Sentient $100M+ Raised, A/B Testing With Artificial Intelligence with Exited Founder and SVP Jon Epstein

Jonathan Epstein

In Episode #666, Nathan interviews Jonathan Epstein. He’s the current senior VP for international at Sentient Technologies, the maker of Sentient Ascend, the first conversion optimization solution that is powered by evolutionary artificial intelligence. Epstein has been in many companies at the forefront of technology and media including GameSpot, which he’s the founding CEO, and Omek which was sold to Intel and GameSpy which was eventually sold to IGN.

Famous Five:

  • Favorite Book? – Hire With Your Head
  • What CEO do you follow? – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos
  • Favorite online tool? — BuiltWith and SimilarWeb
  • How many hours of sleep do you get? — 5-6
  • If you could let your 20-year old self, know one thing, what would it be? – “I wished I had stepped on entrepreneurship early”

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 01:22 – Nathan introduces Jon to the show
  • 02:18 – Jon’s good exit range is from tens of millions to the hundreds of million dollars
  • 02:39 – Jon helped the founding CEO of Gamespot turn it around
  • 03:18 – Jon has worked in an actual gaming company
  • 03:29 – Jon started at IDG as magazine publisher
  • 03:49 – GameSpot was the first professional online review site for games
  • 03:56 – GameSpy had an editorial element and Jon published some of its software
  • 04:35 – GameSpot was launched in 1995
  • 04:45 – Jon launched the magazine Digital News and Multimedia World
    • 04:53 – Jon was working for IDG when he launched the magazines under their brand
  • 05:28 – Jon had great partners when he started GameSpot
    • 05:55 – The initial idea came from the 2 co-founders
    • 06:20 – It was clear that the internet thing was happening
    • 06:30 – The problem, then, was that the release of the magazine came out way too late for newly released game reviews
    • 06:55 – Having the magazine online is a better way to update the gamers
    • 07:13 – GameSpot took in external investors
    • 07:34 – GameSpot was sold for stock in ZDNet
  • 08:09 – Jon had an international role and wanted to gain experience in dealing with other countries
    • 08:16 – ZDNet had joint ventures and Jon had been with them for a while
  • 08:34 – Jon had invested from ZDNet to GameSpy
  • 09:04 – Jon had 8% of GameSpy
  • 09:28 – Jon joined GameSpy in September 2001
    • 09:32 – GameSpy was sold in March 2004
    • 10:01 – Jon made around $61M cash from GameSpy’s exit
  • 10:21 – Jon stayed with IGN after the exit and stayed there for a while
  • 10:30 – Jon joined Double Fusion, which is a venture-backed startup
  • 10:55 – Sentient had been around for 9 years and was one of the best funded companies
  • 11:21 – Jon fell in love with Sentient because of their goals
  • 11:29 – Sentient was built with a powerful AI platform
    • 11:34 – It focuses on AI at scale and is able to run AI problems across millions of GPUs
  • 11:58 – Sentient does multiple types of AI
    • 12:00 – One is deep learning or neuron-network which is used for handwriting, voice recognition and image analysis
    • 12:12 – Another product of Sentient is the evolutionary computation which is an AI that mimics natural selection
  • 12:38 – Sentient ran a hedge fund using their products
    • 12:51 – The fund size is growing rapidly
  • 13:14 – Big investors invest to hedge funds in order to achieve stable, good returns
  • 14:16 – Sentient is a SaaS business disrupting the world of AB testing
    • 14:48 – Using the evolutionary AI approach speeds up AB testing
  • 15:41 – Sentient currently has 25 paying customers
    • 15:52 – Average contract price is $3K-30K a month
  • 16:12 – Zero customer churn
  • 16:24 – CAC
    • 16:52 – Sentient is also doing paid advertising
    • 16:56 – Sentient attends conversion conferences where they spend $5K-10K for sponsorship
  • 17:40 – Sentient has raised a total of $143M
  • 17:52 – Sentient has around 110 employees
    • 17:58 – There are still 15-20 open positions
  • 18:24 – Sentient was founded in 2007
  • 18:57 – “We think it’s too early to sell”
  • 19:15 – Mark Cuban said that the first trillionaires will come from AI
  • 20:35 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. Never be scared about exits – it just means new doors are opening for you.
  2. Be in a company that you’re really interested in—where you can align yourself with their goals.
  3. Start as early as you can when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Resources Mentioned:

  • The Top Inbox – The site Nathan uses to schedule emails to be sent later, set reminders in inbox, track opens, and follow-up with email sequences
  • Organifi – The juice was Nathan’s life saver during his trip in Southeast Asia
  • Klipfolio – Track your business performance across all departments for FREE
  • Acuity Scheduling – Nathan uses Acuity to schedule his podcast interviews and appointments
  • Host Gator– The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for the cheapest price possible
  • Audible– Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5-hour drive) to listen to audio books
  • Freshbooks – Nathan doesn’t waste time so he uses Freshbooks to send out invoices and collect his money. Get your free month NOW
  • Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives