Voice of Supply Chain – Apr. 2022
Featuring: Dina Ghobrial
Welcome to our monthly Voice of Supply Chain show! I am your host, Sarah Scudder. I oversee marketing for SourceDay, and our supply chain software prevents late supplier deliveries for manufacturers, which has been quite a challenge and quite a topic for conversation over the last couple of years. If you’d like more intel on what’s happening in the supply chain manufacturing world, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, and you can follow my two hashtags, #ManufacturingMaven and #WomeninErp.
So, today, what I love about this show is so many of my close personal friends actually come on, and I feel like we’re just chatting and having a normal conversation offline. So, today, one of those very special guests is Dina. I have known her for the last several years. She and her family moved to the United States from Canada. I was hosting some meetup groups, and I was lucky enough to have her attend one of our lunches, and we’ve become friends and got to know her husband and family. So, so, so honored and excited to have Dina on our show today. Thank you so much, Dina.
The format of our show, as you know from our prep, is really telling your personal journey. We’re gonna talk about your path from childhood all the way through where you are today, which happens to be an entrepreneur and CEO and founder.
For those of you that are joining live, I would like to encourage you to drop us a note in the comments to give us a shout, tell us hello. I’d like to know where in the world you are joining us from and a word to describe how you are feeling today. I see Kathy Perna dropped a note. Welcome to the Voice of Supply Chain show. So, feel free to put comments throughout. We are also taking questions throughout the hour today, so if Dina says something that sparks a question, or you want to hear more intel on a certain subject or topic, make sure to drop those questions in the comments as well, and I will be monitoring those.
Dina, I’m gonna make you put your thinking cap on and go back in time and talk a little bit about some of your childhood memories and experiences. So, what in your childhood shaped you to be the person that you are today? Let’s start there.
Well, yeah, thank you for having me on the show first of all. I’m really excited and honored to do this, and it’s been so amazing to have you as a very close friend over the past few years. The thing that actually resonated with me hard most is the concept of really hard work and sort of in-depth work ethic. My mom was one of those people who, when I brought home a test result of 98, she would ask, ‘So what happened to the two percent?’ And that was something that kind of stayed with me all the time, not always great because it kind of turned me into a bit of a perfectionist, which can come with its own set of issues. But as you know, as I grew within my family, the one thing that was very clear is that they maintained a very good balance between ambition and gratitude and contentedness, and I think that is largely what got ingrained in me as somebody who wants to work really hard but at the same time, someone who is always grounded in all of the great things that I already have. And that is the balance that they brought to my world as I was growing up.
Who would you say is the most influential person from your childhood, and why?
I have to say, it was my father. My mom and dad both graduated with degrees in business and they moved to Dubai when they were younger in their careers. My father was very lucky. He was an accountant before and he ended up with a CEO role, running the Seven-Up Bottling Company in Dubai for a number of years. He had this incredible positivity about him and even though it was a very daunting role to get initially and to sink your teeth into, he never faltered or feared. He was always there and continued to work really hard to prove himself in that role. But then he decided that even though he was CEO and it was a fantastic role, he wanted to build his own company. He stepped down from that and started a small factory within Dubai and then extended that across all of the Middle East. Starting a new company was not something people generally did back then, and it was a very daring move on his part. Yet at the same time, it was probably the thing that gave him the most joy in life. I watched him do all that and grew up with that. It was the one thing that stuck with me, and one day, I’m going to start my own company too, and that’s all because of him.
So, I’d love to hear a little bit about the company that your dad started.
Yeah, it was started as a small factory producing toothpicks of all things. I don’t know why he picked that, but then he expanded that into multiple things, including creating juices, insecticides, and bottle covers. I used to actually go, and I spent a lot of time at the factory after school, and we used to love watching the machines kind of go together, and the quality control people looking at them, and so on. I couldn’t tell you why he picked those specific things, but I know he traveled the world to get the right machinery to do the right things, and I think there were some synergies between the actual manufacturing machines that did the work. It was interesting, and it probably was the first time I learned a little bit about supply chain and bringing in products that end up getting late or not delivered and things like that, so it’s interesting, Dina, that I’ve come full circle in my supply chain career, and now I’m in the manufacturing space, which is new for me in the last two years.
When you were talking about spending time in the factory and making the toothpicks and the products, it made me smile because one of the projects I’m helping coordinate at SourceDay is called “SourceDays in the Wild,” and I want everyone at our company to understand how a manufacturing plant works. So, we’re lining up tours of manufacturing plants locally, and we conducted our first two tours in the last couple of weeks at a plant called Athena Manufacturing. It was just a really cool experience. I got to go on the first tour with a small group of our team, and I was kind of in awe of the machines and how everything worked together and then actually turned into a finished product that ships out the door.
Yeah, it is actually fascinating, and especially for back then when I was maybe 15-16 when I was watching it all happen. From when he bought the machinery, installed the machinery, got it going, and all the pieces lining up together was very fascinating. Back then, there were no 3D printers and some of the incredible machines.
I saw the Athena manufacturing plant. They’ve invested heavily in automation, so robotics and none of that was around at the time when your dad launched his plant, definitely not. So, what’s one thing you learned as an adult that you wish you knew as a kid? It’s a great question. I think the thing that is most impactful to me, and I remember it vividly when one of my bosses said to me, “The world is not black and white, the world is gray.” And eventually, I came to terms with that, and I eventually came to accept that the world is actually a beautiful collage of many different shades of gray. But when I was growing up, and maybe not necessarily as a kid but more as a teenager, I always thought of the world in terms of black and white. And it was either right or wrong, and it was either good or bad. And I beat myself quite a bit around things that perhaps didn’t go my way because, to me, I only saw them as failures, when in fact, they were steps towards growth and success. But it took quite a while to get to that realization, and I really wish I knew that earlier. And I feel like that realization rings even more true with entrepreneurs. When you’re starting something from nothing, and everything falls on your plate, sometimes there’s a middle ground, and it’s not black or white, and you’ve got to just figure it out and do the best you can, exactly. And that, I mean, it’s continuous growth for me personally, to do exactly that, to figure out what is good enough. And another boss used to tell me, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” And I’m kind of, again, learning that good is can sometimes be good enough, and you kind of just let it out and start doing, improving over time. Sometimes that 70 or 80 percent is good enough, and 100 percent is just not feasible, and it’s going to set you back. So something that I learned early on in my career, just because I’ve always worked in startups, so I think that really helped me kind of see in between the lines a lot younger than most people.
Dina, one of the things that I didn’t know about you until we were prepping for the show today is that you, I think, are a singer as well, but you conducted a youth choir for over 20 years, which is fascinating to me. So I’d love to have you just talk a little bit about that, and maybe an experience that you have that you could share, and maybe some learnings from running a youth choir.
Yeah, I mean, I was barely a youth myself. I had just, I was like 21 when I started that, and it was a fantastic experience, one of the best in my life. We had about, eventually, we grew to become about 60-70 people in the group. We started with like 10 or something, and it was more of a hobby, and then we turned it into something a little bit more than that. But the corollary between that and just even running a company is uncanny in terms of what I learned running that choir, in terms of trying to understand everybody’s capabilities, everybody’s talent, everybody’s vocal levels, and things like that, and working as a team. Doing things that we had to work as a team because otherwise, our harmonies are just going to be ridiculously bad.
One of the experiences that I will never forget is… the other thing is actually finding talent and convincing somebody that they actually have amazing talent that they’re not seeing, and being able to show them that and give them enough confidence to get out and maybe sing a solo or something. And I had one of our group members, she was prepping for a song that was really, really hard and it was going to be presented to the entire congregation, and it was a very special occasion. She was so afraid that she was almost on the verge of kind of backing away from it, but eventually, I talked her into it, and she trusted me. We worked together on it, and she delivered the performance not only perfectly, but to incredible applause. People asked for an encore, and we actually had to run the song again because people loved it so much. She did such an awesome job with it. And that person today actually created her own youth choir that is even bigger than the one that we had, and it’s today running across all of the GTA.
So it’s, it’s that you know, giving people the confidence and encouraging them, and telling them, showing them the best in themselves, and allowing them to become the best of who they can be. I think is a huge thing that I took away, and that I implement everywhere I go now. Are you a singer? No, I would not consider myself a vocalist. I can work with the vocalists, but I wouldn’t say I’m a singer. I was gonna ask for a song request next, so okay. You said, ‘no, nothing.’ A very disciplined entrepreneurial business-focused family. I’m curious, what did you do after graduating high school? I’d like to hear a little bit about your educational journey.
Yeah, after high school, well, I graduated in Dubai, and at the time I graduated, Dubai was not the Dubai that it is today. It was very small, and they did not have a single university there. And I had, I was given a choice by my parents to either go to an American University in the US or go to the American University in Cairo, which is where I was born. So I decided to go to the American University in Cairo because I had, you know, cousins and other people there that were, you know, we were close-knit families. And I figured, you know, I’ll stay where I have people that I knew. And I studied economics and computer science, graduated with both degrees, and then shortly after that, I came to Canada. We immigrated as a family to Canada.
So you worked at a bank in Canada for what I would consider a very long time, to be at one place. I want to say I think it was like 22 plus years. So tell me about this journey of immigrating to a new country and getting a job in procurement, essentially, or data, or supply chain.
Yeah, it was a very long journey. You know, you graduate with these amazing ideas and the zeal of the world that you’re gonna go and conquer the world, and reality sets in pretty quickly, especially when you immigrate, and especially for me as a female, and, you know, someone new in a new country. I knew I needed to work really, really hard. And it was a great opportunity to join the bank. I started actually, not near procurement at all. I started in the bank as a business analyst. And I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to be there at the right time when, you know, the internet was booming, financial services was starting to put out products for online users. And realizing that, I quickly taught myself design, you know, graphic design, and HTML coding, and a bunch of other things that positioned me really well to, in addition to being a business analyst, to actually working on the product that the bank was rolling out for the first time. And that was the online securities trading pro product. So, online trading. And so, I was the sole person that kind of built the product for that. When you say built, meaning you were actually coding and programming? Yeah, I was coding the front end. I was creating the designs, doing all the mock-ups. And then everything went over to the engineering team, who then actually put the real, you know, the back end code to it. But I did the whole front-end part, which was, I mean, it was enormous learning and also a lot of fun.
I mean, I graduated with computer science, so I knew all about coding, but I didn’t know HTML, so that was the one thing that I had to sort of teach myself. And then, over time, the bank bought E-Trade Canada, and I learned a lot from the product team that joined with that acquisition. And, eventually, I started building out the product team for the wealth management division and ultimately had a team of about 85 people that were running product for all external users that came to the platform. I think we had about a million users every day and all of the internal users that use products within Global wealth management at the bank, about maybe 1,500 users. So, in my world, I would consider that more like a chief product officer type role. You could call – I mean, it wasn’t that up there, it was just a product, but yes, the same concept. But through that, because the bank did not have a procurement central-led procurement team, they did not have a central-led third-party risk management or anything. I mean, those things came much later. I did all those things as part of leading product because we had to work with a lot of suppliers and, you know, for the research and data and a bunch of other things. So, through that, I just by rote actually figured out how to work with suppliers, what to look out for, what to be careful about, and things like that. And somehow, I coincidentally fell into procurement and supply chain when my boss, who I reported to for a long time, actually left the wealth team and went to work over in the CFO organization. He just came knocking and said, “You know what? Can you help us with a little bit about suppliers and negotiation and working with suppliers? Whatever, can you help? The bank wants to set up a third-party risk management program, and maybe you can work with us on that.” And, quite frankly, initially, I said no. I’m like, “I don’t know how to do that. How am I going to do that?” And he convinced me that I had it in me. And, I guess, this is one of the times when it’s good to have somebody that sees something in you that you don’t see in yourself. And I did.
I went, and it was probably one of the most amazing, challenging, beautiful experiences of my life, where I got to build this whole program for third-party risk management. With a few, you know, regulatory issues hanging in the balance that we had to deal with and fix and so on. So, Dina, some of those who are with us today, and people who will be listening to this afterwards may not work at organizations big enough to have a third-party risk management team. What is that, and what are some of the main functions that this team or this type of position does?
So, in very simple terms, the whole idea of having a third-party risk group or function is to make sure that your ecosystem of suppliers is nurtured in a way and examined in a way that will not add risk to your own organization. In more recent years, and I’m talking like the last, I don’t know, 10-15 years with the advent of cloud computing and so on, the ecosystem of suppliers has grown tremendously for any given company. In the past, companies built their own whatever they needed, so they’ll just, you know, they need something, they built it. They had massive IT organizations that did that for them, and it was all contained within the company, so it wasn’t risky. It was part of the company. In today’s world, that has changed dramatically whereby every company focuses on their main area of focus and hires outside companies to do anything and everything that is not part of their main focus, which I think is a lot more efficient and a much better way of doing business. But that also introduces the level of risk in that you don’t control every single supplier that you work with, even though you are incredibly dependent on them for you to be able to supply whatever you need to do for your own customer base. And that is where that whole concept of you need to know the suppliers, really understand what they do and how they do it, understand what kind of risk they could potentially introduce, learn more about their financial liability, learn about their cybersecurity standards. In many cases, especially when it comes to financial services, there are regulatory obligations to doing certain things in certain ways so that you’re managing your supply base. Those are all different components of building that risk management program. In financial services, there’s a very specific framework that the regulators deploy called the three lines of defense, which is part of what I feel… I mean, you’re in about as regulated of an industry as you could get, so yeah, not everyone is in such a regulated space, but I would argue that given what happened the last couple of years with COVID-19 in particular, if a company doesn’t have some sort of risk management program, it needs to be a priority this year, absolutely 100%. And not having that can be deadly for organizations, unfortunately, especially smaller ones. So what is actually happening now is that companies are self-regulating. Even though there is no regulator breathing down their neck necessarily, depending on what business they’re in, they are regulating themselves by making sure that they are creating that function within their teams.
If you had to pick, who would have a successful risk management program in 2023? When you say “things,” what do you mean? Are you talking about practices or things to look out for? I would say practices, processes. If I’m building something new or don’t have a very built-out program, what should I focus on and really prioritize over everything else? Yeah, thinking about not only the onboarding, because a lot of people think about onboarding, and everybody thinks about onboarding, that’s obviously the door, but it’s not the end. I think the concept of making sure that there is continuous monitoring happening is probably the single most important thing. And I mean, if we’ve learned anything from what happened with SVB the other day, it wasn’t watched. Like it just, it, the whole thing just collapsed, and it was seemingly out of nowhere. But when you dig deeper, there were problems percolating behind the scenes that people didn’t see. So having that much visibility into what is going on in your supplier’s world on a constant basis, especially your top-tier suppliers or those that are most critical to your business, is paramount.
So, I host a show called Manufacturing Woes, and I bring most of the people come from a supply chain or operations background, and they share their trainwreck stories. So the craziest things they’ve lived through in manufacturing. And it was interesting, the theme of last year, if I had to say kind of what most of the guests talked about or brought up was the fact that they wish they didn’t rely on a single supplier for essential parts and materials, and they all had done major scrambling and have prioritized having multiple suppliers. For me, I know that that’s a big part of a risk management program, having backup. A hundred percent redundancy is super important, and even in our own startup, even though we’re so small, right from the beginning when we’re looking at data sources or at, you know, whatever else we’re doing, we’re almost doubling up on every single data source because of exactly that. It’s like, okay, if this goes away, what, you know, what’s your backup?
So, you were at the bank for, like I mentioned, just over 22 years. You served in several different roles. You left running the, I’m not even sure what your title was, VP of Sourcing. Okay,
so you decided, you and the family decided to move to the United States, in the Bay Area. So talk to me a little bit about that decision-making process.
Quite frankly, in some ways, a part of it, at least, was made for us. Our children both graduated. They’re four years apart, but they tended to take the same career route, and they both graduated from a business school in Toronto that recruiters came from all over the world to recruit from because it was a very prominent school. They both happened to get recruited into Goldman Sachs TMT Department here in San Francisco. So it was like, “Okay, they came. Okay, Mama, it’s just gonna be, you know, a couple of months. We’re gonna do a summer here,” and, you know, that was it. Because I was really scared. I’m like, “Oh, you’re good. You’re going to a different country and so on.” But anyways, so they ended up doing whatever it was, the two-three month internship followed by a full-time offer to come back and work at Goldman Sachs full-time. And of course, that was an opportunity neither of them could move away from, and they both accepted. And again, four years apart, but it happened to both of them, and they came and stayed here and met their significant others here, and it became their world. And it was kind of difficult for my husband and me to just all of a sudden have an empty nest with them being so far away. But at the same time, and very coincidentally, I was running the procurement team at Scotia by that point, and we happened to be sourcing a business plan management platform and happened to meet with the Coupa team. And I was super impressed with the company, the leadership, their values, how they conducted their sale, and of course, their product. And at the end of the day, we ended up sourcing that into Scotia Bank because it was the right product for the bank of the time. And about a year or so later, they were looking for a CPO to come, kind of had their first CPO requirement, and I ended up putting my name in the hat, and here I am. It was a wonderful combination of a great opportunity at a great company that had just gone public, obviously a fantastic role, it was a move up in my career, and very close to my family, my children. The moons could not align better.
And I want to acknowledge one of the listeners, and we had some questions come in, and I will make sure that we get to those questions at the right time in the conversation, a little bit later. So thank you for submitting those questions. Continue to submit questions if things come up, and again, if you haven’t yet introduced yourself, give us a shout, tell us where you’re joining from, and a word to describe how you are feeling today. So, Dina, you were the chief procurement officer at a supply sell-side company, right? So, a little bit different than a lot of our listeners, and you were their first CPO, which is fun and challenging all at the same time.
I’ve had firsts in my career where you’re kind of creating your own job description as you go, so what did you do as the CPO? I’d like to start there and then talk about, you know, some of the mistakes you made and some of the learnings that you gleaned from that experience. Yeah, it was incredible and challenging like you said, and interesting all at the same time. They used to call me “The Barbers Barber” because I was a chief procurement officer in a procurement company, and it was quite, you know, the internal joke. So, in addition to the normal function of a CPO, which is building a strategic sourcing function within the group, I, you know, was trying to do that, to your point, you know, creating my own job description along the way. And I only had one team member, so I went from, you know, massive organization, large group, to a very, you know, relatively lean group. And I think when I met you, you may have been actually hiring that person. Yeah, it was when I went there was one person there, and I was trying to hire a second, which eventually happened later on, but during the time there, it was the one person, so it was the biggest challenge. I think was the trying to break between, you know, the Strategic component of sourcing and the technical things around just negotiating every, you know, day-to-day contracts. Of course, other components of my role, and that was discussed right before I joined, was, you know, in addition to being a CPO for this company, the company sells into CPOs, so or procurement leaders in general, so part of my role included, you know, interfacing with those procurement leaders and maybe going out on some sales calls with a few of the sales teams, depending on kind of when they’re doing Enterprise sales, especially in financial services. That was kind of my area of expertise. Also, in some ways, supporting the product team. So when they were creating some parts of the product, they would come to me to, you know, provide some opinion around how a procurement leader would be using those tools. Also working with the marketing team to help with, you know, some specific messages that are directed in particular to procurement. So it was all everything in anything you can think of playing different small pieces in a lot of different roles, and part of it also was the fact that through my tenure there, Coupa acquired, I can’t remember now, maybe five or six different companies in a very short period of time.
So part of that was, okay, how do we figure out how do we roll out all of these new products into the organization internally? So there was a lot going on. And when you’re talking about what are my learnings and you know what could I have done better, perhaps prioritize a little bit better. I think there was a level of overwhelming that was happening with all of the different pieces of what the role entailed. So what I took away was incredible learning relative to how a Nimble fast-growing company operates. Rob Bernstein, the CEO of Coupa, is an incredible leader. I admire him tremendously and you know, the values he created in the organization and following and actually living those values is something that I am trying to emulate in my own new company right now. So I think I’d speak twice now in person at one at a Sig conference, and it’s really interesting to hear his story and journey, and being the CEO of a at that time public company is not easy, and I don’t think people realize how much stress and pressure he was living under every day. Yet he didn’t let that bleed over onto the teens, which is again a huge you know, I tip my hat to that tremendously because you know, I think part of being a successful leader is being able to sometimes shelter the team from from some of the things that you’re going through, and he did that really really well. So you stayed at Coupa, I think it was over a year, couple years. Yeah, a little less than two years. Okay, and what are you doing now? Yeah, so after I left Coupa, I was thinking a lot about third-party risk and how it’s managed today and what we can do with technology to make it better. I had some ideas, and I knew AI was going to be a huge catalyst in helping companies manage risk. I’m a huge proponent of data and kind of factual knowledge as opposed to you know, arbitrary or ad hoc information. So I took a bit of a hiatus after Coupa, and I actually joined a program in MIT to learn more about AI and specifically AI for business and so on, and then went on to establish Halo AI where we are focused on supply your risk management in a way that is holistic and that is rooted in rich and connected data. So largely what we do is we help companies derive intelligence from thousands of data points that we connect together, and using AI, we can come up with insights that then drive action relative to what needs to happen next. So my marketing brain that likes things very clear and simple would recap that to say if somebody’s setting up a supplier risk program, you have software that may be able to help glean insights on the suppliers, is that correct? That is exactly it. The idea is that we obtain data from a whole host of different sources, and we pull it all together. We come up with supplier scores, and our value proposition, if you will, is threefold really. One is having this machine learning intelligence that just from the data from the outside, we’re able to evaluate and quantify the risk that any given supplier might bring to a company. One example of that is let’s say for financial for private companies, the financial data is hardly available.
It’s very difficult to get financial data for private companies, yet there are a ton of private companies that are amazing companies and doing great things, and you know people should be working with them as suppliers. So instead of relying solely on their financials, for example, we look at a whole bunch of other things that they have that are working for them, and then we balance that with, you know, across all of the different information that we know, to then provide a score that a company can rely on to say, ‘oh yeah, even though their financials may not be well known and perhaps even not great, they are still all these other things working for them and therefore they’re good.’ It reminds me a little bit, the model is a little bit like, you know how Credit Karma and Experian are now helping immigrants and people who didn’t have credit in the past build credit, it’s kind of a similar thing, that’s just one example. We also build workflows that use things like natural language processing and others to be able to ingest the data and push it into sort of the response sister questionnaires, so instead of people entering data, they’re now reviewing data, which cuts the process from months to minutes. And then lastly, we look at compliance, that’s a big part of what we do, and we look at the differential between where somebody is and where the compliance or the regulatory standards are, whether they’re infosec or actual Regulatory, and we provide the Gap and a step-by-step guidance to get from point A to point B. So how far along are you in the startup Journey? When did you officially launch the new company?
We launched in 2020, August 2020 was our official kind of date. We started actual operations in 2021, January, and we’ve been building since then. We officially came to market about, I’m gonna say, four or five months ago, like at the beginning of this year, where we started actually getting out to customers, having design partners, and kind of working with the world on the outside. Hardest part about startup.
Keeping your positive outlook, it is an incredible roller coaster, and it can be very lonely because to some degree, you want to shield your team from the ups and downs. The ups are very, very high, and the lows are very, very low, and it can be really daunting. So keeping that balance and being able to stay positive can be hard, but you know, there are some things that I try to do to stay sane. What’s something that you didn’t expect that you actually really like about having a startup?
Something I didn’t expect… Hmm, I’m not sure. I like everything about the startup, and I don’t know that anything I didn’t necessarily expect. I didn’t expect I would be able to pull off staying sane for this long and being staying resilient, I should say. I love every aspect of it, even the lows, and even though they can be really rough, especially when you’re trying to raise funds or trying to sell into a company, and you feel you’re getting so close, and then it doesn’t exactly happen, these things can be really hard. But out of every one of them, it’s like, okay, what are the learnings? What am I going to bring into the next discussion, and I try to move on, and that’s been a lifeline for me. A lot of my friends are entrepreneurs and have their own companies, and I think one of the things that I notice about my friends that have had companies for a while is people don’t realize how hard sales and marketing are until you have to do it yourself. A hundred percent. I have so much respect for salespeople now and marketing, and I still don’t do those things very well. I try my best. I’m learning. The best part about entrepreneurship, quite honestly, is the whole learning part. Everything I’ve done in my career to this state has just positioned me for what I’m doing today, but I find myself that every single day there’s something new that I’m learning, and that in and of itself, I think, is a huge motivator to keep going. But yes, sales and marketing are so incredibly difficult. The other thing that I’ve seen through watching so many of my friends struggle with their own companies is figuring out where to invest your money is hard.
Yes, and time. It’s actually both because prioritization is incredibly important, and the only resources you have at the stage are maybe a little bit of money and a very little bit of time, and between those two, trying to prioritize where what is most important can be a juggling act. And sometimes you make mistakes, and I know I’ve had my share of making mistakes on prioritizing things on both fronts that I probably, looking back now, should have maybe done more of that or less of that. So, Dina, we’ve got some questions that have come in from the audience, so I want to make sure we have time to get to some of them. This one is, what are the major risks to watch out for in 2023 for a startup in procurement and supply chain?
Fantastic question! I think what’s happening in the world right now is that there is a lot of procurement and supply chain, which was not a big thing, I don’t know, seven to ten years ago. A lot of people have now clued into how important and how valuable this function is, and there are a lot of companies and technology that’s coming into the world around that. So it is becoming a very, I don’t want to say saturated, but there are a lot of different people doing a lot of great stuff. And I think the best and the most important thing is to figure out your niche and stick with that. And it’s okay to divert here or there, but I think knowing exactly what is your differentiating factor and really doubling down on that is the most important thing. Otherwise, it would be risky because you could get washed in the shuffle.
A question that came in is around a part of your S is AI-driven, and you have some experience in AI. People are getting really overwhelmed with so much coming at them that’s AI speak or AI talk. How do you prioritize and even navigate the world of AI right now?
Yeah, I think for us, the most important thing is that we are taking it one step at a time. So when we started the product, we started it completely rules-based and then moved into certain elements of AI that can take us from rules-based into producing AI-driven models that still have a human in the loop to some degree. We’re now moving into utilization of neural networks and deep deep learning and things like that that are a lot more involved, but it’s very much a step-by-step-by-step process. I think the most important thing is to understand exactly what problem are you trying to solve for, what data do you have, and how much of it do you have and which form of AI will get you to where you need to go. To your point, there are a number of different elements, and there are more newer models coming in every day. Keeping an eye on the goal is, I think, the most important thing, and then you work backwards from there. So in the marketing space, in my world, AI is going to have a really big impact, and I’m excited about it.
So I, myself and my team, use Chat GPT-3 right now, and we’re using it to help with research. So, if we have a topic or subject we want to write something on or host a show on, we can type prompts in and it will go out and gather information very quickly for us, which is very useful. But what I wanted to share was in March of this year, I attended a social media conference in San Diego, and they had a phenomenal speaker on AI, and he showed us, he pulled up on the screen a prompt that he typed in on Chat GPT-3, and it was about writing a funny and humorous out of office email response for him because he was traveling, speaking at the conference. So, he did the prompt in the version three, showed us the result, and then he did the exact same prompt in version four, and it was a night and day difference. Yeah, version four is incredible. It’s gonna change the world. And, I think my take on it, other than I’m super excited about it and I’m embracing it, is that learn enough about AI so you know how to use it, and you can automate things in your job, or you will get passed by. You cannot be afraid of it, and if I just encourage people to really, really spend the time to learn how to use it, learn how to understand it, because it’s here to stay, and I just hate to see people, you know, push back enough, and at some point, their jobs could become obsolete if they’re not willing and able to use AI. Completely a hundred percent. And, it’s not so the way I think about AI is that AI does all of the things that in many cases we as humans, you know, we don’t like to do. Like, there’s a lot of things, especially when it comes to, you know, the part that we’re working on, there’s a lot of things that are monotonous and repetitive, and answering all these massive long questionnaires, you know, I don’t need to have to do that 50 times a day if I’m a supplier trying to respond to whatever. I can rely on somebody else’s models that will allow me to pull all the data, and then I can do the things that require much, much higher level of intelligence as humans, as opposed to doing the mundane things. Now, with Chat GPT-4, I think it’s coming a little closer and closer to being, you know, the real intelligence that I’m sure the originators of AI had been dreaming of, but it still won’t get to a level. It’s still, at the end of the day, irrespective of all what’s happening with, you know, the explosion of Chat GPT, it is really pulling data that already exists in anywhere in the internet, and it’s kind of bringing it all together, and yes, in a very intelligent way, but the reality is that it doesn’t create something from nothing. So, humans will continue to be required to create something from nothing, and that, I think, is why there should not be people who are afraid of AI. To your point, it’s just how do I use it, how do I empower myself to get ahead and actually then free my brain and time and everything else to create something from nothing. So, do you know what’s next for your business? I mean, you’re three years old, but you’re still very much a startup, and you started probably one of the most difficult times you could ever launch a company. I think the world shut down right after your launch. This is so lucky.
Just reading and making sure I’m keeping up with what’s going on in the world, not a whole lot more. So, if you have an extra 30 minutes and you can’t sleep and you want something super positive and uplifting and just makes you feel happy about the world, I highly recommend Ted Lasso on Apple. That’s right, I actually did watch that. I’m not binging it, but I am watching it once in a while, and it is a great program. All right, so this brings us to the end of another episode of Voice of Supply Chain. A big thank you to Dina. I recommend reaching out to her on LinkedIn, checking out their website, following what their startup is doing with all the big plans they have in store. We will be back again next month on May 17th at 1 pm Central. Thank you so much, Sarah.