First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Adam Carte: Thank you for asking. My family is as well as can be. Like many families, we’re focused on staying safe and healthy during this extraordinary time and also doing all of our work virtually. While certainly not the same as physically being with friends and family, video conferencing and (for my 15-year old son) online gaming have made a hugely positive difference.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Luminoso.
Adam Carte: I have more than 25 years of experience leading organizations through periods of transformational growth while delivering significant value to both customers and shareholders. When I joined Luminoso, I saw the opportunity to apply my experience of scaling companies and disrupting markets to the world of text analytics.
Prior to joining Luminoso, I was an Operating Partner to Denham Capital Management and a founding member and Partner of Fairlead Advisors. At Fairlead, I led or supported over 20 different companies across a broad range of industries to identify and execute on changes to improve the company’s values, either through revenue growth or cost savings or, more frequently, both at the same time.
I previously served in a number of C-level positions. As the CEO of Cadre Proppants, a mining company, revenues doubled during my tenure. I was the CFO of NRG Energy, Inc., a large independent power producer, which went public on the NYSE during my tenure at NRG. As the CFO of The Trigen Companies, an energy company, I jointly led the turnaround and doubled profits, resulting in the sale of the company that more than doubled its equity value in less than three years.
I think of my career as a sequence of small steps in which I applied what I learned in the past to something new – that, combined with a difficulty saying “no” when asked to do something. At Luminoso, I found a company with disruptive technology – in this case, a fundamentally different way to use AI to automate text analytics. Some of the world’s most sophisticated Big Tech companies recognized this power and were already customers of Luminoso when I joined, but we had not yet grown enough. Now we’re selling our primary product, Luminoso Daylight, to business users everywhere. For me, this has been an exciting opportunity to use my prior experience to both scale commercially and disrupt the world of text analytics.
How does Luminoso innovate?
Adam Carte: Luminoso has introduced a suite of AI-powered text analytics applications that offer organizations a generalized way to make sense of the unstructured text in any domain, natively across 15 languages.
Unlike other text analytics solutions, Luminoso’s applications don’t require data training, coding, or ontologies to fully analyze unstructured text data and quantify feedback, allowing customers to start analyzing datasets immediately. Our AI-powered text analytics applications work across every industry and use case by automatically learning and applying industry-specific jargon, acronyms, and context.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Adam Carte: Initially, like many other B2B software companies, we saw a steep dropoff in new customer growth, through our existing customer base, it remained stable. This is a tough thing to weather during the growth stage of a company like ours. However, since August, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for our text analytics applications. Let me give you two specific examples:
When COVID-19 hit, and most of the workforce started working from home, we found that some of our clients had a greater need to run and analyze employee surveys to assess how their employees were coping with this change and identify steps they could take to adapt.
The world has also undergone such a massive change in how we work, shop, and spend our free time that customer analytics from 2019 has little remaining value. So there’s a surge in demand for market research agencies and customer insights departments to analyze fresh customer feedback. And with a holiday season, unlike any other upon us, customer feedback analysis will be critical to retailers’ success. A number of retailers are using Luminoso Daylight, our flagship text analytics application, to truly understand what customers like and dislike about everything from the e-commerce experience to the products they receive. This data helps retailers make adjustments in real-time, which in turn helps them improve their bottom lines.
When it comes to the Luminoso team, I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve accomplished operating in an entirely virtual environment. I realize that each and every Luminoso employee is balancing work and life in ways that they never imagined they’d have to, and over the last eight months, they’ve all produced extremely high-quality work.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Adam Carte: During the first few months following the COVID outbreak, new business slowed, and there was a lot of uncertainty about when growth would resume. So we made a number of difficult cost-cutting measures that impacted the whole organization; however, for a close-knit team like Luminoso, the crisis brought out the best in everyone. We came together, had frequent Town Hall discussions to talk through the challenges, worked harder, and supported each other. 2020 demonstrates the importance of having a dedicated and cohesive team like ours.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Luminoso in the future?
Adam Carte: I have managed through a number of stressful situations over my career, and while 2020 is certainly sui generis, the tools I’ve developed to manage stress worked well. The first is to remember to treat every situation like a marathon rather than a sprint: maintain a steady pace, continue to eat well, exercise, and get sleep. I’ve also found that regular meditation helps preserve the objectivity needed to make fact-based decisions in a tumultuous environment.
Another key element for dealing with stress and anxiety as a CEO has a team that views business issues objectively. This means they can separate a business decision from how it affects them personally, and they can separate what they want to be true from what is true. This objectivity is hard to find, and I am lucky to have an executive team that has this strength.
On a related note, when facing stress and anxiety, it’s critical to keep the entire company aligned, from the shareholders down throughout the organization. Alignment is not a once-and-done process. Organizations get out of alignment all the time, and the faster the company is changing, the faster this can happen. Hence our frequent company Town Hall meetings this year so that we can bring the organization back into alignment before small stresses become big stresses.
In terms of looking toward the future, Luminoso will continue to stay more than one step ahead of the curve in developing world-leading text analytics applications so that our customers can always count on getting the very best text analytics from Luminoso. This is something that we’ve done well in recent years, as evidenced by our significant market adoption.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Adam Carte: A quick Google search will reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of text analytics applications. Luminoso’s main point of differentiation is using unsupervised AI to provide the only generalized text analytics solution on the market. As I mentioned above, this generalized text analytics solution offers the fastest way for organizations to make sense of unstructured text data – such as open-ended survey responses, product reviews, customer tickets, and chatbot transcripts – in 15 languages.
I’m incredibly proud to say that world-leading brands such as Hilton, Athenahealth, DENSO, Officeworks, Supercell, and Swiss Post Solutions use Luminoso’s AI-powered text analytics solutions. We’ve also received significant recognition for our work in 2020 – Luminoso was recently named one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies, one of the KMWorld AI 50, and one of Boston’s “Inno on Fire,” which recognizes 50 of Boston’s most promising ventures.
Your final thoughts?
Adam Carte: As businesses across industries look for tools that apply the same rigor to the analysis of their qualitative text data as they are accustomed to with quantitative data sources, the demand for our products has exploded. Our team’s sole focus is on giving organizations the tools to spot emerging trends communicated by customers and employees before they’re realized in financial data. Companies looking to spot and address emerging issues before they become a problem have fueled our growth.
I couldn’t be prouder of our team’s accomplishments and look forward to celebrating many more in the years ahead.
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