All posts by Yana

When future is now



My boss recently said that sometimes he doesn’t understand what his kids are saying.

One is fond of football, the other likes memes. When they talk among themselves they use the words and meanings of their peers. In other words, subcultural slang; they give little thought to the effects on our language.

I get it; even more so after reading about Facebook’s AI creating its own unique language.

I often wonder how the globalization and interference of non-human creators will affect the future of language — will we still be able to understand each other in 100 years?

In the Facebook case, while experimenting with language learning, a research algorithm created its own language that humans could not understand to communicate more efficiently between chatbots.

It was functional in that it continued to carry information, but uncontrollable, because researchers had no idea what was being “said.”

The result was intriguing because it showed the algorithm’s capacity for generating its own encoding scheme, but also showed what can happen with unconstrained feedback in an automated social language product.

I think the idea that someday software could be “alive” and “conscious” is an intriguing possibility, but I wonder if humans have the skill and forethought to deal with it.

What do you think?

Challenges using Industrial UAV systems for indoor navigation


As you know, my company develops software and hardware for UAVs, but not the kind you usually read about.

While developing our indoor drone and the software for it, we faced and had to handle a lot of challenges, like these:

  1. The drone doesn’t know where it is because there are no GPS signals in places like steel tanks, tubes, or certain kinds of rooms and that makes standard drone navigation impossible.  Even when the drone has all the sensors needed to navigate obstacles, it’s still fairly useless unless it can place itself within the enclosure, whatever it may be.
  1. Frequently UAVs cannot be controlled over ordinary radio channels, because of surface reflection, which makes the need for “autonomous and unmanned” even more important. However, when dealing with various surfaces one size does not fit all, because each surface requires different custom features. And that’s why indoor drones stay indoors.
  1. Today’s cameras create amazing images, but they all have one thing in common: they require light to create images. The lack of sufficient light in tanks, tubes, etc., makes producing good images extremely challenging.
  1. UAVs are reliant on magnetometers when operating in places where GPS doesn’t work. However, magnetometers don’t always operate correctly; for example, electric motors generate strong magnetic fields and large chunks of ferrous metals can also affect the field.
  1. While drones are highly maneuverable they require space in which to do it. While they have no problem outside, it is much more difficult to fly in a tight, enclosed space, such as a tank or tube.
  1. Flying a UAV in the open air, or an empty room with plain surfaces, is very different from flying an environment full of edges and obstacles. Indoor navigation demands precise positioning to handle working goals, such as inspections, etc., as previously discussed. Edges and obstacles demand special technologies, such as SLAM, but they require substantial, additional hardware that adds weight. Because indoor drones are required to fly and maneuver in tight spaces can be neither large nor heavy.

Please join me next week to learn about the various approaches that address these challenges.

Also, if you know of other challenges, please share them in Comments and I’ll do my best to address them, too.

The drone vs everyday life


For many of us drones, AKA, UAV (unmanned autonomous vehicle), are something that fly like little helicopters and are used for surveillance. It’s something from movies about robots and cars that capture people’s imagination.

In fact, drones are tools that facilitate the work of people in everyday life, keeping them safe in difficult conditions. Like forklifts or tractors, drones are just another tool to help people.

I believe drones are friends. Take a look how many applications there are for UAV indoor flights.

  •  Indoor technical inspections

Drone can be used in such environments as ships, oil tanks, incinerators, mines, pipes, and planes.


  • Guides

MIT’s SENSEable City Lab developed a UAV system to guide students and visitors around the MIT campus.


  • Delivery

Drone delivery often requires entering and moving about an indoor environment


  • Landing on a car

Landing a drone on a car, especially a moving one, requires the same level of computer vision as flying indoors. Ford is considering using UAVs to guide autonomous vehicles.


  • Real Estate sales

For remote buyers online FPV images from a drone inside the property.


  • Image recording

For indoor sports and other activities.


  • Rescue operations

Our technology allows drones to navigate inside buildings destroyed by earthquakes, etc., and deliver supplies to survivors caught in the rubble until rescue teams dig them out.

A swarm of drones capable of navigating indoors can rescue people from buildings on fire and similar emergencies.


Please add your comments and options to help drones become more human friendly!

WTS and Women In Tech conferences


As some of you know, last year I was promoted to CMO at NTR Lab. One of my new responsibilities means I attend many more trade shows. That means a lot of travel (yea!) and a lot more jet lag (ugh!)

I don’t know about you, but I get terrible jet lag. If you know/use any tricks to minimize jet lag please share them below in the comments or send them directly to and I’ll compile and share them in a future post.

Natasha, NTR’s AI Evangelist, and I arrived in Edinburgh after about 20 hours on the road. It took that long because there were three flights with longish gaps between them. Naturally, once settled in the hotel, we immediately fell asleep.

The Women in Technology conference began early the next morning. We used CityMapper to find our way to Dynamic Earth, where the conference was being held.
As women, we found everything very inspiring.

The speakers were women working in tech; there were chat rooms during coffee breaks and the natural beauty of the opening view of the mountains from the outer platform of Dynamic Earth.

While there were many great talks, learning how other non-technical women, like me, adapted to working in technology had the greatest personal impact.

That evening we went to dinner in a large international group of women. While it was fun, being with them had a special feel, because it happened right before International Women’s Day.
From Edinburgh we went to London and spent the next few days visiting clients.

The Wearable Technology Show started March 8; it is the largest annual event for Wearables, AR & VR, IOT, and Connected Technology

We (NTR) were exhibiting in the IoT section. NTR Lab has been doing projects related to the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence for five years (and counting). It was easy to be excited when we talked with conference-goers, because Natasha and I are very proud of our company and the cutting-edge development it does for our clients.

We met with companies and people who are involved in computer vision for driving assistance; working with such household names as Lego and Nissan (who, by the way, does AI projects on computer vision systems for self-driving cars); many AR guys and med tech companies. We talked even to a girl who does app for cosmonauts.


At the end of the two-day exhibition, we even gave interviews to local bloggers and we were filmed with by a professional videographer.
We hardly saw London, because we worked all the time, so I told my boss that we need to go back for another conference!

NTR Lab Gives Back To The Startup Community

Recently we started an amazing campaign called Give Back To The Startup Community.

The idea is to “give away” two of our development teams as our way of saying thanks to the community that drives our growth.

Each team consists of 2 skilled developers for up to 2 months.

  • Javascript team (node.js + AngularJS or React); and
  • neural networks/Machine Learning team (we are AI experts)

I also want to tell you a bit about why and how this happened.

The motivation is pretty simple — we grew 51% Y2Y in 2016 helping startups scale their software development.

We had an opportunity to work on great products with entrepreneurs from San Francisco, Austin, Boston, London, Amsterdam and many other amazing places around the world.

We worked with a lot of talented founders and the learning was definitely reciprocal. Although NTR Lab, at 16, is no longer a startup, our development centers feel like startups, with that special atmosphere of new ideas and pure enthusiasm.

The startup community has given a lot to us, so we wanted to give a lot back to it. And what better way than to help two of them succeed?

We are looking for two startups — at any stage — with one of three situations:

  • building their MVP to secure funding;
  • urgently needing to complete something to meet a critical deadline; or
  • needing to implement an important new feature.  

Our plan is to cooperate with accelerators and venture capitalists, as well as founders, to choose the two most innovative ideas that are likely to succeed.

There is absolutely no charge to the chosen startups.

If you are interested send our founder an email describing the project (it should be interesting/fun for the developers, too). Please include your pitch deck with your message.

Note: If you want the AI team, you must have a dataset to train the neural network.

There are two caveats.

  1. We reserve the right to choose the applicant we believe is the best fit.
  2. We have the right to document and write about how and what is happening. This is the first time we have given back and want to describe the process and publicize the story. (Be sure to follow us on twitter and don’t forget to check for new posts here).

Be sure to share this post with your network.

How to de-stress in 7 minutes the scientific way



I still remember mom’s constant refrain, “go outside and play,” but, somehow, I always went “later” — often several days later. Change ‘play’ to ‘exercise’ and I still follow that template.

We hear constantly from early childhood that exercise is a major part of staying healthy and nothing deserves more attention than our health, but this simple truth is easy to forget when work/family/social media call.

Several days ago I ran across a Forbes article about Sam Hodges’ research on “time-starved” entrepreneurs who regularly workout. However, I had to laugh at his examples.

Hodges, co-founder of Funding Circle, held up Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Cinnabon’s Kat Cole, Jack Dorsey; GoPro’s Nick Woodman, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey.

Duh. Sure, they are incredibly busy, but not in the same way as your average startup founder/worker. The difference is resources — money and people — in other words, the greater the need the less available the solution..

Anyone who reads knows the exercise lowers stress and increases serotonin production. Just what startup people (and that includes me) need most.

So I went looking for a solution. I wanted something that took very little time, was free (or close) and that I could do anywhere with, or without, company.

And I found it at the NY Times, of all places.

It’s a 7 minute workout that is scientifically vetted.

In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.

Plus, there is an advanced version and an app to make it even easier to do it where you are.

There is one other bonus — 7 whole minutes every day without thinking about problems, FOMO or anything else that is stressing our brains.

What more can anyone ask?

Authenticity instead of “reasons”


A couple of weeks ago I shared an amazingly honest post from founder Anand Sanwal detailing the “screwups” he’s made as he built CB Insights.

I found it unusual because of his blunt honesty; so many founders offer reasons and try to spread the responsibility for errors — or so it seems to me.

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image source: here

Then last week I read Slava Akhmechet’s post-mortem after shutting down RethinkDB. In which he took full responsibility.

In hindsight, two things went wrong – we picked a terrible market and optimized the product for the wrong metrics of goodness. Each mistake likely cut RethinkDB’s valuation by one to two orders of magnitude. So if we got either of these right, RethinkDB would have been the size of MongoDB, and if we got both of them right, we eventually could have been the size of Red Hat[1].

Obviously, you can learn a lot from his analysis.

But that isn’t my point today.

I’ve always wondered how founders can claim stellar success is the direct result of their efforts, but anything less is not.

Now I’m wondering if a shift is happening; a shift from founders having reasons and blaming external elements to honest analysis and taking responsibility.

I understand that it takes a giant ego to start a company and believe in one’s vision in spite of the naysayers.

However, I think it takes an even bigger ego, and, more importantly, a secure ego, to admit one’s errors, to say “I screwed up,” to take responsibility, to be authentic.

I salute those founders with the courage to be truly authentic.

And I hope the rest will follow in the footsteps of these outliers.

Amazing Innovator: Massoud Hassani and the Mine Kafon

As you all know, I work in the tech industry and while my company’s primary work is software development we also have an IoT department that’s just amazing. I love to watch the drones flying and other stuff I can’t discuss.

It’s not that software isn’t real, but it’s different than something you can touch.

I especially love learning about products that embody Richard Branson’s “doing good by doing well” ethos.

The one I want to share with you today is a brilliant innovation that solves a somber purpose. We all know how terrible war is; we see the images on social media, TV and newspapers. But the long-term aftermath is, in some ways, even more horrible. Imagine your child is playing soccer with friends and as they chase the ball the ground blows up. No warning, no nothing and years after the battles were fought.

All this went through my mind the first time I saw this video. It gave me hope and I want to share that with you today.

Video credit: Business Insider

Avoiding Founder Errors

This is a short post, because I want you to have time to read the link.

At the start of a new year most of us look for ways to improve. We make resolutions that occasionally even last past January.

We study what others have done and in order not to make the same mistakes. This process is even more important for founders, because their errors have a greater impact.

These days more founders are willing to share their mistakes, but it’s often after the fact and sometimes dressed up to minimize their own responsibility. (Just saying.)

A few days ago I read a truly unvarnished description of 54 errors made by a founder I have enormous respect for, Anand Sanwal (@asanwal), CEO/Co-founder/Customer Service at CB Insights.

Anand Sanwal (@asanwal)1

“Here’s a running list of my screwups at CB Insights. They span all facets of building a company – everything from HR to culture to product to sales to operations to admin. I am what you might call “multi-talented.””

CB Insights is incredibly successful. And if you don’t subscribe to his newsletter you are missing out on terrific data presented by someone who is also an excellent writer.

It is rare to find such a complete and candid list. I guarantee that if you take the time to read it, it will save you from at least three disasters this year (and beyond) if not more.

Wally Bock’s post to help you to start 2017

  1. It’s a new year, which means a blank canvas that you can fill however you choose.

Last year Miki shared two end-of-year posts that I think will be useful to you, especially when combined with this guest post from Wally Bock.

The first is 56 Words That Will Change Your Life and the other is 22 Real-Life Ways Not To Succeed.

clipart of a super power boy with red cape

Put all three of them together and you’ll have a pretty good blueprint on being a founder or any kind of a boss. Plus, it doesn’t take much tweaking to apply them to other roles, both professional and personal.

Wally is on Inc’s list of one hundred top leadership and management experts. Here is the post.

Do you make these common leadership mistakes?

When you start out, you have no idea what you don’t know. Even worse, there’s a lot of things that you think are true that turn out to be wrong. Here are a few of the things I thought were true before life taught me otherwise.

I Thought My Job as A Boss Was to Be in Charge, But…

I learned that my real job was helping the team and team members succeed. Today I might call that “servant leadership.” The truth is, that I thought bosses told people what to do instead of helping them do a good job.

I Thought That the Best Way to Assign Work Was to Give People the Goal and Turn Them Loose, But…

I learned that only works if the person who gets the assignment has the ability and willingness to do the work promptly and well. Ability is fairly easy to fix. Willingness is not.

I Thought I Would Be Judged on My Performance, But…

I learned that I was judged based on my team’s performance. That can be an awful shock, but it’s also very freeing. When you learn that you don’t have to do everything, you can do a better job and sleep better at night.

I Thought “Incentives” Meant Financial Incentives, But…

I learned that the most powerful incentives come from inside. People want to have as much control as possible over their work. They want to work with people they like and respect and where trust and help flow back and forth. And they want to do good work today and a little better work tomorrow.

I Thought I Could Solve Any Problem with Enough Equations, But…

I learned that people and relationships are the most important things in business. The equations can help you understand business models and competitive dynamics. Only people can help you succeed.

I Thought the Way to Succeed Was to Plan My Work and Work My Plan, But…

I learned that plans are only a starting point. Plans come apart when reality comes to play. I also learned that we make our plans when we know the least about what we have to do and accomplish. And I learned that no one is smart enough to plan for every contingency. Better to sketch out a plan, swing into action, and then modify your plan accordingly.

I Thought I Needed to Get All the Information Before Making a Decision, But…

I learned that’s a recipe for “paralysis by analysis.” Usually, the best course is to gather as much information as you can quickly and then act. You can modify your plans as you go. A pretty good solution implemented aggressively today usually beats a perfect solution executed next week.

I Thought That People’s Primary Loyalty Was to Their Company, But…

I learned the company comes way down on the list of priorities. People are rarely loyal to their company, per se. They may be loyal to their profession. They are occasionally loyal to a good boss. But the most powerful loyalty around is the loyalty to the other members of the team.

I Thought That I’d Learn How to Be a Great Boss Once and for All, But …

I’m still learning, after 50 years. That’s part of the fun.

My new book can help you become a better leader one tip at a time. Click here for more information.


I hope you find the info in these three posts as useful as I am in my new role of CMO.