The Business of AI: Q&A With Cam Linke

We know that AI is impacting virtually every industry.

Forward-thinking business leaders know that they need to get into the game or risk being left behind. But the vast majority of them don’t know where to begin.

We sat down with machine learning researcher, venture capitalist and Amii CEO, Cam Linke, to get his take on AI adoption in industry and his advice for executives in a rapidly changing AI landscape.

Q: How would you describe the pace of change we are currently experiencing in the AI space and its impact on industry leaders?

There’s so much change right now. You reverse 15 months ago when ChatGPT suddenly popped on the scene and the amount of change that has happened in generative AI since then completely outpaces the growth of AI in the past.

This acceleration of new technologies and new model studies around AI have definitely made the job of executives more challenging, but I hope it’s really interesting at the same time. There’s new tools and new opportunities to be able to do something exciting every day. That’s awesome. That’s fun.

Q: How are Canadian companies stacking up when it comes to AI advancement and adoption?

Right now, if you look at AI adoption across North America, in the US about 14% of companies are actively using AI. In Canada, we are at 4%. Unfortunately, we are often laggards when it comes to the adoption of new technologies.

Q: What does that mean for Canadian companies?

The challenge right now is that when you’re going through such a pace of change around technology that we’re going through in AI, you end up in a position where the companies that invest early gain an almost insurmountable lead. Even when it’s just little steps early on, those compound really quickly. We call this a K-shaped gap that ends up happening with companies that invest in AI versus companies that don’t.

The companies that invest get those productivity gains, they get access to more data, they get access to more customers. Companies who don’t make that investment fall behind quickly, to a point that it can seem impossible to catch up.

It’s something we really need to think about in Canada - being the place that invests in AI and making sure that our companies are investing really heavily in that area so that we can close that gap as quickly as possible.

"It’s not scary once you actually start to dig in, and you can see very quickly the ingredients you need in order to drive value in your business."

- Cam Linke, Amii CEO

Q: In your experience, what’s holding them back from taking that leap?

The thing we hear from business leaders all the time that’s preventing them from investing is really that knowledge and fear gap of “I know this is going to affect my industry, I know this is something that we should be leveraging as an organization. But I don’t know where to start.”

Investing in AI is different from investing in engineering or IT. Many companies just don’t have a framework for how to get going or how to make sure they’re not just spending a whole bunch of money in a direction they don’t understand.

Q: So what’s the answer? How do you bridge that gap?

It’s understandable why business leaders would struggle with this. There’s something new every day on the front of the paper - and it’s either doom and gloom or utopia. It’s a lot.

At Amii, our goal is to leverage our decades-long expertise in AI research, of pushing the forefront of AI, as well as the years of work that we have in helping companies implement it to drive business value. We want to enable as many business leaders as possible to bring AI into their organizations and make it work for them.

Q: What’s the first step for business leaders who want to explore AI but don’t know where to start?

The biggest thing we’ve found is that many executives just need a base of AI literacy to be able to take the leap and make that investment. Understanding why, and demystifying the terms so that they have a basis of understanding to start making decisions.

At Amii we’ve done a lot of training, a lot of base-level AI literacy, to help people broadly get going. Recently, we’ve developed the Executive AI Summit - led by me and designed specifically for executives and corporate board members to help them navigate decisions around AI adoption. Tapping into the unique expertise we have here at Amii can really give executives a leg up and an opportunity to build momentum.

It’s not scary once you actually start to dig in, and you can see very quickly the ingredients you need in order to drive value in your business. But that base AI literacy is really the most important part to help your teams get going.

Q: What would you say to executives and corporate board members who are still hesitating when it comes to exploring opportunities in AI?

It’s probably the most exciting time in AI, because the number of tools and the real business value that’s being driven by AI is greater than it's ever been before. Lots of change brings lots of opportunity, and we’re at the point where that opportunity and that business value are both growing incredibly quickly. So really, there’s no better time for leaders to be investing in AI.

Interested in the Executive AI Summit? Click here for more information!

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