You are listening to the HumAIn Podcast. HumAIn is your first look at the startups and industry titans that are leading and disrupting artificial intelligence, data science, future of work and developer education. I am your host, David Yakobovitch, and you are listening to HumAIn. If you like this episode, remember to subscribe and leave a review. Now, on to the show.
Welcome back listeners to the HumAIn podcast. Today, our guest speaker is Nikita Shamgunov¹, who is the founder and co-CEO of MemSQL. He is working to transform data management throughout the entire world. And he’s joining us today from Silicon Valley. Nikita, thanks for joining us on the show.
Happy to be here.
I’m really excited to be having this conversation as a practicing Data Scientist. I work with a lot of clients and I see so much data in the world just like yourself. And while 2020 has been such an interesting year, all around, and many call it the unprecedented year, now we are exploring to reimagine our economy, to reopen our world.
And this is seen where Coronavirus has been, and to where we’re going. How we can stop and slow this spread, and how we can transform the world? So, what are some of the things you’ve been seeing as a leader in Silicon Valley?
Well, this is a great question. At the end of the day, we, as we go through, like you said, unprecedented times, people who have the levers of power are rolling out initiatives, are rolling out shutdowns and thinking about these big disruptive changes. Things like opening the economy, closing the economy, opening borders, closing borders, quarantines.
And in order to do that well, you need to have a very strong decision support. And one of the things that emerged through those times is this various ways of controlling the spread by having a very clear understanding of what’s happening in the world, what’s happening in the region. For example, what’s happening in New York.
When you tune in to Andrew Cuomos’s updates, you will see that he always starts his update with a lot of statistics, demonstrating and showing how those statistics are influencing the decisions of what we’re going to go about next.
Now at the same time, we’re only scratching the surface here. And under the covers there’s another thing that’s got a lot of popularity, which is called contact tracing or social tracing. And in that category, the issue is how can we use data and how can we use location-based data? Because everybody’s now carrying a smartphone to really identify and control the epidemic.
And MemSQL works with a handful of customers to enable that social tracing scenarios. Now, in order to do that right, what are the key problems that we need to solve? And not just as a technology. As individuals, like I said, people with the levers of power, what do they care about?
The one thing is how we can estimate the migration patterns that people are having by commuting to work or by going from state to state or taking airplane flights. How can we anticipate where the next outbreak is going to be the most pronounced? And this was the information that was vital to us a while back when we were thinking about the ICU capacity.
The other one is, “okay, well, let’s say we got that under control”. We’re not limited anymore by masks, because we’re not limited anymore by ICU’s. Now the question is, can we thumbtack that pandemic? Can we really push the numbers down and keep them low? And that requires very good social tracing and contact tracing techniques.
So for example, if you know that a particular individual is infected, and of course you’ve obtained that information by this individual reporting to the officials or checking into a hospital. Now that that individual has been contagious for two weeks. So can we go back? And based on the data, understand who are all the individuals that infected person has contacted? and can we go and find out and trace it back and potentially test those people and really isolate and quarantine people who may have been impacted?
So now, let’s close our eyes for a second and do a little bit of math. There are 300 million people in the United States, slightly North of that. Well, let’s just say 200 million having cell phones and moving around. And let’s say we collect a data point for every second or person’s location and we store this information somewhere. So first of all, let’s ask a suspect. Is that a lot of data? Well, actually that is a humongous amount of data. It’s 200 million data points being collected from everybody, every second.
And in order to first collect and store all the data and to start running various algorithms, including contact tracing on top of this data, you need two things; You need access to the #data and then you need technology. So then, you start thinking, well, who has that data? And the obvious answer is, whoever is giving you the cell phones. It’s basically Google and Apple. And by the way, they’re coming up with a great partnership to enable social tracing.
And I think that’s a very good thing for humanity, for the control of the pandemic. And the other party that has the data is obviously telecommunication operators. The interesting thing is that Google both has the information about the location for at least half of the population that has the Androids and the technology.
The telecommunication operators do have the data, but not necessarily the technology. And that’s where MemSQL² is partnering with some of the key telecommunication providers here in the United States and overseas, to enable contact tracing and social tracing by combining the data sets the telecommunication providers have, by the nature of their business, and MemSQL technology to store process and give the full 360 information for social tracing for migration patterns, and for various decision supports that eventually flows back into the politicians, the decision decision-makers, to control the spread of the pandemic.
Everything that you’ve just shared, Nikita, is spot on, it’s so fascinating and relevant. I’m joining everyone from New York City as we’re continuing to re-imagine and reopen the economy in Silicon Valley. We’ve seen a lot of change to the city.
Not only has the MTA shut the subways at night so that they can clean and disinfect. We’ve seen nurses that have flown into New York City to help with Coronavirus to help ensure we can reduce the numbers or flatten the curve or prevent a second wave to help everyone get better.
And I think we’ve seen some of these early contact tracing Apps, like the ones out of MIT and the ones in Singapore that have been helping. But of course, not everything’s been anonymous. We’ve had some scenarios where different on-demand drivers or delivery people may have had access to this personally identifiable information. But I think we’re making progress there to de-anonymize data.
It sounds like the efforts you’re doing at MemSQL, I applaud them, that you’re helping bridge the gap here with humans and data. And I think it’s going to be essential that we have these partnerships with global telecommunication companies. Like what you’ve mentioned.
I’ve traveled a lot and also worked with telecoms. In October, 2019 I was in South Korea meeting with some of these leading telecoms in Southeast Asia and we were talking about digital transformation. Digital transformation means so much to the world today. When you’re thinking about education, we offer galvanize or its data management like you’re doing in Mem SQL globally.
There’s so many companies. I can speak to our clients like the work we do with T-Mobile and STC. I mean, there’s so much going on in the data space. And I think contact tracing, like you’ve mentioned, is just going to start taking off and becoming bigger and more important in the economy. Where do you see this contact tracing moving? And is it something that’s going to be here to stay?
Well, I think so. I think so, and the reason to that is, there’s just so many applications to contact tracing, and COVID certainly highlights. At least one use case there is to control the spread of the pandemic. The effectiveness of that is absolutely unparalleled.
If you look at how certain countries control the spread, you can see that those who’ve implemented those techniques earlier are certainly benefiting from the fact that there’s just fewer deaths and fewer cases in those countries. To give you an example of that, Israel implemented contact tracing very, very early on.
They were ready to address those issues as the virus hit the country and the numbers are on the board. You can see how much fewer cases at the end of the day they had. And that’s because they were aggressive with the measures early on. And that’s because they had very strong technology support, with their decision-making process. Now where contact tracing is heading outside of COVID? because at the end of the day, #COVID is going to blow over. It’s a new world we’re living in now, the post COVID world.
But if you look at the longer span of time, this will go away and something else will come in. The one thing is, first of all, this is not going to be the last pandemic. If you look back a hundred years, I think we had three or four: SARS, and then, there was something in the sixties and before that, the Spanish Flu. So we’re going to see more of that and the well developed techniques, technologies that you can just turn on with a flip of the switch will be available and ready for us moving forward.
So this is great. Beyond that, there are certainly plenty of applications for contact tracing, various security applications, terrorists, criminal activities, all of those things. And suddenly it edges at the border of what’s that place where we’re giving the authorities too much power that could be the invasion into privacy. And that’s where legislation and regulations are going to come in to really define what’s okay and what’s not. When we work with telecom providers, they are absolutely obsessed with the access to what it’s called the caller ID, the user ID.
Who is that actual user for a given data point. If you know that this is the user, with that user ID, at this point in time, at this location, even that information contains a lot of power. And the access to this information in this country is regulated, and we, MemSQL certainly don’t have access to that. We provide technology and there’s a lot of barriers, even inside the telecommunication providers that control access to the subscriber ID.
That’s the right approach and that’s the right way to look at it. And that’s why if you want to give access to third parties for this kind of data, subscriber IDs absolutely have to be anonymized.
We have to be extremely careful how we do it. And the reason to that is, with modern algorithms sometimes you can infer that information by running smart algorithms and correlating pieces of data with each other. And you oftentimes can reveal that information or infer that information. And the crazy thing is that as algorithms get better and more refined today, you might not know that you’re sharing certain insights, but you are sharing the data.
And then tomorrow you invent a new algorithm. And you’re starting to extract those insights out of that data. That’s why I think it creates an interesting challenge for the regulators of how to control and access that data.
And I completely believe that regulation is at the heart of this matter. The key that we’re talking about, humans and machines working together. We’ve seen in New York state, how Governor Cuomo’s hired over 1700 contact tracers to have the humans help make sure we bridge the gap.
We make sure data is anonymous. We make sure that people feel comfortable and all this is tracked, but it’s not going to stop with COVID-19. As you said, maybe there will be a COVID 20, a COVID 21, but we want to prevent examples. We’ve seen the downfall of privacy concerns with the Clearview AI’s where a lot of issues happened. But I can see contact tracing going so much further.
Of course it’s been in many people’s hearts and minds in the last few weeks with George Floyd from Minneapolis, when he was taken down from police and everyone’s on different lines here, but I can only imagine if contact tracing was available on his device, the device of those who recorded it, and the device of these police officers it’d be very clear, we would know for certain what happened. There would be no questions. So, my question to you then is, why is it important for people to download contact tracing Apps on their phones?
Well, I think it’s a part of social responsibility. In my preferred and ideal world, those #contacttracing apps are just pushed on you by the device providers, by Apple and Google. And of course it’s a consent. So you can reject it or you can accept it. And that would be my preference, but I think it goes into the same category as wearing the mask. Downloading a contact tracing app is a very straightforward thing for you to do, so you basically do it and forget about it.
And what you do is, through that action you are saving lives, because you will get a notification on your phone: “Why don’t you show up and take a test? Looks like you had been in the proximity of someone who had COVID 19 and you may be safe because you are in the category of healthy individual and relatively young, but you, by doing that, you’re potentially limiting the spread of the virus”. So that’s why I think you should go and download the app.
I think it’s so important. Especially as we start to reopen the economy. We’ve seen several countries, as you’ve mentioned, that are reopening and then reclosing, and it’s very challenging because there’s so much around COVID or Coronavirus that we don’t know yet, but we do know some things have been promising. Recently the Center for Disease Control, CDC, came out saying that they’ve dismissed their claims that it’s not as contagious on surfaces as they once thought, which is very promising, I think, to help us reopen the economy.
And I think as we continue to reopen and reimagine what does work look like? What does education look like? What does society look like? In your predictions a little bit, where do you see us moving onward and upward, as our governor in New York, Andrew Cuomo says, can we reach back to our pre COVID levels of work?
Well, I think so. For once we’re in the transition state. We live in the post COVID world and we’ll be working from home quite a bit. We’re recording this interview. I’m recording this interview from my bedroom. As we do that, we’re spending a lot of social capital that we’ve built working together in the same office.
And that’s why I actually am a big believer in that social capital and I’m looking forward to the time where we can go and come back and start working out in the same office again. But to answer your question, where do I see that going? I think we’re just going to get so good at understanding and controlling this pandemic through a combination of rules and guidelines such as 60 to part, wearing a mask, installing a contact tracing App on your phone.
Something that is simple to follow and something that society accepts. And then we’re going to get very sophisticated in tools that give us very good insight about what to do and what not to do. And if something is working or something is not working. And then, hopefully the whole of humanity is working on solving that crisis. And hopefully we’ll get a vaccine, because in parallel, lots and lots of labs are working for a vaccine for COVID-19 and one day it’s there and we’ll forget it like a bad dream.
And I think as we move into, again, a new economy reopening, and seeing where we’re at, I’d like us to shift the conversation to anonymous data pre-COVID. We’ve shared a little bit on the show that we’ve all known about the data leaks, the data sales on the Dark Web and pre- COVID, I’ve tried some of these contact tracing Apps and I think they’re very promising. I’ve used the one from Singapore and the one from MIT.
It’s very interesting software. It makes me think of some of the favorite apps that I use today, like Yelp and Facebook and Find My Phone. All these are apps that we use anyway, that we take for granted on Apple and Google. But the contact tracing apps are really much of the same. They’re just helping increase privacy, increase security. I think it’s going to be good for everyone, but there’s still people questioning about the anonymous data, is it really safe? Is it secure? What’s your take on that?
This is a great question. And by the way, I’m with you on Find My Phone. I’ve used it a million times. So my take is that there is public data and there’s data that is guarded by whoever owns that data.
And for public data, we need to have open techniques for securing and anonymizing that data. So you either lock the data down and then let’s say Google owns that data or Apple owns that data and doesn’t give access to anyone. And they are responsible for the security and safety, really, of that data, that the bad guys, won’t go and break into it.
And so, in that situation, we are relying on the capability of a large tech giant. We’ve had lots of breaks. We have lots of leaks. Equifax had a leak a few years ago. In this world, the bigger the giant is, the more secure is the data in a way. And the only reason to that is that they have access to vast resources and vast teams of security professionals, and decades of experience to secure such data sets. So for example, if you talk about Microsoft… Microsoft has a history of hackers trying to break into Windows, and in order to respond to that, Microsoft built massive security teams with world-class researchers. And it’s just like a very strong security muscle there.
Same goes for Apple as a tech giant, same goes for Google as a tech giant, when the data set becomes public, then it needs to be as open as possible. Because in this situation, the security and the anonymization of this thing, the strength of it is going to get better if it’s open to the public and anybody can go and try to hack it. And the techniques of security and anonymizing are published and they’re published ahead of time, is peer-reviewed by the industry, peer-reviewed by the academia.
So that’s another way to secure something. It’s actually making it extremely, extremely public. And publish the ways, how are you securing those data? That’s all in the open. In a way, Bitcoin is secure, and all the Bitcoin code that runs in the world is open source. So it’s all there for everybody to see and read, but yet once you apply it, then it makes something secure. It makes something anonymized and it makes something to run well.
As you’ve described with some of these use cases right now, Microsoft with their data teams, it just brings back a memory for me in New York City, when I was just getting started and moved from Florida to New York, I joined the “Capture the Flag” event in New York city. And this was with a red hat. It was on tunneling data. And I just went up into this skyscraper out of nowhere.
I felt like I was In an e-sport like League of Legends live and the cameras were on us and we were just hacking and penetration testing. It’s incredible to see security has become a huge component of our industries. It’s almost that hidden area that no one sees. And earlier this year, I call that the top job for 2020 is Cybersecurity Analyst.
I think there’s such a need for these roles for companies to protect data and protect systems. I think, Nikita, as you’ve shared, we are generating so much more data today than ever before. Think just in the United States, 200 million plus devices, 300 million plus people that’s doing data every second. We’re all going to be getting new phones soon, the Samsung Galaxy S 20 Ultra, the iPhone 12s that are going to be generating even more data.
And I think one of the biggest complexities is, as an industry, we need to manage data management, but that is a struggle. I know that’s a lot of the work that you’re doing at MemSQL. So I’d love for our audience to gain a better appreciation of how MemSQL works today.
It’s a great question. So when you think about data management, a typical solution includes the ability to capture, store and process data. And in the world of lots and lots of data, like large data volumes, you can store all the data on your device, or you can store the data on one computer.
So you start thinking about what is called cluster systems. And cluster is kind of an old world, the new world of describing those systems is cloud. The right place to store and process large volumes of data are in the cloud and the way it works under the hood. Clouds really give you access to a bunch of Lego bricks. And those lego bricks could be a server that is in the cloud, or a data break could be a service offered by a cloud provider, such as Amazon, that would be S3 or an object store.
Those are what it’s called elastic. So S3 has, for all intents and purposes, unlimited capacity. As long as you pay for it. And clouds have as many servers as you’re willing to pay for it as well. So there are those lego bricks. What’s exciting about this new world is using this Lego bricks you can assemble sophisticated systems. And those would allow you to, like I said, store that data, analyze, process that data, transform these data and build applications.
That fundamentally delivers you beautiful user experience, they give you interesting insights or they crunch data under the hood and they present you with some sort of decision support for whatever you want to do with that data. They generate insights. They send you notifications on the phone. Everything is data-centric.
So back to how MemSQL works, MemSQL is that modern data management solution or a database that lets you store an unlimited amount of data and lets you build applications that are data-centric.
Sometimes they take data and take it converted into pixels. The pixels that you see on the screens at times they take the data and then generate insights or reports. And at times that’s data that powers your AI and #machinelearning algorithms, that’s another use case that we support over and over again. I guess it’s a long way to say that data management is an infrastructure layer.
Just like you, when you walk into a house, there’s the foundation, there are all the systems that run through the wall, electricity, all those things, all that infrastructure. At the end of the day it delivers you that experience and delivers that the capabilities of being a product, being an application, being a house. So that’s what data management is about. And MemSQL is a modern, rapidly-evolving, made-in-the-Silicon-Valley data management system.
It’s so fascinating, especially not only what you just shared, Nikita, but we’re looking in the world today of COVID and post COVID that digital-only experiences are continuing to accelerate. And one of those experiences that are accelerating that I call a top 25 trend for Q2/2020 is the growth and acceleration of the cloud. Traditionally, if we look at any of these cloud solutions, like the big four, I call them AWS, GCP, Azure, Alibaba cloud even, all of these clouds have availability zones, which is where all these data centers are served.
And there can even be these edge locations in those regions to help power these systems, but something that you and I spoke about offline is you’ve been very successful with building hybrid solutions, basically on-prem in the cloud working together.
And at MemSQL you have your own platform that’s working with the infrastructure, it’s called Helios. It’s very data centered. So if I was a user who wanted to work today with MemSQL from a high level view, whether it’s with Helios or your other products, what are some ways I should consider solutions on your platform?
This is a very good question. There’s the old world of Data Centers and the servers and GBAs or DevOps people managing those data centers. And there is a new world, the world of public clouds where everything seems to be a point and click or an API. Underneath those, of course, there are still data centers and DevOps people, but to the end user, that consumption model seems to have changed.
The interesting thing is that the data centers, in fact, didn’t go away. It’s the consumption model that has proven to be very successful in the cloud is now coming back into the data center. So as a prediction, when cloud started, and started to gain momentum, we started to live in the world of kind of 80–20, 80% of the data infrastructure is in the data center, 20% in the cloud.
I think over time this will flip because it just makes way too much sense to consume technology in the public cloud. But just like the electricity generators never went away, data center is never going to go away. I think the ratio is going to split, but the consumption model that’s proven to be so good in the cloud will be uniform.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the public cloud or you’re at the edge. And that consumption model will be the cloud consumption model. And that’s how high hybrid clouds came to life and came about. They unify the consumption of the technology across public clouds, private clouds, edge, whatever that might be.
So there’s a bit of a race right now in the markets to become the number one hybrid cloud provider and all the public clouds participate in the rate and the race. So that would be Azure Arc, Google Lantos and AWS Outpost. Those are the offerings from the public cloud providers, but obviously the traditional enterprise companies such as VMware and IBM see this as an opportunity. And actually, now it seems like they are in the best position to claim the crowd of the best hybrid cloud provider. So where MemSQL fits into that? We talked about the giants for a little bit.
We as an independent provider, we’re decisively hybrid, and you can consume MemSQL using Helios, which is our managed service by going onto our portal, clicking on the Helios button, and then a few clicks later, you’re able to consume our data management technology in the cloud, but we are also offering Helios Hybrid Cloud, which is in a way, do it yourself cloud.
You can take our software and create the same experience inside your data center. Or you can have the same experience by running inside IBM open shift, which has used to be red hat OpenShift that is now IBM OpenShift or inside the VMware data center technology. And within that, they will have to look at projects Pacific and project ponzu.
So thinking of all these platforms, it’s incredible to see how all these platforms have become these end-to-end solutions. And you’re the data management solution that’s powering a lot of novel technology solutions that are scaling up today. And of course, this is scaling up in the remote only world. Of course, society’s slowly but surely reopening.
But we’re looking at a lot of the big issues. Some of these we’ve talked about in the show already Nikita, you mentioned data integrity, data security. And I wanted to know just for our listeners, what are some of the best tips and practices they should be thinking about for consumption around data management or any of these techniques as we’re still living in this remote world?
The answer to that is actually in a lot of details. When we live in the remote world, everything cloud makes things easier. But that’s obviously not a one-size-fit-all solution. The right choice for your solution really depends on the scenario.
And the one thing I can say is, think about what technology gives you today and what technology is going to give you tomorrow in the short, medium and long-term. And oftentimes that is a driver for many enterprise companies who’ve learned how the world works, and oftentimes they bet on momentum more than they bet on what technology can offer today.
So this gives you kind of an interesting framework for choosing the solution. We live in the world of, I wouldn’t say the world of abundance because that sounds really lavish in the COVID world, but we certainly have a ton of choice and doesn’t matter what kind of products, what part of the technology, whatever the corner is of this massive digital world, like somebody said, whatever you think the size of the #software industry is, you’re underestimating it.
It’s bigger than you think. So, whatever the corner is of the technology, whether you need a solution, you will find a lot of choices. And my advice would be, understand what you need to solve for today, but also really think, what you need to solve for tomorrow and marry that with where the technology is moving towards in general, and use that as a guiding star from making the choices for data management or really anything else.
Tech for good. Tech for good is something that we talk about so much. And for someone like yourself in the Valley and myself in the Alley, we see all these task forces coming up to see, how can we add more abundance? How can we help everyone who needs to be rising up and have a better response to COVID-19.
In the past, prior to this, we’ve had data dcience for good initiatives. We’ve had AI for Good initiatives,the Brain Bowl from Booz Allen Hamilton and other COVID-19 hackathons. Like the one that Facebook launched and even Hackdays we got for high schoolers. But for you and your team, how’s Mem SQL been giving back or responding to COVID-19?
So what I think, the Silicon Valley companies and also individuals who work in the Silicon Valley should do a little bit more of is to volunteer just like doctors and nurses volunteered and flew to New York to help with the COVID crisis. A lot could be accomplished through technology. And in order to do that, in order to deliver that value, you need technology and you need people. Then you need people who know how to use that technology.
And if I were to make an analogy about World War II and Alan Turing with a team of great scientists, thinking about how to crack the Nazi code, you can learn about it by watching this famous movie, The Imitation Game, he was doing as important work with this group of a very talented individuals, as many who were on the front lines, fighting the war, and he was driving that impact through technology, and he was driving this impact through the intellect that this individual possessed. We actually have a conference room named after Alan Turing.
So similarly, when we face the crisis of the scale of COVID, there was the frontline workers. We cheer for them every day, right there at the front line, saving lives, helping the sick patients exposing potentially themselves to the virus, but there’s plenty of work for information workers, for talented individuals, for data scientists and smart politician with call for help to the frontline medical workers, but also call for help to the information workers. And the lot of incredibly talented individuals are there in the Silicon Valley. And I would love to see more volunteering.
And I would love also to see more people recognizing that impact. The other bit is technology. Information workers are productive because they leverage. We stand on the shoulders of giants and leveraging technology. And that’s where MemSQL has that data for good initiative.
And for all the COVID-19 government usage MemSQL is free. So you can use MemSQL and you can use all this incredible technology that we built over years. That is very powerful in the right hands. And you can use it. You can use it for free and we don’t want anything for it. We don’t want publicity. We don’t want dollars. We just want to contribute to the cause.
Again, it’s so great to hear that tech startups and tech ventures are saying, let’s give you our resources. Governments have been trying to see how the scale, everything around COVID and systems just seem to keep breaking left and right. But it’s… we are here for you and we want you to get better systems so we can just reopen the economy. Again, I’m in New York. So you’re in Silicon Valley, but as a thought leader in the Bay, what have you been seeing from the government response opening, whether that’s San Francisco, Berkeley, San Jose, Palo Alto, or even Foster City?
Well, we’re late to the party. I think what happened in California and specifically in San Francisco, San Francisco was one of the first places to impose a shutdown and the numbers speak for themselves. So it was done in a timely fashion. And we had one of the fewest cases compared to the rest of the country.
The government is also incredibly resistant to the local government to opening up. And if you tune into the voices, the influential voices in the Silicon Valley, which I guess I do by opening up my Twitter feed where I’m following major investors, major entrepreneurs that made their name in the Silicon Valley, the overarching statement is let’s do a smart reopening.
Let’s protect the old, but put the young back to work because we’re saving lives in one place and we are losing lives in some others and weak economy and unemployment is causing the loss of lives, not just as much. But it’s causing loss of lives, and COVID-19 is causing the loss of lives. And it looks like it’s like this impossible dilemma, but we’re doing something that’s very crude by shutting down the whole economy rather than being smart about it. And I’m doing a smart reopening.
I think in the long-term we’ll be fine either way. But if we do it in a smart way, we could probably at the end of the day, save more lives. I think that the human life is priceless and the loss of revenue is something that will never match the cost of a human life, but I think unfortunately the saga of the economy causes losses of human lives as well. So that’s really what’s happening here. I think lots of voices are asking to open the economy sooner than later, but obviously doing it in a smart way.
And Nikita, I definitely think that we can have a smart reopening and we can start to get positive there, but you’re absolutely right that we need to think about how can our reopening be made accessible and equitable for all. One of the challenges, at least in New York that we’ve seen is that vulnerable populations, such as individuals over the age of 65, those predominantly nursing homes and individuals with Type I or Type II Diabetes have made up almost 50% of the fatalities from COVID-19 these vulnerable populations.
And that’s perhaps a way that we can look to the numbers to say, that’s why, what Google and Apple are doing with contact tracing is so important. In your experience, how can we, a small tech startup, scale up big tech… How can we all work together to collaborate on these initiatives?
There’s big tech and there’s small tech. And the big tech, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, I think have tremendous amounts of power and a tremendous ability to help both with the technology. And there’s just the vast reach of that technology, and the checkbook.
Those are incredibly profitable companies. And as for the small tech, the individuals working for the small tech, in my opinion, should be volunteering more. And that’s the way to contribute and also making their technology free for the right cause. And that’s what we’re doing with our software.
And, as we’re looking at not only partnerships there, I think this reminds me of the big phrase that we’ve seen in COVID-19 that we’re all in this together, because we are, and the sooner we get to reopening our economies smarter, the better we can manage capacities in hospitals and infrastructure, so that we can get the wheels turning. And there’s definitely a lot of learning moments. I think we’re going to take away similar to the 2008 financial crisis. We look back then economically speaking.
We saw things with culture, society, digital transformations. And I think in the next couple of years, we’ll see a lot of that on COVID-19 as well. I’d like us to shift gears in this conversation towards predictions. When and where we’re seeing changes, particularly around your areas of expertise, looking at data management, looking at digital transformation, looking at the changes that you think might be permanent, or at least a complete shift that we’re moving towards as society. What are some of your predictions there, Nikita?
Well, I have deep insights about data management, and then the recent experience obviously gave me a bunch of insights about remote work. But let’s just start with that because everybody is going through this. So I think that’s here to stay.
And like I said earlier where it actually worked really well. It worked really well for us as a company and with certain individuals and the companies are even asking, do we need offices? it looks like it’s working fine. Now, I actually want to work from home. It’s more comfortable to me. I’m not burning my time on the commute. And like I said, part of the reason it worked so well is, we got the tools.
Now we got Zoom, we got Google Hangouts, we got Slack. And so that’s there. And the other bit is, we’re spending that social capital that we’ve built over the years by people knowing each other and working together inside an office in an office environment. So if we just never go back to the office, once the social capital is spent, It’s not super clear to me if this is going to continue working just as well as it used to before. So that’s why I’m looking forward to reopening.
But when I say that working from home will stay, I think a percentage of time will be spent working from home because every single person was forced to set up some way of being able to work from home. So working from home one day a week, two days a week, there’s a lot more comfort to accept that from the management standpoint. And I think from the individual standpoint as well. So that’s one.
And data management specifically, I think we’re moving from, and that movement has been in every other piece of infrastructure, we’re moving from hardware and servers to APIs, and #datmanagement will be eventually serverless, will be eventually API-based. And will be delivered in the cloud across public and hybrid clouds.
So that is my big prediction, but then, once you start parsing it, we actually see that happening already for many, many analytical workloads. And then there’s a part of workloads that we call operational that are actually running your business. That’s the databases, the powering apps, they aren’t serverless just yet. They aren’t API-based just yet, but we’re going to see this unfolding over the next few years.
I think everything you’ve been sharing, Nikita, is absolutely spot on as someone who’s in the education and digital transformation space. Also as an Angel Investor. I see a lot of startups and Fortune 500s that we work with, there’s been a lot of focus, I think, from trends as well on the healthcare sector, on the consumer sector, direct to consumer and even the education sector, as well as work from home products.
We’re seeing a lot of growth in these industries, but myself, just like you, we have a lot of friends and colleagues who are startup founders and then the industry who are going through challenging conversations right now, as you’re a founder, who’s been scaling MemSQL for nine years. What are some of your thoughts on how startups can be successful during and after COVID-19?
Well, as a startup, you either impacted dearly. If you are in the travel industry, or you’re in the hotel industry, you’re in one of those that probably… it feels like you’ve been hit by a bus during those times. And I have a friend at a major enterprise travel startup and their revenues are down 99%. So survival is kind of the first thing that comes to mind. But the other thing is, it’s a defining moment for startups. That’s where the borders are redrawn. And those who emerge from this, the strongest, will benefit for years and years after as a trust test, like COVID is bringing to the industry, that’s the lens that we view our market.
What are the investments? What are the opportunities that are here in front of us? What is this amazing talent that we can grab now that some of the major companies run big layoffs? So there’s certainly a lot more fantastic people on the market that we can hire that bring those opportunities together. And because startups are nimble by nature and the decision makers are few, let startups actually seize those opportunities.
And, as a founder, I like to be optimistic and certainly, we’ve been working like this is the COVID quarter. We worked very, very hard. We’ve been fortunate through the quarter. We accomplished a lot and we’re looking forward to the next one to walk in and have plenty of caution and a healthy dose of optimism.
Taking everything together, Nikita, from what you’re doing at MemSQL around data management and what we’re hearing around COVID-19 with startups. It is the COVID quarter. And this is a result of the market conditions. What call to action or message would you like to share with our listeners today on the HumAIn Podcast?
So I want to repeat myself about the plenty of caution and the healthy dose of optimism. I think that’s important. I think the other bit is, the COVID quarter will pass. The next quarter was going to be half COVID and then the quarter after is going to be a quarter COVID, and after that there’s probably going to be no COVID and life is going to come back to it. I look at this as a stress test. I know that stress tests are good, if you survive them and you emerge stronger after it, that’s really the focus for us. And that’s what I wish the rest of the tech industry was going through as well.
Well, Nikita Shamgunov is the founder and co-CEO of MemSQL. Thank you so much for joining us on the HumAIn podcast.
Thank you so much, David.
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