Denham Sadler
February 6, 2017

What Wyatt Roy did next: Afiniti

Big Data

What Wyatt Roy did next: Afiniti

Wyatt Roy: Hopping on board artificial intelligence express

Wyatt Roy has landed his first full-time role following political defeat at last year’s federal election, with the former assistant minister for innovation to lead a billion-dollar artificial intelligence and big data company’s expansion to Australia.

Mr Roy is managing director for Australia role at Afiniti, a Washington-based tech company that uses AI and big data analytics to “transform the way humans interact”.

Following his defeat at last year’s election, Mr Roy quickly took on a non-executive director role at would-be ASX-listed fintech fund H2Ocean, but the public offering was canned due to a lack of institutional interest.

Mr Roy then took an extended holiday, travelling the world (including stops at the five Austrade Landing Pads he was so instrumental in setting up) and meeting with various entrepreneurs. It was during this trip that he met with Afiniti founder, chairman and CEO Zia Chishti, who also founded $US8 billion dental technology firm Align Technology.

“He’s the most remarkable and incredible entrepreneur I’ve ever met, and I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of them,” Mr Roy told InnovationAus.com.

“He has created an incredible company with amazingly disruptive technology with what I think is an unrivalled team of experienced people across the globe. It was difficult to not join after talking to him,” he said.

Mr Roy will be the managing director of Afiniti’s Australian operations, to be based in an office in Sydney, although the former politician will still live in Queensland.

Afiniti creates artificial intelligence-based programs that connect users with customer service agents using predicted behaviour, replacing traditional time-based routing. The process aims to increase revenue, reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction.

Afiniti clients include T Mobile, Virgin, Vodafone, Sky and Virgin and the company is said to be considering a $US2 billion IPO as early as this year.

Mr Roy is not the first former politician to join the company, with former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and former US Senator John E Sununu also serving on its board of directors.

The team behind Afiniti and its unusual approach is what attracted Mr Roy to the business.

“We have a very unique business model,” he said. “The way we operate is we turn Afiniti on usually for 80 per cent of the time and turn it off for 20 per cent of the time. We can measure the precise impact that Afiniti then has, and that allows us to deploy our primary business model.

“We only take a share of the economic benefit that is delivered for the client.”

Mr Roy narrowly lost his seat in the last federal election, due at least in part to a backlash against Malcolm Turnbull’s focus on innovation. But the young MP quickly had several new offers for employment.

“I was very fortunate to have a lot of incredible opportunities post the election – everything from investment banking and venture capital to other tech companies,” he said.

“[Afiniti] was unexpected, but the company is amazing, not only because of what they do but because of the team across the globe. It’d be hard to find a team that’s this experienced in any other company anywhere on the planet.”

He said he’d be bringing a lot of his political experience and connections to the new gig.

“As the former assistant innovation minister for Australia I had a remarkable connection to the innovation ecosystem and large enterprise across the country,” Mr Roy said.

“That gave me the ability to work with an incredible team in the public sector, leaning heavily on the private sector. I’m looking forward to transferring completely to the private sector.”

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