Q&A on the search for ‘Australia’s AI Unicorn’ and other c-level insights.

1) Considering your qualification in Occupational Therapy, what inspired you to Co-found Pat Inc?

After completing my undergraduate degree in Applied Science in the mid 1980s, I deviated from the path of Occupational Therapy to take a job with IBM, where I was able to combine my interests in people with technology. As an account manager, my responsibilities included organizing technology teams to fulfill IBM’s customer needs for large Australian banks and insurance companies. A stint, facilitating IBM’s global award-winning Leadership Development program, opened my eyes to the value of developing people to be leaders. Later, while fulfilling a life-long passion of building my own equestrian business, I recognized that it required a diverse range of skills, from technical to leadership skills, as did co-founding a startup of a globally scalable, game changing language understanding system for machines.

2) What is the story behind the formulation of your team? What types of qualities did you look for?

I believe that STEM skills are not the only skills required for the future of AI. We desperately need more representation of product managers, ethical scientists and designers driven to make AI the best ‘version of itself’ for humanity. Yet I hear hesitancy from people who want to work in the tech space but hold the belief that their non-technological skills aren’t required, or are inferior. Often individuals in the start-up tech space are required to wear many hats, fundamentally I believe that choosing and sharing jobs is to be done based on the best match with an individual’s passions.

3) What gaps were identified in the marketplace that made this AI technology relevant and essential?

Gaps in the marketplace exist today because no-one has been able to adequately address the problems within Natural Language Understanding (NLU). Today’s version of AI focuses on deep learning tools and text generators to approximate language, however, current market products are yet to take us beyond commands or to refine the offerings of Google Dialogflow, IBM Watson and many other programs that are intent based, or keyword search NLU. The solution is determining the correct scientific model for language, based on the processes of the brain.

4) What were the challenges that you encountered on the way to Silicon Valley?

Following angel investment, we had a solid belief in our ability to raise capital for Pat’s critical mass of knowledge, to make way for relatively easy product development. Alternatively, we found ourselves undertaking benchmarking tests for intelligent dialog, and working with a financial advisor to develop our product market fit, and then to GTM. Thankfully, following this, we collaborated with three different partnerships, leveraging our NLU’s unique universal knowledge representation and conversational ability, and together we worked to build our next generational, conversational AI product.

5) What do you think about the need for more exposure, a connected ecosystem and what a journal such as I&I is trying to do?

The barriers between the lab stages and commercialization, although being addressed, still present unique challenges for an AI startup. The Innovation and Impact Scientific Technology and Business Journal has an opportunity to showcase the best of Australian science, highlighting both the success stories and barriers to commercialisation of knowledge in Australia. There is groundswell as evidenced by initiatives like The Gradient Institute, Monash Data Futures Institute and Australian Institute for Machine Learning. Australia could lead AI in areas where there are open problems, such as ethics and natural language understanding. Why don’t we have an Australian AI unicorn yet? Now there’s a title for an article; ‘In search of Australia’s AI Unicorn’.


Zoë Callister-Hakewill is General Manager of Dr’s On Call, a mobile medical practice that supports the needs of vulnerable populations across metropolitan Sydney, Western suburbs, Northern Beaches, Northern Suburbs, Eastern suburbs, Central Coast/Newcastle/Hunter region and regional NSW. Zoë oversees the digital transformation of the practice, and led the development of digital health policies and training to support a team of medical professionals to deliver quality clinical care through digital health.

Zoë has expertise in the fields of medical science, public health, health law and ethics. She holds a Bachelor of Medical Science, a Masters of International Public Health, and a Masters of Health Law from the University of Sydney, and is completing a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) at Macquarie University. At the Macquarie University Department of Cognitive Science, she is part of a research group using mobile EEG technology to investigate brain health. She recently attained an Executive Ready scholarship with Women in Leadership Australia and has just commenced studying an MBA with Deakin University.

Zoë is currently the host of a new Southern Cross Austereo Medtech Podcast called Beyond the Medicine Cabinet. The purpose of the Beyond the Medicine Cabinet podcast is to showcase innovation in medical technologies and the lives that have been impacted as a result.  In illustrating this, the podcast highlights the role that technology is playing in transforming health and medicine globally, with real-world examples of the lives that is changing. As an advocate for health literacy, Zoë seeks to empower individualised healthcare decision making, by ensuring that the tone of the podcast strikes the perfect balance between scientific merit, practicality and impact to increase accessibility for the layman person.

As Australian Editor of the Innovation & Impact Scientific Technology and Business Journal, she is able to source, write, collaborate, observe and publish on the interdisciplinary nature of how scientific technology founded in research, articulates with business through a collection of high profile invited papers, case studies and technology profiles within the Australian entrepreneurial landscape.

Beth Carey is Co-Founder and CEO of Pat Inc, an award-winning language understanding platform representing  meaning for machines to enable human-like interactions.

Beth has a history of establishing and growing corporate technology businesses, leading large teams of technologists at IBM and Fujitsu, and facilitating the world-class IBM Leadership Development program across Asia-Pacific. She has established and exited an equestrian business and the past inaugural Ambassador for global organisation Women in AI.

AI is capable of impacting every industry for the benefit of humanity, and Beth is passionate about sustainable and ethical AI, as well as diversity. She speaks on AI at academic and industry symposiums, and on Pat’s brain-based theory with Pat Inc Co-Founder and Inventor, John Balll.