Orange Silicon Valley hosted its latest biannual Executive Summit on November 12, gathering top executives, VCs, and startup founders to discuss the creative ways in which Silicon Valley companies are embracing digital transformation and innovation.
The first morning of programming opened with Orange Silicon Valley CEO Georges Nahon reiterating the goal of this event. “It is important for Orange to be in a position to identify the best possible working opportunities with great startups and potentially invest in them,” he said. Guest speakers followed, presenting personal stories about their careers in tech and business, as well as their thoughts on how technology is changing, why these changes are important, and the impact they could have on the future.
The cumulative power of new ideas in tech
Steve Jurvetson, the founder of Future Ventures and an investor in startups such as SpaceX and Tesla, spoke on how current technologies have the potential to shape business across all industries. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have captured imaginations around the world, and companies are searching for ways to leverage these tools to maintain competitive edges.
In the last 10 years, emerging technologies gained influence at the intersections of machine learning, AI, the automotive industry, agriculture, and new space. Additionally, domain expertise in a specific industry is no longer necessary to create something big, and world-changing creations often do not come from within a disrupted industry. For example, smart vehicles were not initially produced by an automotive industry, but rather from large tech giants such as Google and Tesla, who invest in software and AI. In fact, it is rare for an established company to find an innovation breakthrough through its core business.
Jurvetson believes that machine learning and AI constantly foster new ideas, creating endless possibilities. “Every new idea is a combination of existing ideas globally that are fostered by research and fundamental science. The number of possible ideas we can have is almost infinite,” Steve said. “We usually take existing ideas, recombine them, and shape them in a way they become distributive.” These ideas build off each other, and AI has a rapidly growing family of technologies that will have an impact over every business, sparking new innovations.
Potential for startups and technology
The next person to speak was Eileen Tanghal, a partner at In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel acts as a venture capital arm for the CIA, seeking to align economic viability with agency needs. Moreover, the company is a liaison between agencies and businesses, promoting partnership and collaboration.
Through her work, Tanghal has gained a unique perspective on the value of businesses and technology bringing people together. In-Q-Tel makes frequent investments, and it is has a specialized institutional competency working with venture capital, startups, and governments partners. Connecting these three worlds requires collaborative work.
“There is so much value in startups,” Tanghal said. “They continue to produce technology that is relevant to so many companies, including the CIA. The first step for startups is to identify what is needed in a certain industry, and then try to provide that.” Every year the CIA announces three levels of problems they need to address. Then, it seeks out startups and companies with specialized technologies to fix these problems.
AI and machine learning in every industry
Lu Zhang, the founder of Fusion Fund, talked about venture capital and AI’s importance within every industry. According to Zhang, venture capital is what makes Silicon Valley a global innovation center, and a unique place that is constantly trying to uncover new ideas and be one step ahead in the technology realm. She also sees how artificial intelligence has multiple use cases, which is why it is heavily promoted in different sectors. The result may eventually be a technology revolution that is not centered around a brand new idea, but rather the way society chooses to address it.
“AI has been a buzzword — even 10 years ago — but we didn’t see any great AI companies coming,” Zhang said. “Capturing the next-gen innovation is about making the right investments on a given infrastructure. The most important [priority] for Fusion Funds is not to identify the right founder with the right technology, but to help them find the right industry to scale their solution.”
Identifying skills for job matching
The last speaker to present was Angela Antony, the CEO of Scoutible. Scoutible is a new tool for HR recruiters, and claims to be the world’s first game-based hiring platform, using machine learning to track soft skills through gameplay and uncover the best candidates for a job.
Antony sees value in Scoutible, because it uncovers different types of skills that people have. Specifically, it wants to highlight the importance of soft skills, which are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively with other people. They include work ethic, positive attitude, and communication skills. Soft skills are critical, providing the fuel that lets people engage, foster confidence, and stay motivated at work.
In the US, 46% of hires fail across industries, and 19% of hires are unequivocal successes, according to research Antony cited in her talk. People who are placed in positions that are not right for them often end up quitting, even at the risk of becoming unemployed. Résumés often just provide documentation of hard skills, not necessarily highlighting soft ones. One set of research showed that the No. 1 failure in interviews happens because a company cannot accurately assess soft skills in the right way.
“We can easily improve human talent allocation,” said Antony. “People are sorted like commodities on the job market, primarily based on their education, when there are so many more important things than that. A huge majority of miss-matching happens because of the soft skills and not the hard skills. Hard skills, which are commonly found on resumes, are not predictive in terms of job performance.”