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.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Embracing Change from Beijing to the UK

Angie’s journey began in Beijing in the early ’80s, a time when cars were scarce in the city. When she was five, her family moved to the bustling city of Hong Kong, introducing her to a new language and lifestyle.

Later, at 14, she ventured to the UK, entering a boarding school reminiscent of a Harry Potter setting.

The shift to a new and unfamiliar environment challenged her perspectives, fostering a love for diverse cultures and shaping her understanding of the world. Angie remembers the school being in the countryside, where kids played sports every day and were allowed to have pets.

From Engineering to Physics: A Fortuitous Twist

Initially drawn toward electronic and electrical engineering due to familial influence, Angie’s path took an unexpected turn during a summer school physics program.

The allure of understanding the world in a concrete and fascinating way led her to switch her focus to physics, a decision she later found incredibly fulfilling.

However, to get into university in the UK, students need to have certain grades. To get admission into electrical engineering, the qualifying grade was three stars, but Angie had only 2 stars.

Although she couldn’t get into the course of her choice, Angie could get into Physics, which, in her opinion, is equally good. In retrospect, she considers it a great decision.

Startup Ventures and Valuable Lessons

Angie’s foray into startups during the early 2000s centered around optimizing databases. Despite a promising idea, the lack of experience and teamwork skills led to a quick and spectacular downfall.

This experience taught her a crucial lesson – a good idea is insufficient without a cohesive and capable team.

Angie recalls that after the dotcom boom, they explored the eCommerce space, which was still underdeveloped. Online shopping was very slow, and Angie realized that it was in part because of a lack of optimization of the database’s structure.

Along with a couple of friends, Angie thought of building a business that could bridge this gap. Initially, they had a few customers and worked with them. However, they did not have much work experience, specifically with having the right team in place. The business eventually folded.

Rediscovery and the Evolution of Career Choices

After the initial setback, Angie navigated through various career transitions, exploring law and academia. Her family would have preferred her to get into a conventional vocation like law accounting, much like a traditional Chinese family.

Since she was into philosophy, Angie decided to give law a try but quickly realized this wasn’t her thing.

Returning to physics, she realized her passion for understanding the world, eventually encountering the transformative potential of AI.

By 2013, Angie had concluded that academic research was not for her. Although it was intellectually stimulating, she wanted to do something more impactful that would deliver results within a short time.

The decision to move away from academia and co-found Faculty in 2014 marked a turning point.

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Faculty: Bridging the Gap Between Academia and Industry

Faculty’s inception stemmed from Angie and Matt Gorenstein, her co-founder’s personal struggles transitioning from academia.

The duo realized that by the time students completed their physics education, they were already in their 30s, and since they didn’t have any work experience, they were essentially unemployable.

Angie recalls that during his fellowship at Harvard, Matt came across a boot camp that helps academics transition to industry. This was an inspiring concept since the UK did not have any such programs.

The original plan was to create a program they could attend, but they ended up transforming it into a company.

The eight-week fellowship program bridged the gap between STEM Ph.D. graduates and the commercial data science industry. With over 500 alumni, Faculty has not only empowered individuals but also evolved to provide AI solutions for organizations.

At the onset, the program was about innovative education. People could work on projects for six weeks with companies. Faculty provided them with training so they could demonstrate that they were able to develop and deliver value to the companies, and then the companies could hire them.

In this way, Angie and Matt created a very innovative hiring program. Faculty receives a fixed fee from companies, but the service is free for employees. The setup worked well since there had been a shortage of talent for the past 10 years.

Companies and organizations could use Faculty to sort of “try before you buy” to assess if the worker was a good fit for both. The fellow and the company could explore the opportunity before they committed to long-term employment.

Fundraising for Faculty

Angie reminisces that back in 2014, the European startup environment and venture capital hypergrowth scene was still shaping up. The positive factor was that even before Faculty had its own product and services, it was generating revenues from the fellowship program.

That’s when Angie and Matt started to fundraise from the company with the objective to build their first product sometime in 2016. The fact that Faculty was generating revenues allowed them to be selective of their investors.

They were able to attract people who respected their well-aligned vision. The first institutional seed investor they had was Local Globe, which is the most prestigious seed fund now in Europe.

Subsequently, in 2021, Faculty had a second institutional investor which was Apex Digital. To date, Angie and Matt have raised $60M for Faculty.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Angie Ma was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Navigating the AI Landscape

As AI becomes a boardroom staple, Angie emphasizes the need for organizations to make strategic and transformative investments. With a focus on impactful applications rather than the hype, Faculty aims to guide companies in harnessing AI’s benefits while mitigating risks.

Angie reveals how they have 10 years of experience in AI and have more than 350 people working at Faculty. They have also delivered close to 500 AI operational listing systems to organizations. Earlier, AI was more of a niche topic championed by CTOs or the CIOs.

However, now it’s foremost for all senior leaders. At least three out of four execs are aware that if they don’t scale AI in the next five years, they’re likely to go under. Similar to when companies adopted digital transformations.

At the same time, companies need to make the right choices. Leaders are not quite sure what exactly they need to do with AI or fully understand what it needs to look like.

The rush into implementing AI tools and getting caught up in the hype cycle is a higher risk, as Angie warns. It’s like focusing on short-term gains over more strategic transformative investments.

That’s where Faculty comes in–to help organizations make strategic and transformative investments in AI so that they really get ROI instead of lots of tools and not a lot of value.

The objective is to help organizations harness the benefits of technology whilst mitigating risks. Essentially, making the right choices to elevate and enhance their businesses with AI.

Real-world Impact: Beyond Hype to Tangible Solutions

As Angie points out, AI is everywhere, and people are talking about what they’re doing with AI in the real world. While generative AI like GPT-3 garners attention, she highlights the profound impact of less glamorous yet highly impactful AI applications.

A case study with Welsh hospitals exemplifies how AI can streamline operations, reducing unnecessary hospital stays and saving substantial resources. Angie explains how the UK has a number of hospitals run by the National Health Service (NHS).

The key challenge these hospitals face is that they have patients who are medically fit but cannot be discharged for some reason. In Wales, close to 33% of beds are occupied by patients who don’t need to be in a hospital.

This means that one-third of the resources are being used unnecessarily instead of directed to patients who actually need them. Working closely with frontline medical staff, Angie and her team were able to deploy AI to help predict each patient’s estimated data for discharge.

In this way, the frontline medical staff can start planning a patient’s discharge sheet because you can’t just ask people to go home. Several factors need to be considered, like coordinating with their families or non-hospital services like social care, etc.

These need to be arranged beforehand before you can discharge patients. Using AI applications, they see a 35% reduction in freed-up beds and resources that can be used for actual patients, to do operations, and to perform other care.

These savings add up to £40M or $43M for two or three of the smaller hospitals. But if calculated for the NHS, that could translate into £120M or $129 per year. All it needs is a little bit of efficiency that can transform into a significant impact on the healthcare quality in the UK.

Advice to the Younger Self and Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Reflecting on her entrepreneurial journey, Angie advises aspiring founders to recognize the challenges but embrace the rewarding aspects of building a startup.

Cultivating a nuanced understanding of the world, refining critical thinking skills, and making less biased decisions are keys to success in the ever-evolving entrepreneurial landscape.

In conclusion, Angie Ma’s journey exemplifies resilience, adaptability, and a commitment to transformative innovation. As Faculty continues to shape the AI landscape, Angie’s story serves as inspiration for those navigating the dynamic intersection of technology, entrepreneurship, and societal impact.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • 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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Neil Patel

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