BayBrazil is delighted to announce our new Chairman of the Board: Vicente Silveira is a data, AI, engineering expert who’s been in the team from our early days.
Vicente has held leadership positions at companies such as Uber, LinkedIn, VeriSign and CertiSign and now will work more closely with our staff in paving the path to fulfill our mission. He talks about it & more in our interview.
Thank you, Vicente, and much success in the new role!
BayBrazil: Tell us about your move to the San Francisco Bay Area. You were a founding employee of a successful internet startup in Brazil. What motivated the change?
Vicente: I wasn’t at CertiSign anymore when a friend from VeriSign approached me with an opportunity to come work here. As it turns out, I was also considering an offer to go work in Spain at the time. In the end, like many software engineers, I followed my dream to come work in Silicon Valley.
BayBrazil: You have been in Sao Paulo recently for a special BayBrazil program. How has the entrepreneurial ecosystem developed since you worked in a startup?
Vicente: I was really encouraged by what I saw in São Paulo. The ecosystem has matured quite a lot since my startup days: what you see now are more experienced entrepreneurs, with some of them going on to their second or third successful startup. I think the developments during the last fifteen years have shortened the gap between what’s possible for startups in Brazil and here. When I was in Brazil we had to buy super expensive servers, just getting the same technology that people had here was hard. Now with cloud computing, people are using the same things everywhere.
BayBrazil: Brazil has slowly becoming a destination for several global VC investors, deals and dollars hit a record high in 2017 despite unfavorable political and economic scenarios. What do you think is responsible for attracting these investors to Brazil?
Vicente: I think Brazil continues to be the natural market extension for US companies beyond the developed western economies. Brazilians love technology products and services and spend quite a bit of money on them. Brazil is a global top market for companies like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Uber so it is natural that VCs see Brazil as a fertile ground for startups.
BayBrazil: A recent BayBrazil survey shows that currently there are at least 36 Brazilian entrepreneurs leading companies in the Bay Area. Some of the entrepreneurs moved to San Francisco or Silicon Valley in these past 2 or 3 years. How do you see this trend?
Vicente: Yes I’ve noticed that as well. An increasing number of my contacts are considering moving out of Brazil, specially to the US. On one hand, some of these entrepreneurs have some “Brazil fatigue” after the continuing cycles of economic and political issues, as well as a general concern with safety. The other side of this story is that with more people coming here and trying it out in the Valley we end up with a more significant community here and we strengthen the connections with Brazil. This is not too different from what happened with Israeli, Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs.
BayBrazil: Artificial Intelligence has been used in different industries. In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution of AI so far and how can AI best contribute in the future?
Vicente: A significant part of recent investments and developments around AI (broadly speaking) have focused on enabling large scale online businesses such as Google, Facebook, Uber, LinkedIn, Amazon. Those services would not be possible or viable without different types of limited AI that power everything from search result ranking, ads, newsfeed, product recommendations, account security, etc. So in many ways, the most dynamic part of our economy only exists because of AI, even as it still is in its infancy.
BayBrazil: There are discussions and concerns around big data that question the lack of regulation and control over the algorithms, and the possibility that some of them may reinforce prejudice, inequality, and discrimination. How do you see this challenge for the big data analysts?
Vicente: It is a huge and growing challenge. With AI we discovered an extremely powerful tool, a tool that allows humanity to scale up the number of autonomous decisions that are made: these decisions range from loan granting, ad targeting all the way to vehicle driving or medical diagnosis. The problem is that we still lack awareness, technology, tools, ethical standards and yes regulation that can help us to better train algorithms to achieve a positive and expected goal without significant undesirable side effects. Bias and discrimination can hide in the data, can slip through the cracks of developers’ unconscious bias, can get reinforced by positive financial results and by the time we catch up with it many bad decisions may have already been made. I don’t want this to sound all like doom and gloom because I firmly believe that AI will propel the world to a new level of human development and quality of life, the only thing is we ought to invest in safety and ethics so undesirable outcomes are minimized.
BayBrazil: Life is becoming more connected and internet-based with companies launching apps for all kinds of services and commerce moving to online platforms. Considering your experience with online fraud detection, what are some steps we can take to keep our data secure?
Vicente: I recommend that every person do the basics to keep their online accounts secure. A simple thing to do is to enable two-factor authentication on all your important online accounts: email, banking, social networks. Two-factor authentication is when sites or apps text a code to your pre-registered cell phone when you or someone access your account from a new device. This is important because there are billions of stolen passwords/emails out there so there is a good chance the bad guys have your password, but without the code from your cell phone they can’t get in. Beyond that, I think it is important to review periodically the privacy settings on sites like facebook to ensure you are comfortable with how visible your information is. Companies and enterprises have many more security requirements, but I specially recommend they look for services that can help them understand and secure their cloud (AWS, Google, Azure) as this is now a huge vector for data breaches and compromises.
BayBrazil: There is a shortage of skilled labor in the tech industry around the world. Data scientists make the top of the list. How can parents and society encourage more kids to pursue STEM?
Vicente: I wish I knew the answer to this question. Most of all kids should be encouraged to explore all learning areas. Children should see and meet role models of people like them that have succeeded and love those areas because the saddest thing is for a child to think they can’t be good at something because of who they are. We were raised in a different time and unfortunately, some of the stereotypes of that time may linger in our minds, specially male and female roles, it is our job to get rid of these stereotypes and help the next generation of children achieve their true potential. Beyond that, we need to figure out how to raise out of poverty so many children worldwide, so they too can aspire to a career they will love. Can you imagine how many more Marie Curies, Alan Turings, Marie Jacksons and Einstens we would have if everyone had a chance?
BayBrazil: What inspired you to support BayBrazil in its early days?
Vicente: I can answer that with one word: Margarise! Yes, our founder had such a passion for this idea, she was so determined to get everyone on board and make this happen that I had no choice but to pay attention to what she was trying to do! And the more I went to events, talked to people and thought about it the more it made sense. It finally clicked that Brazilians lacked a community that could tie technology and Brazil here in the Valley and from that point I was completely hooked into BayBrazil.
BayBrazil: You‘ve been highly contributing to the grow and impact of BayBrazil. What are you looking to accomplish now as Chairman of Board?
Vicente: Well I have pretty big shoes to fill given how much Anderson has done for BayBrazil during his tenure. I think my main goal is to support Margarise as she scales this organization to be able to serve an increasing number of corporate and individual members. I think our Silicon Valley events are already amazing and a huge focal point for business and personal development. Now I would love to see BayBrazil having a stronger presence in Brazil and becoming a bigger presence online, as the people and content we showcase in events could reach a much broader audience and have a much bigger impact online. It will be fun!