Andre S. Yoon is a tech entrepreneur with a strong engineering and science background. Upon graduating from MIT with a Ph.D. in Physics, he joined Samsung Electronics to develop high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) and intelligent storage systems far exceeding conventional storage in performance.
Andre’s vision of delivering transformative values with machine intelligence has driven him to spend his career-defining problems and create solutions, focusing on data science and machine learning capabilities. This led his career towards building software solutions for industrial applications as the Lead Data Scientist at SK Telecom and founding MakinaRocks.
MakinaRocks is an Industrial/Manufacturing that uses AI technology. It is a start-up applying artificial intelligence to the high-tech manufacturing sector with a mission to make manufacturing more productive by harnessing the power of data and AI. Their work is in Semiconductors, Steel, and Chemicals.
Their interdisciplinary team is closely associated and works together to tackle unique data challenges that their clients face.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Andre says:
Rather than managing risk to minimize or avoid failure, the focus should be to maximize success. This was from The Monk and the Riddle, a book by Randy Komisar. I couldn’t agree more—after following his advice for 2 years, I strongly feel that it is more important to execute new ideas quickly (I usually give myself a 2-week timeline), learn upon execution, and finish the task for the company.
To be honest, I do not have a particular routine or a way to motivate myself. However, I am passionate about the changes that artificial intelligence will bring to the world, the impact and that MakinaRocks will bring to industries and our company’s growth.
Read on to know more about Andre S. Yoon and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background and what motivated you to get started with your company?
Andre S. Yoon: My initial focus was on physics and mathematics. After receiving my Ph. D. in Nuclear Physics from MIT, I started my Samsung Electronics career as a senior engineer. I then went on to work for SK Telecom as a lead data scientist, where I was allowed to work with industrial applications of machine learning.
It was at SK Telecom that I became immersed in data analysis and artificial intelligence. Around that time, interest in data and artificial intelligence was growing, primarily due to machine intelligence’s increasing capabilities. Data and artificial intelligence can provide transformative solutions to industries, namely in the manufacturing and energy sectors. I want to create these solutions with an amazing group of people we have at MakinaRocks. It has been remarkable to see our team gather around a discussion topic and collaborate to develop an idea from nothing to something we can see and implement.
I am very excited about the things we are doing at MakinaRocks because I believe our solutions can change the way the industry moves.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Andre S. Yoon: We develop industrial solutions such as our Anomaly Detection Suite and Intelligent Control Suite, along with our Operational AI Platform, deployable on-premise, and on-cloud. Our platform is built with Kubernetes architecture—streamlining the entire ML pipeline so that various AI applications can run end to end simultaneously without dealing with the high costs of maintenance and potential performance degradation of the model.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Andre S. Yoon: We have successfully raised 11.5M USD so far: 1.5 million USD in our seed-round funding in May 2018 and 10 million USD in our Series A (July 2020).
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Andre S. Yoon: SI (Strategy Investment) was a crucial part of MakinaRocks’s Series A. The process required more work and took longer than we anticipated. We found that it required the conglomerates (who were reviewing our application) more time than we had initially planned, and the round was delayed once again as 2019 came to an end. In our next funding round, we plan to consider these things and plan accordingly. It’s all a learning process.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Andre S. Yoon: Our goal is to deliver transformative solutions to our customers in various industrial sectors. To achieve this, we need to deploy our solutions in more cases. Our milestones for the next round are:
- To deploy our first ADS for the industrial robot in the form that can scale on cloud
- Alpha version release of the Operational AI Platform
- More use cases with our Reinforcement Learning solution
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Andre S. Yoon: Though several companies focused on industrial AI solutions based on machine vision, there weren’t very many companies using numeric data such as sensor data. Due to numeric data’s useful and reliable nature, it was easier to approach clients and have successful use-cases with our preliminary round of clients.
A representative case was the detection of anomalies in semiconductor equipment using sensor data, in which thousands to tens of thousands of features were used. A different approach was necessary with the existing data, one that we were able to provide successfully. We were also able to provide solutions to aid in optimizing air conditioning systems with Intelligent Control.
As the technology is still in its early stages, I understand that users, or partners in our case, are an important part of the process in the long-term.
As for our strategy, for the past three years, it has been simple: “Gather outstanding people, create a collaborative environment, and get things done.”
How do you plan to expand globally?
Andre S. Yoon: We are currently working on a project with global customers. In addition to the clients we currently have, we anticipate that others will require MakinaRocks’s products and technology.
Though offline events have slowed down due to COVID-19, and the process of reaching out to potential clients has changed, we have been able to participate in online exhibitions and overseas exchange events to introduce MakinaRocks’s technologies and products online.
You can look out for MakinaRocks at a few online and offline events in the fourth quarter of 2020.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Andre S. Yoon: Introducing new technology takes time and effort due to the conservative nature of the industries we work with. Due to COVID-19, the pace of machine autonomy and intelligence is being developed worldwide is accelerating faster than expected. Therefore, we are working to match the said pace and aggressively recruiting for it.
We have considered the possibility of 2nd, 3rd waves for even longer periods. So, we are working to increase the ‘agility’ of MakinaRocks—ensuring that efficiency will not be affected by our employees’ location, actively encouraging telecommuting, and any other means necessary to maintain the pace of development.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And what advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Andre S. Yoon: Rather than managing risk to minimize or avoid failure, the focus should be to maximize success. This was from The Monk and the Riddle, a book by Randy Komisar. I couldn’t agree more—after following his advice for 2 years, I strongly feel that it is more important to execute new ideas quickly (I usually give myself a 2-week timeline), learn upon execution, and finish the task for the company.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Andre S. Yoon: The Grand Design, Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future, The Person, and the Situation.
The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
The idea of a ‘model-dependent realism’ proposed by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in the book resonated within me. The mode-dependent realism presented in the book states that a model corresponding to reality is not as important as we may assume. Rather, having a model that is consistent with what we observe is much more important.
Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future, by John MacCormick
Algorithms are changing the world!
The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology, by Lee Ross
This is the most recent book I read, and it had a big impact on me. Lee Ross addresses the concept of “fundamental attribution error,” which in the social sciences, refers to the understatement of situational factors instead of an individual’s personality in influencing behavior. This book pushed me to take a step back and evaluate situations leading to certain behavior rather than judge people hastily based on their disposition or my initial perception of them.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Andre S. Yoon: To be honest, I do not have a particular routine or a way to motivate myself. However, I am passionate about the changes that artificial intelligence will bring to the world, the impact and that MakinaRocks will bring to industries and our company’s growth.
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