Smart Notifications: Talking to Nicholas Aguilar Sayaan and Anshul Kudal
Today on Barna Hub we were lucky enough to sit down with Intrapreneur and Business Analyst Nicholas Aguilar Sayaan and Intrapreneur CEO Anshul Kudal at Smart Notifications, which is a startup within leading Spanish broadband and telecommunications company Telefónica.
So tell us what Smart Notifications is all about!
140 character pitch:
Smart Notifications uses AI to predict the best moments to send Push notifications, improves CTR & conversion for Apps & reduces spam for users.
Check out Smart Notifications:
Grow your brand by quickly and easily engaging your users in the right moment for them. Check out our website to begin the integration process! smartnotifications.tid.es
Our test app, Boredom Fighter, is also available from either the Apple Store or Android Store. It’s a fun way to check out how Smart Notifications’ models send you push notifications in the best moments for engagement.
(This app is unrelated to the Smart Notifications service, but it helps our scientists improve our algorithms while entertaining you!).
Down to business
Nicholas, you’ve been a neuroscientist, a film director, an innovation lab director and now an intrapreneur – all roles that combine curiosity, creativity and a methodological approach. Is that how you see entrepreneurship?
In a nutshell, absolutely! I guess the long answer would be that the goal of all of those roles is to find a way to create value, whether that be analytically, emotionally, or financially.
Entrepreneurship is a combination of all three, but more than that, you have to do all three very well, whether you’re fighting for clients, for funding, or for more runway, all while you’re on fire, and while you’re trying to put out fires, and all the while trying to convince your investors that everything is as it should be and that your run rate is on track. Yeah, something like that.
Anshul, you’ve worked at HSBC, Amazon, Barclays and now for Smart Notifications in Telefónica. How do corporate and startup challenges differ in your opinion?
I think it mostly depends on two things: one – how much the company is willing to invest in innovation which is not very close to the core business.
And two – how good are they at actually implementing or launching in-house innovations to their customers.
The first question tells you how much freedom you will get and the second tells you whether your product will ever reach users or if it will be stuck in the innovation sandbox.
You’re both in quite an unusual position, having a startup, but also working in one of the largest companies in Spain. What are the most rewarding things about being an intrapreneur?
Nicholas: For me, many of the upsides of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship are the same, and equally rewarding. Specifically, building a product/service from innovation frameworks, constantly designing, testing and iterating, and then finally bringing something to market and having clients really like (hopefully love and pay for).
You guys work in a fascinating area – Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine learning (ML). It feels like we’re at the beginning of an AI revolution that will soon make all our lives better and more productive. But AI is not as pervasive as it might be. Where will AI ML be 5 years down the road, in your opinion?
Nicholas: Just as IoT is becoming ubiquitous, AI will be along for the ride every step of the way. In many ways, we will see this manifested tangibly from a user perspective. For example, autonomous devices and vehicles will be roaming the world and moving us and our goods around with their navigation managed by algorithms that keep everything moving efficiently.
The majority of our AI managed world, however, will be unnoticed by end users. Smart Notifications is actually a good example of this. We currently live in a world where we are bombarded by information, both voluntarily and involuntarily.
AI will be necessary for us to filter what information we want and when we want it. Predicting behavior and and then delivering exactly what we want in those moments might, at first glance seem invasive, but it will become crucial to how we navigate our increasingly data-cluttered world.
For an initial view of how this works now, many social media feeds (Instagram), media content platforms (Netflix), and e-commerce platforms (Amazon) already have algorithms that help us get the most out of their services, i.e. finding what we want quickly and perhaps before we even know we want it. Much of this happens without us even noticing.
Elon Musk once said:
With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. You know all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he’s like, yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.
He’s being pretty melodramatic here, but does he have a point? Should we be worried about the increasing and potentially dangerous power of AI?
Nicholas: No, as long as you are okay bending the knee to our new silicon overlords. In all seriousness, there are many technologies that have been developed that have the potential of all sorts of apocalyptic outcomes, but I think it would be a great disservice to not explore a technology because it has the potential of being abused, growing beyond our control, and/or if it has ethical ramifications.
The abilities and consequences of scientific developments are becoming wider-reaching and more complicated, not less, so the onus and responsibility is then on us and our best minds to fully understand all the implications of a technology and then move forward in such a way that we manage risks effectively while still using science and technology to better our lives.
Okay, we’ll take it a little easier on you now! What app could you not live without at work?
Nicholas: A calendar app and caffeine. This is the only way to know when my meetings are and how I can survive them.
What brought you both to Barcelona and what is it about the country that made you want stay?
Nicholas: I came to Barcelona for my MBA at ESADE, and I stayed because of lifestyle. The attraction is really a combination of a lot of little things, for example the food/bar culture, the architecture, the vibe (both personally and professionally), the Mediterranean at your doorstep, I could go on forever.
I am originally from Los Angeles, and as much as I love that city, it’s just more awesome in Barcelona. My initial plan was to go back to LA after my MBA, but after two weeks in Barcelona, I knew couldn’t leave.
What does Barcelona do better than anywhere else in the world, in your opinion?
Nicholas: Neighbourhood / block parties. The barrio festivals here are the best (my favourite is Festa Major de Gracia).
What do people who have never been to Barcelona need to know about the city?
Nicholas: When you get invited out for a drink in the evening and someone says “solo una copa,” that really means you will be arriving home after sunrise.
Hubbub – we learned that one early on! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us!
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