Math, Not Magic
Mason Levy, CEO of Swivl, participated in the Techstars Atlanta program in 2020. Learn how Mason Levy’s Techstars-backed business brings AI to the masses.
Artificial intelligence (AI) can be intimidating to non-tech experts, conjuring images of robots and complex data.
Mason Levy, founder and CEO of Swivl, aims to demystify and humanize AI and machine learning to make them more accessible.
“You consistently see people talking about AI and not really knowing what it means,” he said. “It’s not just about collecting data. There are a lot of intricacies that are involved, and a lot of people think it’s magic. But it’s math.”
Swivl, which is based in Denver, CO, is Mason’s third AI-focused business. He’s passionate about being a bridge between complexity and simplicity.
“The timing is right,” he said. “Data scientists, computer scientists and engineers aren’t the only people who get to see the benefit of this. More people than ever can utilize the tech that is AI and machine learning.”
He compares it to the accessibility that SquareSpace has brought to the web design space.
“If I had a friend or family member who wanted to start a website, I would point them in that direction and in a few minutes, they can have a website. Even 10 years ago, you had to have more complex knowledge to build a web presence.”
“Act like it.”
Mason vividly remembers the self-doubt he experienced with his first entrepreneurial experience, a healthcare technology company based in Chicago.
“I was 23 years younger than my other cofounders,” he recalled. “I remember being in a meeting with Pfizer executives and walking out and feeling like I was in over my head. I looked over at my CEO and said ‘These people are a lot smarter than me. I don’t belong.’”
The CEO responded by advising Mason to simply act like he belonged. And ever since, Mason has used the phrase “Act Like It” as a mantra and a reminder that all successful entrepreneurs and change-makers have to start somewhere. He even has a sign hanging in his home office that says “Act Like a Superhero.”
This phrase served Mason well when he participated in the 2020 Techstars Atlanta program in partnership with Cox Enterprises. He’s been in the startup ecosystem for some time, so he was already prepared for a whirlwind of meetings, pitches and new ideas.
“I think the best way to describe any accelerator is drinking from a firehose,” he said. “You’re constantly meeting people, pitching your idea over and over and hopefully getting constructive feedback – and from there, you’re going through a lot of iterative cycles. You go through a rollercoaster in the course of an 8–10-hour day, but it’s a very positive experience.”
“Startups are a team sport.”
Mason’s favorite part of participating in Techstars Atlanta program was the mentorship it provided. He said that building a two-way relationship with his mentor – Elizabeth Coffey, Executive Director of Technology at Cox Communications – was foundational.
“One reason why Elizabeth and I have been able to build a relationship is because we both had something to give,” he said. “We were both very receptive to giving and receiving advice. One of Techstars’ mantras is ‘Give First,’ and that mentality was on both sides of the table. As an entrepreneur, your focus can be take, take, take; but mentorships are a two-way street and startups are a team sport.”
Mason also liked being able to make connections across the Cox family of businesses.
“Cox is so broad, encompassing so many industries, and everybody is trying to understand what the next billion-dollar idea is,” Mason said. “At the heart of it all is this common thread that everyone is looking for innovative processes and really wants to change things for the better for their customers – whether it’s Cox Communications making sure a customer can get service quicker, or Cox Automotive allowing car shoppers to shop for cars safely during COVID.”
What does Mason see on the horizon for Cox in terms of innovation?
“I think there’s so much that can be done when you have such a wide umbrella of innovation and people willing to try to make life better for others,” he said. “Nothing is impossible, if you think about it.”
Curious to read more stories about Cox’s innovation impact? Click here.