The Man in the Machine
New Delhi: In his first major engagement after moving on from Google, Amit Singhal, a former Google Fellow and is regarded as the master of Google ‘ ranking algorithm’, has agreed to join the board of directors at fitness startup GOQii. Singhal retired from Google in February this year to pursue his own interests after a 15-year stint. In his first interview since moving on from the search giant Singhal told ET that he had also invested in the Vishal Gondal-founded firm as an angel investor in 2014.
As a member of the board, Singhal hopes to bring his expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning from Google to GOQii, making the service more predictive and preventive.
“The idea that is most intriguing about GOQii is having a human being working with artificial intelligence to motivate the user,” he said. Jhansi-born Singhal added that he hopes to bring a lot of learning from his past work at Google which included deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning to make search better and faster. “It is not just some bit of learning... but there will be a lot of artificial intelligence going in the background. The interface to these things has not evolved to a point where a human being is fully comfortable with it, especially in an area like health and wellness... so a lot of science has to be worked upon. The world needs good health and it needs to be motivated about it.”
He added that when you combine algorithmic-machine learning to the human being, it becomes a very powerful model. “I have always believed in the symphony between machines and human beings to achieve things that won’t be achieved otherwise,” said Singhal, who has a PhD from Cornell University.
GOQii, whose investors include venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Chinese mobile internet company Cheetah Mobile and DSG Consumer Partners, among others, also has other Silicon Valley stalwarts as its angel investors.
The list includes names such as Neeraj Arora of WhatsApp, Mike McNamara, chief executive officer of Flextronics; Steve Luczo, chairman of the board at Seagate; Bharat Vasan of San Franciscobased wearable tech startup Basis; and Dr Shriram Nene, among others. Talking to ET, Gondal said that Singhal has the experience of seeing a small company scale up to billions of dollars and more importantly, is an authority on data science that could help GOQii on the technology front, apart from mentoring the company as it scales its business.
“The right way of building a company is getting the right management bandwidth,” said Gondal, adding that successful companies invest in putting together great talent, mentors and board members.
The applications of data to wearable technology are unimaginable, said Gondal, adding that it could find usage in alerting users about their upcoming health issues or designing wellness or insurance packages according to a person’s health history.
Going forward, Singhal’s engagement in the country will only increase as he could take up more board positions in India and may invest in more startups along with his philanthropic work. Singhal has already invested in some Indian startups as an angel investor.