RALEIGH – One of the most perplexing challenges facing businesses wanting to explore Artificial Intelligence as a tool is “How do I build a team?”

Rett Crocker CEO and CTO of UDU, an artificial intelligence firm in Raleigh, has plenty of advice.


In an interview with Alexander Ferguson, CEO of YourLocalStudio, for its UpTech series focusing on AI, Crocker explains his reasoning in this excerpt of an interview published June 20.

“First off, I wouldn’t build anything from scratch anymore. There’s just almost no point in that because of all of the existing tools that are out there, that are open source” Crocker says.

“Thank God for open source, right?

“It is such a useful thing in problems like this. It’s the same value that the open academic community brings, right? People trading knowledge and stuff like that.

“Ultimately, what you want are good programmers. That’s really what it comes down to. Preferably good programmers that understand math because math is kind of a key component to it.

“But there’s room for both. The ones that are less mathy. My team, I literally, I literally put ads on Craigslist and interviewed people, for the most part.

“[M]y oldest employee was the very first Craigslist ad when I was like, “Let’s see if UDU works. Let’s hire a few people and see how this plays out.” And he came in and he had zero programming experience. He was a mechanical engineer, actually. And he was like, “This is interesting. I’m interested in startups.”

I gave him the pitch on UDU, what it was, and what we were trying to build and he was like, “Yeah, I’d like to do that.” And I was like, “How’s your programming?” He’s like, “It’s not great.” And I was like, “Okay.”

“But he was smart and he could problem-solve and that’s part of the key thing, one of the reasons that I bring him up is the right people to solve these problems in the future are good problem solvers.

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“Because there’s all these other technologies that you can integrate. And you can do a lot of different things and you can solve a lot of different problems but the real, to build good models, predictive models, you need to build good data.

“And the dirty secret of data science and AI, which is part of that, is that folks that call themselves Data Scientists, which is really just programmers/statistician, they spend most of their time cleaning up and finding data which is gross. Terrible. No human should be doing that, is one of the reasons we point UDU at that problem all the time.

“It’s like, UDU can do that for you, you don’t have to. But if I’m some random CXO in corporate America and I need to apply predictive analytics or artificial intelligence or what have you to try to predict my customer, how much my customers are going to spend in the next year or whatever. 90% of the time, if I was building a team to do that, I would get smart problem solving programmers. Maybe a data scientist or two.”

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By the way, Rett has designed and developed over 100 games for mobile devices, personal computers, and video game consoles. He’s also invented multiple programming languages, game engines, and multi-user content. And he’s created innovative software technologies in fields ranging from speech synthesis to Avra gaming to collaborative education.