Q&A with Bobby Mukherjee, Founder & CEO of Loka
We are delighted to have Bobby join us this month to share his insights from working with dozens of companies to build their technology and digital strategy. Bobby is the Founder and CEO of Loka, a Silicon Valley-based software consulting company, focused on helping companies ship their innovations faster. Loka serves a wide variety of customers, from startups funded by the likes of Sequoia and Greylock, all the way up to Fortune 500 brands. Prior to Loka, Bobby started and successfully sold two start-ups, including one which was acquired by NBC. Bobby began his career at Oracle, and earned his bachelor of science degree from Carnegie Mellon University.
You and your team sit at the intersection of what's possible and what's practical in software development. How do you advise companies, particularly those with limited resources, to ensure they get a positive ROI for their investment in tech?
Focus on speed over scope — every week that you’re not executing a digital strategy you’re missing a massive opportunity to transform your business. Companies that haven’t started down the digital transformation path often get wrapped around the axel trying to do everything at once including building their own engineering team. Leave that to the Google’s of the world. Instead, optimize for making a quick start, and getting some digital DNA flowing in your business.
If you were developing a digital strategy today vs. 5 or 10 years ago, what would be the biggest difference? What is possible today that wasn't before?
Two massive ingredients: Moore’s Law over 10 years + Massive quantities of data = Big Data & Machine Learning opportunities that were impossible to consider a decade ago. Take something like Smart Compose that Google uses to power Gmail and Google Suite tools like Docs. Many of us can’t imagine a world without it but it was only announced at Google I/0 in 2018. It uses a technique called sequence-to-sequence (seq2seq) and the data and processing needed to make it a reality was not possible a decade ago. The 2008 version was slow and error-prone. Not particularly useful. But today, I couldn’t imagine drafting emails without it. Smart Compose won’t change your business, but it will save you time and it’s a great representation of how quickly technology is evolving and becoming more powerful.
Are there any common misperceptions your clients have when considering their digital strategy?
That only FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google) companies or Silicon Valley startups can leverage and execute a digital strategy. One of the more interesting things I’m seeing is so-called “old world” companies leveraging their very defensible data stores to open up new markets and services to their existing customers. Take John Deere’s acquisition of Blue River Technology as an example. John Deere bet on leveraging Blue River’s computer vision and enhanced robotics to improve yields for the agriculture industry. You don’t need to be a Fortune 500 to have a data strategy. Being disciplined about collecting, analyzing, and leveraging data can be a huge competitive differentiation.
Your team recently published a great blog post on "The Now and Near Future of Data". How do you help your clients think about the value of their data? Any examples you have seen of companies creating value from data?
A great example of this is the joint venture between Palantir and Airbus called Skywise. Airbus was founded in 1970, 5 years before Bill Gates and Paul Allen would come together to incorporate Microsoft, a long time ago, and might as well have been in a galaxy far far away. Airbus isn’t a company that you’d associate with having data at its core like Netflix. But with the help of a good partner, Airbus has managed to build a thriving business parlaying the data in their planes, and partnering & selling to the airlines. We’re barely scratching the surface of possibilities along these lines.
What are you reading or watching these days?
On the curiosity front, I just finished reading Michael Lewis’s Premonition. Marvel has nothing on the real superheroes in this book, particularly Dr. Charity Dean.
To bring a smile to even the toughest days - I highly recommend Ted Lasso. Jason Sudeikis is an underrated SNL alumnus and he’s in a role of a lifetime. Apple just dropped season 2 so there’s plenty of laughs to get through.