Iru Wang, Co-Founder Of MoBagel, On Democratising Access To AI
Ever since she was a student in third grade, Iru Wang, the daughter of two university professors, was told she was destined to pursue a PhD in the United States. “I grew up in a very academic environment,” Wang says.
After graduating from National Taiwan University she was presented with two opportunities: a PhD at Princeton University, as planned, or a master’s degree at Stanford University. “It was one of the hardest decisions we had to make as a family, even though the answer was clear in my mind: I wanted to build a startup in Silicon Valley as soon as possible,” she says. She decided to attend Stanford.
Looking back, Wang says diving straight into startup life was potentially naive, but “it took me all the way until today. I’ve never regretted it.” Her self-belief paid off: she has since co-founded two startups, including, most recently, MoBagel, a platform that enables enterprises to quickly build AI-driven data solutions, where she currently serves as COO.
Here, we talk to Wang about everything from what’s next for MoBagel to the one piece of advice she’d tell herself if she could go back.
What sparked your decision to found MoBagel?
In December 2014, I received an email from my previous investor stating that three engineers were coming from Taiwan to participate in the Salesforce US$1 million hackathon in San Francisco, and that they were looking for a local teammate. We met each other at the hackathon and eventually won a prize as our first cash investment.
During the hackathon I was amazed at how little they needed to verbally communicate and how efficient they were at delivering a working prototype. I have never seen this kind of teamwork before. The entire time engineers were busy writing code while the commander, Adms, talked in the background from time to time. He later became my CEO. That’s how we got put together as a team until today.
What is MoBagel’s core mission and what’s next for the company?MoBagel is democratising AI by delivering a simple software for anybody to build predictive models from their data. Utilising automated machine learning (AutoML) and automated time series technologies to predict supply-demand and anomalies, we help telecoms, brands, manufacturers and governments to ship the freshest milk to everyone, deliver Covid-19 vaccinations, deploy medical devices to those in need, and maintain social justice in society.
In the next five years, we plan to become the AI marketplace where developers and data scientists can roll out their AI applications, with data preprocessing and user interfaces ready to use that are specific for their customers’ use cases.
What advice would you give yourself when first starting out, if you could go back?
Believe in yourself and your team. Be good at heart, put your best foot forward. You can only succeed or learn.
Proudest career moment?
Life is accumulative. I’m still on this steep trail of startup success and making an impact. Every time I look back and see the cliffs that we’ve conquered, I feel proud.
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
We have an IPO plan in the coming years. [After the IPO is] when our brand and company can really make an impact, democratise AI and become the most trusted AI partner to all data-driven companies.
What’s a book that changed your life?
The Courage To Be Disliked. It helped me realise that I am the decision maker of my emotions, reactions, and decisions, not other people or the world. It also helped me dig deep inside by asking myself “What am I trying to achieve here?” when I couldn’t understand why I was acting a certain way.
What productivity hacks do you swear by?
Always sweat a little each day to boost the mind's clarity and productivity. Exercising also helps me maintain a good endorphin level to prepare for things that could go wrong.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I used to act like a gangster when I was in middle school, thinking it was cool and awesome. I gradually out-grew it, but sometimes I still kinda miss the old days.
If you had an extra hour in your day, what would you do with it?
Exercise. I believe that modern people are not getting enough exercise, which is one of the reasons we easily feel depressed and defeated.