By Kyle Croccco
Adam Cheyer, the co-founder of Siri, didn’t set out to change the world. Back in 1993, before he ever saw a web browser, Cheyer was just trying to create a method for people to discover content and services and interact with them through their computer. Cheyer wanted to create a computer assistant, a program that a person could delegate tasks to and find an infinite amount of information by coordinating with all the computers in the world.
Fast forward to 2010. With the help of Dag Kittlaus, Cheyer created Siri, the digital voice assistant. The company had only been in business for three weeks when Steve Jobs called to purchase the company for use by Apple. The rest is viral-video history of people interacting with Siri on their iPhones and computers.
Cheyer believes with the recent advances in artificial intelligence, we’re going to see more big changes in how we interact with computers. However, it’s startups, not A.I., that Cheyer believes will be the major force to change our world.
In a recent interview on the BigSpeak Podcast, Cheyer explained the two reasons why he thought startups could make a difference.
What separates startups from established companies?
Often, you read in the news about how much entrepreneurs make from selling off their startups. Fewer articles, however, focus on how these founders are changing our world. Cheyer says startups have an advantage over more established companies because its members are more ambitious and focused.
First, startups are more ambitious because new companies cannot do the same things that every other company is doing. Startups cannot compete with established companies on the same playing field since they have less people and resources. Instead, founders have to be driven to come up with a new solution to a similar problem, or maybe even a new problem that people did not know they had.
Second, startups have to have more focus. More established companies can take their time to create solutions because they have a consistent revenue stream—but startups have limited funding. Their founders need to produce value in a short period of time or the funding will stop and the company will die.
So, it’s this combination of ambition to find new solutions and the intense focus to produce them in a short period of time that makes startups an agent of change in the world.
One person can change the world.
When Cheyer started his career as an entrepreneur, he didn’t think he could change the world. He thought, “I’m just one person. What can I do?” But now because of his involvement in startups like Siri, Viv Labs, and Change.Org, he realized startups could make a big difference in people’s lives.
By supporting the development of Change.Org, Cheyer helped millions to make positive change in their communities and governments. And with his digital voice assistants on Apple and Samsung devices, Cheyer’s has helped hundreds of millions of people find information and solve problems just by talking to their device.
Now, Cheyer’s perspective is that startups can change the entire world for humanity.
Prepared and edited by Andrew Carroll, Journalism MA in DIT.