Itai is a serial entrepreneur, an experienced software engineer and a co-founder and the Chief Product Officer at Mona Labs (www.monalabs.io). Prior to Mona, Itai worked at Google, where he was a senior tech lead on the Google Trends team, building products for consumers and journalists alike. He is passionate about exploring new technologies and how they can free humans from mundane work. He is also a proud co-owner of the Berlin-based vegan restaurant “Lia’s Kitchen (https://www.liaskitchen.de/enhome)
1. What is Mona Labs?
Mona is a whitebox monitoring platform for AI systems. It allows users and companies which utilize AI models for their business to improve their visibility into their system’s production runs, alerts them on changes in their data and models’ behavior (due to data drifts, version changes, inherent biases in their training sets, etc.), connects between their business KPIs and their models performance, and more.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Mona Labs?
When Nimrod Tamir, my co-founder and CTO, led the R&D team in his previous AI-native startup, he realised that there is a large difference between the great depth of visibility one has for application performance (e.g., error-rates, cpu utilization, requests latency…) and the very little visibility one has for understanding models’ behavior and the data that is fed to them.
After interviewing dozens of practitioners in this field, we’ve gained a solid understanding of the pain and developed an approach to solve the pain for most of the industry.
3. How did you get to where you are today with your company?
One day at a time :).
Seriously, for companies of such a young age, every week is completely different from the last. You always have to reprioritize the next most important thing to solve to get to the next phase. It could be messaging your entire network to find design partners, having 1:1 meetings with current customers to look for missing features to increase engagement, or honing your fundraising pitch.
A good balance between getting things done and taking a step back to assess your strategy is key.
4. How did coronavirus impact your company and what lessons would you take from it?
Luckily for us, we are serving customers from a myriad of business verticals. So while some industries we serve were hurt by the outbreak, others continue to grow and we didn’t have to pivot or take any extreme measures to address the economic crisis.
One thing that did happen is that physical distances became less important in business relationships. Since everyone is meeting online anyways, it doesn’t matter much if your customer’s or investor’s offices are located 2 blocks away or in a completely different country.
5. What is the future of Mona Labs?
There is currently a gap in the AI industry between the research and development and the production phases in the AI system’s lifecycle. Mona aims to become the bridge between these two phases. We see a future in which no new model or feature is deployed to production before a monitoring plan is devised and executed for it.
We also see Mona taking part in certification for regulatory purposes. As AI becomes more prevalent across industries, we believe companies will have to account for any biases and quality implications their models might suffer from when making decisions which affect people in the real world.
6. What is the startup scene in Israel and how has that helped your company?
Besides having a bustling startup scene in general, Israel is specifically a huge hub for AI. Our customers are mostly late-stage AI startups or smaller enterprises, and those are in abundance in Israel. Moreover, the community is pretty tight here, so getting acquainted with potential customers and investors, just by using our own network from years in the Israeli tech scene was relatively easy.
7. What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?
Get the right co-founders. Nothing else you do or decide will matter as much. These are the people who’ll share the journey with you. They need to possess the skills you’re lacking, support you when you need it, and trust you enough to let you lead. Most importantly, they need to be people you enjoy spending time with – because you’re going to spend a lot of time with them.
We would like to thank Itai for taking the time to speak with us.