Billionaire Afiniti CEO Says AI Needs More Humans


Zia Chishti CEO of startup affinity. And if you're keeping score the creator of invis- line, he's now shifting gears and working on improving customer, call centers the St. welcome to the podcast studio. How's that? Oh perfect. Got it. We this is this is my first try it deserted. First of all welcome to the studio really excited to have you here invisible on everyone knows that it was quite a breakthrough. But was very different tech arizo. I just wonder how to spearheading tech in this day and age differ from from doing it back. Then first and foremost, I think there's more similarities than differences. I would start with that. There are many common themes. You've got to build a great team. You've got a powerful technology that scalable, yet arrays Financing's all those things are true in terms of differences compute power is way up. So the miracles that we have to work back in the late nineties now or really rather commonplace in as much as you have much faster processors if there was. Then an acceptance of the start of culture now, it's a big theme in the US economy. So the notion of building a big company from scratch is much more widely accepted now than it was back then than evidence of that is just the unicorn phenomenon right back then having a billion dollar company Pri public was almost unheard of. Now. It's rather commonplace. There's there's just less of an impression of unusualness that's associated with that outcome affinities so interesting because it tackles a very specific field of tech with call centers. And I think it's I mean, it's so relatable the inescapable on bearable part of life for most of us. Right. First of all, thank you for helping us out a change of gears, though, what made you decide to set your specific sites there. I'm curious a lot of that has to do with my personal journey. So when I left align technology back in two thousand two I founded a private equity firm called TRG of the firms. Mandates was was to invest in business process outsourcing companies and technologies that support those companies so. We had a call center in our portfolio assets. And we looked at how we might optimize it, and we concluded that the most powerful single thing that we could do was changed. How calls float in that environment which consumer spoke to which agents, and that was the Genesis for a company affinity which blossomed in its own, right? I wanna talk a little bit more about your process because often when companies utilize a I, you know, you see the focus shifting away from the human element. You have an opposite approach. How have you found that to be a key strategy? Well, first of all this. I thing is really overblown if you actually look at the number of jobs that had replaced AI to date. I imagine it's extremely small percentage of the overall. That's that's a good point. That's just not as big as the popular hyperbole around. I would suggest. So I would discount the view that we're rapidly losing jobs in any pace in terms of what we do. That's really actually the dominant use of AI, which is simply pattern recognition often in support of humans and anytime that you can give humans tools that improve their efficiency, actually. Increased demand for those human. So we look at it as very different. We don't think this is extraordinarily or unusual or counter to the major themes of. It's just what we do we enhance how humans operate and that increases the demand for humans, and that's a good for the employment, and as any tech entrepreneur knows. And as you know, it takes a certain drive to stay in the game as especially as you have for so long. You have a very unique story that I'd love you to share with listeners. And I wonder how your story as a Pakistani American how that's impacted how you do business. And how you make your way around this this very unique world. So it's humorous when I first arrived in the United States after twelve years fourteen years of being really out of the country. It was quite a culture shock. I came in nineteen eighty eight to go to college. And the last time was really really here was when I was two years old in nineteen Seventy-three. So so it was a very big adjustment curve associated. But having said that, you know, the the United States is such an amazing place to start a business. This almost sounds a little bit flag-waving. But it really is. I mean, the college education that I got I got a degree in economics and computer science at me up really well for what proved to be a revolution in the economy that was really oriented around those two disciplines. So from there, I went to Morgan Stanley, and I learned about finance that was a very very powerful experience for the rest of my life. I could look at companies in the way that investors look at companies, you can construct a narrative and a business that really appeals and then in nineteen Ninety-seven, I graduated from business school, and that was the really the heart of the tech boom of the internet boom was happening right about that. And that gave me the courage and inspiration to become an entrepreneur. So I think it is a uniquely American story. I don't think this would have happened if I had grown up in Pakistan or really anywhere else in the world share. So having said that. You know, what's next for affinity? And how do you see affinity taking the next steps towards your goal of saving us off from call center. We will we will make the experience more pleasant to be sure it looks. So this goes back to original few few words tiny. I I'm just not a believer in the current AI. Boom. Yeah. I just think there's a massive amount of over hype around it. I don't think that the high priviliged substantiated by what is true progress on the ground. I think people confuse the increase in computational capacity associated with Moore's law would some kind of algorithm improvement over time we've been doing basically the same things in quote, a unquote for the last thirty forty fifty years. So there's nothing really new or breakthrough. Here know, we may have slightly contrarian opinions on that. But I think there's a lot of overkill in the market in terms of supposition around power and ability to replace human. So I'd like to obstruct away what we do from the bandwagon, which I think like many of these is going to boom and bust and. We'd rather be clear of that association. From our point of view is just a tool it it allows us to analyze it large amount of data and find patterns in data. That's useful. In a commercial context, you whether you call that AI or pattern recognition or machine learning or just algorithms doesn't really matter. So when you abstract away that nomenclature around the industry what we're really about is solving how people interact with each other figuring out what behaviors are for an enterprise's customers. Figuring out what behaviors are for an enterprise employees. And then finding ways to bring them together in a patterned way that improves enterprises performance, and that's very powerful. It makes her clients hundreds of millions sometimes billions of dollars a year. And that's where we'd like to focus, which is the commercial power of what we do as opposed to being momentarily associated with a bit of a solar flare if a trend in the in the equity

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