Dulitha Wijewantha 🔮

Experimenting

For the longest time, one of my biggest passions in life was to experiment. This got me into learning French, writing stories, software development and many other oceans. This more or less gives me the feeling of Sinbad, the sailor that crossed the seven seas.

Startup

One of the biggest experiments I undertook this year was to build a startup. A pretty high stakes experiment but I am never the less loving it. Building alakazam also gives me the advantage of running large-scale experiments down the line with massive amounts of data but that’s another day’s story.

Experimentalist

Starting end of this year, I am going to document the journey of experimenting different things. One of the other fun things about experiments is that you get to connect with different types of people all around the world who are passionate about a variety of things.

What does this concretely mean? I’ll be starting to use my Instagram profile to mainly focus on experiments that I’ll be conducting and also write about those experiments on the medium blog from time to time.

I’d actually like to keep my personal blog to host mostly philosophical and personal opinions. I tend to read my personal blog from time to time to understand an accurate reflection of what my thoughts were months ago.

I do keep a personal journal, but having a public piece of writing gives me chance to relive the public mirror that I was showing at that particular moment of time.

Applications that behave like Humans

One thing I believe will happen in the future is that applications will start behaving more like personas and less like applications. Right now if you consider any technology product, you’d use it as a tool. A tool to get some action done. But with the advent of new AI technologies, we’d actually be able to build products that will mimic personalities. If you take your life you’d probably need few tools/ services to get by from the very early ages. First, your life starts with parents and then with nannies taking care of you. After nannies, there will be teachers who’d help you learn subjects in school and then you’d get into university where you’d have professors hounding you to submit papers.

But then something different happens. You are put into the adult world where you’d have to do things for yourself. You need to know a doctor, you need to know a lawyer, you need to know a real estate agent etc. These people help you in a variety of ways. They give you advice and gives you tools regarding their subjects.

Doctors and Lawyers

What if, instead of you directly going to your doctor, you’d have a personal AI-powered doctor right with you where ever you go? This doctor would know from birth all the problems and all check-ups and everything to do with your body. Let’s say you call this doctor, Clair. You’d ask Clair when you are having an eye twitch. You’ll ask Clair to schedule a doctors appointment. You’ll ask Clair about your medical routines.

Now take a lawyer. Let’s call him Lee. You ask Lee for anything that has to do with the law. For example, you get a parking ticket, you ask Lee to go overturn that. If you get a house eviction notice, you ask Lee for advice. If you have a complex legal document that requires analysis, you ask Lee and Lee will give you contextualized information about the legal document. Lee will also remind you of court dates, that you have to attend, or jury duty.

Personal Assistants

If you personify products, you get a real service out of them in a much more natural way. I see this move right now in the market with bots and personal assistants. First, let’s analyze the personals assistants.  Right now, all the giants have a personal assistant:- Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Facebook M.

A personal assistant is like having your own secretary. The secretary knows lightly of things to do but it won’t know how to exactly get things done. It will call upon assistants to do certain activities. If you apply this analogy to the real world, it breaks apart. Most of the time, secretaries are there for companies (or sometimes for people who are super busy). In the real world, what you’d mostly do is – reach out to your lawyer friend for advice. Let’s call him Roy. If Roy can help you across with your minor legal issue, he will do it pro-bono. But if he can’t help you since it’s not his specialty, he will give you details of another lawyer who is specialized on the subject.

This is where the personal assistant analogy fails. When the devices you interact with technology becomes obsolete, with VR, smartwatches and other forms of computing become more ubiquitous, you’d want personas that go with your across devices.

Current Implementations

There are several startups working on this particular notion of the idea across multiple verticals. Below is a small list of things I found interesting

  1. Replika.AI – Making a personified friend
  2. oDoc – Making a personified Doctor (they are still in the works for this feature)
  3. PennyApp – A personal Finance coach
  4. Alakazam – A Growth Assistant for Businesses

Current implementations have not even touched the full-blown power of this idea of having applications delivered as people. Over the next 5 years time, I believe we’d be able to see the shift happening in consumers where they will start preferring systems with personalities. I believe new set of unicorn companies will rise up to this wave of consumer demand.

The vision for Alakazam

Imagine you are a person who sells organic coffee in Singapore city. You spend your attention to source and roast the best coffee. You care a lot about coffee and giving your customers the best experience when shopping for coffee. You invest in designing and building your website for your coffee shop. You give a personal touch to all the packages of coffee that are sent out to your customers. But you have a problem. Your product isn’t selling enough. You want to increase sales and understand how this growth will work over time. Wouldn’t it be magical to have a single text box that you can enter the amount of money that you can invest to get customers and output would be a plan on how to execute this?

Even better, wouldn’t it be better if it gives you multiple plans and can execute those plans on its own and ask for help only when it’s needed? The execution strategy will evolve over time with the results gathered from the current execution and trends in the market. This is the final vision for Alakazam, a growth assistant that runs your sales and marketing all on its own. Voila, you can finally go and spend your attention on your coffee and deliver the best possible organic coffee to your customers.

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Why build Alakazam?

This is actually a question that I have wrestled for months to figure out what is the intrinsic motivation that I have which keeps pushing me to build Alakazam. I am pretty certain that it’s nothing to do with immediate gains (mainly as of right now it’s not a lot). Is it the possibility of building a unicorn? I don’t think that one suite the box either. I am trying to understand what got me to work on a product in the sales and marketing space more than anything else. 2 years ago-Dulitha, would have thought that I would start a company in Developer tools or Cloud computing. But strangely enough, I somehow landed myself to build a comprehensive marketing and sales product.

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