Element AI CEO Jean François Gagné: The COVID-19 Crisis Was a Digitization “Cold Shower”

This is part of our Dialogue on Digital Transformation series, in advance of the upcoming 2020 Network Readiness Index. Learn more about North America’s digital transformation landscape at our panel on Monday, 27th Oct (9-11am EST), a regional spotlight in cooperation with UNESCO and global thought leaders. Register here

Joining us from Canada, Jean-François Gagné is the CEO of Element AI, which he co-founded in 2016 with Yoshua Bengio, one of the three fathers of Deep Learning. Gagné has been in the field for nearly two decades, and was the youngest global C-Level Executive of a Top-20 Enterprise Software Company as the former Chief Product Officer and Chief Innovation Officer at JDA Software.


In his conversation with NRI Co-Author and Portulans President Bruno Lanvin, Gagné talks about digital transformation and artificial intelligence in the age of COVID-19. The COVID crisis has been a “cold shower” for several organizations that have realized the limits of tech solutions: “new world, new dynamics.” However, the crisis has been an “incredible accelerator” for re-learning and upskilling: “and once it’s there, it’s never going to go away.” Lanvin and Gagné both agreed that digital transformation requires a people-first approach. The most successful firms, according to Gagné, aren’t just “deploying big data infrastructure because it’s cool and trendy… They’ve got a purpose in mind, they’re digitally literate, and they’re essentially experimenting and learning how to use [digital] tools to drive positive outcomes in their organization.” Watch their full conversation here, and watch the highlights here.