Neil Patel

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Born in Beijing and shaped by diverse cultures in Hong Kong and London, Angie Ma embarked on a remarkable journey that eventually led her to the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) innovation. In an exclusive interview, Angie shared her experiences, challenges, and the transformative power of AI in today’s dynamic world.

Angie’s venture, Faculty. has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Apax Digital Fund, GMG Ventures LP, LocalGlobe, Jaan Tallinn, and Guardian Media Group Ventures.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Angie Ma’s journey from Beijing to Hong Kong and London highlights the transformative power of adapting to diverse cultures.
  • A chance encounter with physics during summer school led Angie to pivot from engineering, showcasing the unpredictability of passion discovery.
  • The failure of her early 2000s startup taught Angie the pivotal importance of a cohesive team over a promising idea.
  • Navigating through law and academia, Angie’s return to physics was driven by a passion for understanding the world and the transformative potential of AI.
  • Faculty’s inception addressed Angie’s personal struggles transitioning from academia, evolving into an organization empowering STEM graduates and providing AI solutions.
  • Angie emphasizes the need for organizations to make strategic and transformative AI investments, moving beyond the hype to impactful applications.
  • While generative AI captures attention, Angie highlights the profound impact of less glamorous AI applications, exemplified by Faculty’s work with Welsh hospitals.


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About Angie Ma:

Angie holds a Ph.D. in physics and has a background as a researcher in nanotechnology, specializing in the development of optical detection for medical diagnostic processes.

Before her role as a vital member of the founding team at Faculty AI, Angie founded Data Science Lab, a community that burgeoned into one of Europe’s largest with over 2,000 active data scientist members.

The inception of Faculty AI stemmed from Ma’s collaboration with co-founders Marc Warner, CEO, and Andrew Brookes, CTO.

Driven by the desire to forefront disruptive AI for the public, Angie and her team have successfully executed over 150 projects.

Angie and her co-founders have introduced Sherlock ML, an innovative and secure data science platform designed to eliminate the need for organizations to create a new technical stack.

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Connect with Angie Ma:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: So alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmaker show. So today. We have a really exciting founder that is joining us. We’re going to be talking about all the good stuff that we like to hear you know when it comes to building and scaling companies. We’re going to be talking about what it really means you know or what it looks like to be successful. As an entrepreneur. We’re also going to be talking about what aii looks in the real world. Also what the next five years are going to look like for this company you know that is ah literally a rocket ship and then also a how and why the way that the company started really impacted ended up impacting their culture so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guest today Andy Maya welcome to the show.

Angie Ma: I delighted to be here. Thanks for having me.

Alejandro Cremades: So originally born in beijng in China you know I know that you move say quite early to Hong Kong and then London but give us a walkthrough memory lane. How was life growing up for you.

Angie Ma: Um, well it was it was interesting as I said I I I was ah I was born in Beijing. So this was in the early eighty s and so things were very different. Um, ah I don’t there were very few cars even in Beijing. Um, and then when I was about 5 we moved to Hong Kong and which is like it was very busy city so it was quite a big change for me. Um plus language change and then I came to the Uk I actually came to a boarding school when I was 14 um, so that was again quite a big change going into a new environment I couldn’t speak english very well at the time and so and living away from home. So that was ah yeah, that was basically steps of um, being yeah going into. Very new unfamiliar environment.

Alejandro Cremades: Well I mean I also so young. No I mean at 5 for all league. You didn’t remember much but at 14 you’d know and you remember and you you you take notice of absolutely everything new friends. New place, new culture new everything. How was that how was that for you.

Angie Ma: Yes.

Angie Ma: I thought that was great I loved it. Ah because um, my school um was ah in the countryside and so if you if you can imagine Harry Potter it’s a bit like that. Where kids sort of get it together. You have a lot of fun you play sports every day. Um, and you know you you up to mischiefs. Um, you know at a time there was still detentions I was in detentions a lot. Ah you get to keep pets where you have to. Part of your detention might be cleaning up the bedroomed so it was great, fun and I think 1 thing that I’ve really learned is how being in very different environment completely different culture people who have very different views. Um. And background with you that it really challenged my own way of seeing the world and I thought that was incredibly valuable. Um.

Alejandro Cremades: So out of all things. What would you say? got you into physics and.

Angie Ma: Got me to actually that was a bit of a chance. Ah ah, um, journey because I originally wanted to study electronic and electrical engineering. Um, ah my my family.

Alejandro Cremades: Um.

Angie Ma: Um, was very encouraging me sort of going into engineering because my my father um is an engineer. Um, but then I went to a summer school doing physics. Um, and I really loved it. I loved the fact that how it it helps you understand a world. And in a ah, very concrete and useful way. Um, it helps explain some of the I guess ah beauty of like natural phenomena and to me that was fascinating and here in the Uk to get into university. So ah, you have to have certain grades. So. The subject which was um, electrical engineering I needed I think 3 ah a’s and ah, 3 a stars. In fact I remember and I only got 2 a stars I needed I got one just a and so. Um, at the end that meant I couldn’t get into the the degree the electrical engineering I wanted to do I applied for um and I thought oh wait. But I really like physics I could get into physics. So then I decided to switch then that you know what I could I could do physics. It’s it’s It’s equally good if not better and and I was actually really pleased I made that decision.

Alejandro Cremades: So I know that Also once you graduated you tried early on startups in the early two thousand S. But unfortunately things did not pan out the way that you had hoped for. But happened there. What were the sequence of events that unfolded and what was the biggest lesson that you took away from from that. So.

Angie Ma: Yeah, So this is the early 2000 Um I think just it was Boom Obviously um and ah, but at the time the the ecommerce space. Um, online shopping was still very clunky if you if you go on sort of. Online shopping things were very slow and part of the challenge was um was the database’s structure weren’t um, very optimized so a couple of friends and I were just very interested and thought actually maybe we can do something we can optimize databases and so we started like ah. Ah, what building a business. Um, we had a few customers where we helped them sort of optimizing databases. Um, but you know what? as as lot of early 20 s you just haven’t got a clue how the world works how to work with each other you you have you know we had no work Experience. So.

Alejandro Cremades: Thank you.

Angie Ma: You know mainly I think it was a great idea. It could have worked really well but we just you know we were too Naive. We didn’t know how to do teamwork so people fell out. In fact, so um, so from pretty much the very early days I Realized that. You know you could have a good idea. But if you haven’t got the team to execute that’s still like Useless. So um, so it fell pretty spectacular very quickly. Um, and that was a very good lesson.

Alejandro Cremades: Um, I mean talking about lesson and there too I mean you after this went into this period into this phase of rediscovering yourself. You know where you did a couple of transitions. You know you went then into becoming a lawyer then from there you went into Academia. And then things you know came in the full circle and now you went into startups again. So what needed to happen for you to be okay with taking another step at being an entrepreneur once again and entering startups.

Angie Ma: I think it’s definitely ah, a journey of ah self-discovery um, because after the ah first fails startup um, you know you get a little bit dissolutioned diseouraged and I was at a crossroad um, kind of. Conflicted between family expectations and my desires so coming from a traditional chinese family I was encouraged to pursue a more um, conventional vocation like law accounting. Um because I was into philosophy. So I decided to give law a try. Um. Ah, do I really enjoy studying law. Um I quickly realized that I would be a lousy lawyer. Um, my hard just wasn’t in it. So I returned to physics. Um, because by then I was you know I would I knew myself much better I and recognized that I was driven by the kind of. Curiosity to understand how the world works. Um, so then I I went back to physics. Um, but a year into ah my ph d um doing physics I realized that gosh I was studying the wrong subject because um. I became part of this community. Um, that’s like looking at Ai particularly AiSafety so this was about sixteen seventeen years ago and where I was introduced to Ai and it blew me away the technology and I realized that’s the.

Angie Ma: Transformative technology of our time. Um, and that’s so the seed I realized this is the direction I needed to go um and by 2013 I concluded that academia academic research was not for me. Um, although it was. Intellectually, very very stimulating. Um I wanted to do something more impactful and didn’t require a long time to see the results. Um, So ah, so then when the opportunity came my co-founder came to me with the idea to start Faculty. Um. Which was early twenty Fourteen I Basically seized it at the seized opportunity without hesitation. Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: So and let’s talk about that. Let’s let’s double click on that. Let’s talk about that moment where obviously you know like first and foremost how you met your co-founder and then how did that conversation happen where you were you knew that this was the next chapter for you and you knew that you were ready and I guess also. You had the the the experience in the past that didn’t fold the way that you had hoped for what made you believe that this was meaningful enough for you to take action whether you were to succeed or fail.

Angie Ma: Yeah, it’s a good um good question so the idea how we started was very much out of our own needs. So at the time we were both looking to leave academia. And it was quite difficult for people from a physics background at a time to leave. Um, we by then we were like in our early 30 s haven’t had any work experience pretty unemployable and um and so there my co-founder was. In the us at the time he was actually at Harvard um, doing a research fellowship and he came across a um, ah, kind of boot camp that helps um, academics transition to um to industry and we were inspired and there wasn’t anything like that in the u k. Um, and so we decided that actually you know we would like to create a program here in the yeah uk so that we could attend a program. Um, at the end. We never attended a program but it kicked off the company. Um, so that’s how the company we started we started this um eight-week fellowship program that helps um stem um ph d graduates and academics going into doing um, commercial data science and the program has now been running for 10 years now and we have more than.

Angie Ma: 500 alumni that’s doing really well. Um and it also then allows the company then evolve with our own product and services. Um, and yeah, so that’s how we took off and I think.

Alejandro Cremades: So for the people for the people that are listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model of faculty. How do you guys make money.

Angie Ma: Yeah, so at the time the beginning was very much a ah you could say ah innovative education program to start with and so because these people um they would work for like six weeks with companies. Um, on their projects. Um, and whilst we provide training to them and so that they could demonstrate that they were able to develop deliver value to the companies and then companies at the end could hire them. Um, so it’s a very innovative hiring program and. Um, and then it’s it’s um, it’s a fixed fee that we got from ah companies and it’s free for the fellow so we could go out and find the best people. Um, and yeah, that was the initial um business model and that’s that was. Actually worked quite well because um for the past 10 years. There were lots of talent shortage. Um for organizations and a program like this allowed them to sort of try before you buy type of thing um to really sort of see if it’s a good fit for both. The the the fellow and the company. Um before they commit to a more long-term employment.

Alejandro Cremades: So and I know that when you guys got started back in 2014 I mean it was obviously the the startup environment in especially in Europe you know has developed quite a bit. But back then you know it was kind of like shaping up still and it’s still not at the same speed as as what you will typically see in the us. So how was it you know also for you all to be able to get into the whole venture capital hypergrowth thing of of.

Angie Ma: You.

Alejandro Cremades: Of of doing the fundraising as well. How has that experience been for you all. So.

Angie Ma: Um, it has been um, it has been actually quite good for us. Um in a sense that um, because ah because of our.

Angie Ma: Business model to start with um before even we had our own product and services we could generate revenue from the um this fellowship program. So um, so that meant um in terms of. So when we decided to do fundraising. It was primarily for our product which we started our first product which we started to build in 16 and um and it was good because we had revenue it wasn’t just burning money as they say and so. Um, so we were able to be selective about our investors um sort of investors investors we brought on even from early days where people were really like respect and really have very well-aligned vision. Um. What we want to set out to do. Um so is quite good and then um, we then the first kind of institutional seed investor we had was local globe. Um, which I think is probably the most prestigious seed fund um now in in Europe. Um. And they they’ve been incredibly helpful throughout. Um, and then subsequently in 2021 we had our second institutional investor which was apex digital. Um, ah, yeah, so um, and and I think having.

Angie Ma: Revenue from the start meant that you know as they say the best time to you know repair The roof is when the sun is shining so we could do fundraising when we don’t um, desperately need the money. So.

Alejandro Cremades: And you know kidding and I know that up until now you guys have roughly raised about $60000000 now 1 thing that comes to mind here is when it comes to to investors to vision.

Angie Ma: Me.

Alejandro Cremades: Is a really big one and and when you think about Vision. It’s not only about on boarding investors but then also the way that you’re able to get employees to get super excited about the future that you’re living into also about the customers that you’re serving So as we’re thinking about vision here if you were to go to sleep tonight. And and and you wake up in a world where the vision of faculty fully realize what does that world look like what.

Angie Ma: Um, well that’s a great question actually but this will be 1 for a lot of ah founders to get right? I think um so obviously in the ai space so we are.

Angie Ma: Now we’ve got 10 years of experience in Ai and we’ve got what ah over 350 people now and um have delivered so many um, kind of Ai system close to 500 and and like operational lising ai for organization.

Alejandro Cremades: I.

Angie Ma: What we see um is that now Ai especially in the past year or so has become the number one conversation in boardrooms. Um and previously. It’s it’s been more of a niche topic championed by the ctos or the cios. But now it’s in the mind it’s like number 1 thing for every senior leaders. In fact I think 3 out of 4 ah execs would say that if um, if they. If. They don’t scale Ai in the next five years they might go bus a bit like kind of the digital past twenty years the digital transformation. Um, and so company needs to make the right choices what we see is that um, at the moment. Um, the. Leaders are not quite sure what exactly they need to do with ai? um and fully understand what it needs to look like and so they they tend to sort of um, ah rush into implementing a lot of Ai tools. Um and that sort of risk. Getting caught in the in the hype cycle. Um and and end up you know, seeking kind of short-term gains over the more strategic transformative investment. So and so I would like.

Angie Ma: Like ideally really help organizations to make those strategic and transformative um investment in ai so that they really get the ah roi instead of lots of tools and you know not quite get a lot of value out of Ai and um, so. So then I think the summary is is really to um to help organizations to harness the benefit of the technology whilst mitigating the risks because there are risks associated with it and help organizations to make um good choices to. Um, to elevate to enhance their businesses with Ai.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously now Ai is everywhere everyone is talking about Ai everyone is saying that they’re doing something ai related what does Ai look in the real world.

Angie Ma: Um, yes.

Angie Ma: Yeah, um, so yes I mean the the past year or 2 hears so much about generative ai like the chat gpt and and that’s been great. It’s really, ah, capture kind of Everyone’s imagination and and like show like some potential. Um, but what actually the most impactful um, ai applications that we see are probably less sexy but it’s like nonetheless extremely extremely impactful. So I’ll give a. Quick kind of um, maybe I’ll illustrate it with a quick case study. So we’ve been working with um with huar which is a welsh um hospital truss. So um, the and nhs ah wells. So.

Angie Ma: They they will have a number of hospitals. So um, ah the Uk is run by the national health service. Um, and one of the challenge um of these hospitals is that you will have patients who are medically fit um but can’t be discharged. For some reason they’re still stuck in hospital and in Wales about a third of the beds are occupied by patients who don’t need to be in a hospital. So can you imagine like one third of your resources are being kind of used unnecessarily instead of directed. Patients were actually really needed. Um, so working closely with frontline medical staff were able to deploy Ai to help predict each patient’s estimated data of this discharge so that the the frontline medical staff can. Start planning a patient’s dischargeed because you can’t just ask people to go home. You have to plan for example, like coordinate with their family or non-hospital services like social care etc. So you need to get those like arranged beforehand before you can discharge and with. This kind of um, Ai application like certainly with wild dogs and hospitals they see a 35% reduction in bed filled with those who don’t need to be in the hospital. So and so that means they can divert their resources to other patients who are on the waiting list.

Angie Ma: To do operations or other things and that amounts to a saving of like forty millions and that’s just for a couple ah small like 2 3 numbers of hospitals and national health service in a u case meant about £120000000000 per year. So if you just. Like increase the the a little bit the efficiency just ah even a tiny percentage you make a huge amount of difference and in um, in in health care quality. Um in a u k certainly.

Alejandro Cremades: so so I guess the ah the in this regard to imagine if I was to put you into a time machine you know because we’ve been talking about the future too and and Ai is a future but I want to talk about the past.

Angie Ma: The.

Alejandro Cremades: And doing such with that with a len of reflection because now you know you had the opportunity of being at this you know for a decade. You also had the previous startup experience too. Um, but let’s say you know I was to put you in a time machine and I bring you back in time.

Angie Ma: Um.

Alejandro Cremades: Bring you back in time you know maybe to that moment that you were graduating from imperial you know there in in London and you’re able to stop that younger self. Maybe it’s that day of the graduation you know or you’re throwing your gown up in the air you know and and and celebrating and now you’re thinking about the future and you’re thinking about. Ah, future where you would be able to bring a solution to a problem that you’re experiencing and let’s say you’re able to see that younger auntgie and you’re able to give that younger Angie 1 piece of advice before launching a business but would that be n why given what you know now.

Angie Ma: Um, well certainly, um, before was doing startup I have to say for me personally, it’s been the hardest thing. Um, it’s really tough. So at the first advice heart I was I think before you actually do it because it’s It’s actually really tough and the the odds of success is actually not very high if you look at startups and starting companies. Um, but it’s been I will also tell myself it’s something extremely rewarding. Um, um, you learn so much you grow so much as a person. Um, but what I think is the most important thing is um is how I could really sort of work hard and cultivate a um, an s un distorted and nuanced model of the world as possible. Um, the reason why is because our comprehension of the world is just inherently flawed. So we have lots of biases and just how we understand the world and so especially if you’re doing um like a startup or working in a nascent. Technology field like Ai, you’re doing something that very few people have done before so you want to make almost like better decisions at every like step so you need to have like ah I would call like a less wrong model of the world.

Angie Ma: Just you know, understand the world and so you have a better chance of making the right decision and hence have a more favorable outcomes. Um I think that’s probably 1 thing that requires um like cultivating different skills um like critical thinking. How to synthesize information how to um, communicate with people how to understand the world. Um I think that that would be 1 thing I I think would be incredibly valuable. Um.

Alejandro Cremades: And so that’s super profound for the for the people that are that are listening that they are super inspired and that would love to reach out and say hi an Ge What is the best way for them to do so.

Angie Ma: Yeah.

Angie Ma: Um, I well you can reach out to me on Linkedin I do check my Linkedin ah recentlyably regularly and my email is just Angie Atfaculty Ai so people can easily reach out to me and I’ll try to. Ah. Yeah, ah ah I’m pretty good at responding to email. So yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: You you see enough. Well Angie it has been an absolute honor to have you with us today. Thank you so much for taking the time for being on the dealmakerr dealmakers podcast today. Thank you.

Angie Ma: Well, it’s a great pleasure. Thank you.


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