Over the past 13 years, I helped build two successful businesses at Google. I joined at the beginning of 2008 as the second engineer on the mobile ads team. It was six months after the release of the first iPhone, but a half year before the app store launch. My first project was to build ads measurement for feature phones. Over the following eight years, I was fortunate to witness first-hand the once-in-a-generation shift in personal computing from desktop to mobile and contributed to building Google’s multi-billion dollar mobile ads business. I then chose to join Cloud AI when it was still a very small team. This time, I was again very fortunate to witness first hand not one, but two secular trends unfolding at the same time: the enterprise migration to Cloud and the advance of deep learning unlocking numerous enterprise use cases. In Cloud AI, I initiated and led a few efforts and helped grow them into successful AI platform and solution products.
Leaving Google was a big decision. I have spent a significant part of my life in “The Plex,” gotten to know some of the brightest minds, most supportive colleagues, kindest mentors and managers of my life. During my last 4.5 years at Google, one product I initiated and led to build from scratch was the Contact Center AI solution (CCAI). I deeply believed that advances in AI capabilities in speech and NLU combined with the migration to Cloud will transform contact centers in fundamental ways. The experience of building and deploying CCAI only strengthened this belief. After meeting Zayd and Tim, I became super excited about our shared passion and vision for this space. I was very impressed with what the Cresta team had accomplished and was also intrigued by the direct impact I can make on the company’s top and bottom line.
There are many reasons I chose to join Cresta, but I’d like to share the most significant:
1. Be An Expert on Day One
Cresta’s mission statement “Be An Expert on Day One” resonates with me deeply. The turnover rate of an average contact center is around 40%. Contact center agents need help. AI can deliver that. Cresta’s products focus on augmenting and empowering human agents instead of replacing them. Better agents lead to happier customers and stronger business outcomes (a win-win-win situation). Cresta has built state-of-the-art AI systems and machine learning operations that learn from tens of millions of conversations and deliver the insights to agents in real time. Some deployments achieve a 3.5x greater annual increase in customer satisfaction, and those that use AI capabilities to empower their agents with real-time guidance enjoy a 3.3x annual increase in customer retention. Cresta has the potential to transform business operations and boost the bottom line, which makes for a tangible and an exciting opportunity for me.
2. Ease of use
Before I joined Cresta, I was amazed how Cresta’s solution can deploy AI into many contact centers within weeks, not quarters. One of the biggest challenges I have seen in deploying real-world AI solutions is not in building some secret AI algorithm, rather, in landing AI into existing systems and workflows. How do you deploy self-driving car AI into a Volvo 240 to drive on roads originally built for horses? Similarly, contact centers are complex and messy. Often we found that many different software systems, on premise and in the cloud, are glued together. Delivering AI into such an environment and meeting customers where they are requires relentless focus on operational excellence, creative workarounds, and building a team with diverse knowledge in contact center software. Cresta accomplished that.
3. Customer obsession
Throughout my career, I have worked with many brilliant AI researchers, engineers and product managers. I had yet to meet one AI researcher or engineer who spent weeks answering phones in an actual contact center. Zayd and Tim did just that. This level of customer obsession is deeply wired in Cresta’s DNA from day one. I was blown away by Cresta engineers’ deep understanding of customers, the market, and the products. In fact, many Crestans were top contact center agents in their previous jobs. Working backwards from customers and reimagining what is possible with the latest technology is a super power.
4. User of your own product
You cannot fake customer empathy. The best software teams “eat their own dog food.” It has been the textbook best practice for software engineering. However, sometimes it’s challenging for AI solution builders since their product is built for other industries. Cresta uses its own real time coaching AI to help its own sales development teams. This gives the team intimate knowledge about where the pain points really are and how each feature performs. This, coupled with an action-biased culture, leads to greatly shortened feedback loops and fast iteration of the product.
5. Massive tailwinds
Cresta is at the epicenter of multiple generational tailwinds. First, contact center migration to the cloud. The number of agent seats moving to cloud will only increase over the next decade. Second, enabling technologies. Since NLU had its imagenet moment 3 years ago, the innovation in language processing has exploded. It is safe to predict that over the next decade, speech recognition will only get better at recognizing contact center audios and NLU and conversation technology will only get better at understanding intent and managing conversations. Third, the explosion of DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) brands and digital engagement. It is safe to predict that the number of brands and businesses who love to engage with their customers is only going to increase over the next decade. Covid only accelerated that. Who doesn’t want their customer service to be like Zappos and T-Mobile?
6. Talent Density and Culture
Just days ago was the 10 year anniversary of Marc Andreessen’s famous 2011 WSJ piece “Software is eating the world.” 10 years later, software innovation is only accelerating. Rarely in the history of technology are there so many secular trends playing out at the same time: Cloud migration, explosion of data, deep learning advances and the system shock from the on-going pandemic just to name a few. Everyday there seems to be more unsolved than solved problems. The software market is growing with real innovation happening everywhere in the world. This factor, combined with today’s monetary environment, means many opportunities get funded. Talent dilution is real.
Therefore, I am particularly impressed by the talent density at Cresta. And I don’t say that lightly. Spending more than a decade at Google provides me with good reference points and I would say that everyone I’ve met at Cresta is at the top of their game. I love the Cresta culture. It is humble and collaborative. It is hard working, pragmatic, and empowering. I have no doubt that this group of talented people — obsessed about helping contact center agents — will be Cresta’s long-term winning differentiator.
Across my career, my happiest moments came from working on impactful problems with people whom I admire. Joining Cresta gives me this opportunity daily. It feels amazing to be a member of this long journey to make a positive impact on the world with AI. I am sure that decades later, we will be proud of what we do today.