AskBrian is the Digital Assistant All Busy Professionals Need

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

"If you can order a pizza with an AI bot, … you should also be able to order the analysis of a company with an AI bot."Pavol Sikula, Founder and CEO AskBrian.ai

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"The first skill was actually “AskBrian, tell me a joke”"Pavol Sikula, Founder and CEO AskBrian.ai

Our Cooperation with the German AI Association (KI Bundesverband) 

This is the first interview in our series with the KI Bundesverband (https://ki-verband.de/en/), Germany’s association for artificial intelligence. The association has 350 members consisting of startups, experts, and corporates. KI Bundesverband is therefore one of Germany’s largest associations dedicated to AI, with members from AgTech, Fintech, BioTech, Cybersecurity, Manufacturing, Logistics, and many more fields of business. In the interview series, we will have members of the association giving you a glimpse in what is going on in AI in Germany.

The Founder 

Our interview guest this week is Pavol (https://www.linkedin.com/in/pavol-sikula/), CEO and Founder of AskBrian (https://www.askbrian.ai/) a virtual AI assistant for professionals. The idea of AskBrian stems from Pavol’s background in management consulting, where he spent more than a decade with Roland Berger and Stern Steward & Co, in restructuring. In his spare time, Pavol is also a kid’s soccer coach.

"All of our data is securely hosted, GDPR compliant, in Germany."Pavol Sikula, Founder and CEO AskBrian.ai

The Startup 

AskBrian is the AI assistant for busy professionals like management consultants or investment bankers. It helps by automating everyday tasks like listed and private company profiles, translations in multiple languages, making PowerPoint more attractive, and converting documents e.g. PDFs and Pictures to the format of your choice e.g. Word.

Venture Capital Funding 

AskBrian closed already two funding rounds, for undisclosed amounts. They intend to raise another funding round in Q1 2022.

Original Post 

Find all links and show notes on the original post here: https://www.startuprad.io/blog/askbrian-is-the-digital-assistant-all-busy-professionals-need/

Welcome to start up brand that I own, your podcast and Youtube blog covering the German startup scene with News, interviews and live events alone. Welcome everybody. This is Joe from stead operator. I oh your start up podcast and you to block from Germany. Welcome to two thousand and twenty two. Happy New Year, guys, and it sounds a little bit strange since we are recalling this in November, two thousand and twenty one, but nonetheless I do have a guest here. But before that, I wish you all the best for the New Year. It can only get better than the last one. That's that, pall, how you did. Hey Do. Thank you for having me, first of all, and happy New Year to all of you. I'm very good to have all you as well. I'm doing great. Thank you. We have to tell the audience this is kind of our kickoff, since we're doing a new series with Kai Bundesfar band, which literally means the German Ai Association, and you are our fruit Indivi guests, and we thought it would be good start to kick off the New Year with that content. So I'd like to welcome you and welcome the a Kai Bundesfelt band, the German Ai Association on board. After we've cleared that out of the way. I've been looking through your linkedin profile, as I always do, and I realize you've been doing quite a lot, including being a sucker coach, which I found pretty interesting. You studied with a master in international finance. I do believe you arrived here in Germany and I seen pretty hard stuff. You did tax has oh, tax advisory and auditing. Not a fun job. But take us a little bit to you journey and what do you learned in how did you end up with an AI start up? Because I do believe from international finance and taxes it's quite long stretch to Ah, let's soon, a I start up. How did this happen? It's rather journey and I, for the understand the question and I'm happy to tell you about my basic story, but it's probably easier explain that it maybe sounds so my the crucial path in my career was that I've been for fifteen years in top management. Comes out and a round againstance. You had both in Munich, both focusing on the restructuring and cost optimization programs, and this is also where my journey with Brian started. So I've seen in the life of management consultants and also in corporate headquarters of large and medium corporations, that there is so much time and talent wasted with recurring, noncred tasks nobody really likes to do.

And there are usually technologies and data sources out there being able to help you with this tasks, but the people often don't know the solutions, cannot afford them or just don't trust them because of data security issues. And this is this was the triggering point for me starting to automate multiple tasks of business professionals in a creative and completely new way. So this is this is basically the story. I can elaborate about my Aha moment a little bit more. For everybody who doesn't know German, we may translate the Aha moment meaning that is the moment he got the inside, like, oh now I got it interom we say Aha. So exactly, and this, the inside moment, was when I've been working with my colleagues on a proposal for a consulting project and we've been working on the on the document, and we had just only a few hours left, it was already at night and we needed a case study for the attachment of the of the proposal, and then that it came, but it was perfect, but in the wrong language. And the question was, who has the passion and time to translate few slides at night for a proposal which needs to go out in next next day. Means translating in from German to English. And of course you could spend hours with it or you could do copy based copy paste to a machine translation web page. And then I thought, come on, this is such a stupid task to do. Copy Paste, copypage to website plus is ants and secure. Why don't you buy and why I don't do build an assistant which knows the best digital services, combines them and make them available to his users? And the idea was to create this kind of digital assistem for business related tasks of business professionals. This was the idea. And then I started experimenting with different, different technologies, and the idea was really to use the BOT technology as the core technology behind where I thought, if you can ask both to deliver you a pizza of it Salami and and mushrooms, you can also order translation of a document, conversion of a document or the analysis of a company. And this was the idea where I started to build a just just would question in which language was the case study. The case study was original and German, and target language was in English, if I reco remember right, and this was already end of two thousand and seventeens of sometimes left that you do this translations all the time. Yeah, and St I can tell you a few stories about this and a few nights wasted on that, especially if you talk to somebody the next morning who then says, Oh, yeah, I got the whole pitcheck in Germany he would meet. Yeah, yeah, exactly. You have...

...the situational the time, also when the project runs, and then you need to talk of it. So let me translate this. At one point in the future there will be a smart speaker with asked Brian on it and it will be in every office of professionals, investment banker is, consultants, and they say ask Prian translate me. This is this your vision? So it's not my vision, it's reality and just the only one difference is that that Brian doesn't work like Alexa and Seri, via audio, so he works in written language. So you can write him an email or Microsoft themes message and asking him for translating the document on analyzing a company, and it's not in the future, it is right now. So these are the two differences. But my idea and my vision is that Brian in the future will not be only able to perform twenty tasks like he's the day, but there will be probably much, much more, including some some customized solutions for big corporates. I see, and it would have been just great to have this smart speaker. But then I can see really a lot of things going on, a stupid jokes going wrong in the office. For example, ask Brian Deliver one hundred coffees to this address. Yeah, of course, this is also a use case we can think of. So you're still thinking about the smart speaker. Okay, I see it. I'm with yeah, the problem, you know, Jovian smart, because you can say, translate the presentation from English to German, but the still somehow need to deliver the presentation. The basis for it right for some use cases and makes no sense. But you could of course ask the smart speaker, if it doesn't disturb your colleagues. Hey, send me the analysis of Semens, and Brian knows your email and your MS teams, Id and sends you the presentation with doubt you typing it down. Yeah, of course, some use cases would work also on the audio. Ha Ha uh Huh. I already have a lot of stupid ideas there. But basically you're doing this for professionals who are repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly doing the same stuff out as we've been talking, for example, here in Germany, translating German English, English German, maybe in other countries translating French, English, English French. I don't think there's a big need for German presentation in front and stuff like this. Company profiles, and that's ask Brian. Actually make up the stuff as it us, or do you really have like a big database off let's say copper profiles of translation, or you working with some other translation software the back? So, regarding the translations, maybe to undress this, our clients are also international corporations which needs stuff translated in...

...all the languages of the subsidiary. So this is also common use case where HR and marketing departments translate training documents and product documentations in other languages. When it comes to the company analysis, we really started like scraping the data out of the Internet, but the quality was dead bad. That we said we just even though we invested months of development time into it. We said we just cannot give or make this skill available in these quality to our users. So we negotiated the big with big data provide us and found an agreement with the REFUNITE, if it thompson writers, where Brian gets the information on all publicly traded companies around the world, and we have also data provider for German companies, for four million the German companies, and negotiating with other partners to complete the scope that one day Brian will be able to deliver the data on all approximately four hundred million companies around the world. I see that that would be actually great. What else can ask Ryan do, because I do see a pretty big use case for late at night, let's say, assume it's a smart spigger again and you're sitting there at two am. All the team is tired but still needs to work a little bit. And did somebody says ask pride, tell us a joke. So in fact jokes was the first skilled given me, as non tech person, was able to build. So the first interaction of Brian was tell me joke, and he told you a joke. So as of now it's not one of the skills we promote, but you can always ask Brian for a joke. And so, if you look how our customers are currently using Brian, it's leading skill is translation. Second one is the company analysis. Third One are slide graphics, because sometimes you need cool templates and icons to pinp up your presentation to make it the more attractive. And you would you probably know yourself how much time you sometimes lose with this kind of annoying stuff. Then nobody notices and realizes when it's done, done properly. And number four skill would be converting of documents. That means converting PDF documents, no matter if natively created or scant or photographed, into editable formats, into excel, world and power point. You just send a PDF document to Brian, say hey, make me work out of it, and in three minutes you get your document back. So I believe a cool, cool feature, as also incorporates in the office. Worse, sometimes the departments and you pdf documents instead of editable one, so you cannot use it and Brian can he help you to convert it within three minutes or faster, into a format you can work with. Huh, but only information.

I was missing here. At what number is to tell me a joke? At what number? So each number coll to call or are you don't know? And number four, number one reson. It's not that frequent. We don't push it and but sometimes people ask for it. That it would be number twenty. So it looks like the job is fun enough or the people are too busy for jokes. I assume they're too busy, but still, let's assume it's in the top twenty. Yeah, that's death only. That's definitely the case. Okay, that is what you guys are right now doing. So basically, I assume your company headquartered in Germany and everything the AI does is also here on service in Germany. Talked about data security, especially if you're in a really competitive environment like consulting. You're always concerned. Where is my data and can competitive potentially a Ya see, get out. Yeah, so usually the first question when we present Brian is does it really work? And the cool thing is everyone can try it immediately. If you go to our website, you can tried immediately and you can see directly after you're registered for the free child that it's works without any download or something. So and really the second question we are always asked is what about that? The Security and privacy. So all our infrastructure is is hosted in Germany and we have also an external GDPR agency making sure that we are GDP, are compliant and it's all secure and confident. What we do? One of the aspects is also that if our users share their files and content with us, we just saved it for the time of processing the task and then delete it after that. Yeah, so that means we have very rigorous processes in this field because, as you said, also our clients process sensitive information with Brian and we make it absolute secure possible. I see my next question would have been, then, if somebody moves from company A to company B, how much can they actually transfer of their account? So what we usually have is that you can buy Brian as an individual. Then it's related to your email address, your private email address or your work email address, and then it stays always with you. And the second business model we have is that we say Brian Answer all the questions from good's partners come or all the questions from bcgcom. Yeah, and then Brian answers all the emails coming from new employees, as long as they have the email account. And if you want to take your account with you, then just let us know and we are happy to win a new customer. I CCCC. So that is the status right...

...now. Basically, you have a handful of skills and they tailor towards busy professionals and the you do it mostly in written form. And what what are you currently working on right now? Is it increasing the skills to get deeper into your audience, your charget customer, or is it to broad new customer base with what you already have? So, in fact, we are extending Brian basically in three three direction. It's the skill set. So we are continuing to add new skills. Right so not just improving the existing skills, like adding additional countries in the scope of company Information Brian provides, but it's also adding new skills which will be valued by our current target groups, but also others. For example, transcribing aud your recordings into text in our automated way where you just senter your iphone recording to Brian say a make me word out of it. So this will our tie current target group like but also some other target group. So also adding new skills, me extending our target groups. And then also in terms of regions, as of now we very much focus on Germany, Austria, Switzerland, you could say. But Brian is ready for a global rolled out because he can translate, for example, to one hundred languages. Yeah, so he's basically ready to go out. And and then we are extending Brian's also in a sense that as of now you can communicate with briand via email teams, and we are working also then, on slack as the next communication channel, because we want to have Brian where work related communication happens and we don't want to make it too complicated for the user to have an extra APP, extra website and so on. You just don't need nothing, you just need the email address, write into email to Brian or a slack channel and then you can get the help of Brian. So channels, skills, target groups. That sounds pretty much like you need a lot of money. Are you currently have an investor looking for investors? Are All you guys put strapped? So this the cool question. So we started by bootstrapping, but we see, I've seen then there if we want to buy and include good that data and growth rapidly, we need external funds. So we have now already to investment rounds behind us all of the private investors. So nob we see involved and we are searching for the next investors for the next financing around maybe in the beginning of q two, two thousand and twenty two. That pretty much sounds like it's a series a or series be already know. I would say so I as you said, it's so it's probably late seed and early series A. Early series a, I see q one hundred twenty and twenty two. Everybody who who would like to...

...reach out to you. Of course, as always, there is a link down in the show notes wherever you're listening to this or watching this, and then you can get to the block of our of our episode. The very simple reason is as well in Youtube as in all the podcasting APPs, we are limited to, I do believe, for thousand characters and that's not sufficient for our show notes. That's what we keep it in one place and their people can reach out to you. Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences with Ai and ask crime because I've once watched a little bit TV and there was AI trained by the US military where it was supposed to spot Russian tanks in the it's, but all all the pictures of the trees without tanks with during sunny weather and everything with the tank was during cloudy weather. So actually day I learned to differentiate between trees when it's sunny and when it's cloudy. That did you also have something happened like this? So you you talk about those short falls of certain training, training data you use for I know the example that involves right. So usually snow and trees on a picture means there is evolved, even though there is no Wallf yeah, so I don't know this problem as well. And in fact it's like like AI technology is progressing, but maybe, to give you an idea, we are having a look at a multiple AI technologies and selecting only few of them being ready to really help you and business life. So I would say maybe one intent solutions were deliver what they promised on a sufficient level, and this is also a big part of what we do. We find the technologies which work and include them in Brian in a simple to use integrated interface. Yeah, so, for example, also converting PDF documents using optical character recognition into editable form. I think so. We have tried multiple technologies and have chosen the best ones, and my experience is we know how often brian is wrong how often he is right, and we keep on improving in him. And it's all right. It just managing expectations, and I know there is a huge variety in the expectations of our users. Something you need to stick with the default formulation we propose for translating files, but some right. Hey, Brian, I hope you are doing having a great day. It would be great if you could help me by translating the presentation into English, and please don't mind, no problem if it's within two hours. So sometimes the people have these expectations and that expectations, and sometimes the people think Brian is the first brain...

...which can help you with any times you can imagine off. So there is a lot of expectation management work we have to do. But the amazing thing is that AI is developing extremely rapidly, and I think this is also advantage of Brian, that we helped to close the gap between the stupid work you need to do at work and make the best technologies which really work, available at your finger tips. Ah, I see SEC I hope the answers was not to do a lot to B and that's totally fine. When I'm thinking we guys doing, it sounds like you have attack team of like one hundred people at basement sitting. Yeah, it's great that the perception is like this, so that means I'm selling it right. No, we are very small team of five plus ten people. So we have five full time and ten part time running the whole company. I see, see. That also sounds like you're always interested in talking to talented coders. We have currently. Yes, times we are always searching for new new persons, but until the next financing round we are perfectly happy. So I would say that then how virus sources is taken, half is all others and of course then after the next financing around, will search for more talent in both areas. So so, so, so business development and tech, because we want to accelerate the growth of Brian in terms of skills and and his capabilities and available Deli via multiple channels. I see SEC and that that also sounds like you you're going to extend offices like, for example, to North America and get says running there. So the big plan is until the end of twenty five. You want to have one million users and to get there we probably need to go global. Yeah, so we are starting here in Germany. In fact, we are a post corona company, so we don't have a really a physical office, so we work as a remote team. But yes, in the plan, in order to make it work, I believe you will need locations. And yes, US has a huge market. We have in mind. I see. See. And when you said a two thousand and twenty five one mony customers, what came to mind is the comic Pinky and brain. What we going to do to night? Brain? The same as every night. Thank you to the world. I love those to yeah, Ken ask bright also do a Pinky a brain. Brian de brand sounds little bit like like the friend of pink here. Yeah, that will be a skill I would request and random into was. It'sisted the world. How about it? was just a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much. I have a lot of fun and fortunately you won't be the last person in our corporation with...

...the AI, with the German Ai Association, and thank you very much. Best of luck and let us know how you guys doing. Thank you, joy. It was my pleasure and fun. Yeah, that's all the folks find more news streams, events and interviews at www dot start off read that Io. Remember Sherry is carry.

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