For easing one of the slowest, most painstaking parts of machine learning
“Does your engineering team really respect you?” an investor asked Daniela Braga when she first came into pitch her artificial intelligence data startup, DefinedCrowd. “Because you’re not quite an engineer.” As a matter of fact, Daniela Braga has a PhD in engineering; she also has a Masters in linguistics—although the latter was hardly a prerequisite to detect the condescension in the venture capitalist’s tone.
While it may have been true that she never worked as a software engineer, she had a feeling his skepticism had more to do with her being a woman. She laughed him off, as she has other doubters. Today DefinedCrowd sells machine learning training data to tech companies and AI specialists all over the world. Braga’s strength as a manager, she says, derives in part from the fact that she has deep technical knowledge of a subject herself (in her case, natural language processing). That expertise gives her the confidence to appreciate and communicate with experts in other fields—and the resilience to brush off shallow types who might judge her superficially, like the investor.
Her advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs: Master one subject better than anyone in the world — and use that as your cornerstone as you scale your business. “Get something very right in your career, and build from there,” she says. “It gives you a whole new level of confidence moving forward.” – Burt Helm
Daughters of Rosie
For giving manufacturing workers a leg up
Provides data that can help cut pollution and emissions.
For recognizing that cultural translation is as important as the linguistic kind
When Elisabete Miranda immigrated to the United States from Brazil in 1994, she learned how a life's experience can get lost in translation. In Brazil, she'd been a respected serial entrepreneur and vice president of her local chamber of commerce. In the U.S., she felt like one more Latin American woman who didn't speak the language. "When you move to another country, it's like you become a stupid person," she says with a laugh, recalling her first days in the States. "You have to suck it up and do what you need to do."
What Miranda needed to do, she believed, wasn't just to learn English, but also to turn translation into a business. She teamed up with her sister-in-law, Edna Ditaranto, a professional translator, who at the time was doing freelance work translating Portuguese for American companies. Miranda started out at the company first serving as a proofreader for Ditaranto's work, then as her bookkeeper--and eventually, as Miranda applied more of her hard-won business acumen to her in-law's business, as the little company's CEO.
"As her bookkeeper, I knew she didn't have money to pay me," says Miranda. "I thought, I better make this company grow somehow so I can get paid!"
Today the company, CQ Fluency, focuses on health care--for instance, translating treatment plans and other documents aimed at non-English-speaking patients for customers that include life science companies and hospitals.
Now, as CQ Fluency oversees projects in 150 languages, Miranda's clients understand her, loud and clear. Her advice for other entrepreneurs: "To stand out, you have to specialize," she says. "Being one more mediocrity doesn't help anyone." –Burt Helm