Zirra AI, Analysts, and the Robot Takeover

A question we field a lot is just how much of our work is done by the Zirra AI. After all, we are in the business of AI-assisted company analysis, and it’s perfectly legitimate to ask what this assistance entails. They want to know if it’s a marketing gimmick (no) and if it does what we say it does (yes). But underneath that earnest curiosity are darker questions.

The tech world is abuzz with news of the oncoming AIpocalypse. Workers in all sectors are asking themselves if they’re replaceable, if the humans in their field are quickly becoming obsolete. The answer is well, maybe. Kind of. Probably yes. But at least for the time being, analysts are safe.

So what’s the Zirra AI’s job?

The short answer is that the Zirra AI does the quantitative heavy lifting, and some of the qualitative work, too. This gives our analysts more time to make sense of the bigger picture. While our AI pulls from millions of data points, our analysts can put together a story. If the AI and the analyst could have a conversation, it would look a bit like this.

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So let’s say that an analyst is working on a report for a weight loss program. The AI notices that there was a huge jump in web traffic to the program’s website in early January, and it dipped back down a couple months later. The AI assumes this is out of the ordinary, because it is a robot with no concept of New Year’s resolutions. The analyst, who is a human person, knows better.       

The problem with human people

Thus far, it’s humans that write most of the information that our AI is sifting through. Humans are fallible – they get dates wrong, different sources publish conflicting information, and companies may not self-report their biggest issues. And a lot of websites that host company databases get their summaries directly from the companies themselves. Sometimes companies even pay to be featured there.

It’s up to the analysts to make sure that every report is accurate, unbiased, and transparent. That means subtracting fluff, scrutinizing sources, and making sure all of the information is up-to-date and relevant. Because humans mess up, and as long as they’re still employed as journalists, copywriters, and financial specialists, artificial intelligence that relies on qualitative information is vulnerable to their mistakes.

Always learning

The Zirra AI is learning how to do better – with every correction the analysts make, it’s figuring out how to do the job on its own. In the meantime, it’s still learning how to recognize which information is relevant and which isn’t.

One not-so-far-off day, AI might be able to replace the whole Zirra team, from the CEO to the lowly blog writer. For the time being, the Zirra AI and analysts coexist in harmony, complementing each other and making us all a bit more whole. Perhaps the AI will remember all we’ve done for it once the robots do take over and overthrow mankind. And until that happens, we’ll be here to sort it out.  

Screw Leadership Skills. This Is What Makes a Successful CEO

Countless listicles, marketing blogs, and self-help pyramid schemes have been built around the question of what makes a successful CEO. Might the answer have been in front of us the whole time?

On September 13, 2009, an event transpired that reverberated around the world. As Taylor Swift was in the midst of giving her acceptance speech for her MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, Kanye West waltzed onto the stage, grabbed the microphone, and as an embarrassed TSwift looked on, proclaimed, “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time…one of the best videos of all time!”

via GIPHY

He shrugged, handed the microphone back to Taylor, and MTV cut to a commercial break. In this short moment, Kanye West exhibited the key factor that makes or breaks a CEO.

But actually.

The CEOs who nurture quixotic visions into billions usually get there the same way. Steve Jobs wasn’t a genius coder or a master engineer. He had a vision for how things should look, and he wouldn’t let anyone get in his way. His perfectionism and micromanagement interfered in his personal and professional life, and he nixed more products than ever came to light. But he trusted his gut on what would and wouldn’t work, peers and customers be damned.

Apple iPad

Zero consumer input went into this.

When asked about the market research that went into Apple’s trailblazing products, Jobs famously replied, “none. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.” Apple customers didn’t get what Apple customers asked for. Apple customers got what Steve Jobs asked for. And it worked – I still use my iPod Nano and it’s 2018. No one got in the way of his vision, and that’s how he built a company that was valued at $300 billion in 2011, the year Jobs died.

Realizing the unlikely

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and supervillain archetype, launched his personal car into space. This program, and all of SpaceX’s other successes, would not have come to fruition if Musk had not literally been spat on in Russia.

Want insights on SpaceX or any other start-up? Order a Zirra Report here.  

When the software millionaire first attempted to realize his sci-fi dreams of colonizing Mars, he was in the market for a rocket. His friends tried to talk him out of it, but it was no use. In 2001, he traveled with a small entourage to Moscow, where he intended to buy a ballistic missile. There, he was laughed out of meeting after meeting (and spat on), until he was eventually offered what he wanted – for $8 million. Sick of not being taken seriously, he decided that if he wanted this undertaking done right, he needed to do it himself. And he did. SpaceX is now worth $24 billion, and though it may be overvalued, it’s enough to buy a whole lot of Russian ballistic missiles at full price.    

Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster

When all the parking spots near the mall are full, amiright? Source: SpaceX

With a net worth of $108.9 billion, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the richest man to ever live. What started as the first online bookstore has evolved into an empire. To get there, Bezos had to take enormous risks and double down on his vision as larger, hungrier competitors encroached on his niche.

He’s also been accused of underpaying workers, enabling slavery-like conditions in his factories, and running a modern monopoly. But when asked about how he feels about fielding criticism from the Washington Post, which Bezos owns, he insisted that he would never interfere. In fact, he would be embarrassed to do so. Criticism is healthy, he believes, and when it’s valid, it’s a helpful tool for change. When it’s not, it just rolls off.

So, what makes a successful CEO?  

Back to Kanye at the 2009 VMAs. Not only was he correct in his assessment – the “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video is an unparalleled masterpiece – but he had the guts to call it as he saw it, when he saw it, for better or for worse. It worked to his benefit. Kanye increased his recognizability, got people talking about him, and then disappeared for a few months. When he resurfaced, it was to promote one of his best-received albums. He marketed himself brilliantly, and he did so by not giving a single s#*%.

There are a host of things that these CEOs have in common, from the obvious (big dreams, internal motivation) to the less so (shrewd personal marketing, a touch of sociopathy). Being a successful CEO does not necessarily mean being a good leader, or a good boss. It means that they were able to turn their plans into heaps of money. And in order to do that, they had to make sure they were set in that mission, despite what others might think. Someone building a business from the ground up has to know how to say “you know what? Screw this. I’m doing it my way.”