A willingness to disrupt, and to never be complacent about your proposition in the market. Just because you were disruptive a couple of years ago, doesn’t mean you always will be. You have to constantly apply that disruptive mentality in order to ensure that what you’re offering customers is innovative and genuinely valuable.
Startups have such a glamorous reputation. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Uber, and Airbnb once started as scrappy startups with huge dreams and huge obstacles.
Yet we of course know that most startups don’t end up as success stories. What does a founder or a founding team need to know to create a highly successful startup?
In this series, called “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup” we are talking to experienced and successful founders and business leaders who can share stories from their experience about what it takes to create a highly successful startup.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lyric Jain, founder and CEO of Logically, a tech company, combining advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence) with one of the world’s largest dedicated fact-checking teams. Logically Intelligence, a tech platform was launched in early 2021 to help governments, businesses and the public uncover and address harmful misinformation and deliberate disinformation that is increasingly spread across the world. Logically was recently selected as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for 2021.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thanks for having me! Absolutely — it all started for me when I was an engineering student and saw an increasing volume of misleading or outright false information circulating on social media and media outlets. After witnessing the breakdown in public discourse during the 2016 US elections and the UK Brexit referendum, I started looking into how AI could be applied to assess the credibility of news articles and social media posts, with a view to help direct people to more trustworthy sources of information. I founded Logically in 2017 and spent the first couple of years focused on R&D, in order to create technology that could detect and analyze reliable or misleading information as accurately as possible. Our first product was a free to use app which curated reliable news sources and allowed the public to submit fact check claims. But in the years since, we’ve now developed a whole suite of products and tools that can help identify and ultimately debunk misinformation.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
2016 was really a watershed moment for me. The influence that misinformation can have really came to light during the US Presidential election and the EU referendum campaigns. Both events, no matter what the results, polarized populations and made the need and demand for credible information very obvious. During the 2016 EU referendum in the UK, I was studying at Cambridge University, which was the highest voting Remain area, and my family home was in Stone, the highest voting Leave area. The difference between what people in both those areas were reading and seeing online was incredible. This became the driving force behind Logically. I was inspired to look at ways in which technology could tackle misinformation, protect democratic debate and process, and provide everyone, including voters and policymakers, with access to trustworthy information.
Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?
My family has definitely been a vital source of inspiration and advice for me. My parents and sisters are all successful business people who have each taken distinct and interesting paths, and all with different approaches and varying degrees of risk. They definitely instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in me and it’s been invaluable to hear their views and see the various paths they’ve taken to create and grow their businesses.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our combination of AI and human intelligence distinguishes Logically from a lot of our peers. It allows us to simultaneously apply both scale and nuance to our work, and means we are always testing and improving our algorithms. This underlines all our work; for example, when we live fact-checked the 2020 US Presidential debates, we developed an automation tool that could address claims being made by the participants in real-time — this was then supplemented by a team of human analysts who could deep-dive into some of the more complex claims raised during the debate and ensured the accuracy of the tech.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We’re focused on tackling the mis- and disinformation that can cause real world harm. For example, we’ve seen so much misleading and false Covid-19 information circulating over the past year that has directly impacted the way people have responded to the pandemic and now to whether or not they take the vaccine. When it’s public health that’s on the line, being able to distinguish between verified health guidance and false information is crucial. I’m proud of the work we’ve done identifying and helping tackle Covid misinformation — we certainly didn’t predict that that would be one of our main priorities back in January last year.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
I think flexibility is important. For example, like it did for many, Covid-19 completely shifted Logically’s short-term roadmap last year. We were planning on focusing on growing our team in the US, but then national lockdowns prevented travel and the surge in media and public interest around the reliability of Covid-19 information completely shifted our focus. We had to very quickly reprioritize and scale-up.
I think tenacity and passion have also been instrumental. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy to launch and grow a business, and requires perseverance in the face of challenges. Success doesn’t come overnight and you need to be dedicated enough to weather a few unexpected storms on the way.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
That’s a tricky one! I think one piece of advice you hear a lot is founders being told to “hear everyone but listen to no-one” — which I think has its uses and its limitations. You definitely need to have a vision and listen to your gut, but you should be prepared to listen to alternative viewpoints and flex when needed. Ultimately though, only you know your business as well as you do. You really have to back yourself and push forward your vision.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I think the initial uncertainty over what exactly our product offering was going to be was at times daunting. We spent over two years focused on R&D and developing our AI capabilities, meaning the go-to-market plans weren’t fully formalized until after we had reached a certain point of technical maturity. I wouldn’t have done it any other way though — for Logically, it was important to focus first on innovation and developing a solution to the problem we’re trying to address. Whilst the exact commercial route might not have been clear at the start, once the tech was developed, the roadmap became evident.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard? What strategies or techniques did you use to help overcome those challenges?
Logically has a very clear mission and when things get hard I make sure I remind myself of it. Society needs access to trustworthy information and the whole team here at Logically is committed to helping provide that. I think it’s so important to build a team of people who share your mission — they can keep you on track and moving forward, especially when things get challenging.
The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
I think trying to stay level-headed is key and not letting your emotions drive the big decisions. For a first time founder, it’s easy to compare yourself to others who have come before you and measure yourself against their timelines and milestones — you don’t want to be the same as anyone else anyway! On the flip side, it’s also important to not get carried away by a couple of wins and any huge surges in momentum. Your psychology and risk perception can shift so easily with momentum, but even if you feel like you’re on a roll, you still need to stay centered and keep your eye on the big picture before making any major decisions.
Let’s imagine that a young founder comes to you and asks your advice about whether venture capital or bootstrapping is best for them? What would you advise them? Can you kindly share a few things a founder should look at to determine if fundraising or bootstrapping is the right choice?
There are certainly pros and cons to both and it’s very much dependent on your business and vision. For Logically, scalability was crucial. From the outset we have been a resource intensive business; we needed investment in order to develop fundamental capabilities and then scale those, so going down the venture capital route was right for us. Of course, bootstrapping offers other benefits, such as more direct control over your business. But the VC route can give you that too, which is why it’s essential to find the right investment partner that really understands you and your company. It’s a big decision and you’ve got to think carefully about what the business you want to build looks like and go from there.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many startups are not successful, and some are very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful startups from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Startup”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- People are everything. You need to be around people that will both support and challenge your ideas. Seek advice from a large and diverse cross section. Other people’s perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them, drive innovation and will help you keep a big-picture view of things.
- Customer value proposition — you need to know your customer, really understand what they want, and be able to articulate why what you’re offering is unique.
- Flexibility is crucial. For Logically, the misinformation threats we are countering are constantly evolving. This means we have to constantly evolve too and flex to where the need for solutions is — health misinformation exploded in a way we were not prepared for last year and we had to adapt very quickly to meet new demand.
- A willingness to disrupt, and to never be complacent about your proposition in the market. Just because you were disruptive a couple of years ago, doesn’t mean you always will be. You have to constantly apply that disruptive mentality in order to ensure that what you’re offering customers is innovative and genuinely valuable.
- A clear mission — having a driving force, a north star, to what you want to achieve and why will always help drive you forward.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Making decisions too early, such as overcommitting to route-to-market commercials, technical approach or hiring strategies, can be dangerous for tech startups. When tech innovation is required, the specifics of what your products can and will ultimately do are unlikely to be immediately clear and overcommitting early on to certain major decisions can be a death sentence. It’s important to build experiments, test strategies and make sure the solution you are offering is good enough before working out where and how to take it forward — you want to stay agile and not overcommit in one direction.
Startup founders often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to founders about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting a company?
It’s all about surrounding yourself with good people. Hiring people that you trust to make decisions without you means that you don’t have to split your focus or time as much. It’s definitely much more relaxing knowing you have good people in the right places, and experts in areas that you might not necessarily be an expert in.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
As individuals and organizations, we need to make important decisions with imperfect information. Given the sheer volume of information and velocity of daily updates, our sense-making abilities are incredibly stretched especially in an environment where adversaries are seeking to distract, divide and disinform. We want to enable a movement through Logically, and are working with governments, platforms, businesses and the public to provide solutions to these challenges, contextualizing reliable information and mitigating risks before they proliferate.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
As an engineer I think I’d have to say Elon Musk. Not only is he one of the most successful founders ever, but he’s also shown interest in the misinformation space before — so I’m sure has some very interesting things to say about growing a business and on information integrity in general. He’s obviously an eclectic character so it would definitely not be a boring lunch — the engineer in me feels like we’d have a lot to talk about.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow @LogicallyAI on social media and learn more about Logically on our website: www.logically.ai.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!