Silverpond is a machine learning and AI company based in Melbourne, Australia. The company helps its clients adopt machine learning technology to automate inspection, diagnosis and audits within their operations. Through Silverpond’s Highlighter product, the company’s enterprise clients across mining, energy and asset management, as well as retail and healthcare are significantly reducing costs and improving consistency in their processes.
Jonathan Chang is the Founder and CEO of Silverpond. By background, he is a software engineer. As a CEO, he helps the company bridge the development of machine learning technology with its application into the industry. Jonathan helps Silverpond secure key clients and ensure that the company’s technology development is relevant to them.
Fostering Artificial Intelligence Developments
Silverpond has actively promoted the Artificial Intelligence Industry over the past six years, by organizing and supporting grassroots meetups, local events and conferences. The company works with state and federal governments to foster the industry. It has done this through the lobbying for an AI hub and working on the development of responsible AI systems through its founding membership in Responsible AI Australia. The company runs AI workshops to develop local skills and capabilities.
Silverpond’s work in machine learning benefits its clients by helping them digitize their inspection, diagnosis and audit use cases. The product helps manage the process of building the training and evaluation data, the training and evaluation of the models, and the deployment and monitoring of the system. The technology is starting to be on par with human performance and it opens the opportunity for its clients to materially improve operations.
Specialization is Imperative
Talking about the journey so far Jonathan said, when any startup begins, the early team is forced to be generalists, and as the company grows, specialization is required. “I was a slow learner in this regard as I struggled to help my team specialize well. It’s been an important lesson to know when to rely on the existing team, when to bring on new team members to fill gaps, and how to help the team specialize,” he added.
Silverpond gets actively involved with its clients’ operations and processes to understand how to digitize their domain knowledge. Jonathan said this means that the team develops greater empathy and understanding of the client’s situation and reveals how the company’s solutions can best serve them. “It’s harder but ultimately more rewarding”, he said.
Jonathan mentioned one of the challenges he faced early in the journey was the lack of general community awareness of machine learning and its benefits. The market didn’t exist in this part of the world, and the company had to patiently educate and demonstrate the benefits of what they’re offering. He believes the market has started to mature with more people becoming aware of machine learning and it’ll be interesting to see how the market develops over the coming years.
The other challenge the company faced was the lack of tools. “We’ve been investing heavily to improve the tools and infrastructure around inspection, diagnosis and audits. As we digitize these processes, we want attributes such as being easy to use, transparency about how the system makes decisions, the ability to verify the decisions, and an efficient mechanism to digitize the domain knowledge. These are all areas that our product supports,” he asserts.
Innovation Demands Being Different
Commenting on innovation Jonathan states, “Innovation requires courage because if you’re doing what everyone else is doing it’s not very innovative. This requires a leap into the unknown and that can be scary. It’s easier to seek the comfort of following the market than being different”.
Artificial Intelligence is Proliferating Rapidly
According to Jonathan, Artificial Intelligence is getting commoditized quickly with many products and services entering this market. This digitization wave will shake up many incumbent IT firms as the internal digital supply chain of organizations change to adopt the technology. He anticipates the AI industry will be as significant as the Cloud industry.
Building a Support Network
On advice to emerging leaders, Jonathan cites a Harvard Business Review report which revealed half of the CEOs surveyed feeling lonely, and 61% believe loneliness hinders their job performance. He said it’s a challenging role to be a business leader or executive, and it’s important to have a support network. “You’ll be grateful to them when times get tough,” he summed up.