First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Lewis Johnson: We’re doing OK, except for the travel restrictions. My wife is stuck at our house in Hawaii because of travel limitations between Hawaii and the mainland. I am based in Los Angeles and get to Hawaii when I can, and have to go into quarantine when I arrive.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Alelo
Lewis Johnson: My career has been focused on developing artificial intelligence technologies to help people learn. I founded Alelo in 2006 to commercialize these technologies.
How does Alelo innovate?
Lewis Johnson: Our innovation is driven by the data we collect from learners and teachers. Data give us insights regarding user needs, and then we use data to train AI models to address those needs.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Lewis Johnson: We have focused our business on addressing the emerging needs of learners and teachers due to the pandemic. Thus although it is a challenge for society overall, it is an opportunity for Alelo. We were forced to shift quickly to working at home; however, that has not been too difficult for us.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Lewis Johnson: We were forced to downsize our office to save costs. But we learned that we had less need for office space since people can work from home.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Alelo in the future?
Lewis Johnson: We live in a period of great uncertainty right now. I have learned not to let the uncertainty get me down. New options are presenting themselves all the time.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Lewis Johnson: There are some established eLearning companies (e.g., Cambridge, Rosetta Stone) and learning apps (e.g., Duolingo, Voxy). We have a technically superior product, and innovation is enabling us to maintain our competitive edge. Plus, we are responding to changing needs due to COVID-19, and we don’t see our competitors doing that.
Your final thoughts?
Lewis Johnson: COVID-19 is causing a lot of hardship, but it is also accelerating change. This provides an opening for innovative companies to take advantage of emerging new opportunities.
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