Q&A With Danielle Deibler, Co-Founder And CEO At Marvelous.Ai
March 09, 2020 / MEDIA 7
Danielle Deibler, Co-Founder and CEO at Marvelous.ai has over 25 years in the Internet infrastructure, security, networking, interactive technology, machine learning and AI technologies. Her primary area of focus in the last 20 years has been building scalable real time interactive platforms. Deibler has held senior leadership positions in software development, engineering, business development and product management for KIXEYE, Adobe, DIGEX, and UltraDNS.
MEDIA 7: Could you start by telling us about your journey so far? How did the idea of Marvelous.ai come about?
DANIELLE DIEBLER: My journey in tech has spanned many industries. I started in the early ’90s at one of the first ISPs in the United States. That job was foundational for my leadership style. It was such a hodge-podge of smart and qualified people. And it was just people, the industry was so new that gender, race, religion, sexual orientation never were issues. It inspired me to want to build that type of an environment in future workplaces. I’ve worked in infrastructure, telecom, software engineering, video games, the financial services compliance space and probably a few other things I am forgetting right now.
Marvelous came about after the 2016 United States presidential election. Me and my co-founders Olya Gurevich and Christopher Walker really wanted to work on something that utilized our skills and had more of a social mission. We looked at the misinformation landscape and really saw a need for something that could provide real-time information instead of look-back studies around the misinformation space. We wanted to be able to provide transparency regarding the extent to which open societies are vulnerable to cognitive terrorism, in the form of disinformation, spin, polarization, and decreasing trust in public institutions.
M7: Having spent several years in the tech world, how has been your experience as a woman?
DD: I had a great first job in tech. A wonderful, inclusive, and sometimes crazy team of people that helped reinforce the confidence that my young single mother instilled in me. That great experience reinforced my love for technology and gave me the confidence to believe I could pretty much do anything. I’ve always been pretty extroverted, and I started my career on the Internet networking side of things. I saw my love of human connection in the inner workings of Internet tech. That foundational experience gave me the ability to adapt to a huge range of industries from networking to software development to games/content to what I am doing now with natural language processing and narrative detection in online media. Having said that my experiences have been varied and many of the more negative ones have been because of my socially assigned gender role. I’ve been sexually assaulted at work functions. As a CEO I’ve had a difficult time raising cash for some of the start-ups I have led. Sadly, I have probably had a lot of the same experience that other women have had, you get talked over in meetings, you need a man to buoy your recommendation for it to pass, you get one chance to screw up and a man in the same position gets three chances.
"Computational power and human analysts from a variety of disciplines must collaborate to understand and adapt to the information warfare landscape."
M7: What is the most challenging part of being a woman in a male-dominated field like technology? What advice would you have for women?
DD: I’ve been in tech for over 25 years. The challenges that women face in this field have evolved in that time. When I started, I think sexism was more overt and recognizable. There was a clear glass ceiling. You might make Director if you worked your ass off, but you were never getting VP or C-suite roles. The men, typically white men, that filled these roles were invited to events that you as a woman of any color would never attend, strip clubs, cigar bars, golf outings. The last 10 years things have changed even faster. We’ve gone from women being shut out, to women trying to be one of the boys to what I consider passive everyday sexism to the #MeToo movement. It’s incredible to see. I think the thing today that is so much worse is that it is sometimes difficult to see the signs. The great thing is that we are calling it out and talking about it. We’ll never fix it without a global conversation. My advice to women is #Persist, surround yourself with allies not cronies, don’t compromise your ambitions, and above all believe in yourself.
M7: How would you describe your leadership style? How do you delegate responsibilities efficiently?
DD: Trust first, over-communicate, and give ownership are the foundations of my leadership style. You need to make a connection with people to be an effective leader. That means being honest and putting yourself out there. It also means owning your mistakes and holding others accountable for theirs. People need to trust you and you need to trust them to make a new company work.
Communication is not a one-way street. Your employees shouldn’t be just reporting into you, you should be reporting into them. I’ve had a lot more things go south because “management” neglects to tell people what is really going on. First and foremost, as a leader you are building a team not a cult. Ownership was the one that has taken me the longest; as a manager it is sometimes hard to let go of the details and fully let people own their area but the results are fantastic if you do. This one is how you build the next generation of leaders. When people really own the outcomes, they are more passionate, more transparent and much more likely to reach out for help when they need it.
"You need to understand the full landscape of how your company is perceived and how misinformation in your space or even one you perceive to be unrelated can impact your business to be prepared for the information security landscape of the future."
M7: Marvelous.ai has been working on content, though mainly in the context of the spread of misinformation, but with your experience, what are the most trending strategies of "making content go viral"?
DD: Emotion. Many things contribute to virality, but number one is emotion. It’s not a single emotional note for a piece of content; it’s the ability to appeal to specific groups of people to whom the message targets. Several marketing automation innovations contribute to virality. Overall though, the ability to focus your message or make your story personal in some way is the number one thing that I think makes a message or messages more likely to go viral. If you can weave that message into support an underlying narrative, it’s even more likely to be amplified. At the heart of the problem is that that viral message does not necessarily need to be true.
"Several marketing automation innovations contribute to virality. The ability to focus your message in some way is the number one thing that makes a message more likely to go viral."
M7: How are natural language processing and deep learning being used in the process of tackling the spread of misinformation and fake news?
DD: There is a whole ecosystem being built around trying to tackle this problem and we are right there building out the foundational technology. I think the first iteration of innovation in this space failed to understand the changes in language over time and the “business” of dis/misinformation. They failed to decipher the coded messages and subtexts that support pervasive narratives over time. I believe this is a solvable problem but like the threat intelligence and cybersecurity spaces you need an industry built to solve it. The nature of the cognitive threat is that it will not be solved by algorithms alone. There is no "silver-bullet" algorithm. Computational power and human analysts from a variety of disciplines must collaborate to understand and adapt to the information warfare landscape.
M7: What areas of work would you be willing to collaborate on if a brand wanted to work with you?
DD: We are open to collaboration on projects around election security (in any language), political campaigns, social issues and brand narratives. We believe it’s only a matter of time before the type of overall narrative detection we are doing is a mainstay for all companies. You need to understand the full landscape of how your company is perceived and how misinformation in your space or even one you perceive to be unrelated can impact your business to be prepared for the information security landscape of the future.
The erosion of fact-based discourse over the last few years has exposed the extent to which open societies are vulnerable to cognitive terrorism, in the form of disinformation, spin, polarization, and decreasing trust in public institutions. Cognitive malware is analogous to cyber malware in that it is highly distributed, originates from a variety of state and private actors, and seeks to disorient its targets; combating it will require a similar level of collaboration among state, industry, and private actors.
MarvelousAI is building StoryArc, a first of its kind cognitive security platform. StoryArc will detect and combat cognitive hacking and weaponized information in online media. Similar to the detection and prevention of traditional malware and viruses in classical cyber-attacks, StoryArc will discover, classify, and model cognitive malware, leading to developing effective countermeasures and prevention techniques.