At TIS INTEC Group, we engage in CVC (Corporate Venture Capital) by making principal investments with our own funds rather than through fundraising activities. In our CVC activities, we strive to achieve growth in collaboration with startup companies in the industries and IT domains that TIS INTEC Group is engaged in. One of the companies that TIS is investing in is alt Inc., (“alt”), whose aim is to develop digital clones of users’ intentions to realize what is called P.A.I. (Personal Artificial Intelligence) by utilizing cutting-edge AI technologies. We interviewed Katsunori Yamagishi, who leads the CVC efforts at TIS, and Kazutaka Yonekura, CEO of alt, on what kind of world alt envisions and how the two companies plan to collaborate going forward.
The aim of “P.A.I.,” the Personal Artificial Intelligence that we advocate, is to digitize users’ intentions, place them in the cloud, and let the clones deal with any digital tasks. In today’s world, with the proliferation of smart devices and the information infrastructure driven by the internet, a single person can no longer physically operate the vast number of applications running on these devices. Given this background P.A.I., which serves as a “digitalized self,” can endlessly navigate the network world 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which would be impossible for us human beings. This will evolve our human potential from limited to replicable, which is the world envisioned by P.A.I.
People often ask, “How much freedom would you give personal AI in a business setting?” Well, specifically, I think we should be able to entrust it as far as making hiring decisions in interviews. In my opinion, judging whether a decision is correct is based on individual experience and obviously heavily influenced by the context of a person’s life up to that point. In other words, nothing is “definitively correct,” but rather, it is “correct for that person.” And a company, we believe, is the total sum of the “correct” of many individual decisions. Put another way, personal AI forms the foundation of increasing efficiency by combining a multitude of life choices.
Google’s approach to AI could very well be the polar opposite of ours. They seem to be trying to create a god-like AI. However, it is debatable whether the answers that this kind of AI produces are always the best for people’s actual lives. The decisions we make for ourselves, including the mistakes we make, are rich in diversity. Isn’t that what makes them “innately human”? And it is this innate humanness, or accumulation of individuality, that makes companies what they are. We are proud of our unique approach, especially because it facilitates the building of a company, which is essentially a collection of human beings, through digital technology.
I have been a business operator for some 20 years now, but from the very beginning, I thought it would be quite ambitious since my vision was to digitize people’s own ideas and intentions. That is why I advocated that we not be too quick to commercialize the concept, but rather that we gradually develop it into a business through steady research. In fact, we spent our first three years exclusively dedicated to research.
Because of that, although we had self-funded previous ventures, given the long road ahead of us, we decided it would be best to raise capital from supporters. We established alt with as much help from outsiders as possible, by reading numerous papers and directly contacting their authors if their concept matched ours, as well as enlisting the help of Professor Hitoshi Matsubara, the former president of JSAI (Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence), who has endorsed our project and also introduced us to researchers.
Our current product offerings include AI GIJIROKU, a speech-recognition-based meeting minutes taking application, as well as AI interpreter and AI call center products. The speech recognition technology, which is integral to these products, was originally designed as a dialogue engine that enables “personalized responses”. Generally speaking, if the AI misunderstands a question, it will return an answer that doesn’t match the question. Understanding proper nouns, for example, which is easy for humans, can be extremely difficult for AI, and this has been a significant challenge. We believed that our skills would allow us to achieve speech recognition personalized to each individual, so we began by developing a dialogue engine, and once we used that underlying technology for recording meeting minutes and such, we found that it had extremely high accuracy. Thanks to this, it has been extremely well received.
As Mr. Yonekura mentioned, we recognized that the company was well worth investing in, including the direction we wanted to take as a company, which led us to reach out to them. AI GIJIROKU did not yet exist at the time, but a large factor to invest in alt was how impressive the company’s philosophy, vision, and future worldview were. Since the concept of pursuing future digital clone technology was something that no other company, including Western companies, had, we were impressed by the company’s future foresight. We were also impressed by their ability to see the potential of connecting their development capabilities to specific services, and I had a intuition that Mr. Yonekura, is truly deserving of the title “serial entrepreneur.”
To begin with, they have a strong track record in the enterprise market, so the knowledge gained from that is very appealing. On top of that, we value the fact that, based on collaboration and co-creation, they can be our partner for the long haul, allowing us to work towards our world vision without being rushed. We each have our own visions for serving society, and that gives us high hopes for the years to come as future partners.
Of course, we’re aware of the difficulty of cultivating deep-tech companies like ours in Japan. That is why we feel that the existence of companies like TIS, who are willing to collaborate with us while making surprisingly quick investment decisions, is extremely important for technological innovation in Japan.
Thank you for the compliment. As we say in our TV commercials, at TIS INTEC Group, we are dedicated to “making society’s wishes come true through the power of IT,” and we want to grow alongside promising startup companies that contribute to solving the challenges faced by society. We invested in alt based on our belief that it is a start-up company able to fully meet the expectations of society and the market, and it is unmistakably in that growth process today. One of CVC’s inherent values, in my opinion, is that it serves as a launching pad for developing new services and businesses in collaboration with startup companies. Including alt, we hope to expand the value of our investee startups within our company and look forward to working together on a wide range of projects.
Technology & Innovation Division, Incubation Center
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