Spotlight Series: Interview with Dr Richard Ahlfeld, CEO and Founder of Monolith AI

01 Aug 2020

Spotlight Series: Richard Ahlfeld

Tell us about yourself

I am Dr Richard Ahlfeld, CEO and Founder of Monolith AI. We have developed a platform combining AI, tailored visualisation, and high-performance-computing to equip engineers and data-scientists and accelerate product development.

What inspired you to start Monolith AI?

Monolith AI was founded from my PhD at Imperial College London. I have always wanted to build cool, world-transforming tech. The vision behind Monolith is actually JARVIS from Iron Man, the ultimate assistant for engineers. Imagine how quickly we could develop new products with that kind of help!

Sell it to us – how does it work?

Our platform helps to easily gather all available data in one place, quickly get good insights from it, learn from past simulations or experiments, share knowledge between teams more efficiently, and make better and more informed decisions about the product. The platform comes with various off-the-shelf exploration functions and machine learning models, but also in-house-developed algorithms to apply machine learning models on 3D data (mesh, cad files etc). It also offers the ability for your own data-scientist teams to customise and create new models, and visualisation tools.

What would you say are the best things about working at Monolith AI?

Working on something that you believe in with a team of people who are essentially your friends – it does not feel like work at all.

What is the hardest thing about working at Monolith AI?

The hardest thing is letting staff go. For me, everybody in the team is part of the family. Sadly, in business, sometimes people just don’t end up working out in the role that they are in and you need to part ways. It sounds natural, but it feels really bad when it happens in a small and friendly company.

What’s the best thing your company has achieved so far?

It has been quite astonishing to us that world-leading engineering companies like Honda, BMW and Siemens have started trusting us a few years after starting off. That is hugely rewarding and is something we are really proud of as a team.

What does the future hold?

I genuinely think we have the potential to change the way engineering works. There are so many problems that can be solved much faster through machine learning. I think Monolith AI or software similar to Monolith will be part of the everyday tool chain five years from now at the very latest.

What’s the top piece of advice you would give to someone considering entrepreneurship?

I think it all comes down to optimism. Every day there are things that are just super hard, things that everybody thinks are impossible, friends and family telling you this will fail, potential investors telling you there is no market for this. Don’t believe them and stay optimistic.

What is the most important skill you’ve learnt from the Enterprise Fellowships programme?

The negotiation training was the most memorable and highly useful event for me, as I came from an academic background and have never had to negotiate before. 

What advice would you give to potential applicants?

Make sure to prepare for commercialisation questions as well as technology questions for the application and the interview – everyone applying can answer questions about their own tech and tech in general.

And finally, if you received an infinite sum of cash, what’s the first thing you would do for your business?

Buy a big house that everyone can live and work in…realistic, I know…

 Quick fire questions

Who is your role model? Steve Jobs

What is your secret talent? I can pitch any idea

What’s your guilty pleasure? Great British Bake Off!

I don’t understand why… we all don’t have our own AI robot assistant.

When I’m not working at Monolith AI, I am… sleeping.

What makes you happiest in business? Applying research and tech to real-life problems

Do you have any business regrets? Sure, but that’s how you learn.

If I could have a superpower, it would be… to fly!

If you could switch places with any famous entrepreneur, who would it be? I need to think about this one!

The tech that I could not live without is… my iPhone.

Ever told a white lie to get what you wanted in business? Mmmmm, wouldn’t you like to know!

And finally, if you could invent a new piece of tech, what would it be and what problem would it solve? A ladder that goes from earth to the moon.

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