The last weekend of April marked a moment when British boxing became exciting again – Anthony Joshua, a poised North Londoner (and my distant North London neighbour) won by technical knockout against Wladimir Klitschko, a Ukrainian boxer highly respected by the boxing world for his skill and contribution to the sport for the last few decades. The fight had a total of 11 rounds; each a little over 30 minutes, the culmination of months of strenuous preparation for the boxers and their teams. Upon getting hold of his belt, Joshua grabbed the microphone and gave the audience an impromptu overview of the months in the lead up to the fight.
“If you don’t take part you will fail, just give it a go, keep on digging and you never know the outcome.” – Anthony Joshua, world heavyweight boxer.
In a nutshell, this can also be applied to my experience at SXSW. South by Southwest is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences. It’s the world’s leading annual digital and technology conference held in Austin, Texas and is where we submitted a proposal to speak on the topic of ‘Artificial Intelligence in Banking.’ This was ultimately selected for the festival which in the past has seen Bill Gates, Elon Musk and the Winklevoss brothers have all talked about the ‘next big thing’.
Give it a go
I heard about SXSW from David de Niese who has been going religiously for several years. One of David’s key objectives is to change the world - hence why, he is UKI FS Innovation lead. and from his annual streams of vlogs during the SXSW period in March-April, Dave and SXSW share this goal too. Dave prompted project teams for ideas to submit at the for ideas innovation conference. There were a few strong ideas from a number of accounts but it does take a certain level of “crazy” to set aside a rare British summer evenings to shaping a proposal to potentially speak at the same stage as Barack Obama. What are the chances of success? Miniscule. But there is still a chance.
(Left to Right): Val Yuskevych (me), Jessica Douieb (Goldman Sachs), Anthony Bunnell (Goldman Sachs), John Fremont and Sohail Amin from Accenture.
Sohail Amin’s idea ‘AI That Helps You Save’ challenged mobile applications programmed to manage finances. What if you had a 24/7 personal account that would make financial decisions for you? The concept is based around having an AI agent that learns based on your behaviors and allocates funds for each aspect of your life. Most importantly it would enforce you to follow your allocated budget and is a great example of how AI can help and manage day to day human activities.
During the submission phase we had to submit compulsory media files to support our idea. Working with another team member we kept it simple and went with what consultants are famous for. A PowerPoint presentation.
A few months later I almost fell off my chair when I saw an e-mail confirming that our “AI That Helps You Save” panel was to be at SXSW 2017 on 14th of March. This meant that we made the cut into the 600 successful proposals out of 4400 submissions some of which had prominent leaders in them from Fortune 500 companies!
I immediately pulled Sohail and Dave into a conference call where I delivered the news. With Dave’s help Sohail and I put a plan on how to get to SXSW. Following Dave’s announcements at the Town Hall in November, Gareth Hall (FS Robotics and AI lead) said he would help us out.
Our “AI That Helps You Save” proposal is in sync with Accenture Technology Vision 2017 of technology serving the people with my favourite trend being ‘AI is the new UI’. Thanks to Gareth Hall, our ask along with a 1 slider why SXSW was a worthwhile investment for Accenture was elevated to the Strategic Growth Initiative, Accenture Artificial Intelligence Taskforce and Nicola Morini Bianzino, Accenture Global AI Lead, all of whom provided us with the critical support, valuable advice and introductions.
Following confirmation of the offer, SXSW requested us to change the panel from 3 Accenture-only speakers to 2 Accenture and 2 non-Accenture. Dave and I agreed that there are worse things in life that giving up our seats to Goldman Sachs MDs.
From our original submission, Sohail was the only man standing. Accenture AI team introduced us to some fantastic people and a few weeks before the date we finally had a great panel lined up, comprising of a mix of Accenture/Goldman Sachs panellists who really made the talk one to remember. Sohail chaired the panel with John Fremont (Accenture AI GTM Lead), Jessica Douieb and Anthony Bunnell (Goldman Sachs), who a year earlier, launched Honest Dollar at SXSW which sold to Goldman Sachs. We juggled the transatlantic diaries of everyone and managed to schedule an hour for introductions and panel plan with all our speakers, Dave and the SXSW co-ordinator. We were ready for Austin.