Chaitanya Vaidya came to the United States on a chess scholarship to the University of Texas in Dallas in 2007. It was the only school that allowed him to juxtapose his passion for chess and his desire for engineering. “Failure wasn’t an option,” Vaidya says as he remembers beating the grandmaster in the 2008 U.S. Open after winning the U.S. Chess National Collegiate in 2007. After graduating, Vaidya got his first job at Ericsson in 2010 where he did everything from network design engineering to business analytics. While there, he got his Masters Degree in Software Engineering and his MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
However, it wasn’t until Vaidya started working at SignaPay as the director of technology that he saw just how critical his skills could be to advancing their systems. “I realized that if we apply the advances happening in the tech industry to the online payment industry, we can leapfrog it years ahead,” Vaidya says. SignaPay is based in Texas, so it is a bit removed from the rush and excitement of Silicon Valley. Vaidya’s concepts in the tech industry, however, got him an invitation to the Founders Network, where hundreds of tech-based entrepreneurs meet regularly to network. The Founders Network has played a huge role in helping Vaidya navigate the entrepreneurial side of the tech industry, giving him vital opportunities to “meet with entrepreneurs has been so helpful. They are so humble. And they are no different,” Vaidya says, especially of his mentor and veteran entrepreneur of Cynergy Data, John Martillo. The invite-only network offers new entrepreneurs the chance to “to see other people who have done it,” which, Vaidya says, “I have been super critical to believing in myself.” In fact, the CEO of Founders Network, Kevin Holmes, was so impressed with Vaidya’s ideas that Holmes immediately told him to patent the idea because Vaidya was onto something big. “So, I pitched it to my boss, and suggested spinning it out into a different company,” Vaidya says, and that was how DeepRisk.ai was born.
Since its inception in January 2019, it has already processed over three thousand merchants and is even being considered by some of the top fifty banks in the world. “When we showed them our demo at a top bank and they basically put us in the running of the companies that could get the contract, along with other experienced companies, I couldn’t believe it,” Vaidya said. What sets DeepRisk.ai apart from the other underwriting companies that use artificial intelligence, is that DeepRisk.ai will actually do the entire underwriting process and produce a result in Basic English that is easy to understand by anyone. For example, if someone wanted to know the risks of investing in a coffee shop in a small town in Texas that was showing a large annual profit margin, the DeepRisk.ai software would take into account all of the analytics of not just that coffee shop, but all those in the surrounding area and produce a result that would say, not just that it is a high-risk investment, but actually spell out that it is a high-risk investment because no coffee shop in any small town in Texas has ever had this large of a profit margin.
While it might seem that things have always been easy for Vaidya, he has had to work through the same self-doubt that all other entrepreneurs in the tech industry have to endure. “We’re not in Silicon Valley, but believing in yourself – that you are as good as the people in Silicon Valley – is important,” Vaidya says. It would be easy for those in the tech industry who are not in Silicon Valley to feel isolated from the rest of their colleagues, but Vaidya believes it’s important to “not limit ourselves just because we are in Irving Texas.”
Vaidya is the first to admit that the tech industry “attracts a certain kind of persona, mainly someone who’s more introspective and more introverted,” he says. However, Vaidya cautions, “it can make you really unhappy if you let it take over your life.” While he tries to maintain his humanity and get away from the ever-alluring glow of his computer screen, Vaidya was one out of only four Americans to win the Ford Engineering Scholarship that helped him attend the University of Texas in Dallas, where he also served as the SignaPay judge on the UT Dallas CS Department and AI Society Second HackAI Contest. Vaidya also received numerous awards while he was at Ericsson, including the Role Model, Bridge Builder, and Automation of the LTE for MetroPCS that was crucial in their 3G to 4G transition.
What’s kept Vaidya’s ideas fresh over the years is his firm belief in starting with the people. “Technology is turning us into robots like computers. We are losing our humanity to it, but instead, we should be making technology more human-like us,” Vaidya explains. To that end, Vaidya believes that in order to have a successful A.I. company, entrepreneurs should focus on studying the life of a particular person or profession, figuring out what problems they are having, and using A.I. to solve those specific problems. In the case of DeepRisk.ai, Vaidya and his team, studied a day in the life of a risk analyst. “We found problems they didn’t even know they were having,” Vaidya explains, “and set out to solve them.”
When it comes to starting any company, but especially an A.I. based company, Vaidya feels it’s imperative to use your expertise, connections, and relationships to find problems, and really comprehensively solve them. Instead of using A.I. to solve a problem, use it to solve a particular problem geared for a specific person or group of people. Then, Vaidya says, “your solution will be marketable and one hundred times better because of the A.I.”