Don’t Stop Learning: The Top 4 Tips on Learning About AI from HubSpot’s Former Chief People Person

Posted by Alyssa Verzino on Oct 24, 2018 3:58:10 PM



“You have to approach technology as: How does it benefit someone’s day? You’re trying to save them time or money or improve their general outlook on their customers. How do you take AI and make processes better, make the information better, make the workflows better?” -- Jim O’Neill

We interviewed Jim O’Neill, HubSpot’s former Chief People Person, on AI at Work. He had some great advice for business leaders as someone that does not come from an AI background. Here are his top 4 tips for business leaders on AI-- from getting educated to finding talent and investing.

Tip #1: Follow a few edgy startups

“It's about narrowing in on a couple of thought leaders in this space. Clearly you read what the Googles and the IBMs of the world are doing, but I also follow a couple of the more edgy startups. Try to get a little bit deeper, so that you have a broad perspective through something like, a macro perspective from some of the larger names of investing and then a couple of niche perspectives just to see what the possibilities of AI are.”

Tip #2: Hire AI talent strategically

“[At HubSpot] we did a few strategic acquisitions of companies. Largely for the talent, sometimes for part of the intellectual property. They had to be complementary to what our customers did, so we didn't find an AI company that was building machine vision or things like that. We found companies that were looking at sales data, or operational data, or buying decision data, and we looked at how they were using machine learning or other algorithms to improve that. Strategic “acqui-hires” would be the word that people would use... HubSpot did a really good job of finding great talent and building small centers of excellence around that talent. For instance, HubSpot was able to convince one of the lead Google AI engineers in Dublin to work at HubSpot, and he's built out an amazing group of AI people around him.”

Tip #3: There is value in adding a human-in-the-loop

“I don't think enough companies are willing to [add a human in the loop], frankly. I think they rely too much on algorithms. The more successful businesses I see have a small army of people actually curating information, and they have to do it in a timely fashion. I think the best example would be Fin… I've seen companies in real estate, tech, lending tech, and a lot of those kind of technologies that are using AI. They still have a services component and need to make sure that the time to enjoyment is reasonable and keeps people interested.”

Tip #4: Focus on the problem that needs to be solved

“As I look at other startups [to invest in], if they lead with, “AI based,” “machine learning”... I don't want anything to do with it. I guarantee you they don't have a product. If the pitch is around the problems they're solving and how they solve it, and then they add that “by the way, we do have machine learning or AI”, that's of interest to me. That shows consumer improvement. It's around how AI can benefit consumer experience… HubSpot doesn't shout from the rafters that it's an “AI-based product”. What they're focused on is, how do we take the talent we've grown, the talent we've acquired, and the IP that's becoming more available in this space, and wrap those three up. There's really two views on that. One is, how does it make the product better? How does it make it better for their customers to use the technology? Then two, how does it make the company better? How do you internally use artificial intelligence to make the employee's experience better?

You can read the full transcription here to hear more from Jim O’Neill on the Reality of AI and Making Bets. And, subscribe to Talla’s AI at Work podcast on iTunes or Google Play and share with your network.

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Topics: AI