The Man in the Ma­chine

The Economic Times - - Disruption: - Surabhi.Agar­wal

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.”

POW­ER­FUL MODEL

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.

UNIMAG­IN­ABLE AP­PLI­CA­TIONS

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.

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