MarTech Interview with David Benigson, CEO at Signal AI

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“Augmented Intelligence is not only the weapon and shield of the future, but also the greatest human success story of the 21st century.”

Hi David, tell us about your role and journey into technology.

My journey into technology wasn’t a conventional one!

My career began in law, and I recall spending thousands of hours reviewing contractual documents in order to isolate specific information. Similarly, my parents run a successful executive search business where a key task is curating content for their daily newsletter. I saw the manual effort required for them to compile the most recent, relevant stories from reliable sources each day. Together, these frustrations got me thinking about how AI could be used to help people better manage and understand data. Thus, the idea to use Artificial Intelligence to automate this process was born.

I along with 2 other founders, Miguel Martinez and Wesley Hall, created Signal AI in 2013, operating from my parents’ garage in North London. We started the business through academic collaboration and received initial funding from Innovate UK.

As a young tech entrepreneur, what diverse kinds of challenges did you face in your stint as CEO of Signal AI?

After seeing the opportunity to leverage AI for Business Intelligence and Media Monitoring, it was challenging to find the right partners to build the right team. Both Miguel and Wesley were recruited into Signal via spam! I attended meetup.com sessions on AI and sent everyone in the London Machine Learning group and the London CTO Group messages saying I had a well-funded startup based in lovely London offices. Both Miguel and Wesley agreed to meet me following these messages. Although I didn’t have a well-funded startup or a nice office, they both agreed to join.

A current challenge is helping our clients navigate through the reality and evolution of AI tools. Business executives are warning of a technology-derived unemployment pandemic, but we regard AI as a tool to augment work functions, rather than replace employees.

An ongoing challenge is communicating that in business, AI will lead to better fulfillment in employment, increased productivity, and ultimately, larger profit margins.

Tell us how you plan to extend the benefits of your recent funding.

Signal AI is using the capital raised in our Series C funding round to further branch out into new use cases, as well as accelerate our rapid growth in the U.S. and cement our recent launch into the APAC market.

Originally designed to help PR professionals streamline media monitoring, Signal AI has evolved to provide valuable intelligence for business leaders in sectors beyond PR. This intelligence helps them make informed decisions from a range of risk types from reputation risk, ESG and tax, right through to compliance and regulatory monitoring, and discovery applications relating to deal origination.

The funding allows us to continue scaling our business and advancing our work with some of the world’s biggest companies.

Which new geographies and customer base are you planning to target now?

We are continuing our expansion into the U.S. and APAC markets this year, and looking to expand our FMCG and ESG base. We have a strong start here, as we are currently working with a large FMCG company to track component risk and helping stay ahead of supply chain issues using AI.

We’re also helping large professional services companies monitor real-time changes in industry regulations. As we progress, we see endless opportunities to help companies in these industries.

Which Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support technologies do you leverage at Signal AI? Do you plan to invest in new tools with the funding?

We use Intercom and Salesforce Service Cloud for customer support. Intercom is a messaging tool that allows our support team to communicate with customers within the platform, as well as send out messages around product updates. This is also where we host self-help guides and video walkthroughs.

We use the Salesforce Service Cloud to track all inbound messaging from customers. The team tracks all queries and issues, monitor our KPIs and SLAs, and feedback information to our product team through this software.

The Sales team uses Salesforce, Gong.io, Outreach.io, LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Cognism. The tools allow our Sales team to efficiently engage prospective buyers.

These tools have been great in enhancing our Sales and Customer Service team experience, and we’re always on the lookout for others we can implement.

What Marketing-related challenges do you meet every day? How do technology and collaboration tools help you to overcome these?

Keeping up with news stories has become extremely difficult. Not only are there the traditional media outlets – both online and broadcast – but news updates via social media platforms, newsletters and other means of communication.

One of the cornerstones for developing AI has been to reduce the burden that the human worker faces. Our vision is to transform business decision-making through Augmented Intelligence that assists humans, rather than replaces them.

By applying AI to media monitoring and business intelligence analysis, we can understand critical insights in real-time, going beyond the basic analysis of simply reading news articles, documents, and other important information.

Having access to this technology allows us to discover new markets with untapped potential, understand media perception, and stay ahead of the competition by monitoring their moves in the media.

What would be the most memorable Marketing Technology moment of the decade?

The use of AI and ML technologies to help uncover what executives need to know in real-time. This technology creates insights that are extremely beneficial to the growth and productivity of an organization.

The Marketing industry will continue to undergo a significant transformation that will broaden the possibility of additional benefits, such as predicting trending topics to leverage in Marketing and using media findings to enhance brand loyalty.

What are your predictions on the role of AI and Chatbots to scale customer service and communications?

AI can enhance communications and collaboration across companies. By drilling down insights and sharing them in a way that’s easy to understand, we can learn from data and apply it to business needs.

AI provides valuable insights to predict any internal or external problems, and address solutions in real-time.

How do you see these capabilities leading to quicker adoption of Brand Management and Customer Intelligence software?

The need to uphold a cohesive brand narrative is more important than ever. Companies are using AI to stay ahead of, and monitor, trends during crises, helping them to better understand consumer needs. As business leaders continue to see the benefits of these capabilities, the adoption rate of brand management and customer intelligence software will increase.

From analyzing complex content and sentiment, to categorizing subject matter within articles, AI helps organizations receive information in an understandable format, all within seconds of the content being published. This is an impossible task for your human workforce to do without using technology. These capabilities will help brands understand critical news cycles in real-time, as well as feedback, in order to gain valuable strategic insights into their business.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

Utilizing AI to garner critical insights in real-time helps me as a business leader. Creating the expectation for customers and employees that AI will augment the work experience, rather than replace it, is the best way to prepare others for the future of enterprise AI tools and the future of work.

I expect Augmented Intelligence to eclipse Artificial Intelligence, allowing businesses to gain valuable insights from functions like qualitative data, digital sound, social media, and online content. As more businesses adopt AI functions within their organizations, these solutions will become commonplace.

The AI-centric world is not as daunting as it seems, I think once more people start welcoming utilizing AI to enhance business functions, we can use the time to collaborate on applying the insights, leading to overall business growth. Augmented Intelligence is not only the weapon and shield of the future, but also the greatest human success story of the 21st century.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

Technology is innate to Signal AI’s DNA. We were founded through academic collaborations, and everything we do is influenced or informed by using technology. However, this doesn’t just relate to technology — one of our core values is around “innovation and iteration” and for us, that means always trying to innovate on how we work.

One word that best describes how you work.

Enthusiasm!

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I can’t live without Gmail, WhatsApp, and InsightSquared, I’m always doing some type of work or correspondence on one of these applications.

Which superhero character/movie do you most profoundly relate to:

The Hulk.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

Getting my email inbox to zero to prioritize what needs a response makes my day more productive. Additionally, making a list of my top objectives to accomplish each week, helps me manage my time and workload.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve received and applied to Signal AI is to hire fantastic people and give them an environment where they will flourish. The rest will take care of itself.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Listen. I listen to others and take time to understand their perspective, a skill that is often overlooked.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read –

Demis Hassabis, CEO at DeepMind

Thank you, David! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

David Benigson is a CEO at Signal AI.

Signal AI LogoSignal AI is an AI-powered business intelligence and media monitoring company that aggregates, analyses, and provides business leaders with insights into digital, print and broadcast media, news, and regulatory data.

Signal’s cutting-edge machine learning enables businesses to track their competitive landscape, changes to regulation, and monitor their reputation—empowering them to make smarter, faster business decisions.

 

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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