Denzil Eden: 0:00
AI is in such an early stage that the next five, 10 years are really going to tell us what that industry is going to look like. The more AI literacy that you can build up today, the better. I think the best way to do that is by following your passions, your hobbies. You said you were working with mid-journey. If you're an artist, if you like to draw, if you like creating art, then I think mid-journey is such a great tool to start playing around with your own art and also seeing how it responds to art.

Denzil Eden: 0:26
I think AI literacy in order to develop that the best way to do it is to figure out what are your hobbies, what are your passions. If you like writing, play around with chat to BT or other large language models. If you like composing music, or if you like paying music, play around with an AI tool in the music scene and understand how to prompt it, how to use it to create something new. Because I think as you learn those skills, you'll be able to become an expert, because anyone today can become an expert in AI because it's just so new, so early, and the more time you invest in it today, the better you'll be. And the best way to invest time is by doing it through a hobby or something that you're passionate about.

Tim Bourguignon: 1:02
Hello and welcome to Developers' Journey, the podcast bringing you the making of stories of successful software developers to help you on your upcoming journey. I'm your host, tim Bologna. On this episode, I receive Denzil Aden. As a solo technical founder, denzil carved her niche with an AI-focused degree from MIT, mba from Harvard and a distinguished career at Microsoft. Wow. She is devoted to making your life smarter with AI, enhancing routines, automating mundane tasks oh, I love that one and maximizing every minute of your day. Don't love that one that much. As with Smartie, and only in one AI productivity assistant. She builds, and when she unplugs because she does sometimes Denzil plays the piano, offers fiction and upheads and subs tea. That's a program, denzil. Welcome to Dev Journey.

Denzil Eden: 2:00
Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Tim Bourguignon: 2:03
Oh, I'm excited as well, and it's been so long. We scheduled a couple of times I had to reschedule, so I'm really thrilled this is happening right now.

Tim Bourguignon: 2:10
Let's wait Me too, but before we come to your story, I want to thank the terrific listeners who support the show. Every month you are keeping the Dev Journey lights up. If you would like to join this fine crew and help me spend more time on finding phenomenal guests than editing audio tracks, please go to our website, devjourneyinfo and click on the support me on Patreon button. Even the smallest contributions are giant steps toward a sustainable Dev Journey journey. Thank you, and now back to today's guest. So, denzil, as you know, the show exists to help the listener understand what your story looked like and imagine how to shape their own future. So, as usual on the show, let's go back to your beginnings. Where would you place the start of your Dev Journey?

Denzil Eden: 3:02
That's a great question and I love the start of my Dev Journey because it started very young. I was eight years old, I was in third grade and we had just taken our first computer class where we learned about logo. And I don't know if you're familiar with logo, but it's this children's programming language with a little turtle and you tell the turtle where to go, what to do to build a house, and I fell in love. That's when I first started programming. It's actually logo is like the first time I used recursion. It was the first time I learned how to make if this, then that statements and I fell in love and I clicked instantly for me. I just understood how to talk to this turtle and I could tell that my friends didn't get it as well as I did and it just felt very magical and I'm lucky.

Denzil Eden: 3:52
I grew up in a very tech area of California. I was in the Silicon Valley, my dad was an electrical engineer and a software engineer, and so I had some exposure to that early on, but I never thought of myself as a software engineer. That was something that I even wanted to do until I started playing around with logo and it just opened up all of these doors for me and I started coding because of that very young. I took that passion with me through high school to eventually went to college at MIT and I chose to go there because I really wanted to study computer science, although I was still very convinced that I didn't want to be a software engineer. I wanted to do something else with technology. So I tried biotech. I tried out a bunch of different careers but I kept coming back to just pure building and I ended up doing a master's at MIT as well. My master's had a theoretical focus in AI, but I did a thesis project in human computer interactions and I ended up building pretty much a precursor to Slack, but for the classroom. So it was a collaborative, asynchronous platform, but for education classrooms, and that's what I wrote my thesis on. It was something that I wish I had stuck with, but I really didn't think I could be a founder. I thought that being a founder wasn't for me and I wasn't really sure who the profile was. But it wasn't something that I wanted to pursue. So I ended up going to big tech instead. I started as a PM at PowerPoint, liked it but missed coding. So I started teaching computer science at a community college and then eventually at San Francisco State, just as a guest lecturer. And then I still missed coding and so then ended up switching to being a software engineer at Yammer. But I've always been in the enterprise productivity space, always in the future of work tools and helping people be more productive at work, specifically at Microsoft.

Denzil Eden: 5:39
But even during that time I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do. I wasn't sure if that was what I should focus on for the rest of my life. So I started trying out a bunch of different careers, from law, from finance to politics, decided to go to business school and really both broadened my skill set but also give me some time to figure out what is it that I want to do with this time and with my passion and my curiosities? And that's really where I came up with the idea for Smurdy. I almost reverse engineered into it.

Denzil Eden: 6:07
I was still trying out different things, but I asked myself if I could only work on one thing for the rest of my life. What would it be? And this was back in 2018. And AI was interesting, but it wasn't like it is today. And it's funny. I used the same pitch for my startup, smurdy, today that I did in 2018, but the appetite for it has changed so drastically. But back then I was like, if I do believe this future is coming and I want to be part of that future. And so I started really building Smurdy for myself, reverse engineered into what the product is today and tried to raise money in business school. It didn't work out and then I kept pitching to the same people. I kept iterating my pitch, kept iterating the product and eventually raised that first check which made it easier to raise more money, and now I'm working on it full time.

Tim Bourguignon: 6:54
And congratulations on that. Thanks, but that's a whole bunch to unpack before we get to Smurdy. That's okay for you? Yes, definitely. I'd like to come back to that turtle, the way you talked about it, saying well, I understood how to talk to that turtle. I love this formulation Because that's really something. When you're trying to talk to a computer and trying to tell it to do something and you're not speaking the right language, it doesn't click. As you said, it's so difficult to really Understand the way you should be talking to it and the way you personally find this turtle or this computer as a total and say I understood how to talk to it. I love it. It's really saying, hey, you found the right language. Did you realize right away the power that software could have and so what the power you had learned in talking to that turtle could bring to your life? Not yet at that point.

Denzil Eden: 7:51
I don't know if at that point I understood how transformative of a technology any sort of software language, programming language is, but I did understand that computers spoke differently than humans did, and that's what programming languages allowed us to do, that they allowed us to communicate what we wanted To technology, and I actually think the greatest thing about a I today is that it's made it even easier for humans to communicate with technology, because now technology can communicate the way we communicate. But back then we needed to learn how to use these intermediary bridge languages in order to be able to allow software to do what we wanted, and I thought that was really fascinating. I was always really into logic and puzzles, and it was just a puzzle that needed to be solved, and then, as I grew older, I really understood OK, like these are the limits of technology, this is what are the limits of my own programming skills, and try to find connections there.

Tim Bourguignon: 8:47
How is has been your, your relationship with students? You mentioned you were a teacher for a bit with students for whom it didn't click the way you did for you and and bridging that gap and helping them understand exactly how that work. If it clicked for you from the get go love at first sight I would almost say how did you bridge that gap and build this relation with students?

Denzil Eden: 9:11
That's a great question, and teaching was like such a great experience for me because it really showed me that everyone just learns in a different way. No skill is unknowable. It is just about finding the way that your brain works, your thinking patterns work, and trying to find alignment. And so, for me, I really gave me a great perspective on what is wrong with education today, and also that no one can say that they're not a coder because you have the skills, you have the ability to think. It's just about figuring out how to make your brain talk, the way that computer brains talk.

Tim Bourguignon: 10:54
So do you have some, some, some techniques, when it's not clicking, with people to find the way that they need to hear it, so that clicks?

Denzil Eden: 11:04
I don't know if it's necessarily about like how you hear it, but I will say it is about practice, because the more you do different exercises, you'll start to recognize patterns between how you solve certain problems in the computer science space and Java, and you'll find the most problems that you're seeing in the classroom setting are just variations of the same same conundrum. And then you just need to start recognizing OK, like this is how these are the parameters that the function needs. This is how functions are usually structured, and so I think it's practice more than anything else, practicing to think the way that computers think and learning what they need.

Tim Bourguignon: 11:42
OK, so really using it, using it, using it, and at some point you will see and it will click.

Denzil Eden: 11:48
Exactly, and I think that's true today too, with all of these tools that are out there and all of this, all of the hype around prompt engineering. It is about practicing learning how to prompt these models. It's learning about how AI models think and understanding how you can, like, adapt your own thinking to match that.

Tim Bourguignon: 12:09
Isn't there a difference though, in such that a programming language is is very, very Cartesian and definite. Either you have the right way to ask or you don't, and there's no two ways on all of those, no three ways to do the same thing. In a way, crafting your prompts with chad, gpt or with the LMS we have nowadays, you can achieve the same results with very different ways, and so dabbling into it quite often leads to some results as well, and it's not a black and white result. It's very shades of gray, except if you add some parameters etc. But but if you stick to the, to the prompting, it's really shades of gray. Harder in computer science to double your way into the, how the computer is supposed to, to be talked to.

Denzil Eden: 13:01
I think that's a great point. I agree with you. Like with a traditional programming language, there is only one right way to talk to software, to whatever you're trying to get done with prompt engineering. Of course, you can ask something in multiple ways and you'll get different results, and you should probably experiment so you can see what parameters lead to what results. But at the same time, I do believe that there's like an optimal way to do prompting, and we just haven't fully discovered that yet. I think five years from now there will be textbooks that will say like this is exactly how you should be prompting this model specifically, and I think that precision will come. But right now we're all in this exploratory phase, trying to understand what is the best language.

Tim Bourguignon: 13:47
Oh, we are still a baby phase of asking questions. I'm exploring a lot of mid journey in the past days and weeks and understanding some patterns and how to have to ask questions. This is, this is fantastic. This is an endeavor in itself and indeed, when you find something that really works and you can reproduce and is really consistency, oh, now I really learned something. That's very gratifying.

Denzil Eden: 14:16
I agree it's an adventure and it's really fun.

Tim Bourguignon: 14:19
It is so. You said obviously MIT, obviously computer science, even though you don't want to become a hardcore software engineer, you said but but still it had to be in SIFT3 engineer. Did you have doubts in which direction to take inside the CS space?

Denzil Eden: 14:41
No, I was always interested in AI, so I knew that I wanted to do my theoretical masters in that, and then I always knew I wanted to pursue computer science. There was no other major that appealed to me. I just wasn't sure what I wanted to do with that major, and so that was what was most confusing for me. And then, in terms of choosing which university go to, I actually wasn't sure I wanted to go to MIT, and then I visited during their campus preview weekend, which happens in April, and it was the most fun weekend I had ever had in my life up until that point, and it convinced me that this was the right place for me to go to.

Denzil Eden: 15:21
And so it all really just fell into place, and I just needed to experience it once to know it was the right fit.

Tim Bourguignon: 15:27
Okay, was that weekend representative for the years you did after?

Denzil Eden: 15:33
Yes, actually, it really was.

Tim Bourguignon: 15:35

Denzil Eden: 15:36
It was very so. I think MIT has this motto, which is work hard, play hard, and even that weekend was very much like extremely intense but very fun at the same time, and I think it just it does a really good job of showing you what your college experience could be like. It's all student run. Obviously, there's like administration overseeing everything, but students really plan all of their events and it's just 24 seven for three days.

Denzil Eden: 16:03
Okay, and the rest of the curriculum is 24 seven for four years, five years, but it's a little bit less recreational only, but I mean even, but it's the same level of intensity.

Tim Bourguignon: 16:16
Okay, that's good, that's good. It's really a hard or a very thin line to to meet during those open doors to really show the the values and what the school is made or the college is made of, and then have the same feeling afterwards and not feel lied to. It's really hard, it's a very hard balance.

Denzil Eden: 16:38
I personally I'm obviously biased, but I thought MIT did a really great job and I actually went with a friend of mine from high school. We both went and she did not have as good of an experience and she did not end up going to MIT and so I think it does do a good job for prospective students to come see what the atmosphere is like, see what the culture is like, and then have them decide like is this for you or not?

Tim Bourguignon: 17:00
Yeah, indeed, indeed, indeed. Then, moving on, when you spoke about your theoretical stereotypical thesis, you just said I wish I'd stayed with this topic. What do you mean by that?

Denzil Eden: 17:13
Yeah, so it's actually not with. So the way that my master's was broken down I could take classes and concentrated in a space and then I could do a thesis project in any space that I wanted, ideally with complementary skills to my theoretical thesis. Well, my theoretical concentration wasn't AI, but back then it was. Machine learning was there, but it was still early. I didn't really like pursue that as much. I was still doing more of like a high level.

Denzil Eden: 17:40
AI 101 theoretical concentration and then my application thesis project was in human computer interactions and I built this platform called Nora no one revises alone and it was literally slack, but for classrooms and it was for helping students asynchronously collaborate on assignments during the school day, and I, in hindsight and even then, could have turned it into an actual product and business, but I didn't do it and I don't know why.

Denzil Eden: 18:14
I just felt very I guess I was very afraid of the idea of striking out on my own and building a company with a product that I already had, with users who were willing to pay for it, and I think it was just. It was a different time really, because I feel like universities today have a lot more programs around entrepreneurship and MIT than did, but it wasn't a big part of the campus culture and if I go to campus now, it's so different. There are so many programs around. How do you start a startup, how do you raise money, how do you start building something people want, and so that's really what I meant. I had this thing that I really, even in hindsight now, could have created a real company around, but it was just so hard for me to grasp that that was something I could do and that this was enough of a starting point to get started.

Tim Bourguignon: 19:04
Okay, makes more sense. So you were not ready for the startup growing experience yet, yeah, okay, and does this product still has its place in the world 10 years later? No, timing is everything.

Denzil Eden: 19:19
And even then it was a little bit too early for that asynchronous collaboration platform, but I definitely think there was still a lot of value that it was adding, especially in the classroom setting. But today there's so many alternatives there's Slack, there's Miro, there's so many different platforms that you can use to get that same experience. Honestly, figma could even replace what I built, and so I think it had its time. But that's time that time has passed Okay, so no regrets.

Tim Bourguignon: 19:49
No regrets so then you brushed over your your first years PM at PowerPoint, then think, yemmer. Then there was one in between. I think how long did that phase last? Or go until you had this reboot of saying what do I want to do with my life?

Denzil Eden: 20:10
Yeah, I was working for three years a little bit more than that and then I decided to go to business school and business school was really that period of reflection.

Tim Bourguignon: 20:21
So how did you three years go? I mean starting the three years entering the, the workforce with big air quotes or industry or big tech, as you mentioned it. How did that go? How did it relate to the ideal you had in your mind? How did that work? And then, how do these three years evolve into you questioning this and say, well, maybe I should go back to business school or whatever. I'm very interested in those two. To pals yeah, no, it's a great question because I don't think that enough people talk about, like what that feels like when you first go into the workforce.

Denzil Eden: 20:54
It was jarring for me. It was not what I expected. I wasn't sure if I loved my job and I didn't know why. And it turns out that I really did like my job. I was just hungry for more and I just felt I wasn't being challenged enough. I didn't love my commute, which is so funny now to talk about, but my commute was terrible back then. It was an hour because I lived in San Francisco. I wanted the lifestyle of being young and happy with my friends all the time, but then I was commuting to Mountain View and with traffic that would take an hour each way, I just felt surprised at what I did like and also surprised at what I didn't like. I didn't realize how important the lifestyle aspect would be to me. I didn't realize how much I would miss coding and actually building something from like specifications versus writing the specifications, and I didn't understand how different those skill sets were. I didn't really understand at that time how in front of was to understand users and be customer obsessed, even though I was working in product and it was. I was learning so much but at the same time not appreciating what I was learning, and so it's funny to look at it with hindsight.

Denzil Eden: 22:06
And then, because I missed coding so much, I started teaching computer science and I realized that I liked teaching, but it wasn't something that I wanted to do as my full-time livelihood, so I didn't want to go back to school to become a professor and so I started looking at other jobs and I think my number one priority at that time had been finding something that was in San Francisco. So that was my number one priority. And then I was lucky enough to interview at Yammer, which was a acquired startup at Microsoft and their headquarters was in San Francisco. So that worked out really well on that specification and they were looking for software engineers. So it worked out in that way and I still got to stand at the Microsoft umbrella, so it was an easy transition and so it worked out so well for everything that I thought I wanted at that time. So I switched to being a software engineer at Yammer and I actually really liked it. I liked being the one building and seeing my changes get deployed into the product and seeing how users use them. It was just such a satisfying feeling. So I was like, okay, I do like this part of it.

Denzil Eden: 23:14
But then, a year into that, I ran into that same feeling of like okay, but I want more. I want more challenges, I want more to do. I don't know if this is where I want to be for the next five or 10 years. I just felt really hungry but also really lost. That's why I decided that business school was the right choice for me. But it's so funny I remember even now, when I decided to go to business school, the head of engineering at Yammer, who I like never worked with but I knew of, sat me down and said okay, I see how hungry you are, I see that you're like pursuing other things and I don't think you need to stay at Yammer.

Denzil Eden: 23:51
This is not a pitch for you to stay at Yammer. I can help you work at any startup that you want, any place where you can like build the skill set, but I feel like you should really go and build instead. That was the first time anyone had said to me like going to business school was the wrong choice, and I really look back on it today very fondly because I understand what he was trying to say. He was saying there are so many ways to get the same skill set and to feed that passion of wanting to build and learn at an accelerated rate. I think it really stuck with me about wanting to go to a different startup, like starting a startup going somewhere younger and smaller. I think I just thought about that a lot while I was at business school. That was my experience working full-time for the first time.

Tim Bourguignon: 24:38
It makes a lot of sense. How did you come up to the idea of going back with their quotes again to business school and decide on business school that business school was the right thing for you at that time?

Denzil Eden: 24:51
That's a great question. I actually applied to a lot of different grad schools. I applied to law school, I applied to a school for masters of public policy. I was confused in a lot of ways about what I wanted. The great thing about tech is that it can be applied to any industry. There are law tech, there is finance tech. There is so many different ways you can apply technology to different industries. I was like, okay, I can bring this skill set to any space and any career that I want. I just have to figure out what I want to do. I kind of glossed over this, but in my working days I was actually interning on the side at a lot of other things as well.

Denzil Eden: 25:30
I was working for a Kamala Harris Senate campaign. I was volunteering for them and helping them with fundraising. I was interning with a criminal lawyer and trying to understand if I wanted to go into criminal law, and this was actually my third time trying out a law internship. I had already worked in patent law. Before that I tried a corporate law internship as well. I was confused and I was curious. I wanted to try a lot of different things and figure out what was right for me.

Tim Bourguignon: 26:02
I love the experimental approach Really. Okay, I don't know what I want, so let's try this, let's try that, let's try that, let's try that and see what sticks. Very entrepreneurial.

Denzil Eden: 26:15
Definitely. It's so funny because I never looked at that skill or that the mindset as entrepreneurial. But now that I look at my life in hindsight I can say very clearly well, those are entrepreneurial skills. That is part of it, that experimental learning by doing which is not for everyone. Some people are actually really great at looking at other people's experiences and other people's mistakes and learning from that. I'm not, and I wish I was better at that, but I am very much a experimenter, trier, iterator.

Tim Bourguignon: 26:47
Which you need nowadays, so that's fine. So I've reached the point in time where Smarties started to evolve in your mind.

Denzil Eden: 26:55

Tim Bourguignon: 26:56
So can you tell us the birth story of Smarties before it became the company? How did you come up with the idea? How did you did that? Maybe scratch an itch you had or really started to evolve into, from maybe just an idea or a hobby into hey, this could be more. And what the first steps look like.

Denzil Eden: 27:18
Yes, definitely, it's very clear in my mind. So it happened during my second year of business school, maybe a little bit during the first year I'd all. I arrived at business school, I liked it, I was open to trying out other careers, and then I kept finding myself coming back to tech and I said that I didn't want to pivot out of technology and so what can I do with technology? And HBS was really the first time I felt supported in entrepreneurship and pursuing that as a journey. There were so many classes around it. I still think HBS is very theoretical when it comes to entrepreneurship, compared to some other business schools that are, I think, a little bit more application heavy, and I know they're changing that. They're trying to become more application and experimental focus, but at the time it was still more theoretical, I think. But it was my first exposure to that as an experience, and one of my closest friends at a business school had been a founder before, and so I really got to see what that journey had been like for him and he wanted to start another startup right away, and so it was exciting to see the world through his eyes and that lens and it definitely encouraged me to think about that as a career path for myself. And so then I started asking myself okay, if I could only work on one thing for the rest of my life, what space do I want to be in? And AI had always been something that I was really excited about. I wanted to help be part of that journey of making that a reality, and back then it was still very much machine learning, natural language processing, nothing like what we have today with LLMs, but it was still something that was rapidly advancing and so I was like I want to be in that space, I want to see how I can get into that. And then I started asking about questions in my own life, problems in my own life, and at that time I really vividly remember I was having anxiety attacks like pretty much every day.

Denzil Eden: 29:10
I just felt so overwhelmed with everything that was in my life, both my personal commitments, my professional commitments, everything that I was trying to balance, and I had this realization that more than 25% of the things that I was doing every day could easily be automated with existing technology. And I remember looking it up and I think a lot of corporate knowledge workers at that time had like 30%. Today I would say it's about 60% of the work that we do every day could easily be automated with existing technology, and the big problem there and why that wasn't being solved with technology, was that none of our software was able to talk to each other. We had to manually handle every software individually. Everything was in these different silos, and so I was on this kick of OK, everything has an API. Apis can talk to each other. Apis are programming languages. Apis are languages for how software speaks to other software, and all I needed to do was create this hub that allowed these APIs to connect, and I should be able to talk to this hub, and so that's how Smarty really came up as an idea in my mind.

Denzil Eden: 30:22
I had this vision around this conversational web operating system where I tell Smarty what I need to do, smarty figures out the intent, what APIs are relevant, and then connects it all together and makes it work, and that's how I came up with the idea, and I started building Smarty as a chat bot, just something that I was chatting to. I would tell Smarty things that were on my plate, and if Smarty could automate it, it would, and that's how I got started. That's the pitch that I gave to my first investor. I didn't really understand anything about how to pitch, how this is too big of an idea and you need a niche to get started. You need a real pain point, you need a real customer. It was definitely a learning journey for me, but that's how I got started.

Tim Bourguignon: 31:07
And it is awesome, it was very long-winded.

Tim Bourguignon: 31:12
No, no, that's. It's really cool. I was really thinking what would be the analogy with existing tools. It's kind of an overlay over Zapier, which has the connectors, but not this AI part, where it figures out on its own what it should be doing. You really have to tell them, but it's not just that. So, yeah, interesting. And this started in 2018, isn't it so? Before chatGPT emerged, or at least to the public, before everybody understood that this is happening? How was it to work in LLM back then versus now?

Denzil Eden: 31:55
Yeah, it was a different way of thinking about AI. It was very much around I was using an open AI API for natural language processing, but that isn't what chatGPT is today. Then I had these goals around creating machine learning models, but everything that has happened in the last couple of years has completely changed that Not just for me, but for people who were machine learning experts working at companies building these models, it is a brave new world, but not a surprising one. Even back then, I had that same vision that LLMs make even easier today, but it's just a different methodology to get there.

Tim Bourguignon: 32:31
Did you change some part of your stack after LLMs came out?

Denzil Eden: 32:41
No, I would call it AI 1.0. We had that before and today we're still using that, but now we're layering in AI 2.0 with all of the language learning models and also large action models. Really, this is a new time for how the AI works, but in terms of the actual infrastructure that you need to build a product like Smarty, all of that stays the same the APIs that were connected to you, how those APIs connect together, how you as a user communicate with Smarty and what information you need to specify all of that stays the same. In some ways, I feel like it was great that I had that period of building up that infrastructure and now I get to just play around with how the AI at the top level works for how users interface with Smarty.

Tim Bourguignon: 33:32
Who do you define as your competitors? Are those the Zappiers which are trying to add AI on top of the services now, or is that a different space?

Denzil Eden: 33:42
It's a different space, and so I can almost see Zappier or IFTHT IFTHT, this and that being APIs that we integrate with. It's really not even a competitor because they are really providing the tools from creating these very intricate connections, and I can see Smarty even using those intricate connections between these different APIs. Our competitors are more in the future of work tool space, so tools that are creating countering solutions, tools that are creating email management solutions, contact management solutions, and these are tools that you're using at work. But a lot of our users have product fatigue because they don't want to switch between all of these different niche productivity tools. They instead want an all-in-one platform that handles all of their favorite productivity features, and so we're more in that space, and so I would say Smarty's biggest value proposition is first, this all-in-one platform, trying to integrate with everything across your administrative stack and right now we're just on top of G Suite but everything from your email to your Google contacts, to your Google calendars, across multiple accounts. So your professional accounts, your personal accounts, just having all of that accessible in one place. So that's our top value proposition.

Denzil Eden: 34:51
Our second one is really around these conversational commands, so being able to say something like coffee with Tim at Blue Bottle in San Francisco at 2 pm London time and having that calendar event sent with the right time zone with the right location, just with keyboard shortcuts and conversational commands. So that's our second biggest value proposition. And the third one is using AI to have recommendations around when is the best time to get something done, what is the best way to plan your schedule? Brain-dumping tasks into Smarty and having Smarty AI autoschedule it into your day or into your weeks and so really helping you make sure you never drop the ball. And I think that last value proposition is really where most of our competitors are. So there are a lot of tools that are helping you use AI to autoschedule your day, and that's where our biggest competitors are.

Tim Bourguignon: 35:39
Okay, makes sense. How did you tackle the problem of trusting the AI? I mean, if I'm just conversing with AI and I trust this AI, he's going to create the right appointments, send those to my counterparts. It's going to be a different time zone and it's going to do it on its own and correctly. I would double-check everything it's doing.

Denzil Eden: 36:03
Yeah, no, of course, and that's actually one of the biggest things that we tried to keep in mind while building out Smarty. So I don't know if you remember XAI it came out before 2018. It was this assistant, amy. You would CC Amy on your emails and then Amy would just do things for you, and the problem with that experience was exactly what you said that you were like what is Amy going to do? How is Amy going to do this? What if Amy does it the wrong way?

Denzil Eden: 36:34
And so, really, our goal with Smarty is not to create this black box around how things are getting done, but instead to give you the right commands at the right time so you know exactly what is being done and how it's being done. And so, instead of you just delegating tasks away to Smarty, it's really taking these workflows like switching to my calendar app, dragging and dropping, adding this contact to that calendar invite. Instead of doing that at that crucial step where you have all of these mundane workflows that you have to do, smarty is specifically replacing that experience with a single command where you control everything. You control exactly the time, you control exactly the people. So really finding that balance between giving you the right control versus delegating the mundane parts of product switching, figuring out like how does this work, things like that?

Tim Bourguignon: 37:24
Okay, a hard balance to find, but when you find it, I really trust it to really free up your mind, free up your calendar, doing stuff for you, but I'm still yeah, I can see that you're like I don't believe that you can fully take away that fear, and I think it's.

Denzil Eden: 37:45
You have to try the product. But it's really. You are in control, you trigger the commands and you know exactly how the command is going to work. So that confidence, I think, and that trust, builds up over time.

Tim Bourguignon: 37:59
Okay, I'll have to give it a go. Then you mentioned a couple of times you were searching for something to work on for the rest of your life. How does that collides maybe doesn't collide with the stellar growth of AI right now? Will there still be a need for how to put it a tool that is deep enough in terms of you telling it what it should be doing and really helping it, versus, at some point, some AI able to discover that on their own and basically over patting your tool on the right and just doing it without somebody teaching them that? Do you see what I mean?

Denzil Eden: 38:49
Yes, I do, but I still think in that scenario, there will always be an interface that you're interacting with as the user, and, regardless of what the AI is doing, there's something that you are interacting with as the user, and I want to be part of building that platform, that interface, whatever it is. This doesn't have to be smarty, and so I think one of the big things as a founder is you'll have a lot of ideas, but finding something that you can really, that you're really committed to in the long run, that's really important, and for me, even if smarty fails this concept, this vision of what that interface looks like, someone is going to create it, and if I'm not going to be doing it at smarty, then I want to go find a competitor or another company that's working on that same vision and go work for them, and so that's really how it aligns for me.

Tim Bourguignon: 39:41
And that is awesome. It really makes a lot of sense when you describe, or when we talked about, the product piece and the trust piece on top of the AI. So really, this is something that I don't see AI solving for us. What's happening in the background? Yes, maybe, but this whole how humans or tailoring for humans, is really a hard nut to crack, and this I don't expect the UI to crack that in the near future. So that's where your tool or maybe another, as you're saying really has to shine and come into play.

Denzil Eden: 40:15
I definitely think it's. We're really early, we're not sure what that's gonna look like, but it's exciting to be part of that journey that shapes it.

Tim Bourguignon: 40:23
Very cool. Coming back to your students, was there something, some kind of piece of advice, stuff you told them again and again to help them kickstart their career, start on the right track and maybe get a glimpse on what you were doing or something else? Is there such such an advice?

Denzil Eden: 40:46
Yeah, it's a great question. It's actually something I've been thinking about a lot recently, especially with the rapid buildup of AI tools that are coming out there. I think AI literacy is something that is becoming more and more important than ever before, and that doesn't mean understanding how AI works behind the scenes. It's about understanding how to use AI as a tool to improve your own job, whatever you are doing, and it's something that I am telling folks today who are interested. Ai is in such an early stage that the next five, ten years are really going to tell us what that industry is going to look like, and so the more AI literacy that you can build up today, the better, and I think the best way to do that is by following your passions, your hobbies, and so you said you were working with mid-journey.

Denzil Eden: 41:32
If you're an artist, if you like to draw, if you like creating art, then I think mid-journey is like such a great tool to start playing around with your own art and also seeing how it responds to art, and I think, ai literacy. In order to develop that. The best way to do it is to figure out what are your hobbies, what are your passions. If you like writing, play around with chat, tbt or other writing language, large language models, if you like composing music or if you like paying music, play around with an AI tool in the music scene and understand how to prompt it, how to use it to create something new. Because I think as you learn those skills, you'll be able to become an expert.

Denzil Eden: 42:05
Because anyone today can become an expert in AI because it's just so new, so early, and the more time you invest in it today, the better you'll be. And the best way to invest time is to by doing it through a hobby or something that you're passionate about. I think that's the same advice I would have given my students 10 years ago in these classes. If you're interested in technology, technology can be applied to any space, to any industry. Even back then, if you were interested in music, you could try to build a piano using software. You could try to build I don't know like a drawing tool or an art tool using software. I think there is something really powerful about being able to align your passions with your interests and your goals and your learning skills, because the more you can tie in something you're trying to learn to something that you enjoy doing, the faster and more fun I'll be.

Tim Bourguignon: 42:55
Amen to that and I love that your answer digs into exploration again, saying hey, do something with it and try what happens. And this is exactly the same discourse you had at the beginning of the show, talking about how you went at your life. So it's all full circles.

Denzil Eden: 43:15
I think life, you know yellow, you only live once. So you need to explore everything and figure out what is what brings true to you.

Tim Bourguignon: 43:25
Then go explore Fantastic. Where would be the best place to continue the discussion with you?

Denzil Eden: 43:34
Please find me on LinkedIn. I'm Denzil Eden and I love talking to people about their careers, their journeys, their interest in technology, ai, literacy, and I'd love to give anyone a personalized onboarding onto Smarty, and then you can always try out Smarty at wwwsmartyai. We're an early product, we have some customers and we're always looking for more people to give us feedback.

Tim Bourguignon: 43:58
Then you heard her let's go there, anything else.

Denzil Eden: 44:03
No, that's it. That's me in a nutshell.

Tim Bourguignon: 44:05
Fantastic, denzil, it was really fun. Thank you so much for sharing your life and for the good love we had. I had a fun four times I had fun too.

Denzil Eden: 44:13
thank you so much for having me.

Tim Bourguignon: 44:15
Like was, and this has been another episode of Devil's Journey. It was each other next week. Bye, bye. Thanks a lot for tuning in. I hope you have enjoyed this week's episode. If you like the show, please share, rate and review. It helps more listeners discover those stories. You can find the links to all the platforms the show appears on on our website devjourneyinfo slash subscribe. Talk to you soon.