Exponential Edmonton

Shawn Kanungo Talks the Rise of Disruption and the Dawn of a New Era for Canada.

DISRUPTION IS FOR GEEKS. OR, AT LEAST IT WAS UNTIL RECENTLY. Shawn Kanungo, Founder and CEO of Silver, a technology company focused on creating the next generation of voice products and services for businesses, has seen disruption go from something exclusive in “geek” circles to a buzzword and integral part of keeping companies competitive and able to take advantage of rising opportunities.

Kanungo, who has the fortuitous title of Disruption Strategist, recently sat down with Disruption to discuss the future of disruptive technology and his presentation at SingularityU Canada Summit, Exponential Canada.

As a disruption strategist, Kanungo is in a unique position of disrupting the way disruption is conducted by companies; that is, by helping companies ease into what are often seen as scary changes without opportunities. During his 12 years at Deloitte, a multinational professional services group and one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, Kanungo was tasked with helping executives change their mindset about disruption in order to prepare them for both the good and bad it could represent, this made dramatic impacts in how changes were handled.

SILVER AND QUEEN & ROOK CAPITAL: CONSTRUCTIVE DISRUPTION SAVING COMPANIES FROM THEMSELVES

Kanungo has now leveraged this experience to create even more opportunities for constructive disruption through his company Silver and his partnership at Queen & Rook Capital, a next generation consultancy for equity.

“At Queen & Rook Capital, we have several companies that we’re infusing with technologies on a large scale, using this whole idea of exponential technologies, and really trying to get some of these organizations to scale,” Kanungo says, when discussing Q&R’s drive to help companies adapt and scale rapidly to outrun the competition. By employing services like this, companies are able to disrupt within their own organizations instead of being disrupted out of existence as has previously been the case when game-changing technologies have been introduced.

Similarly, Silver is working with artificial intelligence to create next-generation voice apps. “We’ve been really at the forefront and the intersection of voice technology and artificial intelligence. We’ve been working on a product over the last four or five months that will basically eliminate language evaluators using artificial intelligence. We have been working with the Bank of Canada to incubate the product so that we can commercialize it globally for organizations. And what we’re doing is working to replicate what they do, which is essentially to measure an individual’s language proficiency, artificial intelligence and capture the magic of what they do.”

It’s a “complicated and global problem,” says Kanungo about creating a voice app that can do the job of a human language valuator. Language evaluation is required in a multitude of capacities and industries and with the growing focus on a global economy and the rise of technology in once developing nations, having accurate language evaluation that can be done quickly and cheaply will gain even more importance.

“And that’s the reason why I want to pivot the company into that direction… working on something that’s global, that can truly make a global impact is really important to me, and that’s why we’re trying to build a solution that has that global scale. It’s not a sexy problem, but it is an important one and we’re excited by what we’re developing now.”

These seemingly small changes with global impact are hugely representative of what the future of disruption is likely to mean going forward. It is not a matter of waking up to sentient robots flying by our windows, but having once-tedious tasks now being done by artificial intelligence. Efforts like the ones Silver is making will further normalize the presence of disruptive technology and integrate it into more mundane tasks.

THE GHOST RESTAURANTS OF DISRUPTION PAST AND FUTURE: THE NEW DEFINITION OF DISRUPTION AND WHAT’S NEXT

To Kanungo, disruption means “somebody coming out of nowhere, unexpected, coming into a particular space, and really challenging and changing the status quo.” He thinks that one of the biggest disruptors in the near future will be ghost kitchens and ghost restaurants, following in the footsteps of UberEats.

Currently, the food delivery app brings customers food from established restaurants, bundling them together under one app while simultaneously un-bundling menus, allowing customers to choose items from a multitude of different sources all at once. This, Kanungo says, will give rise to “ghost restaurants” where people make food, without the umbrella of a brand or restaurant, exclusively for delivery. “It’s something that we’ve never seen before in the food space. And there’s no real innovation in the product. And that’s a disruptor.”

BOLD, BRAVE AND EXPERIMENTAL: HOW DOES EDMONTON FIT KANUNGO’S DISRUPTION DEFINITION?

We went from the future of disruption as a whole to Edmonton’s place in that future. Historically, innovation always seems to happen in pockets around the world, and Edmonton is primed to be the next epicenter of innovation on the world stage Kanungo theorizes. “Edmonton is experiencing a perfect cocktail for its reinvention – the fall of the province’s oil empire, the emergence of its artificial intelligence capabilities and the willingness to become true disruptors for global challenges.”

“Edmonton must create its own engine of global innovators. By taking unexpected approaches to innovation to remain competitive and relevant, we can prepare this city and its innovators for an exponential world. Today, we need to be bold, brave and experimental.”

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