Edit/Clarification since "AI-receptionist" is throwing things off a bit:

Our team is real, U.S.-based receptionists, answering the phones and chats. We built an AI-powered system assisting them in doing an amazing job. So yes, we can all agree that automated phone trees are frustrating. Thankfully that's not what this is about.

  • We're not a bot IVR system ("Press 1 for an awful experience, 2 to get frustrated").
  • We're not replacing humans with robots
  • We are not ushering the downfall of humanity (but I've enjoyed that discussion, so thanks)

Hello Reddit! My name is Justin Maxwell. I've designed websites, apps, products & led design teams for Apple, Google & Android, Mint.com/Intuit, Sony, and some very bad ideas startups along the way, ranging from those that fizzled out to those that turned into books & movies...like Theranos. (Oh, I even got to make the vector art for Jhonen Vasquez's Invader Zim logo along the way.)

Eventually I realized I'm a terrible employee, I hate writing weekly status reports for managers, and I like building things directly for customers I can speak with. So, in 2015, I started Smith.ai with Aaron Lee (ex-CTO of The Home Depot) — we're customer qualification for small businesses, with humans assisted by AI. We're popular with Attorneys, I.T. Consultants, Marketers, and a long tail of everyone from home remediation to agricultural lighting systems providers.

In the past 3 years we've been growing in the high double digits, answered hundreds of thousands of calls, our customers love us, and we're able to even give back to the charities & communities our team cares about. What sets us apart is our combination of humans + AI and extreme focus on customer need. So, ask me anything!

Proof: (first time trying truepic, lmk if this is incorrect) https://truepic.com/GXRIPLLA/

(this is being x-posted to /r/law and /r/lawschool)


Thank you all so much for this incredible discussion. I honestly thought this was a 1 hour AMA that would fizzle out by 10am PST...and then we hit front page and the AI doomsdayers showed up. Then we got into some real juicy stuff. Thank you.

Edit (2018.08.29): I do not wish to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. Sorry, it's nothing personal, I am sure you are a great person, but that's not how I use LinkedIn.

Comments: 552 • Responses: 87  • Date: 

Sweetragnarok236 karma

As a former receptionist, is your technology aim to replace or aid office assistants in their jobs?

pantalonesgigantesca184 karma

Aid. 100%. No replacement goals.

There's a good parallel between this question and the other one here about AI replacing programmers. What we consistently hear is that when businesses begin using our services (our own receptionist team, assisted by our AI, our website AI + Human chat, and our cloud phone system), it frees up their in-house team (office/adminstrative assistants, paralegals, etc.) to focus on work closer to the guts of the business. Essentially, by the time a caller or website visitor gets to you, they are already qualified, booked, paid, and "taken in" (having completed the intake forms). So your job is no longer to answer the phone every time it rings and hang up on Yelp salespeople, it's to continue doing your best work for new and existing customers.

(Also, we are hiring, so if you know any amazing receptionists who want to work from home, please send them our way.)

Edit: more words

FarkCookies64 karma

It would be great if you gave an honest answer not this prepared PR talk. 90% of what you wrote reads as a sales pitch.

pantalonesgigantesca134 karma

That's funny. I'm the cofounder of the company and none of this is prepared. Twice I've already been asked to correct my replies by others in the company. It's unfortunate that you perceive honest responses as prepared PR but as a fellow redditor I understand the skepticism. Of course, I can answer any questions you have about Rampart too.

The honest truth is that things are going well and we were invited to give an AMA since many of our clients are active in r/law and r/lawschool. But if this was prepared I probably wouldn't be talking about crappy clients in my answers. So, what would you like to see me doing differently here, what questions of yours are not getting answered well enough? I don't see any. Honestly, I'd like your constructive feedback.

xuankun100 karma

I think OP is looking for a more straightforward answer to he question of: if all goes well for you and your product, do you envision a decrease in the number of receptionists your clients employ or no change?

pantalonesgigantesca91 karma

Thanks for translating.

No. Absolutely not. We see the following:

- Solo proprietorships and boutique firms who previously answered calls or chats themselves (read: let calls go to voicemail and never answer chats) are now using our services. As we employ actual receptionists, this is an addition to the job pool, not a subtraction

- Businesses who previously had an office manager, customer service lead, or other skilled worker answering calls & chats are now freeing that person up to focus on different tasks, using our team to qualify customers. Nobody has lost a job on their side. On our side, we have to hire more receptionists to keep up with demand

Successful businesses with in-house full-time receptionists find those receptionists greeting and managing people in the office as a core part of their job duties. Those people are already new and existing customers. By setting foot in the office, they are already qualified (high intention). We're adding people to the job pool by creating an additional layer of skill for the incoming communication stage.

Our charter since day 1 has been Real Receptionists + Machine Intelligence. The first part of that requires the humans, which in this case are amazing receptionists, real people, nobody being replaced.

ataraxic8930 karma

Why would he say yes to that?

That would be fucking stupid.

Obviously thats what will happen. But if it was your company, youd have to be an idiot to publicly announce that "yes, we will kill jobs"

MasterLJ16 karma

His product has a value to businesses by freeing up receptionist's time, so by definition, if your skill set is relegated to receptionist skills, and you have no interest or desire to expand -- this hurts the job market for you.

In the very best of scenarios it changes the responsibilities of the receptionist, requiring a broader set of skills, for more-than-likely, the same pay, because if takes less time to do their core skills, their hours will be slashed or they will be expected to do other work.

Look, I'm a business guy too, I'm also a software engineer, I also specialize in automation and eCommerce, and I believe most people blow the impending AI boom out of proportion (save for driving related jobs - uh oh), and am always a fan of progress, even if it stings -- but it's a life goal to be open and honest no matter what the cost. So while OP's answers are probably in the top 1% of possible, really good and diplomatic answers, it doesn't sit well with me personally; their product is not helping receptionists.

fdafdasfdasfdafdafda22 karma

it frees up the receptionists time because his business is literally providing you a cheaper receptionist. why would you need 2 receptionists?

His business let's you get rid of your office because your receptionist is virtual so hell you could save a lot of money.

I don't know how the AI stuff works but it looks like his receptionists are real live people who just work remotely.

pantalonesgigantesca23 karma

You get it. One of our earliest clients is a financial advisor/tax preparer who has never had a physical office. He works with all his clients remotely. Before us, he answered all incoming comm himself and had to deal with logistics, rescheduling, etc. After us, all incoming calls go to us, we handle the booking, payment, and scheduling, and they show up on his calendar as a fully qualified client, ready to talk taxes. Nobody's been displaced.

PoopNoodle5 karma

Much more likely is that the 2nd receptionist would have never been hired anyway due to being cost prohibitive.

pantalonesgigantesca11 karma

Ha! The first receptionist would have never been hired. That's really the point we are trying to make here. This wasn't a choice between A Receptionist and Cheaper Receptionist, it was a choice between No Receptionist and A Receptionist, and we're A Receptionist.

FarkCookies11 karma

The honest truth is that technology as a side effect causes un- or underemployment, this is a fact. Current technological revolution is not just the next industrial revolution for many reasons, some are summed up in this video. Now I am not against technology, I myself work in IT, but we need to look right in the face of the looming existential crisis and AI is at the forefront of it. If your product improves the productivity of office assistants by 100%, the half of them will be fired. It won't happen instantaneously, but it may happen very fast.

My question is are you willing to frankly discuss and look into negative effects of the technology and how we as a society can mitigate them?

zephoxuk9 karma

Well, the industrial revolution caused an increase in jobs. So I guess that answers your question.

pantalonesgigantesca31 karma

And similarly I do not believe that the world is overall concerned about the historical displacement of telephone switchboard operators with the advent of PBX switching systems. There are a lot of things in the world I am (and obviously /u/FarkCookies is) concerned about. It's easy to be fearful about our futures in the face of uncertainty. AI as a nebulous concept creates an "AI can do my job and I will be out of work" fear. But 22 year olds working 70 hour weeks fueled on Soylent while sharing an apartment with 8 other people are also putting fear in the hearts of people twice their age doing half the work. Uncertainty is scary.

pantalonesgigantesca3 karma

Yes. I share your concerns. Part of my reasons for leaving previous companies was that I didn't feel good about what I was spending my time doing. I feel confident we are bringing benefit to the people we employ now, ranging from financial through occupational through social. It's important to split hairs here: We provide a very valuable layer of client qualification and communication triage for businesses. We also block spam and robocalls.

Edit: more words

cyclingsocialist-1 karma

Thanks for that video. Says a lot of stuff that I've been trying to tell folks for years.
It seems u/pantalonesgigantesca isn't willing to address the implications of further AI integration with the workplace, or doesn't see those implications as serious concerns.

pantalonesgigantesca1 karma

Or perhaps I'm working my way through other questions that aren't tunneling down this single train of thought and might get back to sharing my naive opinions on a future none of us can predict. There's no "isn't willing to", you're just not the only one in here. Hold your 🐎s. I'm coming back to this, I promise.

Cocomorph11 karma

I think the problem is that it sounds like you've gotten too good at elevator pitches and have absorbed it into your natural way of speaking about such things.

pantalonesgigantesca11 karma

Ha! I'm half apologetic and half honored. Sorry for sounding inauthentic!

Sweetragnarok18 karma

Ooooo can you DM me the hiring link? I have a Stay at home mom friend who may like that.

pantalonesgigantesca30 karma

Done, thanks! Many of our receptionists are Stay-at-home moms.

ChiquaMonroe15 karma

I'm also a stay at home mother looking for work. Can you DM me the link as well?

pantalonesgigantesca18 karma

https://smith.ai/careers (public, so no DM needed)

DabneyEatsIt26 karma

Can you explain the Glassdoor review that mentions that you deduct from a person's check for mistakes?

pantalonesgigantesca75 karma

Gladly. In the beginning (at least 2 years ago) we used to have a reward/penalty system on top of a base pay rate. That wasn't the right strategy for many reasons, so instead we raised our bar for hiring significantly and eliminated low performers during the screening process. Now we only provide financial reward, and those rewards range from receiving customer praise to monthly awards for different categories (e.g., pitching in for missed shifts). This has been a crash course in Ops for us, but I should mention that our team leadership is made of the most senior receptionists themselves. Aside from me and Aaron, the entire hiring, recruiting, orientation, and support teams are staffed and managed by receptionists who've joined us by answering calls and chats. They have been involved in and often hold ownership for these decisions, from pay to shift management, every step of the way.

james0n8 karma

So with 107 WPM and a 300/25 mb connection it said I didnt meet the requirements? Sounds pretty tough to get in.

pantalonesgigantesca14 karma

It looks like you failed the Twilio bandwidth criteria by 67 kBits. Something is not quite right. Your speedtest bandwidth is spectacular. Let's blame Twilio. Would you mind running the Twilio WebRTC network test again?

pantalonesgigantesca13 karma

Yeah there we go! >1Mbit now for your minimum value. You'd pass But we'll look in to this. The discrepancy between Twilio and Speedtest for you is odd.

Avonescence4 karma

When you say flexible hours/scheduling is this mainly a 9-5 type job, are there any opportunities say 6pm and later/weekends? EST.

pantalonesgigantesca11 karma

Our team answers calls from 6a–6p PST / 9a–9p EST. If you fall within those hours, we're hiring. When we started out we offered services on the weekends too, and unfortunately there just wasn't enough demand to keep it staffed. But I do really appreciate your asking. If you want to know more, or any specifics, please DM me.

beyondcherryblossm1 karma

Will you be looking at hiring outside of the US any time soon?

pantalonesgigantesca4 karma

Canada, Mexico, yes. Outside there, no. Minimal call latency is a fundamental value of our services, something we strive to keep a competitive edge on.

Creathus7 karma

I am currently enrolling a study in Software Engineering. Did I make a bad choice? (We learn Java and Python, but also Cyber Security).

EDIT: I clicked on "here" after posting this comment. It seems us programmers will do higher/more advance tasks. That sounds awesome and reassuring.

pantalonesgigantesca17 karma

Nope! Good choices. We build a lot on Python. Any field of study that allows you to build things you want to exist is worthwhile in life.

rebecca0nline7 karma

Except Perl. Dont study Perl.

pantalonesgigantesca10 karma

Right? You say that, but one of the best engineers I know is insane in Perl and does things in one line that would take me 10 in js or ruby. It's his superpower. And still I have no desire to even learn it.

basskittens7 karma

I used to be "that guy" with Perl. Now I do everything script-y in Python. You really don't need both.

pantalonesgigantesca7 karma

Well look who it is

JonathanRL6 karma

(Also, we are hiring, so if you know any amazing receptionists who want to work from home, please send them our way.)

As a receptionist with far too much free time at work, this sets off my /r/antiMLM bells...

pantalonesgigantesca29 karma

We have these awesome knives all your neighbors will love.

radii3143 karma

liar, the effect will to take ur jerbs

pantalonesgigantesca14 karma

do u want a jerb? we r hirin

Eeuukee2 karma

How would a potential virtual receptionist apply?

pantalonesgigantesca2 karma

Here

And thank you for the interest!

orangejulius86 karma

What the fuck happened at Theranos? When did you realize it was time to bail?

pantalonesgigantesca142 karma

/u/JohnCarreyrou 's amazing book, Bad Blood, covers the first half of this answer better than any I can give (and I'm honored to be in it!). What happened is still a mystery today when you drill into the "why" part. I might think about this more and answer as we go. I realized it was time to bail after I'd been repeatedly lied to, after people I trusted were fired and disparaged publicly ("not a team player" etc.), and after the scientists I was working with told me that information being shared was different than what had actually happened. Even today, even after contributing my story to John in the book, I am still kind of paranoid about writing this as I think I've received three different threats from their lawyers over the years.

orangejulius37 karma

What were the threats? That sounds wildly inappropriate.

pantalonesgigantesca101 karma

Oh, Theranos was a massive exercise in "wildly inappropriate". Not the Uber kind of "wildly inappropriate" but a special flavor of it involving human blood.

The threats were C&Ds regarding my linkedin profile, my portfolio, and a talk I had once done where I mentioned I worked for a UI on a "healthcare vampire robot" or something like that. Seriously like only 2 seconds of attention given to them in a talk about User Experience Design and they probably spent $10K on lawyers to intimidate me. I even had to contact the host of the talk to have them edit that segment out of the published video.

forever_erratic21 karma

I just finished Bad Blood, /u/JohnCarreyrou, damn what a book!

I'm a biologist at the interface of the wet lab and computation, and it just boggles my mind how long Holmes (and some company) were able to get away with it, and get so much money in the meantime.

Since you weren't directly involved in the biology/biochem, did you have to personally face any ethical conundrums? What did everyone being siloed from each other feel like in person? Were you taken in by Holmes' charisma as well?

Thanks!

pantalonesgigantesca53 karma

Just the ethical conundrum of continuing to work there, really. I wasn't personally involved in any situations where I'd have to lie to someone, but I worked with people who were and that helped solidify my decision to leave.

Charisma is an interesting word. When we use it everyday we often associate it with charm. In her case it was more just intensity. She has an intensity about her worthy of a David Attenborough narration, right down to facial expressions and staring contests. So when I first interacted with her — and keep in mind this had all been built up to me then, she was "the next Steve Jobs", this was going to change the world, this was a star trek tricorder, blah blah blah — I came into the situation thinking I was fortunate and being given a seat on a rocket ship. Most people joining were in similar situations. The myth and hype hit us like a tidal wave even before we got to work. She then maintained that confidence and demeanor in the office, so when someone would say "psst, by the way, x isn't actually working" Elizabeth could easily say "Unfortunately [that person] doesn't understand our technology, was an unfortunate mistake in our hiring process, and had to be let go". I know that sounds absurd. But it works on everyone a few times before you see the pattern.

The siloing is related to that above. The book covers this, but the only reason we even caught a glimpse of what was going on under the hood was because I carpooled with an engineer from the office (in Menlo Park) back to San Francisco one day and he divulged some info. Prior to that, any information I got would come through management, the team players who stuck with her for many years.

landofschaff70 karma

How do you sleep at night knowing you’re eliminating all the jobs Pam Beasley can apply for?

pantalonesgigantesca49 karma

We'd be honored to have such comedic excellence in our ranks. But we're not eliminating jobs as far as I can tell. Our receptionists are real people who work for us, using our own tech to answer calls/qualify clients/etc. from their homes. Many of them wouldn't be working as in-house receptionists, as their life situations require presence at home, flexible hours, and so on. So perhaps Pam worked for us between seasons 6 and 7.

saladshoooter33 karma

At my office we went from 5 receptionist/admins to 2 in 5 years. Technology made the job easier and eliminated some positions. Obviously efficiency eliminates jobs, that's the point. Why shy away from saying so?

pantalonesgigantesca28 karma

Because from our experience we've been hiring people who previously had barriers to full-time, in-house jobs. Work at home spouses. Military spouses who move often. People with physical limitations requiring presence at home. People whose interests in life require flexible hours. Medical issues. Job commitment issues (e.g., they love the idea of just working 4 hours a day from home, paying the bills, and focusing on another passion in the other hours). I think people keep wanting a story here, wanting us to admit that we are taking away jobs, but that simply has not been the case. We can talk about AI taking away jobs in other sectors but this isn't the one (yet).

_korbendallas_65 karma

What can't AI do today that it will be able to in 5 years?

pantalonesgigantesca79 karma

My cofounder, Aaron, tried to cover this in our answer here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/9azzx5/im_justin_maxwell_i_cofounded_an_aireceptionist/e4zcijk/

From my own POV as a product designer, I think AI will eliminate a lot of repeated decisions for trivial tasks as we've seen throughout the history of computing. In the 90s we used to have to deal with IRQ ports and driver settings. Now our computers figure those things out for us, and it's not even AI. Our computers know to switch the the right wifi network, adjust netflix resolution based on bandwidth, etc. None of that was AI, it was just lookup tables and thresholds. As AI becomes more of a service offered, we'll see more simple things solved by AI instead of direct user input. For example, photo retouching, grammatical editing, architectural layouts (both physical and virtual, etc.). Granted this is just one lens I'm looking through. If there were some comfy chairs, refreshments, and no other questions to answer, we could extend this futurist pondering for hours. :)

cjluthy16 karma

Do you think that AI going ubiquitous will cause HI (Human Intelligence) to decrease (due to being used less) in any way?

pantalonesgigantesca50 karma

(unfiltered answer for /u/FarkCookies sake) I think there are about 100 other reasons HI is decreasing far more concerning than AI assistance & augmentation. When I go backcountry, my GPS and digital topos allow me to make better decisions than a compass and paper ever did. Spreadsheets and macros allow accountants to move faster and better than calculators did. So I'm hopeful that intelligent decisions can just move higher up as assisted by AI. I am more concerned about the lack of focused attention/increase in distraction, realtime human face to face conversation (how we've evolved to communicate over the hundreds of thousands of years), general anxiety caused by social factors we weren't trained to handle, and other modern issues, as they impact HI.

cdegallo49 karma

When this AMA ends, are we going to find out that the questions are actually being answered by an AI in a computer?

pantalonesgigantesca44 karma

I wish. I'm hungry, I need to go for a run, and I am still sitting at my desk answering questions. I can't even dictate my answers to this without it typing something unintentionally horrible, let alone trust AI to answer it for me.

orangejulius39 karma

Hi, Justin - Everything seems to be "AI" or "Blockchain" these days. How does your product set itself apart from the sea of buzzword companies?

pantalonesgigantesca26 karma

Hi /u/orangejulius! The good news is we had this idea registered our domain in the first half of 2015, when we plotted the course for this, knowing the tech wasn't quite there yet, but it would be eventually. To be honest that isn't a dilemma we've had from either users or tech (vc, peers, etc.). Users/Customers remain intrigued by our promise of improvements to their workflow/reduced costs through an AI-assisted product. We get more questions about how it works, what our AI does vs what our humans do, etc.

So I am not sure if I've answered your question well enough in saying "we haven't needed to". Perhaps that's our naivete — however, in our experience talking with customers, the issues that set us apart relate more to capabilities (which the AI certainly augments), quality, pricing, feature/development inertia, and so on. Which to me is fantastic, because it means the customers care more about the product & services offered than the hype.

I did see a guy wearing a shirt that said "blockchain" last week in Palo Alto and died a little bit inside though.

ZeL8727 karma

What’s the magic word to say to the AI when I don’t want to deal with the AI and I would rather deal directly with a human being? I usually just start speaking Spanish and it recognizes a different language and I get transferred right away.

pantalonesgigantesca40 karma

On the phone? That's probably not AI, that's IVR. Insanely frustrating. You know about GetHuman, right? There's nothing worse than a system pretending to be smart and turning out to be more frustrating than doing it yourself. I think one of the reasons Siri got such heat over the years is sure, it was snarky and could crack jokes, but Google and Alexa could actually do what you asked as long as you talked to them using phrases they understood.

collegecow21 karma

I've read many conflicting opinions regarding how important programmers will be once AI becomes more competent. What are your thoughts on this?

pantalonesgigantesca39 karma

from our lead engineer, Lorenzo:

Programmers will adapt and do higher level tasks. There's always need to tell the AI what to do, how to train it.

From me:

Agreed with Lorenzo 100%. We just move further up the decision tree. Instead of spending time writing assembly and machine language, most programmers spend time in javascript, java, python, etc. today.

parawhore21713 karma

But the level of math/hard skills you need to work in AI is higher than it is for say, web development or blockchain right? There are people who don't get degrees and can still work in web dev/application dev etc. Don't you think if programming work shifts to the AI industry a lot of people would still lose their jobs?

pantalonesgigantesca3 karma

I think it's a bigger issue than simply pointing to AI. I realize that pointing people to things they can read hasn't been a big hit for me in this thread, but if you do want to learn more I recommend reading the McKinsey Report from 2017 on how automation is affecting workplaces & jobs:

https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Featured%20Insights/Future%20of%20Organizations/What%20the%20future%20of%20work%20will%20mean%20for%20jobs%20skills%20and%20wages/MGI-Jobs-Lost-Jobs-Gained-Report-December-6-2017.ashx

Automation is not a new phenomenon, and fears about its transformation of the workplace and effects on employment date back centuries, even before the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1960s, US President Lyndon Johnson empaneled a “National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress.” Among its conclusions was “the basic fact that technology destroys jobs, but not work.”

and

Even as it causes declines in some occupations, automation will change many more—60 percent of occupations have at least 30 percent of constituent work activities that could be automated. It will also create new occupations that do not exist today, much as technologies of the past have done.

Sabiis15 karma

What skills are necessary to work on building AI? Is it more Programming or Mathematics / Statistics oriented?

pantalonesgigantesca37 karma

From Lorenzo & Aaron:

It's not programming skills. These days you just use TensorFlow or similar libraries. You need a good mathematical and statistical background.

From me:

This is essentially why it took until 2017 for us to really get our AI going. In 2015 you needed compsci PhDs to build AI. Google, Amazon, and Microsoft hired them all, and thanks to them we all now have AI frameworks to use for building products.

Sabiis8 karma

That's amazing and makes a ton of sense, thanks for the response! My degree is in Mathematics and I've been thinking about going back for a higher degree and leaning into AI or Quantum Computing since they both seem like they'll be so lucrative in the future.

pantalonesgigantesca15 karma

Good luck! "Lucrative" is a hard thing to chase :)

Teapotje13 karma

Oooohhh.. Theranos... I read the book about them, and I genuinely can't comprehend the company culture. Was it really super secretive all the time? Did Elizabeth Holmes keep departments from speaking to each other in your experience? What was your contribution there?

pantalonesgigantesca23 karma

"Director of Human Centered Design/Development". What a silly title, but I was honored at the time. If you read the book, I'm in chapters 3-5. In a nutshell, I was brought over from Apple to work on their tech (including the reader UI), their branding, materials, website, etc. along with some other Apple folks, including my manager, who ran the whole product team.

Although my time there was under a year, everything the book states during my time there is true, and I have no reason to doubt everything before and after that is true too. It was pretty wild.

I believe that we got a glimpse of the silos while we were there, and it only got much worse after. When I was there I could still walk anywhere in the building or talk to anyone I wanted. Of course, whatever I did and wherever I went would be reported back to her by her admins and the snooping IT team. But I still could. But we'd still be told to not talk to people, to only go through certain points of contact, and to never make eye contact with the board of directors when they came into the office.

telephone-man13 karma

Doh! I just realised I made a silly assumption, that the receptionists themselves were ‘AI-synth-not-things’. I’ve read and see now that they’re real people.

So, follow up question! I don’t get what’s so smart and special about your inbound call handling?

With all due respect, the ability to apply a few conditions (such as blacklisting unwanted calls) or ‘screen pops’ has been around for decades.

pantalonesgigantesca7 karma

Oh absolutely, the virtual receptionist landscape has been around for decades. And it was totally stale. Brick & mortar, running their own trunk lines or PBXes, with the same old sexist retro-kitsch branding.

These companies all work off scripts. We know because when we get new customers, they often say "here's the script I provided to _____". We don't. We identify the profession and create a logic tree inside our system to provide answers in the interface at the pace of/in the flow of the conversation. These often include dynamic elements. For example, one law firm wants us to use a coin toss to assign new client appointments. Another wants us to check their calendar for availability to determine whether or not to attempt a live call transfer or book an appointment. Nobody else can come close to this, as their systems are (ok, I can't say this with 100% certainty, but maybe 95%) not even built in-house.

When I was at Mint, the next two years of VC pitches were "We're like Mint.com for _____". We're trying to be whatever that hype word is now but for client qualification. We integrate with every new API our clients request of us, meaning when a call comes in, we can pipe call details, create new records, etc.

So the short answer would be the existing landscape was call answering and summarizing at one end of the spectrum (low cost, low conversion) and sales (high cost, high conversion) at the other. We created a new category for small business, solo practitioners, boutique firms, etc. by offering all the mechanics of client qualification, landing and booking the actual clients, then handing them off to the professionals for the service to be provided.

I hope that's a good answer. If not please let me know and I'll elaborate. I've been doing this for like 7 hours now and my brain juice is running out.

coryrenton11 karma

do you think there would be a viable market for AI phone screening for the general public (e.g. filtering out telemarketers, scams, unwanted relatives etc...)?

pantalonesgigantesca30 karma

Please take this with a grain of salt, because anyone with the right idea, energy, connections, and execution can make amazing things happen. So I don't want to dissuade anybody. That said:

I think if we thought there was a viable market for it, we would have gone after it. B2B (business to business) is a magical space for us because customers care about their bottom line, they're vocal about their needs, they cautiously evaluate changes to their workflow, and they make commitments to products. The consumer space is pure chaos. Getting someone's attention is hard enough to begin with. Once you do, unless you are really addressing something high on the Maslow hierarchy, you have to constantly fight for relevance and attention. Then you get into tech issues like carrier compatibility, data pass-through (it could mess with your Apple Messages or MMS), etc.

Nomorobo does it, but they charge for it. And I don't believe people will pay for it. The real solution should lie at the carrier level, but they aren't doing it.

I think my answer was a bit more rambly than I'd like, but my restated summary is "it should be a value provided by the carrier, but it's too problematic as a 3rd party consumer add-on product".

coryrenton13 karma

Within B2B, do you still find there are companies that behave as irrationally as consumers -- if so, do they tend to be bigger or smaller companies?

pantalonesgigantesca11 karma

Ha, yes, and I love that you asked this. In my experience it has nothing to do with the company size or domain and everything to do with a) the mathematic/accounting proficiency of the decider (the founder, the CFO, the sole proprietor, etc.) and b) the ability to separate one's ego from their business.

For a), one key aspect of running a successful firm is understanding your costs. For example, we provide simple per-call pricing to make monthly costs more predictable, with add-ons depending on need (e.g., if you want us to take payment, it takes a few extra minutes per call, which we amortize over your monthly plan with a flat per-call add-on fee).

For b), one pattern we've seen from clients who have never worked with a virtual receptionist or lead qualification service before is an idea that their personal relationship with their clients is what their clients value, and by not personally answering their phone, they are somehow tarnishing their brand or distancing themselves from their customers. Consistently, they pleasantly find out that their clients value communication, expedience, and quality of service much more, and consistently they find out that having fewer interruptions and better triage in their workflow allows them to get better work done.

coryrenton3 karma

How difficult is it to quickly determine if the decision-making person in a company is competent from this accounting proficiency/ego-separation perspective? So many startups engage in such bewildering expense-burning behaviors that may or may not be rational that I imagine it should be easier to do with more established companies -- is that true?

pantalonesgigantesca10 karma

Hard to answer, sorry. I've typed a few things out and find myself deleting them repeatedly. There are pros and cons to large and small, startup vs established, solo vs 200 employees, and so on. Ultimately sometimes you (we) need to prove our value, and we do...sometimes even within a day. Sometimes it takes the client receiving that first bill and doing the math. Sometimes it takes them a month to just reflect on the peace of mind / weight lifted off their shoulders. What I can say is that the people who want to argue about the **value** of the service (e.g., "I want to pay $1 per call") before they've even started it often end up being bad customers for the same reason that someone walking into a Toyota dealership and saying "I've never driven one before, but I want to walk out of here with a Tacoma TRD Pro for $10,000, because that's what I think it should cost" is a bad customer.

coryrenton3 karma

Do you feel like you ever get any customers that are good from the POV that they are easy to acquire but bad in the sense that they have no idea what value they are getting from your service -- you're just an expense that someone else pays for?

pantalonesgigantesca6 karma

Fortunately no, that has never happened. 180º from that. B2B/Business clients are not easy to acquire, and therefore they are very critical of the decisions they've made. Instead we hear feedback about helping companies double in staff size, increase throughput, etc. I'm not trying to turn that into an opportunity to boast — it's the truth. I am fairly certain every one of our paying customers right now is critical/aware of the value we bring.

coryrenton2 karma

I can see how having indiscriminate customers as a core clientele would be awful in terms of progressing as a company, but would it be so bad to have some percentage just throw money at you?

pantalonesgigantesca4 karma

Sure, I get what you are saying (I think). That segment is fulfilled by many of our larger clientele. Once we prove our initial value, we become more of just a foundational service for them (like a public utility for lead qualification & triage 😁) and only hear from them occasionally when their tech changes (e.g., moving to a new helpdesk) or they change their workflow. With smaller firms, we get feedback daily, and on heavy days we might even hear from them multiple times as their schedules change (e.g., having to rush to court, new VIP client has a server outage)

Easier_Still10 karma

I looked at your hiring page and see you pay your remote receptionists $10/hr. I imagine this is what makes it attractive to clients, but as someone trying to pioneer in this area, why aren't you setting a reasonable minimum wage, such as $15 or more? The job requires a certain skillset including fast typing and prior experience, and the wage should reflect this.

Even $15/hr isn't a living wage in most areas of the US, but $10/hr is, while, yes, more than $0/hr, simply outdated for anyone living in the US.

We have to stop making others rich while essentially enslaving working people, and is has to start with people like you.

pantalonesgigantesca7 karma

$10/hr is our base pay for basic fulfillment of responsibilities. We then add many bonuses and rewards on top of that.

It is easy to armchair advise what others should be making. I didn't take a salary for 3 years and my cofounder still has not, both building this off savings and some angel investments from people we trust. Our receptionists were people who for their own life reasons found the jobs available to them were too low paying, undesirable, or a bad fit. The opportunity to do this work from home has changed lives for many of them. We are matching their financial needs as well as occupational growth. Our turnover is extremely low and many have risen to positions of high responsibility and management. As we grow more successful we will continue to invest in them financially and occupationally. After my time at Apple, paying for my own lunch while the company boasted record profits, I can guarantee to you that giving back to my team is in the company DNA.

Im-Probably-Drinking5 karma

They're based out of Palo Alto, CA... of all people, he should know $10/hour or even $15/hour is not a livable wage. Not to mention, CA minimum wage went up to $10.50/hour this year, and will increase yearly and eventually cap out at $15: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_minimumwage.htm

I mean, I guess the point of being employed as a receptionist there is to have the flexibility to work from home with irregular hours. It's not a way for a single person to have a livable wage on their own, it should be seen like supplementing the salary of the primary household earner (or part of house-sharing with roommates).

I do appreciate the effort of negating the common "offshore customer service" trend in tech, and bringing jobs back in-country... but someone in CA who is unemployed can make more going to work at McDonalds. What might be better is offering receptionists "minimum hourly rate of XX dollars over your state's minimum wage" or something similar. That way it's much more transparent to job seekers what they're getting into.

pantalonesgigantesca6 karma

Sure. Only a few people on our team live in CA. Most live in places where the cost of living is lower and the average house has a yard, a pool, and a shed for some four-wheelers or a canopy for the boat. Here in CA, Palo Alto streets are lined with campers from people who work in the city but can't afford to live there because the city turns a blind eye to the inequality gap. California is a strange place and I have spent a lot of time reading to understand it. My current read is Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water.

badchad658 karma

Why does receptionist AI still totally suck?

Any time I'm told to "press 1" or "say a command" I know I'm in for it.

pantalonesgigantesca4 karma

This might answer, but if not let me know and I'll elaborate. IVR isn't (usually) AI inasmuch as limited speech recognition that directly maps to commands.

tired_of_tomorrow7 karma

How would you recommend someone break into the AI industry?

I have a computer science bachelors and have been working as a web developer for a couple years but don’t see myself doing this much longer.

pantalonesgigantesca7 karma

I just don't know that there's an AI industry. I think you need to figure out what your goals and areas of interest are. There's AI in computer graphics, economic modeling, everything from the socially beneficial to the fringe. Really pick what you want to be building or spending your day doing. People who focus on the tech find themselves responsible for maintaining that one machine that runs on Fortran in the basement 20 years later.

DontRememberOldPass6 karma

Why don’t services like yours target consumers? Like, I just want to not answer my phone anymore. Have it forward to someone who figures out what the caller wants, texts me, and then politely tells them to figure out how email works.

pantalonesgigantesca10 karma

I did my time in the consumer space and am enjoying not dealing with it now. But, if it's worth $4-6/call to you, you can hire us to do that.

wiegleyj6 karma

I hate interacting with your products (there isn't a word or phrasing strong enough to indicate how much I hate it.)

How do you live with yourself knowing that your product basically provides the cheapest, worst customer service experience a client can have?

pantalonesgigantesca11 karma

The same way you can live with yourself knowing that you're complaining on the internet about a product to someone who has nothing to do with that product.

You're complaining about IVR, not what we make. Those systems are incredibly frustrating when they are the only option a customer has.

jmblock26 karma

I've enjoyed your other answers so far. What are your thoughts on businesses being sustainable versus being driven for hyper growth? Will you be pursuing becoming a publicly traded company? Do you remember any specific "tipping" point where the company could sustain or manage the growth you are experiencing?

pantalonesgigantesca8 karma

Ok, I'm answering for myself and not my cofounder here. We didn't coordinate on an answer and he might have a different viewpoint. For the sake of our business, I hope not.

One of the reasons I don't write Medium thinkpieces or tell other people what they should or shouldn't be doing is it's often simply publicity masquerading as advice. The TL;DR is this: it depends on the goals of the business and the intentions of the founders.

As for publicly traded, I don't know. That is not personally a goal I keep in mind from day to day. For me, if I was going to dip into my savings, take a massive leap in my career, and spend my time working (being that I have a family, bills, etc.), it was going to be doing something sustainable and worthwhile. So from day one, that meant building a business, not a user acquisition target with no plans for monetization. I'd already learned some valuable lessons at Mint.com, I had a good friend who was early on the team that built Mailbox, I'd been at Google when they acquired Yet Another Beloved Email App With No Business Plan™, and realized whatever we did, it had to put us on the path for profitability. Customers really hate when parent businesses abandon something they depend on (e.g., this from today). So for Smith.ai, we aim to continue offering services people will pay for, and in turn we can pay our team who provide those services, and as we grow we can continue to invest in the team building the company, the team providing services, and expand what we offer as our customers ask us for it. So I think that qualifies as sustainable.

At the other side of the spectrum, we often see hyper growth in the consumer market, where there's a niche, there are customers who will fill that niche, but they won't pay for it. The advertisers won't pay for ads on it, because the market is small. So the company goes all-in on hyper growth, blows up, and either they get acquired by a platform that runs on ads (FB, Google) or they secure enough of a position that they can sustain the ad sales on their own. I would prefer to see us follow a tiered or freemium model.

As for the tipping point it was likely when we hired our Head of Marketing & Partnerships (Maddy). Her addition to the team unlocked Aaron and my ability to focus on Tech, Ops & Product, as she continued to explore market opportunity, speak with users daily, and triage product feature requests. A different lens on that answer would be when customer volume switched from us having to convince customers they should try us to us having to build product, team, and features fast enough to keep up with demand. I think that happened around when one of our Mac IT Consultant clients shared a testimonial in one of his private Slack groups for Apple Consultants. That was our first clue that what we were doing was spreading and providing value.

morganknutson6 karma

hello justin, can your AI put my kids to bed and clean my house? i will order 3. please send me 3 AIs. thank you.

pantalonesgigantesca9 karma

Hi Morgan, I miss our friendship on Twitter, sorry I am not there anymore! Too much bot-fueled outrage and awfulness for me to handle in my day. I wish there was a "which type of leadership would you like [dorsey / costolo]" toggle in the UI.

Your 3 AIs will be sent out via OnTrac tomorrow. They will never arrive, but you will receive a notification that they have been delivered and possibly find one in your neighbor's swimming pool.

catalina19926 karma

I used to sell plastic to Theranos but we sort of fired them as a customer because they wouldn’t tell us anything about the projects (it was a pain to fix something they couldn’t tell you what was wrong) did you find the same type of secretive vibe from them?

pantalonesgigantesca10 karma

I worked inside that secretive vibe!

McJumbos6 karma

what was your "eureka" moment? Like you knew hey this is going to work!

pantalonesgigantesca18 karma

I say this for both me and Aaron, but our Eureka moment wasn't a single moment inasmuch as a series of successes. It's easier if I milestone them out:

  • We get our first customer (who's still with us today), meaning people are willing to pay us for what we do
  • Once this was up and running, and successful, we stopped focusing on it to work on another product
  • After a span of absolutely no marketing spend, no promotion, and very little change to the core product (just focusing on the Ops side), we had grown our receptionist team, answered hundreds of thousands of calls, and our competitors were trying to copy us, right down to stealing images and content from our website. We'd been growing by pure word of mouth. People loved what we provided so much that they told their colleagues, private networks, peers, etc. They did the advertising for us

So we realized wow, this thing we built is so good that our customers sell it for us? Let's see what happens when we put 100% into it now. And here we are!

acets4 karma

You need anybody to join your marketing team? Please?

pantalonesgigantesca3 karma

...maybe? I've sent this magic internet link to Maddy, our Head of Marketing. She'll follow up with you.

fifs56 karma

What language did you program your AI and where would you suggest for someone to start?

pantalonesgigantesca11 karma

From Lorenzo

We're using different services such as those from Google, and building our specifics on top of them. Go to Coursera or Udemy and take an Intro to Machine Learning class, assuming you have the mathematical requirements and a decent math background.

raam866 karma

What does a designer have to do with AI? How having you as a funder makes the company better?

Worf_Of_Wall_St4 karma

It sounds like he’s the guy that came up with the idea of a UI that listens to your phone call and gives you options or creates new data records based on what is being said. That’s a really good idea, and probably his UI design experience was very useful, but it also sounds like the actual AI suggestions / actions engineering is led by somebody else.

pantalonesgigantesca5 karma

Piggybacking on you to keep the conversation going.

Aaron is our CEO and CTO. I'm our Chief Design Officer and in many ways CPO. We share COO responsibilities.

It's naive to think that because I am a designer I make the company better. I can't stand most designers and do not associate myself with that self-congratulatory community any more than most competent engineers care about their upvotes on HN.

What I bring to the company is experience building products and managing product teams. Much of that experience involved the what and the why parts of things. Aaron has covered the full spectrum, but much of what he leads falls into the how and the when side of things. Having a designer cofounder (me) has allowed us to make instant decisions for best solutions / minimal amount of time responding to customer need. Those decisions range from how much to invest in ui design (barely anything, use a framework) to how to milestone out longer term solutions that customers need to find intuitive instead of interruptive.

When you start a company, you're doing 1000 different things. All the design/product background gave me was the ability for us to move incredibly fast knowing that we could outsource specialized function to our connections (I work with an illustrator i've trusted since I worked at Apple) but between the two of us, we had nearly every aspect of the business covered for two years. We first hired more engineers, and then a head of marketing, and then another designer.

Happy to continue this if you're interested or care, but I want to clarify that no, really, the cosmetic aspects of design (in my work history) have very little to do with what we built, besides establishing a clear and unique brand for the company.

Lookupthencielingfan5 karma

I’m a musician, and a holy grail for digital audio is polyphonic pitch tracking in real time, to output midi for controlling other instruments. I believe this can be easily done using existing FFT with AI and machine learning libraries. Someone already did it themselves using python, but its a hobby effort in python networked to Pure data and there’s some latency. Its just odd that its not widely done already in a cleaner implementation (a stand-alone pure data external for example)

Is there a reason why AI like this isn’t already widely implemented? It seems it would have applications everywhere as it is now. Is most of it just proprietary, or a lack of open source libraries?

pantalonesgigantesca3 karma

Hey we have nice interest overlap! Let me recruit my good friend Owen Vallis for this answer and get back to you. I do love my knobby bleeping machines but I'm not qualified to answer.

AspiringGuru5 karma

I'm impressed by your success. Also certain that's no accident and there have been mistakes.

I'm converting from Mech Eng to software engineer. Too many coding courses to list, lots of demos, a few attempts at startup services, currently working as Data Scientist (SAP data extracts, calcs, reports, interactive dashboards), while upgrading my AI skills.

What are your picks for low hanging fruit in AI/ deep learning tech. I'm seeing an increasing number of startups positioning themselves as intelligent assistants,

Seeing a few large players marketing as AI services, but really burying themselves into companies as data collectors/aggregators then attempting to provide the promised AI service with varying levels of sucess.

I'm torn between attempting to provide a customised AI service and being a generic data scientist. Thoughts?

pantalonesgigantesca4 karma

Thanks. Most of our mistakes have been on the ops side of things. A lot of hard lessons learned about people management. I think data science is the interesting place right now by surfacing insights that can guide business decisions. The intelligent assistant play is a real flop IMO. It was all the hype 2 years ago and the only people I know using them now are friends of the founders. When a paid service fails to deliver on something you can do yourself faster and easier, it loses credibility by causing frustration.

For me low hanging fruit with high return and high benefit exists in fraud detection. Lives can get ruined, bank accounts drained, etc. It's bad for the customer and bad for the business. So you can make a positive impact there. I would say attention given to scanning video/audio for authenticity will also be a necessary area. As we're seeing the advent of technology that allows simulation and "faking" of speech/video, we'll need tech that flags it as authentic or fake. So many more but I'm being asked to shut my computer and participate in a normal family household now.

caesarhanny5 karma

Are you hiring ?

pantalonesgigantesca2 karma

Xx_Squall_xX4 karma

What advice would you give to someone with some ideas and half-baked POCs to help them go from side project to starting a business?

pantalonesgigantesca14 karma

I don't like giving advice, but I can tell you what I/we did:

  1. Have an idea
  2. Get coffee/lunch/whatever with potential users of that idea
  3. Tell them about that idea you are building.
  4. They'll tell you what they want out of it
  5. Build a prototype and show them
  6. Get feedback from them
  7. Ask them if they'd pay for it, and if not, why not?
  8. Repeat until they either pay for it or you decide to move on to the next idea

Again, some people can take an idea, a half-baked PoC, and some swagger into a VC pitch and walk away with $5M. That's a good avenue too. But what we did is above.

benrules24 karma

I have a simple but fairly divisive question for you. Do you think it is ethical for software to interact with humans without the humans being aware it is not a real person?

pantalonesgigantesca3 karma

My ethical may be different from your ethical. At a macro level, we're past that point. Daily we're interacting with fake humans, especially over tech support and customer support emails. You might even consider canned responses not "real people" (e.g., trigger word -> canned response).

What you're referring to perhaps is the Google Assistant booking a hair appointment. I feel like this is a distraction from the real issue. The customer desire here is for someone to be able to book an appointment easily via voice. They then treat this Google Assistant like a computer to human API. I think ultimately Google wants a total software solution, where instead of the assistant talking to a human, the assistant just tells the hair salon's booking software to book an appointment for you. That part sounds fine to me as an ultimate vision. It's the in-between where we use the robot voice that seems deceptive.

But really, I don't know. I find it hard to define a fuzzy "ethical" right now because we're awash in so much clearly "unethical". In my ideal world, a communication coming in from a machine would have identifier metadata that indicated it was coming in from a machine and you could base decisions on that. But here we are in 2018 and we can't even trust Caller ID, it's already been spoofed. If I have to pick a lane here, I'll say no, with the caveat that that's not where the ethical issue lies, the ethical issue lies in what transpires over that interaction. Ok, your turn.

martixdotorg4 karma

How did it feel working for Theranos?

McJumbos3 karma

How did you decide on smith.ai ? Were there other names that you tried?

pantalonesgigantesca7 karma

It's funny, we stress so much over domain names these days as they are either a) taken, b) $50K+, or c) a questionable use of TLD like internetlawyer.expert. Smith.ai just happened magically (my cofounder, Aaron, came up with it). Smith) is one of the most common surnames pertaining to work, and communicates the trade. We wanted to communicate that our company strives to provide quality, and that our audience was the everyday tradesperson, from attorneys to contractors. the AI part, especially when we started in 2015, clearly communicated the tech component.

bak575793 karma

Hello, Justin. What are you think about Strong AI called AGI?

pantalonesgigantesca4 karma

From my cofounder, Aaron (I asked him to answer this):

Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can - we are very far away for AGI - as a matter of fact, most of the AI today are actually machine learning + NLP

- that’s why we believe a Combined AI is the way to go for the next 3-5 years

- and pretty much all the companies are taking the view of using AI to do everything which is also the reason by some AI receptionist company is so dumb or chatbots

- the tech is not there but it will be

- there are a few things we need to get there 1) semantic understanding (we are still in the early innings) of what words means and know the nuances 2) digitizing the knowledge (imagine replicating someone with years of customer experience) 3) come up with the reasoning and actions, logical deduction

cuboidcrispy2 karma

Hello Justin!

How did you become a design team leader at Apple, Google and such companies? Did you make your way up the ranks or got in the leader position at the start? Why did you decide to leave? How does it compare to leading your own company?

pantalonesgigantesca8 karma

Hi /u/cuboidcrispy!

  • Coming out of college in 1998 the only marketable skill i had was in graphic design (my mother ran a graphic design firm and i had been using photoshop since...it existed)
  • I got a job with Sony, and later another agency, doing websites for movies and TV shows (Dawson's Creek, The Young & The Restless, Big Daddy, Spy Kids, etc.)
    • That made for great resume fodder
  • I was also a beta tester for Emagic's Logic Audio software
  • Apple acquired Emagic
  • Apple was looking for a web design hire and my friends @ Emagic recommended me
  • I got a job as apple.com's first real "interaction designer" and later went to their Pro Apps team
  • I left for Theranos with an insanely inflated job title, kicking off years of impostor syndrome
  • I left Theranos for Mint.com with yet another crazy job title ("UX Guru") but this time tried to actually live up to it, worked my ass off, and product managed the entire Mint.com for iPhone product, then made additional design hires as I built the design team at Intuit post-acquisition. This was my first real "leader" spot.
  • I went to other not so great startups, managing employees, contractors, projects, and just building up the pile of experience
  • Google hired me as a design manager based on that experience

I hope that unpacking helps. There's just tons of random chance and coincidence in there, paired with constantly taking on way more than I could handle and making it work. My friend at Apple (the one who recommended me for the .com role) told me early on "Every day I go to work and pretend I'm actually a [his role] and after a while I guess I got pretty good at it". So I tried to do that and it all worked.

My answers for why I left Google:

  • Aaron and I had been noodling on ideas for 10 years. He called me and said "you're leaving Google and we're starting a company" and that was fine with me. Building a company with Aaron is a dream come true. We have a complementary partnership and every day since the beginning I am learning new ways to run a company, manage employees, communicate with customers, make hard decisions, and so on. So compared that to...
  • As a design manager at Google I was learning to play the game of being a design manager at Google. I was not making excellent products for people or making a positive impact. I was spending my day triple-booked on meetings, having engineers yell at me and my team and still be promoted because they were "high performers" while we had to constantly justify our contributions as designers, and coming home agitated, depressed, and frustrated. The Google environment was amazing. Brilliant people everywhere, amazing benefits, aspirational products used by billions(?). It was just not a good place to be for me. People who can play the politics game and shrug it all off do very well there. I do view it as a personality mismatch between myself and the needs of the role, not an issue with the company. I like working directly with customers, hearing what affects them, and working with people I enjoy being around. I will probably regret typing this answer but i already did, so I'm committing to it.

Leading my own company is amazing. At the end of the day, my failures are my own. I can't blame them on bad process, overhead, politics, etc. So even on the most stressful days, there's something to learn from and apply to the next day. The only thing I miss is the ability to coast or check out. Aaron and I have each-other's backs when we take vacation time, but even then I never feel totally comfortable offline. At Google I could feel like I'm having an "off day" where I'm not productive, and maybe the next day would be a reset. I don't have that liberty here and constantly have to kick my own ass back into productivity and change my outlook.

easy_mungo2 karma

Is that an Autechre poster in the background wall of the proof picture?

pantalonesgigantesca2 karma

Absolutely.

Davidjhyatt2 karma

Hi! My brother wants to be a front end web developer. Do you have any advice or can you recommend any good resources? How do you land your fist job doing this? Thanks!

pantalonesgigantesca4 karma

There's some delightful irony in this question being that the first major failure of AI trying to replace humans (in my field) was a front-end web development platform called The Grid (thegrid.io), which took about $6M in funding and then flopped, having promised auto-layouts based on the contents provided by users.

I would offer your brother this advice from my colleague at Google, Mike Buzzard:

https://medium.com/google-design/just-keep-making-stuff-f7fabbf76d84

  1. Figure out what you want to build, for you, just you, who cares about users or monetization
  2. Figure out how to build it
  3. Build it
  4. Show a few people
  5. Repeat

Do that a few times and you'll either land your job or make your own

lightningallie2 karma

What’s one job/position that you don’t ever seeing being replaced by AI?

pantalonesgigantesca6 karma

Lorenzo: Psychologist, but I'm not sure anymore. Maybe babysitter

Filip: Lawyers

Me: Any profession that involves negotiation where physical presence is required, such as trial lawyers or salespeople

-----

But I'll say I only stand behind my answer for the next 3 years because for all I know you're all AI and I'm in a tank somewhere.

kichien2 karma

What are your thoughts on socialism or guaranteed minimum income in terms of of technology replacing many jobs?

pantalonesgigantesca2 karma

I don't have a well-formed thought on that and need to better understand how we got here in a capitalist society to have one. I think the world is a complicated place and for every one opinion I can hold about society there will be ten negative outcomes as a result of it. It seems unethical to me that people can work for a company for years and help contribute to that company's success and then let go for cheaper solutions, and it seems unethical at a fundamental level that laws should protect, as our system protects those companies a lot more than it protects the individuals. But as I get older I find that many opinions I hold are formed out of naivete or inexperience. I can only influence what I know. We have built a business that hires people, pays them what they ask, and makes enough slim margins to donate back to the organizations/charities they care about. I hope as we grow we can continue to make a positive outward contribution, and as we reach larger lateral influence my understanding of how to impact society positively (e.g., maybe Bill Gates didn't know he could eradicate Malaria in 1975) will expand as well.

OneMensTrash2 karma

What are your thoughts on designs including the very obvious, no headphone jack and, no home button for the iPhone X. Did you have any objections?

pantalonesgigantesca2 karma

I wasn't there after 2007. Apple's an interesting place. When you dominate a market you can make decisions for your users instead of listening to them. Facebook found this early on when they realized they can do whatever they want with the product and no matter how much people complain they'll still use it. I personally use an Android, a OnePlus 6. After I joined the Android team at Google I found that the capabilities and UI of Google tech are superior for my primary needs. Siri may have witty answers but Google Assistant gets the job done correctly (most of the time).

69ingchimpmuncks1 karma

Do you smoke weed?

pantalonesgigantesca3 karma

Not anymore, just out of headspace reasons. I'd say about 5 years ago it felt like my own chemistry changed and I didn't enjoy it anymore. I've heard similar from other friends in their 40s.

BravoTwoSix0 karma

Why does it do a crappy job of being a receptionist?

pantalonesgigantesca1 karma

it

ostiki-2 karma

What I gathered from the comment is that you have some impressive resume and your company is doing very well. What is that the company is doing again, please?

pantalonesgigantesca2 karma

we're customer qualification for small businesses, with humans assisted by AI.

^

​in my comment