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Lean Start-up Management

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Active Intelligence Pte Ltd (Active.ai) is a Singapore based private organization in the fintech industry with their specialty in Artificial Intelligence. Their R&D division is located in Bangalore. This start-up turned company uses NLP (Natural Language Processing) and ML (Machine Learning) as a tool which permits the banks to interact and discuss with customers using messaging and voice. The company is yet to grow up in terms of the number of employees. The current number of employees working is around 51-100. The total funding which the company has received amount as of date is around $11.8M. Its CB rank (it is an algorithmic rank assigned to the top 1,00,000 most active companies) is 31,309. Active.ai has built an advanced and sophisticated AI platform which can be deployed for financial institutions, insurance companies and, capital markets. Triniti, their artificial intelligence engine, has been built to create meaningful, intuitive engagement for the end user across multiple apertures like messaging, voice and IOT devices. Using advanced conversational AI, we see an exciting opportunity to create a natural dialogue and more meaningful connections with people in their everyday micro-conversations. How is “INNOVATION” understood broadly by the start-up: > The main motive of the start-up is to engage their customers through micro-conversations with their banks.

In this manner, they wish to develop a smart, agile, robust and a flexible work environment. > Their main motto is openness, which helps them to serve their customers in a better way. Their full functioning is entirely transparent and is open to all kinds of feedbacks which help them improve their service. > They quote “Innovation is what drives us; it glues us and our customers”. They innovate by partnering clients and colleagues who have an equal stack in winning. “Ideas in isolation are not Innovation”. Thus they have broad discussions, brainstorming and ideations session which gives them a greater chance to pave their way towards success. > They are great listeners and all always open to face the challenges and opportunities in the business ecosystem. Their business is built on how well they listen to their customers’ needs and demands. > They are also “smart risk takers” as they call themselves. They are low on resources like capital money, people, workspace, time, etc. and they simplify their process model to optimize the use of resources to thrive for much longer than expected. > The visiting cards of their employees do not have the designation written on them so that they can interact with each other without feeling an inferiority complex and also without barriers of hierarchy. This enables the team to share ideas and solution fearlessly. > They have distributed their stocks with each and every team member of their organization. This distribution is not linked to the designation or previous experience. It is purely based on merit linked to the employees, team and company performance. > Working hours are flexible. The employees can work for any number of hours a day, with a minimum of 4 days in a week working.

Also, they do not have any vacation policies but they encourage their employees 15 days of leave to spend time with their families. This also helps in boosting the productivity of the company. There is no sick policy. The company wishes for a good health of its employees and wants them to recover stress-free. I would like to quote some of the company quoted text: a) We live in an era of 140 characters or less, let’s make each one count. (relating to twitter!!) b) Ideas in isolation are not Innovation.It is absolutely true that anyone who is creating a new product or business under conditions of extreme uncertainty is an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. So, anyone who is setting up a business or launching a new product which may turn into business at some point of time is an entrepreneur. Also, the uncertainty is in the terms risks, profits/profit margins, success, product launch, public attraction, etc. Even after knowing these uncertainties, those who dare to step up and pave their way towards success are the real and true examples and idols of the word “entrepreneur”. They define and convey the real meaning of the word. I also agree with the point that start-up is a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty. It really does not matter whether the size of your new start-up is extremely small, what matters the most is that the start-up is progressing towards the path of innovation and creating a new product which will help a sect of people.

The start-up that I have chosen is “Active.ai”. It was started as a small organization with just around 6-7 members at start. Even today, the employee population is around 70-100. But its main aim was to hear to the needs of its customers and colleagues and help them by providing solutions. They came up with an innovative idea to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) with the mobile applications to help the people by suggesting them with answers to their problems related to banking sector. The app could also be used in financial institutions, insurance companies and capital markets apart from banking sector. The main goal of the app is to receive the questions from the users, analyse the current trends in the domain related to the user’s questions and suggest them with a solution for the same. At first, the organization started with a true motive of helping others and now it has turned into a company with funding amounts received in millions. At start they did not have profit as a main ideology for their start-up, but then the odds favoured them. This particular start-up turned company can be categorized into a tertiary sector (providing services). It can be said that Active.ai is a service providing company. The initial service provided by the start-up for limited to the banking sector only, but now it has also covered the other financial institutions, insurance companies and capital markets. The start-up also gives its customers opportunity to show them the services that the company provide. For this, a form has been made by the company on their main website labelled as “Request a Demo” in which the users can provide their details and the company will contact them for the exact type of service demo they wish to witness.

According to me, a start-up can be defined as to how the today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses. The winning strategy in any start-up business is “Think Big but Start Small”. The CEO of Zappos says “Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you”. Ideas are easy but their implementation is hard. A start-up can only be successful if the people behind it are amongst those who want to change the face of the world. It is true that instead of making plans that are based on a lot of assumptions, if plans are made using constant adjustments, using Build-Measure-Learn loop as a process model behind it, a start-up can become successful. Lean start-up is definitely designed to teach a person how to steer a start-up once it is planned. The key to a successful start-up is the feedback of the customers about the product launched by it or the services provided by it. Based upon the feedbacks, the start-up can improve upon their shortcomings; improve the quality and decisions made by them and thus serve the customers in a much better way. If the customer is satisfied, it means the start-up is climbing its way towards success. Even after improving, if some feedbacks are still persistent, the start-ups should improve upon those and then satisfy the customers. If the customer base is happy and satisfied, the start-up can also turn into a great company.

A company which cares for its customers is the one with a large and supportive customer base. The customer base of such a company supports it from the start and is always with it even at bad times. The start-ups should use this build-measure-learn feedback loop to improve upon their drawbacks. Through this process of driving the start-up towards success, one can understand when and if it’s the correct time to make a sharp turn called a pivot, or whether one should continue on the same path without any deviation. Once this final decision is made, then Lean Start-up can offer methods to scale up and expand the business with maximum acceleration. Like there is North Star to guide the travellers, wanderers, there is also a destination in mind of the people behind the start-up. Keeping this destination in mind, the start-up can turn into a thriving and world-changing business, which is a Start-up vision. To achieve this, the start-ups employ a strategy which consists of a business model, a road map, a point of view about partners, colleagues and also competitors and the ideas about what and who will be included in the customer base. The feedback loop in a manufacturing industry is a continuous process. Every time the company or the start-up faces new customers, their new demands which they have to fulfil. In, this after certain stages, the customer gives feedback which is crucial for the company or the start-up as it helps them to produce a much more better quality product for the customers. So any start-up which is into the manufacturing business (secondary sector), has to apply the build-measure-learn feedback loop to grow towards success.

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