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David Benigson, CEO and founder, Signal AI

David Benigson

Path to power

My career began in law, and I recall spending tens of thousands of hours reviewing contractual documents for specific information. It was this experience, coupled with how digital media was gaining momentum and modern technology innovations were just emerging, that led me to consider how artificial intelligence could be harnessed to make a difference in how people work with data.

 

Signal AI had humble beginnings; we launched in 2013 as a three-strong tech start-up, operating from a garage in North London. The garage belonged to my parents, who were also the inspiration behind the initial idea for Signal AI.

 

My parents run a successful executive search business and were sending email newsletters that they were manually curating content for on a daily basis. Compiling the most recent and relevant stories from reliable sources each day for the newsletter was laborious; the idea to use AI to automate the process was born.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

The past six years have been full of proud moments, but 2019 was a great year for Signal AI. With our Series C funding round, we took our total funding to £32.5 million ($43 million).

 

We also won the Artificial Intelligence Excellence award and I was honoured to speak at the inaugural TEDxBonnSquare event, where I challenged the hype surrounding AI and put forward an alternative picture of the future where augmentation is the new frontier.

 

But, ultimately, I’m most proud of my team. Their success is what makes us a pioneering company that demonstrates the value of AI.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

There are many great business leaders who have transformed B2B software and who I am inspired by such as Bill Gates, Marc Benioff and Michael Bloomberg. However, my ultimate business inspiration has been from my parents, two immigrants from South Africa who came to the UK with nothing and have built an incredible business together over 25 years. They showed me that persistence, ambition and doing the right thing by their staff and customers is how ultimately you can build a great business.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

Signal AI saw unprecedented success in 2019, more than doubling its customer base, international expansion into the US and APAC, and a successful Series C funding. More recently, Signal AI’s product has been used in creative ways to innovate other markets.

 

Originally designed to help PR professionals streamline media monitoring, Signal AI has evolved to provide valuable intelligence for business leaders in other sectors to help them make informed decisions from a range of risk types: reputation risk, ESG, tax, compliance and regulatory monitoring, through to discovery applications relating to deal origination.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

The use of data analytics is on the rise. It is becoming a valuable business tool which can be leveraged for a variety of processes and insights going far beyond basic analysis with strategic use of AI.

 

In 2020, I expect augmented intelligence to eclipse AI, allowing businesses to gain valuable insights from qualitative data, digital sound, social media and online content. As more businesses adopt these functions within their organisations, this technology will become commonplace.

 

Augmented intelligence is not only the weapon and shield of the future, but also the greatest human success story of the 21st century.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

One of the cornerstones for developing AI has been to reduce the burden that workers face. Our vision is to transform business decision making through augmented intelligence; AI that assists humans rather than replaces them.

We are building AI and machine learning technologies that learn what executives needs to know and investigate huge amounts of data to provide critical insights in real-time.

 

The productivity benefits to organisations are already great, but the industry will continue to undergo significant transformation in the coming years.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge your clients face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

Entrepreneurs and politicians alike have hyped a future of rogue AI. From Boris Johnson predicting rogue connected mattresses to Elon Musk warning of technology-derived unemployment pandemic, there has been a great deal of fearmongering.

 

As an AI-powered enterprise tool, Signal AI’s stance differs significantly. To me, augmented intelligence has the opportunity to be the positive change we need.

 

This is the technology which will form the new frontier, wherein it can augment rather than replace our work and our leisure. In business, this translates to better fulfilment in employment, increased productivity and ultimately, larger profit margins.

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