This 38-year-old serial entrepreneur's new startup is using AI to explore space - and mix cocktails
- Serial tech entrepreneur Ben Lamm thinks of himself as a modern-day explorer.
- Now on his fifth startup, an AI company called Hypergiant, Lamm is setting his sights on AI-powered space exploration.
- Lamm says that his insatiable curiosity, space nerdiness, and willingness to explore is what made him successful.
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Ben Lamm is a five-time founder, consistently launching and selling tech companies ranging from e-learning to mobile to artificial intelligence.His key skill: Beyond being an entrepreneur, he is, in his own words, an explorer.
"I think of business as a field that allows me to be, especially in the tech world, this modern-day explorer," Lamm, 38, tells Business Insider. "It creates this opportunity to explore new possibilities."
His exploring isn't metaphorical either, because Hypergiant is planning to partner up with satellite companies to integrate AI-guided satellites for imaging, communications, and even defense.
Before getting into AI, Lamm founded Simply Interactive, sold it, then founded Chaotic Moon, a mobile app company which he sold to Accenture in 2015. After that, he moved on to Team Chaos, which he sold to Zynga. Then in 2016 he founded Conversable, an SaaS AI platform that creates conversational bot technology.
His newest venture is Hypergiant, which he cofounded with former Accenture colleagues: John Fremont, a former AI developer there, and Will Womble, a former managing director. Hypergiant provides AI-based solutions for other companies. That means if a business needs a data-driven solution to a problem (maybe it wants to expand into a new sector, or it has too much user data to manage), Hypergiant teaches machines to teach themselves that solution.
One of their first projects was for restaurant chain TGI Friday's. They created a custom drink mixer named Flanagan (after Tom Cruise's iconic bartender in "Cocktail"), who could mix a drink for any given customer based on their preferences, history, and mood, all using AI.Lamm worked in several tech sub-sectors before landing in AI, which he initially knew nothing about. He eventually found a niche for his company within the AI world.
Why exploration matters so much for entrepreneurship
According to a 2010 study, if an entrepreneur is creative, they have a better chance of being successful in an increasingly crowded market. For would-be entrepreneurs, that means it's important to develop a sense of creativity and curiosity for everything, so that, per Steve Jobs, you can keep adding to your "bag of experiences."
Hypergiant, according to Lamm, came about because of client demand, not because Lamm had a sudden big idea. Companies Lamm had worked for at Conversable, such as Starbucks, Disney, and Pizza Hut, wanted bigger AI solutions than bots.
"AI's not a new thing," Lamm told Business Insider. "I know it's sexy right now and people are excited about it, but it's really more of a magic bullet. It's a different look at how you're leveraging and organizing data. I'm an 'AI guy,' but I've become an AI guy because I've just got this insatiable curiosity."
The takeaway: Keep exploring, and you'll find new opportunities.
The teamwork that makes the exploration work
Lamm says that he couldn't come up with these creative solutions without his team. "I really just look for opportunities in a certain area and then bring in really smart girls and guys to the table that are specialists in that category. My biggest goal has always been to build the category-defining brand."
When looking for someone to join the team, he places creativity above hard skills."Our work in space has taught us a lot about the fragile and connected ecosystem here on Earth and what's needed for us to survive in space," Lamm said. "That thinking ... has directed our hiring practices. We are looking for imaginative explorers and the people who make explorations a success - builders, creators, problem solvers. I care more about seeing someone's starry eyes light up about our vision of the future than their exact skillset."
A self-professed and decades-long space nerd, Lamm looks for people who are as excited about the future of AI in space travel as he is.
"If you've ever spent a day at NASA, you meet some of the most dedicated people in the world," he says. "These are some of the most talented engineers and scientists on the planet, but they're not there just for a paycheck. They work at NASA because they get to contribute directly to humanity's moonshots. Those are the type of people we're putting on the Hypergiant team, because those are the folks you need to solve the world's biggest problems."