Noodle Analytics in 2018: AI for the Enterprise

Noodle Analytics in 2018: AI for the Enterprise

By
Robert A. Burgelman, Julie Makinen
2018|Case No.SM301| Length 28 pgs.

Stephen Pratt and Raj Joshi – two veterans of Infosys Consulting – decided in 2016 to launch Noodle Analytics (Noodle.ai) to provide AI capabilities to Fortune 1000 type companies under a SaaS-type business model. The case traces Noodle Analytics from conception through funding, finding product-market fit, and its Series B raise in 2018, looking at issues of strategy, recruiting, business model, developing the product, corporate culture and the larger industry context.

As they launched their business in 2016, Artificial Intelligence had moved out of the realm of sci-fi movies and into the mainstream: Technologies like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa brought speech-recognition to mainstream consumers. Driverless cars were being tested on roads in California and elsewhere. Customer-service chatbots – computer programs designed to simulate conversations with human users — regularly interacted with humans on the web, and Google’s AlphaGo computer had bested a human world champion in the ancient strategy game of Go. Increasingly, executives were under pressure to incorporate AI into their businesses. An article in the Harvard Business Review warned ominously: “Unlike with the internet, where latecomers often bested those who were first to market, the companies that get started immediately with machine intelligence could enjoy a lasting advantage.” A shortage of AI experts and expertise, though, left many enterprises wondering how. Noodle aimed to serve them.

Learning Objective

This case challenges students to think about artificial intelligence in the context of large enterprises and how to develop a scalable business to serve the AI needs of these firms. Tracing the journey of the San Francisco-based startup Noodle.ai through its first two years, the case examines issues of fundraising strategy, product strategy, and corporate culture and recruiting. Students are also asked to examine the distinction between service companies and product companies and evaluate the appropriateness of the “global delivery” method in delivering AI services (Noodle has half its staff in India).

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