Why I joined Bonsai + the AI revolution
By Cyrill Glockner, Director Product
After working for almost 20 years on software platforms and tools for companies like Microsoft, Intel and others, I’ve just last week started at Bonsai in the product management team. Since taking the job, a lot of people have asked me how I chose Bonsai out of all the different artificial intelligence companies, so I decided to share my story here.
Joining the AI revolution
During summer 2016, I participated in a three-day Artificial Intelligence workshop organized by the Aspen Institute’s Socrates chapter. Led by the incredible Neil Jacobstein, from Singularity University, our group of around 30 participants from different backgrounds worked through a comprehensive set of curated materials and engaged in deep discussions on the subject at hand. This was not meant to be a technical deep dive but rather a starting point for developing a perspective of the impacts of Artificial Intelligence and automation on societies. At the last day of the gathering, we all were convinced that we’ve entered a time that will come with dramatic changes touching every aspect of human society and everyday life.
This anticipated shift made me recognize that I want to be part of upcoming AI revolution and make it my career in the foreseeable future. It also turns out, AI is a substantial field presenting a large number of opportunities for a Product person like me. While it has been around since the 50s, we recently experienced a large improvement in its ability to deliver results that have never been achieved before, which led to a large number of start-ups and increased investments by established enterprises. This has also presented a significant amount of opportunities for somebody looking to get into this space.
The AI Platform I was looking for
Throughout my career, I’ve been passionate about building platforms that allow both individual programmers and enterprises to develop applications that can address a broad range of uses cases. Applying this to the AI world, I decided to follow that passion and look for artificial intelligence companies building AI platforms focused on enabling users to build smarter applications by adding the latest Deep Learning (DL) technologies into their offerings.
When evaluating platforms in general, they have to meet a number of key guiding principles:
- Platforms need to provide value for a large number of businesses, small and large, and their very diverse environments.
- They have to be flexible enough so they can be used in a variety of use cases across industries.
- Technology needs to be simple enough so it can be used by a large number of companies without the need to hire specialists or retrain existing employees.
When assessing the AI Platform landscape it basically came down to three different approaches that I could choose from. There are Cloud Providers which are established large scale companies that offer Machine Learning as a Service (MLaaS). Familiar household names include Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and others. Secondly there are Start-Ups using a simple abstraction approach of trying to make using existing DL networks easier by creating some sort of a wrapper that hides complexity. And then there are those visionary companies that have decided it is worth the risk to take a fundamentally different approach to solving the problem.
After doing a significant amount of research and playing around with some of the existing tools and technologies like TensorFlow, Keras etc., I eventually found Bonsai.
Falling into the 3rd category from above, Bonsai uniquely provides a complete platform that allows companies and developers to build AI into their applications without requiring in-depth knowledge of the latest Deep Learning technologies. I found this approach to be extremely compelling compared to how the rest of the industry is addressing the problem. The large cloud providers are investing heavily in core AI frameworks and research but are less willing to implement substantially different ways to solve customer problems, while most of the startups are also only making incremental progress in delivering against the above stated principles.
People and Culture
Things got really exciting when I started to learn more about the individuals who founded Bonsai. Mark Hammond, the CEO, has this ability to clearly articulate what problems the company is solving and how it is doing it. While this should be a given, it’s a rare find in an extremely challenging space that requires sophisticated solutions. After more discussions with the leadership team, especially with the co-founder and Head of Product, Keen Browne, I was convinced to have found the right place for me. We immediately found common ground on how we saw the platform space, and how to build products focusing on solving customer problems, as well as how we should work across teams in an environment that is dynamic, fun and rewarding.
I’m super excited to have joined a company whose founders vision is centered around how to create a platform for enterprises and individual developers that can learn to solve a huge number of problems using concepts that everybody understands. Done right, we can enable our customers to stay out of the weeds of low-level machine learning libraries and instead focus solely on solving real business problems.
Also, we’re hiring — please come and check out our open positions.