Ada Support

Q&A With David Hariri: Ada's Co-founder & Head of R&D

Sarah Fox
Content Producer

At Ada, we’re always looking ahead. How can we meet the demand for more (and more valuable) brand interactions? How can our platform better equip brands to be more purposeful when interacting with each customer and employee? And how can we make it easy for brands to do this as they scale and grow their revenue streams, without betraying the brand they promised to be?

We could rest on our laurels — ranking #2 on G2’s Top 50 Best Software for AI & Analytics this year — but that’s not the Ada way. One of our core values is courage, so we stretch ourselves to seek discomfort and take risks. And this allows us to move quickly on delivering a product that can do all the above…and more. 

It’s the reason we’re pushing brands to think beyond run-of-the-mill CX solutions to providing a truly VIP experience to everyone your business cares about. And why we sit on the forefront of helping executives understand and prepare to close the brand interaction gap — the growing gap between what brands promise and how they actually interact. 

We recently discussed this in detail during our first Ada Interact — a virtual event series where experts share the latest thinking, technology, and trends in Automated Brand Interaction (ABI). 

Today, we meet the driving force behind Ada’s research and development (R&D). After working as a customer service agent, he set out on a mission with Co-founder & CEO Mike Murchison : repair broken brand interactions and restore the customer experience.

David started making websites and coding as a kid. Even now, as the co-founder and head of R&D at Ada, he still spends much of his time drawing and coding. “I find that it’s my most effective way of communicating the collective vision for our product.”

We sat down with David to learn more about his experience and expertise, the advice he has for tech leaders in the space of CX, and how he embodies our values in his day-to-day work.

“I try to lead with the work — demonstrate authenticity and simplicity in the tasks I take on, the way I behave, and the solutions I share with the team. I don’t always get it right on the first try — I aim to grow from everything I do.”

Q: How did you get your start in tech?

A: My first real tech job was at a web and mobile agency called Teehan+Lax — later acquired by Facebook. We designed and built apps for big tech companies when they had crazy ideas for new things. I got that job by sending one of the partners a portfolio of projects that I had built over a year of learning web app development in the evenings. Browser APIs and implementations of JavaScript had matured, and the single page application revolution was just getting started. It was an exciting time for web technologies. I had always loved making websites and coding since I was little. Designing and building software all day has always completely fit who I am.

Q: How did this, and other past professional experiences, prepare you to co-found a startup?

A: Both my parents are entrepreneurial, although neither would describe themselves that way. My mother is a painter and shows at galleries in Vancouver and Toronto. My father is an architect and co-founded a practice 30 years ago. Working hard and having ownership over one’s work (and the risk it comes with) was normalized through my formative years. I don’t remember my parents ever explicitly encouraging us to start businesses, but they demonstrated that it was possible day-to-day. I think I was also born very curious, stubborn, detail-oriented, and a bit allergic to tradition. I’ve since come to learn that many founders share these characteristics.

Teehan+Lax took UI development very seriously. That gave me the language and practices to address my desire to make software that people connect with. Before that job, I worked as an engineering consultant at a small firm in Sydney. As a consultant in any field, you learn the importance of putting customer needs at the center of your decision making. I always felt a strong sense of responsibility over how I spent my time because our clients were paying us by the hour. I still often ask myself, “If customers could see how I’m spending my time, would they be happy?”

Q: Customer experience is very important to you, obviously. But why is it so important today? And why should brands be prioritizing this?

A: The way that companies talk to people has always been deeply important to the best brands in the world. Doing it well leads to retained customers, word-of-mouth growth, and happy teams.

The brands that people love the most develop the strongest relationships through careful service. The unique challenge today is that as a brand moves more of their business to digital channels, the amount of interactions they have with people grows exponentially. How can they scale that same level of care in these new digital channels? I would argue that today’s agent-based customer communication products fail to answer this question.

Without Ada, a brand would have to employ many more people, all of which have to behave in a consistent way. This is expensive, slow and difficult to coordinate. Problems of people coordination are why your bank barely knows who you are and takes hours to resolve your inquiries, despite a decade long relationship.

We believe that the best solution is highly intelligent, deeply integrated automation combined with well-trained people — in that order. It’s hard to imagine, but one day 99% of our interactions with brands will be completely automated, much faster, and indistinguishable by the level of care from the best human experiences. Today, we’re in the “messy middle” of that evolution, leading it with brands that embrace that future.

Q: What advice do you have for technology leaders working in the space of CX?

A: Generally, embrace automation as a means of improving the customer experience, not just the bottom line. Look for opportunities where interaction with customers can be made more consistent, faster, or more personal with automation and the bottom line tends to take care of itself.

Specifically, this means:

  • Developing a means of allowing systems to make authenticated requests for personal information on behalf of your customers, or choose a platform that supports this in your industry (for example, Shopify in ecommerce).
  • Exposing APIs that enable systems to perform the same functions that your human teams perform, or choose a platform that includes APIs in your industry.
  • Embracing new mobile channels — like SDKs, Messenger, Apple Business Chat, and so on — that enable asynchronous, push-based messaging with customers. These channels respect customer’s time and improve the experience of automation.

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