IBM SmartCamp Global Finals: IBM’s Manoj Saxena Outlines The Commercial Opportunity Of Watson
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, IBM’s general manager for its Watson Solutions group has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Twice.
When Manoj hit the stage at this afternoon’s IBM SmartCamp Global Finals in San Francisco to explain why he’s back at a big company like IBM, he started with his own start in mind.
Though he’s been with IBM for five years, and had an early background in corporate America at 3M, he started his own company in 1998 (Exterprise), which was acquired in 2001 before he started another company, Webify, which was later acquired by IBM.
One of the reasons he has since stayed at IBM, Manoj explains, is that “it’s the place to be if you want to have impact and change the world.”
He continued: “As you grow older, you start to understand what your core competence is, and mine is converting PowerPoints to products to profits.”
Manoj explained how startup culture and reality has changed dramatically from the dot com boom to present times. In the past, you would build it and they would come, and it was all about eyeballs, traffic, and the amount of money raised as a badge of honor.
Today, if they come, you can then go build it, but you’d be well advised to validate THEN scale, and that actual revenues are the path to profitability. Moreover, it’s advisable to take as little money up front as possible, so that you can focus on building value, a business, and not just a startup.
Ultimately, Manoj explained, companies are bought, not sold, and if you focus on building a business around a greater purpose, the riches will come.
He then turned to Watson, and the role the Watson technology is playing as IBM works to build a smarter planet.
Watson, Manoj explained, was a part of an IBM research project that followed in the spirit of the Deep Blue/Kasparov chess match of 1997, but that this time around, more focus was put on the commercialization of the technology.
What made Watson so unique was that not only is it smart at answering questions, but also that it can process and analyze 200 million pages in three seconds. The business implications of such a capability in our emerging data-drowning environment are critical. There are now 2 billion people on the Web, and “businesses on a smarter planet where people are dying of thirst in an ocean of data.”
So, Watson has been geared towards some select industries initially, namely healthcare and financial services, with others yet to come.
On the healthcare front, Manoj revealed some startling statistics. One in five diagnoses today are estimated to be inaccurate or incomplete, and there are 1.5 million errors in the way medication are prescribed, delivered, and taken in the U.S. alone each year.
And yet 81% of physicians report spending five hours or less per month reading medical journals, even as medical information doubles every five years.
Which is where Dr. Watson’s technology can help doctors with their diagnoses. Not to replace doctors, but to help them winnow down to the most likely diagnosis based on Watson’s ability to rapidly analyze millions of likely scenarios and generate and evaluate those hypotheses to identify the “best” outcome.
As Manoj suggested, think of it as a navigation system for doctors.