On the outside, they behave like regular colleagues in a company. You send them an e-mail or message with your request, and they get you what you need. However, they only exist virtually. Robots from the workshop of a Croatian start-up Robotiq.ai take over routine processes in banks or in administration offices from people. On the occasion of the announcement of the J&T Ventures Fund investment, the company founders Marko Gudelj and Darko Jovišić shared their vision.
Can you name specific examples of activities your robots can do?
M: A robot can basically do anything a human being does on a computer. Browse data, create reports, gather information, communicate. At the same time, however, it can also do much more technical stuff, such as communication with databases or via API. In general, we focus on structured processes that may be automated. There are a number of human activities routinely repeated in companies ten times, a hundred times or even a thousand times a day.
D: I’ll give you a specific example. A company asks its banker for a loan confirmation. The banker sends an e-mail to another department, where they read it, gather the necessary information, fill in some document and send it back to the banker, eventually charging a fee. In our case, the banker sends the very same e-mail to a robot, which downloads the attachment, verifies it and fills in all the data, and returns the result immediately. It is incomparably faster, more reliable, and most of all, scalable.
What differentiates you from the main competitors dealing with robotic process automation?
D: The word simplicity is at the center of everything for us. A simple setting of robots, a user friendly interface, as well as simple management and maintenance. For example, we introduced videologs - when a robot encounters a technical problem, it creates a video I can play and easily understand. We also boost simplicity in licensing; everybody can use the service and pay in a way they find suitable. An integrated chatbot represents a rather unique part of our product.
Can I communicate with the individual robots directly through the chatbot?
D: Yes, that is possible as well. However, it is not some generic chatbot on WhatsApp somewhere. It is built in directly where the company employees communicate. Therefore, no specialized tool is needed, it can be integrated in Slack or Teams. It is simply another team member.
Do your customers have an idea of what activities they want to automate, or do you perform some kind of a process audit?
M: That depends, but mostly, they know their company best. They walk around, gathering up different dull processes that are structured and massive in volume, and inform us about them. The robot must be programmed specifically to order, yet we are working on creating a network of licensed partners who will be able to present, sell and implement the service to customers.
Who are your typical customers?
M: That is rather varied. For example, Sberbank in Serbia is our customer, or BDO consulting company in Austria, the city of Zagreb, a German company Hörmann Automotive, the Rimac Automobili start-up developing electro mobiles, a telecommunications company from South Africa, American brokers or Croatian banks and institutions.
When did you find out that such a product is needed on the market?
M: Both Darko and I have a technical education background, but we tried out all kinds of different things - marketing and sales included. As consultants, we worked with the existing RPA solutions, and we knew what we were missing in them. They were too complicated, and some functions were missing. We believed that we could be faster and better. At the same time, we were very excited about this technology, took courses in machine learning and AI, and perceived the general buzz. We always wanted to do something together, and the timing was perfect, and so we established our company in 2018. It is also a personal challenge - to create something with the potential to succeed worldwide.
What does the current entrepreneurial environment in Croatia look like?
D: It’s getting better and better, there have been lots of successes over the past years. Infobip is a global company, Rimac makes electric cars for Porsche or Hyundai, there were exits of IT start-ups, gaming firms or digital agencies worth dozens of millions of dollars or more. Nearly every month, there is some big news coming, and thanks to this, Croatia has been drawing attention to itself. Unfortunately, it also means that it’s harder to find competent employees, but nevertheless, it is still amazing progress.
M: It is also interesting that our two main competitors are from Romania and Greece. So, when it comes to RPA, our region is rather a hot spot.
You chose the J&T Ventures Fund from the Czech Republic as an investor. Wouldn’t it be better to find a local investor?
D: We talked to a number of investors, because we wanted to find the right one. We had an advisor who warned us that it would take at least 30 to 40 appointments before we found one. We didn’t believe it, but in the end, that is exactly what happened. J&T Ventures was the first with whom we felt everything was fitting together - we understood each other personally, we had wonderful discussions about the product and strategy, and we very much liked the fact that they are a part of a large group with access to banks and retail. It is not only about money; they really connect us actively with potential customers.
Thanks to the investment, you can now enjoy greater freedom. What are your plans for the coming years?
D: For the last two years, we concentrated fully on product development. Our software is easy to use, but it was very hard to create. Nevertheless, it was our plan from the beginning to engage machine learning and AI, which we want to focus on much more now. That’s why we are establishing an independent development team. Regarding the main thing, I can unfortunately disclose no details, because it will be our secret ingredient which we are about to patent. But let’s just say that we’re planning on making the robots much faster and more robust. We believe it will truly be a major breakthrough.
M: In general, I believe that personal digital assistants are the future. They will prepare supporting data for our decisions, and deal with routine work tasks in our place.
Do you aim at smaller companies or large corporations?
M: Our technology is prepared for large corporations; its impact is greatest there. They have huge numbers of processes. But our bigger and older competitors are striving for them too. So at the same time, we create standardized bots as an accessible service for smaller companies. We are looking for specific processes we could automate in many customers at the same time.
D: For example, every company needs to communicate with financial authorities, and it always takes place in a similar way. That’s why such an activity could be done by a robot.
To conclude with, here’s a question you undoubtedly hear a lot - will your robots deprive a number of people of their jobs?
D: Within the framework of the projects we are working on, there has been no staff reduction so far. Even in highly commercial clients who are efficiency-oriented. The point is that companies become more efficient, and they can deal with client requests faster and in greater volumes, and people can work on more complex tasks which have greater added value. Moreover, each new technology opens up a number of new job positions.
M: I like the claim that RPA liberates the robots in people, and gives people time for creative work.