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Established Frameworks Tell Us How to Build a Successful AI Startup

If you want to build a successful artificial intelligence (AI) startup, a couple of established frameworks can help steer you in the right direction.

Himanshu Joshi, an applied AI lead from Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, spoke on March 11 during an AI@NU Graduate Student Group event entitled, “Engineering the Future: How to Build an AI Startup.” The event was aimed at advising aspiring entrepreneurs who are designing AI technologies.

Himanshu JoshiJoshi suggested that we can design and build better solutions which create value for the users and impact in the world. He discussed two entrepreneurial frameworks that he learned from experts at his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): 1) Disciplined Entrepreneurship, and 2) Nail It, Scale It, and Sail It.

“Generally, almost 60% of the startups do not take off because we create something which nobody wants to buy,” Joshi said. “That's why the spirit of exploring to understand what adds value to our end-users is so important for us.”

The first framework — by Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and professor of the practice at the MIT Sloan School of Management — encourages entrepreneurs to explore new horizons and skills while also staying focused on their goals by following a 24-step process.

The second framework — by Loredana Pădurean, associate professor at Northeastern University's D'Amore-McKim School of Business; and Charles Fine, MIT professor of operations management and engineering systems — says the entrepreneurial journey begins with a lean staff on a focused mission whose members enjoy tackling problems on their own before transitioning to a larger team with more structure and specialized roles to scale the offerings to customers. The final phase of this framework, “Sail It,” focuses on maintaining sustainable and profitable growth.

Joshi alluded to how the “Nail It, Scale It, and Sail It” framework may be deployed towards adoption and integration of state-of-the-art AI solutions to existing workflows. “You just want to make sure that your ship sets sail from Boston Harbor and reaches Lisbon, for example,” he said. “It must follow a particular course. Let’s say one degree of deviation takes place. Instead of reaching Lisbon, you land in Cape Town, which is on a different continent. You can't afford to make those kinds of mistakes. You must adhere to your plan and laid-down procedures to deliver whatever you have promised to your customers.”

Joshi told the audience that the founder of a company drives the culture and should inspire the team. Leaders should also trust their team members and know their workers’ personality traits.

“Not everybody is fit for every role, but there is a role for everyone,” he said.

The AI@NU Graduate Student Group regularly organizes events featuring speakers who explore the use of AI across different industries, including talks by renowned scientists in AI and panel discussions with experts in the field. To learn about more AI-related events at Northwestern, visit the events page on the AI@NU website

Members of the Northwestern community can watch the full recording of the event on Panopto.

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