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February 24, 2020

Five Questions with…Cerebri AI CEO Jean Belanger

"Everyone around me complained how they disliked school, but it was my escape"

By CBR Staff Writer

Every Monday morning we fire five questions at a C-suite tech industry interviewee. Today we’re pleased to be joined by Jean Belanger: co-founder and CEO of Cerebri AI.

Jean – What’s the Biggest Challenge for your Clients?

Jean Belanger

Jean Belanger

No question. It’s the move to “one customer journey per customer”. It is called data science for a reason, data comes first. But what data? The obvious answer for marketing and sales folks is the digitally recorded, both structured and unstructured, data that we currently house in the enterprise. 

Why is “one customer journey per customer” so important? Because of changes in consumer behavior. The Internet and the use of modern mobile phones have made everyone competitor “savvy”.

Consumers have so much information on every vendor they use, it is so easy to access. They want to be offered what they want, when they want it, and in the channel, which they chose to access your products; otherwise, they will head off to a competitor who better understands them.

One journey means mapping all the digitally recorded data you have about your customers, including data from your ERP system for transactions, marketing, surveys, blogs, on-board telemetry, and even external data such as blogs, data from social media and major macroeconomic aggregates, which affect behaviour; such as interest rates, oil prices, etc.

Without detailed customer journeys, we cannot possibly determine the best possible offers, deals, and actions to take, anticipating what our customers want to do next, and when.

How do we process all this data? Welcome to the new world of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Reinforcement Learning (RL) and other related technologies. AI enables us to track, measure and evaluate a single customer journey, including all the digitally recorded events and experiences, and analyze their ultimate effect on a customer’s spend in one place.

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The key data source is your ERP system data. Transactions are the ultimate data, because they represent the eventual outcome of all marketing and sales efforts. AI is finally here in full force, after 50 years of frustration. 

Technology that Excites you Most?

Any better “G”. We are at 4G, moving to 5G, speed does not kill. Anything that brings people closer together is a positive for all of us. We have gone from three or four TV channels, to video on demand, streaming, hundreds of options. 5G will free us from wires. Any better “G” really means more freedom. 

However, our biggest worry today seems to be how to manage this awesome freedom that technology has bestowed on us – the Internet, access anywhere, anytime, all at affordable prices. Technology companies with business plans that lean too heavily into our privacy want the government to regulate the business.

Freedom requires discipline, regulation is an admission that we cannot handle that freedom, that we need a referee. Yes, we need basic regulations for social goods – clean air and water, functioning transportation, etc. Do we really want to say ‘re-regulate airfares’ and go back to the 1970s, when government bureaucrats had to approve every ticket tariff change?  Hell no!

Greatest Success?

Overcoming a difficult start. I was in foster care from the age of two weeks to 8½ years old, when I was adopted. More issues. But I had one advantage, no matter what, I wanted to go to school, everyone around me complained how they disliked school, but it was my escape. So, my greatest success was getting a world-class education. Thank you to St. Georges, St. Ignatius, Lisgar Collegiate Institute, University of Ottawa and the London School of Economics.  Do not let anyone tell you that school is not worth it. Never. Learning how to think is never obsolete.

Worst failure?

My worst failure has been impatience. I was never patient enough in many major career and life choices. Individual decisions have been awesome, good, indifferent, poor, terrible – but thankfully I was able to make new decisions repairing and fixing the dumb ones. Life is a journey, not a destination, slow down.

In another life I’d be…

An architect. I love beautiful buildings. It is really depressing to see so many architecturally challenging buildings polluting our urban environments. I develop and bring to market avantgarde software, but does every architect really need to out “modern” the last one? Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, where are you when we need you?

See Also: Five Questions with… MuleSoft CTO Uri Sarid

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