Be Very Open-Minded
The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Be Very Open-Minded
Be very open-minded. Go in with a vision and have a direction. You have to know what you want. But the way to get there, there is a million plus one ways. So the more open-minded you are the better you adapt because the journey to were we are now has been through four or five of pivots and like very hard pivots from one industry to another. Through image analysis to text analysis, so just keep that in mind. As long as you have a vison as to where you want to go but, you keep an open mind then you will get there faster.
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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say be very open-minded uh be very open-minded go go in with the vision and have have a direction right so you know know you have to know what you want right but the way to get there there's like literally like a million plus one ways so the more open-minded you are the better you adapt because the journey to where we are now has been through like you know four or five pivots and like very hard pivots from one industry to another uh through you know image analysis and text analysis and all that stuff so just keep that in mind as long as you have a vision where you want to go but you keep an open mind then you will you will get that faster hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several businesses to seven and eight figure companies as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we have another great guest on the podcast and i'm sure i'm going to slaughter your name but i'll try my best indirect being bennu they knew that's correct i do all right i apologize i made my best attempt um but there's a quick intro to in air in indirect and i'm stumbling keep stumbling on the name but i'll get it eventually um so he's currently working on an ai startup and uh is uh has about eight people on the team a little bit before that you were in i think born in histonia when we talked a little bit before studied in the us graduated went back to histonia started working for a little while um was hired on as a as a startup for machine learning then did worked at a private company for the universities ran it for three years and i think grew to over 70 people and then you decided hey i want to do my own startup do my own thing found a co-founder a cto and that kind of has evolved into where you're at today is that a fair fair summary or introduction yeah that sounds about right you you know your stuff so you told the whole story all right so now that i've uh given the brief intro why don't we take a step back and go back to kind of when you're a histonia growing up and then how that or go through that journey of how you got to where you're at today yeah absolutely so um i was born and raised in estonia and you know it's a tiny country in the northeastern europe and at the time of course when i was born you know it was the soviet union so you know until 1991 that no private companies were allowed in the country so if you even if you wanted to be an entrepreneur you couldn't right um so the the history of entrepreneurship in the country where i was born is very short uh but you know nonetheless um i always have had a curious mind and sort of wanting to learn things and just you know see what the world is like um so i i ended up in in college in the us i studied at harvard for for four years and that was like a huge shift for me like that was like the sort of the leap into the unknown coming from you know totally i would say you know like cold war era and like a torn country and then right in the middle of like you know super bright people and and like a great environment uh so that sort of opened my eyes a lot and and what it gave me was really the understanding that hey um you know i like to try out new things expand my mind you know jump into the unknown without you know very little if any any preparation right um and and so with that uh once once i graduated i decided to do come back to estonia because there's a lot of opportunities you know if you wanted to run a business or learn and so i ended up uh through several uh through several things in the tech sector uh because at the time like it was like early 2000s tech wasn't as hot as is it now right now it's kind of obvious but then it was a little bit non-obvious um and uh i was in the tech industry worked with a few startup companies and and then became a ceo of uh you know yeah chuck before we dive into there go go quite down that so you graduated and i didn't i don't know if we talked what did you graduate in again when you're in the i studied uh i studied government and international relations um so i wasn't i didn't completely related to the tech industry it accentuated right yeah so i didn't have any computer science background or anything it was just something at the time that actually i thought that i would become a diplomat because i thought that it suits my nature and i'm super calm and you know i like negotiations and well the same traits you actually need in entrepreneurship as well right i just didn't know it that such a thing existed at the time because when you're young you sort of have a limited understanding of what a profession is you know you are a doctor you're a lawyer you are a businessman whatever that means right uh or you are a programmer so it's very sort of uh clear-cut but of course now these days the roles are you know there's a million different roles in between um so so i graduated from that um but of course what it gave me was you know ability to digest through a lot of information make you know make sense of it what it means for me and then learn from that right um so it has become handy so and i i think no that's that's helpful and i think that as you said after you graduated with your degree nothing to do with the tech industry but you went into first one into financial audits is that right and you found that you absolutely hated financial audits yeah i mean i i went into uh financial audits so basically you have to follow i think what's now it's called it was called if ifrs or gaap and and basically you know go through accounting documents and things um and what i found was that i did it and you know again it was like one of those things that i jumped in you know i think i during one like a one-year period i was there i think i did audit in more than 40 companies so everything from like manufacturing to forestry to whatever it was right so i saw a lot of companies and that was exciting because you know i didn't have any experience from those sectors or fields before um and you know i crunched a lot of numbers uh but from there i realized that you know crunching number is good but i want to be more creative and you know then you know tech for me has that has that appealing of of creativeness because creativity because you know there's there's the coding side but then it's like you know what should be coded in the first place and what should be a product and things like that so sort of i shifted from a pure numbers world into a more you know you know creative world to to put it like that so so you made the decision that you didn't like financial audits or you hated them whichever word is better but then you said okay what i really like is the tech industry but you didn't have you know what conventional people would say is a tech background right you didn't have computer science or electrical engineering you didn't you hadn't written code for a long period of time and that so how did you but knowing that you wanted to go into the tech industry how did you make that transition or say this is how i'm going to jump into the tech industry or get involved or make that you know make that leap yeah so i mean one of the things at the time is that you know if you lead a company ultimately you're in charge two things budget and people right doesn't matter if they're tech people or not and so at the time um there was an opportunity to become uh they were looking for ceo of of a software engineering company i mean it was called like a data science company at the time now it would be called machine learning back then it was big data right so this keywords change but the essence was the same and uh it was a it was a pretty cool undertaking so it was a it was a company that had um you know part of the people where uh form from private companies and then uh part of them were from universities so the idea was to bring them together like a public private partnership um and to run we ran about two like two a dozen like data science projects um and so but they needed somebody they needed somebody to oversee that you know to run the budgets to run the people make sure that you had deliverables and all of that um and so i applied um i got the job and you know that became my thing for the next three and three and a half years um so you know my my task was to essentially have a critical eye and figure out you know when the engineers were delivering and when they were not and it was more about you know um looking at people understanding them like what they're making but also at the same time you know understanding like what's the product they're creating because you know there's no point in just coding something for the sake of coding uh in the private sector you'd always have to have a have a product in the end to provide value um so it kind of was like you know it was kind of like a i wouldn't call it an incubator but we had sort of 12 different startups or projects within within that one company uh which was again you know tons of experience over three years it was kind of like a kind of like a real life mba so it had a lot of uh things like i mean i had i had a supervisory board of 12 people i was the only management board member then i had 17 employees so i was like sitting in the in the middle of all of that communication chain and then then of course you had to hire people you had to fire people um all those kinds of things happening in real life and many of these things you have no idea how to do them before you have to do them so you just do them right it sounds sounds very uh very uh obvious but you know many things you just you know you just learn on the job and there's no real right or wrong answer but you just just go with it go with your gut and then figure out you know what what you should do and how you should do it right um no completely makes sense so so you make you start to make that transition you get into tech you get into machine learning you come on to a private company and then i said i think you you guys ran it it was a private company that worked with universities and you ran it for about three years you're involved with three years and it grew from a few people up to 70 people is that right yep yep but then you do that and then he said i think he talked about now hey i want to do this on my own or i want to do my own startup i want to own it i want to direct it i want to be involved you know rather than building somebody else's company doing your own so then how did you make that next transition that next leap from working with the tech company that you know you didn't necessarily found but you're in early on to now starting your own yeah so it sort of relates back to you know jumping into the unknown like going from from estonia to college in the us are you know really having this um you know some call it the vision some call it a hallucination right but you know whatever it is you just you you wanna you wanna you have a vision you wanna get somewhere you don't really know how and of course when you when you work with smart people in the tech industry you ultimately say hey you know i have ideas on my own i want to start something like just you know see see like see what the best version of myself is and many times you know people have that like business itch or that entrepreneurial itch and so uh at the time i had been there for three and a half years and i said you know i i know plenty of people i have some ideas i've seen this uh you know why don't i just do it on my own right and it wasn't like an epiphany and one day you wake up and say wow i know i'm gonna make a great company and it's gonna be a great company like yeah if somebody has that please let me know it would be a great it would be a great episode right but it wasn't my case i just knew i wanted to do something right and something to try out and so so what happened is i am at the time in that company when i was running it i got approached by uh by a really uh a really uh smart guy who's a technical guy who had a phd neuroscience uh his name was hendrick and and he had this idea and i said you know this is a good idea like he's a smart guy he has technical skills i have you know why don't we go and make this into a company um and essentially it didn't start immediately but you know it it took a little while but then we had this this click as as co-founders and then we said you know let's just do it right like it sounds exciting uh and let's just do it and it's sort of uh it's sort of interesting because i think when you start a company um it's really hard right so i'm not going to beat around the bush it's like super hard like some you know people have said it's like like chewing broken glass and you actually have to like it like i think that's the most like brutal way of a brutal way i've heard about but how people describe entrepreneurship and it's definitely a journey that is uh way more fun and also uh easier when you have a co-founder um so i knew at the time that um you know i didn't have the technical skills but i had the business skills um so i would need somebody who had the technical skills uh and so you know i by coincidence i you know found i found a great uh co-founder so this is sort of one of the learnings i've had also is that you know you have to compliment yourself with people who are different and have different skill sets than you uh when you go and embark on this on this journey what it has been um so no i i agree with you i think that there's a lot of highs and lows with starting your own company and so i think that sometimes it's like it's you know you forward your euphoric nature of hey it's it's you have the you know you landed a big client you have a big a good month you get your first sale it's great and then the next month when everything feels like it's crashing down around you then it's not so fun and it's like the chewing glass type of a thing but with that now as you've got the company and how long ago did you start the the company here that you founded now all right sorry we're back some reason it cut right out on us and dumped me out so no problem we'll pick up from where we left off at so we'll just act as if that i'll just uh edit that out but so you you take that so now how long have you been doing the company you're at now uh three almost four years so you've been doing that now for almost four years and doing that you know you start out and you know there's different stages of a startup one is just having the idea and the fun of actually seeing if it'll work and then building a company around it then as you get you know you start to build that you get into a productization we actually now take the idea make it into something that people actually pay us for and then you start to get the money in and now i have to make it more of an operational company right now we have to continue to deliver so within those various stages where would you say you're at today i would say today we are at the place where you know we have a product we have paying customers um it's it's not so much about the new features in the product it's more about slas and keeping running uh so i would say you know we're like what's where's like 50 features and 50 sla that's where we're at but we're of course not mature or where it's just you know let's keep the servers humming and you know that's it right uh we're we're still very much a startup company no and i don't i don't ever know when you actually i've or out of the startup company if i've run companies for years now and it still feels like a startup no matter how much money we make know how no matter how much successful it is and what we do it always still feels like a startup to me so and uh but i i think you make the transition and there's certainly a difference between the very first day you start on it versus when you start to make sales so you did that so now as you're building it you've had four years on it where do you see the next or six to 12 months going for you guys so for us it's uh it's largely about product development because you know you don't want to waste a good crisis and i think from from this crisis startups in general uh you know the strongest strongest product will emerge as the winner um so what we're doing now is um over the years we've got because we work very tightly with customers uh you know we we understand their feedback they you know we have a feature list request that's longer than than than we can imagine um so with that you know we're we're just uh making the product better and you know one of the cool things about it is that you would think that in a space where at so you know conversational ai and you know messaging automation you think like it's you know how like how difficult can it be and if you're in there you realize that it's it's super granular like any space sort of so you sort of just you know go down this this niche and just you know see those things you want to do and improve and get better and and one of the things we're realizing now is that you know as the product evolves you get ideas of what it actually could be right so it's like this classical story that you start out with something and then it grows like oh but this this could be great but what if no actually they like this thing and then we should have that and so you sort of you know it's it's it's finding the the right fit and getting the product to the place where you see that actually you know this is sort of the vision we've had as a company for for a while and this is what customers also appreciate so finding that nexus uh what that so that's what we're working on now and of course you know sales but this is you know this is what startups do 24 7. so it's that hasn't changed no and i think that that's you know there's a as you enter the different phases of this let's get a and i hate the word minimally viable product in my mind it always makes it sound like let's put out the crappiest product we can but you put out the product you know you get the initial generation one going and then i think to your point now it's taylor how do we make the product better how do we polish it how do we compete in the marketplace how do we grow it how do we let you know expand our reach and who's going to use it and all that so i think that's an exciting time to be in so now with that as we're kind of getting towards the end of the podcast i always have well two questions i ask at the end so maybe we'll jump to those now so within your whole journey the you know one question i'd ask is what was the worst business decision you ever made so there have been many i would be lying if i said it was just one right uh there have been several mistakes made but i think one of the broader themes is that uh you really uh you really have you really get to know people or you become better at reading them so we had a case where um you know we we wanted to work through distributors because ultimately it's an enterprise sales model and you know it's easier to find connections abroad through maybe distributors and so we had this one distributor um we had a customer we did the work you know it was it was a great virtual assistant it worked and did all this stuff um and you know uh he he ran away with most of the money right um so you know it's one of those things that uh you know it just happens and you know like if you run any business uh you will get scars but you know you won't bleed out you were just you know there will be scars you'll learn from them and every time you see them you're like okay i've learned that lesson and then you go forward but i think it's uh the lesson is is about uh yeah finding the right people uh trusting the right people uh and you know now this this this has been uh also an important understanding for us and you know that's why i think that a team we've built so far is is absolutely amazing um so i think i couldn't be happier with the team we have right now both technically and and sales side so that has been uh that was one lesson learned that's a good lesson to learn um so now we'll jump to the second question second question is now you're talking to someone that's just getting going with the startup or small business just getting started what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them i would just say be very open-minded uh be very open-minded go go in with a vision and have have a direction right so you know know you have to know what you want right but the way to get there there's like literally like a million plus one ways uh so the more open-minded you are the better you adapt because the journey to where we are now has been through like you know four or five pivots and like very hard pivots from one industry to another uh through you know image analysis and text analysis and all that stuff so uh just keep that in mind as long as you have a vision where you wanna go uh but you keep an open mind then you will you will get there faster right because you know if you run against the wall five times maybe it's a wall and you should take a different path like the sixth time you'll also most likely run against that wall so just sometimes you have to break through the wall and other times you have to figure out a way around the wall exactly depends how strong your head is or how resilient you are but yeah well awesome well and i think that's great advice well now and and we didn't talk about it as as much but currently after you made your pivots you're now doing kind of a customer service chat bots using ai is that right yeah that is correct um so what we do is uh we automate customer communications because one thing we see with enterprises and companies is that you know the whole world moved digitally over the past five months that they should have have over the next five years right so there was a tremendous you know leap in the digital transformation if you want to call it and and you know the communication between companies well i just was pulling up your website right there apologize oh okay no problem so and so what we see is that you know customers are in channels where mostly companies are not so customers are in whatsapp in facebook messenger they want to chat and do messaging apps uh and so we bring companies to that era right so we bring basically companies to the party where the customers already are uh but also allow it to do so that if you're a company and have millions of customers there's no way to have these conversations one-on-one so we create chatbots or virtual assistants and you know smart ways that the bots can do their work well that customers are happy and then also make the uh the company's uh customer service teams more productive and efficient so now that i interrupted you a great answer with your website now that this gives a transition so now people want to use your chat bots they want to say hey you know customer service is hard and i want to integrate it in there i want to make it simpler i want to still be responsive to customers and want to be able to make sure that their questions are answered but i don't have the time or ability or desire to have a full full-time customer service team that oftentimes sits there what's the best way to find out about your services what you offer connect up with you if people want to use your service they want to invest in your service they want to be an employee of your company they want to just reach out to you and learn more about it and you're all the above what's the best way to find out more so yeah you can just email us hello at alphablues.com or just find me on linkedin um two easiest ways and obviously alphablues.com is the website that i pulled up that was starting to talk to me you're chatting so you know you can chat with our bot leave your message there and we'll get in touch that way and so we also have a bot in whatsapp so if you want to reach us through messaging it's choose your channel of choice i would say that all right well perfect well appreciate you coming on it's been a pleasure it's fun to hear about your journey and i certainly encourage people that are looking for the the better customer service option for doing a smarter chat bot making sure that it answers people's questions rather than frustrating them certainly check out alpha blues and reach out to you with any questions they have thank you again for coming on now for those of you that are have your own journey to tell love to have you on the podcast to tell your journey feel free to just go to inventivejourneyguest.com and apply it to be on the podcast for those of you that are listeners make sure to click subscribe so you get notifications of all the new episodes as they go out and lastly if you ever need any help with patents or trademarks we are absolutely here to help and make sure you're taken care of well indrick thank you again for coming on it's been a pleasure and i wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you very much you English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded