Our small talks about big things - Interview with our CEO

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We had a great conversation with our CEO and co-founder Nenad, about ideas, motivation, decisions, and future. So, grab your coffee and lie back while discovering something new from this excellent entrepreneur, colleague, friend, and a father.


J: SmartCat is a vibrant young company that has achieved great success in the market within quite a brief time period. What are the challenges that our company has faced during its evolution path and how have we turned them into opportunities and triumphs?

N: Primarily, I think it is a pioneering way of working with data. Developing web and mobile apps are something that is common and has an already proven path while doing data engineering and data science is still RnD in execution and in planning. We are aware that this is not easy. On the one hand, clients feel the pressure coming from the market and competition because digitization of services has become imperative, while on the other hand, they display a dose of mistrust. This is what makes this whole story challenging, and this is where we have proven the quality of our work in the past 2-3 years.

We invested in knowledge and we paved the path ourselves because we did not have any firm as an example from which we could "overwrite" this solution, at that time no one was working with data in Serbia and we did not know if companies are willing to use external data science party to explore and analyze their data. Naturally, we also made several attempts and failures along the way, but it is very important that we have learned a lot from it, trying to retrospectively analyze each segment of the process itself.

I would like to mention the significant impact of our colleague Mihajlo, who is in San Francisco, as the leader of our data science team that made very important steps towards expanding our expertise into machine learning and artificial intelligence area. We could not develop data science team without him, here in the area you have bright people but 3 years ago they acquire experience only through online courses, he brought mentorship and experience from real-life use cases to the team.

J: What would you highlight as the key to success when we talk about SmartCat?

N: First and foremost, we are proud of the people who make up our team, because they are the most important part of our company. Then comes the decision to invest in researching new models of task solving. We believed in the expertise and enthusiasm of our team and it paid off.

J: Can you provide an example where you could clearly see how an innovative way of thinking leads to success?

N: I would like to point out that our philosophy of doing business has been influenced by the fact that we quickly realized that technology development flows have a beginning and an end, and it should also be pointed out that, unlike technologies, concepts do not change, so we spend a lot of time to become familiar with concepts behind technologies and it gives us that speed when we adopt a new technology. This means that we should be able to accelerate the adaptation of new technologies in order to maintain the quality of our work. Also, only constant investments in learning new things in this fast changing area, as well as flexibility, can sustain the stability of the business for a longer period. An example of the above is investing in internal projects in order to increase knowledge and spectrum of demands that we can respond to.

Another example is our internal project, the detection of anomalies, which started as our need to have a system that can ingest metrics and it can provide us with a smart insight into the state of the system and alarm us if something does not work. This internal project has brought us to work on product development with a partner company to solve the problem of a large number of false alarms that their customer support center gets too often in order to improve the service. This is a good example of portfolio diversification which is also an important pillar of company success.

J: Would you specify any case of particular interest, which has great future potential?

N: One of the projects that we are currently working on is about the computer vision segment, and it is related to medicine, specifically artificial insemination. In this case, we are partners of a world-renowned clinic that provided us with data – timelapse videos of the embryo, so we are analyzing it and working on decision support tools to help embryologists find out which embryos have the greatest chance of resulting in fertilization. We are very proud of this interesting project, so, although it is developed internally at SmartCat and represents our commitment to projects that are of great social importance to the healthcare system itself, it represents a vast potential for further cooperation with other clinics that recognize the significance of this service.

J: When we look back to the previous year, can you agree that it was a year full of socially useful projects that we were partaking in, and which of them would you recognize as a project of special importance?

N: We are very proud to point out that SmartCat is a company that deals with ecologically important projects that benefit the entire community, and that this has been recognized by European institutions, which stimulate the development of science in this field and recognize us as a company offering excellent solutions in this kind of projects. In the past year, we received stimulations in the form of funds for the development of energy efficiency product - Optimus Power.

Only in Europe, buildings use about 45% of the total energy, among which HVAC systems are one of the leading consumers of electricity. That makes HVAC optimization one of the priorities to improve efficiency, reduce carbon footprint, save energy up to 40% and therefore save money.

Optimus Power is software that, based on data collected in real time, provides detailed information on both current energy consumption and predicted consumption, all thanks to an advanced forecasting system. Furthermore, the system records anomalies, like excess in consumption or outliers in temperature or various system malfunctions, all of which are dependent on a season or time-of-day. With all this information Optimus Power enables the user to optimize HVAC consumption with no additional costs for complicated hardware.

J: When we analyze the market, do you think that today's companies and their management have recognized the importance of using AI in business and what solutions can SmartCat offer them?

N: As regards companies which are business success oriented, the question is not whether they want to use the benefits of machine learning and artificial intelligence, but rather how to start and make their first project successful. Our role is important here because we can significantly reduce the chance of an unsuccessful attempt at the initial project. What we have noticed in practice is that the management of one company has the habit to select one idea in a multitude of ideas and proposals, test it, and then, due to a lack of technical knowledge and knowledge of the process itself, fail. They also have a wrong opinion and expectation that this technical learning is some sort of magic that can fix anything, and it’s far from that.

Here I want to highlight our business insights service, where we, in cooperation with our clients, collect useful data and information that indicate the most common problems in everyday business and put our knowledge and expertise into operation to give ideas and proposals regarding the projects they could realize, and how to measure the criteria of success.

J: When talking about the influence of media and social networks, what do you think is the general attitude of people from all spheres of business in relation to using AI in business?

N: The influence of media and social networks is enormous, and that is a special part of science that should be considered as great potential in developing all branches of industry, and especially in the IT industry which is our field. Following the various different influencers in this field, the most interesting topic for me these days is about what are the trends in the IT industry for 2019. Mentioning that, Harbinder Kang, the author of an article for a famous portal named „Dzone“ points out what are the trends and points of interest for DevOps in 2019 He noted: „I expect to see AI and data science experts working much more closely with DevOps teams in 2019 to deliver increased efficiencies and greater insights to the software delivery and testing process. This alignment is crucial in allowing organizations to act much more quickly in delivering the new functionality and features that the customer wants.“ This is of particular interest, given that the author claims that the trend is to collaborate with DevOps team and people who are developing AI to reach the best solution; we recognized the importance of this three years ago and we created such a team that is actually a mix between the DevOps people who create infrastructures and Data Scientists working on processing and algorithms.

J: The beginning of the year is the period of making decisions and I have to ask you what are the plans for the future?

N: At the moment, we have two products which are on the development path, and we would be happy to complete them one by one, then to witness their launch on the market, which would confirm that the technical side of the product has been satisfied. Also, placing our products on the market is a tribute which confirms the value of our company.

We will continue to invest in knowledge and we will make sure that it escalates. So, we want the people who comprise the SmartCat team and who have passed the cycle of 2-3 years, to gain comprehensive knowledge and share it with new people joining our company. We are also willing to share our knowledge with other colleagues from different companies, by participating in various conferences, through blog posts that you can also find on our website, as well as meetups that we organize few times a year.

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Jelena Vukelic

Marketing Manager

Graduate lawyer, who is always searching for new opportunities to expand the knowledge and experience, driven by wanderlust. Marketing Specialist and Client Executive with more then two years experience in web marketing and public relations, focused on developing, implementing and executing strategic marketing plans.