MEST Welcomes DataSift Founders, CEO of GHL Bank, and Meltwater's Head of AI for GL Weekend!

Sylvana Lewin, Tuesday December 12th 2017

As is tradition at MEST, this past weekend marked the end of Capstone One and the first semester, as well as Guest Lecture Weekend. EITs heard talks from DataSift CEO Tim Barker, GHL Bank CEO Dominic Adu, Meltwater Senior Engineering Director Aditya Jami, and Meltwater CEO and MEST founder Jorn Lyseggen. Our expert guest lecturers also served as judges for the 15 business concepts the EIT’s pitched.

Datasift CEO Tim Barker encourages focus on company alignment and solving specific problems

Tim Barker started off the day with a talk illustrating his journey from developer to CEO. Bit by the entrepreneurial bug at an early age, Barker started his first business at 14 and went on to start several more, including one that was acquired by SalesForce. He encouraged EITs to focus on their passions and push themselves: “Challenging teams to create something truly magical is what creates great companies.” He also emphasized the importance of not being overly generic and focusing in on solving the specific to create truly effective technology solutions.

“Your customers are the hero, not the technology. A successful customer is your best asset because that is what will sell your technology.” Barker challenged the EITs to create their own narratives and focus in on their customers. Rather than sticking to stories about their own products, Barker asked EITs to work to create bigger stories about the industry.

Barker had several lessons to share from his time as a CEO, but he emphasized the importance of alignment. Starting with the creation of a plan based on vision, values, methods, obstacles, and metrics, he showed companies how company alignment can empower staff as well as create accountability.

CEO of GHL Bank Dominic Adu talks taking risks and the importance of due diligence

Dominic Adu was the next to share wisdom with the EITs, detailing his experience in the financial sector. He encouraged risk-taking: “Sometimes you have to go against the grain. When you dare, you will succeed.”

“Although you need money, make sure you’re getting it from the right person. You have to be able to go to them when you’re in trouble.” Adu also had some advice when it came to funding and shareholders. He stressed the importance of due diligence and reminded of the importance of truly getting to know a person before you get into business with him or her.

Finally, Adu warned against arrogance: “The moment you start to think you know it all, you create enemies. The people who would normally help you, won’t help you anymore. Don’t be arrogant.”

Meltwater’s Head of AI Aditya Jami focuses on team alignment

Meltwater’s own Aditya Jami discussed his journey to Meltwater. From Yahoo to Netflix to founding his own businesses, Jami was a well of knowledge.

“For startups, you really have to understand the problem to execute a good solution.” Jami shared that while working at Yahoo, he was unable to experience the customer problem. Something he discovered later on was the importance of understanding the problem your customer is facing to execute a truly great solution. He encouraged EITs to make sure they seek feedback on their products, referencing his time at Netflix where he discovered the power of open-sourcing.

Jami, like Barker, emphasized the importance of alignment and team: “Getting your team right is key during the early stages of a startup.” Having a good team is a big part of what makes a startup work. He also explained how important it is to share one vision as a team: “It’s not just keeping a team motivated; it’s keeping them aligned.”

Panel discussions and machine learning masterclass

The day wrapped up with a panel led by Jorn, featuring Barker, Jami, and CTO of DataSift Lorenzo Alberton. The panel touched on topics such as pivoting as a person from a more tech-based role to a more commercial role, cryptocurrency and the role similar technologies could play in the future, and data security.

However, the weekend of learning did not end there! On Sunday morning, Alberton and Jami gave a presentation on Machine Learning and AI at the Accra Incubator, which many EITs and MEST founders attended.

The weekend was the perfect end to Capstone One, and we look forward to welcoming back the EITs when they return from the holidays in January. If you’d like to hear from experts like these, apply to become a MEST EIT!