Basking Ridge-Based Ascendion Uses AI to Elevate Work, Lives and Society, CEO Says

Karthik Krishnamurthy, CEO of Ascendion (Basking Ridge), is all in on AI. In fact, AI expertise is the “secret sauce” that differentiates his tech-services firm from the rest of the pack in New Jersey and globally, he told NJTechWeekly.com.

“Our company is fully embracing artificial intelligence in a way that helps lives get better as a result. We are not afraid of artificial intelligence. We embrace it as a superpower. It’s not often that the CEO of a company like this also has a 20-year data and AI background,” he said. He added that his company is looking for additional AI talent, as well.

Asked about AI ethics and inaccuracies, Krishnamurthy said, “I think AI is like a glass of wine. And, so with any new technology, we have to give it time. The most important thing is to be patient with artificial intelligence. It will make mistakes. But the solution for that would be not to give up on the technology. The alternative would be to actually teach the technology. For the first time, we have a piece of technology that’s willing to learn from us. Right? There is no other technology that I know personally that has that ability to learn from us.

“My point is you can create all of these pieces around it, so that it can learn from you. What does that mean? Build an ethics committee to ensure that you’re creating ethical algorithms, create algorithms to measure algorithms. But most importantly, the thing I tell people is, ‘Don’t give up on AI technology. Teach it because the next version of it will be even better.’”

Ascendion, which spun off from Collabera Holdings (Basking Ridge) in 2022, has about 1,000 employees in New Jersey and the surrounding area, with a total of about 6,000 employees working at more than 20 offices worldwide. Ascendion focuses on the financial services, healthcare, life sciences, and high-tech industries.

The company is very mission driven. According to the website, Ascendion engineers “impactful solutions to elevate our work, lives and society.”

Krishnamurthy mentioned that his company has implemented life-changing solutions for its clients. “Every piece of work that we do, we try and figure out how many lives we’re impacting.” In fact, Ascendion was founded largely because of a client interaction that occurred about 10 years ago, at another company.

 “We were doing some work with a healthcare provider, where they were trying to figure out how they can use technology to solve for the opioid crisis. We got the opportunity to work with them. And we built an artificial-intelligence solution for them. And by looking at how patients were buying drugs, when initially they got the medicines, we were able to create patterns where we could identify those patients that could potentially slip into drug-seeking behaviors.”

While that was a very small bit of work, Krishnamurthy estimates that 80,000 lives were saved through proactive intervention, and the company saved $16 million. “That’s when I knew that technology could actually impact lives in ways that you could not imagine. And that’s become the basis and the foundation for Ascendion.”

Of course, not all of Ascendion’s work can be so directly impactful. However, the company has recently helped a healthcare insurer who was having trouble getting people without health insurance to sign up and access healthcare. “We realized one of the issues that they were having was that the way that they underwrote the process of providing healthcare was outdated. So, we applied new technology, a combination of AI and the cloud, that completely modernized that platform.” Now, the client has nearly 15 million members, and is onboarding new ones every year, he said.

Asked about the company’s value proposition, Krishnamurthy explained that he believes Ascendion can help overcome its clients’ “crisis of trust and crisis of speed. Every client we meet wants to implement technology in some shape or fashion.  I firmly believe that the scariest thing for a company to do today is not embrace new technology. But they don’t know how to do it. They don’t know who to trust. And we go at that problem specifically, through a set of technologies that we have built in the services space, that gives clients complete transparency into how we work. We call it ‘radical transparency.’” He added, “We solve for the crisis of trust in a way that our competitors don’t.”

Regarding the crisis of speed, he said, “People have to get technology much faster than they did before. So for that, again, we have invested in our own tools to accelerate the development of technology for our clients. That’s where our value proposition is. We position around dealing with the crisis of trust and this crisis of speed.”

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