Each week, I am highlighting some of the incredible people who are in the Audio Video Industry. As this blog is mostly about AV insiders, today we are profiling Alex Capecelatro .
Here is a brief intro about him.
Alex Capecelatro is the founder and CEO of Josh.ai, an artificial intelligence company utilizing natural voice control for luxury home automation. Alex started his career as a research scientist for NASA, the Naval Research Lab, and later Sandia National Laboratory. He then ventured into consumer technology first with electric car manufacturer Fisker Automotive, then through founding two social software products “At The Pool” and “Yeti” with members in more than 120 countries. Alex has an engineering degree from UCLA, splits his time between Los Angeles and Denver, and often speaks about user experience design, artificial intelligence, and building transformational experiences.
Please drop your questions in the comments below and I will make sure that he sees them.
1.Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
I’ve been working with technology for a long time. Professionally it started in the lab as a research scientist. My career has evolved covering areas like automotive engineering and user experience design for social media platforms. While building a home and trying to choose the best control system and set of products, I learned a lot about the AV industry and what was out there. From a software perspective, it just made sense that voice control should be in the home, and together with my co-founder Tim Gill we started brainstorming on how that could work. We decided to start Josh.ai with the mission of making a truly smart home, one you can talk to, automate, and self-improve over time.
2.What do you think is the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
It really depends what aspect of the industry you’re wanting to join. As a whole, the industry desperately needs young, energetic folks. There’s a challenge around awareness and education for the industry, which folks like Maverick and Xssentials are helping with. Most integrators we’ve met are entrepreneurs who’ve started new businesses, which can be difficult for someone not familiar with hiring, accounting, sales, and marketing best practices. I remember feeling intimidated when I first started in the industry, since everyone seemed to know each other and speak a unique language. Engaging CEDIA, showing up to Business Xchange, and just reaching out to folks worked wonders. That’s not easy for a lot of young people, so figuring out better ways for the industry to seem open and inviting would help.
3.What are the positives of working in this industry?
The channel is super supportive and in general people want to help each other succeed. I think there’s a lot of negative experiences with new products coming to market and not making it, which can be tough for a new manufacturer, but if you’re able to get past the initial friction and prove you’re here to stay, the industry is super helpful. We’ve had integration connections, customer referrals, new dealer sign ups, and super helpful press outreach directly as a result of the channel. The home is such a complicated environment we believe you need good partners to pull off a top notch custom installation project, and the industry offers those connections in spades.
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4.What in your opinion what are the struggles with the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent ?
It’s a good question, and one I’d really have to think on. As a whole the industry feels strong and supportive. We’re in a tough spot because we need to (1) deliver super reliable systems that always work, but (2) we have clients that want the cutting edge in terms of control and automation. I feel the industry struggles with resisting change in order to deliver reliable systems while wanting to not feel like we’re falling behind. We also represent the best of the best, which puts the mass market products at odds with what we do. We need to embrace the new, and encourage the big tech companies like Google and Amazon to play nice, but we need to work on behalf of the client and make sure they’re presented the right options in a way they can understand, including the risks and uncertainties.
5.Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
It’s always great when a client has experience with other systems and can articulate both what they like and dislike, as well as what they want. In our world these are typically homes that range from 10,000 – 50,000 square feet, and the clients often have multiple properties. We love when we can delight a client going above and beyond what they thought was possible, and we also love when we can change the way someone lives, such as a vision impaired client who gets voice control for the first time.
6.If you were going to start over, what would you do differently ?
We’re still early enough in our journey I’m not sure there’s much we’d do different. We took a few years before building hardware, and in retrospect we could have gotten on that sooner. That said, software is really at the heart of what we do, and it has taken years to get to where we are now. Ask me in another 5-10 years and I might have more insight as to what I should have done different!
7.Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
My days vary dramatically. Our company is split between Denver and LA, with manufacturing in Korea. As a result, I spend a lot of my time on airplanes flying around. This week I’ll be visiting with a few clients and new Josh dealers, working with our design team on product improvements and new features, and working with our engineering team on getting Josh Micro (our hardware line) past the finish line. Each week I spend time on recruiting as we’re only as good as the team we build, and I try to focus on company culture and making sure my team has what they need. Invariably a few hours a week are spent with lawyers, and a few hours with board commitments and press opportunities. I’m often awake by 5-6am, tend to pull long hours, and don’t sleep nearly enough, but that’s the life of a startup, right?
8.Describe the apps and gear that you use daily which makes you more productive?
My company lives on Slack which is great if you have a distributed team. Our engineering team uses Jira for task management, and we use Google apps for organizing internal notes and spreadsheets. I’m a big fan of Apple’s AirPods for quick hands-free phone calls. Our company tends to be very Mac centric, although we’re pretty split on iPhone/Android. Uber is used heavily with all the travel I do, and I try to keep up with the industry on social media via Twitter and Instagram mostly.
9. How do you stay relevant in this industry?
I am driven to create brand new experiences with the latest that technology has to offer. Initially that was voice control, as we grow it’s moving more into sensors and AI. By innovating and pushing the limit on what’s possible, my company tries to offer great features clients will love and in turn we hope to remain relevant.
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