Podcast Episode 5

AI adoption by mainstream businesses

Sasha Uritsky, the co-founder of NModes, shares his AI journey, emphasizing trust in co-founders and lean startup strategies. Explore his insights on AI expansion and balancing technology and product development. Discover Sasha’s transformative impact on the AI landscape.

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Ryan: Welcome everyone to another episode of the AiFounders podcast show. Our podcast is dedicated to celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of AI innovators, entrepreneurs, and visionary founders and captivating the stories behind the movements they’ve built. I’m your host, Ryan Davies, and I have the honor of hosting today’s AI adoption by mainstream businesses discussion with our special guest, Sasha Uritsky. Sasha, thank you for joining today.

Sasha: No problem.

Ryan: Excellent. A bit about Sasha. He is the CEO of NModes, an AI platform specializing in conversational AI solutions. He has expertise in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and has a rich background in AI technologies. He has held senior positions at many technology companies and specializes in various aspects of AI and IT. His work focuses on AI architecture and development, leading NModes in providing AI solutions for businesses, enhancing customer experiences, and improving decision-making.

AI Adoption by Mainstream Businesses 

Ryan: Well, let’s jump right into it. We’re talking again about AI adoption by mainstream businesses from an entrepreneurial standpoint. Businesses are adopting AI, and our listeners are at some point in the entrepreneurial journey. Let’s talk about the existing challenges and how businesses can rapidly adopt AI in a fast-changing world.

Sasha: Right. This is a significant question, and it depends on the industry. Some industries are quick early adopters, while others lag. In general, what we see with our customers at NModes is that as a mainstream business, you have two options: you either develop your AI in-house or find AI partners. AI partners are the most popular option because they reduce costs. For many businesses, finding the right AI partner is the key.

Ryan: You mentioned that we were offline talking about this earlier. One of the keys to getting started in this space is differentiating AI as a technology and AI as a product. Those are two different things, and they impact the market and how you run your business. Can you touch on that and explain to the listeners more about differentiating between technology and a product and what that means for a new business?

Sasha: Yes, that’s a strategic understanding of AI. There are AI technologies and AI products. For example, Chat GPT is both a technology and a product. Similarly, Amazon Alexa is an AI product, and the technology behind it is called Amazon Lex. IBM Watson is both the product and the technology. Businesses can either use their own AI technology to create their product or use someone else’s AI technology to have their own AI product. It’s crucial to know where you stand with these technologies and how your product is positioned in the market.

Balancing Long-Term Roadmap with Rapid Technological Changes

Ryan: You also mentioned that only some people are starting their technology, and they’re using existing technologies to develop a product. When you start up in AI, you need to be comfortable with both sides – understanding the technologies and how to package them as a product. Can you expand on that and talk more about being comfortable with both positions and how to find your market and niche?

Sasha: Indeed, businesses need to decide whether they’ll build their own AI technology or not. For us at NModes, our expertise is in language, which naturally led us to the AI segment dealing with language. We have our own AI models, which allow us to define our product. It’s essential to understand your product’s position in the market and how that influences your decisions regarding technology. That’s how we’ve developed a long-term roadmap and continued to thrive in a rapidly changing AI landscape. We understood the market’s needs and positioned ourselves accordingly.

Ryan: Speaking of your journey, NModes has a long-term strategy. You mentioned that you have a multi-year roadmap despite the rapidly changing landscape. How have you managed to develop and maintain a long-term roadmap in this dynamic environment?

Sasha: At NModes, we’re experts in language, and we understand how language works. We naturally positioned ourselves in the AI segment that deals with language. Understanding our strengths and the market allowed us to have a long-term strategy. We were ahead of the curve in the chatbot space and knew the market needed better quality. We positioned ourselves accordingly, allowing us to survive and grow even as the AI landscape rapidly changes.

Ryan: From that success standpoint because, as you said, not everybody survives, obviously, right? Especially when some of these things become commoditized, or whatever it is, like conversationally, AI is an example. But a lot of our listeners can adapt it to whatever area they’re in. Tell me how conversational AI comes down to the art of the possible. You mentioned explaining to people what’s out there, things they didn’t know, and positioning that in the market to present them with a value proposition. We’re talking about AI adoption by mainstream businesses picking this up. You’ve got people who are laggards, who are way behind, and others who want cutting-edge stuff. How do you position it in the market, identify your market, promote the art of the possible, and showcase what makes you unique and how AI businesses can do that?

Embracing New Technologies and Innovations 

Sasha: In my opinion, there are two sides to this question. One, it’s about something other than AI businesses in general. From my experience, it’s about finding the right messaging. The more I’m involved in this business world, the more I see the value of effective messaging. It’s what marketing is all about. Formulating and delivering the right message is key.

Ryan: Excellent. We’ve talked about staying ahead of this. To continue growing, you must innovate and offer new products and solutions. Tell us about your ability to understand that sometimes you need to pivot or be fairly innovative and quick on your feet to embrace new technologies. How do you balance this with a long-term roadmap?

Expanding and Pivoting in the AI Space 

Sasha: Well, from our perspective, it’s not necessarily pivoting; it’s more about expansion. Many businesses often use the term “pivot,” and that’s correct in many cases. But for us, it’s more about expansion. For example, we started as a conversational AI solution and then developed a non-conversational, analytical solution that analyzes unstructured data, mainly natural language. It’s more like predictive analytical AI. Our ability to balance AI technology and AI product positions allows us to expand and offer more value to our customers. This balancing act will enable us to execute our long-term strategy.

Building and Managing a Strong Team

Ryan: Perfect. I want to ask about NModes specifically, from concept to growth. What common challenges have you encountered as you continue to grow? Share insights on team building, networking, and key strategies that are crucial in the culture of your business.

Sasha: Well, one of the challenges in AI businesses is the education gap. AI technology is so advanced and complicated that there needs to be a significant gap in understanding it. We often see companies with multiple, sometimes conflicting, AI solutions because they need a clearer understanding of their needs. So, addressing this education gap is a challenge we all need to tackle.

Sasha: So, how can we find core people, or how did we hire? What’s our strategy in terms of hiring the right people?

Ryan: So, in terms of building your team, that’s a big difference.

Sasha: First, you must ensure you have the right co-founders. It has to be trusted.

Expanding and Pivoting in the AI Space

Ryan: Excellent. We’ve talked about this a bit, but you’ve got to stay ahead of this. And to continue to grow, you have to innovate and constantly offer new products and solutions to people and things like that.

Sasha: Right. Well, for us, it’s not pivoting; it’s more expanding, and you’re right. Many businesses often use pivot for this concept, and it’s correct in many cases. I believe we, so I don’t think we did it. A more accurate description would be, specifically, for our business expansion. For example, we started as a conversational AI solution about half a year ago. We developed a new solution, which could be more conversational. It’s more analytical. It analyzes unstructured data, meaning natural language. So, this is what we do, but it’s not conversational anymore. It’s more like predictive analytical AI. So what allows us to expand or, in some cases, you can say pivoting, is the same ability to position ourselves efficiently, both on the AI side of the technology side of things and AI as a product side. We’re comfortable with our technology. That allows us to be comfortable with all these new developments. When, like these two examples, when Facebook and others started dealing with Chatbot, we embraced that and used this wave to advance the business. Now, with generative AI, we’re doing the same thing. It’s a good thing for us. It allows us to expand and offer more value to our customers. We were comfortable with our technology, and we could see potential next steps in AI development, for example, decision-making AI, or sometimes we call it adaptive AI, right? We’re planning for this next step and offering some value to our customers. So, this ability to balance these two sides of AI allows you to execute this long-term strategy that we have, for example.

Ryan: That’s amazing. I worked in the conversation with the IPA earlier, and I remember working with a financial institution. They said they have seven different pillars that run on seven different platforms, which speak seven to nothing. Nothing works together. That was the next gap, bringing together how we combine our Azure with this live agent that we’ve got going and everything else. So that’s completely understandable. And, you know, it’s a great call-out from that perspective. I want to talk regarding the last piece here because we’ve gone through positioning and communicating. As you’ve scaled up, as you’ve built this, as you’ve built Nmodes into what it is today. How have you gone about just that internal side of things to recognize and build a team to help identify those opportunities that exist and keep ahead of the hype cycle in terms of AI adoption that’s happening and continue to add those quality people? That’s a big thing where people, when they’re starting up, feel they’re doing it alone. They need, as you mentioned, you’ve got a network, you’ve got to find people, you’ve got to see the technologies. How have you been able to do that successfully? Any thoughts on that?

Sasha: As a startup founder, you must have the right co-founders. So basically, it has to be trust. That’s the most important. Professional qualities are critical, but if there is no trust, then most likely, it’s not going to work. I was lucky. I met my co-founder; he was doing research at one of the local universities here in Toronto, and I was pro in my language-related AI models. We worked together for many years, and we completely trusted each other. So now, once you have the core team, hiring is a slightly different strategy because of that kind of budget; your cost limitations come into consideration. You need to find the best talent for the money you can spend. That’s part of what we sometimes call a lean startup strategy. We have become experts on this lean startup thing. So yeah.

Ryan: It’s amazing. That’s exactly what everyone’s looking for these days, right? It is the ability to learn the thing, like you said, close that education gap, learn what they don’t know, understand what the art of the possible is out there, and understand what can be done. Sasha, thank you so much for joining me today and thank you to all of our listeners for joining us on this enlightening journey through AI innovation. We hope you’ve been inspired by the incredible stories and expertise that Sasha has shared today. Remember, pioneers like our guest, Sasha Uritsky, and companies like NModes and the limitless possibilities of AI drive the future. 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 enjoy the podcast, take a moment, leave a review, subscribe, and share. Let people know about it on your favorite platform, and your feedback and support help us bring more amazing content and guests like Sasha to you every week. So, Sasha, thank you again so much for joining. Absolutely lovely conversation. This is Ryan Davies signing off until next time. Take care, everybody.

About Our Host and Guest

Director of Marketing – Ekwa.Tech & Ekwa Marketing
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“In our journey, it’s not about pivoting but expanding. We adapt, innovate, and find opportunities in the ever-evolving AI landscape. This balance between the technology and product side is the key to executing our long-term strategy.”

– Sasha Uritsky –