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Lake Dai Brings Wealth of AI Knowledge, Experience to Alcatraz Board

Alcatraz is carving out a new autonomous access control sector powered by AI

Lake Dai has devoted her career and education to artificial intelligence. A venture capitalist with LDV Partners and adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s AI applications master’s program, Lake joined the Alcatraz board of directors in April 2020 for two primary reasons, she says: the industry and the team.

“Physical security is evolving and facial biometrics is changing the industry, an effort that is being led by Alcatraz,” she says.

Alcatraz, a security technology start up based in Silicon Valley, is a developer of secure touchless access control products. Alcatraz is changing the way that companies use access control systems by providing facial authentication and mask enforcement solutions that leverage artificial intelligence and analytics to modernize their access control systems.

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What impressed Lake about Alcatraz as an investor and as a professional in the AI space was that not only has Alcatraz developed AI technology to deliver access control powered by facial authentication, but they have also assembled a team that has a deep understanding of the physical security industry, she said.

“We see a lot of startup founders that have a tech background, but not much industry knowledge. But that is not the case with Alcatraz,” Lake says. “They have put together a team with strengths in both areas to deliver an outstanding solution for an industry that is ready for it – a message that was validated during our due diligence where we found broad support and customer validation from Tier 1 tech giants that are engaged with Alcatraz.”

Lake’s 20 years of operational experience includes some of the biggest names in technology. She was one of the first 20 employees of Apple China and later became employee #84 and Product Team Lead at Alibaba at a time when employees worked out of a residential home. At Alibaba, her team built many fundamental products for the AI giant: B2B platform, email and messenger system, travel platform, and many products that are in use today. Lake then joined Yahoo as Product and Business Lead over the Yahoo search engine.

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“Search engines were pretty elementary when I joined Yahoo. Our team built web search, image search, knowledge search – it was one of the first use cases of machine learning. We built data crawling, data indexing, intent mining, and search relevance algorithms. It was a very exciting time,” she says. “I have 4 U.S. patents approved for my work in the area of search algorithm, recommendation engine, and text tokenization.”

It was this interest and experience in AI that led Lake into investing. As a partner in Silicon Valley-based LDV Partners, Lake focuses on investing in AI technology and related applications.

“We are an early stage, deep tech startup investment firm of experienced company builders, technology experts, and seasoned investors who are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs – and new ideas – succeed.”

Because Lake is also an adjunct professor of AI at CMU’s Silicon Valley campus, she continues to keep her finger on the pulse of the absolute latest innovations in technology as well as connected to some of the up and coming top talent, which she says positively contributes to her role on the Alcatraz Board.

“Beyond the basic requirements of a board member – making sure a company is run well – the Alcatraz Board is one of the most collaborative boards I’ve witnessed. The board is very experienced, diversified, and they have the knowledge and desire to actively help the company. We have a great variety of experiences in technology, global expansion, and in business in general, and we are working to ensure that Alcatraz is successful.”

Lake has also spent many years volunteering for a variety of non-profit organizations. She is currently an advisory board member for Women in Technology International and is co-founder of Shinect Accelerator, a non-profit incubating program built for SAAS startups founded by Chinese Americans.

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