Bogdan Ponomar, CEO of AI HOUSE: “Always Keep on Learning — Just Like a Machine!”
TechUkraine: When and how did you start your path in tech and gain your IT experience?
Bogdan Ponomar: Well, it all started in 2013 when I joined Ciklum as Head of Customer Service Department. I dealt with many customers from the EU and the United States. It was over two hundred of them monthly. They came to Kyiv, and I had to make their stay and experience with the company as comfortable as possible. I also had to take care of all the financial and administrative issues.
Three years later, I was offered to relocate to London and become an Executive Assistant to the Founder & CEO at Ciklum. Just then, Soros Fund Management became a shareholder of the company, and I worked closely with them and Ciklum’s management.
In 2019 I returned to Kyiv, and in mid-August, I flew to Texas to work for an AI startup doing gun detection. But then a COVID pandemic happened, and the startup reformatted. At that point, a friend of mine offered to help him develop an IT college. So I became the Business Development Director of that college.
A year later, a Managing Partner at Roosh Den Dmitrenko told me about his amazing vision on the AI ecosystem in Ukraine and later on invited me to join AI HOUSE.
TechUkraine: How was the idea of AI HOUSE born? Who came up with the initiative?
Bogdan Ponomar: Sergey Tokarev and Den Dmitrenko of Roosh came up with an idea to create a company that will become a leading AI community for students and industry experts. Now, AI HOUSE is a part of Roosh’s ecosystem for building AI startups. Our team is responsible for many educational projects in AI and ML fields and creating a solid AI community in Ukraine.
Sergey and Den believe that product companies can emerge only with an ecosystem present. What is an ecosystem in this case? It’s an environment where talents, ideas, resources, and networking dwell. At the intersection of all of the above, Ukrainian AI product companies appear. That’s why we invest in educational initiatives and community building.
At AI HOUSE, we want to bridge the gap between the general public and the tech community, demonstrate the transformative power of AI, and show that the fear of a robot apocalypse is ungrounded. AI for good, that’s our philosophy.
AI for good, that’s our philosophy.
TechUkraine: Why do you and your team strive to push forward the AI/ML ecosystem in Ukraine?
Bogdan Ponomar: We want Ukraine to be the international AI hub in Europe. We want as many AI product companies to be born here as possible.
It will be great to shift the country’s focus from providing IT services to others to creating our services for others.
The fact is that a product company with just 5 people can be worth tens of millions of dollars. So it’s the product that shapes the future: an increase in GDP, the emergence of unicorn companies, and new jobs, of course.
AI HOUSE Team
TechUkraine: Okay, you want to make Ukraine the international hub for AI products. How could this ambition be achieved?
Bogdan Ponomar: Joining forces with the most prominent AI companies, we will give young Ukrainian talents free access to the best AI education. We will allow students to get hands-on experience working with successful tech businesses (through internships and mentorship).
And we will work hard to create the necessary conditions for the development of AI startups – we need more success stories like Grammarly!
We are very excited about our plans for 2022 as they are genuinely intense and versatile.
- As for now, we have seven ML schools and bootcamps planned for this year. The first school starts on January 26 together with the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) and will focus on effective machine learning research.
- In 2022, we plan to organize 13+ events over 11 months to engage 1000+ talents. And of course, the cherry on top is the AI HOUSE Conference in June 2022.
TechUkraine: Does the role of the global AI ecosystem evangelist resonate with your current identity? What drives you personally?
Bogdan Ponomar: Of course, we are still too far from being the global ecosystem’s evangelist, but we believe in ourselves and start small. We plan to build the AI ecosystem first in Ukraine to become an AI center in Europe. Of course, we’d love to be in the league of China and the USA one day 🙂
Our mission is to create a leading AI ecosystem for young talents and experts to build world-class AI ventures in Ukraine. That’s what we’re here for, and we take this mission seriously.
TechUkraine: Who are the key partners of the project? Which enablers, ecosystem builders, would you prefer to spread the idea of Ukraine as the international AI hub?
Bogdan Ponomar: The partners of AI HOUSE are: Reface, Pawa, ZibraAI, Squad, Google, etc. Our new partners are the top Ukrainian universities:
- Kyiv-Mohyla Academy,
- Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University,
- Kyiv Polytechnic Institute,
- Ukrainian Catholic University,
- Lviv Polytechnic National University,
- V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University.
We are open to everyone and for everyone. For example, many people from business always have different startup ideas and research ambitions, for which they don’t have much time. And that’s where we come in, the platform that will link these ideas and concepts with young talents who can implement them. So we have this win-win situation. A person makes their dream come true, and at the same time trains the young specialists, acting as a mentor. Everyone is happy. And a young genius also has the opportunity to get a monetary reward as well.
We want to involve the international community, such as DeepMind, OpenAI, Stanford University, MIT, Cornell Tech, etc.
The main idea is for everyone to share knowledge, experience, and progressive ideas that will shape the future of humanity.
TechUkraine: Which of the futurists or cyberphilosophers best fit your ideas?
Bogdan Ponomar: We are committed to people from the technological world. So the vision of our new friend, Kai-Fu Lee, is very close to ours.
Kai-Fu Lee spoke about humanity’s near future at the AI HOUSE Conference in Kyiv. Here are some of his statements that resonate in our hearts:
- Three leaders of the AI era: algorithms, big data, and calculations;
- The transition of intellectual and technical (non-creative) business activities from human to AI;
- All analytics and marketing will go to AI;
- Personal medicine based on blood analysis, whole-body MRI, and genetic monitoring carried out by AI;
- Life extension by 20 years;
- The 4th industrial revolution (AI+robotics);
- The end of world hunger;
- The beginning of the “prosperity era”: food, clothing, housing, and health care will become available for everyone, and full robotization will ensure the transition to universal basic income
TechUkraine: Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn said that AI and synthetic biology would represent an existential risk through 2100. What do you think about it? What about ethical questions around using AI, deep fakes, etc.?
Bogdan Ponomar: We’re optimists! 🙂 We believe that the singularity is unlikely to happen within the next twenty to thirty years. We are confident that AI will remain for good. It’s doubtful that it will get out of our control. Instead, AI will take over a vast amount of routine work.
Don’t overthink that AI will take jobs away from many people. It won’t. There will simply be a repurposing.
For example, there will be a need for people to do data labeling. There will be many new specialties for sure.
In general, let’s recall the Industrial Revolution. Then, people were afraid they would lose their jobs, but the Industrial Revolution brought even more ones.
Now, AI and ethics. Of course, many questions need to be answered shortly. But here, too, we are full of shameless optimism. The industry is relatively new and developing rapidly. The top companies in the industry are doing their best to formulate basic interaction principles between AI and humans. AI ethics is being formed before our eyes and with our participation.
TechUkraine: What do you think about the local tech scene?
Bogdan Ponomar: The local tech scene will develop exponentially. Ukrainian tech awaits a bright future! The goal of AI HOUSE is to make every effort to help anyone become part of the AI community, find like-minded people, develop their talent, and make their dreams come true.