InterviewsStartups

Part I: How Metier Digital was born. Ahead of schedule

In this five part series we feature London-based CEO Nana Parry’s incredible story, beginning being held by Moroccan immigration.

Not many CEO stories begin with a tale of being held in custody by Moroccan immigration. But then Nana Parry’s journey doesn’t follow the standard narrative of a double tech startup founder. His story traverses a senior role working alongside the CEO of Fujitsu (Japan’s leading ICT company), raising £150,000 angel investment for his first startup (the music marketing platform, Dubzoo), business school, house parties in South London, with visits to Accra, Copenhagen and Casablanca thrown in.

“I was visiting an old university friend,” smiles Nana, as he starts to realize how unbelievable the origins-story of his latest company, Metier Digital, is.

It was to be five days of winter sun when the Moroccan immigration detained Nana on arrival.

“I don’t know why: maybe they see an African name on an British passport and they get confused.”

Alongside Nana, there was one sole other detainee: a guy from Yemen.

Nana and his cellmate bonded. The former spoke about his next business idea, a “launch studio” to turn entrepreneurs’ ideas into Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). Later, the Yemeni made a few calls and spoke to an investment banker friend who was coincidentally visiting Egypt. The banker was all too familiar with Northern African bureaucracy and had a few “connections”. In no time, the two men are released.

“We shook hands, said ‘bye’, and that was it…”

This was November 2016.

Then three months later, Nana received a call in London from the anonymous banker who bailed him out. Apparently, he had heard about Nana’s launch studio.

He asked, “Do you have a team?

Nana embellished a little and said, “yes”.

The banker then asked, “Can we meet on Monday to discuss turning my idea into a business model?”.

Nana told the truth this time, but also said, “yes”.

After the weekend, at the Hotel Eccleston in London’s plush Pimlico district, Nana’s new core team of six were meeting each other for the first time, in front of their first client.

Metier Digital was born. Ahead of schedule.

EventsStartups

Pre Seed Startups Looking For Love

Ever heard of data furnace technology? This, plus three other startups, are pitching for love and support in London.

It’s a full house downstairs at London’s Farrington tech hotspot, TBWC.

Judging by the show of hands, there’s the ubiquitous pockets of software developers, looking for sight of something juicy to get involved in.

In the main, however, it’s pack of budding entrepreneurs who are not quite ready to pitch themselves into the scene yet, but are keen to weigh up the competition and how these New Ideas nights unfold.

Good news for the later: Richard Cristian at the Founder Institute, the World’s Premier Pre Seed Startup Accelerator is here to announce the launch of a new program in London. Originating in Silicon Valley, this mentorship program has operated across 175 cities worldwide in 60 countries. That said, the training is seriously tough: only 35% of students graduate, meaning you have got to be on it.

These four pitchers tonight might not need an accelerator program, but they do need a little bit of love…


GREEN PROCESSING

“Hello everyone, I’m here to enthrall you all with the interesting world of heating systems!” might sound like the most tongue-in-cheek of opening gambits, but Adam Pulley’s technological innovation really is exciting!

GREEN PROCESSING are the worldwide inventors of data furnace technology.

That means, they are harnessing the excess heat released by the data centers that power the worlds’ computers — currently 3% of the world’s electricity — into green energy. Their final product is a micro data center for your home or business that provides green heating.

Despite developing the original patent almost 10 years ago, they have been wrestling with hardware and software that requires initial large scale investment to even develop a MVP.

In that time, however, they sketched out a road-map, produced a shiny new website and developed a watertight white paper.

“Now,” says Founder and CTO, Pulley, “we are credible enough to be attractive to large investors and turn this into a $44 billion industry”.

Go GREEN!


Cloud Flow

Despite the cloud being arguably one of the most critical developments in the recent history of computing, everyone experiences cloud-rage of some sort.

Standard SaaS (software as a service) packages from the main players (AMW, Azure and Google) might take care of some idle holiday snaps, but can any business worth its salt trust it’s entire operational infrastructure into a public cloud offering?

Maltese, infrastructure engineer, Dhiraj Narwani, is at the prototype stage of his bespoke cloud solution and makes a convincing argument for Cloud Flow.


Stansa

The World’s Leading Software Development Tool, or GITHUB as it’s more commonly known, is under attack here despite pitcher Matthew Salamonn being a huge fan:

“GITHUB is amazing and I use it all the time!”

The problem, he continues, is that 99.9% of people [that’s everyone in the world without a degree in computer science] can’t use ‘command line’.

Stansa’s value proposition, on the other hand, is that they can bring the non-tech people of an organisation into the software build.

They are still early stage: they have around 1,000 beta users and are looking for more people to sign up.

Go help ’em here.


Gold Model

Ask CEO and founder, Ron Lev, what is the Gold Model and he would say:

“It’s an innovative task productivity tool which helps to achieve your short and long terms goals in the quickest possible time.”

So is it a piece of tech?

No it’s a method: a philosophy.

Skeptical?

You shouldn’t be.

Lev’s presentation is packed with testimonials from a impressive host of Startups founders, scale-ups leaders and individuals freelancers expounding on the outstanding power of the model.


Looking For Love

Pre-seed startups are on the rise as the gap widens between what founders are seeking and what the market is offering. However, it is not only about money.

Entrepreneurs should demand support in a market increasingly open to cannibalization. Startups require product validation in the shape of genuine beta testers and tech support from engineers who know how to turn baseline products into applications that people actually need.

Reach out to them if you can help…

EventsStartups

AI & Healthcare: The Prescription Algorithm

AI in the medical sphere has been progressing nicely in Scandinavia and Asia, but digital health is curiously stunted in the UK.

Unless you believe the click-bait —i.e. “Google is using Machine Learning to predict a patient’s death with 95% accuracy!” — AI’s progress into the medical system has been a slow, meandering slog.

Why?

The Wire summed up the reason only last week:

“AI has no place in the NHS if patient privacy isn’t assured,” reported .

In the next five years, however, AI’s assimilation into the health system is set to advance. An expert panel at London’s recent Connected World Summit discussed the inherent pitfalls and rampant potential of this impending clash of tech and ethics.

Digital Medical Records

Despite the ubiquitous digitization of data (notably our friendships and finances), the most important information out there — our health — hasn’t made the leap to digitization.

The obvious push-back is personal data being abused and sold for commercial gain.

Nonetheless, The Guardian, reported in 2017 that our medical data is, effectively, already out there:

“Although information is anonymised, data miners and brokers can build up detailed dossiers on individual patients by cross-referencing with other sources.”

 

And yet we are not experiencing the potential benefit this can offer. An individual’s medical history, linked to their blood-kin for predictive analysis of hereditary and later-in-life illness, is a profound value-proposition.

So what’s taking so long?

“Well…” laughs Steven Dodsworth, CEO of D Health, “We have a habit of only relying on people in white coats”.

Indeed, accessible digital medical records would require citizens to take more responsibility for their own health.

Daily input on one’s actual health—what you eat, when you exercise, how you actually feel—would enable AI to revel in a constant stream of new data and provide precision prognoses on you and wider society.

So the development of AI in healthcare isn’t a tech issue at all. Rather, it’s a cultural one?

“There is a maturing of patient’s mindsets who are happy to not only deal with doctors face-to-face”, steps in Elina Naydenova, Founder and CEO of Feebris.

In fact, she continues, emerging countries could lead the way as they may not have such outdated preferential systems that make technological innovation difficult to implement.

Remote Diagnosis

Optimists belief that once medical records become digitized, accessible and readily updated, then AI will be able to perform to a much higher level.

Rather than “cool” photos we could use our smart phones to document our health on a day to day basis. Photo by Björn Grochla on Unsplash

Panel guest Dodsworth’s D-Health is a pan-European consultancy. They are expert advisers in the commercial aspects of digital health, health tech and the life sciences.

Dodsworth points to Sweden where AI in healthcare is progressing fast. Min Doktor is a Malmö-based app that provides doctor-patient communications through voice, video, and text messaging. They already have a 100,000 users and a €22 million investment to grow the technology across borders. They even have a rival medical-consultation app, KRY.

The discerning benefit of these apps — and they are already prevalent in Asia (see ODOC in India and Sri Lanka) — is that once the AI processes the user’s medical data, the information is sent to an uber-like pool of doctors; some of whom will be specialists in fields that are unreachable at the consultation level of a GP meeting.

“40% of cases [on Min Doktor] are dealt with without 1–2–1 contact. It’s a superb example of AI working in healthcare: users benefit from the around the clock convenience, while the medical system has it’s workload eased”, affirms Dodsworth.

What About The NHS?

The third and final panelist is Declan Hadley, Digital Health Lead at Lancashire and Cumbria Change Program (NHS). The health of 1.7 million people in the north of England is under his remit, but he is late to the discussion as his train had been delayed after someone had a heart attack on-board.

“Truly, honestly”, says Hadley, “we’re not really using AI in healthcare. We have pioneers across the system, and there are interesting projects with plenty of promise, but there has not been any real transformation”.

Is that set to change in the next 5 years?

“For our region, our challenge is not around funding, it’s about resources i.e. people.”

He continues:

“Brexit will affect this further. We [therefore] need tech [AI] to take mundanities out of the process”.

Anyone for ayurveda? Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Towards an AI Of Global Medical Knowledge

This short panel discussion reflects the fragmented political picture and the need for a more unified approach to tech.

For certain, there are huge developments that need to happen around data and regulation before AI can securely support healthcare. But, to my mind, the limitlessness of AI’s potential in healthcare hasn’t been truly realized either.

What if a bonafide AI of healthcare could think outside the box of Western Biomedicine?

What if 10,000 years of medicine — Ayurvedic, Chinese, Folk and Shamanic — could instantly be accessed by AI to create a digital diagnosis that incorporates myriad medical systems?

Surely only then would we be embarking on new era of healthcare: a holistic health experience that is globally aware, culturally sensitive, but intelligently artificial.

EventsStartups

Five AI Startups You Need To Know About

Featuring an algorithm that fights fake news, autonomous vehicles, and hands free, voice activated tech for disabled people, ML, AI and NLP are starting to make a real difference.

Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP): the tech world’s current equivalent of starter, mains and dessert.

In this feast of five, new startups the crowd are treated to pitches on the most advanced autonomous vehicles on (and off) the planet, a voice activated communication tool for people with disabilities, and a NLP algorithm that could save us from fake news.

Time, then, to eat…


Oxbotica

Fresh from a £14 million cash injection in their first funding round, Oxbotica are pitching for hearts and minds: they are in need of engineers of all kinds.

Originating from Oxford University’s Information Engineering Department, Oxbotica are leading the way in the deployment of automated vehicles around the world.

That said, Oxbotica are not a driverless car company.

Rather, their main product, Selemium, is the robotic “brain” that operates their autonomous vehicles: allowing vehicles to share experiences and advance through their observations.

The vehicles learn,” says professor of Engineering Science at Oxford and Oxbotica Co-Founder, Ingmar Posner. “That is what differentiates our technology from almost all the other technology out there.”

Whilst their tech can happily navigate the roads of London or an enormous warehouse in Singapore, the team’s actual focus is in unstructured environments: mines and other un-roaded worlds, including alien ecosystems. This, according to the impressive presenter, is where the big opportunities are for autonomous vehicles.

“We’re ambitious: this is a trillion dollar market”.


BreakR

Despite 1 in 5 people in the UK having a disability, “Very few apps on app store actually cater for disabled people”, says software developer and BreakR founder, Alexey Kryazhev.

As a result, many people with disabilities find it hard to use smart devices, and their marginalization from community is actually exacerbated by tech, not alleviated by it.

Good to know, then, that BreakR are, er, breaking the mold.

Their in-house built algorithm uses AI-powered voice detection to record and send perfectly packaged voice or text messages, that are accessible without the click of a button!

Kryazhev continues, “We believe that voice control communication is the future of mobile messaging.”

And given an increasingly aging public and the sheer volume of our online use, voice messaging surely won’t only be appealing to people with disabilities.

The London-based startup have a methodically-planned road-map in action. They soft-launched on App Store in May this year, released a major redesign following user feedback in August 2018, and the Android version should land in January 2019.

Expect an official launch shortly after.


Deary

Deary’s pitch kicks off with two mind boggling stats:

  1. the average millennial will send close to half million text messages by the time they are 24 years old
  2. CEO and Co-FounderFederico Allegro, sent and received approximately 100,000 text messages during a transatlantic three year relationship with his now wife

Therefore convincing everyone that he knows a thing or two about the power of text messages and the ubiquity of chat apps in our lives.

Funny then, Ghirardelli argues, that all our messages eventually disappear into the ether and are forgotten forever.

That’s why he created Deary. An “Emotional AI” chat service that understands our messages, and saves and curates timelines of our most joyous interchanges.

Ghirardelli believes they face no competition from Whatsapp, Telegram and the smorgasbord of other messaging services, because Deary is designed exclusively for your nearest and dearest. So, no need to fear having to accept your boss onto another platform!

The pitch is a call to arms: “we are at the beta testing stage and we want your feedback.”

Help them out here.


NextQuestion

Monetizing and mobilizing an algorithm so it can operated by a third party could be one of the brightest developments in the tech marketplace this year. That’s why it’s generated it’s own sassy acronym: AaaS, or Algorithm as a Service.

New ML startup, NextQuestion, is looking to breach this market with a B2B algorithm that helps retailers improve their stock planning, reduce waste and replenish their shelves more efficiently.

According to CTO, Gedas Stanzys, current planning mechanisms in use throughout the retail industry are antiquated and haemorrhage profits. And with their first high-profile client case study — Portuguese retail behemoth, Sonae — Next Question’s tech delivered impressive results.

“By shaving small percentages of their stock transactions we made quite the impact for the multi-billion euro company,” said Stanzys.

NextQuestion were founded in 2017 and they are looking for £250k investment to complete the product validation.


Evolution AI

In the fake news era, startup Evolution AI are hoping their NLP algorithm can help fix a very broken media system. Their tech can analyse colossal and complex online data sets and classify the information in more coherent and consistent ways than current platforms. Indeed, their work had already had quite astounding results…

One week before the Brexit referendum back in June 2016, the press reported en masse of the 50,000 tweets celebrating the murder of MP Jo Cox. The latent message was that hate speech was being normalized in the UK.

Then Evolution’s NLP disproved “the facts”: showing that there was only 70 tweets in total supporting the terrible crime. Since, The Economist covered the revelation. And reputable publications, The Guardian, Independent and Telegraph retracted their articles because of Evolution’s groundbreaking new findings.

Despite the potential gravitas of their product, Chief Scientist and CEO Martin Goodson plays down the drama with a tech-focused pitch.


Starter, Mains and Dessert

Five outstanding pitches from a bounty of high quality founders, these startups offer a small insight into the inspirational innovation happening in London today.

There is no doubt that the ML, AI and NLP scene is serving up some truly outstanding products. But, then again, these are only the hors d’oeuvre of what is to come…

Catch you at the next Silicon Roundtable Meet Up