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Forbes Technology Council Member Spotlight: Vishal Agarwal, Founder & CEO at ItsaCheckmate.com Inc.
"This space is evolving rapidly, so the best thing I've learned is to keep up to date with the latest and greatest of what the tech giants are doing."
Forbes Technology Council members are in a wide range of industries and come from a diverse set of experiences. However, they all have lots of great insights to share, from best practices for technology departments to smart predictions for the future of tech. To showcase their expertise, we’re profiling Forbes Technology Council members here on the blog. This week: Vishal Agarwal.
Vishal Agarwal is the founder and CEO at ItsaCheckmate.com Inc, as well as EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Choxi.com. Checkmate makes dining out more efficient and enriching by enabling customers to pay for their meal without waiting for the check, as well as seamlessly split the check with their friends.
We asked him three important questions. His answers are below:
What is your background, and how has it influenced what you do today?
I was born and brought up in India, got my MBA there, and then worked at Citigroup for four years. This education and work line up has made me extremely analytical and numbers focussed. Citi emphasized data analysis and data-backed decision making. Just a simple tool like Excel was given massive importance as it was the key to crunching all of our data.
I’m a digital marketer, but at the core of it I’m a data analyst. All of my team’s marketing decisions are based off of data – what was the CPM, what CTR did it come in at? What was the CPA, lifetime value, break even point? The key to making good marketing (or any!) decisions is to make sure the data is properly organized, and that you are able to slice and dice it from all angles. This helps me make good, quick decisions. Its also important to have the right infrastructure to make sure data points from each and every source are stored in one comprehensive database.
What do you think is the most interesting piece of new technology today? (And / or how do you see the technology landscape changing in the next 5 – 10 years?)
I believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the most interesting piece of new technology — and not just because it’s a fad. (I’ve also read great coverage about it recently in The Economist.) AI has recently come into the spotlight because of Google’s Deep Mind project beating a champion Go Player. Specifically, what is exciting about AI is Deep Learning or Machine learning, which enables the machines to learn from data instead needing humans to program it to continually teach it new features and functions.
What I believe will take this to the next level is great technology companies like Google open sourcing their AI programs (TensorFlow, for instance). This will help other developers build on the already amazing platform and make AI fulfill its long promised potential. Google open sourcing its AI has already leapfrogged the advancement of AI by 10 years, and it will only let developers build more great technologies and platforms on top of it, and further overall the advancement of AI.
What’s your best piece of advice for technology executives to keep on top of the rapidly evolving tech space?
Read. That’s the only thing that has helped me. I am a non-engineer that has hired, managed and grown an engineering team for an e-commerce company, and am now building a software (a mobile app) company by hiring and managing engineering resources directly under myself.
Doing this is only possible if one continues to stay up to date with industry news, and reads relevant books that offer knowledge about this domain. As I mentioned, this space is evolving rapidly, so the best thing I’ve learned is to keep up to date with the latest and greatest of what the tech giants like Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and others are doing.
When these companies release a new feature, either they have evaluated the need for it or are pushing the industry forward. It’s important for people in the tech space to learn about these features and advancements to see how they fits into their knowledge base, as well as how they apply to their jobs. The truth about these companies is that they innovate to make themselves obsolete, so what was true even a month back may not be as relevant today, and the industry may have moved on. So continue to read about the developments made by tech companies in your space. As an example, even Segment is a great innovation for me, as it’s helping me collate and organize data from various sources in one place and gives me a holistic view of my customer.