Yaniv Altshuler Uses Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to Predict Consumer Behavior
The computer scientist and entrepreneur explains how his technology empowers banks, retailers, and other businesses.
In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Dr. Yaniv Altshuler, founder and CEO of Endor, which improves business decisions and revenue by predicting consumer behavior. It was condensed by The Oracles.
Who was your biggest influence growing up?
Yaniv Altshuler: My parents. They taught me to believe in myself and my ability to achieve anything. They also taught me success that comes at the expense of others is not something to aspire to.
What are you more skilled at than most people in the world?
Yaniv Altshuler: I can intuitively understand when a technology has disruptive potential. During my years of research, this helped me focus my energy in the direction most likely to result in breakthroughs.
When an industry’s processes have fallen behind, there is opportunity for disruption. Therefore, you want to look for technology that tangibly strives to improve a process, whether it’s digital or otherwise. When you’re evaluating new technology, look at its use cases to identify and evaluate how the product can be adopted. Disruptive technologies can be slow to take root, but by doing that, it’s possible to make an educated guess about a product’s potential.
How did your business get started?
Yaniv Altshuler: I was doing my post-doctoral research at MIT with Professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland and his Human Dynamics Group. We used big data to build a theory to predict the behavior of crowds. We demonstrated how this new theory of “social physics” could help government agencies and financial institutions with some of their most ambitious challenges.
I believe the best academic research touches people’s lives, so I wanted to apply social physics at scale in the real world. This became a huge passion and challenge, which led me to found Endor in 2014. Today, our proprietary prediction technology finds patterns in human behavior using big data and artificial intelligence. We empower banks, retailers, and Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola and Mastercard with fast and accurate intelligence to predict consumer behavior, make informed decisions, and increase revenues.
What book changed your mindset or life?
Yaniv Altshuler: “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand is an important book to me because it celebrates entrepreneurialism and the potential of individuals. The novel makes it clear that we can and should try to impact our world — and that entrepreneurialism is a way to do that. The fact that the book is still a bestseller more than 60 years later fills me with joy and hope.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Yaniv Altshuler: I would tell my younger self to always trust your gut feeling, play on your intuition, and do everything with a big smile on your face.
If you fail, you’ll become smarter. If you succeed, you’ll gain more self-confidence — and the emotional and financial rewards. You never know how much you can achieve until you take a leap of faith and try.
How do you define great leadership?
Yaniv Altshuler: Passion is one of the most important qualities in a leader. Without passion, it’s hard to build an argument that will compel people to follow you. Once you’ve found your passion, identify your vision and communicate it to your team in an inspiring way.
How do you hire top talent?
Yaniv Altshuler: We adopted the “love at first sight” approach to hiring. That means we only hire people whose eyes glitter with the realization that what we’re building is amazing. After the first interview, it should be clear that our company is the only place where they can imagine working. Once this feeling is mutual, we just have to make the numbers fit.
Which single habit gives you 80 percent of your results?
Yaniv Altshuler: I always assume I missed something, and that it will pop up at the worst time possible. I check everything again and again. Then I check it again. I teach everyone on my team to follow the same pattern.
What are you working on right now?
Yaniv Altshuler: I’m studying human interactions and how they can predict trends and behavior patterns to help us understand humanity in unexpected ways. I’m specifically studying how to predict human behavior in retail and banking.
I’m interested in how we can use data to encourage meaningful changes in society. For example, I think it’s possible to create a data-driven retail environment that is uniquely specific to each customer.
What is the most exciting concept that you spend time thinking about?
Yaniv Altshuler: I was exposed to the notion of singularity after reading Ray Kurzweil's books in my 20s. Singularity is the hypothesis that artificial intelligence will trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to civilization. While technology can significantly enhance our capabilities as individuals, I believe true singularity will emerge through our interactions with each other.
Read more about Yaniv’s prediction technology here.