Michele Kidane Mariam is an Intelligent Automation Engineer at BNL in Rome. Here, he tells us...
Heuritech : artificial intelligence to analyze web
Heuritech, sponsored by BNP Paribas Personal Finance, develops an Artificial Intelligence platform capable of analyzing web content to discern its meaning and pick up on new trends. The platform, born within the Fintech Accelerator by L'Atelier BNP Paribas, was founded by a group of scientists who adjusted their technology to meet current market needs and legal constraints. These concrete realities helped their solution evolve, as explained by Tony Pinville, CEO and cofounder of Heuritech.
Your partners at Heuritech come from highly scientific backgrounds. Is that what brought you together?
Absolutely! After spending 10 years in finance, I was on the hunt for new challenges. I had a strong interest in artificial intelligence, so I decided to pursue a PhD on the subject. That’s when I met Charles Ollion, cofounder of Heuritech, who was also conducting PhD research on a related topic.
Didier Marin and Paul Tonelli, the two other partners who joined us, were also researching for their PhDs. Since then, our team has added three other PhDs in artificial intelligence!
Why did you create Heuritech ?
We wanted to give companies from every sector the opportunity to use artificial intelligence-based solutions. Heuritech took part in another incubator, Startin’post, where we were able to test out our idea and our technology while developing a concrete project with an entity owned by a banking group. We gained our first customer and increased our visibility.
Next, we participated in the International Hackathon organized by BNP Paribas. As a winning startup, we were invited to join the FinTech Accelerator. It was an immense opportunity: we were able to apply our technology to meet the needs of different entities within a major banking group.
What were your expectations going into the FinTech Accelerator?
First of all, we wanted to receive business support, which is crucial for us since our subject is so technical—as are our backgrounds. We notably received assistance in understanding and managing legal issues and developing a business plan.
But we also wanted the accelerator to help us compare our technology to actual business needs and to learn how to use our tool to serve the bank’s various businesses.
How did Heuritech develop over the 4 months spent at L'Atelier BNP Paribas' FinTech Accelerator?
Coming out of the Hackathon, we first envisioned a solution for personalized browsing, which would use artificial intelligence to learn about users from their first visit to a website, by compiling navigation data and partner data. For example, someone searching for a used car might then be offered an auto loan.
But once we arrived at the accelerator, we quickly realized that our idea faced a number of legal challenges! So we had to completely realign our project. Now, our tool uses everything people write about a given topic on the web, in forums, on social media and on blogs, to learn about their feelings and perceptions. Then, we analyze those trends. As the tool applies to a broad range of sectors, the L’Atelier BNP Paribas FinTech accelerator also helped us target a specific market so we could transform our technology into a concrete product. In short, the experts from the Accelerator helped us see where our technology had value.
the experts from the accelerator helped us see our technology had value.
“ our time spent at the accelerator marked the start of an important phase: we are finalizing a fundraising campaign while concluding the product development stage. ”
CEO and co-founder of Heuritech
And now, what are your plans?
After three years developing the technology, our time spent at the Accelerator marked the start of an important phase: we are finalizing a fundraising campaign while concluding the product development stage. We’ll also start bringing on employees in several new areas soon— product marketing, sales, etc. And by 2017, we plan to market a finished product.
We may also develop projects with other entities from the BNP Paribas Group, but it’s still too early to say more!
What advice do you have for startups to join the FinTech Accelerator?
First of all, I would encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities at L’Atelier BNP Paribas to network with other businesses. This gives a startup a complete understanding of the expectations within each business, to learn what you can offer, and to refine your specifications as much as possible. But you also have to stay focused and on task. Within the accelerator, you have the chance to meet a diverse group of people. It’s exciting, of course, but you also have to concentrate on a specific project in order to see your idea all the way through!
You also have to manage the strong contrast in time frames between a startup and a major international group. For big corporations, six months is a short-term deadline, while for us it’s long-term! You have to learn to “adjust” to each party’s expectations.
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