Diane Keng

Co-Founder of Breinify

Diane Keng is the CEO and co-founder of Breinify, the leading plug-and-play AI platform for predicting and acting on customers’ highly dynamic interests. Diane was previously at Apple and Symantec. She ran three successful businesses before she was 18 and is a noted software innovator who frequently speaks about the intersection of AI, personal data, privacy, and the future of smarter products. Diane has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, HuffPost, TechCrunch, OZY, and Inc. Magazine.

Where did the idea for Breinify come from?

I met Philipp Meisen, my business partner, at an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference publishing papers. We had the same understanding that everyone is an individual with time-sensitive preferences and interests.

Activating data to extract this dynamic context requires data science, but most people are not data scientists. However, enterprises still wanted to have predictive capabilities to achieve their business goals. Thus, Breinify’s turnkey predictive personalization at scale platform was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day usually begins at 6:30 a.m. I tend to wake up as the sun rises and avoid technology until I get a cup of hot tea made. I get myself out of bed and start being productive by 6:45 a.m.

From 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., I catch up on the news, urgent Breinify-oriented issues, and send out my “morning inspiration” in Slack (sometimes in our general channel, but most of the time to individuals who I’ll work with on projects that day).

8 a.m. to noon is crunch time, regardless of whether you’re on the East Coast, the West Coast, or in Europe. It’s our prime time. During this time, I’m prepping, advising, strategizing, and always hustling.

At noon, I take a short break to eat lunch. I keep it light, and I add a side of latte.

From 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., I meet with fellow Breiniacs, customers, and investors. This time includes one-on-one meetings, new ideas, deliverables, team building, another latte, and snacks.

Finally, I break for dinner 🤤 and a side of Netflix — hold the bingeing.

Nighttime 🦉 brings solitude, meditation, and uninterrupted time to build and put a little extra oomph in my work while getting ahead for the next day.

Sporadically sprinkled throughout the day are cuddles with my mighty pom pup, Thor.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I go with a five-step process:
1. Ideation: Figure out where any pain points might be.
2. Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Ask questions and play devil’s advocate. Force yourself to think about potential edge cases and where things could go wrong. You should mostly focus on how any changes might alter or support progress toward your North Star goals.
3. Prove It: Think about how you can create a quick test to get initial metrics.
4. Adapt and Iterate: Based on that quick test, look for ways to improve the process.
5. Scale: Once you’ve achieved a repeatable process, double and triple down on it.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Personally: Democratizing data science.
Generally: Taiwanese food becoming more popular.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Focus. Whether I’m working on a few concurrent deliverables or dedicating my time to one task, it’s important to keep track of time and stay in the zone. I’m a big believer in doing things right the first time, even if it takes slightly longer. It’s better to invest that initial time instead of redoing the same thing over and over and making the same mistakes.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Breathe more. And remember that life isn’t a sprint — it’s a marathon.

But to be totally honest, I wouldn’t change any of my mistakes or actions from before. They have made me who I am, and they helped me be more open to life lessons and new experiences.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

As a founder, it’s often perceived that I have tackled the same challenges over and over due to confidence. Most of the time I’m facing brand new challenges, but I have to ask the right questions and make the best decisions possible

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Grow a thick skin. Learn that neither rejection nor failure is the end of the world. Practice not dwelling on sad moments by envisioning the worst-case scenario. And then lift yourself up by focusing on what you’ve achieved.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Data-driven iteration. Build a hypothesis. Set your goals and expectations before testing so that you can have a clear understanding of success or failure.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure was thinking that everyone cares about features and product capability. At some point, you have to take a reality pill and accept that what you’re doing is not working.

Find a mentor to gain a new perspective. In our space, I quickly realized that our customers care about impactful results but lack the time and motivation to invest substantial resources.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A dishwasher that also sorts everything into cabinets and drawers. Imagine the time we’d save if our plates, bowls, and silverware went from being dried to being organized!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Food from a Taiwanese restaurant that tried delivery from Cupertino to San Fran once.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Email, Slack, and Zoom. These three keep me connected.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“What You Do Is Who You Are: How To Create Your Business Culture” by Ben Horowitz

What is your favorite quote?

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Key Learnings:

  • Find a mentor to gain a new perspective.
  • Learn that neither rejection nor failure is the end of the world.
  • Use data to help you set goals and expectations.
  • Read “What You Do Is Who You Are: How To Create Your Business Culture” by Ben Horowitz.
  • Do things right the first time, even if it might take a long time.