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Founder in Five: Q&A with TurinTech’s Leslie Kanthan

TurinTech founder Leslie Kanthan

Dr Leslie Kanthan is the CEO and co-founder of TurinTech, a company that helps businesses create, deploy and optimise AI by automating the whole data science lifecycle.

Kanthan founded TurinTech in 2018 with three University College London (UCL) researchers from the Department of Computer Science.

The TurinTech founder previously worked for Credit Suisse, Bank of America, and Commerzbank, bringing with him his expertise in graph theory, quantitative research, and efficient similarity search techniques.

The London-headquartered company has raised a total of $5.4m (£4m) in funding, including a £1m seed round in 2019.

In the latest Founder in Five Q&A, Kanthan explains AI’s role in sustainability, shares how some employees have become “diversity champions” and reveals the activities TurinTech promotes to avoid burnout.

1) Has sustainability changed any of your business processes?

Leslie Kanthan: Sustainability holds a big influence over our business processes as we develop our products with environmental initiatives in mind. Sustainability in AI is a very relevant topic, with a lot of companies aiming to be carbon neutral by as early as 2030.

What businesses don’t always realise is that efficient AI can help in improving their sustainability. Companies can use AI optimisation platforms to optimise model code efficiency for quicker inference speed and lower CO2 emissions. At TurinTech, we also aim to make our company as environmentally efficient as possible, by reducing waste and optimising our business processes with AI.

2) What’s the best way to promote diversity in the workplace?

LK: Our mission is to hire the best talent in the field of AI, focusing on candidates’ merit and passion for their specialism. We have always been a very naturally inclusive company, which has led to us employing a diverse range of talent, including ethnic minorities and members of the non-binary and LGBTQA+ communities.

Some members of staff have become diversity champions in the business, helping with the interview process for fellow members of the transgender community for example, in order to make them feel as welcome as possible. We believe in hiring candidates according to their skillset, drive, and potential.

3) What was the most important early hire you made?

LK: As a small tech company, every team member plays a vital role in the business. One of our most important early hires was Roxana, our marketing and operation manager. Her role has always been very agile since the beginning and evolved according to the current needs of the company.

We’ve always been focused on creating an innovative work environment where our employees feel challenged to develop and learn new things in order to grow and improve. We also encourage an open company culture where employees have the chance to get involved in other branches of the business where appropriate.

4) Which nascent technology holds the most promise?

LK: AI is the most promising technology and has started to rapidly emerge in various sectors across the country during the past two years. According to the UK Government’s recent AI report, around 15% of all UK businesses, which translates to 432,000 companies, have adopted at least one AI technology in 2021.

The share prices of larger companies with AI solutions such as Intel have gone through the roof. There is also a promise of AI helping in different roles, not just data scientists, and we can now see companies across all sectors embracing AI including finance, legal, and retail.

5) How do you prevent burnout for yourself and your staff?

LK: We’re happy to see companies addressing the pertinent issue of burnout. The mental health and well-being of our employees is something we truly care about at TurinTech.

This is exemplified in our positive office culture, we often go to the gym together and host regular social activities such as go-karting and team dinners.

We also encourage staff to take regular breaks throughout the day if they are feeling overwhelmed. We have an open-minded work environment, welcoming the thoughts and feedback of our colleagues on how we can continuously improve in order to reduce the risk of burnout in the future.

Founder in Five – a UKTN Q&A series with the entrepreneurs behind the UK’s innovative startups, scaleups, unicorns and tech companies – is published every Friday.