Oct 31, 2023

By Mike Fridgen

Empowering startups: insights from Google Cloud's Amit Zavery on AI, data security, and successful exits

At the kick-off to Launchable: Generative Apps, MVL had the chance to sit down with Amit Zavery, an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in the enterprise software space. He currently serves as Google Cloud's VP and Head of Platform, and previously, as EVP at Oracle. Amit also has engineering degrees from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Texas, and is a board member of Broadridge.

Mike: How do you engage with the startup community in your role at Google, given your experience as a founder, investor, and acquirer of companies?

Amit: I've been involved with startups in various capacities, from being a founder to an investor and acquirer of companies. At Google Cloud, I work closely with the startup community, helping them adopt Google Cloud's offerings and providing support as they grow. We also collaborate with startups on go-to-market strategies. My extensive experience has given me insights into working with startups at different stages and in various industries.

Mike: The theme of this event is generative AI in startups' products. How do you see generative AI impacting innovation internally and for your customers at Google Cloud?

Amit: Generative AI is a transformative technology, and Google has been investing in AI for years. What's changing now is the productization of this technology, making it more accessible. We offer infrastructure, like GPUs and TPUs, as well as models through Vertex AI APIs. This allows startups to leverage generative AI in their applications easily. It's like the shift to cloud computing a decade ago, with generative AI changing the way we build applications.

Mike: In terms of focusing on horizontal or vertical development, where should startups concentrate their efforts in the stack, from infrastructure to applications, to build differentiated capabilities and a competitive advantage?

Amit: Startups should focus on providing specialized applications that improve business processes and solve specific problems. Horizontal model development can be expensive and challenging to differentiate, given the availability of open-source models. Building applications that enhance areas like marketing, finance, procurement, and customer service can be more monetizable and valuable to customers. Industries like financial services, healthcare, telecommunications, customer service, and supply chain optimization are promising areas for startups. These sectors have diverse use cases where generative AI can make a significant impact. While healthcare can be challenging due to its specific needs and regulations, solving key problems in this industry can lead to substantial business opportunities.

Mike: As someone who has acquired and integrated more than 50 companies, what factors contribute to a successful startup exit through acquisition?

Amit: Successful acquisitions involve factors like having a strong team with expertise, technology that complements the existing architecture, and a clear fit within the acquiring company's culture. Additionally, the potential to expand the customer base is crucial. Ultimately, the acquired company should bring something unique and valuable to the table, whether it's technology, talent, or a new customer base. Building an attractive technology company involves having a solid team, differentiating technology, and a clear understanding of how your technology can add value to the acquiring company's business. Additionally, having a sound data strategy and data security is crucial. The cultural fit and technology alignment with the acquirer are also important factors for a successful acquisition.

Mike: Data is emphasized as a competitive advantage and moat for startups. Could you share your thoughts on how data and data security can be pivotal for startups in differentiating themselves?

Amit: Data is a significant competitive advantage for startups. It's not just about having data but also ensuring data security. Startups that can securely collect, analyze, and make sense of data will have a significant edge. Data security is essential, especially in enterprise applications. Startups that can provide data-driven insights while safeguarding data will stand out.

Mike: How can startups address concerns that tech giants like Google and Amazon can replicate their products?

Amit: Startups need to emphasize their unique value proposition and differentiation. Not everything can be replicated by big tech companies, and startups can offer specialized solutions that cater to specific needs in the market. Focus on your competitive differentiation.

Mike: For startups with limited resources, how can they leverage Google Cloud's AI capabilities, and can you share any success stories where AI played a pivotal role in startup success on your platform?

Amit: Google Cloud offers valuable support to startups, including $350,000 worth of credits for two years and access to AI APIs through Vertex. We also provide enterprise search capabilities, Duet AI for collaboration, and core development capabilities. Many successful startups have leveraged our AI capabilities to improve their applications and achieve their business goals.

Mike: What final advice do you have for early-stage startup founders?

Amit: The current environment offers an immense opportunity for founders. To succeed, think big, have a clear vision, and leverage the available technology. Build relationships with potential partners, make the most of free credits from providers like Google, and tap into venture capital funding. The timing is ideal for ambitious startups.

Thank you, Amit, for the insightful conversation.

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