Hocosto (Achtmaal), Lightyear (Helmond), Morphotonics (Veldhoven), Flow.ai (Tilburg) and PeelPioneers (Son) are the first winners of the Brabant Startup Awards. The prizes were presented on 25 September in Tilburg. The Brabant Startup Awards are an initiative of Innovation Origins, in collaboration with BOM Brabant Ventures. In a short series, we highlight the winners of the awards. Today: Flow.ai.
Flow.ai is a platform to build smart chatbots via a simple drag-and-drop interface. It offers integrations with Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa and soon also with Google Home and WhatsApp. The Tilburg-based startup was selected earlier this year for the exclusive Tech Stars accelerator program in Toronto. They immediately received $120,000 from a group of American and Canadian investors. Flow.ai consists of the three founders and a sales representative in Tilburg and a developer in Ukraine. “We got to know this guy in Toronto,” says co-founder Sander Wubben. “The intention is that he will build a team there that will work for us.”
The flow.ai-team used the Canadian adventure mainly to further develop the business side of the company. Wubben: “Tech Stars was a great milestone for us in every respect. We learned a lot and of course, we were able to expand our network. Previously, we were actually only concerned about product development: machine learning, AI and product design. The business remained very difficult. Now we have more insight into that part.”
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More specifically, this meant that Flow.ai no longer looks for as many small customers as possible, but first focuses on a few large ones. “We found out that you first have to get on with the big businesses. For us, this also meant that we did not stay in Canada, but returned to Tilburg. Here in the Netherlands, our opportunities are larger, here we have our primary network. From there we will continue to build.”
The changed customer tactics seem to be successful because Flow.ai has already built and sold services for Samsung Netherlands, Rabobank and Mediamarkt. “This primarily concerns functionalities around customer service. Many companies want to automate parts of it and we can do that for them.”
Samsung Netherlands, for example, has had a chatbot built that they run via Facebook Messenger. Wubben: “Customers can go there with questions about their phone or about a washing machine that does not work well. By using the product codes on the device, we can quite easily set up a dialogue in advance. At Rabobank it is about a chatbot for travel insurance, at MediaMarkt it is also about customer service.”
According to Wubben, the special thing about Flow.ai is its technology. “In that respect, we can really compete with a company like Google. Of course, we do not have access to the almost unlimited resources that they have. But we can move faster. And we can help personally.” In addition, Flow.ai distinguishes itself by the language, says Wubben. “Most platforms use English as the official language, but we can also supply Dutch and soon French and German. That is really special.”
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