Accentuating on the courageous step to pursue passion, the ability to bring out a change and redefining entrepreneurship, CIO Look brings to you the journey of a zealous entrepreneur, Rupert Steffner, the Founder and CEO of WUNDER (Wunder.ai)
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between CIO Look and Rupert:
Give a brief overview of your background and your role in the company.
Inventing digital technology in Europe is tough. Over the years, I have developed two essential skills to make new things happen. The first was to set up my own grass-root sensors and become part of worldwide communities to get known where cutting edge technology is going to be built.
The second was to make far better and more creative use of the things around me. Europe is poor in digital innovations but it’s a space of great engineers. So, I made AI an engineering approach but this was in hard contrast to the hype mystifying AI to be the box where the miracle occurs. Meanwhile, there is fast growing demand for explainable AI and the engineering approach turned out to be a great choice. But making strategic decisions against conventional wisdom requires a considerable amount of perseverance and conviction.
My role in the company is that of a strategic idea giver and pacemaker. Developing new technology and bringing it down to earth to build a new breed of consumer-facing applications requires both knowledge in technology and business. Working at this interface is the most challenging and satisfying task in an era of digital transformation – and I love it.
How do you diversify your tech solutions that appeal to your target audience?
It is a brand new technology that introduces completely new business cases. We have developed cognitive AI that mimics consumer decision-making more conscious and faster than the human brain.
As a startup in Europe, it is not enough just to develop new technology – rather, the business application must also be created at the same time. That’s hard to start with, but it’s good for you in the sequel. We use cognitive AI to help brands provide their online customers new AI-fueled shopping experiences. These are ‘Product Discovery’ (a serendipitous discovery combining psychographic questions with soft product recommendations), ‘Matching Stories’ (explaining consumers why this is a good product match), ‘Social Match’ (transforming lifestyle and social data into product preferences on the fly) and ‘Shopping Party’ (allowing joint decision-making of several shoppers). We started to package the above mentioned experiences into a Customer Engagement Machine to cover all context scenarios of stimulating and managing user’s purchase intent.
With ascending in the number of pivotal and ground-breaking technological advancements the role of technologists is continually evolving. How according to you, has this role changed over the years?
Technologists always played a vital role for expansion and growth. Think of Archimedes constructing war machines beside his scientific work. But technologists seldom have been in the driver seats of power. This changed in the 1980s with Microsoft and Apple, and later with Google, Amazon and Facebook creating the most valuable companies today. Most enterprises know that they have to transform into X-tech companies, as technology will change almost everything, the way we work, drive or shop. This gives technologists a key role in modern business and we will see lot more deep-tech minds in leading roles to give companies a future-proof shape.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that shaped your journey?
The lesson learned is that there is an easy and a hard way to product-market fit. The easy and highly tempting way is to adapt the product to current requirements. The hard way is to keep the product aligned with future market needs and to find the right customers – and we have decided on this path.
We had to accept that if you come to market with really new things, there are only a small number of companies that understand your solution. We learned that Roger’s adoption cycle with few innovators and early adopters is true, and not the marketing buzz of all the companies that claim they are innovative. So we had to achieve to find these forward-thinking companies, and to get them on board as our first customers.
Where do you see yourself in the near future and what are its future goals?
With cognitive AI we have only scratched the surface so far. AI is in the maturity stage of a two-year-old child, and my personal goal is to help raise artificial intelligence to a human maturity stage of 8 years.
This will be a long way with building blocks like better reasoning, causality, biologically inspired learning methods and so on. My future goals are to still better integrate insights from cognitive psychology and neuroscience to make cognitive systems more empathic and relevant.
What is your advice for the emerging tech enthusiasts?
Building credibility that you are the right person to fly to mars!
There is justified criticism that founders produce innovations that are too small and incremental. Think big, Dream, Explore, and Discover— then build something massive.