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The Connected Enterprise

PODCAST

The Catalyst for Change: Mind Katalyst Discusses How Technology Can Help Businesses Solve Society's Challenges

Posted by Vision33 on Jul 8, 2020 12:00:00 PM

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Full Transcript

Carl Lewis:

Welcome to the Connected Enterprise Podcast. I'm Carl Lewis, your host from Vision 33, and our guest is Carnellia Ajasin, CEO of Mind Katalyst. Carnellia, thanks for being here. Please tell us about yourself, Mind Katalyst, and your work there. If I recall, you’re not just the CEO; you’re also the founder.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes, I am. The company is Mind Katalyst, and we help business leaders and entrepreneurs create technology-enabled products to solve societal issues regarding business, learning, work, data, etc. We're making sure the products we develop, whether they’re hardware or software, align with the challenges we see in various areas of our lives.

Carl Lewis:

It's a unique approach. It sounds like you work with customers who are coming up with new ideas, products, and business models themselves. Also, I liked what I read about Mind Katalyst on your website. It seems to fall in line with what I discuss on the podcast: new and emerging technologies and how businesses take advantage of them.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes.

Carl Lewis:

What do you see in your work? Do you have examples of fun things your customers have done with today’s technology buzzwords – automation, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, machine learning, etc.?

Carnellia Ajasin:

Sure. We see a lot of buzzword products, like IOT and virtual reality. I've had several meetings with clients who want to focus on therapeutically treating phobias with virtual or augmented reality. The question is, “How do we use these technologies to help people have an experience?” That's a transformative experience in therapy.

Carnellia Ajasin:

It’s interesting because it seems so “old hat” to sit on the couch and talk through your issues versus learning how to mitigate those fears while experiencing them in a controlled manner. Especially when you're dealing with phobias of heights, bugs, dogs, drowning, etc.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Those are things we discuss with clients. We've also discussed physical products related to IOT and what's connecting a physical product to a device. I had a client with ideas for helping preemies and identifying when they're in health trouble. For example, as opposed to just monitoring them by looking at a screen or hearing them on a walkie-talkie device, you could have their vitals displayed in a phone app – things of that nature.

Carl Lewis:

It’s fascinating to be involved in projects like that.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Absolutely.

Carl Lewis:

They’re difficult projects.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes.

Carl Lewis:

They're challenging, time-consuming, and, to some extent, we're hungry for resources like money and talent. What are the biggest challenges of using these technologies when you're trying to do something new and groundbreaking?

Carnellia Ajasin:

There are unique opportunities for organizations and universities to take advantage of regarding capital and funding, but one challenge is money. It's also finding the right people to be a private team, buy into your idea, finesse it, and develop it. After development, another challenge is growth hacks. How do we position ourselves to acquire new customers?

Carnellia Ajasin:

How do we grow our product once it’s developed? There are many challenges because our clients come to us in various phases. They may come to us for help finessing their idea. They may come at the design phase or the development phase – but what they're really want is funding for series A or series B. We help them strategize how to improve the product and find more capital as it relates to expanding our reach and expanding the product roadmap.

Carl Lewis:

That's an interesting perspective. It sounds like you're working with people with big dreams but little ability to fulfill those dreams. You're a dream-fulfillment agency.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Thank you – I love that.

Carl Lewis:

Dream fulfillment is the job description. You're not just working with people to create the technology; you’re helping them create the marketplace.

Carnellia Ajasin:

That's right.

Carl Lewis:

That’s remarkable. And not that these things aren't groundbreaking enough – because they're amazing – but what do you think is the next big technology thing businesses will see and dream about doing something with?

Carnellia Ajasin:

I believe everything's attainable for every person who wants to go down the path of creating a product to solve a problem in theirs or others’ lives. Opportunities are always available. We get inspired regularly. It's up to someone to take the bite. But some of the noted opportunities on the horizon are deep technology, cybersecurity, and how we're mining that data. Because as we become more connected and ubiquitous as a country and a world in technology, how are we going to mine that data?

Carnellia Ajasin:

How will we ensure the information out there is protected and someplace where issues and imminent data security threats can be addressed? There are huge opportunities in IOT (because that's not going anywhere in terms of a physical product), but how do you connect those products with the technology? Machine learning and AI are areas of interest peaking as people get more involved. And mixed realities, whether augmented or virtual, in the sense of getting to where normal people can use those versus just the film and media industries.

Carnellia Ajasin:

And as I mentioned earlier, they’re using augmented reality in medicine and therapy to help patients mitigate issues around fear-based living so they can have healthier lives. It's particularly fascinating in terms of industry, especially as it's piquing interest in the realm of COVID-19.

Carl Lewis:

Yes. During these challenging times, one thing we’ve seen is that to draw adequate conclusions, you need a lot of data. Good data.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes.

Carl Lewis:

And we've seen not enough data and bad data as we've tried to draw conclusions.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes.

Carl Lewis:

So, it's difficult, but the amazing thing is getting these technologies to leave businesses and become part of individual users’ experiences.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes.

Carl Lewis:

And I think when you get into medicine and psychological perspectives, you’re crossing a new line. Not a bad line – I mean a perspective line of going from something that works for businesses on a large scale to something that works for individuals.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Certainly.

Carl Lewis:

Let me ask you about business communication. Things change rapidly, and during this pandemic, we’re all communicating differently and more virtually.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes.

Carl Lewis:

In my lifetime, communications started with what I call "Mom cast." She could broadcast across the whole neighborhood, and I could tell her voice from anywhere. My early technical aspiration was tin cans and string. But I've gone through many transitions in my communication life. What’s becoming more important or losing importance in the scheme of things?

Carnellia Ajasin:

It's interesting how many people are using WebEx, Teams, Zoom, etc. They're becoming exhausting. I've had several meetings where people said, “I’m Zoomed out.” Many of us can relate to that. But the funny thing is how quickly those companies adapted, adding new features and functionality to expand their bandwidth as clients are using the tools 24 hours a day. I'm impressed at how they increased their capacity and capabilities in terms of features and functionality given the short time they've had.

Carl Lewis:

It's been amazing. For me, it's been almost 10 weeks of working from home with no break, and with barber shops closed, I'm looking more like a Nord-Scott than I ever thought I would. If I get an iPad, I'll pass for Odin. It's amazing that for most leaders in technology, email is probably still at the heart of our communications. But this aspect of virtual meetings has become core – not just an addendum, an everyday experience.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yeah.

Carl Lewis:

Carnellia, you run a company that operates as a business advisor in a highly trusted environment because of the unique and innovative work you do. What are the biggest challenges for your customers as they work with a third-party like you to implement new technology solutions?

Carnellia Ajasin:

It's a dicey situation sometimes. We get clients in various stages, and sometimes they've worked with development partners before us and are a little leery, apprehensive, or frightened because of past experiences. However, there's a vetting process when selecting the right vendor, whether it’s a third party or not. I think many times they don’t appreciate the value in that. And many entrepreneurs are like, "I have an idea. I want to get it out. Let's work together," without taking the time to do the vetting necessary for choosing the right partner.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Because people will steal your idea. In fact, before we even discuss an idea, we have people sign an Idea Agreement because we want to be upfront about our thoughts around protecting ideas and making sure ideas stay with us; that we won’t use their information loosely. I think that adds credibility. But if clients aren’t ones we’d work with, we partner with other, smaller organizations we refer them to. I’ve seen people get burned out of thousands of dollars, maybe with offshore teams, language barriers, integrity issues, and cultural exchanges that didn’t align with how they do business.

Carnellia Ajasin:

If we can’t help or aren’t chosen by the client, we suggest other partners we trust that they'd have a better experience with.

Carl Lewis:

That's a unique perspective. As you said, their experience in previous projects comes to the conversation early. They used to say they bring old tapes; now they bring old MP4s! Interestingly, no one else mentioned the process of the NDA when working with someone's big dream and telling them you're not sharing that information with anyone else.

Carnellia Ajasin:

We don't have any conversations until the NDA is done. Also, I tell clients they should ask anyone, “Can you sign this quickly?” as a practice. I don't care if it's their niece or nephew; they need to get into the habit of protecting their ideas because often, they're so excited they'll talk about it with anyone. We've had clients not take it seriously, but it’s serious because their idea could turn out to be a phenomenal product. And then someone else tries to stake a claim on it, and they’ll be in hot water.

Carl Lewis:

Yeah. Not a lot of new ideas can be cranked out overnight. It may take a year or two to bring something to the marketplace with a new foundation. One thing I've seen about technology companies in my 20+ year career is that sometimes they're like the cobbler's children, and the cobbler's children are the last to get new shoes. In your business, do you take advantage of technologies? Like automating business transactions, invoices, payments, etc.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Sure. Just like we’re innovative for our clients, we're also innovative for ourselves – what can help us streamline our processes or work smarter internally? We set aside time every quarter to address that specifically. What’s new? Where can we improve in engaging with our clients, doing our accounting, bookkeeping, and running our agile scrum meetings? We do that internally because, like you said, if you’re a well-run technology firm, you need to use the products to move the business forward.

Carl Lewis:

Sometimes, the businesses we work with are focused on the project and want to get through it quickly, but they haven't done a great job of tracking the effectiveness of what we’re aiming at and if we accomplished it. Are there things you suggest to your clients, like "When this is done, we should be able to say ‘Yes, we did that’ to these four questions”? Or something more complex even than evaluations?

Carnellia Ajasin:

We use a framework with our clients. It allows us to have a structure to make sure we’re addressing objectives and if we’ve met them. Are we doing what we wanted to do with the product? Are we in alignment, at the end, with our pitching? It’s a three-prong framework. The first phase is called the strategy framework. In that phase, we talk about vision, KPIs, which problem the product is solving, and for whom. Which users are we addressing with this problem and solution?

Carnellia Ajasin:

The second phase is the roadmap. That’s mapping out the product features, goals, and finding the KPIs for the product timeline and milestones. The third phase is execution. That's building it out and what it looks like. And then off to the pitch with a real template deck so people can deck out their idea and have their competitive analysis, pricing, and information about using their funding if they go in front of VC or Angel Investors or seek partnerships. When we run through our framework, we can make sure we’re touching the important areas clients to go from idea to product. We don’t miss any points.

Carl Lewis:

That's great. It's always a challenge because people want to do things, but they really don't know how to go from point A to point C.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Yes.

Carl Lewis:

It’s great you do that. And this has been fascinating. You've given us interesting ideas, and it was perfect to have you here because you're working on the leading edge, and it’s great for my listeners to hear new perspectives and ideas. Carnellia, thank you. And if something neat happens with a future customer, drop me a line.

Carnellia Ajasin:

Sure.

Carl Lewis:

I would love to investigate that. But I try to keep these to 20 or 30 minutes, so when we get back to commuting to work, they'll fit into that drive time. So until we see each other again, and until the next episode of the Connected Enterprise Podcast, I hope everyone stays connected.

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