Defeating Deepfakes: Maurice Harary of The Bid Lab How We Can Identify Convincingly Real Fake Video, Pictures, and Writing, And How We Can Push Back
An interview with Yitzi Weiner
Support from Family and Friends: It’s impossible to be successful without support. Know who is in your corner and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need help. Whether it’s business advice or just a kind ear after a long day, you need to feel supported to have the energy to keep pushing and create your business.
Most of us are very impressed with the results produced by generative AI like ChatGPT, DALL-E and Midjourney. Their results are indeed very impressive. But all of us will be struggling with a huge problem in the near future. With the ability for AI to create convincingly real images, video, and text, how will we know what is real and what is fake, what is reality and what is not reality? See this NYT article for a recent example. This is not just a problem for the future; it is already a struggle today. Media organizations are struggling with a problem of fake people, people with AI-generated faces and AI-generated text, applying to do interviews. This problem will only get worse as AI gets more advanced. In this interview series, called “Defeating Deepfakes: How We Can Identify Convincingly Real Fake Video, Pictures, and Writing, And How We Can Push Back,” we are talking to thought leaders, business leaders, journalists, editors, and media publishers about how to identify fake text, fake images and fake video, and what all of us can do to push back against disinformation spread by deepfakes. As a part of this series we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Maurice Harary.
Maurice Harary is the co-founder and CEO of The Bid Lab, a consulting company dedicated to helping small and medium-sized businesses find, manage and build their RFPs and proposals. His experience building a company that started with just $1,500 into a company that has grown tremendously is a great way to help with stories and pitches outside of just procurement and the RFP process. Furthermore, he has helped countless small and medium-sized businesses win their first multi-million-dollar deals, and helping smaller businesses drives The Bid Lab’s mission!
Thank you so much for joining us. Before we dive in, our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you share with us the “backstory” about how you got started in your career?
When I was in college it was my goal to work for a large tech company. I had my heart set on working for a specific firm, but the only opening they had was on the ‘RFP’ team. Even though I had no idea what that was, I went for it. (I was on spring break in Chile at the time, so of course, I accepted!) Once I started actually responding to RFPs, I found that it was work that was both challenging and rewarding, and I worked my way up to be a top performer on my team. Eventually, with a little encouragement from my Co-Founder and wife, Jordan, I took the leap and went out on my own starting The Bid Lab.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Hands down the most difficult time we faced when starting The Bid Lab was when my oldest daughter was born extremely premature just as our business was exploding with new clients and revenue. The fear and the stress surrounding all of that is just impossible to describe. Fortunately, I was smart enough to choose a wonderful partner in life and start a business with her. My wife and I really leaned on each other to succeed as both parents and business founders. I am proud to say that both my daughter and The Bid Lab are healthy and thriving today!
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I made some foolish assumptions about who my first clients would be. I learned that it’s not about the size of a client, but about how much you can assist a business. One of our best clients came to us with just over $100,000 in revenue, and we have grown together to be multi-million-dollar businesses!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We recently launched our new RFP search engine, Bid Banana. We wanted to make searching for RFPs both easy and accessible, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. I am beyond proud of what we have been able to accomplish. We’ve created a search engine that pulls RFPs from all over and puts them into a user-friendly interface. You can search by RFP due date, keywords, location, etc. We even added a favorites feature so you can save multiple bids and compare them to see which one is the right option for your business. Allowing small and medium-sized businesses access to RFPs in an easy to comprehend format really emphasizes what we are most passionate about — helping businesses grow to achieve their full potential.
For the benefit of our readers, can you share why you are an authority about the topic of Deepfakes?
I think in this day and age, we’re all authorities on the topic of Deepfakes. The modern world is full of information, which is wonderful, but with that access to information comes a greater personal responsibility to make sure we are accurately understanding and processing what we consume. As the old adage goes — don’t believe everything you read and now it’s don’t believe everything you see and/or hear.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main parts of our interview. Let’s start with a basic set of definitions so that we are all on the same page. Can you help define what a “Deepfake” is? How is it different than a parody or satire?
Deepfakes use AI with the intent to create fake images that can be mistaken for real ones. A parody or satire is often very obvious (that’s part of what makes it funny). A Deepfake has no intention of doing anything but be deceptive.
Can you help articulate to our readers why Deepfakes should be a serious concern right now, and why we should take measures to identify them?
Misinformation is always a concern. With Deepfakes, they have become so realistic it is easy to be fooled. We have to be aware of the information we consume and always check the source. If you base any decision or impression on misinformation it can have serious consequences.
Why would a person go to such lengths to create a deepfake? How exactly can malicious actors benefit from making them?
Often people who go to great lengths to create misinformation benefit from that misinformation in some way. It’s like the old idea of a snake oil salesman, in some way they benefit from getting people to believe something that isn’t true.
Can you please share with our readers a few ways to identify fake images?
Look for unnatural colors or shapes. Think of when someone photoshops an image to look thinner and suddenly they are out of proportion.
Similarly, can you please share with our readers a few ways to identify fake audio?
Listen for unusual pronunciation or background noise and pay attention to words and lip movements not syncing.
Next, can you please share with our readers a few ways to identify fake text?
This is increasingly difficult with advances like Chat GPT, double-checking information and verifying it from different sources is your best bet. Also, pay close attention to any wording that seems “off” or unnatural.
Finally, can you please share with our readers a few ways to identify fake video?
You’re going to want to pay attention to the color hues in the video — does it seem off in any way? Anything that seems unusual about the audio can also be a clue. If there is a person in the video, pay attention to any unnatural facial expressions and if their features stay in line as they move. Also, look for body posture or movement that seems more robotic.
How can the public neutralize the threat posed by deepfakes? Is there anything we can do to push back?
The best defense against misinformation has always been and will always be knowledge. It is our responsibility to fact-check and stay informed. Look for information from a wide variety of different sources and continue to educate yourself about how people are manipulating information. Always question the source. And don’t forget that people are using AI to improve performance and create art. It’s easy to get scared about all the advances in technology but it’s important not to forget the wonderful things that can come out of it as well.
This is the signature question we ask in most of our interviews. Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Addressing Loneliness: Starting a company is very lonely in the beginning, even if you are constantly pitching potential clients and working with vendors. You lose out on that built-in cohort of people in a traditional work environment that you see day-to-day and makes the work easier. Working alone means you are constantly needing to seek out socialization, which can be challenging especially when you’re working day and night to get your business off the ground. I recommend taking time to network with old college friends or co-workers; you never know when one of them will bring you that great idea, essential connection, or funding source. More importantly, though, there needs to be a time for you to socialize without discussing work. Just like you schedule a meeting, schedule time to grab dinner with your best friend or have a date night with your spouse. This should happen regularly, not once in a while, and will make a world of difference in your mental health. Starting a business allows you to manage your own schedule, so use it accordingly to make plans that work for you!
2. Daunting To-Do List: When you look at successful entrepreneurs, you may see splashy headlines with huge accomplishments under their belts and wonder how you too can make big wins happen quickly. That is a very common mistake and often leads to failing quickly. There is no easy path to success no matter what you see in the news. Instead, refocus your energy on executing a long-term plan by working on your first to-do list. Then, once you complete that to-do list, the next set of tasks will present themselves to you. Make another to-do list and execute that. Keep focusing on the to-do list at hand, instead of the accomplishments. The accomplishments will come once you actually complete enough tasks! It’s so easy to finish thousands of tasks when you break them up into to-do lists that are a few tasks long. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish by doing this every day, week, month, and year. By the end of the year, you will look back at where you started and be shocked by what you accomplished…just like the next generation of entrepreneurs who will see your accomplishment and wonder how you got there!
3. Support from Family and Friends: It’s impossible to be successful without support. Know who is in your corner and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need help. Whether it’s business advice or just a kind ear after a long day, you need to feel supported to have the energy to keep pushing and create your business.
4. Excellent First Hires: Really focus on those first hires you make; ensure they are the right people and you give them a solid foundation. If those first hires get off to the right start, then what’s built under them down the line will scale considerably easier due to the culture and processes built out initially. If you put effort into finding solid employees and bringing them into your company culture, the return on investment will pay off.
5. Founding Clients: We can often get obsessed with finding a large number of clients right off the bat. But in this case, it’s not so much about having a ton of clients as it is about having quality clients. Focus on your client relationships, really understand their needs, and deliver. Making connections with quality clients will generate referrals to grow your business and often they will provide case studies or testimonials you can utilize to draw in more business.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Remote work is professional work. I, too, used to go into a 52-story skyscraper in New York City in a full suit every day. But, when I founded The Bid Lab, I remembered that the people I worked most closely with on my previous team worked out of the UK and India. Why couldn’t I work closely with people who weren’t located geographically nearby to me? The Bid Lab is, and always has been, a remote company. While there are myriad reasons why remote work is worth championing (environmental impact, productivity, work/life balance, etc.) one of the reasons why I think it works best for The Bid Lab is because it allows us to hire from a unique pool of individuals. I’m looking at you, an amazing writer, living 3 hours outside of Albuquerque who needs to be available to her elderly mother in the afternoons. And I’m also looking at you, a sales superstar who wants to homeschool her kids, but can also sell ice to an Eskimo. I’m proud of the fact that The Bid Lab is made up of a team of individuals who have individual needs but also a common ability to log into work wherever they may be.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check out all that we’re doing at The Bid Lab or Bid Banana. From articles in our Learning Center to our extensive list of Case Studies you can find information to grow your business or inspiration on how we’ve helped others grow theirs. You can also check us out on:
Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We greatly appreciate it and wish you continued success!