EP 302 – Michael Currie – Founder of Fling – We Add All of Our Value on the Software

by | Nov 17, 2023

The Asia Tech Podcast hosted ⁠Michael Currie⁠, the founder of ⁠Fling⁠, who shared several insights he has gained from his experience in the drone industry in Southeast Asia. With a background in financial software development and AI research, Currie moved to Southeast Asia in 2017 and founded Fling in 2018, a company pioneering drones and AI in the region.

Some of the topics Michael covered in detail:

  • The Importance of Listening to Customers
  • Enablement Over Disruption
  • Overcoming Operating Challenges in Low-Wage Environments
  • Leveraging Commodity Drones with Proprietary AI Software
  • Expansion and Growth Opportunities for Fling

Some other titles we considered for this episode, but ultimately rejected:

  1. This Is Where I Really Learned to Listen
  2. Visibility Into the Whole Supply Chain Process
  3. How Fling’s Drones Are Revolutionizing the Supply Chain
  4. Transforming Warehouses with AI
  5. Pioneering Drones and AI in Southeast Asia
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:05
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast, Michael Currie. Hope I get this right, the founder, CEO, CTO, is there anything else you don’t do at Fling? Is with us today. Michael…welcome, welcome back to the network.

Michael Currie 0:20
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me again. It’s been a few years since we’ve spoken. So thanks very much.

Michael Waitze 0:26
It’s my pleasure. I follow everything you do. I think my listeners know you. Right? Definitely, this Ecosystm knows you. But if you feel like giving a little bit more information about yourself before we dive right in, feel free to do that. If not, we can just go.

Michael Currie 0:38
Sure. So for those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m Michael Curry. I’ve been in Southeast Asia now for about six years. I have previously been a financial software developer in New York City, and in Canada, where I grew up and moved to Southeast Asia, about six years ago was the founder of two different AI startups, including a den which is an E Learning startup and then fling about five years ago, which is our company today. I was also the executive director of the AI research group open worm, which is a nonprofit backed by Google with fling. We are pioneering drones and AI here in Southeast Asia.

Michael Waitze 1:21
Oh my god, I had no idea was only six years ago, he moved here. If you had said 16, I would have just smiled. I’m not kidding.

Michael Currie 1:29
I do. I do try to try hard to speak the language here in Thailand. I might Muy Thai is not too bad. Now.

Michael Waitze 1:36
People ask me this all the time. Right. I lived in Japan for 22 years. I speak Japanese. And I always felt like, you know, I studied Japanese in college. Right? So people asked me today, you’ve been in Thailand since the end of 2011. Your time must be amazing. And I just feel like it’s an excuse, right? But I don’t feel like there’s a natural way for me to interact with the type of people that don’t speak English.

Michael Currie 1:58
Well, the Thai people are so nice, right? Everyone is so kind here that even if you can only say please. And thank you, Ty. They’re, they’re going to be very complimentary. Like, well, your accent is excellent. You’re very, so they’re very, yeah. Oh, so good. So they’re very kind, it’s very hard to tell how good you actually are. For me, it’s

Michael Waitze 2:20
really terrible. And it’s so funny and say this, I was at Fortune Telling yesterday buying some equipment, right. And, you know, the woman in this store was so nice. And my business partner and I speak like zero tie. Which is it says it’s a bit smart for us, right? Because we’re in Thailand, we should we should learn how to speak the local language. But at some point, this woman said thing. And I said, we want three of those things, right? And actually put my fingers up and all she heard was free. She thought I wanted them for free. And I said three again, and she said free. It can’t be free. And then I was like, Wait, how do you say three? And I was like, oh, some chin? And she was like oh three? But once I said that? Then she was like, oh, dudes fluent in Thai. And she actually said to me, Oh, you speak Thai? In Thai. She said to me, and I was like, no, because I can’t do anything else. And from then on, she was just speaking to me until I was so great. Michael.

Michael Currie 3:12
That’s necessity is the mother of, of speaking your language, I guess.

Michael Waitze 3:17
It’s yours. So remind me, and I want to talk about AI two, because we were talking about before we started recording, but remind me in the listeners like what the idea was when fling first started. And then let us know where it is today and how it got there.

Michael Currie 3:32
Absolutely. So when I arrived in, in Thailand, and in Singapore, here in Southeast Asia, one thing I noticed was the drone industry here was so much less developed than what I had seen attending conferences and being aware of the industry in North America and in Europe. And it seemed like there was a huge opportunity for taking some of the innovations that were taking place over there and transplanting them here. In particular, drone delivery in 2017 was a very new thing, you could count on one hand, the number of companies that were involved with it, even at the POC stage, and it seemed like it’s sure it’s super early. But you know, taking the example of some of the wealthiest people in Thailand, that’s often the basis for the the fortunes of these companies where they get in very, very early, and they get a government license for that industry. And then they’re able to use that as the foundation for for growth. Once the industry becomes, you know, really developed. Obviously, the competition is much more intense. So it seemed like the fact that it was very, very early was it was a in fact a reason to do it rather than a reason not to do it. And so the concept was a drone delivery in in Thailand specifically. And so we we pursued that for quite a while and in fact we still have got government projects here in Thailand, that trial, a drone delivery, were the first company to receive government permission for drone delivery in 2019. Delivering AEDs in Chiang Mai for a Chiang Mai marathon, and then later a longer term drone delivery service in Patea, delivering goods all kinds of different goods under a program with the digital economy Office Depot. And also partnering with Sansiri, one of the largest property developers here for a urban drone delivery service in Bangkok, which we, which we did POC for, and worked very closely with the CIT which is the aviation regulator here. It’s, it’s really heartening to see the path of the leader of sensory who, of course, now the prime minister and Thailand Prime Minister straighter, who was one of the first people in the private sector to give us a green light on logistics in Thailand for drones. So it’s nice to see that he’s made quite a bit of progress personally, himself as well. Were

Michael Waitze 6:09
you involved in the drone industry in North America? Or was it just something that stuck out to you so much when you arrived? You’re like, there’s no drone stuff here. Do you know what I mean? So

Michael Currie 6:18
no, I was not. Personally, I had a background in financial software. So I’m a software developer, AI developer, University of Waterloo mathematics degree. So smart guys. Thank you. So I kind of was was in a in a funny place, right? It’s kind of a normal advice you give to a founder is have a co founder, start a company in a country you’re familiar with, and an industry you’re familiar with, and I was doing all the wrong things in that area. But it’s true that I did, I did really see that there is this big opportunity as a somewhat of an outsider. Now, of course, I’m very much an insider at this point have been been there for so long. But at the time, it was it was a learning experience for sure. There was

Michael Waitze 7:00
a ton of excitement around the delivery stuff that you’re doing. And you seem to be making a ton of momentum. Right. I remember when you started doing the delivery stuff and putea I didn’t know about the ad stuff, but just as exciting, right, because it’s emergency equipment. Right? You’re talking about the ad like the fibula defibrillator? So I have the right stuff like that. Yeah,

Michael Currie 7:17
you got it. Yeah. And we would partner with the Thai Heart Association for that. And in fact, we still have two heart surgeons who are working with us and are actually attending a conference this month or next month in November, to discuss the results of their study into how drones work with AEDs. And how much faster it can be than ambulances. Yeah. So. So yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Sorry, what was the question?

Michael Waitze 7:45
So the other question is like, there was so much excitement around. I remember, there was a lot of momentum around that as well. But you, I feel like you’ve iterated. So.

Michael Currie 7:56
So what we found was, it’s possible to do POCs possible to, to get people to use the system, I think it’s something we see around the world with drone delivery, where, you know, in Australia with Google wing, and we’re zipline, in in Africa, and then a little bit in America, all these types of projects that you might read about if you Google drone delivery, they’re all at the POC stage because of government regulations, making it impossible to run the systems at scale. So it’s very, very, very early days for full scale commercial drone delivery. I think only this year have some jurisdictions started to allow that kind of service. So what we found in Thailand was yes, we would get permission to do it. But it would be to, you know, four buildings in a one kilometer radius for four months. Now, you can’t make a business out of that, you can certainly run a trial and generate excitement around that and receive, you know, grants for that. But I think what everyone’s waiting for not just flying but other companies around the world is the permission to do this at scale. And I always I went into this understanding that that’s, that’s the nature of drone delivery. But it’s a matter of the, you know, the startup there is an imperative to to grow and to, to find areas of profitable expansion. And I think what we found was in in doing this drone delivery service, that we encountered a lot of actors in the supply chain industry. And this is where I really learned to listen, rather than coming to this with my own preconceived notions of what people need. Food fast. That’s my first naive thought about what’s the most people’s most pressing need. Of course, people get their food pretty fast already in Thailand. What I what I learned by list thing is there are many opportunities in the supply chain industry, for automation for digital transformation that have not yet been done, and where there’s a pressing need for it. So, concretely what happened was we were at these conferences, and we’d get people coming up multiple different people coming up and saying, Hey, can you help us with our stock checking. So we have in our warehouse with lots and lots of goods, we need a way to count all of this without using dozens and dozens and dozens of people over multiple days, putting them on reach trucks and having them go up high and scan barcodes all day long in a hot warehouse. And they were noticing that, that drones might be a great way to do this. Because drones can fly. They can take pictures, they can scan, they can have cameras on all this stuff. Yeah, absolutely. So after having rejected that, that request multiple times, I finally thought, hey, look, I’m not exactly yeah, I realized, Hey, maybe I should be start started listening to these prospective customers, and do something about it. So so we did. And that took us down a very long journey that’s led us to today that was almost four years ago that we first started pursuing that that angle, and that’s become the main part of our business, we still do logistics, but that’s on still a POC level. But with stock checking in warehouses, AI for warehouses, not just stock checking. But now, other aspects of transforming images and video into actionable information. This has now become a massive business that’s driven us to expand into multiple other countries. And it all came from listening to the customer. There you go. Who would have thought? Who would have thought really,

Michael Waitze 11:56
I want to dig deeper into this because I think there’s a really big thing to learn here for budding entrepreneurs. And then I want to get back into these actually this actual data that you that you encounter. And I’ve learned this myself as well. I have to believe that the biggest thing to learn is that when you’re in business, you can be pushing pizzas, right into a neighborhood where people only want to eat hamburgers, and everyone comes in and goes, Do you make burgers here? And you’re like, No, we, we make the best pizzas like I don’t this a burger shop, maybe somewhere else. But we’re not in the burger business. But at some point, you have to say, my customers are telling me what my business should be. And they’re coming in here and begging me to pay money for something that I could possibly do. But I don’t want to do maybe or I didn’t didn’t think I wanted to do isn’t isn’t that like one of the biggest learnings about being an entrepreneur that as long as you’re in business, you sell something to them? Like we don’t want that. But you know, we could take a drone and put it in our warehouse and fly it around and do all this other stuff. But if you could do that, for us, we’d pay you like an endless amount of money for it. Isn’t that the big learning?

Michael Currie 12:52
Absolutely. I think there’s a there’s a tension between listening. And also, you know, pursuing something really doggedly and trying really hard. It’s, it’s hard to know, the exact moment when you are listening, versus no, no, I’m going to do this thing, no matter what anyone tells me, I’m going to do this, this and only this. I think when, when there’s a point, when you you see that there’s, there’s a huge demand for something, though, and there’s people that really need it. And you can see that there is a willingness to pay, I think, especially at an early stage, you want to pursue as many things as you can and, and really go with, with what is getting traction. That’s really the key advantage of a startup startup doesn’t have brand recognition, it doesn’t have the ability to pay high salaries, it doesn’t have lots of advantages that a large company has. But what it does have is the ability to change. And if you don’t take advantage of that one advantage that a startup has, well, what are you doing right, you have the chance to change. So that’s what we had to do.

Michael Waitze 14:00
If you’re at your booth at Tech sauce, right? Or you’re going to pitch things to people and you’re saying drones for delivery or the future. I feel like I’m in the movie, the graduate plastics, it’s all plastics, you know what I mean? But you could be saying the same thing. drones for delivery, and you’re passionately committed to it. And if the people with whom you were speaking just said, You drones are never going to work for delivery. I could see you like pushing forward and just going no, this is definitely the future. But but they didn’t. And I could see you not giving up on that. And I don’t mean you I just mean anybody who’s in that business. Right. But they were specifically coming to you and saying, and here’s the difference, right between listening and actually really understanding what they were saying. They didn’t say drones are never going to work for delivery. They said it will work for this.

Michael Currie 14:40
Right? Yeah. I think that the conversations are subtle, right? And it’s as an entrepreneur, it’s going to be very rare, especially in Asia for someone to come up short and say, no, no, we’re not going to do this. No, we don’t want this. You should do this. This isn’t going to work. And even if they did, you shouldn’t be listening to every person that’s giving Good advice that’s that’s usually bounce around like like a wiffle ball if that’s how you live your life, right?

Michael Waitze 15:05
So for those who don’t know what a wiffle ball is, by the way,

Michael Currie 15:08
I don’t think even I know what a wiffle ball is actually.

Michael Waitze 15:12
When I was a kid, there’s no way you know what a wiffle ball. Sorry, go ahead.

Michael Currie 15:16
Okay, yeah, I don’t know where that came out of my subconscious there. But if you’re Yeah, you don’t want to get bounced around by lots of different people’s advice. On the other hand, you Yeah, you really do need to listen, when, when the right advice comes along. And that’s, that’s the art of entrepreneurship, for sure, for

Michael Waitze 15:33
sure. I want people to listen to that. And to really think about it. And I want to, I want to get back to this digital transformation you were talking about and some of this actual actionable data or actionable information. And maybe you could give a couple of anecdotes like how you started with one particular customer or client or partner, what you learned what you told them and how it changed their business. Sure.

Michael Currie 15:54
So we’ve at this point now have quite deep relationships with with most of the third party logistic vendors operating in Southeast Asia, maybe I won’t name specific names, I don’t want to embarrass any of them. But basically, you can think of any name, that’s a, you know, big international brand, and we work with them. And a couple of them we worked with at the very early stage, and we were just developing the product, and really having those deep conversations with them understanding what it would take to to beat their current, their current process, I think, and improve on that process, I think we’re really, really elucidating I think we really had to think hard about how we could show the advantage of the system and deliver on several different dimensions of, of improvement. I think, in Southeast Asia, one of the advantages, let’s say if you’re running a business is the the labor market here is is such that you can pay a worker, quite a low wage relative to the wage you might have to pay them in in Australia, or Europe or, or North America, for example. And what that does for digital transformation or automation projects is it really puts them under the wringer, you really have to be really good to get a customer to finally pull the trigger and say yes to a project. I think a lot of these large companies in in Asia, they they may have an innovation department, they may have a few people that they put on salary to look at innovation, digital transformation projects, and to trial them and to discuss them. But to really get a procurement department to actually really sign off on a large scale project, you really need to be hitting every dimension of the of the equation. So that includes not just having better insights, better information, the system has to run faster, it has to have more details than before being more accurate. And then finally, be less expensive than the current process. And to be able to do all of those things in a low wage environment is is very challenging. So it took us quite a few iterations to get to the point where we were offering this, you know, honed, tuned up solution. And of course, no one wants to be the first the customer always wants to be the one that they always ask, Do you can you show us a case study? Can you show us an example of where this has worked before? In exactly the same, you know, conditions as our particular conditions? We want to see that haven’t been worked. Having worked before. And at the very early stage, it’s very hard to do that. Of course we can’t. So having having that process, iterate forward until finally, okay, now we have lots and lots of examples, we can be reassuring. That was always tricky. For sure. Can you

Michael Waitze 18:55
give a specific example even if you don’t, even if you don’t mention the company? Right? I mean, the names or the competence or anything, everybody knows, I don’t have to say what they are. Right. But if you just think about a specific example where because here’s the important thing, right? I call this disruption versus enablement. I mean, if you remember, when you first arrived in Thailand, six years ago, there was all this talk about every startup is going to disrupt some industry, right? The reality that some of these industries have been around for so long, and that they’re actually really, really good at what they do these three pillars as well, a very efficient and kind of amazing, but this idea of going in and actually knowing their business processes, and then doing all these little things that you said, creates enablement, you’re not trying to disrupt them. You’re not trying to take away their business, you’re trying to hit all those little points that you mentioned, right? Can you give a specific example of just one project that you worked on? Or one problem that you solved across that entire value chain because that’s what you’re doing? Right? Sure.

Michael Currie 19:49
So I can I can think of one early customer that we had, where we really knocked out of the park with them. It was an FMCG warehouse. So talking about shame pools and these sorts of goods, huge distribution center, we’re talking about 10s of 1000s of locations. And the big challenge for them. Yeah, the big challenge for them was accountability to the product owner. So, so they would, for example, have these pallet of goods, they would want to send them out to the individual stores that were actually going to consume them, and put them on their store shelves. But the problem was those individual stores would would say, Oh, I didn’t actually receive the pallet that I was supposed to be receiving. And there was an accountability issue. And this would lead to a lot of costs for this warehouse, three PL would have to pay and pay for all of these supposedly missing goods. And so this breakdown of a relationship between the warehouse manager and the product owner was starting to become a major problem for them. So what we were able to provide was this visibility into the whole supply chain process. Because with our drones and other cameras that were that we’re using to capture information, we have photographic evidence that here’s the goods that are right here. They’re exactly the way they’re supposed to look. And it helped to tune up the process that they were running in the warehouse themselves. So that so that made the the workers they’re more productive and more or accountable themselves. But it also made it much more difficult for the stores to make claims that that, you know, the goods weren’t received, because they had these pictures to show it. And as a result, they brought their claims numbers down from millions of baht per month to Far, far lower number than that. That is

Michael Waitze 21:47
awesome. What a great story. It also seems to me that there’s a big insurance opportunity here, but I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole, because I do only shows on insurance. And I feel like we could talk about that for hours as well.

Michael Currie 21:59
You know, insurance, that’s right.

Michael Waitze 22:00
you did better than I ever thought I would. But I’m actually kind of proud of it. You made a really good point about this, though, when you’re operating in a low wage environment, right? You have to be so much more efficient in the way that you serve those businesses, because the natural response for them is that’s okay, we’ll just hire five more people. So you have to be able to beat that as well. But I guess the question that I have about this as if you’re competing against the same type of company in Australia, they don’t have to compete as much as you do. I’m not saying on price. But unlike they have a high wage countries, so they have a window in which they can operate it you can’t. Does that make you more competitive in other countries? And does that give you the ability then to expand into them? Because you just become way more efficient? Yeah,

Michael Currie 22:47
I would say you could compare us to a some kind of insect that evolved in a rainforest, you know, in a hyper hyper competitive environment with lots of difficulties versus say, an insect that evolved in Europe, like a European bee, or something that has very few competitors feeding every day. Yeah, feeding it. So you know, these European bees, they’ll, they’ll die when the temperature falls outside of a two degree range. Whereas, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got the bees from the Amazon rainforest, and they’ll go, they’ll, you know, survive at any point. So I feel like we’re, we’re extremely hardy. In that sense, we can operate in all kinds of exotic, difficult situations, we’ve had warehouses where the lights are completely off lights at warehouses, and to deal with those low light hymen operating type. Yeah, dusty, high temperature, extremely dirty type warehouses, and yet, we still need to be able to operate our system, frozen warehouse, and everything in between. And I think as a result of all these different, different scenarios, and extremely demanding customers, rightly so I mean, they’re, they’re paying their money, they need to have a system that really works in the teeth of all of these constraints and challenges. I think the system with with so many happy customers has, you know, really proven itself.

Michael Waitze 24:19
Whereas most of your businesses, it’s still in Thailand.

Michael Currie 24:23
So most of our customers are in Thailand, we are now expanded into Singapore, Australia, Germany, and now just starting now in Canada, my my home country, so we’re, we’re happy to do POCs. Outside of that, though, we’re we’re just about to do a POC in the Middle East, for example. Nice. So certainly, the system being a software platform. Yeah, that’s one of the major things that I learned. Another learning, if you will, about the drone industry is hardware is very, very hard, very difficult. So what we learned was making a custom piece of hardware, whatever it is, but especially drones is extremely, extremely difficult to do correctly. And even if you get a drone, that’s fantastic. And your three engineers can make it work, if they walk it out to the, to the airfield and make it work, those three engineers are not going to be present when we’re, you know, operating in Dubai, right? So we need the system to work at the push of a button. And that’s where we rely on our commodity drone partners. So auto DJI, and these companies have millions of drones around the world. They’re like, iPhone, you know, Apple, Android, these things are extremely reliable. And we add all of our value on the software. So

Michael Waitze 25:43
did they have API’s that you can because they have their own operating systems as well, I mean, they must, at some level, right? Because they have their exact rollers that then can fly them this way, that way, upside down and use the cameras and stuff. So you must API into their operating system. So you can add value on top of that. Yeah, you

Michael Currie 25:58
got it. So we simply use the API on these drones, rather than making a custom drone. So as I mentioned, there’s what I’ve learned is this industry has grown up here is the the drone stock checking industry around the world, there’s about five, five or six different companies that are doing it at this point globally. And most of them are using custom drones that they’ve built themselves interested in. I think that’s a that’s a major limitation for for those companies, because it’s very difficult to support a custom drone, unless you’re a billion dollar company that can and they’re specializing in drones. It’s kind of like your delivery company, and you decide to engineer your own automobile. Yeah, to do those deliveries like, Does that really make sense?

Michael Waitze 26:42
No, it doesn’t. So Alex Pachi, cough read, you must know, this is the founder and the CEO of sunflower labs. And they do securities for sort of high wealth individuals and also for other, I would say expensive pieces of real estate. And they’ve built their own customized drones, right, they kind of fly up on their own, they go back into this little pod, the pod closes, so they’re ambivalent to weather in most cases. And I’ve spoken to Alex, he’s brilliant, right. And he’s built some other companies as well. But it just, you just made me think about this. It to me, this is just like the difference between the Betamax, right and the VCR. It’s like Sony had this incredible technology, the Betamax was probably higher quality in everything else. But the VCR that was made by Panasonic, I believe, just standardized, and everybody wanted it and it was cheaper to produce and it was just easier to use. And then people just build services around it. And I’m presuming you’re doing the same thing.

Michael Currie 27:33
Yeah, I would say the drone industry is at a interesting place. Now, it’s certainly different than it was in 2017, for sure. When there were far fewer options. I mean, the technology improvement on drones, but also in AI software has been absolutely incredible. Like just witnessing that at the forefront of, of, of what we’ve been doing. It has been fascinating. Now with sunflower labs, the use case that they’re targeting, there is home security. And it may be that that’s just specialized enough that you can justify then creating a custom piece of hardware for that. And you really need that drone in a box type of idea where it’s, it’s able to launch autonomously. In our case, we still have a human that takes the drone and places it on the ground and presses a button to launch. What we found was we did look into the drone in a box concept. But we found that just wasn’t adding enough value to automate it all the way to that point, I think,

Michael Waitze 28:36
but also how can you serve somebody in in like, in Toronto, if you’re in Bangkok, because you’re not gonna fly like a whole team of people there just to set up the drones and a box of them, teach them how to use it. The idea is they already have some drones, you can send them a DJI that’s any size, right? Because they’re probably all running on the same operating system. You could probably even operate them remotely for them if if you really wanted to, it’s just so much more flexibility. No,

Michael Currie 28:58
exactly. It’s it’s on the hardware side, as you say, there’s a tremendous advantage in using commodity hardware that’s available everywhere. illegalized everywhere allowed by all the regulatory authorities everywhere that that hard work has been done. I imagine being a hardware company need to get licensed in every single country that you operate in, get every, you know, regulator for spectrum, all kinds of other aspects safety, to sign off on your product. I think it’s just a tremendous roadblock for for any of these companies. I think many of them will will target a very large market to start with, like America, for example, with with sunflower, yeah. Do

Michael Waitze 29:39
you feel like you’re you’ve come home in a way, right? And that you’re back to doing software development, not you personally, like I don’t know how much code you’re writing but your back like managing a team of people or building a team of people that are doing some pretty complex software development. And also back to AI. Do you feel like the markets kind of caught up to you in a way where you can now use the things that you’re really good at and that you’ve old? always cared about to do this better.

Michael Currie 30:02
I totally agree. And, by analogy, I remember in 2016, which is about the time that I was thinking about traveling to Asia and taking up some opportunities, I had just purchased, you know, the first generation of Oculus, if you remember that. And I was really excited because I thought I could use that and replace my computer monitor. And I could just wear the Oculus, or have it project a screen. And when I purchased it, and I tried it had this screen door effect, it just resolution wasn’t there wasn’t good enough. And I was disappointed. And I thought, Okay, well, in a few years, you know, we’ll get to this point, but it’s not ready yet. And I think it’s the same with with AI. back then. I think, of course, some of the underlying libraries. Were already there. We had TensorFlow, we had a lot of others, but they still, you know, the speed wasn’t there, we didn’t have the GPUs that quite had that ability to be to be as fast. I think now, we’re, we’re so fast that we can, we can process the data off of our drones far faster than the drones are flying. And we’re able to recognize, you know, whole classes of different things, we can segment the data detect it, we can do three dimensional reconstructions of the entire warehouse, talk about digital twin. And all this, I think, has become possible in the last few years on the back of all of these amazing developments in artificial intelligence, and just seeing all of this as really been incredible. And the opportunity, I think, for individual industries, who are sort of witnessing the general trend of AI and wanting to how can they participate in this, right, they’re thinking, how can we have this work for us? I think that’s, that’s been really exciting to take this into, you know, let’s say a sleepy kind of industry like supply chain and push it and call it sleepy, they probably don’t think of it that way at all. It’s very fast paced. But in terms of technology, they’re not necessarily adopting the most cutting edge technology, let’s say compared to say, finance, for example. So I like to think that we’re bringing the all the cool technology in a productive and accountable and useful way to an industry that doesn’t necessarily always have these opportunities.

Michael Waitze 32:27
Did you feel like when open AI, started getting really popular, what was it at the end of 2021? The end of 2022? I can’t even remember anymore? Did you have this moment of like, I told you, I told you this was coming kind of thing. But now everything came together? You’re right. We didn’t have a powerful of GPUs, we didn’t have powerful enough throughput. In a way we didn’t have powerful enough compute. But now that all that stuff is there, you’re right. If you can process faster than the drone can actually gather the data. Your software said they’re gonna need more give me more information, right?

Michael Currie 32:55
Well, frankly, I not too proud to admit that I was shocked. Actually, in November 2022. When I first tried the open AI chat GPT I was absolutely floored, I think, a few of my initial chats with it. I I’m not again, not too proud to admit that I, I wept openly at the amazingness of of the conversations that I was having. Like it was it was incredible. Like, just just last week, I was having a little chat with chat GPT about some topic, and it made a joke. And I laughed out loud. The idea that a chat bot can make you laugh. It’s incredible. It’s absolutely amazing. And the fact that after all these advances in, in artificial intelligence for detection, object detection, object segmentation, self driving cars, and of course, all the work that we’re doing inside the warehouse for detecting pallets and pallet defects and optical character recognition and all of this, that we were working on for generative AI large language models to you know, come around the side and, you know, surprise us with this, this, you know, amazing result. I think that really came out of left field for me. I had been, of course, like everybody else seeing some of the advances, but I hadn’t quite realized just how advanced that had become until until we tried it. It’s

Michael Waitze 34:25
pretty amazing. Is there anything else you want people to know about fling before I let you go? Have you raised any money? Like how many people are working there just anything you want people to know? And then I’ll let you go. Yeah,

Michael Currie 34:36
so we’re in a pretty good place right now. We’ve We’ve raised about 2.1 million Singapore dollars and expanding into these markets that I mentioned. Certainly, we’d be excited to talk to anyone that’s interested in introducing automation into their supply chain process, any kind of conversation you would want Have around those topics feel free to reach out. But certainly the nature of every startup is the faster we can expand, introduce our, our product to as many people as possible, that’s going to be to our advantage. So certainly anyone that wants to talk to us about they want to help us with scaling. We’re happy to discuss especially if they have some kind of strategic relationship in countries with the large amount of warehouses

Michael Waitze 35:27
could not be happier for you. Michael Currie, the founder, CEO and CTO of Fling thank you so much for doing this. You got to come back whenever you want. Yeah.

Michael Currie 35:35
All right. Happy to do it. Thank you, Michael. Have a great day.



Latest Episodes:

EP 327 – Event Mesh Networks Explained: What They Are and How They Enhance Operational Efficiency – Sumeet Puri – Chief Technology Solutions Officer at Solace

EP 327 – Event Mesh Networks Explained: What They Are and How They Enhance Operational Efficiency – Sumeet Puri – Chief Technology Solutions Officer at Solace

“So an event mesh is a data movement fabric, okay, yep, so the network, but it’s the layer between the network and the applications. So if we explain it a little bit further, event broker is this technology that allows you to move data in a one to many manner, in a publish to subscribe manner. So for example, if an order is created, and we say that order event is published to the event broker, that order may have to go to the order management system. It may also go to the digital receipt system. It may also go to the loyalty system. So the same order has to go to multiple systems. And this pattern is called publish, subscribe, which is done by an event broker.” – Sumeet Puri

read more
EP 326 – Never Forget Who the Enemy Is – Gene Yu – Founder and CEO at Blackpanda

EP 326 – Never Forget Who the Enemy Is – Gene Yu – Founder and CEO at Blackpanda

“Resistance training is, you know, they can take away everything in terms of like, your comfort, your warmth, your food, you know, etc, make you disoriented, but they can’t take away your will to resist, right? And they can’t take away your mind, right? That’s the thing that you can always control in terms of resistance. And so I emphasized that to her what they taught us over and over, which was, never forget who the enemy is.” – Gene Yu

In this episode of the Asia Tech Podcast, featuring ⁠Gene Yu⁠, a Founder and CEO of ⁠Blackpanda⁠, we explored innovative approaches to cybersecurity and the vital role of crisis response. Gene’s unique background as a West Point graduate and a former Green Beret significantly shaped BlackPanda’s approach.

read more