Get To Know: Yoav Degani, CEO, VoiceSense
By Alix Pressley
June 20, 2018
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
As a clinical psychologist, I became increasingly curious about speech. A patient could tell me they’re feeling fine, but the way they said it – intonation, pace, emphasis – signalled something entirely different.
I began to question how I could leverage this knowledge and I decided to develop an AI-powered, speech-based behavioural analysis tool, linking speech patterns to customer tendencies and personal characteristics, as an accurate way to predict individuals’ behaviour.
Today, years after this idea turned into commercialised products and a successful company, I still get excited and proud every time we complete another validation study, demonstrating again how we turn pure speech pattern analysis into accurate predictions of various future personal behaviours.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I tend to be analytical, so attraction to exact sciences was quite natural. As an Israeli, I also served in a technological unit in the Intelligence forces, so the path was already paved. However, surprisingly, my studying choice was opposite – I completed two degrees in psychology and then years of clinical practice, before returning eventually to technology. Now I’ve integrated my two worlds of interest – using pattern analysis and signal processing for personality measurements and behavioural uses.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
Setting an exciting vision that people can identify with plays a major role in building motivation and atmosphere in the workplace. However, successful innovation requires years of systematic and persistent efforts. Therefore, determination and hard work are a second guiding value.
Assigning the right people to the right positions is crucial, as well as providing clear leadership. I try to create a motivated, highly-involved and determined environment, as the enabling setting for success.
What do you think will emerge as the technology trend of 2018 and why?
There is a dramatic growing passion for Big Data analysis. Enterprises realise their core existence is at risk if they won’t be part of the significant transformation towards personalised decision making. The technological keys for this transformation are data analysis, predictive analytics, personalisation, online and real-time responsiveness, and data unification.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
I would say data analysis platforms.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?
Outdoor jogging works for me. I find an hour of running to be one of the most productive activities, not only for relaxation, but also for contemplation.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
The two decisions that most shaped my career are the focus on entrepreneurship and the decision to integrate my two areas of interest – technology and psychology. Both were taken rather late in my career. If I could, I would have aimed towards these directions much sooner.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?
Technologically, our language-independent speech analysis is well adjusted to the multi-regional European environment. However, the marketing perspective is more challenging. Despite the general globalisation trend, penetration processes require deep recognition of each market, local partnerships, local involvement and networking and these vary from one country to another.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
The major change I experienced is expansion in the type of solutions and use cases that we are asked to support. This is the result of the growing interest and demand for applying speech analysis and predictive analytics to various business needs.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
In my opinion, the crucial quality of a senior manager today is the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff – on the one hand, to be very open and well updated with new ideas and concepts, yet on the other hand, to be able to differentiate, with strong common sense, intuition and confidence, between what’s really important and what isn’t.
Such executives are most capable of making a difference – setting a company’s directions, adapting to new challenges and leading internal and external changes. Awareness of what to prioritise and what not to, is the first step.
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