Apr 7, 2023

Product Leader Feature: Arnulf Graf

Artif Wonder is on a mission to improve mental wellness through their metacognitive tools. We spoke with CTO and Co-Founder Arnulf Graf to learn more.

Product Leader Feature: Arnulf Graf

Heather: Hello! Tell me about your role and your company.

Arnulf: Artif Wonder's mission is to build metacognitive tools to empower personalized mental wellness. We are building an AI-powered personalized self-care coach that helps users to be curious about their daily thoughts and problems. We tap onto the power of visual thinking and enhance, or personalize, it using computer vision. For this, we combine AI and elements of visual art to develop assisted self-care tools. AW is fusing neuroscience and psychology with AI in a product that adapts to the user. These tools require an open environment where rules can be rewritten. These tools are hence personalized, provide feedback to the user, and part of a gamification process that favors user engagement more than widespread traditional methods such as journaling. As the CTO and co-founder at AW, I am incorporating my knowledge of AI/ML that works in a feedback loop between the users and the product, akin to human-machine interfaces (see below).

Heather: How did you get into this industry?

Arnulf: While studying physics, I got fascinated by machine learning (ML) and neuroscience. I combined them in my PhD, and later in my academic career by creating a brain-machine interface. I always knew that the biggest impact of ML was to personalize products to the users' needs. By adopting an empirical result-driven approach, I have been leading teams that tackled clients' challenges by successfully launching ML products in various industries.

Heather: If you’re successful in your mission, how will the world look different?

Arnulf: We would like to see a world where everyone has access to mental health. We would like to help people in understanding that they need to develop preventative care and healthy habits that promote and maintain their mental health. This in turn will lead to longer and better lives. AW's mission is to enable users to reach that goal through personalized preventive mental health care that is accessible to everyone.

Heather: What core values drive your product development process?

Arnulf: First and foremost, I relentlessly focus on the customer. With all the R&D and engineering going on on a daily basis, it is all too easy to lose sight of the end-user. Are we addressing the user's needs (which may evolve!), expectations, use cases? Are we creating value to the user? Second, during product development I strictly follow a result driven approach, as opposed to a method driven approach that can lead to solutions that can be more complex than needed. What brings me to the last point; I adhere to Occam's razor (a nod to my ML background!) which results in a simple solution , even if not perfect. Then improve from there rapidly (if needed).

Heather:  What’s your greatest product achievement?

Arnulf: My greatest product achievement was the iterative process that led to four man-machine interfaces. First at Caltech, I created a brain-machine interface that could predict eye movements from the activity of populations of neurons using ML. Second, at Synaptics I pioneered the use of ML for tactile interfaces leading to new products and processes. Third, I created the ML architecture that allowed Kernel to commercialize its first non-invasive mind-reading device. Finally I delivered the hero features of the Happy ring that predicted mental stress load and sleep quality. My belief is that the next product in customers' hands is always going to be the greatest!

Heather: What advice do you have for aspiring founders?

Arnulf: Becoming a founder is a difficult step to take from many perspectives. You will know when the time is right. You will interact with many people and in many functions (wearing multiple hats). Never settle for less, but be humble. Start with the question your product is addressing, and constantly remind yourself of this problem (your starting point). And remember that patience was key in Caesar's decisive victory in the battle of Alesia!

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