Interview with Andy Gray, Co-founder and CEO at Kortical
Andy’s background is building cloud, AI and high performance computing in investment banking. He was instrumental in setting the cloud strategy in Barclays Capital, and led an AI initiative to optimise overnight risk calculations, which saved 30% of the total compute grid time, worth millions in costs. Due to the banking industries reluctance to use open source, Andy is one of the few individuals who has built cloud technologies from the ground up and this skill set brings huge advantage to Kortical’s technology. Andy oversees Kortical’s product development and ensures that the technology is delivered to the very highest standard and using best in class process and tooling. Andy also has deep experience delivering solutions to the extremely high SLA’s required in business critical systems for financial institutions and brings all these best practices to the Kortical delivery ethos
TDE: Tell us about your product/business and your specific role?
Andy Gray: Kortical is an AI platform that automatically creates bespoke AI/ML models based on your data. Data scientists have full control of that process, so we accelerate the creation of AI models and de-risk AI projects. Enabling businesses to get value from AI. Fast. Our platform uses AI to create AI, so the results of the models are brilliant. We open the ‘black box’, explaining any model, and handle the deployment of any AI models into your app, CRM or website quickly, allowing organisations to drive value at scale easily. We also offer our expertise to help businesses get started on their AI journey. As CEO I am responsible for the business strategy and leadership and with my background in technology delivery for Barclays and EA Games, I also set the direction for the product roadmap. Our ambition is to be the Excel of AI.
TDE: What is the core issue your product/technology aims to address and what sets it apart from the other players in the market?
Andy Gray: There are a number of steps in a typical data-science project. Some of those steps require a lot of human knowledge and intuition, and some of them are more of a ‘robotic’ search of the solution space. Trying to figure out the best tools and parameters for the job. Like much of modern AI, AutoML takes away the more robotic aspects of building an AI model, and makes it possible to rapidly experiment. Almost at the speed of thought. A data-scientist might be thinking that a particular NLP task would work really well, if they had word2vec feeding into a Deep Neural Net, with a couple of RELU layers. A decision like that would typically be followed by weeks or months of building and tuning the model. With Kortical, a data scientist can specify that in seconds and have the platform creating models immediately. The data-scientist can then interact with the platform to refine the solution further, fleshing out the bits they’re interested in, letting AutoML take care of the rest. Kortical is the only platform offering this patented, high level of interactivity and control over the AutoML process, which is key to getting the best results and iterating quickly.
TDE: What’s the one industry, sector or role that your technology is most relevant to?
Andy Gray: Kortical enables data scientists to test their models quickly, by automating many of the tedious steps in the model build process, while allowing them full control of the outputs. Right now, our technology is being used across a number of sectors and industries. We are using Kortical to predict blood demand across England with the NHS, to automating tax decisions with Deloitte. Our ambition is twofold, firstly to allow Data Scientists full control over the AutoML build process and the models that are produced where they can tweak and modify as they please. Secondly we want to allow those with little AI knowledge to fully utilize our platform based on a simple UI to get a powerful AI/ML model for example it will enable them to upload their sensor data and Kortical will give them an AI model to predict equipment failures.
TDE: What are some of the common challenges your customers approach you with?
Andy Gray: Skill shortage. In terms of having too many projects and not enough data scientists. As our platform reduces the time to deliver AI projects by up to 100 times faster, cutting the manpower associated with those projects and accelerating the delivery of quality AI models and projects. There are also very few data engineers available, who can turn AI models into software that businesses can actually use, at scale, across all their customers and applications. Explainability has been a huge barrier to businesses, who are widely implementing AI models. So our ability to explain any model has wide appeal to senior management, as well as data scientists.
TDE: Using technology to affect transformation usually starts with a transformation of beliefs and mindsets. How do you consult enterprise clients and help them make that important shift in mindset to move ahead on a particular project or implementation?
Andy Gray: This is a great question, as clients often start with quite a narrow mindset of how they want to use AI to fix a problem. They are often keen to take baby steps, which won’t alarm too many senior stakeholders. However, we like to coach the reverse approach, where a client starts with a high value use case and proves that out in stages. We prove the business case with a maximum 4-week piece of work and then implement it in gated stages, so there is the opportunity for ROI with 4 -10 weeks. From that point it is much easier to get more and more buy-in along the way, as the value has been proven on real data. This approach turns the minimum viable product (MVP) style of working on its head and provides cross-functional buy-in from the start. Ultimately it means that the project will have much more long-term success, as all the key stakeholders buy into the vision and objectives, from the outset. Kortical has a 100% success rate of delivering projects, so we are confident in our approach and the power of Kortical delivering world class AI solutions.
TDE: Give us an example of an enterprise meeting a digital transformation goal through your product?
Andy Gray: Our work with the NHS Blood & Transplant Team (NHSBT) is a great example of digital transformation helping to save lives. While driving efficiencies that ensure the taxpayer gets value for money. We have helped NHSBT to go from traditional statistical methods and spreadsheets, to an AI powered app, which predicts the demand and supply of the most precious commodity, blood. As blood is donated by donors amongst the generous British public, the supply is not flat and is therefore unpredictable. With Christmas, school holidays and weather all affecting supply. With patients, while some appointments are planned, the demand is also impacted by the same factors. Accident and Emergency cases are another factor that needs to be predicted, across all the blood types. Those and many other variables mean over 30,000 different blood products are required, across England, with regional differences in blood types. Added to the complexity is that platelets expire after 7 days. The goal is to increase platelet efficiency by 50% and ad hoc transport costs by 50%, at the same time as not negatively impacting patient care. Our project is the first national AI solution in the NHS and it is a great example of tackling a large project using Kortical to deliver quality results at pace and embedding digital transformation to save the NHS money.
TDE: What present or upcoming technologies you think have the maximum potential to accelerate enterprise digital transformation?
Andy Gray: There is no doubt that AI has the power to accelerate digital transformation, but businesses are just getting started on the potential opportunities. Many businesses are being more diligent about how they collect data, augmenting their data with third party data sources, in order to future proof their businesses. AI is being used to predict outcomes, automate decisions and open up new avenues for generating revenue, so it is a really exciting technology. Elon Musk has a great quote “If your competitor is racing to build AI, and you don’t, they will crush you”. So, if AI isn’t part of your digital transformation yet, it should be.
TDE: What’s your go to resource – websites, newsletters, any other – that you use to stay in touch with the explosive changes happening in the digital space?
Andy Gray: Being CEO and while we are scaling Kortical, my go-to resource is Sasstr. Sasstr focuses a lot on digital tools being the best way to scale your business and enable the processes that support fast growth.
TDE: Read a good book lately on digital transformation that you’d like to recommend to us?
Andy Gray: All transformation starts with the right mindset, so before you embark on a project or read anything on digital transformation, you need to read ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek. From there you will make much better choices on what digital tools and transformation you need. The buy-in you will see from other team members will be much more collaborative too.
For more DX insights, follow Andy Gray on LinkedIn.