimentations. So we were playing with the LLMs and so on. We also have our own community groups that we started on WhatsApp, Slack, and Facebook. We have an exclusive community of students, teachers, and card machines. We end up sharing blogs, PDF articles, and so on on how this particular thing can be implemented on local machines and on the cloud. In terms of the basics, we keep on telling others how it can be achieved. We also explain how training can be done and how to create a commercial model around it. Because, as I mentioned, AI in itself is not going to sell. They have to build a product around what they’re trying to do. So even if it’s an LLM or an image model like mid-journey, there has to be a business around it. Yes, it’s a part of generating hype with images. But when it comes to business, how are the images being commercialized? That, again, has to be seen.

Ryan: I love that comment because I think that’s an important part too. People talk about wanting to get into the space. I know about AI, maybe, or I know about business. I think a lot of people I’ve talked to tend not to be able to blend those two things together. I know AI, I got this, I’m going to be rich, or I know the business, I’ve got this, I’m going to be rich. But you need to have that kind of nice blend. So, how have you been able to balance that as well? Is it surrounding yourself with the right people? Has it been just experience over time or what? Again, talk about your journey with that, how you’ve been and been successful.

Tushar: Initially, it was more about surrounding myself with many people, like within the UK. Many people around me were working on different start-ups and so on. Gradually, it ended up being more about my exposure and experience. Imagine 200-plus start-ups around you, and you get to be on the forefront, trying to see what they’re trying to do. I know how the majority of the things have been built around me. I’ve seen them grow. I’ve seen their journey, how they reap benefits from the kind of technology they had in the earlier days, and how they can benefit from the emerging technologies available now. So, I know a lot of start-ups that could benefit from the open AI hype and Lama Two, for example. I know how it will be, even if somebody wants to use mid-journey or auto-machine learning. So, it’s just courtesy of the experience and the initial environment I created around me that led me to this.

VidBoard AI and Its Journey

Ryan: Perfect. As we conclude, I’d like to highlight your role as a mentor and your position as a key opinion leader in this space. How can people connect with you? Tell us more about Vidboard AI to get to know you better.

Tushar: I’m generally available on LinkedIn. Although I don’t post much, I’m still active in discussions, brainstorming, and sharing ideas. I enjoy challenging people, pointing out potential failures, and explaining why things might work. LinkedIn is the most accessible platform to reach me. As for Vidboard, it started when my co-founder, who has been in the legal education field for 11 years, approached me with the idea of automating e-learning. We quickly realized we had the technology to make it happen. While our technology is better suited for short-form content, it was a conscious choice not to venture into long-form videos, 3D rendering, or VFX production. We found a market fit and established Vidboard AI as a separate entity.

Ryan : Amazing.

Tushar: Since then, there’s been no stopping. It started as a presentation tool, producing educational content at scale. Gradually, we’ve pivoted it into a complete multimodal video editing suite. We aspire to provide a comprehensive solution, whether it’s documents, audio, voice cloning, narration, avatars, or anything related to video. Lately, we’ve also joined the DMZ, one of the world’s leading tech incubators. It’s been a fun and exciting journey so far.

Ryan: It’s amazing and perfectly aligns with your message – finding your niche. You don’t have to create something entirely new that revolutionizes the world; instead, make it your own, address a specific need, recognize your place in the market, and grow from there. Don’t try to conquer the world in a single move. To our listeners, be sure to connect with Tushar on LinkedIn. He enjoys challenging people and offering fresh perspectives rather than just showering them with praise. So look him up, take advantage of his insights, and reach out. We’d like to thank everyone for joining us on this AI innovation journey, and we hope you’ve been inspired by Tushar’s incredible stories.

Remember, the future is driven by pioneers like our guest, Tushar Bhatnagar, who loves to push the limits of AI, which is full of limitless possibilities. So stay curious, stay innovative, and keep exploring the boundless horizons of technology. Before we sign off, we have a small request for our dedicated listeners. If you enjoyed the podcast, please take a moment. Leave a review. Subscribe to the show on your favorite platform, and tell your friends and family about it. You know, feedback and support is what helps us bring more amazing content to you. More amazing stories, Tushar. Thank you again for joining us.

Tushar : Tonight was Ryan; it was an amazing experience. Thank you for hosting.

Ryan : It was entirely my pleasure. Thanks everyone for listening. This is Ryan Davies signing off until next time. Stay curious out there. Take care. Bye bye.

About Our Host and Guest

Director of Marketing – Ekwa.Tech & Ekwa Marketing
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CEO – Alpha AI, Tripsero & CTO – vidBoard.ai
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“In the realm of AI, balancing hype and speed is a journey of innovation and caution. As we find the right blend, it fuels transformative potential and shapes the future of startups, technology, and community.”

– Tushar Bhatnagar –