Starting fast in the age of AI

Beginning the wild journey into the startup world means suddenly wearing many hats – CEO, marketer, sales, finance and everything in between. However, assuming the role of data scientist is not as straightforward…so how do you bring your start-up to life when it relies on AI (artificial intelligence)?

This was one of the biggest challenges we faced when starting our company WhizLeads. Our start-up was founded on the idea of giving professionals greater insight into their customer’s personalities and moods by analysing their social-media posts, as well as content like blogs and emails.

Imagine knowing before a meeting if a client is showing signs of happiness, confidence, or anger and frustration? With most of our professional experience in client engagement, consulting and sales, we saw an opportunity to put this insight into the hands of professionals in a simple and mobile way, enabling them to tailor their approach and next conversation.

What we did know was AI could uncover sentiment and personality insights that previously may have been hard to read in client interactions. We wanted to create an app where professionals could apply that analysis to easily accessible text information such as a person’s external social media posts or content from an email or blog.

Bringing the idea to life

We were naïve at first and tried building our own AI system ourselves from scratch, interviewing potential recruits ranging from university students completing their PhDs to freelance software developers. Yet, we weren’t moving the dial.

We found ourselves at a crossroads – Do we recruit a large team of experienced data scientists who are expensive, and as a startup, we simply didn’t have budget for? Or do we access ready-to-use capabilities with a leading player in AI?

We kept hearing of companies using IBM Watson’s AI capabilities to transform their business models or fast start new business ideas, and we were intrigued. After a few experiments it quickly became apparent that Watson was the platform which would deliver the AI capability we needed.

From zero to go in less than four weeks

In developing the app we were able to access a range of experts through the IBM Global Entrepreneurs Program. Within a month we had Watson deployed and the number of users quickly started to rise, allowing them to generate powerful insights to help engage deeper with their clients and win new customers.

We have seen a huge amount of interest from professional services including lawyers and financial planners. In fact, today we celebrated reaching 580 subscribers, including 90 companies – among them a Forbes500 consulting company and a top tier Australian law firm.

In the knowledge economy data is everything. Companies who use it effectively to generate insights about their customers will be the winners. AI is a big part of this, and we’re proud to be a real example of how all organisations can benefit from AI regardless of their size.

As we continue to grow I encourage others in Australia’s rich start-up sector to consider three things when looking at AI:

  1. Why start from scratch when the open source API economy can enable you to tap into mature and robust technologies created by industry leaders.
  2. Always bring AI and machine learning back to how it enhances the customer experience (CX) – it should always start with the customer.
  3. Be active in a start-up network like IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program and make the most of the unique and diverse minds who can help take your idea to another level.

Sabil Chowdhury, Co-Founder, WhizLeads

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