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SalesTechStar Interview with Mariya George, Co-Founder and President at Cleareye.ai

Hi Mariya, welcome to this chat! Tell us about your journey through the years…we’d love to hear about the story behind Cleareye.ai…

I was born into a business family in the southern tip of India – Kerala, which is also known as Gods Own Country. I am a Computer Science engineer by training and started programming from my early days, but my passion was business development and discovering new opportunities. I was fortunate to work with Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies my entire career, and I was always on the “selling” side vs the “buying” side. This helped me understand my clients, especially in the Banking and Financial services segment, and what they are really looking for versus what is often said. Coming from a business family, entrepreneurship was engraved into me and was my passion. I always wanted to build a business leveraging my learnings over the last two decades. In early 2019, the passion became real. I had the opportunity to raise seed funding and launch Cleareye.ai. Read More : KnowBe4’s Global Cybersecurity Experts Make Predictions For 2021 Cyber Trends Banking is one of the most regulated industries and yet artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to permanently change the industry in profound ways, especially now, having been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks seek to gain a competitive edge on their peers by leveraging technology to achieve efficiencies in speed, cost, accuracy, and efficiency, as well as meet the changing customer needs. Banks are reinventing themselves as technology companies as much as financial institutions. This requires banks to have the ability to launch products faster to market, from the front office to the back office, without having to depend on fintechs. Cleareye.ai is a game-changing, advanced AI and machine learning platform that enables banks to launch tailored products at a rapid pace.

How are you seeing technology / supporting tech demands for fintechs, banks and financial institutes change over time? How has the pandemic influenced this?

Artificial intelligence is no longer a buzz word and is integral to the world we live in, and banks and financial institutions are deploying these technologies at scale to remain relevant. Banks are looking for the machines to replicate, and often exceed, what humans do. AI engines are using a suite of technologies, enabled by adaptive predictive power, and some degree of autonomous learning, to recognize irregularities in data, identify a whole host of patterns, become more adept at predicting activities and decision making that will ultimately make banks more efficient. AI is enabling banks and financial institutions to drive new efficiencies and deliver new kinds of value across Deposits & Lending, Capital Markets, Payments, and Investment Management.

As a result, this is creating paradigm shifts in the financial ecosystem by:

  • Making front office, middle office, and back-office operations more efficient converting them from cost centers to profit centers, leveraging “As a Service” models
  • Creating new ways for customer loyalty by distinguishing themselves versus just lowering price
  • Applying AI on Shared Data Sets across banks and financial institutions to help create collective solutions for shared problems through cross-institutional collaboration
  • Favoring scale players, and allowing niche players to capture under-served customers at the expense of mid-sized firms
  • Normalizing the Ecosystem Hub concept, making partnerships a necessity
  • Enhancing Data Portability with ability to use cloud-based services and open banking
These shifts started before the pandemic, however, it is naïve to think the pandemic didn’t expedite the transformation.

From your experience, what are some essential sales skills to be a successful entrepreneur?

I think the number one sales skill an entrepreneur needs to be successful is Emotional Intelligence. Business leaders should understand the significance of emotional intelligence in driving business decisions. Not only should leaders have high EQ, but they should enable their teams to disarm affect-driven bias, identify those with lower EQ and help understand the root cause(s) of the emotions that are impacting their decision-making capabilities. Jeb Blount’s Sales EQ is a great reference to understand how ultra-high performers leverages sales specific EQ to close complex deals and how to differentiate yourself from competition and hold the short-lived attention span of distracted buyers! The second most important quality for an entrepreneur is the Sense of Urgency. As John Kotter has elegantly quoted in his book “A Sense of Urgency”, it’s a distinctive attitude and gut level feeling that lead people to grab opportunities and avoid hazards, to make something important happen today, and constantly shed low-priority activities to move faster and smarter, now. The third principle I go by is Lead by deadlinewhile putting your customer at the center. This means starting where you can and not waiting for the perfect opportunity. Take advantage of every opportunity NOW. Take necessary risks and settle conflicts immediately. Listen to your customers and show your team that there is no alternative to victory! And finally, any entrepreneur would know that all deals need to be negotiated as if your life depended on it! Chris Voss in his book “Never Split the Difference” talks about how life is a series of negotiations – how to beware of the “yes” and how to master the “no”, how to be persuasive with your clients, and how you can create the illusion of control. However, the most important aspect of all is guaranteeing execution. The product must deliver to the promise and follow throughs should be done.

We’d love to hear more about Cleareye.ai’s roadmap and sales direction / initiatives for the rest of 2021?

Of the 8 billion people in the world, 1 billion do not even have a bank account. The large national banks are trying to solve this problem and make banking accessible to this segment through special offers. They are spending millions on technology and innovation. However, most of the people in the above category are not going to these big banks. They are going to their community banks. The community banks do not have the technology or dollars to spend like the large banks. But they want to solve this problem. This is where Cleareye’s mission comes in – we want to bring in technology to significantly improve financial inclusion. Our platform will help to simplify banking and enable banks to launch products faster, lower their cost of operations and help them move from cost-center to profit-center, be agile enough to exceed customer expectations and improve customer loyalty, making banking more accessible for the millions. Cleareye.ai is a game-changing, advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning platform that enables banks to launch tailored products at a rapid pace. We focus on making AI usable and practical for applications across complex banking use cases with high success rate and explainability. Our focus for the last 2 years was to build to the core platform components including Data Fusion, Document Intelligence using un-structured data analysis, Decision Engine, Declarative Rules Processor, Anomaly Detector, Open Connector and Model Lifecycle Management. The Cleareye.ai data fusion module breaks data silos across any source, modality, format, structure & timeline using data fusion science and applies cutting numerical optimization-based algorithms that includes tensor Decompositions and Canonical Polyadic Decompositions. Our unique Document Intelligence engine combines the best-in-class OCR capability from our exclusive partnership with Microsoft and Cleareye.ai’s IP for document quality enhancement for low quality documents, learning based extraction and machine learning models, to handle complex tables through Jasper, our document annotation and model training studio. While NLP based extraction focuses on text-level features and neglects layout and style features of the document, Jasper differs by learning text and layout together in a single framework for document level pre-training. This approach achieves new state-of-the-art results in document understanding and document image classification. Per our validation sets, classification accuracy is ~93.07% and for extraction our F1 score is ~0.942. Our unique deep-learning models for interpretation of tabular data in document images including table detection, table structure recognition, structural body cells extraction from the detected tables, covering tables with cells separated with or without lines achieves best in class results. Our multi strategy decision models can generate highly effective decisions by unifying decisions across multiple algorithmic strategies (Bayesian, Markov, etc.). We use advanced feature extraction & fusion using Principal Component Analysis, Linear Discriminant Analysis & Independent Component Analysis. We have also developed propriety adversarial networks for self-validation/confidence scoring models to assure our decision fusion platform. We then leveraged these core components to build the products like Trade Finance Compliance and Sanctions Screening, Libor Transition, Loan Servicing, PPP Forgiveness and AML & Fraud Detection engine. The focus for the rest of 2021 will be to harden the existing components and products, while bringing in additional language support like Chinese and Arabic especially for Trade Finance, Blockchain integration etc. We will also focus on fine tuning of deep learning processes based on user feedback & model improvement over time. From a geographic footprint, we plan to expand into Australia and Middle East markets through our distribution partners and alliances, while continuing our existing business in US, Europe and India. We will also be getting ready for a Series A fund raise in Q4 2021.

Can you shed light on what it really takes to improve enterprise sales given today’s business challenges (lack of events, etc) and a few thoughts on top sales tools you feel sales teams need to invest in more?

People buy from people. It is the EQ, empathy, grit, and drive that makes an entrepreneur successful. Having said that, it is imperative to be efficient and take advantage of the sales tools available, whether it is customer relationship management (CRM), sales intelligence, sales acceleration, sales gamification, sales analytics, account-based marketing, or customer service software. Finding the tools that provides the right insights for your business is crucial. This could be as simple as which prospects are most likely to buy your product or what you should be talking to them about. Any tool that helps save time on tedious and time-consuming administrative tasks and can help focus on what matters the most: providing value for clients! According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2020, 47 percent of sales professionals say they use sales tech every day to close more deals. Read More : SalesTechStar Interview with Scott Schlesinger, Global Data, Analytics & AI Practice Leader at Ness Digital Engineering

A few must-dos that every C-level executive in SaaS should follow through 2021?

2020 showed us what we were made of, taught us resiliency, taught us that we will survive our worst nightmares. When we look at how we can leverage all our learnings and what we can do to make the best out of 2021, a few things come to my mind: 1. Focus on Customers and empower your Frontline to adapt to the complex and new customer needs. Have nimble and innovative business models and leave decision making power to the frontline and close to the customers. 2.  Make decisions fortified by data and insights. What worked till 2020 may not work in this new hybrid world. 3. Do not obsess on competition but know them enough to create the edge. 4. Drive by deadlines but be ready to pivot and change.  

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