5 Pieces of Unconventional Wisdom from an AI & Big Data CEO
Startup Advice from My Conversation with Ahmed Elsamadisi
I recently had the opportunity to virtually meet Ahmed Elsamadisi, the founder and CEO of Narrator.ai, where he dropped some serious knowledge on entrepreneurship and the right mindsets to succeed. I truly appreciate you taking the time to answer all of my questions, and share your wisdom from years in the startup industry. Thank you, Ahmed! 😊
I learned a lot from this unconventional wisdom, so here are my key takeaways from this experience!
Check out Ahmed’s work:
- 💻 Narrator.ai website
- 🗣 Interview: How to Answer Data Questions Without Being Miserable
- 📈 TechCrunch: Y Combinator-Backed Narrator wants to become the operating system for data science
- 💸 Intelligence 360: AI Narrator is Raising $6.1 Million in New Capital
In a nutshell…
- 🚗 Developed AI algos for autonomous cars and human-robot interaction using Bayesian data fusion in Cornell
- 🤖 Built tactical AI algos for missile defense used by the US Military
- 📊 Rebuilt WeWork’s data infrastructure + grew the data team 40x
- 💪 Founded Narrator.ai to solve the problems he experienced with Star Schema method of traditional data modeling → created a Universal Data Model to better analyze data across all systems
Let’s get right into the advice!
1. ❌ DO NOT start a company
The general framework for entrepreneurship should be based on solving a problem, not just having a fancy title to your name.
Too many people nowadays have ideas or interesting research projects, and want to turn that into a company. Before you head out on the journey of entrepreneurship, ask yourself:
- Is it actually solving a problem?
- Is someone already doing this? (Google it!)
- Can I join someone else’s company in solving this problem?
- Is this more of a research project or a scalable solution?
- Am I passionate enough about this problem to spend years solving it?
When checking the originality of your idea, find a company online that solves 80% of your problem. Then, check back on them in one month, and see if they’re still using it → many companies often test out new innovations, but never actually take them to market. If you can, join that company to solve the problem that you’re passionate about, don’t just be a CEO for namesake.
Ahmed always advises people to NOT start a company, but those who ignore his words are the people who have the drive to actually start a company 🌟
2.💡 How to come up with an idea
Ideas for a company must solve a problem. That doesn’t just mean using something to solve a problem → it means solving a problem regardless of the tools used. For example a lot of people right now are keen on using Artificial Intelligence in their company, and they’re saying things like:
❌ “I want to use AI to efficiently diagnose diseases”
When they should be saying:
✅ “I want to diagnose diseases efficiently and accurately” — no gimmicks
AI (along with all other emerging technologies) is just a tool, it’s not the premise of your business. Many CEOs find that AI is not even needed to fully solve their problem! We need to analyze what is actually necessary in building our solution, which is where the next step comes is:
Find the dumbest solution to solve a problem. It may seem counterintuitive, but looking for the simplest way to solve a problem, then modifying that idea results in the most optimized solution that the consumers actually need.
Make something that’s not just better, but different. Build something to solve a problem in society, not based on cool ideas.
🍎 For example, Apple spent years building the FaceTime user interface → with dozens of buttons and features…
🛠 But when the lead engineers decided to step back and simplify their idea, they ended up removing all the features besides the call and hang-up buttons.
When people stop to think about the simplest way their product would still work, that’s when you get the magic of an optimal product 🌟
3. 🦄 Mindset shifting in the highs and lows
Throughout the journey of entrepreneurship, your mindset will change and shift to adapt to the circumstances → and that’s okay.
This graphic summarizes it pretty well 😉:
☀️ In the beginning, you must have a contagious happy mindset. You NEED this to convince people to support you in the early days of your company. Be cautiously optimistic, and motivate others to join you.
As you continue, have the give-up mindset. Every day, convince yourself why you should give up and return to a regular 9–5 → try to tell yourself that the idea is bad, the journey is difficult, people won’t ‘support you, and so on. While it may seem unusual, this mindset enables you to truly find your passion. Here’s how:
You tell yourself for every day for 5 days that you should give up, that your idea isn’t good enough, or that you just don’t have the stamina. But, the thing that will prevent you from giving up is your passion. You will ignore your thoughts on giving up because you just can’t give up. You know that this is a problem that you deeply care about, and you can’t just abandon the problem because it’s too challenging.
You care enough about the problem to keep going and face challenges along the way → the mindset of a true ENTREPRENEUR 🌟
This give-up mindset enables you to truly see your passion, and understand why you started in the first place.
4. ✉️ Getting others to vouch for you
The biggest part of entrepreneurship is getting others to come with you.
💼 Imagine making someone else quit their day job, stability, and predictable work hours… Why would they want to do that?
Find reasons for others to join you, and make sure that their experience is worth them leaving so much behind
But how exactly do you get others to vouch for you? Is it based on who you know, your age, or some other factor? Very rarely, yes. But most of the time, getting someone to be on your side is based heavily on credentials.
People care about what you did, because it builds your track record as a high-achieving person. Your reputation and credentials are the two biggest factors that convince others to join you or support you.
For example, Ahmed’s credentials of studying at Cornell, building algos for the US Department of Homeland Security → all built his reputation of being a hard-working and high-achieving person
To get people on your side, show them your portfolio and how you’ve grown over the years. Show them your tangible output, rather than a litany of skills you “know”. What you’ve done shows people what they can expect from you.
5. 📈What’s the value of data?
Without data, products suck. It’s true.
We need to data to refine products, look at trends over time, find out what customers like and don’t like, and how to simplify the product to the bare minumum.
Up to 73% of data is unused by businesses, and that means that companies are missing out on an opportunity to maximize sales and optimize their total revenues = WASTED money!
Use data to your advantage. Figure out how to implement data analysis to understand your company better, and help it reach its full potential.
👋 Thanks for reaching the end of this article! I’m Neha Shukla, a 16-year old innovator passionate about leveraging technology and innovation to create positive change in my community. I write articles about my latest innovations and showcase scientific leaps in the industry to inspire the next-generation of problem-solvers and innovators!