In this episode, we’re joined by special guest Tiffany Xingyu Wang, Chief Strategy Officer at Spectrum Labs and co-Founder of the Oasis Consortium. Tiffany describes how she moved from the investment world to the technology industry, lessons learned defining and executing an API product strategy at Spectrum, defining and governing brand safety through the Oasis Consortium, and her investor’s take on the API economy. She even describes her startup company, Winesona. The common thread in all these topics is how AI and APIs help put people at the center of digital business.
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As organizations around the globe embrace the digital economy, two of the most important technologies they turn to are APIs and AI. Tiffany Xingyu Wang is the Chief Strategy Officer of Spectrum Labs, a company seeking to make the internet a safer place through AI- and API-based content moderation. In Tiffany’s experience, the digital revolution is about shifting the centre of business from the product/company to the consumer/customer. The value of AI and APIs is that they can both help make this shift happen. Here are three of the “people centering” highlights from the podcast discussion:
#1 Putting people at the center of user experience
Tiffany started her career in investments, focusing emerging markets in southeast Asia and Africa. Through that experience, she recognized the power of AI in optimizing operations for the energy industry. Recognizing AI’s potential, she moved full-time into the technology world. Immersed in the digital world, she observed that data and AI were transforming business to be much more customer-centric than the previous product-focused business paradigm. Specifically, the speed and scale of machine learning allow context to be derived for data and content, opening up more personalized user experiences and more precise actions. At Spectrum, “context matters” is the mantra of the company. APIs also contribute to this user-centered shift by making data and actions accessible at all touchpoints. “Instead of going to the bank, the bank comes to you,” states Tiffany. APIs also allow companies to “do what they’re good at” in more productive ways, in more customer contexts. Some industries like communications and payments have already made significant shifts, but others like healthcare and insurance still have room to move. Tiffany even founded her own startup, Winesona, which puts people’s taste in the wind at the center of the wine experience, rather than focusing on expensive labels and brands.
#2 Putting people’s safety at the center of growth
Spectrum’s mission is to create online trust and safety on the web. They do this by using AI to identify toxic behaviour and allowing companies to take action. As mentioned above, context is critical. Spectrum’s clients range from gaming platforms to social media to dating sites to product marketplaces. Their customer base represents over a billion users. Each of these customers has different patterns of toxic behaviour and different thresholds. Getting the context right is critical in eliminating false positives. As Tiffany says, “AI is only as good as data gets.” To ensure maximum precision, Spectrum has created highly-curated models for these large platforms. With such a large foundation of training data — the internet’s vast amount of toxic behavior being a “curse” overall but a “blessing” for an AI-based content moderation as Tiffany says — Spectrum launched API solutions to help smaller and emerging platforms benefit from their services. They could not do that in a one-size-fits-all way. As Tiffany says, “You will not create a generic toxic model for everyone.” Instead, they use a hybrid training approach to leverage their full data set, and then apply client-specific tunings.
Tiffany’s efforts to help make the web a safer space go beyond Spectrum. She co-founded the Oasis Consortium to provide governance and standards on brand safety through collaboration with the biggest industry players. Tiffany has observed that in a digital world connected through APIs, it’s vital to look at the interconnected ecosystem the way manufacturers look at their supply chains. “An API is only as protected as the weakest link,” meaning that once data is exchanged through an API, it is difficult to control or protect. She recommends scrubbing personally-identifiable data (PII) at the earliest possible opportunity.
#3 Putting people at the center of strategic execution
To launch the API product mentioned above, Spectrum needed to overcome some obstacles that might not be intuitive. In fact, leading changes starts with leading mindsets. First of all, how to institute the API mindset in an existing enterprise sales playbook. Secondly, how to turn competing goals of new customer segments into a go-to-market team’s priorities. Lastly, how to ensure the unique value propositions for large enterprise customers are interoperable with those for SMB customers. Tiffany states: “What makes you successful in your SaaS business may be an obstacle when launching a self-serve API.” To address these obstacles, Tiffany used an approach she calls “STREAM,” an acronym for a six-stage API strategy execution methodology.
- Strategize: Build a “lean canvas within the lean canvas,” recognizing that your API is not starting in a green field.
- Team up: Bring all stakeholders in early to help them shift their thinking and have their needs on the table.
- Review: Identify and address points of friction between current and target business models.
- Engineer: Give early access to friendly customers and partners to surface missed needs and roadblocks.
- Affirm: Uncover the unknown unknowns and validate the known unknowns.
- Mechanize: Launch and test with all stakeholders engaged.
Using this approach helped Spectrum build momentum pre-launch and address internal and external obstacles early.
There are many other insights to be gained from the episode. Give it a listen! Follow the podcast on SoundCloud or subscribe to our newsletter above to get summaries of the episodes.