Cohere’s Ivan Zhang on the real-world benefits of AI

Toronto-based Ivan Zhang is a co-founder at Cohere, a leading enterprise AI company. Cohere builds enterprise-grade frontier AI technology with the highest levels of security and privacy to solve real-world business challenges. We sat down with Zhang to tell us more.

What is one thing you wish people understood about your industry? 

People hear about many abstract and seemingly futuristic concepts, but I wish they understood the practical, real-world benefits AI can already deliver for their companies. Businesses in any sector can leverage Cohere’s frontier AI models to boost productivity and efficiency in workflows across a range of business functions like HR, customer support, finance, sales, and marketing by automating complex tasks. This technology is designed to support employees to do their best work. 

For example, Cohere’s technology powers over 50 AI use cases in Oracle’s Fusion Applications like helping marketers by providing subject line recommendations, email and landing page copy, and design recommendations. There are dozens of similar examples with customers currently using AI to gain a competitive edge that I’m not sure people fully understand yet. 

Why not build consumer-driven AI tools, like ChatGPT? 

Cohere’s core focus from the beginning has been on demonstrating the transformative impact AI can have on businesses. Rarely do companies successfully service both consumer and enterprise markets, so we believe this focus will help us both build a sustainable business and deliver the best value to our customers. We aim to support organizations of all sizes from the largest enterprises like Oracle to rapidly scaling startups like home-grown Borderless AI

Additionally, from a business perspective, consumer chatbots are enormous cost centers. Even with subscription models, the amount of money spent on consumer chatbot inference can be crippling to a company. We want to spend our capital elsewhere.

Your social media bios read “Scaling intelligence to serve humanity.” How does your work at Cohere deliver on that mission? 

At Cohere, we’re creating the essential platform for secure enterprise AI that businesses can trust. We’re focused on building AI models that are scalable, efficient, and can tackle increasingly complex tasks. This includes investing in business-critical capabilities like multilingual language coverage to support global operations across regions and cultures. This will have a really important societal impact making cutting-edge technology widely available to businesses to help humans do their best work.

What is taking up most of your attention these days? 

I am focused on supporting our highly talented team of engineers to train and deliver the best AI technology for our customers. We work to build frontier AI models and ship best-in-class products like our newest family of large language models (LLMs) Command R and Command R+. I spend most of the time working on the increasingly important data which ensures our AI models excel at capabilities business care most about.

Is there a podcast you listen to that you’d recommend?

I highly recommend the Dwarkesh Podcast for engaging and thoughtful technical discussions on AI with leading figures in our industry. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.