XPert AI founder Justin Anderson’s grandfather was the optician to the Queen. “He actually made her spectacles,” says the Brit. “He ground the lenses for her.” Instead of glasses, Xpert AI’s vision-enhancing software works through headsets and other devices, but it could be said that Anderson is carrying on the family tradition. Xpert AI’s product can sound inaccessible; one explanation says it “develops next-generation Augmented Vision technology using computer-generated perceptual information combining Computer Vision and Augmented Reality technology to use deep learning to recognize visual patterns in video.”
Translation to plain English: In areas as diverse as healthcare and banking, it gives clients better “sight” and that leads to better perception. Xpert’s AI-enhanced technology shows promise in areas ranging from health care, where epilepsy diagnosis and treatment is one focus, to banking, where fraud detection is on the docket. Techonomy spoke with Anderson about why his company is unique in the world of AI startups and the reason his passion for Xpert is personal as well as professional.
Techonomy: Xpert AI’s mission can sound very “tech-y,” for lack of a better term. Can you put the company’s aims and basic product in layman’s terms?
Justin Anderson: We link a recording device of any sort—whether that’s a video recorder, an audio recorder or a headset that’s picking up your brainwaves—with artificial intelligence. And the reason we’re doing that is in order to create augmented vision. If you’re a surgeon looking at an X-ray or an image of a scan of some sort, for example, you can’t afford to be missing things. So we’re looking to give them more information than they would have had otherwise. And we’re doing that in other industries too.
Techonomy: You’ve characterized XPert AI as being in Skunk Works mode, using a term that originated in World War II and refers to a high speed fighter jet being created by a small team with expert efficiency. Can you talk about this business philosophy?
JA: Especially in the tech space, people will go out and promote like crazy to try to build the market and connect, and then worry about delivery later on. Frankly, that’s the way that Microsoft made their fortune in the first place and set a blueprint for the way that many technology companies continued thereafter. But our focus has been on ensuring that the core underlying technology is really doing what we want it to do first and foremost, but also keeping speed top of mind. I’ve always had a view that you want to make sure you’ve developed the right level of credibility before you increase your visibility.
Techonomy: You’re a member of Oracle for Startups, which partners with companies like yours to foster innovation. Aside from free cloud credits, are there other aspects of the program you’ve found particularly valuable?
JA: As an entrepreneur, there are a number of different resources that you require to be able to build a business. And some of that is only available to be done with hard cash. There’s only so much goodwill that you can create before you need to put people onto payrolls. But there’s another whole soft currency, something that I like to think of as “startup capital,” which is all of those other resources that you’re able to bring to bear around what you’re building and selling. A lot of that comes down to being introduced to the right people at the right time, whether that’s a client or an investor. Through Oracle for Startups’ Market Connect I’ve sat on stage at the Global Artificial Intelligence Summit and been able to raise Xpert’s profile significantly with both VCs and potential clients. So an association with Oracle gives you many different kinds of capital.
Techonomy: Xpert AI hopes to improve healthcare and strengthen institutions through efforts like lessening fraud in banking. Does this reflect an interest in social justice as well as business?
JA: I like to look at the world through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17, each of them broken down into sub-objectives, and they’ve put the challenge out there to solve them by 2030. One of them is to be able to have peace, justice and strong institutions, so Xpert’s focus on the banks reflects that. When it comes to healthcare, my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late teens and part of my interest in neurological disorders is that I know just how devastating that can be for individuals and families. But whether or not Xpert ends up being more helpful in healthcare or an area like strengthening institutions, that is less important. I would just like to be able to say I made an impact.
(This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
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