First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sasha Schriber: Working already almost completely in the digital realm means that my day to day hasn’t changed much. That said, on an emotional level, this time has been very difficult for our entire team at Nanos and myself. It is not because we are stuck at home or unable to work in the office together, but because some of our clients, small business owners, face extreme difficulties. I am on calls all day long with our customers trying to help in every way I can.
We have found ourselves in a unique position to help many longtime and new clients stay afloat. For most, we are finding new ways to transition and grow, even in these difficult times. Living at the frontier of digital marketing, my goal always was to lower the entry barrier to online marketing for SMEs. This pandemic is creating challenges but also opportunities in the digital realm. I am grateful to have the technology and experience to help our clients survive and thrive during this global pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Nanos.
Sasha Schriber: I am an entrepreneur at my core. I discovered a passion for and the power of math and physics at a very young age. This transformed into a deep desire to use technology, specifically artificial intelligence and machine learning, to improve the lives of millions of people.
Over the last 20 years, I have built, developed, and sold several companies. I also worked for seven years, leading a research and innovation group at the world’s largest entertainment company. There, my daily mission was to think about the future of the media and entertainment industry. I explored what technology needed to be built in order to produce new business opportunities. I introduced sustainable solutions for existing businesses. I built prototypes based on existing technology. I also initiated new technologies, patented them, worked with the product teams, and dealt with patents and research publications.
After 7 years in this highly paid corporate research career, in 2018, I went back to my entrepreneurial roots and created my next tech company – nanos.ai.
How does Nanos innovate?
Sasha Schriber: In the early stages, the question we asked ourselves was – is it really necessary that all digital advertising processes – ad creation, budgeting, optimization, placement – are done manually? Or can entire processes be automated? At Nanos, we aimed to build technology that automates as much as possible using machine learning.
Just to give you an example: recently, we’ve conducted a user study of our initial prototype with 20+ participants. This study provided a short description of a product or service, and then two ads were generated from the description. Participants then chose the ad they liked better and assessed if it was grammatically correct, likable, and relevant.
Participants didn’t know that one of the ads was generated by a human marketer and the other by the Nanos machine learning algorithm. We originally assumed that participants would choose ads written by a marketer. But to our great surprise, most preferred ads generated by the algorithm!
We believe that ad creation and optimization can now be handled without major human intervention. The creative process currently spends enormous amounts of time coming up with and iterating ad content prior to publishing it online. This includes making sure that each ad resonates with its intended target audience. Our algorithm is a significant improvement on the standard process.
This is a tech and marketing milestone demonstrating how AI can work hand-in-hand with a professional marketer to make the most precious time and money. AI is becoming more intelligent and able to detect any potential ad issues faster, offering a promising look into the future of marketing.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sasha Schriber: As I already mentioned, the hardest thing to watch has been some of our clients, small business owners, slowly going under.
Those who got hit the worst are in tourism, physical retail, and restaurants. We target these clients, specifically with advice on How to Create Effective Ads for each type of business.
Nanos wants to help during these difficult times! We support any drowning business at no cost: we will create a simple website or a landing page and advertise it across the globe, absolutely free of charge. It takes less than 20 minutes to set up a new landing page with us.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sasha Schriber: Giving customers advice on how to stay afloat is always difficult. However, it is vital to face difficult challenges head-on.
It is much harder for them to stop completely and then restart the business from scratch. So we recommend doing everything possible to stay operational. The lessons we try to pass on to our clients are around managing sales expectations, planning for the future, maintaining a strong team, and increasing digital presence.
In terms of sales, now is not the time to focus on big profits, but the time to cut prices to attract new business or gain repeat sales. It’s also the right time to plan new products and offers. This way, when the world is back to business as usual, they can hit the ground running.
Now more than ever, we are online and digitally agile. It is not only advantageous but vital for small businesses to increase their online offerings.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Sasha Schriber: I use one simple strategy to stay robust and resistant to stress and anxiety. I call it the three-legged strategy. This has always worked for me in the past, and is still working through these uncertain times.
The three “legs” are professional life, private life, and hobbies. My professional life includes my company, co-founders, employees, vendors, and clients and my mentors, coaches, and anyone else in my working day. My private life is my friends and family – all the people present in my life outside of work and with whom I interact the most. In terms of hobbies, I’m talking about what inspires and motivates me that is not directly related to either professional or personal life. My hobbies, past and present, include photography, meditation, skiing, horse-riding, and obsessive reading. I also put large amounts of time into learning languages.
With two well-shaped “legs,” I feel stable, but not as much as with three. In my opinion, using just one leg for longer than a year is a dangerous tightrope that will lead to a long-lasting depression. In challenging times, having all three legs well-functioning and cross-supporting each other makes me unstoppable.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sasha Schriber: To our knowledge, there is no similar solution that exists on the market. Most existing tools and mechanisms are very complex and require lots of time to learn and/or expert knowledge.
Nanos offers a do-it-yourself, pay as you go advertising tool where anyone without marketing knowledge, design, or technical skills can quickly create, place and optimize online advertisements on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other digital platforms.
That is to say, we are on the frontline of fusing AI with digital marketing. We are “the game” and plan to stay ahead of the curve. We will continue experimenting with early research prototypes and data from our increasing customer base to improve the efficiency of our technology and services for our customers.
Your final thoughts?
Sasha Schriber: The COVID-19 global pandemic challenges many of our startups and small businesses to think faster and prepare for various futures.
I know one thing for certain – now more than ever, people are online. Our opportunity at Nanos is to use the best technology available to help entrepreneurs reach their fullest potential in the digital realm today.
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