Technology is vastly different to what it was just a decade ago. Gone is the digital era that brought us computers, the internet, and a knowledge economy allowing us to deliver services remotely, outsource business processes and dematerialize the entire concept of economic transactions through internet-based payment systems. We now reside in the intelligence era, in which data rather than information is the driving force for innovation. For any burgeoning tech startup, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), big data, blockchain and the cloud are the backbone of the industry.
Whether their companies are introducing new products or services or delivering on something existing in a new way, entrepreneurs in the last few years have been utilizing these new technologies to disrupt practically every industry, changing the status quo within their existing markets for the better. They have found an ideal product-market fit for their idea, building an engaged community around their business and setting it up for a scalable future. Technology may be today’s fastest-growing industry, and below we look at ten entrepreneurs who have made waves this year through their use of intelligent technologies –– and increased their net worth as a result.
Luis von Ahn is the co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, a language-learning platform created to bring free language education to the world. Duolingo has become one of the most-downloaded education apps worldwide with over 500 million active users, and much of its success has been credited to its embrace of machine learning and AI. From the company’s product development and user retention efforts to its recruitment priorities and revenue strategies, these intelligence technologies have played a large role in the company’s ability to scale. Luis von Ahn is considered one of the pioneers of crowdsourcing, known for co-inventing CAPTCHAs and selling two companies to Google while still in his twenties.
Having lived in every major tech market in the world, Greg Cross has his finger on the pulse of emerging technologies. In 2017 the wireless charging company PowerbyProxi he co-founded was sold to Apple, and in 2016 he co-founded Soul Machines, now the leader in artificial general intelligence. Soul Machines’ Human OS Platform features a patented Digital Brain, and they are first applying the innovations they have made in the field to redefining customer and brand experience. In 2021 the company added Microsoft to its already long list of partners including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Toll House and the World Health Organization. As chief business officer, Cross has been instrumental in the exploration of the future of human-machine cooperation.
As evidenced by the explosive rise of TikTok, video is quickly taking over as the primary way to consume media. However, over 80 percent of Facebook videos are watched on mute, but manually captioning a video is time-consuming for one language, let alone the many others that could increase a video’s reach. Recognizing this problem and the potential role intelligent technology could play in it, Akiva Aranoff co-founded Maestra, an online transcription, captioning and voiceover platform. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Maestra can automatically caption and subtitle video files, and then translate the captions to over 50 different languages.
With over 15 years of experience as a political entrepreneur, Meghan Gaffney brought a strong understanding of the inefficiencies in the healthcare industry to Veda, the healthtech company she co-founded and currently serves as CEO of. Partnering with astronomer Dr. Bob Lindner, Gaffney has worked within Veda to improve patient experiences through NASA-backed machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. Through Veda, providers can automate data-related tasks, removing human errors and organizing information quickly. By resolving administrative issues, healthcare experts can spend less time tracking down records and more time caring for patients, and today over 15 million people rely on Veda data tools to power the healthcare industry.
As the world becomes increasingly globalized, regulations within the financial sector will continue to become more complex. Bringing to the table a wide breadth of regulatory compliance experience, co-founder and president of Ascent RegTech Brian Clark has utilized intelligence technology toward the vastly complicated regulatory compliance. The AI-powered regulatory platform identifies the regulations a company must comply with and keeps them updated as the rules change. It can be difficult for a person or team to keep track of every single new rule or regulation change within the financial sector, and by utilizing artificial intelligence, Clark’s platform saves companies valuable employee time and money and prevents compliance issues.
Alex Vratskides is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Persado, a marketing language cloud that uses AI-generated language to craft advertising for targeted audiences. A believer in data-driven decision-making, Vratskides has over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience and has put that toward creating a business that helps increase customer acquisitions, boost retention and build better relationships with their customers. The company has partnered with industry giants such as Chase Bank, Dropbox, Audible, TurboTax and Expedia, building a proven track record of positioning organizations for success through unlocking new revenue streams.
Through dropp, founder and chief executive officer Gurps Rai has turned an entire screen into shoppable real estate. Powered by the company’s proprietary artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision algorithm, droppTV is able to recognize products in video content and tag them in real time, allowing for quick and simple one-click purchasing. Inspired by the viral music video “Hotline Bling” and the throngs of fans who were in pursuit of copping Drake’s outfits, has made droppTV the world’s first shopatainment marketplace solution, but the applications can be extended across the entire e-commerce sector. The company has partnered with innovative people and brands, including musicians like A$AP Mob’s A$AP Ty to Las Vegas, Drai’s resident, Pfire and even actor Eric Roberts. The company has a list of Fortune 500 clients including LG, Samsung, Vero Moda and more. Rai has shown a knack of being early with his activities in the crypto currency market. He successfully completed a commodity trade in digital currency as far back as 2011. With the success of droppTV and recent announcement of the series B post money valuation of $375 million the historically documented crypto currency deals and the success of his venture portfolio More Ventures. Gurps Rai’s net worth has taken a major jump in the past few years to around $255 million.
Although Jake Heller was known as an adept and skillful litigator in the legal world, as a Silicon Valley native he had also been programming since his childhood. Combining his knowledge of both, Heller co-founded Casetext, an artificial intelligence-powered legal search engine. With a database of more than 10 million statues, cases and regulations, the company’s technology can search with the language, jurisdiction and citations of a user’s uploaded documents, returning relevant searches from the database and giving attorneys the power of a more efficient workflow. As chief executive officer of Casetext, Heller has been named to the Fastcase 50 for legal innovation for his work at the company.
Dr. Stefan Heck is chief executive officer and founder of Nauto. Nauto builds autonomous mobility software to create smarter commercial fleets and safer drivers, using smart technology to detect distracted driving, coach drivers on safety and alert them to risks ahead. In analyzing billions of data points derived from videos, Nauto’s machine learning algorithm are able to continuously improve and impact driver behavior before events happen. With prior experience in energy, cleantech and sustainability initiatives, Dr. Heck has been the driving force behind Nauto’s success, resulting in enabling the largest commercial fleets in the world to avoid more than 70,000 collisions.
According to Keyvan Mohajer, he was inspired to co-found his company SoundHound by the television series “Star Trek,” dreaming of speaking naturally with the devices that now surround our everyday lives. The company provides multiple solutions that utilize voice and conversational intelligence, with its namesake product letting users identify songs and answer music-based queries in addition to searching and playing music. However, as chief executive officer Mohajer has bigger plans for his company’s technology, envisioning a world in which custom voice assistants can transform how we interact with machines, making lives more convenient and productive.