The Tech Forecast: Foy Savas on AI's Potential and Elixir's Power in Startups

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Cynthia  Gandarilla

Content Marketing Strategist

Cynthia Gandarilla

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Tech entrepreneur Foy Savas has a long history in the industry. And from AI to Elixir, he sees good things coming.

Savas is uniquely qualified to comment on the gamut of topics related to launching, running, and growing a modern-day digital product company. As a programmer who transitioned into finance, he earned a CFA, worked at a fund-of-funds, and became an investment principal sourcing and screening startups for venture capital investment. Then, eager to build again, he and his wife bootstrapped their own successful digital product company.

With that background, and years spent seeing what it takes to succeed in tech (and how many businesses don’t), what’s his outlook? To put it simply, he’s optimistic.

“I think the reality is that humans are more or less the same. We’re not evolving faster than our technology at this moment,” he said. “But what technology is enabling is to increasingly figure out the nuances of those needs.”

Pivot to Product-Market Fit

Savas knows the work required to launch and sustain a successful digital product business. He also knows first-hand that sometimes it takes a pivot to reach success.

In 2014 he and his wife founded what would eventually be called Auxpanel, a business intelligence product for dentists’ offices. The business idea originally grew out of Savas’ need for a large dataset of labeled images regular enough to train a convolutional neural net, a topic he was leading an NYU seminar on. He knew from his wife’s work as a dentist that dentistry practices would be a good source of exactly the kinds of images he needed.

What they’d originally planned to do was launch the business intelligence product as a way to get a foot in the door with dentists. From there, they’d convince their clients to move on to deeper integrations, providing the photo sets Savas needed in the process.

What they found, however, was that dentists weren’t interested in the deeper integrations. What they wanted, and what was valuable to them as users, was the data from Auxpanel’s business intelligence product.

So, they pivoted. And not long later, Auxpanel became a successful digital product company without ever having reached the purpose Savas originally envisioned.

“It’s an amazing product. It was not what I intended to build, but it’s there and it’s great,” he said.

Startup Success

Success in the tech and digital product industry hinges on a diverse range of elements, and those may differ depending on who the final product is designed for. Success could come down to writing business logic faster than the competition, securing product-market fit as soon as possible, or simply deploying as inexpensively as you can.

And any tech that helps you do things faster or cheaper is an edge. But more importantly, it’s a chance to differentiate yourself from the competition and better serve your customer, Savas said.

During his time vetting startups for venture investment, Savas reviewed companies’ tech stacks, among other things. And now he’s especially optimistic about Elixir and its potential to help startups scale and encode vital business logic easily.

“The combination of those two things, being able to cheaply scale without having to think about re-engineering your product all the time and being able to encode the business logic as quickly as possible, that is a very powerful combination (in Elixir),” he said. “And literally that is the future programming language right now.”

Looking Ahead: AI Deployment

Building a modern tech product is markedly different from the same process years ago. While it may still be possible in rare cases to build a new product in a few days and launch it to huge success, it’s increasingly unlikely. However, there are still plenty of opportunities to find and solve problems that make an impact on users’ lives.

One of the reasons entrepreneurs in particular should remain optimistic is the ability of startup teams to work far more nimbly than their enterprise competitors.

“There are definitely opportunities for small teams to outcompete large teams, to see opportunities in new emerging technologies that others don’t,” he said.

Chief among those technologies is artificial intelligence. The tech industry as a whole may be at the end of a business cycle, and it’s the companies making the most disciplined use of new tech, like AI, that stand to flourish in coming years.

Savas called out a framework put forward by economist Carlotta Perez of two periods for new tech: installation followed by deployment. AI may well be in the installation period, where usage increases dramatically after a new technology is introduced.

During the deployment period, the number of companies built on the foundation of the new tech might drop off, and the ones that remain tend to be those that will prosper long-term.

“We’re going to see people who come out in the second wave and they really know how to make it a business,” he said.

After more than a decade in the tech industry, Savas remains largely optimistic about its future. The right mindset and a willingness to listen to user needs—and pivot when necessary—can go a long way to finding success as a digital product company.


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