John Price: In order to solve a problem that is worth solving with machine learning, the biggest problem is the amount of data you have to aggregate, normalize, and get in shape. Once again, it’s not the intelligence. AI is not the center of the universe. The problem is shifted from software engineering. You pick your vertical you want to solve and get that data in shape for your machine learning algorithms. Be careful because you’re underestimating the amount of effort to get the data.
Sramana Mitra: What you said is exactly right. We keep harping on this point. To set up something that would work in an AI model with machine learning, you really need to understand the domain in which you’re building the problem. >>>
According to a recent report by Interactive Advertising Bureau, digital ad spending accounted for $17.6 billion during the third quarter of 2016, a robust 20% growth over the year. Google and Facebook accounted for 99% of the growth in the quarter, with Google raking in 54% of the growth, Facebook 45% and the remaining 1% being left for the rest of the world. Clearly smaller ad-tech firms are struggling.
Sramana Mitra: How did you get the company off the ground?
Isaac Oates: I got a lot of help initially. It was pretty easy and there was a lot of luck involved. When I was at Etsy, one of the members of their Board was an investor. I know Danny who’s on Etsy’s Board. I told him that I would start a new company. He was like, “Great. You should come talk to us at Index.” A couple of weeks later, we had money in the bank from there. I also raised some money from my co-founders at my last company.
Sramana Mitra: How much did you raise as your first round of funding? You’re raising money on a concept? >>>
Shaul Weisband, Co-Founder and CMO of Jifiti, shares his journey and talks about the pivot that his company made early on and its impact on the investors.
Eric Frenkiel, co-founder and CEO of MemSQL, discusses his journey from pre-IPO Facebook to YCombinator to a thriving In-Memory database company that has successfully navigated a fat startup path.
Venky Balasubramanian, co-founder of Plivo, along with his partner, has achieved the amazing feat of growing a relatively fast growth business to well over $10 million in revenue with just $2M in Angel financing. What’s even more impressive is that they have done this with a convertible note, first $250K from angel investors in India, followed by $1.75M from investors in the Bay Area. The company operates in the US-India mode, and for those of you working in that style, many important lessons are discussed.
Jeremy Young, CEO of Tanga Network, which has bootstrapped a ~$30M a year affiliate marketplace. It’s a Groupon-like business, but with much more sustainable unit economics and business practices. Very interesting discussion on how and why!
Daniel Gulati, Principal and Head of Seed Investment Practice at Comcast Ventures, discusses e-commerce startup trends and what can and cannot be venture financed at this stage, and why.