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: Antoine Azar.
Antoine Azar is the CTO of Thirdshelf, an A.I.-driven marketing automation company that helps retailers strengthen their customer loyalty. Azar holds a computer and biomedical engineering masters from the University of Nice in France, as well as a computer engineering bachelor’s degree from École Polytechnique de Montréal. He held technology engineering positions at Mozilla, Siemens, MIT and other firms.
What is your background, and how has it influenced what you do today?
I’ve worked in high-tech fields spanning nano-robotics, cinema special effects, medical imaging, and gaming. I got to see how software could impact many different industries and became passionate about creating simple business solutions out of complex technologies.
I made this the focus of my first startup, Mobilogie, which specialized in helping companies reinvent their business lines through web and mobile applications. After serving large customers who could afford six- or seven-digit projects, I saw a need to bring technology to the SMB sector in a SaaS model. I cofounded Thirdshelf with that goal in mind, and we now offer a cloud-based AI platform that automates marketing for retailers and grows sales automatically.
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?)
Although there are many incredibly exciting avenues in tech today, including AR/VR, autonomous vehicles and blockchain, I’m most excited about machine learning.
Machine learning is a completely new way of thinking about software. We’ve been building software with the paradigm that the developer has to think of all possible cases in advance and code them in the product. Machine learning and AI spins this around. The developer often won’t even know how the machine will behave or why, but the machine will now be able to cope with infinitely more cases, scenarios and inputs, and will keep improving with time. This is not a fad or a marketing gimmick. This is a complete rework of the entire software industry, underlying all other technologies.
What’s your best piece of advice for technology executives to keep on top of the rapidly evolving tech space?
Technology keeps lowering the entry bar for many markets, resulting in increasing competition. Regardless of how rapidly technology changes, the most valuable assets your company has are your customer relationships. Think of your customers first, and rethink your products and services from their point of view. Create a data-driven culture by collecting data from your customers, and put in place the right tools to derive insights from the data, and drive business decisions. You’ll be able to measure the impact of each decision, and distinguish the fads from the real business drivers.