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Navrina Singh is the founder and CEO of Credo AI, an AI Fund / Andrew Ng portfolio company.

Five questions with Credo AI

08 December 2020

4 minute read

Navrina Singh is the Founder and CEO of Credo AI, an AI Fund / Andrew Ng portfolio company.

Navrina Singh is the Founder and CEO of Credo AI, an AI Fund and Andrew Ng portfolio company. Credo AI aims to democratise AI governance and oversight to ensure compliant, trustworthy, fair and auditable AI development and use. Built for business users and trusted by technical stakeholders, Credo AI's intelligent SaaS empowers enterprises to measure, monitor and manage AI-introduced risks at scale.

Navrina is a technology leader with more than 18 years of experience in enterprise SaaS, AI and mobile development. Prior to Credo AI, Navrina held multiple product and business leadership roles at Microsoft and Qualcomm. Navrina is also a young global leader with the World Economic Forum and was on their Future Council for AI, guiding policies and regulations in responsible AI. Currently, Navrina serves as an executive board member of the Mozilla Foundation, focused on driving its mission of open internet via trustworthy AI. In the past, Navrina has served on the board of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Electrical Engineering and on the board of Stella Labs (Hera-Labs), a San Diego based women business accelerator.

Navrina is a start-up advisor and a technology leader published in Fortune, Business Insider and others. She holds an MSc in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an MBA from the University of Southern California and a BSc in Electronics and Telecommunications from Pune College of Engineering, India.

01. What was the inspiration behind your company?

"What we make, makes us," is a maxim that has guided my nearly two-decade technology career. As the builders of technology, our responsibility is to ensure its trustworthiness. I have been building emerging technology for a long time, and with the growing use of machine learning and artificial intelligence I started to think about the best way to maintain human oversight of this frontier technology.

AI is set to contribute nearly $16 trillion to the global economy by 2030. I've built AI-infused products at Microsoft. I've seen the evolution of AI strategy and policy at a global scale through my engagement with the World Economic Forum and learnings from my nonprofit MERAT AI (Marketplace for Ethical & Responsible AI Tools). From these experiences, it became increasingly clear that this technology needed to be audited for compliant, secure, fair and responsible use.

One of the major challenges with machine learning is the massive AI expertise gap that exists. Stakeholders who have expertise in risk management don't have the tools to bring that expertise to machine learning operations and put the right governance and controls in place. This was the inspiration behind Credo, a Latin word defined as a set of values that guides our actions.

Credo AI is on a mission to guide trustworthy AI development and responsible use at scale. The company became a reality in 2020 thanks to investment by AI Fund and AI pioneer Andrew Ng, big advocates of auditability in machine learning. At Credo AI, we are empowering business stakeholders (policy makers, auditors, compliance managers, risk managers, etc.) to enable governance of AI in partnership with technical stakeholders. We believe democratising AI auditing is a clear step in ensuring responsible development and governance; and we are just getting started.

02. How do you feel being a female founder gives your startup a unique advantage?

I am proud to be a founder and, as a woman of colour in deep tech, excited to change what the perception of a CEO and founder is in the startup world. I believe that we have a unique competitive advantage. We bring a new, empathetic and powerful leadership styles to this traditional industry and apply a diverse lens.

Diversity and inclusion has been central to how I have hired, nurtured and built teams. I strongly believe that cognitively diverse teams yield better business outcomes. Operating in this new complex technological world also requires new ways of thinking, leading, partnering and influencing customers, investors and other stakeholders. Female founders have a unique set of skills grounded in data, empathy, intuitiveness and the ability to multitask and innovate. I also strongly believe that women-led companies are powerfully positioned to tap into more socially focused and diverse economies to create opportunities, transformational businesses and societies.

03. What is the most important lesson you've learned since first developing and launching your startup?

Building a company takes a lot of courage, character and conviction. In the past year of building Credo AI, I have learned that the most important part of this journey is the people you bring along as you create your vision.
"You must surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you even when you don't see it in yourself." As I move forward in building Credo AI, these words by Edmund Lee are what I live by. I can't over-emphasise the importance of people in my life who are my most honest critics, tell me when I make mistakes and are also the biggest cheerleaders advocating for me and Credo. This lesson has completely changed how I hire and fundraise.

04. How has the pandemic impacted your company?

Credo AI is only eight months into its journey, though the idea has been in the making for more than four years. A week before shelter in place was announced in California, we landed our pre-seed funding to make our vision a reality.

With COVID-19, we have been able to relentlessly focus on building the product and ecosystem to solve the big challenges in governing and auditing machine learning, with fewer of the distractions that might have come from travel, etc. However, on the downside, recruiting talent has been hard. Interviewing over Zoom and people being more risk averse during this time has certainly made it a bit challenging to attract talent and make intentional hiring decisions.

05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?

As Zig Ziglar said, "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great." I waited almost a decade to start my company, because I wanted to find that perfect moment. But guess what, the only perfect moment is when you start.

The secret to launching a company is getting started. Take that first step now. As women, sometimes we tend to overthink, overanalyse and wait to create the perfect conditions. We are more prepared than we think we are, and many of the entrepreneurial challenges we face are ones we will learn and adapt to only once we jump right in.

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