We recently spoke exclusively to 3 select startup founders that are using AI to innovate their respective fields
Meet SuperMoney - founder Miron Lulic has created the AI-based financial advisor that Main Street consumers have been lacking. Thanks to this tech, consumers can have lenders compete for their business and have more transparency in making financial decisions.
Interview with Miron Lulic Founder SuperMoney
1. When did you first realize there was a need for a transparent financial services comparison website? I first realized there was a need for a transparent financial services comparison website back in 2012. By that time, Yelp had proven how helpful a simple, transparent service could be when looking for a good restaurant. But financial services were still relatively opaque. The primary resource for financial service comparisons at the time was personal finance blogs that were promoting credit cards or other financial services they could earn a commission from. Nobody had built a unified platform to compare all the products and services out there objectively and transparently. So I set out to do so. 2. When did you decide to evolve to create a No-Fee Financing Platform for small businesses and why? By 2016 we were generating a lot of website traffic from people who were looking to compare various loan products. We were doing a great job providing them with information, but they still had to go through the tedious process of applying with multiple lenders to see what rates they were eligible for. So we set out to build our first multi-lender marketplace experience in the personal loan space. We made it easy for people to get pre-approved for multiple competing offers and transparently compare the APRs, fees, terms, payments, and total costs of the various offers. We later learned that there was a sizable financing industry working with small businesses to help them get their customers financed. In exchange, these small businesses would pay a “discount rate” to the financing company for their help in arranging the financing. These discount rates were typically around 10% of the invoice value, but we’ve heard they can be as high as 25%. It seemed crazy that small businesses were paying all this money just to offer their customers financing, and that customers were ultimately paying more to cover the costs. We thought it would be relatively simple for us to repackage what we had built for consumers -- in general -- to allow any small business to use it for free. So we moved forward with the project. 3. Given the financial industries are often burdened with bad PR from big banks and lending institutions that don't always have the best interest of the customer at heart, how does SuperMoney best create customer trust and loyalty? When weighing customer experience versus revenue potential, customer experience wins every time at SuperMoney. We know we leave a lot of money on the table compared to some of our competitors who tend to direct customers to the highest bidder. Our mission is to help Americans achieve their financial goals, and we primarily accomplish this today by giving them the most transparent and objective financial service comparison resource available. We try to give people the information they need to make a good decision instead of steering them to a product for our own benefit. We see ourselves as similar to Amazon in that we aim to create a comprehensive marketplace place that is transparent and educational. These qualities inherently instill trust. 4. You started SuperMoney in 2013 when service comparison sites were in their infancy - how has AI changed the game for real-time transparency in the services comparison site business? SuperMoney has produced a lot of content since we first launched, but we have transitioned away from creating editorialized content to instead focus on content AI. Most people would be surprised to know that all of SuperMoney’s product summary content is actually generated by AI. It’s something we’ve been working on for years and are consistently improving. Our efforts started off simply trying to summarize key fees, rates, and terms for loan products. Today our content AI system can generate a lot more insightful natural language content to, for example, highlight key takeaways or pros and cons of various products. It allows us to maintain a far more objective, transparent, and consistent experience across the website. We also feel there is a huge opportunity to leverage artificial intelligence to both simplify the experience and to provide better suggestions to customers who are looking for financial advice. This is a key area of focus for us right now. 5. Which financial service is in most demand and why with your customers - property, financing, credit cards, debt consolidation, refinancing loans, or saving money?Financing is the area with the highest demand, and debt consolidation is the most common reason people apply for a loan.
Meet Flip Fit - the first-of-its-kind social shopping platform with a unique AI technology which defines and predicts the demand of fashion products users are interested in.
Exclusive interview with Flip Fit co-founders Jonathan Ellman and Nooruldeen (Noor) Agha
1. It seems that Flip Fit brings all of the best parts of the in-person shopping experience into your living room! Can you explain exactly how your platform does this?
Flip Fit’s (Flip’s) first-of-its-kind Social Shopping platform blends the power of social media with the buying appeal of e-commerce. Customers receive pieces of clothing based on their preferences, likes and interactions. The fitting room is flipped into the living room, where a wardrobe is sent with a bracket (multiple sizes/colors) of items the customer requested to try on in and with the convenience of the Flip social platform so they can share photos to receive thumbs up or down validation from friends on what looks best.
2. Your platform is designed to ensure that people purchase only what they will actually use. How do you make this happen?
Flip came to life in order to allow shoppers the ability to emulate the offline experience - just in the comfort of their own home. The key is enabling our users the ability to try on different sizes and styles (i.e. a bracket) of every item to ensure a great fit AND the ability to receive needed validation from their community through our social app on how they look. These two criteria enable customers to truly only pay for and keep what they will actually use, not what they think they will use (but then it doesn’t fit them) or want but never use (cause they receive negative validation after the purchase was made). The key is to make returning the wardrobe seamless so our customers only have to pay for what they like, fits them and will use.
3. I understand that for Flip Fit returns are the default to your business model - can you explain this further?
1. We are making the return experience seamless. The box includes a pre-printed return label and customers can choose exactly when they want UPS to come to their door and pick it up.
2.Returns are our default. While the rest of the industry is fighting this phenomena, we are leaning into it. Almost half of all fashion shoppers bracket their online purchases, buying several pieces to try on at home with the intention of returning what doesn’t fit or what doesn’t match what they saw online.
3.Returns should be as easy as the purchase and by making the shopping process more efficient and effective, we’re keeping clothes out of landfills and in your closet.
4. How does Flip fit combine offline shopping experiences in an online capacity?
Fashion shopping has always been a social experience - the decision for today’s shoppers to buy happens once they receive validation from friends and family, but e-commerce has made shopping very isolating. We are connecting the social behaviors of shopping, which were previously only possible offline, with a virtual experience. Flip is embracing the physiological aspect of decision-making with a technology that is unprecedented in this space.
5. How important is AI to your platform in providing real-time peer validation and interaction?
Flip uses AI and Data Science heavily. Much in the same way that FB/Instagram uses its algorithm to serve its users the best content and information - so too does Flip. By combining the power of the data we collect on how our users behave and interact with each other and coupling this with how they vote on products, Flip is able to serve our community better content, which in turn, helps them find the products they want to try on in the comfort of their living room.
In parallel, Flip innovatively uses AI to define and predict the demand of fashion products that our community is interested in, through enhanced data we collect on the social side of our app coupled with our users purchasing behavior
Meet Takeoff Technologies - a company providing retailers with AI/robotics technology to pick grocery orders placed online for pick up.
Interview with Takeoff Technologies co-founders Jose Vicente Aguerrevere and Max Pedro
When building a B2B eGrocery solution for retailers, what was your biggest challenge first starting out?
When building out our solution, the most difficult thing was to crystallize the vision of something that didn’t yet exist. We knew that microfulfillment was the answer, but the challenge was to convince other people and align resources towards something that, until Takeoff, no one had heard of. - Jose V. AguerrevereCan you tell us a little about the co-founders previous experience before starting Takeoff Technologies. I see José Vicente Aguerrevere had extensive experience in the supply-chain business sector and Max Pedro was a VP at Walmart - how did these two meet and best match their skills to form Takeoff Technologies? Max and I actually met 20 years ago at Harvard Business School, where we were classmates and in a study group together. The concept for my grocery chain in Venezuela was something I discussed with Max. In 2016, the time was right for Takeoff, and luckily both of our professional lives also aligned at that time. I knew Max was the only one I could launch Takeoff with. - Jose V. AguerrevereWhen did you both realize that there was a need to fill the gap between retail and technology? Over the past few years, shoppers’ expectations around convenience have changed. eCommerce is growing rapidly at double digit growth, and key players have been shaping the competition: Amazon purchased Whole Foods, Walmart now offers free same-day pickup. Additionally automation has become a trend in grocery, whereas previously those two industries did not really overlap. It became really clear to us that grocery needed to transition online, and yet most grocers were facing a real challenge. They needed a solution that made it not only possible to survive online, but to thrive. -Jose V. Aguerrevere
2. Can you tell us a little about the co-founders previous experience before starting Takeoff Technologies. I see José Vicente Aguerrevere had extensive experience in the supply-chain business sector and Max Pedro was a VP at Walmart - how did these two meet and best match their skills to form Takeoff Technologies?
Max and I actually met 20 years ago at Harvard Business School, where we were classmates and in a study group together. The concept for my grocery chain in Venezuela was something I discussed with Max. In 2016, the time was right for Takeoff, and luckily both of our professional lives also aligned at that time. I knew Max was the only one I could launch Takeoff with. - Jose V. Aguerrevere
3. When did you both realize that there was a need to fill the gap between retail and technology? Over the past few years, shoppers’ expectations around convenience have changed. eCommerce is growing rapidly at double digit growth, and key players have been shaping the competition: Amazon purchased Whole Foods, Walmart now offers free same-day pickup. Additionally automation has become a trend in grocery, whereas previously those two industries did not really overlap. It became really clear to us that grocery needed to transition online, and yet most grocers were facing a real challenge. They needed a solution that made it not only possible to survive online, but to thrive. -Jose V. Aguerrevere
4. How has AI accelerated the eGrocery sector?
Grocery has been the slowest industry to go online, and that’s because grocery is uniquely difficult. You have very slim margins, you have to consider temperature control, you have to consider expiration dates, and each product varies widely in size and weight. Grocery is a completely different animal. You need a smart solution that tracks when an item is about to expire, that knows which products are high volume, and can store them accordingly. - Max Pedro
5. Who are some of Takeoff Technologies customers and what sets Takeoff Technologies apart from its competitors?
We are incredibly proud of the clients that we have. We’ve signed on with some of the top players in the industry: Albertsons, Wakefern, Ahold Delhaize, Woolworths, Loblaws, and Carrefour, to name a few. This is also what sets us apart from many of our competitors -- the fact that we have live sites with these retail partners that are currently filling online orders. This is not a dream of the future. This is happening right now. - Max Pedro