An intelligent automation ‘Holy Grail?’ A NYC VC shares his thoughts

On February 8, Cintrifuse is excited to showcase our Active Network with the Intelligent Automation Roundtable with boldstart Ventures (lowercase intentional). boldstart is in our broader network and just one of the over 200 VCs we have access to through our Syndicate Fund. Even though we’re invested in 12, we continue to build relationships with dozens of VCs to ensure we have a pulse on the market.

Register: Intelligent Automation Roundtable with Boldstart, February 8 @ Union Hall

Headlining the event will be Ed Sim, Founder and Managing Partner of boldstart.

Ed (in his own words) is a “first-check investor for bold founders reinventing the enterprise stack.” boldstart is a lead investor and partners with Fortune 500 CIOs, CTOs, CISOs to accelerate time to market. Ed loves to work with engineering driven founders with a laser sharp focus on product. His current investment focus includes Cloud Native Infrastructure, Intelligent Automation, and cybersecurity.

Read more: Ed Sim’s BeyondVC blog

Ed took some time this past weekend to answer a few of our burning questions before the event. Here’s what he had to say…

Tell us about yourself, your firm and something you guys are working on right now that you find most exciting within boldstart (something we can’t snag off Linkedin)

Ed: I’ve been a VC for over 20 years seeding and leading first rounds in enterprise infrastructure companies. I automated my first job when I was at JP Morgan in the mid-90s teaching myself Visual Basic to help manage $11b of capital investing in derivatives. That has definitely kept me inspired and interested in the power of automation and software.

One of the most exciting areas we are working on now besides automation is looking at enterprise use cases of the blockchain. It’s still super early but we are proud to have co-founded MState Labs, an accelerator for speeding up adoption of blockchain in the enterprise. We also recruited partners/sponsors IBM, one of the leaders in this space, and Comcast Ventures, who have dozens of use cases.

How do you define intelligent automation and what it means to the future of work?

Ed: The future of work is such a wide ranging topic covering remote work to on-demand work to automated work. In my mind, ‘intelligent’ means leveraging deep learning and machine learning to help automate routine business processes that humans are traditionally doing — data entry is a big piece of that, but it also includes understanding pictures in an insurance claim process to better route to the right person or even NLP for customer support.

When I think of Intelligent Automation, I think about what is there now and what it can’t do. Robotic Process Automation, better known as RPA is billed as changing the world by creating enormous efficiency in the back office. Problem is that it is little more than screen scraping, hard-coded rules and quite brittle. The holy grail is to use intelligence and new models to learn and react to data to make decisions. In other words, machines can make decisions and adapt to data being throwing in front of it.

We are a long way from there and my big belief is that we still need humans in the loop and therefore interfaces to allows humans to work side by side and in concert with ML models in a seamless manner to add that layer of cognitive capability.

Big Corporates. Startups. Venture Capital. Which space is feeling the strongest effects of intelligent automation? The least? How prepared is each for the changes automation brings?

Ed: We work closely with a number of CIOs and Sr. IT Execs in the Fortune 500 who serve as formal and informal advisors. When we asked them how they wanted to bring machine learning into the enterprise and spoke about creating new business models or streamlining existing processes, the overwhelming answer was the latter. Cutting costs using intelligent automation is low-hanging fruit and a massive opportunity. Those that are best prepared are the ones who have deployed RPA processes and are getting disillusioned with the time to get it up and running and the capabilities. Many of these large organizations of Automation or RPA Centers of excellence and industries cover financial services, manufacturing and even consumer goods.

In a recent blog post, you briefly touched on Chief Information Officers becoming the new VC, could you elaborate on this thought?

Ed: I’m a big believer in Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns: The rate of change in a wide variety of evolutionary systems (including but not limited to the growth of technologies) tends to increase exponentially.

Another way to look at it is today is the slowest rate of change that we will ever experience. So doing nothing will leave you further behind. So when I suggest that CIOs are the new VCs, I am saying that since technology is changing so rapidly they need to do two things — don’t be afraid to fail and try lots of different experiments that are self contained and can provide quick learning. If successful, these projects can be funded with more capital, equivalent to startups going from seed to Series A or Series B. In other words, CIOs need to take a portfolio approach, look for moonshots, and write off losses quickly and keep backing the winners. Given this pace of rapid change, this will yield the best results to allow these large corporates to realize their digital transformation goals.


More about Intelligent Automation Roundtable with Boldstart

Workforces are transforming. Employers and employees are eager to embrace the change.

The ‘Future of Work’ is a wide-ranging and complex topic. Within this space, we see intelligent automation as a vertical that has the power to drastically alter traditional business operations.

In our efforts to deliver on emerging technologies, the Cintrifuse team is excited to partner with Boldstart Ventures to connect enterprise technology leaders with evolving trends and high-growth startups from the intelligent automation space.

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