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Women Leading The AI Industry: “Entrepreneurship helps you realize yourself.” with Miku Hirano and Tyler Gallagher

I would encourage entrepreneurship more. I believe that when compared with the typical corporate environment, an entrepreneurial environment is more diverse. You can choose your own way by leveraging your ideas and personality. Entrepreneurship helps you realize yourself. I also think that entrepreneurial environments are inherently more fair than corporate environments because if you provide […]



I would encourage entrepreneurship more. I believe that when compared with the typical corporate environment, an entrepreneurial environment is more diverse. You can choose your own way by leveraging your ideas and personality. Entrepreneurship helps you realize yourself. I also think that entrepreneurial environments are inherently more fair than corporate environments because if you provide the right value, and market, customers will respond to you.

As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miku Hirano is CEO of Cinnamon and co-founded the company in Singapore in 2012. Ms. Hirano is a serial entrepreneur, an angel investor and is currently conducting research on Recommendation Engines, Complex Networks, and Clustering. Ms. Hirano’s first business created middleware to support the development of iOS / Android phones and was sold to mixi.inc. and she holds a MSc. in Artificial Intelligence from Tokyo University.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

One of the lessons that can be learned from Cinnamon’s story is that market choice is one of the most important factors in scaling a startup. I tried to sell my first AI solution in 2007 when I founded my first startup during my stay at the university. However, no one was interested in an AI solution at that time, and we needed to make a major pivot. That is why I think evaluating market choice is so important when scaling a startup.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

We provide our cognitive document reader to one of the largest insurance companies in Japan. The company receives over 400,000 insurance claims every month and assigns 300 people to verify and process the data. By applying our AI engine, we plan to reduce the headcount to 200. With Cinnamon AI, we estimate the company will see annual cost reductions at around $5 million and will also be able to assign the 100 people no longer processing data, to more productive work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dr. Hiroaki Kitano, President & CEO, Director of Research, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, has been my mentor since I was a student. In fact, he pushed me to start my first startup. He was my project manager when I won the Innovative Software Creation Program (Super Creator Award) under Information-technology Promotion Agency Japan (IPA) in 2005 and 2006. He gave me so much valuable advice and perspective about applying technologies to solve problems in the real world.

Appendix: Dr. Hiroaki Kitano, President & CEO, Director of Research, Sony Computer Science Laboratories

https://www.sonycsl.co.jp/member/tokyo/176/

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

1.Business applications: Over the past year, we have finally started to see many AI applications come to be used in real businesses. We will see more practical applications of AI in 2019.

2.Continuous innovation in fundamental technology: We have seen many fundamental level innovations in the AI field. For example, BERT (https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.04805) was published in Oct 2018, and this technology is improving natural language processing dramatically, so much so it might make another breakthrough in this area.

3.Open collaborations between enterprises and startups: We have seen lots of collaboration between enterprises and startups in the AI industry, and I think that this is very important because, typically, AI startups bring innovation and new technologies but face big barriers when it comes to data availability. At the same time, the large enterprises have a large amount of data, and so the collaboration between algorithms from startups and data sets from enterprises drives innovation even more.

4.Education in AI: I personally expect more AI applications in the education industry. In a case study in China, an image recognition engine checks facial expressions of students and provides feedback on whether students concentrate during classes. Teachers use this information to enhance their teaching methods and classroom experience.

5) Extend human potential: Like cars enable humans to move hundreds of miles in a few hours and smartphones enable humans to connect anyone and any information anytime, AI is also enabling humans to extend their potential. For instance, by being released of repetitive administrative work, humans can do more creative and productive work and spend more time with their families. I am very excited about realizing those things by utilizing the power of AI at Cinnamon.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

1.Too much for “testing just for testing”

Many enterprises conduct proof of concepts just for testing, and some people view AI as magic. AI is still in its early stages, and there is a borderline between what AI can do and cannot do. So, the AI industry needs to reduce those illusions while it promotes what we can actually solve.

2.Lack of AI talent

We expect a huge lack of AI talent. It is said that we will lack 250,000 AI proficient technologists in the US and 50,000 AI techs in Japan by 2023. We need to grow and train AI talent, globally.

3.Data preparation

The time and cost for data preparation is huge. For instance, annotating data to feed algorithms takes time and money. It is also financially difficult for startups to absorb these data preparation costs. Enterprises need to consider and prepare for these problems better when they think about AI implementations.

4) Not a bubble: Some people think that AI is the next bubble or a boom that brings nothing. It is true that we had the big booms of AI in 1970s and 1990s. However, some AI technologies are at the practical level today. I do not think that some SiFi android will come out soon, but this does not mean that AI is viperware. This is why I think that increasing AI literacy is important for everyone.

5) Easy Upgrades: AI technology is moving so fast that it’s critical that companies build their AI solutions to be easily upgradable to leverage the nearly quarterly improvement in the latest algorithms can offer. Cinnamon’s architecture allows our customers to upgrade and experience all of these dynamic changes either on prem or in the cloud.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

Naturally, humans are afraid of change. It amplifies when one considers technological singularity — that is the notion of runaway technological growth that we cannot control. Technological singularity will not come through linear innovation from today’s AI technology. Sometimes we are not entirely objective when it comes to our fears. Consider how humans cannot control cars well. Too many people have perished in car accidents — a real threat every time someone gets in a car — yet some people fear Singularity. Singularity may even solve the problem of the car crash. We must look at reality with an objective perspective.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

I do not think that AI will become detrimental to humans by following current technology evolutions. However, if we use it in the wrong way, AI will reflect that which is influencing it. It is the same as any technology.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

By utilizing the power of AI, we are creating a better world where people do not need to spend time for unnecessary, cumbersome work. I came up with this AI dream after I gave birth to my first child. When I was taking a train in Tokyo, I noticed that many business people do not smile and appear to be very tired. I felt that something was wrong and it became important to me to change the world before my children grow and start their work. Since then, I have become very passionate and excited about growing Cinnamon’s teams and providing our solutions to more customers.

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?

1)The AI industry is a relatively new industry. And because of that, we do not have many experts, yet. It also means that everyone has a better chance to become an opinion leader in AI. We have a great opportunity in AI.

2)To be seen as an expert, it is better to start sharing your thoughts and perspective publicly through SNS and/or on a blog. Building one’s self-branding is important to expanding your network and for acquiring more opportunities.

3)You must be a good communicator. Telling stories to advocate your ideas is important, as well.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?

・We need a female role model like Sheryl Sandberg in the AI industry to drive the awareness of the attractiveness of the market.

・We must also provide a career path for women to acquire promising careers in AI.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

“Update your dream” is my personal quote. Many business people say that you must have clear goals and be on the right path to achieve them. However, I believe that you are unable to foresee what you can do in 5 years, and so I think that fixating your dream within your current mind and ability is limiting yourself. That is why I continuously update my dreams — as I grow, evolve and learn, so do my dreams.

For example, about two years ago, we were in survival mode during a major corporate pivot from a mobile communication application to the current AI model. At the time, I was focusing on just chasing deals to run the company. But, after we secured some deals and identified our new business area, my passion started to re-ignite, and then by coming up with our current mission of ‘Extend human potential by eliminating repetitive tasks’, I updated my dream to create the global №1 AI company created to make a better world.

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. 🙂

I would encourage entrepreneurship more. I believe that when compared with the typical corporate environment, an entrepreneurial environment is more diverse. You can choose your own way by leveraging your ideas and personality. Entrepreneurship helps you realize yourself. I also think that entrepreneurial environments are inherently more fair than corporate environments because if you provide the right value, and market, customers will respond to you.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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