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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Wilkinson

New York State of Mind

Last week, Adam and I had the extraordinary opportunity of speaking at Riverside Acceleration Capital’s CEO Forum in New York. The topic – somewhat unsurprisingly – was GenerativeAI.

But, for this room of highly innovative, growth-stage SaaS leaders, we targeted our insights and presentation to thinking about GenerativeAI as a value driver within their SaaS product strategy.

Fast forward to today and – beyond some jet lag – I’m delighted to say that our week in New York was hugely energising, filled with lively conversations, many lessons learnt, plus plenty of questions and ambitions for the future.

So, what did I learn? Here are some initial musings:

GenerativeAI is a game changer – and not just for SaaS. Current use cases, and much-anticipated co-pilots, are expected to generate significant efficiencies – particularly in administrative and creative tasks. And for SaaS specifically, this potential could be far reaching in terms of both product development and the SaaS business model itself. However – and this is a biggie – there are actually very few, live examples of ‘what good looks like’ today. After all, so many of the products/features we are seeing are demos or beta, rather than what is live, working, and proving value. And while this seems like a negative at first glance, it also means that there is endless white space for developers, engineers, marketers, and leadership teams to strategically explore. But the important word here is strategic. Meaning, we strongly suggest that instead of skipping down a FOMO-driven path of rapid technology adoption, product and commercial leaders need to deeply understand their customers’ needs and problems – and focus on these, rather than running the risk of spending lots of time and money on ‘cute’ but non-revenue generating analytics, products, and features.

Relationships matter – this sounds like such an easy observation, but it’s one that I REALLY want to emphasise. We’ve had the pleasure of many hours with the Riverside and portco teams over the past year or so. But there is nothing like sharing a coffee or dinner to stimulate conversation, deepen trust, discover the eccentricities and funnies which make us all human, strong and fallible, or spark stories of work, experience, family, and dreams. DataDiligence is a remote business, and we are able to deliver our engagements remotely too. However, we LOVE meeting our clients, CEOs, and partners in person. Here’s hoping that we have many more opportunities to travel and connect.

Don’t wear new shoes – so, I committed the rookie mistake of wearing new shoes in a city where walking is generally faster than jumping into a quintessential yellow cab. And, to rub salt into my ever-expanding blisters, almost everyone else was wearing some sort of smart trainer. So, note to self: function over form. And Nike’s are fine!

Three and a half hours is a long time to fill – and even longer to listen! Did I forget to say we were asked to talk for an entire morning? Which is a long time to lead a conversation – and perhaps even longer for those listening! So, we split our AI and GenerativeAI insights and experience into three sections: Product, Data Science, and Value. Then invited our audience of highly experienced, and highly curious CEOs to ask questions and share their experiences. Standard stuff you might say. But what wasn’t standard, and truly surprised me, was the utter focus and appetite to share from our CEOs. The energy in the room was palpable at times as each leader digested and thought through the potential response, strategy, concerns, and adoption of AI and GenerativeAI into their product roadmaps. Of course, I’d love to think it was our captivating content which created this atmosphere! Yet I concede that the topic of AI is a fundamental one – capturing heads and hearts. Plus the sheer impact and implications of AI and GenerativeAI is absorbing. For my part, it’s always daunting to present to a room of leaders – but the level of engagement and warmth from this group of CEOs (and of course the Riversiders) was amazing – for which I’m eternally grateful. Thank you so much.

One to rule them all. Certainly, in the short term and particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, the likelihood of developing a bespoke, large language model is remote (and frighteningly expensive). Rather, they will most likely be fine-tuning existing models and plugging in APIs. But, in a world where models are becoming democratised and public data is a commodity – proprietary datasets rule! After all, companies using the same datasets will end up building the same capabilities, insights, and products. Whereas companies who curate and mine proprietary datasets will increase their data moat, barriers to entry, and valuations in one fell swoop. So, even if your business is not using AI or GenerativeAI today, we strongly encourage you to be ethically and strategically collecting data in a dedicated infrastructure, so that you are analytics- and AI-ready and have the optionality to be a fast follower when the time and technology comes.


If you are interested to hear more about our approach and insights to driving value from data, AI and GenerativeAI – particularly for private equity-owned businesses – please comment or message me. We believe that all businesses have the potential to embrace this ground-breaking technology for enhanced customer service and experience, revenue generation, and value creation.


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