When Gregor Jarisch, one of the founders of Labs.ai came up with his chatbot idea E.D.D.I. more than 10 years ago, no one seemed to be interested in this topic within Austria. But as so much energy, passion and money had been put into realizing this idea, Gregor did not yet give up. Luckily, he met Franz Weber, meanwhile co-founder of Labs.ai. They started together Labs.ai and took part in the weXelerate Accelerator Program. We have asked Franz to tell us the exciting story of making a dream come true.
weX: Hallo Franz, welcome back in our office. Can you outline the exciting journey of Labs.ai?
Franz: Thanks, yes certainly. Labs.ai is not a typical startup, at least not what I’d call a typical one. Usually startups have an idea and then start looking for partners and investors and try to get a prototype of the product on the market. In our case we had a fully finished product from the very beginning. I met Gregor, the father of this chatbot development platform called E.D.D.I., and he told me about the project one day. I realized soon that this idea might not have had potential 10 years ago, but meanwhile many companies were interested in chatbots, some were even in use already.
weX: So you decided to market the idea?
Franz: Well, we decided to test if there was an interest in our product and our business model or if we were the only ones who thought that it was cool (laughs). We applied for the Batch 2 weXelerate Accelerator Program and as soon as we were accepted, we founded Labs.ai. By this time, Gregor had made the software open source. Offering such a technology as open-source software is new, however this is for other software products already an established business model. The software is available both in the cloud and on-premise.
weX: So Labs.ai profited from taking part in the weXelerate Accelerator program?
Franz: Yes, definitely. We got to know other startups and got tons of feedback for our business model. We have been talking to different stakeholders and have built a great network.
weX: And how’s life after the batch?
Franz: Pretty good so far. Two mentors have been assigned to us as part of the program: Marco Quége from Mercuri Uval and Ben Ruschin from wearedevelopers.com. Both have been really supportive and helpful. After a training from BearingPoint I started talking with Stevan Borozan and he also became a mentor. At the end of the batch I suggested that we continue to meet regularly All three were enthusiastic and we therefore set up an Advisory Board for our startup.
weX: That’s great. What are your plans for next year?
Franz: At the moment we are focusing on two areas. We are currently developing new features like a more advanced user interface. We are also exploring growth hacking possibilities and hope that we will attract at least 20 new customers this way.
weX: Who are your current customers?
Franz: We currently have 4 customers. One of them is Raiffeisen-IT, we got in contact with them during the batch and they became a customer after the program.
weX: What are your learnings from the program?
Franz: As said before, we had a really great time and learned a lot from our participation. I advise every startup to apply for the program. We have met many interesting startups, with one from Spain, called Anbotux, we are currently in a joint project. There have also been useful trainings and great talks with corporate partners. Two great opportunities have stemmed from our participation in the program: a cooperation with BearingPoint and a startup week in New York.
BearingPoint is our main partner in the development of a chatbot use case for their clients. They are holding trainings in the current weXelerate Accelerator Program and wanted a use case that shows how a chatbot works together with their InfonovaGo software platform. We are planning to launch the first prototype end of November 2018.
In the first week of December, we have taken part in the StepUSA startup week in New York. It was a great opportunity for us, we hope to market our product in the USA in the long-run. Andrea Diewald from the German American Chamber of Commerce who is the organizer, has introduced this program during the batch, I kept her business card and contacted her afterwards.
weX: That sounds amazing, congratulations. Is there anything that could have been better in the program?
Franz: Well, the only room for improvement I see about the program is the cooperation with the corporate partners. In discussions all the partners we talked to were very interested in our technology, however we could not start one single project with any of these corporates within the four months period of the batch, and we were not the only startup having this experience. We worked together with T-Mobile as a sponsor for our hackathon, they even provided prices for the winners. That was really cool.
weX: Wow, a hackathon, that sounds exciting.
Franz: It really was. At the end of the batch in June 2018 we invited developers to take part in a one-day-hackathon. They worked in teams of 2 or 3 people. The challenge was to develop a creative chatbot with our development platform E.D.D.I. and the three best ideas got prizes. The winners of the 1st prize were 2 developers who had set up a game chatbot where the player types a word, then the chatbot returns another word starting with the last two letters of the player’s word, then the player does the same and so on. The creative part was that the chatbot used the pool of words from Donald Trump’s twitter feed! (laughs). This convinced the jury. The most interesting part for me was, that they could create such a chatbot within 10 hours without any prior knowledge about our development platform E.D.D.I..
weX (laughing): Well that sounds like quite an achievement! Franz, thanks for the insight and your time.
Franz: You’re welcome.