A Virtual Workforce to Tackle COVID-19: Q&A with Muddu Sudhakar

Apr 14, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Alumnus and serial entrepreneur Muddu Sudhakar’s company, Aisera, offers a virtual AI-based workforce available 24/7. With customers such as Autodesk, Ciena, Unisys and McAfee on board, the company is now gearing up to tackle COVID-19. We recently contacted Sudhakar to find out how Aisera plans to help during the pandemic.

How is Aisera’s artificial intelligence technology helping address the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are offering our virtual assistant and collaboration app free for up to two months to help health care organizations, private businesses and government agencies respond to the increased volume of inquiries caused by this pandemic.

For example, hospitals are setting up chatbots, symptom checkers and telemedicine tools in order to triage patients. Aisera’s self-learning AI service uses two key components of AI — natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language processing (NLP) — to enable an unsupervised and natural flow of dialogue to serve customers. This helps employees manage a high volume of requests and relay reliable information.

What makes the AI info reliable? Where is the info from?
The company’s AI system is designed to retrieve and analyze customers’ historical data, including their former support cases and tickets, as well as relying on knowledge articles and information found on the company’s website. Aisera leverages this data with ongoing learning from user interactions and customer answers to make its virtual responses accurate and reliable

What led you to co-found Aisera, and how did you do it?
I co-founded Aisera in 2017 to make a difference in the way employees work by improving the customer experience. We focus on keeping the end user, instead of the organization, in mind throughout the process. This approach can be applied to service-oriented enterprises that employ help desks, customer service and call centers.

Aisera was formed through a classic, venture-backed startup process. We presented our idea to Silicon Valley venture firms and a select group of corporate executives who could help guide and shape our company.

You received a master’s and a doctorate in computer science from UCLA Engineering. Did your academic experience help you found and run Aisera?
Having a master’s and a Ph.D. in computer science was very important in creating Aisera, especially from the technology perspective. Given that Aisera is focused on artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud technologies, my education from UCLA has been of tremendous value. Among others, I benefited from the classes I had with UCLA professors Judea Pearl, Leonard Kleinrock and Andrew Kahng in the areas of algorithms, neural networks, machine learning, networking and distributed systems.

Have you started any other companies? Were you always destined to be an entrepreneur?
I have founded five startups. All of them were successfully acquired and provided 10 times in returns for investors. My experience in a variety of markets, including the cloud, software-as-a-service, artificial intelligence, internet-of-things, cyber security, big data and semiconductors helped me establish these companies.

Along the way, I also acquired operating experience with startups as chief executive officer at Caspida, Cetas, Kazeon, Sanera and Rio Design, and as senior vice president and general manager at public companies ServiceNow, Splunk, VMware and EMC.

What does the future hold for Aisera? Will you introduce technologies to complement your offerings, or do you plan to move into new territory?
Right now, it’s the beginning of our journey and we feel that our solution will help enterprises transform digitally. There are a lot of areas to expand beyond the IT service desk and customer service. Our goal is to deliver an end-to-end, consumer-friendly service experience for all users and we believe we have the solution to achieve that. The focus is on improving productivity and collaboration, delivering self-service, and offering an exceptional user experience.

Any advice for Bruin Engineers?
Yes, a few things: Help your community however you can during this pandemic and always pursue your passion and interests. Try to make a difference in our society in various ways that leverage your skills and talent and focus on having an entrepreneurial mindset to create jobs and grow the economy. This is your opportunity to give back.

Any favorite memories from UCLA? 
UCLA has been a great place for me to develop and grow my social and entrepreneurial skills. My passion to build startups came from my interactions with professors Kleinrock and Kahng. Other fond memories are of being a teacher’s assistant and research assistant. I enjoyed being a part of students’ academic growth. I also enjoyed time away from studying so I could socialize and networked with fellow students.

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