South African AI start-up, Xineoh, has appointed former Chief Executive Officer of Grand Parade Investments, Alan Keet, and former Chief Technology Officer of News International in the United Kingdom, Xen Lategan, to its board.
Xineoh Chief Executive Officer, Vian Chinner, says Keet and Lategan will add significant value to the business.
“With the appointment of John Robison and Mark Morobito at the end of 2017, Xineoh created a strong board in terms of US West Coast representation, but we were a little light on people experienced people in South Africa.”
Keet says he left the corporate world to find a home in an entrepreneurial business and industry that is future-relevant. “I’m a chartered accountant by profession, who revels in initiating results or resolutions for entrepreneurially owned and operated business.”
He says his experiences at Grand Parade Investments and, before that, at Nolands South Africa taught him that business is about people. “It doesn’t matter what you sell or what industry your business is in, people are the ones who deliver the results. Treat these people well and fairly and be authentic in your relationships with all stakeholders and you have a chance at being successful.”
Keet met the Xineoh leadership through a mutual acquaintance. “We made an impression on each other and I was initially asked to be an advisor to the company. Shortly afterwards, I was invited to be a non-executive director. I have now taken on a more hands-on role to help commercialise what is undoubtedly a great business opportunity.
“Xineoh has enormous potential. It is operating in an industry that needs to build trust and credibility within a South African context. The engineering capability is immense, and the algorithm has massive potential to deliver solutions to any company with big data. I hope to play a role in bridging the gap between the potential and the actual success,” adds Keet.
Lategan is an experienced technology executive, specialising in digital media and eCommerce. He previously held positions at Accenture, Microsoft and Google before his appointment as Chief Technology Officer at News International where he led the roll-out of the operation’s new digital teams, platforms and consumer channels.
Since 2013, he has shifted his attention to machine learning, visual processing and other emerging technologies and has held various board advisory roles in this space, including at Conde Nast. He is also an active angel investor and mentor to various early stage technology companies, including deep learning startup, Magic Pony, which was acquired by Twitter in 2016.
Lategan says the United Kingdom, where much of his experience lies, has grown incredible talent in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) at companies such as Deep Mind and Magic Pony, which have already made major exits. “The downside to this massive interest in AI is that many startups and companies are developing superficial AI intellectual property and skills – without true, deep understanding and application.
“That’s why it was a refreshing surprise for me to find such deep talent and specialisation in South Africa. Vian’s team demonstrates capability comparable to the best United Kingdom and United States teams. Obviously, being from South Africa myself, I am also delighted to see Xineoh emerge from a country where talent remains largely untapped,” he adds.
Lategan believes AI is driving the new technology inflection. “I firmly believe AI will disrupt many industries dramatically over the coming years. Companies will be forced to change the way they work and invest in deep AI skills and applications, or not survive.
This sentiment is echoed by Keet, who says in the next decade there will be more people trained in the industry, more voice commands for entering data on smart devices and the cloud will be dominant, with all or most data being stored in a secure environment. “ML and AI will access this data and be able to deliver business logic that drives operational decision making. Anyone who ignores this reality will be left behind.”