Interview

AITech Interview with Scott Leatherman, CMO, Veritone

Veritone

Veritone’s mission is to democratize AI and build a transparent society. How do you empower your customers to be more efficient and gain a competitive edge?

1. Can you give us a brief of your career before Veritone?

a. I spent the first decade of my career at startups. Two of them were invested by SAP, so when the second company was acquired by SAP, I took the advice of my mentor (Pete Tierney, former CEO of MarketFirst and CMO of Oracle) who advised me to explore a fortune 500 company. That decision turned into a decade-plus career with SAP in marketing roles that included working with some of the best global leaders, like Doug Merritt, Steve Lucas, Jennifer Morgan, Vishal Sikka, Jonathan Becher, and many others. As COO of the US labs, SAP sent me to Israel to work with the local team and startups. That’s when I rediscovered the start-up addiction. (I had to travel halfway around the world to rediscover Silicon Valley – a place where I have lived my entire life.) I joined a small company and helped it evolve into a quick liquidity event. I joined Veritone when it was less than 300 people and a little over a 18 months later we are now close to 700 employees. Veritone is a l publicly traded company with a huge portfolio disrupting multiple industries through a powerful AI platform.

2. Could you tell us more about Veritone and what was the inspiration behind joining this company?

a. The mission to democratise AI spoke to me on so many levels. We are solving many of the problems that are making headlines on CNN, CNBC and FOX news every day. Whether it’s helping make the government more efficient, green energy more sustainable, giving ADA access to localised content or helping companies find new diverse talent, the Veritone aiWARE platform is solving major global problems. The marketing challenge and opportunity to take a large diverse portfolio to market is something that keeps my brain and passion constantly engaged.

3. What are the marketing challenges for companies promoting the deployment of AI? How do you advise handling these challenges?

a. AI has been “AI-washed” on a lot of apps that have basically an advanced algorithm dressed up as AI.

Large AI projects have more human bodies than software and very loose time to value statements.
Lastly, AI projects leverage a lot of open-source tools and models that are being commoditized faster than Moore’s Law. My guidance is to standardise on a platform–not a modelling solution–that has open API’s for fast data source or application integration. I believe a platform that is model agnostic is better long term, as we see the model processing cost drop dramatically. So, being able to pivot based on the business need without having to rebuild is the future of AI projects.

4. What are the technology solutions that Veritone offers?

a. We have a large portfolio–for the sake of brevity we have an AI platform that is actually an AI OS that powers several industry applications across Fed, SLED, Energy, Media and Entertainment, HRM and Web3 industries.

5. What makes Veritone unique? How does it stand out from its competitors?

a. From the large players, we have a platform and off-the-shelf applications with a very small services team. We are often lumped into a category of smaller model makers and large model makers like Google or AWS, where they are partners not competitors. Our Web3 solutions have won several awards including product of the year in 2021 and 2022 at NAB.

6. What kind of data are you using to feed your AI engine continuously?

a. We ingest on average 50K hours of media content from our customer content on AWS every day. 80% of data in enterprises is unstructured. Our customers are finding gold automating the processing of unstructured data and taking legacy assets back to market for monetization at scale–both in the real world and in immersive channels.

7. Could you give a sneak peek into the recent developments at Veritone?

a. Some of the most fun I am having is around synthetic voice and hyperlocalization. For example, think about the most successful podcasts and how they are largely in English. With our Veritone Voice solution, we can capture the brand value of the voice owner to localize the content and open up international markets through AI voice transcription, translation and voice streaming. Our AI automation and Veritone Voice solution will improve ADA accessibility and public sector communications.

8. Could you tell us more about your work culture, and what makes Veritone’s culture unique?

a. We are a remote-first company, but that’s not unique anymore. As a geographical diverse company, Veritone affords cultural leadership to come from all levels of talent and seniority. Our senior leadership team is aligned on servant-based leadership. Because we work with some of the largest brands in the world and some of the coolest projects, like the Elvis movie, our work is both meaningful and fun. Building cutting-edge innovation is every developer’s dream–seeing it leveraged by brands you know and love makes it very rewarding.

9. In your opinion, what are the most exciting topics in AITech right now? How do you keep up with the constantly changing landscape?

a. While it’s probably not the most exciting topic in the abstract, low-code AI development tools are creating a sea change in the industry. Our solution, Automate Studio, enabled a small team of four people to create in six weeks the first version of our Veritone Voice, which is a synthetic voice modelling solution that has won several awards including product of the year at NAB in 2021.

10. What is the biggest piece of advice you would want to give to company leaders?

a. Do not confuse a company that has more people than software on your project as an AI platform company. If it has never been built before, call Deloitte or another leading GSI business to build a bespoke application. A red flag is when an AI platform company’s services scope is more than the solution, or they are not able to win the business with a proof of concept.
b. Know your AI models and pricing. It is the equivalent of knowing what goes into making breakfast. I can serve you steak and eggs that cost $10 or $100, based on what ingredients I use. Lots of companies have standardized on a model that is being commoditized or disrupted. Do not rob your future today by buying AI solutions tied to two legacy models.

11. Where do your passions lie? What do you think defines you as a person?

a. Service through leadership. I get so pumped up when employees and customers are excited about their work. I had a customer text me and email what he created with our solution–out of pure excitement to share. His excitement fueled my energy for days. An employee apologized to me last week for sending me a Slack about an exciting idea at 4:00 a.m. It woke me up, but I agreed with the employee. It was a great idea, and I was happy all day because of the way my day started.

12. Which motivational quote drives you to achieve more at work?

a. “Software can save the world” – Bill Gates. I believe it’s up to us to fix our mistakes and solve the problems of tomorrow.

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Scott Leatherman

CMO, Veritone

Currently, Mr. Leatherman is the CMO of Veritone (VERI), a leading AI platform and application company that won back-to-back product of the year awards for Synthetic Voice and Avatars at the NAB conference. Previously, Mr. Leatherman was COO of SAP Labs US and was the first GTM Lead for SAP HANA and built the first HANA marketplace for SAP. Before SAP, Scott worked in several startups for over a decade, focusing on MarTech, Security, and Compliance.

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