Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” From Swami Vivekananda, an Indian monk. This statement gives me a lot of energy. Too many people get distracted, and that leads to failure even if they have the right skills otherwise.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Divyabh Mishra.
Divyabh Mishra is founder and CEO of CrowdANALYTIX, where his goal is to provide enterprises the tools and the data scientists they need to drive business value through data analytics and AI.
Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have always believed that one of the reasons the top 3–5 companies in any mature industry control the majority of the market is not because there is something fundamentally better about them, but because they are able to attract better talent.
So, my belief is that if top talent can be made available cost-effectively to smaller companies, they can become much more competitive. I always wanted to solve this problem.
Crowdsourcing was something I got exposed to when I was working at a company called Lionbridge Technologies, which used crowdsourcing to translate content into multiple languages. I loved how efficient that approach was. I learned about the power of crowdsourcing and immediately started thinking of ways the same approach could be applied to other areas of business. Until I started CrowdANALYTIX, crowdsourcing had only been applied successfully to solving simpler problems, for example how Uber crowdsources getting people from point A to point B. But it had not been done for anything more complicated like software development or product design, activities that have a large impact on the direction of an enterprise and where getting access to quality talent is difficult.
While I was exploring which type of talent to crowdsource, I learned of some unique aspects of data science and data scientists that were a great fit for crowdsourcing. Data scientists often prefer to remain consultants, as they dislike becoming part of a company where they will build the same exact model repeatedly. They are mathematicians and prefer to be challenged with varying types of problems. A crowdsourcing platform gave them the opportunity to get access to diverse problems and to get paid for good work.
This is what got me to start a company that could crowdsource data science and address the huge scarcity of data scientists across industries that exists even today.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We apply the latest in data science to achieve automation and cost reduction goals. Built by a vast network of data scientists, CrowdANALYTIX’ solutions are deployed on a secure, scalable server and integrated via APIs. We address some key challenges around building AI models that cannot be addressed using any other method.
The precision of an AI model is a function of quality and volume of data, how that data is structured, what algorithms or combination of algorithms are applied to that data, and how the models are nurtured and maintained over time. Unfortunately, there are many ways of structuring the data and adding algorithms to that data, and it is impossible to know in advance which combination is best. Most of the time, a data scientist relies on their own biases and best judgement to build the best solution they can, and usually the precision gets revealed only after the models have been deployed and it’s too late to change them.
CrowdANALYTIX addresses this by:
- Getting multiple data scientists to compete against each other to come up with multiple solutions independently, then comparing the precisions to pick the best one or to build an ensemble of the top solutions. The solution is then deployed, scaled, and monitored to ensure that precision is maintained.
- Traditional approaches to building AI solutions can’t do this, or if they do, the costs can be exorbitant.
So the disruption we bring is the ability to create optimized custom AI solutions more rapidly and more cost-effectively than anywhere else.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest early mistakes at CrowdANALYTIX were simply how naive I was in estimating the probability of a deal to close. Even praise of our solution in an early introductory meeting felt so good that I would think a deal was just round the corner. It sounds funny now but didn’t seem very funny at the time, when we kept losing deal after deal in the early days. But failure is the only way to learn in a startup, and we wouldn’t be here without those early failures.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I would say my biggest mentor has been my dad. He taught me something very important that’s stuck with me and guides me through the successes and failures: Not to get too excited about the successes, and not get too dejected by the failures, because they are both short-lived!
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
The best businesses are those that do not need any technology investment and never need to be disrupted because they offer something that never loses its intrinsic value. Coca-Cola is a great example of this. However, even Coca-Cola knows that consumer tastes shift, and they need to account for that as they’ve done through the wide variety of drinks they now sell. As a result, bottled water and tea now make up a large portion of their revenues.
Disruption should be driven either by a shift in consumer tastes or by a fundamentally new tool or technology that has the potential to change the way business is done. AI is one such technology today. Every industry will get disrupted by it, and the pace of this disruption will increase as AI evolves.
Although disruption may cause a brief hiccup in the industry, and those companies that don’t keep up will cease to exist, that is built into nature itself. ThenNew comes from the ashes of the old. And there really is no other way!
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Ideas don’t mean much. Don’t guard them too closely. Share them and refine them. Eventually, it is those who execute better who succeed.
2. “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.” From Swami Vivekananda, an Indian monk. This statement gives me a lot of energy. Too many people get distracted, and that leads to failure even if they have the right skills otherwise.
3. The formulae for creating a successful startup: try, fail, try again, and keep refining until you succeed.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Our vision is to make CrowdANALYTIX a platform for efficiently building enterprise grade AI solutions at scale, solutions that have broad applicability. What we are building here is a network-driven platform with a pool of data scientists on one end that build the solutions, and a pool of channel partners on the other end that sell the solutions. The adoption of AI is in its infancy. Our journey has just begun.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Any answers I give will be speculative, so I will refrain from doing so.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
There have been a lot of entrepreneurial and business books that I am sure many of your readers have read. But what has helped me more are books like When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, because as you go through a very difficult journey with several ups and downs, having a larger purpose is the key to maintaining your sanity. Anyone who starts a company to become rich is doomed from the day he begins!
Other than this, I really enjoy discussing the larger questions about life, and a podcast by a Theoretical Physicist called Sean Carroll called “Mindscape” is one venue I really like.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Focus, discipline, and never stopping are the keys to success. You are going to be alone through long parts of your journey and you need to keep going anyway. Those are the real tests!
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
One of the biggest challenges humanity faces is lifestyle-induced health concerns. I would love to show people how easy it is to cook healthy food. That would do a lot of good to a lot of people today!
How can our readers follow you online?
On LinkedIn and Twitter, here: