First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nasib Ahmed: Let me start by saying that I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been stressed by the challenges this year, including me. Just like everyone else, our family found ourselves in a period of unprecedented uncertainty and volatility, not knowing how to assess the outcome. With the coronavirus affecting people worldwide, the news can feel bleak, so it’s important to find some time to decompress. What helped is not being overwhelmed with the news of anxiety and continuing at least one activity from your past “normal” life. As the healthcare officials have explained, our primary goal is to not tax the health care systems by working together and slowing down the spread of the condition.
Tell us about how you founded Quantigo AI.
Nasib Ahmed: My introduction to machine learning started a few years ago while working in an AI company in Toronto. Being relatively new to the industry, I found it fascinating to see how artificial intelligence can greatly enhance so many different aspects of human lives. I also learned that there is a large and constantly growing need for training data in the industry. When the company I was employed under wanted to expand its scopes, I offered them a solution that can expedite the delivery of larger volumes of data by utilizing effective communication-based pipelines.
Having learned the ropes, I knew how I could deliver data solutions to a broader range of clients and decided to start my own company, Quantigo AI. It was a long and hard journey, and I am still working hard to grow the business, but I am proud of what the company has accomplished so far and can’t wait to expand our reach to more countries and industries worldwide.
How does Quantigo AI innovate?
Nasib Ahmed: The role of Artificial Intelligence in our lives is rapidly growing, and I believe that it has impacted many lives around the world in a positive way. Our clients come from a wide range of industries from autonomous driving to retail, agriculture, security, sports, and the medical community.
In the midst of the AI boom, our company forms the backbone of the industry, providing other AI companies with the human intelligence that is necessary to develop innovative solutions in a wide range of applications. We foresee that AI will be an integral part of human lives in the future, and we are constantly looking for new opportunities and various areas of computer vision. In a COVID perspective, this includes AI-assisted COVID-19 analysis that can greatly assist in the detection and evaluation of the virus and automatic detection of shoppers in retail spaces who are not wearing face coverings or adhering to social distancing measures. Now more than ever where human contact has to be limited to the maximum, I believe that we are helping the world adapt to the new normal through our data services.
We have been blessed to work with many leaders of innovation in the world of AI, and it is very rewarding to witness industry pioneers develop tools that greatly enhance and reshape the way we get things done.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nasib Ahmed: Initially, when pandemic measures first began, we were facing many challenges just like everyone else. Because the sudden change in operations was also impacting our clients, naturally we lost some business and struggled to pick things back up to normal pace.
I believe that adaptability is an incredibly important characteristic of any successful company. Just like anybody else, we had to shift to everyone working from home and adapt to our new working environment. We felt that communication was key, especially because we were physically apart and made sure that our team stayed connected to each other.
Although it was challenging, I believe there was a silver lining to all this because our team members were able to have a better work-life balance while working from home. Considering the bigger picture, I believe this made us stronger as a team.
Slowly but steadily, our business managed to flourish during these unprecedented times, and we developed a strong relationship with our clients by keeping our communication channels active and streamlining our production pipeline.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nasib Ahmed: During these uncertain times, many companies had to cut back on costs wherever possible – many times, including layoffs and terminations. However, I felt that it is important for the company to be there for our team members during such difficult times like these so that I can keep the team spirit high and motivated. Instead of making cutbacks in personnel or their salaries, we compensated by reducing overhead costs such as office rent and redirected our focus onto getting our business back on track rather than trying to put out immediate fires without the long term plan in mind.
We focused on building that relationship with each team member and making sure that everyone receives the support they need virtually to cope with the ongoing changes to the way we live and work. We learned that having a core team built on trust can be a much more valuable asset for the company in the long run, and this is a lesson we will carry with us even when the company grows in size in the future.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Nasib Ahmed: Managing a startup that is rapidly growing while working with clients in many different time zones, I often find myself working days and nights without much rest. So naturally, stress and anxiety is something I have to cope with on a daily basis because of the sheer workload I deal with each week. Obviously, we can’t eliminate stress completely, but I think that a well-managed, moderate amount of stress can boost productivity.
I like to focus one day in a week working on my health, both physically and mentally. I try to unplug myself from social media and take a day to relax and recharge once in a while so that I don’t get burnt-out from all the work. I’m a hard worker, and work can be overwhelming at most times, but I believe that a good rest is as valuable as hard work when it comes to long-term success.
How do you plan to stay in the game?
Nasib Ahmed: As a startup competing in large industry in the midst of an AI boom, we plan to stay in the game by continuously exploring innovative solutions and adapting to new technologies. We are also focusing on improving automation where possible, and streamlining our workflow through active communication channels between team members.
From the client’s perspective, we will continue to put great emphasis on customer service and the client experience by offering speedy, detailed, and personalized support that larger companies often struggle to provide.
Your final thoughts?
Nasib Ahmed: The coronavirus pandemic still has a lot of impact on the world we live in, but at the same time, many different opportunities are arising because of it. As much as this is a difficult time for all of us, I think that this is a large opportunity for many startups like us to build innovative solutions for what the future holds for us. I am hoping that once the pandemic is over, we as a society will be more advanced and more prepared through this experience.
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