Inside Ople – Michael Butler
Ople’s main goal is to ensure that companies invest in and get their return on AI, becoming a more efficient workplace as a result. Known simply as Butler in the office, Michael Butler has worked for big name companies such as Warner Brothers and Hewlett Packard and helps Ople reach businesses across all industries as Head of Customer Success. He joined the team after two years of experimenting with AI, bringing both well-rounded expertise and daily comic relief.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and lived there for a couple of years. We then moved to Panama, and eventually ended up in Connecticut. My dad was in banking, so he would open up offices around the world. After our short stint in Connecticut, we moved to Singapore and then back to Connecticut, where I finished middle school and high school.
I then went off to college in upstate New York at Hamilton ‑ a small liberal arts college - where I studied anthropology and biochemistry and played two varsity sports: soccer and lacrosse. I actually ended up doing my junior year in San Diego and then went back to upstate New York and took the MCATs because I thought I was going to be a doctor.
So how did you get into business and technology?
When I was recruited out by a top consulting firm in New York City, I got to see many different industries and many different kinds of companies. I even worked for Warner Music Group so I was in the music industry for a little while, which was really cool.
But along the way, I realized I was learning business on the fly because I didn't have a business background. So I went back to get my MBA and ended up in Nashville, Tennessee at Vanderbilt University, where I focused on supply chain because I love warehouses and building things. I eventually got an internship with Hewlett Packard, where I was tasked with building a supply chain to compete with Dell, which was a small startup in Austin, Texas at the time. After I got my MBA, I accepted a job at HP and they moved me from Tennessee to Palo Alto. I didn’t really target tech, but when I decided to leave New York City and the East Coast to go to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, it was just a natural progression.
What brought you to Ople?
I was always interested in computer science; my brother and I taught each other to code when we were in fourth grade. I was a TA in CS and took some classes as well. In addition, I've always been data-driven and made decisions based on facts, not on emotion. When I was running VMware’s e-commerce division, I had been experimenting with artificial intelligence for two years. I taught myself some machine learning and got really excited about the space and saw the possibilities - that's when I met Pedro at VB Summit 2018 and we really clicked. After a long initial conversation and a few meetings, I decided to join Ople.
The main reason was because I believe Ople will impact the business decision-making process. I want to build a product for anyone to have access to the algorithms that will make your business smarter. And it's not just for big business ‒ small businesses can absolutely use AI, and they should be. You need to be smarter than your competition ‒ not bigger, smarter. The product that I want to build is Ople. Ople should make you smarter.
What are some of your main responsibilities as Head of Customer Success?
It’s a few things: to enable the sales team to talk to the business leader and the business owner about how AI can help them again, to lend some legitimacy and some authenticity in that conversation. And then, after the sale is made, it’s to make sure our customers are delighted with the product. In summary, pre-sale, post-sale and then renewals because if they can't show a return on AI, they're not going to come back and repurchase.
Who or what motivates you?
Anyone who falls under the category of being selfless. I think putting others first is just a great way of living. Albert Einstein has always been a hero of mine in that he viewed the world through a lens that very few people will ever be able to get to see. But he was also a very gentle, kind, and thoughtful person, which I think is pretty rare. Rosa Parks ‒ she’s the woman who got on a bus when everyone's response was, ‘this is wrong.’ She was very brave and changed the world.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Speaking with customers, working with customers - it's working. It's learning about other people's businesses, and what their challenges are. Because then, I'm learning right? And hopefully making them smarter. That would be the goal.
What do you like to do for fun?
I play co-ed soccer every Thursday night. We've got a team we've had ten years running. I do stupid things like going heli-skiing once a year. We use helicopters to get us to remote locations to go find really amazing ski runs to snowboard and ski. My family has a boat and I wake surf and we go boat camping. Anything outdoors and active.
Favorite TV show or movie?
For movies, The Princess Bride and The Blues Brothers. I like Parks and Recreation for TV.
Really good New York pizza.
“If you haven’t got it, you don’t need it." -National Outdoor Leadership School
“Luck looks a lot like hard work.” -Famous Investor