DarwinAI Names Sheldon Fernandez as CEO and Arif Virani as COO
Waterloo, ON, January 29, 2018 - DarwinAI is pleased to announce two key appointments to its Executive Team today. Effective immediately, Mr. Sheldon Fernandez will assume responsibilities as CEO of the organization, while Mr. Arif Virani will assume duties as COO.
Dr. Alexander Wong, a Canada Research Chair and Systems Design Engineering professor at the University of Waterloo, as well as Co-founder and CTO of the company expressed his excitement with the news:
“Our state-of-the-art technology deserves state-of-the-art leadership, which I believe we’ve found in Sheldon and Arif. Sheldon is a seasoned executive and highly respected thought leader, who previously founded a successful technology company that enabled Artificial Intelligence for the Enterprise. In Arif, we have a trusted leader whose proven track record both at a strategic and operating level – particularly in innovative technology adoption – gives us focus and discipline. The skill and talents of my new colleagues will be crucial as we attempt to commercialize our technology.”
DarwinAI is based on IP developed by Dr. Wong and his team at the University of Waterloo. Their work focuses on an area of Artificial Intelligence known as deep learning, which involves the construction of complex deep neural networks that emulate the cognitive capabilities of the human brain. In recent years, deep learning has started to achieve the remarkable: describing the content of images and videos in English words, playing GO at the championship level, and translating language with the sophistication of a human interlocutor.
Based on years of impressive scholarship, Wong and his team created a ground-breaking technology called Generative Synthesis, which generates deep neural networks with dramatically reduced sizes while maintaining functional accuracy. In addition, their Generative Synthesis technology gives rise to 'explainability' in deep learning, an unprecedented feature that allows users to understand how a network reaches its decisions.
Both technologies are key to the proliferation and acceptance of Artificial Intelligence, said the company’s new Chief Executive.
“We are uniquely positioned to enable AI at the ‘edge’ – TVs, smartphones, surveillance cameras, and autonomous vehicles such as drones. The optimization facilitated by Generative Synthesis permits complex deep neural networks to be deployed on small devices, which would be difficult if not impossible without our IP. However, this capability comes with pragmatic concerns such as privacy, ethics and transparency. This is where the explainability aspect of our platform is paramount. If you don’t know how a network reaches its conclusions, you don’t know when it will fail, so the ability to peek inside and unravel its inner workings is extremely valuable”.
Mr. Fernandez, who founded a software consulting firm called Infusion with five colleagues and grew it to 600 people before its acquisition last year, claims he’s always been drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of AI.
“People think Artificial Intelligence is primarily about technology, but that’s merely one aspect of the discipline. The prospect of truly intelligent machines has economic, ethical, and dare I say, existential dimensions. Although we’re advancing the AI narrative at DarwinAI, I think we are also building the tools to implement such systems intelligently.”
Newly appointed COO Arif Virani expressed similar sentiments about joining the company:
"Artificial Intelligence has the potential to transform industries. To date, this transformation has been led by large technology players with vast computing resources on the cloud. We're at the cusp of realizing what AI will look like on ‘edge’ devices."
"Not only can DarwinAI enable near real-time inference for the wide range of applications to which Sheldon eluded, it can also ensure privacy for sensitive video and biometric data by allowing for inference on local devices. Such capabilities, coupled with our features around explainability, will help our organization drive adoption of AI on the edge. I'm excited to be joining the forefront of innovation with DarwinAI. "
The Waterloo connection at the heart of DarwinAI cannot be overstated.
Mr. Virani worked with Mr. Fernandez several years ago before leaving Infusion to pursue his MBA at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and an impressive stint as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.
The two kept in touch, but matters got serious eight months ago when Virani introduced his former colleague to Dr. Wong whom he knew from their days as undergraduates together.
Several visits to Wong’s research lab off-campus followed, and plans quickly developed from there.
“The minute I saw their first demo I knew I had to be involved”, says Fernandez. “I wasn’t sure in what capacity, but I drove home that day with an excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time.”
“We’re a team of Waterloo grads connected by fate, circumstance and a shared vision” smiles Dr. Wong, “but now it’s time to make the vision real”.