Conversations with Fortune 100 Tech Leaders​

A New Autonomous World

Vijay Doradla of SparkCognition joins the podcast to discuss how AI is being used to solve the world’s most challenging problems.

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Show Notes

At SparkCognition, Vijay Doradla (LinkedIn) is part of the team that is trying to solve the world’s most challenging problems by using artificial intelligence.

As the Chief Business Officer, Vijay brings his experience in engineering, technology, research and investing to catapulting SparkCognition to new and exciting industries and innovations. In this episode, Vijay and Ian discuss everything from how and why to invest, and the exciting projects SparkCognition is working on including autonomous everything from planes to power plants and more.

Topics Discussed: AI, investing, market strategy, autonomous vehicles, innovation

Introducing Vijay — (1:15)

  • As the chief business officer, Vijay’s role focuses on business development, go-to-market strategies, and funding.
  • Vijay does a lot of work helping the sales team and coming up with processes to make sure revenue is always coming in.

SparkCognition’s initiatives — (2:15)

  • SparkCognition is working on solving some of the world’s hardest problems in many different sectors, including oil, power generation, air and space, healthcare and more.
  • Offering predictive maintenance solutions and currently have a partnership with Boeing to build the future operating system for autonomous flying vehicles.
  • “We believe that in the next decade we’ll have autonomous drones ferrying passengers, medicines, products and more.”
  • How to manage the logistics and tech that goes into autonomous flight — getting from Point A to Point B without a pilot — is a huge technical challenge SparkCognition is working to solve.

AI and how it will become part of daily life — (5:00)

  • “I’m predicting in the next five to ten years we won’t even be talking about AI. It will just be a part of our daily lives.”
  • You don’t look at Siri or Amazon Alexa as having AI in your home, but that is already the world we live in and it will only get more complex.
  • “We believe artificial intelligence has come to a tipping point in terms of adoption.”
  • AI is in the early stages of scaling on the enterprise side of business.
  • SparkCognition is working on autonomous power plants. That doesn’t mean that plants will run on their own. Rather, AI is going to augment human power and efficiency and create a new workplace.

How SparkCognition is innovating — (8:30)

  • SparkCognition has quite a few patents and is working on the cutting edge of technology in a number of areas.
  • AI and machine learning technologies are going through huge amounts of data and helping to implement predictive maintenance and AI algorithms to take work to the next level.
  • The trick is packaging technology into a usable format that brings ROI to industries.

Why companies are excited about investing in AI — (12:00)

  • Vijay has been on both sides of raising money as both an investor and a founder.
  • Companies that invest and partner see opportunities to disrupt, or be on the cutting edge of innovation or to augment what they are doing to make things easier or be able to grow faster.
  • “When I was on the other side of cutting checks … I was constantly looking to push the envelope of innovation.”

Working with John Chambers — (14:35)

  • John has been an investor and supporter of SparkCognition from the Series B round and he spends time with the team.
  • “He’s an amazing leader who has been there, done that and seen everything you can think of in the enterprise market.”
  • He helps the team understand if they are on the right track, as well as discuss culture in the fabric of the company so that they can grow the company to the next level. 

What it means to look for innovation — (17:40)

  • There are many vehicles for innovation and a lot of companies have arms and have roles like Chief Digital Officer or Chief Innovation Officer, dedicated to leading innovative work.
  • You invest with the idea to grow and scale in the long term, and you have to be looking at which companies are working in new and exciting ways to make that possible.
  • The best companies are companies that don’t always listen to the product teams.

Best practices for bringing in other companies — (23:25)

  • John Chambers had good advice after executing on 181 acquisitions and he shared his strategy with Vijay and SparkCognition: Figure out the formula that works for you. 
  • Acquire companies that are a good fit in terms of team, product market, culture and all other areas. This takes a lot of due diligence.

Comparing all of Vijay’s roles — (25:55)

  • Being an entrepreneur is the toughest thing on planet earth.
  • Every role could be easy or hard depending on your own psychology.

Lightning Round — (28:50)

  • Big fan of Google Maps
  • Bad Blood
  • Advice: When you enter into the role, the stakes are at a different level. You are the leader, everyone looks up to you, so it’s important to understand stress and responsibilities come with the territory. Take a deep breath, go one day at a time, and keep a positive attitude because positivity trickles down in a company.

Conversations with Fortune 100 Tech Leaders​

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