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Ep. 36: Razi Imam of 113 Industries

Razi Imam is not only founder of 113 Industries that uses machine technology to help businesses gather and analyze hordes of data, he's also an author with a new book out that just won the 2020 American Fiction Book Award. After Razi talks about helping companies its like Hershey's figure out new products and tweak existing ones to meet customers' needs, we'll nerd out on his new book "Masters of the Broken Watches." Critics say, "Masters of the Broken Watches filters time, myth, science, and philosophy through the taut structure of a political thriller, gaining momentum with each chapter, as its scientists urgently investigate an almost inexplicable bending of the curve of time.” Until the end of August, you can download the book from Amazon for only 99 cents.

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All right, everybody. So today's interview is going to be just a ton of fun. I'm going to guarantee that right now. Because if you can think of your data as like a block of marble, beautiful marble, my guy here, Razi Imam and his team at 113 Industries, they can help you bring the David out of your data. And I saw it on your website. And I'm like, Man, that is the coolest thing ever. And I'm gonna lead off with that. That's exactly what 113 Industries does. And Razi, I'm so glad to talk to you today. It's been too long before we hit the record button. You mentioned it's been like 10 years or so since I last interviewed you about your first book.

Hasn't been that long. And you're like, yes.


All good. I'm so I'm so glad you're taking the time to talk to us today. Because there's so much to talk about. Because first of all, I think 130 Industries is one of Pittsburgh's most exciting companies. I mean, you get into some conversations about how you help yourself. clients, I think people watching today are gonna be like, whoa.

The books you've been writing, people are gonna be like, well, it's been it's been a fantastic ride for the last 10 years. You know, we, when you interviewed us, we just started in 2013 in 2010. Right. And, and you gave us, you know, at that time, we were still finding the legs. We knew that we wanted to get into the space of artificial intelligence. And we wanted to get into the space of natural language processing with Carnegie Mellon is so close and everything, but we still weren't sure how things would work out. Because it was a new endeavor for my partner and Obama and myself, and he was thinking, Okay, you know, but that's the beauty of Pittsburgh, you know, you're literally one degree of separation from anybody and everybody, you know, and when we started in, you know, figuring the style that lots of people came out and started putting pieces together for And now recording us and they said, You know what, maybe you should try do this and try to you know, interact with the following clients. And before you know it, we started having conversations with the clients like Hershey which was a very big opportunity for us. I remember thinking how do you score Hershey? Like that's Pittsburgh, it will open doors for you like it's just amazing. And that's what happened. We got up let's, let's find that. So she we help them I am, you know, figure out what the new chocolate should be because you see they were going through a very interesting phase. The demand for chocolate was declining.

But there was a decline in demand.

with chocolate and we're talking about these, you know, n cap chocolates, the ones that you the bar chocolate, so they couldn't understand what was happening. They would say, you know, they reduce the price and make the bar bigger. Turning around, do different things. But people will not buying chocolate bars because they were competing against like, cakes and cookies and brownies and macaroons. And now, you're making me hungry exactly.

So instead, what do we do for chocolate, and at that time, ai was just starting to formulate and come together. And what we did was, we used a methodology for called natural language processing. And then we started to look at forums where people were talking about, you know, baking in recipes, and then we looked at conversations of what we'll be having after dessert while watching Breaking Bad for example, what were people eating at that time, and what we saw was, especially in the evening, when people were watching Breaking Bad, or they were watching friends, watching any, you know, one of those shows at that time. They would take a bag of petal. Okay. And put it in a bowl and take some chocolate hot chocolate melted. And then portal that pretzel.

Now you're really making me hungry.

Yeah. So pretzels with chocolate. So my team started to identify that and said, is there is there is there a pattern to this information? So we saw that they were doing it similarly with ice cream. What was happening was they were actually mixing textures. Right. So we went back to Hershey and we sat down with them and said, okay, you wish to go after products that are healthy and healthy was like Atkins was hot at that time also, and everybody wanted protein and all that. Stop okay whereas in the data people were going indulgent Ah, we said go after your help snacking that's fine but you need to come up with an indulgent product that has multiple textures in it and and has saltiness and sweet have caramel and gooey ness and they said okay I think we know what so they had a product that was being built a long time ago and they've been messy launch it hmm but after the research they said that's that's really being revised product it's got  pretzels and carmel and guess what it's called Hershey cookie crunch. Okay, and it has taken up fire for them. It's just like crazy it's doing about it already did the hundred million dollars in revenue and here's here's it here's an item that was on the show. But they weren't really thinking about doing anything. They came to you with this problem. And you point out what the customers are actually talking about through natural language processing. And they go and take this product off and sell hundreds of millions of dollars of it. So instead of this being a block of marble that you carve anism, you took a block of chocolate, which was their data. You brought that into something they can make. Yeah.

That's an awesome story. Man, only in Pittsburgh. I tell you Pittsburgh, yeah. Well, it's been a great ride for us the last 10 years, we've gotten about, you know, 50 of the top companies now working with us, wow, it's resolving these companies. I'm assuming everyone's got a different kind of problem. But you put your technology to it in order to get them to the root of what's going on and find a solution.

Yeah, so we call it leap. We develop something called consumer behavior model, where, for all these companies, we create a model for them. That tells Exactly how a consumer is behaving in a category, how are they buying? What are they eating? How are they consuming, so it gives them that insight that allows them to either come up with new product lines or revive a product or, you know, relaunch a new, an older product. So, you know, it's, it helps them in marketing. It helps by engaging with consumers more actively.

It's too bad Coca Cola didn't come to you guys back when spinning up that new Coke back in the 80s that's all I can say now.

like regular Coke is just fine.

Don't mess with it.

Tell us about your team here in Pittsburgh now.

We are a small team. We've always been a small team. We have several like we would say about 12 people. Okay and and we moved our office Just as we were in your building in next to the river last Monday, I know I'd see all that. And then we went to Station Square. And we had a beautiful view from there. And now we have a building in Shadyside, on Ellseworth. Yeah, beautiful location. And we just acquired it last year, we moved into it. And so it's a beautiful space. It's a open space and great conference rooms and everything. So about 12 people that that actually do. And then we have a lot of, I would say, contract people around the country and around the world, because we do global projects. We do projects for Europe. And recently, our area that has opened up is pharmaceutical companies. Okay.

Large one sounds that sounds pretty interesting. Yeah. What's up with that?

Well, what? That was very interesting. So, one time I was flying from Asia back and my nephew called me and said, Hey, you might want to watch Stop. We're in London and meet this group that is trying to do some consulting work in pharmaceuticals. And I said, let me how much extra would that cost me? So, you know, biggest small company, you have to look at that.

You can't get up in London and hang out. And yeah. And he said, Don't be so cheap. Just go, you know. And my wife said, mazie, why are you being so cheap? You should just go. And I said, All right. So I went to London, I met with this group. And this group was working with one of the largest pharmaceutical companies and they wanted to create a patient behavior model, like a patient journey. And their biggest issue is they don't get enough of interaction with patients like through focus groups, because what happens is a patient let's say, is in a fourth stage cancer situation, it just ought to sit in front of him or her asked questions about Oh, how did you feel when you were first diagnosed? Yeah. traumatized, traumatizing, it's unethical, it sounds really bad. You're like, like very cold. This methodology doesn't ask anybody any questions, just forums and stuff like forums.

Yeah. Where, okay, what people are talking about and how they are. And we were able to create a patient journey, and all the leverage between, you know, when they started taking medicine and treatment and everything, okay, that's what we do with pharmaceuticals. Now.

That is just amazing. And that's why it's like, man, only Pittsburgh. Right now, I know you're in New York sort of date, which was kind of a little sad, but we're also very glad for you as well, too. And we know you're getting a lot of 113 No, in Pittsburgh. So tell us about what you're doing in New York, right.

I don't like New York.

I love I love Pittsburgh. I love Pittsburgh. I like New York to visit here. But living in New York. You can see because I don't know if you can see in the back. Yeah. Oh yeah. It's just like concrete. Everywhere we are in New York because we had an opportunity to move here for a year and see how things worked out. And it's been, it's, it's a great opportunity. My wife works with Facebook, and great company. And they've moved us here for a year. And they're saying to check it out, see how it goes. And we're having a good time finding a place here and looking around, and how things work. And it will be great 400 and 113 a lot. Because most of you know, consumer packaged goods and farmers in New Jersey, you're on the Home Base right now some new industries you could be working with. So I think now I'm just now saying that 113 Industries now has a New York office. Exactly.

Yeah, our headquarters will always be in Pittsburgh, and we're still maintaining our residents in Pittsburgh. Of course. We're just you know, commuting right now to see how things go.

I mean, come on, man, you can just dial in whenever they would be anywhere. Yeah, exactly. I think I think Yeah, opportunity for let's talk about you being an author. I think that's one of the coolest things about you is that you're a freakin author. And you've written some really cool books. You're the new one that just came out and you're sending me a copy when when I can officially get a hardback copy. Oh, it's I'm really happy. You should receive it in a day or so. Yeah, it's it really looks like this. I look at the Broken Watches. Exactly. What is this all about? I can only imagine. I can't wait to read this thing.

It's a novel. It's a and it's a it's an adventure novel. And it came to me in 2016 when I we had just recently moved from suburbia and bought a condo in in Pittsburgh overlooking the three rivers and Mount Washington. Right and One time in 2016, I got up and I was looking out and an idea just sparked in my mind, and it just been out of control. In about two hours, this entire book 20 chapters came to me. Are you serious? Like when I'm not exaggerating?

Yeah, I know. It's just just just, it just started coming coming. And then then my wife walks up and she said, I think I have a second book in my mind. And she said, okay, to book three book for book five. And she says, I mean, the entire concept of the master series. And it's actually the book is about a group of, I would say, adventure scientists who are out there trying to find solutions that could solve some major problems. And they are looking for evolutionary breakthroughs, you know, in time in this and to, you know, you know, basically biomedic ideas from them and say, Okay, why don't we use this and this book is about time, you know? And there's a book is all about how they find a species that can somehow have an effect on time. Hmm.

Okay, so the novel summertime readings is now the dog days of summer. And I know this is gonna fit the bill and I know that First off, I can't wait to read to think about how this all came you like in one, like Dukes shot?

Yeah, it was like two hour to three hours and boom, boom, boom, the whole thing came together. One thing you will read when you see when you spoke, you may see yourself in a book like this, because the characters are quite relatable, but more importantly, the experiences they're having in the book. We all have them in our life. Like, situations where time slowed down where where things are going, you know, like you hear about You know, I could see that happen in front of me. But as if it was all in slow motion, yeah, yeah. Or, you know, time goes past you. And you said, I just got here five minutes ago when you're trying to get to the airport, and you know you're late, but you still make it on time. And you're shocked. How did that happen? It's a time dilates. It's so so you'll find instances in this book that relate to human experiences that we still cannot explain.

That's gonna be exciting. And only you could come up with something like this. So not only a sculptor of data, but you are also a pretty cool author as well, too. I'm assuming you paint on the side as well. Any other artistic endeavors you take on Razi that we don't know about?

No painting yet, but writing is become my passion. I watch people and I watch characters and I watch the other day, I saw And then I was in Sedona a couple of months ago, not the other day, but just got talking to me. And this gentleman, who was kind of like walking on the streets barefooted, but he was wearing a duster, you know, like, you know, the the western industry have seen those. Yeah. And he walked in, he had a beard, and he had a pipe. And he walked in. And he walked into this Starbucks or something, and he stood there. And I just looked at him as a boy, is that a great character for him? You know? Now what happens is I could be anyway, and I'm not bored, because I'm just watching and observing, observing and thinking how that could become something interesting. Exactly. How does that come together? Yeah. And then people share stories like this, you know, the next book that I'm writing is called the vanishing wall. And that book is about you know, such Were things just like your key chain appears and disappears. Oh no, I can't because I wouldn't I want to learn about this because

I keep thinking it's old age setting in but there are times when I swear it's like wait a second man. Like, yeah, just came you it wasn't here. I know I got my phone here and it's not gone and that come back I turn around and it's right there. Where's the universe name these things are hanging out for because it gets exactly exactly. Oh man to my wife. My wife was in Philadelphia. Okay, he dropped her glasses while playing with my granddaughter in a park. So we come back from the park. Okay, first up she says omega and these are important reading glasses, right so we go back to the park and we can't find them anywhere. We don't find them. We search we ship. We come home. We looked in her bag and we empty the bag out. In the bag, okay, so he said, All right, you know what? We'll, we'll get you wants me, you know? And then we drive back. We get to the restaurant on 76 Yeah. And she, she, she's, she's, she's got she had a spare one. And she's really playing on her phone. She's playing Scrabble or something. And then she takes her glasses off. And then she looks at them. And she's had the, the, the actual glasses up in our hand. Are you serious?

I'm not exaggerating. This is this happened to her. She said, Where did this come from? Because they were not in my bag. They were not, you know. Anyway, so the book is about that.

I'm excited. So cool, man. I love it. I love it. Rosie I'm so glad you got to catch up today. Like I said, it's gonna be a really because like, I'm gonna tell everybody go if people want to find your book and they find it on Amazon.

Yeah, just type the messages of the broken watches on Amazon. You will find it. It's right there you can. And right now for the good. I did this a couple of days ago for your community, the sign of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. They can get the ebook for 99 cents. Ah, we'll put that everybody knew that.

Yeah, yeah, I brought it down 99 cents. I'll keep it like that for a week. So that they can if they're interested in a book like this, you know, they'll they'll, they'll enjoy it. It's by the way region we've gotten on Goodreads. I'm getting like almost 27 reviews on all almost all four or five stars on it. So these views that up people reading it, so yeah.

Yeah, it's gaining traction, which I'm sure you'll enjoy.

I appreciate so much being part of our Comcast our Summer of 50 Pittsburgh Tech stories. This is one of the coolest stories I've told all summer without a doubt, man.

Well, you guys are doing great work. Thank you for, you know driving Pittsburgh forward and doing such great work returning you and Audrey and the whole team. Yeah, appreciate it, man. Appreciate it. Okay. Thanks.

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