5 Questions With Clari’s Andy Byrne

Andy Byrne has been geeking out on AI since the early 2000’s. Byrne was on the executive team at eDiscovery management platform maker Clearwell Systems, which used natural language processing and machine learning more than a decade before both became the objects of tech industry fetishization. Symantec bought Clearwell for $390 million in 2011. Since then, Byrne has cofounded Clari, a sales productivity tool that brings AI and machine learning to salespeople in the field and has received $26 million in funding from Sequoia, Bain and Northgate.

I spoke with Byrne, who is also Clari’s CEO, on Sept. 1, 2017 for the “5 Questions With” feature for DeeplyAI, a new AI industry-focused newsletter that I’m working on with fellow Mashable alum Josh Catone. (Please sign up here; we’re targeting a late-September launch.) Here’s an edited version of my conversation with Byrne:

DeeplyAI: What do you think is the biggest challenge right now for the AI industry?

Andy Byrne: Everyone is spray-painting ‘artificial intelligence’ on their products. Everybody. It’s a mad rush. The biggest challenge is the practical application of AI in the enterprise space, the real ROI behind AI and not just a CEO’s hyperbole about how we’re going to change the world.

DAI: Where do see the AI industry in five years?

AB: AI is going to be everywhere. If you think about back in the ’90s, when companies were coming online, everybody had an ‘e-business’ strategy. Now there’s no such thing as e-business. Everyone is online. AI is going through that same shift.

What’s happening right now is Google, Amazon and Apple are trying to get into our homes as fast as they can and harvest a bunch of data about us.

DAI: What’s the most interesting AI company you’ve seen?

AB: I think the more interesting question is where is AI going to have the biggest impact in our lives? What’s happening right now is Google, Amazon and Apple are trying to get into our homes as fast as they can and harvest a bunch of data about us. And they’re trying to use machine learning on all of this data so that one day you’re going to have an experience at your home that’s going to blow you away. Alexa from Amazon is going to say ‘Hey Todd, I think we’re out of detergent. And I think we’re out of coffee. We might need to order some more Peet’s’ and you’re going to look in your pantry and say ‘Yeah, that would be great.’ The vendor that wins is the one that has the most data on you and makes your life most convenient.

DAI: How do you define AI?

AB: AI is software that’s analyzing historical data that’s available to the machine. The machine learns from the data, it finds patterns and it uses that knowledge to predict outcomes and spot where you might have risk.

DAI: What are some blogs, books or other things you’ve read that help you make sense of the market?

AB: The Master Algorithm is a really interesting book.

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