I have had the pleasure of meeting with and getting to know Dennis R. Mortensen in a variety of roles in this crazy technology industry of ours. From Index Tools to Yahoo Analytics, to Visual Revenue, and now to x.ai. The man with the golden touch and incredible vision was kind enough to sit down and take part in this interview.
Tell us about your background and be sure to include: How did you get started in Analytics/Marketing ?
We ran a medium sized digital agency start-up in the mid 90’s and we were pulled into the analysis process by continued customer questions. Initially, very basic requests, for which you would expect the answer to be a standard report in any Web Analytics solution today, but back then, pretty cutting edge log analysis. We ended up focusing on this, and the rest is, as they say, history!
What were you doing five years ago and how has that experience help you with your current role/job?
5 years ago, I was a good year into the integration process with Yahoo, after they acquired IndexTools Web Analytics. It was also around that time I came up with the basic idea construct for x.ai in it’s most agressive interpretation. One of killing the inbox. Which is also too much to swallow, but some basic analysis will show you that for many people, the most intrusive segment in your inbox is everything related to scheduling meetings. Years later and after a successful exit on our Predictive Analytics startup, we revisited this pain and Amy @ x.ai was born.
What are your favorite industry events or conferences and why ?
I always loved to meet up with friends at Jim’s eMetrics conference, but I also liked the initial frame created by Predictive Analytics World.
What advice would you give to someone who is just trying to get started in this industry ?
Get access to real data, which is meaningful to somebody, and start to play with it.
What business or industry related book have you read recently, and would you recommend it to others ?
I am currently reading Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom – and it is a thought provoking book about the potential dangers of AI in the future. Certainly worth a read.
With Amy possibly becoming self-aware in the future, I want to make sure she doesn’t go rogue on us and start scheduling meetings for 3am 😉
When or if you could hire a new person to your team, what are the most important attributes that you are looking for ?
Good cultural fit above everything else. I’ve tried to crystalize exactly what a good fit means in the x.ai pledge, a document we ask all new employees to read and truly connect with before we get married.
What has surprised you the most in the past 5 years in this digital analytics marketing industry ?
I am quite surprised to see the explosion in specialized tools and technologies, whether that be for specific industry verticals or unique data exploration techniques. There was an indication of market consolidating a good half decade ago.
We have heard volumes about Big Data, Privacy, Democratization of Analytics. What is next ?
I am making a huge bet on Artificial Intelligence being ready for primetime.
You have had a great run of success with Index Tools, then Visual Revenue, now with x.ai. What is is about creating these great products that keeps you motivated ?
The challenge. There’s a certain romance in struggling alongside a team of fellow Spartans to create a product from nothing and see it being accepted and loved by one’s customers.
How has the response been to x.ai ? and selfishly..when will it work on Outlook/Exchange ?
I think the timing is almost perfect and I am actually a bit surprised by the overwhelming interest in our artificial intelligence personal assistant that schedules meetings.
Outlook/Exchange integration is an Autumn 2014 task, so when you read this, we should fully support the Microsoft Platform.
What keeps you awake at night ?
I sleep like a baby. 😉
If you had to build a new business that was outside of the world of IT related projects, what would you create ?
I’d build a Hotel in Barbados. Hell, I might even do that on the side.
What is your favorite passage from any book?
“You are a wild pig rooting for truffles. You are a weasel about to rip the throat out of a rabbit. You are an entrepreneur.” – Felix Dennis, The Narrow Road.
Tell me exactly how Amy works please
x.ai is a personal assistant that lets you use email to schedule meetings. You can delegate the tedious email ping pong that comes along with scheduling a meeting. All you have to do is CC firstname.lastname@example.org into your email thread just like you would use a human personal assistant. Amy then takes over, so you can focus on more important tasks. The service does not require you to download yet another app, sign-up for yet another account or remember yet another password! Amy simply exists in the dialogue you have with her.
Amy Ingram is artificial intelligence designed to understand natural language and she will have human-like email dialogues with your guests to help schedule your meetings. She is able to learn your personal scheduling preferences, so that date, time and location are being negotiated on your terms. You can mentor Amy by simply emailing her your favorite coffee shop, conference bridge, Skype ID or you don’t do meetings on Wednesdays and she’ll and remember it.