Frequently Asked Questions
1. SwitchPoint Overview
Q. Who is behind SwitchPoint and what do you do?
We are a seasoned team of entrepreneurs who have worked together for a decade and previously led a cool healthcare AI company that we exited via strategic sale. We are in hot pursuit of efficient ways to use our AI superpowers to create value. The last thing we are ever going to do is build a widget and then look for a customer. Rather, in our chosen model as a venture studio, we search for companies, big and small, that desire to innovate. Through joint ventures, revenue shares, and direct equity positions, we devote our human and financial capital to create outsize value for, and with, our corporate partners. The full SwitchPoint team is directly involved in the ideation and building phases of every one of our projects. This differentiates us from organizations that participate downstream in the value creation process, such as accelerators, incubators, and VC funds.
Q. Everyone seems to be doing AI these days. What makes you different?
What has already been learned about the world is dwarfed by what remains to be discovered. As mere specks in the cosmos, we as individuals don’t claim to know all that much. As a team, however, we have mastered techniques that reveal the world’s beautiful secrets. We use these techniques to innovate at speed. There are two key factors that differentiate us from the many voices out there claiming to use AI. First of all, and we’re sad that we even have to say this, we actually do practice AI. The data world is fraught with window dressing and, for your own protection, we would encourage you to look under the hood whenever you hear claims of AI. Secondly, we are very practical. If a highly accurate model cannot be put into operation efficiently and profitably, it’s junk. That’s why we’re focused on both model accuracy and utility. When it comes to deploying AI in operations, we have been to the mountaintop many times. We know the best routes and where the pitfalls lie.
Q. What forms of AI do you practice?
All forms. Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics, Natural Language Processing, Classification and Clustering, Information Extraction, Speech-to-Text (and vice versa), Sentiment Analysis, Image Recognition, Computer Vision, Planning, Scheduling & Optimization, Reinforcement Learning, Combinatorial Optimization, Expert Systems, Inference Engines, Knowledge Bases. When it comes to data, we work with all formats, we know where to find it, and we are not constrained by volume or complexity. We are well-versed in all of the major data science platforms. Ready for action.
Q. Isn’t AI supposed to be evil?
In the same way that a tool such as fire can be used to cook a nourishing meal or burn down a building, AI can be used either as a force for good or for malevolence. As servant leaders, we are firmly in the former camp, so much so that we only perform work that dignifies human beings. We routinely turn down lucrative opportunities because they don’t mesh with our personal values. It has been proven time and time again that it’s possible to make money in ways that make the world a better place for all. Since life is short, we choose to work with others who have the same attitude. When intentional people use their tools to achieve positive goals, many nourishing meals get cooked and many buildings are saved from ruin.
Q. Which industries do you work in?
We cut our teeth working in the highly complex and regulated world of healthcare and continue to do a great deal of work in that area (there’s still so much to accomplish). However, we have worked in many other industries, for example, real estate, financial services, consumer retail, industrial, agriculture, wearable tech, insurance, and emergency preparedness. We have yet to encounter an industry where we haven’t been able to move the needle in a significant way. Nothing is off-limits, and we enjoy exploring.
Q. Can we hire SwitchPoint as a consultant?
The answer is typically, ‘Afraid not,’ as it doesn’t fit with our belief that the most valuable breakthroughs come via alignment of interests. That said, we do make the occasional exception. We have been known, for example, to take on services work for esteemed research institutions that are doing critical work in human health. We will also make exceptions if the work jives with our personal interests, gives us an opportunity to employ AI in novel ways, or could develop into one of our preferred models: joint ventures, revenue shares, and direct equity positions.
Q. Will SwitchPoint invest in my company?
We are not set up to be a VC fund. Rather, we are intentionally a startup studio, focused on the bringing to life and subsequent commercialization of powerful ideas. As we continue to grow, however, we envisage the possibility of raising funds to support the ventures we create and the early stage companies we support. We’re also keen to make introductions for our partners and will try our best to open doors with investors (as well as potential customers and strategic partners).
2. Our Innovation Process
Q. Where do your ideas come from?
First and foremost, we look for industry experts who possess innovative, growth mindsets and who have a strong bias towards action. When the time is right, we invite them to a creative dialogue where they can express their proudest victories, their present needs and challenges, and their grand vision. To that dialogue, the SwitchPoint team brings fresh eyes, the benefit of our own diverse experiences and, most importantly, our knowledge of what’s possible through technology. These conversations generate a significant amount of energy and invariably yield completely new ideas. We often draft papers that capture our epiphanies. As for the epiphanies themselves, they come from the normal sources: taking showers and sitting in traffic.
Q. How do you find your partners?
To date, all of our partners have come from our personal networks and warm referrals. We love to work with friends, former colleagues, and friends of friends. We are quite happy to stay in this mode as we’d much rather go deep with a limited number of partners (for example by launching a series of ventures) than pursue an ever-expanding roster of clients.
Q. What do you look for in your partners?
Industry expertise, innovative mindset, timely feedback, a commitment to serve as the first customer of a validated solution, and to the extent a new venture is envisaged, seed funding (to be deployed according to milestones). Bonus marks for voluminous data with which to train our models and attractive channels to market.
Q. Once you have settled on an idea, how do you implement it?
Viewed through the lens of our partner’s business, the idea yields the objective, which then allows us to generate the scope. From there, our team visits a dark limestone cave somewhere in Middle Tennessee, where it spends several days brainstorming on how to use technology to accomplish the objective. Upon returning from said cave, we share our approach with our corporate partner and agree to terms. We then accumulate as much data as we can find – from our partner, free and paid sources, as well as our own trove – which we use to train our models. We often take a ‘kitchen sink’ approach, letting the machine reveal the world’s hitherto unknown secrets, and then handcraft models to patch into the true insights. In a matter of weeks, we report back to our partner to present our results. Their reaction tells us all we need to know. We iterate as necessary until we see that look on their face that says, “I can’t believe it. You can’t begin to understand the value this will bring to my industry.” To which we reply, “We’re only just getting started.” To the extent our deal calls for a joint venture, we form the entity, hire the initial team (normally one person in sales/biz dev and one in operations/product), and begin scaling.
Q. How involved is SwitchPoint in each project?
Early on in a project, our full team is immersed. Post-validation of our solution, we continue to support our partner and, if applicable, the new joint venture. If at any point our partner or the joint venture would like to take over solution development and/or monitoring, that’s completely fine and we will happily train our replacements. Considering we will maintain an ongoing interest in the solution through our aligned interest model, we view such a weaning process as a natural progression and, ultimately, a mark of success.
Q. What kinds of services does SwitchPoint bring to its partners and ventures?
The skillset of the core team comprises strategy, math, coding, AI, IT program management, legal, finance, and marketing strategy. Outside of the core team, we routinely work with trusted service providers skilled in data structuring, data science platforms, hosting, branding, content generation, software development, web design, law, accounting, tax, HR, and insurance. We consider our service providers to be team members and work with many of the same providers on multiple projects. Any one project could have 20+ professionals sourced by SwitchPoint.
Q. How much time will it take before a venture seeks external funding or exits?
While it will vary by venture, SwitchPoint envisages 6-12 months until a venture operates on a standalone basis and 18-24 months until it has raised its first round of funding or otherwise obtains an exit. SwitchPoint’s corporate partner will have full governance rights with respect to the venture and be fully involved in all corporate decisions involving the venture.
Q. How many ventures do you plan to launch?
For starters, we believe in quality over quantity and don’t notch our gun. However, so that we can fully utilize the immense capacity afforded by AI, we do set pipeline goals for ourselves. We aim to bring on one new project per quarter. Some of our projects will turn into standalone ventures, some will take the form of a revenue share, and some will comprise services in return for a direct equity position in our partner.
3. Typical Terms
Q. How much funding will each venture receive?
Once the innovation objectives have been confirmed, SwitchPoint and its corporate partner will discuss and agree upon a budget for the venture. The budget is used to determine the minimum capital commitment that the corporate partner will make to the venture. Capital will only be called as and when the venture passes through its agreed milestones.
Q. How will equity be shared?
While SwitchPoint and its corporate partner will hold the majority of the equity, a material amount consistent with market norms will be reserved for individuals recruited to lead and support the venture. The venture will most likely be a C Corporation, which confers tax advantages, provides a convenient mechanism for incentive stock compensation and is the preferred entity of institutional investors.
Q. What is it like to join a SwitchPoint project as an early employee?
You will be dedicated to a single project and expected to hit the ground running, think and act like an owner, and achieve goals that we set with you. At the same time, you will be considered a full partner from day one and be supported throughout by the SwitchPoint team, its corporate partner, and the network of service providers collaborating on the project. We hope and intend that you will feel strong intrinsic motivation from the freedom and authority you will have, coupled with the fact that you will be making a tremendous impact on the overall direction of the project. Of course, we will supplement that with extrinsic motivation in the form of compensation. Legally, you will be an independent contractor of SwitchPoint until such time as the new venture is formed, at which point you and any other team members will be transferred to the newco.