Fresh off announcing a US$800 million global fund, Skymind stated that Southeast Asia is a key market for them. This firmly puts the region in the spotlight in the global AI industry.

But what does it actually mean for the region when it comes to AI, especially when there is little infrastructure or talent in the region. The need for improvements in AI industry has been discussed for a long time, but there has been little movement in that regard.

Skymind is in a unique position given their long experience and apparent success in the field of artificial intelligence. They count the creator of Deeplearning4J as part of their leadership – Adam Gibson – and have already established strong relationships with leading technology brands in the region.

We had a chance to speak to Skymind CEO Shawn Tan about his goals for the region and Malaysia in particular. He took some time out of his busy schedule to share his ambitious vision for the region.

Congrats on the recent launch of the fund. How do you foresee the funds being utilised in Southeast Asia particularly? 

Thank you very much, we are excited to bring Skymind to the region. 

Our focus right now is on talent building in the region, because it is an essential component of the overall AI ecosystem we are looking to build. Right now, we are focused on building a scalable programme that works in this region. 

Another part of our mission here is to bring in great entrepreneurs that will help introduce innovative technologies and solutions to the market. We have already identified great talents from Singapore, China, Japan and Australia through our Skymind Launchpad programme. These talents are ready to move and incubate their startups in Malaysia. Eventually, we hope to see more AI products or local IPs built in Malaysia, Indonesia or from Southeast Asia. 

Some of the funds will also be used to invest in promising companies with potential. 

What does Skymind hope to achieve through your talent programmes and what do they offer? 

As we mentioned before, our initial goal in Southeast Asia is to really build up the talent pool by providing the resources and expertise to build a sustainable pool of talented AI developers. The programmes in place right now are designed to provide real-life skill sets that are in-demand in the AI industry as well as introduce them to Deeplearning4j and our suite of tools. 

Eventually, we will be able to expand our talent programmes to provide even more opportunities for the local talent to realise their potential. We believe the region can become a hub for AI talent. 

What are some of the other gaps you see in the Southeast Asian market and how can we overcome them? 

There is a large gap between Southeast Asia and the more developed AI markets like USA and Europe because we do not have the right tools to keep up with the advances in the global market. The market does not have the right infrastructure in place to train talent or build a sustainable ecosystem right now. 

We believe we can overcome these issues and are putting in place a long-term plan to help create a strong AI ecosystem. Our first step is to create talent that will have the opportunity to be the foundation of the region’s AI ecosystem, learn from the US and European market and adapt it in Malaysia and the rest of the region. 

Why choose Malaysia as your apparent base of operations? What potential opportunities do you see here? 

As a Malaysian who spent many years overseas, I feel like it is time for me to share my knowledge and experience with my fellow Malaysians. 

Furthermore, we chose Malaysia because it is a high-value growth market. The country has a large talent pool that requires the expertise and infrastructure which Skymind can provide for them to realise their potential as a strong AI-ready market. 

We have noticed a strong focus on the term ‘AI Ecosystem’. What does this mean in tangible terms for the Southeast Asian markets? 

Skymind is the world’s first dedicated AI ecosystem builder, enabling companies and organizations to develop their own AI applications and provide them the tools to be innovators in their industry. We provide clients with world-class support and access to Eclipse Deeplearning4j and other open-source tools, as well as global capital funding for promising AI innovation and talent development. 

Skymind’s mission in Southeast Asia is to make the region a regional hub for AI innovation and talent. Skymind is focused on enhancing the capabilities of the region through talent building, technical expertise, and strategic investments. 

Through partnerships with leading public and private industry organisations, Skymind is developing the AI infrastructure of the region and generating real-world solutions proudly developed in Southeast Asia. The company provides unmatched AI expertise utilising the technology suite Konduit, which incorporates Eclipse Deeplearning4j and other open sources AI software. 

What are some of the challenges you see in building the AI ecosystem in the Southeast Asian market? 

AI is still in its early stages in Southeast Asia. It is just beginning to have an impact on the region. If Southeast Asia wants to catch up to the United States and China, the two major hubs of AI development, it needs to coordinate efforts to put fundamental building blocks in place. 

SEA is one of the most exciting regions in the world – one of the fastest-growing – and demand for digital skills and capabilities has been exponential. But one of the biggest constraints to growth for these economies is the lack of talent, and within that, a specific need for digital talent. 

Businesses need to adopt a balanced approach to upskilling local capability with the right mix of foreign talent. This will bring the global insights and experience required to develop local talent to the point where the experience starts to spread into the local ecosystem. It’s all about training and upskilling the workforce – how we deal with the workforce of the future. 

To ensure that SEA can cope with the talent demand, Skymind has created a talent programme to help the people in SEA; students and working professionals to acquire relevant skills and be AI-ready through its certification and talent programmes. These programmes are created to ensure more people get to deep-skill and work on a real-world AI problem with Skymind as soon as you are certified as AI engineers. 

Where do you see the next big disruption or step forward in the region in terms of AI? Which industry or industries will most likely be impacted or which market is poised for a huge technological step forward? 

Every industry in the world from manufacturing to eCommerce can benefit from AI solutions. We see a future where AI is part of every single industry, improving efficiency and quality in all aspects of the business. The opportunities are endless but require a strong ecosystem around it to nurture growth and innovation.