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AiThority Interview Series With Megan Kvamme, CEO at FactGem

Interview With Megan Kvamme, CEO at FactGem_cue-card

AI will have a growing impact on many aspects of society in the years to come and we need to make sure we are thoughtful and deliberate as we think through the ethical impacts of these changes.

Know My Company

Tell us about your interaction with AI and Data Science. How did you start at FactGem?

I started my career in investment banking. As part of the due diligence process, you need to sift through large amounts of data, generally housed in different silos, and in different formats. You end up spending an inordinate amount of time getting the right data, from the right place, and into the right format to be useful. You would much rather have that time to focus on other priorities. I thought then, “There has to be a better way…” and ultimately became interested in the technology, which drives FactGem.

From Whiskey to AI/ML—how do you stay on top of the male-dominated industries? What’s your secret potion to success?

I will have to steal from one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, to answer this question.

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies… “***, you’ve got to be kind.”

The bottom line is, we are all here together trying to make a difference and leave the world better than we found it. So, treating people with respect, approaching situations with intelligence and flexibility, being driven, and of course building a strong team around you, are sound advice for any industry, male or female dominated. That’s just my approach to life in general, really. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, but are also honest with you.

As far as secret potions go, I would say Avery’s Trail Tennessee Gin. It’s a new craft gin my spirits company, Liquid Fun Management, created from scratch. It is delicious, and we are rolling it out now. It has already won a few awards, which I am really proud. I am a gin drinker and always wanted to create a gin. So, I worked with a good friend and amazing team to fulfill something on my bucket list — creating a spirit that we all love to drink and share with friends.

What are your interactions with other intelligent technologies in your daily life, including Alexa, Siri and others?

I am a daily user of Google Maps, and it has saved me so much time. I still remember running around with a car full of paper fold-out maps when I started as an investment banker.

We started experimenting with Alexa last year. It’s really convenient for entertainment, looking things up and ordering out. We also amuse ourselves asking her to run down answers to random questions that we have.

Finally, my #1 favorite app is Dark Sky. It has never failed me when I need to know what to wear or how to dress my kids or even how to plan an outdoor event (or change plans) up to days in advance. Remembering back to my childhood and calling Time & Temperature in the morning to see if I could wear shorts that day makes me appreciate this technology even more!

As a CEO of a data science company, how do you see the raging trend of including ‘AI in everything’?

I think we need to work to increase people’s understanding and awareness of AI. On the one hand, AI is already pervasive in often unseen ways in most people’s lives. Google Maps is a great example. There is tremendous AI at work there, but as in the case with most really good technology, we don’t think about how it works — we just use it. On the other hand, people need to understand that AI isn’t a panacea. It’s still a relatively new field and it isn’t going to solve all of our problems.

How should young marketers and sales professionals train themselves to work better with AI, Machine Learning, and Virtual Assistants?

Most young professionals are already comfortable with virtual assistants and some aspects of Machine Learning — and AI as part of their exposure to technologies, such as Alexa, Siri and Google Now. That comfort level will make it easier for them to explore deeper interactions with those technologies as appropriate. Most of the in-depth work with Machine Learning and AI will continue to be handled by data scientists and engineers for some time.

Could you tell us more about FactGem Data Fabric model? How does it improve BI/ Data Analytics at an enterprise level?

FactGem enables organizations to connect all of their relevant data to get a complete picture of their business. Most businesses are relying on outdated technologies that have separated their data. Let me give you an example: Have you ever received a flyer in the mail advertising a service you already have? You see this a lot with insurance and universities. The insurance company sends you a letter asking you to switch to their brand, but you are already a customer. Your daughter or son in high school gets a card asking them to consider a university, but they already visited weeks ago.

These things happen all the time. They happen because the customer data is being kept separate from the marketing data, and companies have no easy, cost-effective way of connecting that information. That is what FactGem does. We make it easy to bring all of that data together for better, faster business decisions.

How do you consume information on AI/ML and related topics to build your opinion?

I don’t think it’s that different from building an opinion on any other complex topic. You need to find reliable and varied sources of information. In this case, there are lots of good conferences, technical blogs and websites with comprehensive information.

What makes understanding AI so hard when it comes to actually deploying them?

AI is still very much an art as well as a science. It takes creativity to design a good Machine Learning model. Additionally, we have to remember that some of the most advanced Machine Learning applications that have ever been developed have derived results for which their creators have no explanation. This is the problem of understandable AI. We have to be able to understand how a result was arrived at, or else it is going to be increasingly difficult to try that result.

How an end-to-end solution with data capturing of online behavior helps a company better compete with the likes of Amazon on Google search? How does FactGem fit into this ecosystem?

One of the major advantages held by huge companies like Amazon and Google is that they have massive amounts of information about consumer behavior. This allows them to more effectively target consumers and make informed business decisions. Today, most companies that capture the online behavior of its customers aren’t able to effectively connect that behavior to in-store behavior, transactions or marketing information. Traditional means to achieve that connection are too expensive and take too long. FactGem can help companies by letting them connect that data quickly, for significantly less cost, and allow them to get answers rapidly.

How potent is the Human-Machine intelligence for businesses and society? Who owns machine learning results?

We are really just starting to explore how we can effectively interact with AI in meaningful ways. The ethics of AI is becoming a major field of study as people explore questions such as in what areas is the use of AI appropriate and who owns the results of Machine Learning.

AI will have a growing impact on many aspects of society in the years to come and we need to make sure we are thoughtful and deliberate as we think through the ethical impacts of these changes.

Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?

As with most advanced technology, I think it will become more and more ubiquitous. We will see more and more AI in the home, in children’s toys, in schools and at work.

The Good, Bad and Ugly about AI that you have heard or predict for 2019 — 

People are always worried that AI is going to take their jobs or take over the world, Terminator style. Yes, there will be changes in the workplace but there will be jobs created as well. While, as I have said, I think we need to be deliberate and thoughtful in our increased use of AI, the Terminator style take over of AI seems highly unlikely.

What are your thoughts on the ‘weaponization of AI”?

History has clearly demonstrated mankind’s ability to weaponize nearly anything, and AI will not be the exception. AI represents an evolution of machine capabilities and those capabilities are already potent cyber weapons. It is something that needs to be discussed and monitored.

 The Crystal Gaze

What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

While certainly not a start-up, the work being done by Microsoft is very interesting to me — particularly in the ways that they are making AI accessible to average people though efforts like their image classification system.

Which technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?

I think understandable AI is a fascinating and really important area of research. Additionally, the efforts to push AI to the edge and to smaller and smaller devices are fascinating.

As a tech leader, what industries you think would be fastest in adopting AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology markets?

Digital marketing is an area that I believe will continue to adopt AI/ML technology for increased efficiency in consumer targeting. Medical research will also, I believe, adopt additional ML capabilities though there are significant hurdles to overcome here, as was recently demonstrated by the issues with the use of IBM’s Watson to develop cancer treatment plans.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

I’ve just started my team on “Wrike,” a great project management tool. It helps me stay up to date on projects without cluttering my inbox and gives me a quick snapshot of both things that I need to complete, and a handle on where projects are across the company. It is amazing!

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Elon Musk

Thank you, Megan! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

From investment banking to craft distilling to technology, Megan has provided leadership to a variety of industries throughout her career. She is the founder of several women-owned businesses, including the technology start-up FactGem, where she is also CEO. Megan has served as Chairwoman to Popcorn Sutton Distilling and Liquid Fun Management.
Prior to her current roles, Megan spent over a decade as an investment banker for state and local governments, and the private sector. She became the first woman investment banking partner in over 100 years at Seasongood & Mayer, one of the country’s largest, privately-held, public-finance firms. She opened and managed the firm’s Columbus office. In 2010, she was named Investment Banker of the Year while serving as Vice President of George K. Baum & Company, an accomplishment recognized by the Ohio House of Representatives.

FactGem integrates your data sources in hours through the FactGem Data Fabric. We don’t disturb existing applications. Data instantly connects according to the business rules that you create in our visual model builder. You no longer have to write expensive and time-consuming code to enforce business rules for your data. Easily and rapidly engage with your data to expose the gems that you have been missing.

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