Asra Nadeem

Welcome to our newest season of HumAIn podcast in 2021. HumAIn is your first look at the startups and industry titans that are leading and disrupting ML and AI, data science, developer tools, and technical education. I am your host, David Yakobovitch, and this is HumAIn. If you like this episode, remember to subscribe and leave a review. Now on to our show. 

Welcome back, everyone, to the HumAIn podcast. Today, we are talking about the creative arts, generative design, the future of media, which has been capturing all of our attention in the COVID world. We have with us today on HumAIn podcast Asra Nadeem, who is the co-founder of Opus AI.

Asra has been involved in the tech industry for many years in Silicon Valley, working with startups, accelerating entrepreneurship, building products. And today, the media that we’re all listening to is something at the heart of the product that she and her team are building. 

So, Asra, thanks so much for joining us on the show. 

Asra Nadeem

Thank you for having me. I am very excited to talk to you about all the exciting opportunities that are out there for us in the creative space.

David Yakobovitch

I love the creative space. Many of our listeners don’t know this, but when I just got started in the industry, I launched a film production company in Miami. I was working with Haute Living, DJs like Armin van Buuren. And this was like the 2012-2013 era. 

This is when people were still putting videos on these big racks in our apartments and the cloud wasn’t really big yet. 

Asra Nadeem

I totally hear you. I went to film TV school. I went to film school, I did my bachelor’s in economics. I went to school for econ and mathematics, and I got into business school. And then, I dropped out and went to film school. And my mother today is devastated. She’s just like, What?

So, I grew up in Pakistan and, in fact, I am the first girl in my family who went to college. So, that itself was a very non-traditional event. And then the cardio paths are still like if you’re the best son or daughter, if you’re studying engineering or your doctorate or if you can be an engineer or a doctor going to finance. But who goes into film or creative fields, that’s not how you make money.

David Yakobovitch

So, Pakistan has also gone through the Bollywood type craze, the industry’s just not as big out there. It’s not as big. 

Asra Nadeem

Bollywood is definitely very big. The industry is big in the sense that our TV industry is pretty big. During the 80s, or  before I was born, we went through this entire Islamization through one of the dictators. And that really affected creative art the most, and a lot of media, especially creative media, like television and film, were heavily censored. 

And even to date, it’s one of the most censored media. So it’s not as big as Bollywood, but it’s definitely interesting. And then, there’s also segments of it that market to the masses, and then there’s segments of it that market to the diaspora, et cetera.

David Yakobovitch

It’s really interesting to think how the government has been behind so much of the creative arts, either flourishing or not. I had this lovely conversation recently with someone who’s been involved with the Smithsonian Institute and the conversation was about whether the government should support the arts and should creative arts be something left to the hands of capitalism, or just be able to thrive on its own merits. And as you’re describing here, we’re hearing about Pakistan. 

In the US there’s different markets. And, of course, in the US we could see there has been a contrast. And that’s probably one of the reasons that you’ve grown your career out here and you’ve scaled. It is because capitalism allows the creative arts to flourish.

So we’d love to hear about that background of what led you from film school to scale products and ventures in the creative space out here? 

Asra Nadeem

Definitely. So, I was still in film school when one of the guys who moved, he went to Stanford, wrote a couple of patents for Intel early on, and then moved to Pakistan. He was starting a tech company and he was still in this garage and I’m in a slightly fancier inbox.

I’m going to say garage. It was like a nice house with help and everything. But, essentially, he was just looking for somebody who spoke English to reply to. 

So you’d build like an initial product, and you wanted somebody who spoke English to work weekends, to just reply to customers who were coming up.

It was a matchmaking website for Muslims, and this is before Facebook. So this is still in the Friendster-MySpace era. 

And I was still in college and I was like, I’ll do it. But then, two or three weeks, I was like, no, this is not what your customers want. This is not the feature you should be building.

And I was hired full-time as a product manager. I had no idea what a product manager was. And my final thesis was delayed by a year, but that’s how I got into startups and technology. 

Even before that, I’ve always been a huge proponent of technology, because one of the things that I truly believe is that there is no freedom of expression, or any kind of freedom, without financial freedom.

And technology is a great enabler for that. My first business was an e-commerce business off of mIRC. I’m outdating myself, but I essentially just had all these friends on mIRC who would buy things for me, send them to Pakistan and I would sell them at a premium to kids in my college. And that’s how I was the richest kid in college. 

David Yakobovitch 

First-gen, but the richest. I love that contrast.

Asra Nadeem

It was interesting because that really gave me the psych. So for me, I’ve never made friends in person. All the friends that I know, all the people that I’m friends with, people that I’ve met people, who have given me jobs, people that I’ve hired, are people that I’ve met online. I am horrible at making friends with people in person. I have two friends who have outsourced meeting people too. 

David Yakobovitch

Everyone has different modalities. But at the end of the day, an in-person conference, an in-person creative event, a digital conference, a digital creative event are the same things, by technology. It’s enabled because with this digital event, you can do speed rounds a lot quicker. You can meet people, you can learn so much more for the information augmented. 

Asra Nadeem

And not only that. It also, to a large extent, evens the playing field in terms of access. 

So for somebody sitting in Pakistan or somebody sitting in any part of the world, all I need is to be on a platform and I have access to some of the most brilliant minds in the world for free. I can learn from them. I can even interact with them now. 

Previously, interaction was not an option, but you can interact with them now and be a part of a more global discourse. That’s how I got into technology. And then, we obviously raised a venture capital and grew that company. Built one of the largest matchmaking websites for Muslims.

And then we built a job website. And when I left, there were 150 people, and when I joined, there were four people. So I grew the product and revenue team. That was my role there. We raised money from DFJ back in the day. 

And we raised money from ventures, like a whole bunch of old-school venture capital firms. And then moved to the Byte, was a part of a team that built online infrastructure for the government colleges in UAE and Saudi Arabia. 

So my love for technology and what it brings has always been there. But at the same time, I’m also a huge fan of stories and games and content, because that’s how we learn and evolve and grow as a culture. And how does technology weave into that? It’s a question that my co-founder and I have been debating for a very long time and are finally doing something about. 

So that’s a brief intro, by route of a few tangents here and there.

David Yakobovitch 

That’s great. Matchmaking is something we’re always up to, especially now in the virtual world. What was the matchmaking venture that you were scaling? The name of that startup? 

Asra Nadeem

It was called “Naseeb” and naseeb is Arabic or the word for destiny. And it was because in the Muslim culture, you technically can’t date. A lot of it is driven. Now, everybody has seen that show. 

David Yakobovitch

Is this real? We’ve seen the Netflix show. 

Asra Nadeem

It’s real. So in my family, there are only two girls who got married to people that they had known before. It’s all arranged marriages. 

David Yakobovitch

You think that’s changing? We’re in 2020, it’s a virtual world.Maybe we’ll have some virtual marriages. 

Asra Nadeem

We have virtual marriages, but they’re also arranged, like we had Skype marriages with some guy who was living in Canada and the girl was living in Pakistan, and they just got right on Skype without meeting each other because the parents knew each other.

So there’s a lot of that. But interestingly, the youth, or people who are growing up in those communities, they want to meet other people, other individuals like themselves. And what we built into that was like this hot or not. But meet-like journals where people could ask questions, write journals, and really get to know each other.

So, it was this good mix of hot or not meets journaling. And a lot of people got married through that. And then Facebook came and completely killed it because it made it in the beginning. 

Facebook was very community-driven and there were groups and pages where groups were big on Facebook very early on. And a lot of the business was, then, driven to that at least in the beginning. 

David Yakobovitch

And that sounds a lot like the modern-day Hinge meets Tinder a little bit, as well. But, of course, still with that predestination. 

So, you got very involved with the product and that led to education, which is my favorite area. You mentioned you were working there and whether it’s among universities or among students, education is the big enabler, which is what we’ve started out the conversation here. 

We’re both first-generation, we’re both self-learners learning tech, scaling tech. Want to hear more from you, since you’ve been first-generation. What does education mean for you and how have you continued that path? 

Asra Nadeem

So I am a huge fan of Socratic models of learning. I don’t necessarily believe in these education cartels that we see around us, which are our universities and colleges. And I just don’t mean in the US, it’s the same everywhere else in the world.

And at this point, the only thing that colleges are good for is a visa. You get a student visa, it’s a great opportunity to migrate to another country that has better job opportunities. But aside from that, one of the key skills that humans should learn, or if we learn early on, is extremely advantageous to us is compounding.

So compounding of our time and compounding of our resources, be those financial or our network. And there is no reason anymore why you can’t start that early on, skill-based education. Education is pretty much free right now. If you go online, if you have the right motivation to learn a skill, you can, and you can learn that skill for very cheap and build in testings, and also find a network.

So you go to college for two or three reasons. You want to learn something. Internet makes that free. Pretty much you can go and learn things for free online. You want access to a network, you can build on network today. You can build that network on Quora or Twitter or Clubhouse. So your network is what you believe in.

So, you can start building your sub stack or anything that you’re doing. You can build that network pretty much without paying or taking on that loan from someone. 

And the third thing that you go to college for is the opportunity to get a job. And more and more jobs are moving towards people who can actually do the job and not people who have to be trained to do the job.

And all the boring jobs are going to get automated or boring, repetitive jobs are going to get automated. So that’s where education is definitely a huge opportunity. And that’s the model of education that I believe in.

David Yakobovitch

And the model is democratizing education. It’s so fascinating that you’ve mentioned this, Asra. You and I have gone to college. We’ve been first-gen, but it sounds like we both have a similar mindset of the belief in structural holes. 

And the belief of structural holes is this concept that social networks can be expanded. We can connect with each other. You and I have two different networks. Do we have to both go to Stanford for that? or can we meet each other, and then, suddenly these networks expand and strong links and weak ties get built. And that’s a world we’re in today. We’ve seen companies like the Googles and the Apples of the world who say, we don’t think any of the college degrees work here anymore.

If you have the skills, you can build an iPhone app, you’re hired at Apple. You can work in Java. You’re hired in Google. So it’s definitely a different world. And that world is crafting our narratives and stories as you’ve done. And that’s, what’s led you to where you are today with your new venture Opus AI is building stories for the creative industry. Again, I’m such a big believer in this. As someone who’s used a lot of creative products, myself, who’s always crafting narratives on shows. And, this is a space that’s a massive opportunity that has not been tapped into yet. Tell us more about Opus AI.

Asra Nadeem 

With Opus, what we’re building is this kind of going off of your example of democratizing education. How do you democratize content creation? We have, on one hand, your YouTube and Tik Toks that do a great job on that. But on the other hand, your bigger media, like film or gaming. Those are still very bought into traditional tools and traditional methods of production.

And today, for example, there are about half a million scripts that get written every year, and only 0.2% of them get made into movies. And over 700 games are started every quarter, but only two or three of them are completed. And a lot of that goes back to access. It’s all about the tools that we have and the access to capital and production.

And production decisions are made, a lot of times, by your advertising dollars or where your advertising dollars are coming from. Which is why you see remake after remake, because it’s harder to sell a new concept. So, with that in mind, one of the things we wanted to do was build a game that is smart and generates content and NPCs and challenges on its own. 

And one of the things we realized was that the problem with building any content is how we create those other tools has not freely changed for a very long time. 

So the engine that we’re building today, what it does is that it takes any literary text and converts that into a movie. So as you’re writing, it was raining outside, it was a dark night, the system generates a dark night where there’s rain and by just writing. And you can go back and say, no, it was day and it would change the night to day. So it takes out that entirely, so just how you have a code with how we’ve gotten to know code. 

We’re now getting to know tools. So anyone who is a creative writer can go in, write a movie, or build a game and distribute it to their audience. 

David Yakobovitch

So it’s really about access to stories. We see that there’s these big tools out there, both for video and audio, you got the final cut pros, the premier pros. And of course the bigger tools out there also like Maya and C4D, and a lot of these After Effects, really advanced tools that can be very complicated just to get basic scenes.

And then, the world moved in the last decade and a half into a unity, an unreal world where there were these engines and there were assets. But even then, it takes a lot to run them. 

If you’re someone who’s building games in Unity, you might as well learn C#, you might as well program it. But now, we’ve seen the last few years this new wave, as you’ve mentioned, we’ve seen this no-code or low-code wave, and that’s been powered by potentially new breakthroughs, like GPT-3 and other interesting automations. So it sounds like you’re of the school of thought to open accessibility. So if I want to create Disney pluses, the Mandalorian with text, you’re saying I will be able to do that in the future on Opus AI?

Asra Nadeem 

Yes, you will. And a lot of it goes back to the progress that we’ve made, especially with neural networks, with procedural design. And now we’re at a point where some of these things might not be solved problems yet, but we at least know how to solve them. 

It’s more about computation, how much computation you throw at it, where it says not having the means or the know-how to do it. So we’ve made, as humanity, a lot of strides in the last 10 years. And we’re going to see that convert more and more in the tools that allow us more accessibility to our creativity. 

David Yakobovitch

And I imagine in the low code space of what your product does, I can basically write phrases like sidewalks were littered with all drainage holes and suddenly the sidewalks appear.

I’m not actually coding these sidewalks. I’m not coding the drainage holes, it’s this low-code or no-code environment. And there was a lot of code that goes on behind the scenes to enable that. So, as developers, your team is learning every day, what are these different scenarios to enable us creating these stories?

I remember when the Amazon smart devices, Alexa and all those got started. There were so many phrases that were needed. So, initially, the product was getting started in that low code phase. And now we look fast forward five plus years. There’s thousands of phrases. So similarly, your team is working on different phrases.

What are some of your favorite examples of getting started on the platform? 

Asra Nadeem

A lot of these are. For example, one of the things we learned is that when we were a lot of we had to train each of these neural networks, because, if you think about it, if you take a step back and think about how it works, it’s essentially replacing an entire genre of asset designers with a neural network.

So people whose entire job is just designing trees, or build these 3D models of phase, we’re replacing them with a neural network. But you also have to train things on the NLP side for the language to understand it. So every single time we would ride the house or something, it would not do what we want it to do.

And then we realized, Oh, It means the White House or how it also means something else. So language has a lot of these nuances, and that’s where one of the bigger challenges is. How do you extract context out of what somebody is saying and build that what’s beautiful for me? I can say a beautiful girl and it might not be the same as what you think a beautiful girl is.

So, a lot of that personalization, not how we’ve seen it happen with our products like Siri or Alexa, we’ll see them happening more and more with products like Opus as well, but we’re still, for select, a year or two years out of that happening. 

David Yakobovitch

I’m sure there’s a big product pipeline as yourself being someone who builds products, today it sounds like the first versions are very much the NLP, the text generation of, then, generating these assets that maybe you have a team that’s generating them.

But perhaps, over time it’s to be more auto-generated or custom generated. Some of that might be occurring today. So if I say green fence, red fence, do these assets all exist? Some of them are being generated by your engine today. 

Asra Nadeem

So the assets that we’re generating right now are all generated by the engine. But what we’re generating today is we can do camera angles.  Because each one of these is like layers of engineering and automation. So it can do camera angles. It can do seasons, time of the day. So season, weather, flora, fauna, which is your trees and plants, and it can do terrains.

And water bodies, humans. So basic human characters, like girl, boy, man, woman, child. It also can do robots and Androids and things like that. 

So right now it’s more specific for Sci-Fi or fan fiction as like a first genre, of what we can generate with it. 

David Yakobovitch

I love it so much because, Asra, what I’m thinking about is from a storyboarding perspective with education and videos and scripting, a lot of bringing a story to life is just getting it on the screen.

And right now it can be that tool to enable digital natives who may not have that coding experience. I love it. And I’m excited to see where it goes. There’s so much to generate. What part of it, for you as a product leader, is the most exciting? Are you most excited about the audio, the texts, the engine, the video, the generation? What parts are really exciting for you in Opus?

Asra Nadeem

For me, it’s the potential of what’s possible. Most of us come from very story-driven cultures where our grandmothers or aunts have told us these stories that are being handed off generation to generation. And there’s a lot of good literature that has been written before.

That’s just sitting there with no potential to Arabic made into movies, or for the newer generation to have access to, or for a more global audience to have access to. And for me, that potential is the most exciting part for my team members. 

It’s definitely the technological progress or the automation of the leaps and bounds of automation that goes into it for them that’s most exciting. So all of us wake up for different reasons, but for me, it’s definitely the potential to be able to tell stories that I grew up on or tell or hear stories that other people grew up on in a medium that’s more globally accessible and understandable. 

David Yakobovitch

It’s fantastic. I’ve seen different startups in different industries say, can we democratize music creation? And so, similarly you’re democratizing video creation, and I can totally see a day, whether that day is in 2020 or 2021, where I could be creating Tik Tok videos based on Opus AI technology. So it’s super cool and really exciting to hear about that.

What’s so fascinating is, basically, generative design is coming of age. It’s been available for a long time in enterprises. You see big, massive companies like Autodesk and large enterprises that use generative design for manufacturing and simulations, or it previously was captured under the hood by Pixar, but now it’s being opened up.

And I’m a big proponent of open source technology. Sounds like open source technology is also some of the reason behind Opus AI is possible today. 

Asra Nadeem

Definitely. And not only that, we stand on the shoulders of giants, as a civilization. And the fact that a lot of what we have been able to do today is because of Google open source, a lot of their initial research at work, especially with NLP. So definitely, a huge fan of open source here, as well. 

David Yakobovitch

And it really sounds like what you’re building is using AI to boost creativity. Anything’s possible, accessible. New types of film will be generated and created that we’ve never seen before. And creativity generates, potentially something else, potentially new jobs.

We’re in a golden age of digital media creation and generation as a society, where our consumption of digital media only continues to grow, which means that opportunity for new jobs could exist. What do you see as, potentially, some new jobs or new markets that might be created in the future?

Asra Nadeem

We’re just at the beginning of this huge mountain that we can all climb together. So let’s talk about one market. Your VR market or AR market. The reason is, it hasn’t been able to grow exponentially or grow fast. There were some restrictions with hardware, but also designing content for it.

It’s still very expensive. So once you start designing these 3D worlds that are faster to design and not only faster to design, you can also edit them in runtime and personalize and customize that in runtime, that itself opens up a whole new world of opportunities. It opens up new opportunities for advertising, new opportunities for content creation, new opportunities for entertainment.

And we’re already seeing that in multiple different aspects. And with AR the same thing we have. We’re just scratching the surface of augmented concerts, et cetera. But, the experiences that we can create, and the fact that now your creators can also financially benefit from their creativity. So you’re creating more options for creators so they no longer need to have a day job.

They can literally do this and become a bridge. So that democratization that YouTube or Tik Tok has offered, that goes onto a much massive audience that way. And then the type of content that we can create.

So, right now, for a film to be made, it needs to have X million of people as its potential audience. But what if there’s only 10,000 people in the world who want to watch it? Why can’t we make something for those 10,000 people? And would those 10,000 people pay more money potentially? So a lot of those questions we haven’t even started answering yet, but that’s what’s exciting.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, today I’m going to be very excited about doing this repetitive job again. Humans, one of the best things about us is our imagination or creativity, and paying that’s where tools and AI would really help us. 

David Yakobovitch

Creative art doesn’t have to be an alternative career. As you’ve mentioned, creators can start making a living. We’ve seen whether it’s from platforms like Tik Tok and then the audio space, but now soon to be the video space, you can use different tools. You can use tools like Opus AI, you can use tools for design, like Figma or frame, depending what you’re building to start having that career.

That’s a digital-first career, digital-native career. And there’s going to be so many industries that your software is applicable for. It could be like science fiction writing. It could be for game design, game development, could be, again, building Star Wars, the Mandalorian. It’s this show that I’m just loving this year. It’s kept me sane during COVID. I’ll tell you that. What’s some of the use cases that you’re excited for? You’ve started to see some of these early prototypes at your beta users, are they excited to see what they can create with your product?

Asra Nadeem 

So we are sticking with, definitely, short videos and serialized content to begin with. But then, things that we can experiment with or things that we do want to experiment with in the future, like five years down the line or

four to five years down the line, is gaming. It’s also some sort of marketplace, because what if you can just sell your dance steps online and those dance steps can be used by multiple characters within a film? 

There’s a lot of things that you can do within the space that are exciting. Marketplaces, content marketplaces, Voiceover marketplaces. All of these things are possible. And that to me is the most exciting thing that we can start generating, a lot more interesting content, because stories are what sell and we all are attracted to stories. So how do you democratize telling those stories and make it possible for people to make a living through those?

David Yakobovitch

And who ultimately creates stories? Are stories created by the machines? Are they created by the humans? Are they created by humans and the machines? 

Asra Nadeem

Our stories are created by humans. There is no match for human creativity, human creativity and curiosity is what got us out of caves and got us to where it’s going to get us to space.

And this inherent desire to explore new places or explore new worlds, that’s something that’s very uniquely human. And I don’t think that’s replicable by a machine. 

David Yakobovitch

It might not be. It’s just that the machine is going to create all these synthetic designs and scenarios, but there is that creative element that the humans bring up.

And so these jobs, many people this year and next year in the creative industry are looking for new opportunities. They’re looking to rescale, they’re looking to upskill. Maybe that’s with code or maybe that’s with different platforms. What advice would you give to creative professionals who are looking to stay building, stay making, stay creating. 

Asra Nadeem

Now I would say, explore platforms. There are a lot more opportunities to not only put your content in front of different audiences, but also monetize it now. And finding that niche is a lot easier today. And then, there’s not just one medium that you have to stick to.

If you’re finding a niche around something, you can build multi product brands around it, there’s also a big uptick in virtual influencers. So, if your brand is, let’s say, crime, thrillers, there is no end to what you can do with it. You can do podcasts with it. You can have virtual series for that. You can have virtual influencers that are big in it. You can start conversations about it on multiple levels. You can start a newsletter about it. 

So I would say, explore the options that technology and platforms provide to really scale your art form, and don’t get stuck in one particular form of expression.

David Yakobovitch

No, it goes full circle. Thinking back to mIRC and conversations that used to be online, the top 50 true crime podcasts of 2020, everyone’s having these conversations and they might’ve used to be in this interactive relay and this chat, and now it’s just a different medium. 

And that’s the thing that creatives need to know, that when they’re scaling their love and passion for the arts and design, you could be making a world-class product. But if you don’t have product market fit, you need to see how you can get that iterate.

And that means trying different platforms, maybe be that virtual influencer on Tik Tok or other places that you can get discovered. There was a big documentary out on Hulu that perhaps many of our listeners have seen called Jawline, which was talking about these Influencers who were the teens and tweens who follow the story of two of them.

One who became really successful and one who just didn’t make it just yet. And what sticks with me for that creative is the persistence wasn’t there, or that person gave up, they stopped producing, they stopped exploring platforms. 

And if you got that hustle and that drive, I’ve seen a lot of creatives who you look 5, 10 years down the road and wow, they’re doing this now. That’s because they keep making, keep creating, keep building with that creativity.

Asra Nadeem

And one thing that, at least, a lot of my siblings or cousins are in is the creative arts. And one of the conversations we have with them most often is how they don’t understand that these network effects are built into platforms, platforms who want to get you in front of as many people, because that’s how they drive ad revenues or eyeballs.

And at the same time, that’s a great opportunity for you to monetize it. So all you have to do is figure out what is that one or two trends that product market fit. And then that platform creator fit that’s working for you. 

I know people who are now making more money on Facebook than YouTube creators with the same amount of following, trying to monetize as soon as possible, which is the same as what you do, let’s say, to a starter. Try to figure out who’s going to pay for it very fast and the same was for creators. 

If you try to figure out who’s going to pay for your creative art, whether it’s writing, whether it’s dancing or whatever it is, who’s going to pay for it. And once you figure that out, grow on that particular platform or medium.

David Yakobovitch

This is some of the best advice to our listeners. What you’ve just shared, what Asra just said is about monetizing as soon as possible. It’s so critical. 

There’s this data startup that I advise, and one of the founders recently spoke to me and  said, David, I got this big problem. I got all these clients and companies who want to give us money. And I said, great, where’s the money? And they say, they haven’t closed just yet. I said, okay, if you’re trying to think about which way to go get the money, get the pipeline, get that client. And that might be the direction.

You have all these brilliant, amazing stories. But if people aren’t willing to follow along with your vision, with your love and creativity, then it may not be big enough. And it doesn’t have to be big enough. What you’ve described today with Opus, you could have your 10,000 true fans and actually be making a good living, but you have to get up there.

You got to be creating and pushing content. And what I share to listeners, especially during these times where they’ve been living a digital-only life is to know that you should still continue with your goals. You can still continue with your projects and launch new work, be willing to try new things because the world is still moving on.

It’s a different experience than we typically know, and consider that an opportunity. An opportunity to reinvent yourself, to try new technology and to show that you as a human, can be part of that new wave, this new wave is always changing. The new wave might be the second or third or fourth Industrial Revolution, but we know that we’re continuing to move forward into a world that could be without code, could be no code, low code. 

With everything that you’re building, everything that you’re doing today, Asra, at Opus and what you’ve seen in the industry, what call to action you have for our listeners who are tuning in here?

Asra Nadeem

So before I go into my call for action, can I quickly comment on what you were saying before?

David Yakobovitch

Please. Absolutely. 

Asra Nadeem

So there is a really good framework that I personally really like, which is, if you are somebody who’s creative, this expectation that you’re always going to be in that creative zone, it’s actually false. So John Cleese actually has a really good framework for it. He’s the guy who did Monty Python. So John Cleese has a really good framework for it. And that framework is that how you start in this is kind of how I started as well, very early on. You lock yourself in a place, in a room or wherever, not like lock yourself, but put your phone away and just concentrate. Give yourself that one or two hours of creative space. And that is your time to think about everything. 

Think about how you’re going to change the world. Think about all the big projects, small projects, everything that you have to do. And it’s really hard to do in the beginning. But that’s it, those two hours are the only time you can think about what you are going to do.

And then the rest of the time you actually go out and do it. So harnessing your creative muscle. You have to build some sort of discipline into it where you can go in and out of that creative zone. So you have a creative zone and then you have a productive zone. And these two are extremely different phases of mine. Kanye West does it. He can do an album over a weekend, and that’s being in that productive zone where you’ve already thought about what you’re going to produce, and then you just get to work and produce it. 

So building that muscle is extremely important. So when you think, how do I do it? That’s a great framework that works for me really well. And I would highly recommend it. 

David Yakobovitch

And a work that you just said with John Cleese, who was both the Monty Python and the Harry Potter guy, who’s headless Nick in the Harry Potter movies. He showed that creative muscle.

He was in the Harry Potter movies when he was well over 60 years old, still going at it, they’ll kick in even as a ghost. And so you can always have that creative muscle. You could always be hyper focused, hyper aware to create that sense of urgency and passion.

And so, again, thinking, taking this all in as technologists, as creatives, what’s next? What would you recommend for our HumAIn listeners? 

Asra Nadeem

Go out there and be your best self. This is our only life. And if any of you is interested, we are hiring and you can find the jobs that are open on our website,, and we’re also fundraising.

So if this is something that you’re interested in seeing, happy to talk to you. But more than that, we’re hiring. And we’re looking for people who want to exercise both their creative and technical muscle. 

David Yakobovitch

Asra Nadeem from Opus AI, looking to build the future of creative arts. 

Loved having you on the show today. And thanks for sharing your story with the HumAIn listeners. 

Asra Nadeem

Thank you for having me.

David Yakobovitch

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