Author: Nexus Frontier

Using disruptive technology to turn ‘useless’ data into competitive advantage: An interview with Danny Goh, Co-founder and CEO of Nexus FrontierTech

 

*This is a guest post written by Ton Dobbe – Chief Inspiration Officer at Value Inspiration and host of the Value Inspiration Podcast.

 

Every week I interview entrepreneurs and experts from around the world to share their big idea about new forms of value creation and the potential we can unlock when technology augments the unique strengths of people to deliver remarkable impact.

 

Untouched value opportunity

 

I was inspired by the big idea behind Nexus FrontierTech, hence I invited Co-founder and CEO Danny Goh to my podcast. We explored the enormous value opportunity that millions of organizations leave untouched around unstructured data simply because the ‘can’t manage it’. We also explored Danny’s vision on how the world is changing from an app-centric world into a skill-centric world and how that will influence the way we can create solutions going forward.

 

The thing that triggered me most from my interview with Danny:

 

¨The advantage that we give to them [our clients], is they’re one step ahead of their competitors.¨

 

Why did this trigger me? What’s the bigger value I see?

 

Far too often we create IT solutions that are about creating efficiencies and cost savings. And while that’s all good, in the end it’s only about creating incremental value. What I admire in Nexus’ approach is they start with the outcome in mind and find ways to utilize the latest technologies to create competitive advantages for their customers. It’s the reflection of how the combination of technology and people can deliver value far beyond the expected. That’s where shifts in value are created. That’s enabling their customers get ahead of other players in the market.

 

What’s the bigger question / opportunity that is being raised?

 

It’s the question: ‘What’s stopping us from delivering more competitive advantage?’ From what I see around me a lot starts with mindset. It’s asking the simple question: ‘why’ more often. ‘Why does a mortgage process at a bank take weeks, sometimes months? Why can’t this be done in days?’ ‘Why is an M&A process occupying so many consultants for months?’ ‘Why do people need to drive certain processes forward?’ And ‘Why aren’t we utilizing the creative gifts of people so little in everyday situations?’

 

Too often we settle with making significant adjustments that effectively do nothing more than allowing people to do more of the things they’re not meant to be doing in the first place. Why not think different and invest in ‘skills’ upgrades that make people do better (rather than just ‘more’) and deliver value unimaginable before. That’s where today’s technology can have its greatest impact. We just need to start thinking this way.

 

Listen to the big idea behind Nexus FrontierTech, and why it has the potential to transform the competitive powers of virtually any organization.

Based in Geneva and Boston, Mark is a socio-economic strategist researching MegaTrends, business model innovations and competitiveness. He is the co-author of the bestseller Understanding How the Future Unfolds: Using Drive to Harness the Power of Today’s Megatrends. He has advised and consulted cities, governments and UN agencies at the interface between business, technology and government.

 

What sparked your interest in AI  and lead you to co-found Nexus FrontierTech?

 

I have always found technology a Pandora’s Box rather than a panacea and most of my own thinking came from my lack of understanding. With the book on Megatrends with Terence Tse, PhD, a whole new world opened up to me and although I am far from being an expert or even a connoisseur, my appreciation for technology has become a common trait in all of my teaching and researching activities, as well as in my work consulting to governments and government leaders.

 

Where do you see the state of AI at this moment in time? Is it something that’s REALLY being implemented? Is it all talk, no walk?

 

I think it depends greatly on where we look. I am a macro guy and I’ll provide you with a macro answer. There are still tons of countries that are far from even devising a proper AI strategy, with the exception of the usual few. So I see AI being a crossroad in terms of social and public awareness, with more and more people discussing it, but still uncertain on the steps to follow. I see this as a big awakening without much action still…but without a doubt, the overall compass of the conversation on AI has shifted to a much larger group of stakeholders. 

 

With so many tech companies claiming to work wonders for businesses, both established and startup, what differentiates Nexus from the rest?

 

I truly think that our culture is our true differentiator. Coders are coders and AI scientists are AI scientists. But what characterises us is this unique blend of cultures and diversity that make working at Nexus the real contribution. Even among the founders, the five of us could not be more diverse from each other. Still, this has not prevented us from creating a culture of respect and cohesion. We are so comfortable being who we really are that we never fear being candid and transparent, so clearly red tape is not something we know about.

 

Then of course there is the technology and the fact that I think we are advanced and have winning ideas that need to permeate the market, but again, ¨culture eats strategy for breakfast¨ is what Peter Drucker used to say and I can’t agree more.

 

You have partnerships with various higher education institutions. What value does that bring to Nexus?

 

The most immediate value is that we can tap on a pool of talent that is high end. From Harvard, Cambridge, IE, Hult, etc. We can truly recruit on a global scale. Second to this, these institutions can always offer leads to us that we may be able to convert into value. It is also an important aspect of reassurance for our investors.

 

What is a common misconception that business owners/leaders have about AI?

 

That we can work on any possible project. The truth is that capabilities are factors we can’t ignore and often between what the market may want and what we may be able to do, there must be an organisational alignment effort. Nexus is usually capable of this, but in many people’s heads things happen quicker than in real circumstances and we need to set realistic expectations. 

 

As Chief Learning Officer of Nexus, what is your role in the growth of the business? What is your biggest contribution?

 

My role is a hybrid of many things, mainly carved and designed around my bread and butter. So there is a bit of lobbying, lots of research through publications that I curate on a very small scale but which has exposed some of the members of our community to larger platforms. And then there is training, a sourcing of applicants, etc. It’s not an easy role to define but hopefully a support role to many others in more operational roles. 

 

What does ¨unlocking the power of AI¨ mean to you?

 

Working at Nexus is a good way to put this question into context. It rewrites the conversation on work and contribution to society and it provides us with time horizons we had never thought of. 

 

Where do you see Nexus in 10 years time?

 

It is likely that the company may evolve into a classic exit strategy such as IPO or M/A, and if that ever happens, Nexus will move to its next normal phase of evolution. Regardless of my own thoughts, my hope is that Nexus will still be a guarantor of openness, transparency and care, even if we are a tech company. 

Terence is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nexus FrontierTech and Associate Professor of Finance at the London campus of ESCP Europe Business School. Terence is also co-author of the book ¨Understanding How the Future Unfolds: Using DRIVE to Harness the Power of Today’s Megatrends¨. The framework was nominated for the CK Prahalad Breakthrough Idea Award by Thinkers50, the most prestigious award in business thought leadership. The DRIVE framework has also led Chartered Management Institute’s own magazine Professional Manager in the UK to name Terence as one of the 18 new voices in 2018 that reshape management and leadership. Talent Quarterly in the US called the DRIVE framework one of the 24 trends transforming talent management in the years to come. 

 

You have a strong background in higher education, having worked in various roles at top universities such as Cambridge Judge Business School and ESPC Europe. What was the idea behind co-founding an AI startup? Have you always been interested in tech and startups?

 

Like many things in our lives, co-founding Nexus was the result of coincidence. After I wrote the book Understanding How the Future Unfolds: Using Drive to Harness the Power of Today’s Megatrends” with Mark Exposito, I started to really appreciate what technologies can do and how they have embedded in our lives and are driving the future. A very strong interest in the latest technologies was developing. So, when Danny read an article I co-wrote with Mark on AI, he asked me to meet up as he was starting an outfit based on this technology in the UK. The result was Nexus FrontierTech.

 

What do you consider the biggest misconceptions both businesses and the general public have about AI?

 

Lots of people still don’t know what AI is truly capable of.  At the moment, it cannot even identify whether the image it is looking at is a dog or a cat. All it can do is to try to figure out whether it’s a dog or not a dog. If what it can achieve is limited, it is for sure not what many media outlets portray it to be. Understanding this is a good start. Another misconception we see in businesses from our experience gained at Nexus FrontierTech, is that often the most difficult part of putting AI into operation is not the development of AI but rather customising it for the IT system of clients. There are quite a number of AI applications/product vendors out there in the market. But off-the-shelf solutions as such is not easy – and most of the time fail – to meet exactly what the clients are aiming to achieve.

 

AI is considered a buzzword by many. Do you think it’s merited?

 

Yes. It is a buzzword. But for the wrong reason. It is a common term that people tend to use to describe machines doing human work. But ultimately, there is no intelligence in AI. This is because intelligence implies creativity, problem solving, empathy, to name of few. And machines can do none of them. I personally prefer to use terms like natural language processing or image recognition. These terms are more precise in describing what machines can do, unlike an all-encompassing term like AI which can describe everything and nothing at the same time. 

 

What are the biggest challenges AI firms are facing when proposing business solutions to potential clients?

 

It is often taking the first step. While some companies have never tried and don’t know that much about AI, they are reluctant to put the technology to use. Not to mention that for AI to fulfil its potential, it has to be customised. This often involves a great deal of work. Other times, we have also seen companies trying to deploy AI. Yet, they have spoken to the wrong vendors and the result is that they put the money in but are not getting the value out or the vendor could only go only as far as a proof of concept. Consequently, they become disappointed and take a more cautious approach when trying to deploy AI again. Needless to say, they should have talked to Nexus FrontierTech first to avoid such disappointments!

 

You have co-authored another book, ¨The AI Republic: Building the Nexus Between Humans and Intelligent Automation¨, alongside Nexus CEO Danny Goh and Chief Learning Officer Mark Esposito, PhD. Can you give some insight into what you touch upon and its connection to Nexus’ current mission of democratising AI?

 

We would like to demystify AI, fleshing out what it can and cannot really do. We also discuss how modern AI has gotten to where it is and explain some of the technical sides of the technology. Since AI has will have a huge impact on our world in the future, the book will also cover some ethical concerns of this technology.

 

Nexus’ wants to democratise AI. What does this mean to you?

 

I am going to use an analogy that Danny has used. Remember those days when we were first introduced to the Internet? Way back then, if you were to put a website together, you would have to do a great deal of programming. This was restricted to those who had the skills and equipment to do. These days, building a website requires very little programming knowledge because we can now drag and drop using specific applications. When we say our we want to democratise AI, what we want to do is offer an application. We hope that our Podder.ai platform will enable individual researchers/engineers to easily build AI products for their clients and make it easy for clients to accept and integrate 3rd party vendors’ AI offerings.

HANOI – 1st April 2019 – IT Viec, a leading job site in Vietnam specialising in matching IT jobs with highly qualified candidates, has just named Nexus FrontierTech the #7 Best IT Company in Vietnam for 2019.

 

Nexus joins the ranks of companies such as business accelerator NFQ Asia, Absolute Software Corporation, and ZALORA Group, the South Pacific’s leading online fashion destination.

 

The list, consisting of 15 of the country’s most ambitious and worker-friendly IT companies, was released last Thursday, 28th March.  Every year the online job site gathers over 8,000 reviews from both current and former employees to assess satisfaction and recommendation rates for each company.  Top-ranked companies typically boast high ratings for compensation and benefits packages, work and office environment, work-life balance, and professional development, among other things.

 

 

Nexus had an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5, with 93% of reviewers recommending the AI solutions company as a place to work. Comments from reviewers mentioned a ¨dynamic and comfortable environment with ability to work remotely, a ¨management team with good expertise and experience,¨ and many opportunities for non senior-level employees to learn and develop. 

 

¨We always try to create an environment that feels like a second home to our members, one where you’ll actually enjoy coming to work everyday,¨ says Hayley Nguyen, Country Director at Nexus FrontierTech. ¨We want our team to feel safe when sharing their opinions, and we honour ownership and transparency at our core.¨

 

To see the full list of winners, visit www.itviec.com

For more information on job opportunities with Nexus, visit www.nexusfrontier.tech/careers

Tiffany Moore is Nexus FrontierTech’s Global Marketing Manager, a role she took on in May of 2018. She is a Los Angeles native with a background in Communications and Journalism from Loyola Marymount University and has worked in variety of sectors such as entertainment, online gaming, and higher education. Tiffany has extensive experience working around the globe in countries such as Ghana, Malaysia, South Africa, The Bahamas, and Spain and is responsible for the coordination of global marketing efforts of Nexus’ worldwide presence.

 

Your background is in Journalism and you’ve worked in a number of sectors in your career including higher education, gaming, and entertainment. What drew you into the deep tech field?

 

To be honest I really just fell into it. I studied Communications and Journalism in university and, just like any other L.A. native, I envisioned myself working in the news or entertainment sector. I was fortunate enough to get my foot in television and radio, but soon realized the industry wasn’t for me. After graduating I moved to Spain to learn Spanish and began working in a Finnish gaming company, which I enjoyed, as it allowed me to interact directly with consumers. From there I switched to the higher education field at IE Business School, where I was introduced to Mark Esposito, co-founder of Nexus. We got to talking and after learning about the company, its mission and vision, I knew I had to be a part of it. The rest is history, as they say.


It seems as though this is your first experience with a startup. How are you finding it?

 

Yes, it sure is and it’s definitely a challenge! Startups work at such a rapid pace, you hardly got any time to blink before the next deliverable is due, the next change needs to be made, or the next campaign needs to be launched. But that is the beauty of it. Working at Nexus is allowing me to dabble in a number of different roles and responsibilities that would be almost impossible in other more vertical companies. Having that ownership, knowing your work has a direct impact on the growth of the company, is very rewarding.  


Another challenge is Nexus’ global aspect. We have teams in London, Vietnam, Bangkok, Tokyo and Boston. Trying to manage effective communication with team members all over the world isn’t easy, but we’re doing it and simultaneously growing. That shows you how agile this company really is.

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge for AI firms when communicating the benefits to their audience?

 

I think the term AI has been used as a buzzword in recent years. It’s become a hot topic, which is a positive thing, but unfortunately too many firms have claimed themselves ¨AI-driven companies¨ when they really aren’t. The majority of firms haven’t been able to walk the walk when it comes to providing enterprise-wide solutions using AI, usually lacking the capabilities to integrate their models with the enterprises’ existing systems.  

 

At Nexus, our teams work directly with clients to identify their pain-points and develop bespoke solutions that take into account the context and lens that these companies look through when analysing and sorting their data.  Value isn’t added using a 1 size fits all approach.

 

What do you consider Nexus’ biggest strength?

 

Our talent, without a doubt. We have a team of over 100+ engineers, scientists, project and product managers and researchers who are truly passionate about their work. Coming from a very corporate professional background, seeing the energy, the pure grit of our team came as a shock to me. This isn’t a typical 9 to 5 for us, it’s a way of life, and we share in each others’ success.

 

What do you hope to contribute as Nexus’ Global Marketing Manager?

 

I hope to effectively communicate the passion that Nexus has for the tech industry, its clients, and AI education and training to the world. This isn’t just about generating leads or gaining followers. This is about Nexus becoming a trusted partner for enterprises, AI vendors and AI engineers who want to make the world a better place using the latest that technology and research has to offer. This is about community-building and fostering AI talents and up-and-comers. The excitement that we have here internally at Nexus…I want others to feel it.

 

Describe yourself in 1 word.

 

Curious.

 

Describe Nexus in 1 word.

 

Agile.

James Sintros is a Boston-based director, consultant, philanthropist, and investor, who serves on the boards of corporations, educational and healthcare institutions and charitable foundations around the world. He has successfully raised capital and established companies both private and publicly traded. During his long and diverse career, he has served as Senior Advisor to the Chairman and CEO of the Monitor Group, as CEO of Sportamy, Inc., assisted in the establishment and growth of Hult International Business School, and continues to hold various roles in international motor racing and race driver development activities. He is now also serving as Executive Director of Nexus FrontierTech.

 

How were you first introduced to Nexus FrontierTech?

 

I’ve known Danny Goh, the founder of Nexus FrontierTech, for a long time. We first met at Hult International Business School, where I am the longest serving Director. We worked together in our respective roles at Hult. We continued to stay in touch after Danny’s time at Hult and have become great friends.

During one of my frequent trips to London, Danny and I met so he could tell me about his new venture, Nexus. I was fascinated by the concept. I gave him some ideas and introduced him to some of the experts who are now involved in the business, as well as some people who are in the process of investing. I’ve been helping him ad hoc almost since the beginning. Danny then asked me to become a Director, and later we decided I would become Executive Director, in order to have a more hands-on role.

 

As Executive Director, what contribution are you looking to make to the development of Nexus?

 

I have a pretty extensive, high-level, and global network, which I am able to utilize to assist with Nexus and my other activities.

I am confident that I can play an important role in Nexus, not just giving Danny advice, but by putting him in touch with the right people, those who would be able to see the Nexus vision, believe in it, and support it.

 

What do you see in Nexus that makes you optimistic about its future?

 

Nexus is actually doing real work for real clients, including some of the world’s best-known financial services and manufacturing companies.

In China, for instance, when people think of AI, they think of robots. In my opinion, they don’t have a full understanding of AI, its capabilities or its purpose. What they can do well is replicate, but that’s not what industry or real-life businesses need.

In the States, on the other hand, the emphasis seems to be focused on theoretical and hypothetical AI activities. Sure, there are many visionaries, but what have most of them really done to advance the adaptation of AI technology to assist business or industry?

Danny’s philosophy and strategy for Nexus has impressed me. He wants to prove that Nexus can actually get things done for clients, and that they’re not just a group of people in a room hypothesizing or coming up with theoretical solutions. They’re in the field, in the trenches, doing it! That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about Nexus.

 

A global mission for Nexus is to democratise the use of AI. What does this mean to you?

 

I think the way to democratise AI is not to keep it a big secret. Allow big and small firms, as well as start-ups to have access to this type of technology, which can help them operate more efficiently and more profitably.

The problem now is that the general public, as well as businesses, don’t fully understand what AI is. People still don’t know what its real potential is. Nexus wants to make AI available to everybody. Make it simple and understandable. Make it tangible and realizable.

 

What do you think are the biggest challenges Nexus faces in the tech industry?

 

The biggest obstacle will be getting people to accept, adapt, and transition to using AI as a tool to help their businesses. It’s disruptive, and just like any historically disruptive technology, it will take time for people to adapt. For example, the world didn’t drop landlines and start using smartphones overnight. AI’s evolution will be like any other new technology.

Another challenge is to get it user-friendly enough to where people are willing to try it and adapt it to their businesses.

A great thing about Nexus is that the team is made up of individuals who are able to explain the technology and its benefits to someone with little tech experience. The key is explaining it clearly enough so people not only understand, but are eager to adapt.

Another important point about Nexus is that it is not a niche product. The technology can be adapted to any business or industry. It’s a far more broad-based approach than other AI companies. Nexus is a game-changer.

Hanoi, Vietnam – Nexus FrontierTech has proudly launched rubikAI, spearheading AI training and community-building in the Southeast Asian region.

 

Previously known as Innovatube, Nexus FrontierTech has already established itself as a hub for fostering AI talents in the Asian region. Since its inception 3 years ago, the company has gathered over 6000 attendees in their summits, workshops and hackathons, bringing together hundreds of scientists, engineers, educators and AI enthusiasts alike.  They have been especially active in the local startup ecosystem, running an active platform for local entrepreneurs and continually investing in small companies with big visions for the future of AI. These efforts now fall under the initiative’s rubikHUB category.

 

In 2019, rubikHUB will continue their community-building activities with Hanoi AI Week, a series of events co-hosted with the top AI companies in Vietnam that will be open to anyone wanting to join, and the Vietnam AI Summit, where decision-makers and business leaders will gather to discuss opportunities and challenges of the AI ecosystem in Vietnam and the region.

 

The startup is now also offering face-to-face courses taking place in Ha Noi, Vietnam, with the aim of maximizing AI literacy under rubikTRAIN. These courses are accessible to anyone, regardless of having a technical background or not. Using the problem-based learning (PBL) method, participants will acquire the AI know-how along with career orientation backed by their network of renowned experts and businesses.

 

Students attended the the first class of rubikAI’s Fundamentals Course in Ha Noi on 3 January 2019

 

The course offerings include Natural Language Processing (NLP), Recommender System, Computer Vision, and even a 6-week Fundamentals Course, meant for beginners with no technical background, but are thinking of pursuing a career in AI. There will also be 1-day training programs, or Bootcamps, for growth hacking. Each Bootcamp’s content will vary and be suitable for participants with or without a tech background.

 

¨We’re already quite recongnised in the region for building a strong AI community, and especially for the support we give to ambitious deep tech startups, so the idea of rubikHUB came quite easily,¨ says Nexus FrontierTech CEO and rubikAI Director Danny Goh. ¨What’s really new and exciting for us is the launch of rubikTRAIN. Technology is moving at such a rapid pace that it’s critical to develop talent that is equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary to make these technological capabilities applicable in a business climate. Over the years we’ve gathered so much experience that it was only natural for us to share this experience with other AI enthusiasts.¨

 

For more information about rubikAI, visit www.rubikai.com, or send an email to [email protected]

Alice St George is Nexus FrontierTech’s London-based Commercial Director – a role that she began in September 2018. She completed her MBA at London Business School in 2015 and since then has gained a wealth of experience spanning digital transformation, business development, and organisational operations. She is also a qualified lawyer who practised in the areas of M&A and employment law at top-tier law firms in both Australia and the UK. 

 

Your background is in Corporate Law. What was the reason behind the shift from Corporate Law to the tech industry, and more specifically, AI?

 

A few years into my law career, I realised that I wanted a more commercial role and decided to do an MBA to broaden my horizons. After two years at London Business School, I joined a technology company – I really wanted to learn more about the role technology can play in businesses and the lives of consumers. I see it to be such an important enabler of change and improving the ways we do things.

 

Equally interesting is your shift into the start-up realm. What has been the most challenging, or surprising to you now that you’ve made this shift?

 

For me, the fast pace and need to be a jack of all trades has been the biggest challenge and the greatest cause of excitement. The other thing that has surprised me is the network of advocates and supporters that we have – through out founders, Nexus has access to amazing people who are always willing to offer advice, lend their ear and help propel Nexus to each next phase.

 

What do you think is the most common misconception that the business world has about AI and its functions?

 

The fact that it will lead to the redundancy of humans. At Nexus, we focus on AI as an enabler – it does not make people or their minds irrelevant, it simply offers an efficiency to processes.

 

In your experience, what do you find companies are most looking for when in search of AI providers?

 

I think this varies massively. Some are looking for wide-sweeping change that looks at predictive analytics, others (and these are generally the ones that we start our conversations with) are looking to introduce AI to improve business processes. It is not such a “big bang” approach but the effects are just as valuable. More generally, companies seem to seek out AI providers who bring a mix of technical skill and business logic – they need their provider to understand their business problem, have the technical capabilities to it and then combine the two for maximum effect.

 

Can you briefly describe a typical day in the workplace for you?

 

Not really… and that’s exactly what is so exciting about my role and the journey that Nexus is on!

 

As Commercial Director, what do you consider ¨business success¨?

 

At the highest level, revenue generation through winning work and selling projects is a pretty important success criteria for us. But I think there is more to it than that. Recurring projects with the same client, winning work through referrals and exceeding the client’s expectations on a project are all indicators that we are doing business right – we are really focussed on ensuring that our solutions deliver long-term value for our clients, so achieving that is also a major success criteria.

 

What do you consider the biggest challenges Nexus faces in the short and medium-term?

 

One of the biggest challenges we are going to encounter as we grow is being able to acquire and train talent quickly enough.

 

Describe Nexus in 1 word.

 

Zealous.

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