Will 2023 be known as the year AI came of age? With the advent of Generative AI and tools like ChatGPT, the technology world got an unexpected boost this year as interest in the potential for artificial intelligence soared.
What does the surge in interest and activity in AI mean for financial services? How can fintechs leverage the technology to help banks, credit unions, and other financial services organizations and institutions better serve their customers with more choice, more security, and more efficiency?
We caught up with Dr. Benjamin Harvey, founder and CEO of AI Squared. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AI Squared made its Finovate debut earlier this year at FinovateSpring and will return to the Finovate stage next month for FinovateFall. The company specializes in integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into existing apps. We discussed the rise of AI, the impact AI might have on financial services, and the work of AI Squared in helping businesses take advantage of the emerging technology.
We also talked about the challenges Harvey has faced as an African American entrepreneur and founder in the technology industry. As we commemorate Black Business Month here in August, we are also happy to share his insights and advice on what African American founders and entrepreneurs need to keep in mind when starting out.
Let’s start with a big picture question: what is overhyped about AI, what’s underhyped, and what are we getting right?
Benjamin Harvey: There’s a lot of hype around AI, and some of it is warranted, but not all. One of the most overhyped ideas is that AI will replace humans in the workforce on a large scale. While AI can automate certain tasks, it can’t replicate the creativity, empathy, and critical thinking that humans bring to the table. On the flip side, what’s underhyped is the potential for AI to be simple while being useful. Many AI products have incredible potential but are too complicated for widespread adoption. Simplifying AI and making it more accessible can unlock its true potential and bring about transformative change across industries.
What most observers and commentators are getting right about AI is that it’s here to stay. AI is not just a passing trend; it’s a technological revolution that’s reshaping the way we live and work.
Now let’s turn to your company. What problem does AI Squared solve and who does it solve it for?
Harvey: AI Squared is a platform designed for product owners, data scientists, and enterprise leaders. We empower users to accelerate both predictive and generative AI projects, measure their benefits, and drive significant revenue growth and cost reduction. Our solution is industry-agnostic and loved by our users.
We address a critical issue in the AI industry: 90% of AI and ML models never make it into production or use, largely due to the time and cost involved. AI Squared tackles this problem head-on, reducing the time to production and use of AI and ML models from an average of 8 months to 8 hours or less. We provide a secure environment for accelerating AI projects, enabling users to measure benefits, use no/low code solutions, and deliver trustworthy AI results. By streamlining the AI deployment process, we help organizations harness their data to drive game-changing AI capabilities, driving innovation and growth.
How does AI Squared solve this problem better than other companies, other solutions?
Harvey: We understand that the key to successful AI adoption is seamless integration into existing workflows. Our solution is designed to fit effortlessly into the applications that our customers already use on a daily basis. By embedding AI capabilities directly into these familiar tools, we eliminate the need for users to switch between different platforms, thereby reducing friction and increasing efficiency. This approach not only enhances the user experience, but also drives greater AI adoption across the organization. Our technology is versatile and accessible, making it a valuable asset for teams at all levels, from operational staff to executive leadership. The result is a more informed, agile, and productive organization that can leverage AI to its full potential.
What is your primary market? What has their response to your technology been like?
Harvey: Our primary market is financial services and the response has been overwhelmingly positive! Financial services organizations are constantly seeking ways to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance customer experiences. And our platform has been proven to address these needs by accelerating the deployment of AI and ML models, making it easier for these organizations to harness the power of their data.
When clients see how we can reduce AI implementation from 8 months to 8 hours they’re blown away. We’re proud to say that we’ve turned our clients into our biggest champions. The value we provide goes beyond just the technology; it’s about the tangible benefits that our platform brings to their operations. They appreciate the speed at which they can now bring AI projects to fruition, the ease of integration with their existing systems, and the measurable ROI that our platform delivers.
Are there any deployments or features of your technology that are especially noteworthy?
Harvey: First and foremost, we prioritize data security and privacy. Unlike many other AI platforms, we don’t store or copy our customers’ data. This is a crucial differentiator, especially for organizations in highly regulated industries like financial services, where data privacy and security are paramount.
We offer flexible deployment options to suit the specific needs of our customers. Our on-premises deployment ensures that all data remains within the customer’s own infrastructure, providing an added layer of security. For those who prefer a cloud-based solution, we offer a multi-tenant deployment that still maintains robust data privacy and security measures.
One of our standout features is our Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) capability. This feature allows human verification and corrections to be made to the data generated by Generative AI before it’s used in critical business applications. This ensures a high level of accuracy and reliability in the data, which is essential for making informed business decisions. Our HITL feature is particularly valuable for organizations that need to ensure the utmost accuracy in their AI-generated data, such as those in the financial services sector where even small errors can have significant consequences.
You and many of your team have significant backgrounds in academia and the government. How has the transition into a more entrepreneurial space been?
Harvey: The transition from academia and government to the entrepreneurial space has been both challenging and rewarding. Initially, it was a bit of a culture shock to shift from a focus on the technical aspects of AI to a more value-driven approach. In academia and government, the emphasis is often on the theoretical and technical aspects of AI, whereas in the entrepreneurial space, the focus is on delivering tangible value to customers.
But once we got past the initial adjustment, we found that our diverse backgrounds gave us a unique perspective and a competitive edge. While our experience in academia has equipped us with a deep understanding of the technical intricacies of AI, our government experience has given us insights into the importance of security and compliance, especially when dealing with sensitive data.
We’ve been able to leverage these insights to develop a platform that not only delivers powerful AI capabilities but also addresses the specific pain points and challenges faced by our customers. Our approach is rooted in a deep understanding of both the technical and practical aspects of AI, and we’re able to offer solutions that are tailored to the unique needs of each customer.
We also want to showcase AI Squared as part of our Black Business Month commemoration. What challenges have you faced as a Black founder and entrepreneur? What advice would you give?
Harvey: Launching a company as a Black entrepreneur, particularly in the AI/technology space, comes with its own unique set of challenges. One of the most significant hurdles is the lack of resources and representation in the industry. As a Black founder, I often found myself navigating uncharted territory without the benefit of a robust network or role models to look up to. However, I believe that these challenges can be overcome with determination, persistence, and a strong support system.
My advice to aspiring Black tech founders is to build a solid network of mentors, advisors, and peers who can provide guidance and support along the way. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks or rejections; instead, use them as learning opportunities to refine your approach and strategy. Do your homework, stay informed about industry trends, and be prepared to articulate the value proposition of your technology clearly and convincingly. Most importantly, reach out to other Black founders and executives who have walked the path before you. Their insights and experiences can be invaluable as you navigate the complexities of the tech startup ecosystem.
Remember, you are not alone in this journey. There is a growing community of Black tech founders and professionals who are eager to support and uplift each other. By working together, we can break down barriers, create more inclusive opportunities, and pave the way for future generations of Black tech entrepreneurs.
Speaking of African-Americans, AI Squared is headquartered in Washington, D.C. What is the technology scene like there?
Harvey: D.C. is a hotbed of tech innovation, especially in security and intelligence. Being close to the Federal Government and defense agencies, we’re in a unique spot to work on projects that matter for national security. It’s a vibrant scene here, with big tech firms, cool startups, and research hubs all mixing it up. We’re a tight-knit community, always meeting up, sharing ideas, and pushing each other to innovate.
The best part is that if your tech is good enough for national security, it’s good enough for anything. We’re talking finance, healthcare, consumer goods – you name it. Being in D.C. gives us the credibility to branch out into these sectors. It’s an exciting place to be, and we’re happy to be part of it.
You demoed your technology at FinovateSpring earlier this year. What was that experience like for you?
Harvey: The experience of demoing our technology at FinovateSpring was exciting and valuable for us. It provided us with a unique platform to showcase our product to a large audience of stakeholders, and to connect with key decision-makers in the financial services industry. We got valuable feedback on our product.
But the demo wasn’t without its challenges. Some technical difficulties with signing in and that, combined with the strict time constraints of the event, impacted our demo. These are things that tend to happen when demo-ing in a new forum. But it’s in our DNA to adapt and we did – and received positive feedback from attendees and made valuable connections that have since led to fruitful discussions. Overall, the experience was a great opportunity for us to showcase our technology, connect with industry leaders, and learn from the challenges we faced.
What can we expect from AI Squared over the balance of 2023 and into next year?
Harvey: Our primary goal for AI Squared is to continue delivering exceptional value to our customers, with a focus on the financial services sector. We’re committed to optimizing our product to enhance the customer experience and build strong, lasting relationships. As we approach the end of 2023, we are on track to exceed our internal goals, thanks to the dedication of our team.
Looking ahead to next year, we have ambitious plans for growth. We’re preparing to raise our next round of funding with a strategic team of investors who share our vision. This funding will enable us to continue providing world-class service and products. We’re also planning to expand our product offerings and explore new markets. We are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to sharing our progress with you!