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Big Data and AI - Alum Damian Scavo shares his entreprenuerial journey

Sunday, May 20, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kris Stafie
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From AIESEC Pisa to the Bay Area - Damian Scavo, CEO and Entrepreneur


By Kris Stafie


I had the opportunity to speak with Damian Scavo about his AIESEC experience, career and how he has tried to keep balance in his life as a busy entrepreneur.  Damian grew up in Argentina but moved to his family’s native Italy when he was 9 years old. He grew up in a small village in Tuscany (sounds ideal, right?) and went to the University of Pisa where he discovered AIESEC.  He joined AIESEC in 2000 and has not looked back! He started working on projects for the LC, helped trainees as they came on board, learned how to sell AIESEC to local companies and went to his first conference, which happened to be a National Congress.  This certainly opened his eyes to the possibilities of AIESEC.

 

Damian thought it was amazing to find so many like-minded people all in one place and have the opportunity to interact with the prominent companies in the area. He made an effort to understand the companies and when he had to stop school to get a job, his AIESEC experience set him apart.  Interestingly, the company he started with had hired 4 trainees and two of them are still working there today. In his short 18 months in AIESEC at University of Pisa he also had the chance to step into a leadership role and organize International Congress in Italy.


I asked Damian what advice he would give young alumni graduating today and he was clear that the friendships in AIESEC are a network you should continue to cultivate.  Young grads should also share their experience in AIESEC with potential employers as it will set them apart from other graduates.  Don’t be afraid to network with alumni, ask to meet for a coffee or have an intro meeting. If they can’t help you, they might know someone that can. 


Shifting to his current company, Axwave, we talked about how it has progressed.  It was incorporated in 2012, started working with a team in 2013 and had their first product launch in 2014.  Their product gives app developers real-time data on user’s live and past media consumption habits. This allows app developers and marketers to provide better user experiences as well as understand who has viewed TV content.  It was unique to offer data on past media consumption which was not available prior to the company’s entry in the market. It also shows the commercials watched and those skipped! His company has grown in revenue 4000% in the last 3 years, keeping Damian very busy.  He continues to support AIESEC’s mission and employed an AIESEC trainee from China who is now working locally at Intel and participated as a mentor in our Mentorship program this year.


Damian travels 80% for business and 20% for pleasure these days. I asked him where he plans to go next for pleasure since he has been just about everywhere.  He would love to take his wife and his 2 year old son to Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil and to Italy where he grew up.  He has lived the last 6 years in the Bay Area and has been understandably busy with Axwave. I asked Damian how does he keeps it all balanced? He is lucky to have an amazing team at Axwave, but his business is just as important as other areas of his life.  He has 8 pillars that he keeps focused on to ensure he stays balanced in his life. They are: family, health, work, relationship, spirituality, finance and extended family. They can be at times uneven but he constantly tries to find the balance to ensure nothing stays unchecked for too long.  He finds meditation has helped him and he has been doing it for 12 years. It helps create the space in his mind to be creative and balanced. Since his son was born 2 years ago it has of course changed and he is not always able to find the time. However, he is aware when he needs to change things to get back in balance.  He shared some books he is reading on meditation and psychology. One of them is The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution by P. D. Ouspensky and the other is One Minute Meditation. I also noticed in my research that you can ask your Alexa to add the skill for OM and one minute meditation.  Yes, technology can help!


I questioned Damian what he thinks about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how humans will interact with AI. Interestingly, he said that he does not think that AI really exists today; however, statistical machine learning has shown that it is already better than humans.  For example, a machine can review x-rays of tumors and through repetition it can become better at recognizing tumors than a human. Of course you need lots of data sets for the machines to learn but that is progressing rapidly.  It’s very early times but he does not see AI making a huge difference for many years however, he does see self-driving cars coming up fast in the US (2-3 years).  He also shared that nanotechnology will move faster and will be better able to scale over robotics which is still in its infancy.  In addition to his CEO role, he also serves as a mentor at Singularity University where he helps several startups in exponential technology when they talk about AI, Nanotech, and Machine Learning.


Switching back to lessons learned, I asked Damian if there was a big failure that later turned out to be beneficial.  He laughed at that because there were many failures along the way that helped create the good ideas that later became companies.  One thing he learned is that while you can make a successful company out of a product, it is actually better to focus on finding the right people to move an idea/product forward.  To be successful, especially in software, you have to have a real passion for your idea with the right people to make it happen.

 

Damian said without hesitation that AIESEC provided the foundation to help him take on big responsibilities at a young age and without AIESEC he would have been hard-pressed to have his early successes.  He wholeheartedly believes that you cannot be successful unless your life is in balance in each of the 8 pillars. He looks forward to getting more involved in the AIESEC alumni community in the Bay Area soon.



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