Jon Nordmark: Iterate.ai’s Low-code AI Platform, Interplay, Allows Companies To Build Advanced Digital Applications Like AI-based Threat Detection

August 6, 2022

Iterate.ai’s low-code AI platform, Interplay, allows companies to build advanced digital applications like AI-based Threat Detection up to 17 times faster than what is possible through traditional methodologies.

Here are a few of our company’s values and beliefs:

  1. Iterators are doers and doer doers – not managers and doers. We just get stuff done.
  2. We believe in speed – you need to be fast in today’s increasingly competitive world. Competitors can emerge from any corner. For instance, Google just said that TikTok has become a threat to Google’s search and map businesses. Who would have guessed that? For an enterprise, our low-code AI platform, Interplay, is the epitome of speed. We’ve benchmarked it as helping enterprises develop advanced software apps 17x faster. The more complex the solution, the faster it is. The apps can also push straight into a scaled production environment.
  3. We believe in AI. AI that advances humanity for improving the human experience.
  4. We believe in inclusion. Our 70 Iterators speak 27 languages. The diversity of our team gives us extra invention powers, as long as we actively engage each person in problem solving. This group has 3 patents granted for Iterate, 3 published, 3 pending, and is in the process of writing 15 more.

Tell us about yourself?

I am Jon Nordmark, co-founder and CEO of Iterate.ai. Prior to Iterate, I was co-founder and CEO of eBags.com which sold $1.65 billion of travel products – 100% online – before being acquired. Over the years, I’ve had equity interests in about 25 startups – 17 were winners and 2 remain unknown.

My co-founder is Brian Sathianathan, who worked in Apple’s tiny and private Secret Products division for 6 of his 8 years at Apple, on product launches like the first iPhone.

After Apple, Brian founded and sold a video transcoding startup. As a corporate VC background, too, he invested in 13 startups (one acquired by Apple) and made two acquisitions.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Looking in the rearview mirror is tough. You work with the data you have at any decision point. Often, you operate with less than 100% certainty. That means mistakes will be made, so I don’t second guess much.

General advice I like to pass on, though, is from Frank Steed, an eBags co-founders. He called it the 24 hour rule: “If you receive an email that makes you emotional, wait 24 hours before responding.”

What problem does your business solve?

We solve a lot of problems. At Iterate, we do the following:

  1. Help enterprise innovators build advanced digital prototypes 17x faster
  2. Make AI accessible to corporate innovators and engineers who don’t have Ph.D.s in Swarm Computing, Physics, Mathematics, or AI
  3. Modernize legacy technology stacks without replacing costly legacy systems
  4. Improve safety in schools, religious institutions and businesses by using AI, cameras and edge computing to detect weapons in real time and send alerts
  5. Improve user experiences by creating advanced digital products for consumers and employees

Here are a few examples of number five:

  • Pay for fuel by using your car’s license plate, it’s in 2,500 stores and 8 countries now
  • 40,000 people selling products to friends by using an advanced video and chat-based social commerce 2.0 platform
  • Optimize pricing for consumers so they are guaranteed to get the best possible price for two days within a two mile radius
  • Detect fraudulent stamps on delivery documents

We have brought dozens of advanced digital experiences to life on our low-code AI platform, Interplay.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

Our clients inspire us. They tell us how we can help them.

That’s how our low-code AI platform Interplay was born. People like Prama, Michelle, Ben, Augustina, Yvanna, Shiv, Magnus, Brian B, Mike, Tim, Chris, Christine, Diane, Christophe, Marie, Jodi, Cathy, Anne Laure, Mabel, Andy, Sami, and others. They know who they are. We listen carefully to them.

We also own a database of 17 million startups, too.

That database was born when Brian and I did work for a European energy company in 2015. The company’s $6 billion investment and product teams wanted to find startups, globally, in spaces like deep learning in the energy space, smart building technologies, flex and grid energy distribution providers.

To do the job, we had no choice but to build our own AI-based discovery platform which we now call Signals. Today, our Signals team is integrating Signals’ features tighter with our low code AI platform, Interplay.

What is your magic sauce?

We are incredibly responsive and nimble. We haven’t raised any VC money, so we aren’t constrained by a plan we gave to an investor five years ago. We maneuver to meet customer demand.

We started out consulting in 2014, 2015. That paid our wages and kept us from needing lots of growth capital. Gradually our contracts grew from $25,000 retainers to $250,000, to $750,000.

Then they became multi-million dollar, long-term relationships involving both services and software licenses. We grew naturally, not because of large capital infusions into the business.

Our low-code platform, Interplay, differs from others in fairly meaningful ways. We don’t provide just workflow management.

Developers can add code into any node in our platform, and each node is reusable. It’s full of advanced AI nodes. Interplay has about 475 pre-built but customizable nodes and access to 3,946 community-developed nodes which are all open source.

It works with Kubernetes. Interplay is used to develop highly complex, smart applications. The apps are built to interface with consumers and inside companies, too. Applications connect easily to enterprise systems and easily integrate enterprise data.

Iterate is a product company in addition to a platform provider. While the platforms are Interplay and Signals, the products – or apps – are built on top of our Interplay.

They are available to anyone. Our products include Threat Awareness (to identify weapons in real time), License Plate Detection capabilities (to trigger payments and more), a full low-code e-commerce capability (used by a few very large retailers).

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We have already been recognized by SiiA as one of the world’s top low-code platforms. We want to continue improving that platform, which involve the five forces of Innovation, along with our AI offerings.

We will also continue to expand our footprint across a wide range of industries, on most continents.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Bootstrapping is never easy. We did raise $3.2 million from angels on one strategic partner – Ulta Beauty – but that wasn’t even a fraction of what most companies like Iterate raise. And our revenues far exceed the capital invested in us.

Revenues far exceeding invested capital is often abnormal in the tech startup world. Getting to this point has caused some financial consternation as, a few times, our bank account dipped into negative territory. Brian and I both lent money to the company to keep us in the black.

But that pain has been worthwhile because it predisposed us to remain hungry and nimble. That pain became the mother of invention.

Iterators are great inventors. It’s deep in our DNA. And it’s a reason we grew 284% between 2017 and 2020, which landed us on the Delotte 500 list. Only 20% of that list has not raised venture capital, and we are one of those 20%.

Interplay has been granted patents like Modular Machine Learning (drag-n-drop AI) and Developer Independent Resource Based Multithreading Module. Signals has patent activity too, like this grant: Indexing Entities Based on Performance Metrics.

We haven’t changed course in the spirit of a pivot. We have evolved due to customer requests which have constantly strengthened our software offerings. Corporate innovators with a bias toward action, our clients, keep us on the cutting edge.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

Our successful introductions have always been through a large company’s board of directors or the C-Suite. They typically have a bias toward speed. They want to create sophisticated digital products and ecosystems. They expect their company to become a digital leader in their particular industries.

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