Insights from an AI Founder

9-12-2016 | Melanie Picard

An interview with Timothy Tuttle, Founder & CEO of MindMeld

This year at Dreamforce, Salesforce for Startups invites you to get inspired by the startup community. We’ve put together six innovative panels featuring 20+ startup founders and leaders. Timothy Tuttle, founder and CEO of MindMeld, is one of them.

A former AI researcher at MIT, Timothy founded MindMeld in 2011 to push the boundaries of natural language understanding. In 2014, MindMeld launched a platform to enable companies to create intelligent conversational interfaces for any app or device.

Tim took the time to answer our questions and share his thoughts on how AI startups impact the enterprise.

Many forms of artificial intelligence—from decision support to fully automated systems—are disrupting our lives but remain difficult to grasp. What would be your two-sentence version of “AI for Dummies?”
Artificial intelligence is the ability for machines to perform actions thought to require intelligence.  One approach is for machines to mimic humans, so that an average person cannot tell if they are dealing with a person or a machine. However, AI today also encompasses machines doing things that humans cannot do, or cannot do easily, that require a degree of analysis and predictive, cognitive and decision-making behaviors.

Why are natural language interfaces game-changing?
For the first time since the dawn of computing, devices and applications are adapting to humans’ natural behavior, rather than the other way around. It is impossible to fully predict the future ramifications of this shift, but they will be huge. Natural language interfaces will aid us in ways machines have never been capable of doing before, sometimes providing more ease and efficiency than even human representatives.

How do they impact the way companies interact with customers?

Natural language conversational interfaces will provide the most compelling and engaging omnichannel experiences available, for multiple industries. They facilitate human-like interactions that are not only natural and intuitive, but also highly personalized and brand-specific. Conversational interfaces provide customer satisfaction by responding to queries with efficiency and expertise. Importantly, natural language results in a rich trove of customer insights—from intent to sentiment—that brands can derive deep analytics from to inform business decisions.

What are the key challenges in your field that you were able to overcome as a startup?

The biggest challenge when you’re on the leading edge of a new industry is educating the market and your customers. When MindMeld first started, companies did not understand why they needed this technology, and they didn’t believe it could possibly be as advanced as it actually is. Over just the past year, we’ve seen an enormous attitudinal shift. Most major brands now understand that conversational AI is the future. These days our conversations are about timelines and specific goals, rather than pitching the basic concept behind what we do.

How does Salesforce enable you to reach your goals?

Our target market stretches across many verticals and thousands of companies. We use Sales Cloud to track a large number of target accounts through a relatively long sales cycle. In conjunction with Sales Cloud, we also use Pardot to manage our marketing programs.

Can you name two other startups doing amazing work in different fields of AI?

There are many startups doing really cool work these days. There are multiple names deserving of a mention here, but two of them that come to mind are Blippar (who use image recognition and augmented reality to display information about real-life objects) and Vicarious, a startup with some really interesting people behind it that learned how to solve CAPTCHAs in 2013.

What's coming next?

MindMeld is working with a number of leading international brands on solutions that shift perceptions of conversational AI across the tech industry. These are solutions that feature a level of natural language sophistication that the market has not yet seen. We are hopeful that when these launch—expectedly before the year is out—they will create awareness of what AI can do for people in their everyday lives.

Come to Dreamforce to learn more about how Salesforce is delivering AI to everyone with Salesforce Einstein and our panel discussion, How AI Startups Will Impact the Enterprise.

AI Panel


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