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#16—Ash Fontana: Practical Strategies for Becoming an AI-Driven Company

#16—Ash Fontana: Practical Strategies for Becoming an AI-Driven Company

Ash Fontana became one of the most recognized startup investors in the world after launching online investing at AngelList. He then became a Managing Director of Zetta, the first investment fund that focused on AI. The firm was the lead investor in category-defining AI companies such as Kaggle, Domino, Tractable, Lilt and Invenia. He has appeared in Fast Company, Bloomberg, Forbes, CNBC and at the UN.

Ash previously co-founded Topguest, a Founders Fund-backed company that built customer analytics technology for companies like United, Virgin, and InterContinental. Topguest sold in an eight-figure transaction 18 months after the company was founded.

From his experiences, he’s written his first book, The AI-First Company, the definitive playbook to putting AI first in every business conversation. The playbook is an executable guide for applying AI to business problems, made for real companies, with real budgets, that need strategies and tactics to effectively implement AI.

In this podcast, we’ll dive into the topics from his book and really understand how you can apply these concepts to infuse AI in your organization. Ash will share with us why the concept we often hold about AI—a big brain in the sky—isn't accurate, and how we should be thinking of AI. He'll also define what it means to be an “AI-First company” and lead us through practical steps you can take now to start moving your organization on the path being an AI leader.


"[AI] is very good at discrete things like making the same decision over and over again, very reliably with a predictable output or making very rational decisions or whatnot. So, I think it's important to just remember it's different from our form of intelligence. And that's why it's important to develop, because if it was the same why would we be bothering with all this."

-Ash Fontana


Episode Timeline:

01:06—Introducing Ash Fontana + The topic of today’s episode

3:06—What is an AI-first company?

4:49—How do you describe AI?

5:50—Is AI less adaptable than humans at making decisions when the parameters or underlying ideas suddenly shift?

7:16—Could you explain how flywheel concept as it relates to AI systems?

9:08—How would a legacy or incumbent company approach where to start with AI?

10:59—How can a company shift from a lean approach to being "all in"?

13:14— What is some of the languages or some of the words that we need to start learning to grasp AI?

14:49—What do companies most often get wrong when seeking to prioritize AI?

17:10—What are some resources or a place to start for companies looking to make the first steps?

19:20—Where can we find you?


Additional Resources:

The AI-First Company(Book)

The 4th Option Junto
The Outthinkers podcast is a growth strategy podcast hosted by Kaihan Krippendorff. Each week, Kaihan talks with forward-looking strategists and innovators that are challenging the status quo, leading the future of business, and shaping our world.