Enterprises and organizations of today are divided into various siloes. Be it HR, Finance, IT, or any other silo, the complicated workflows require assistance to sort out the work with ease.
In this situation, few college graduates joined hands to provide a solution that can deal with the problem. They started a service Chatteron that set the foundation right and became the reason behind the inception of Leena AI i.e. an enterprise generative AI.
We interviewed Adit Jain, the CEO of Leena AI and one of the founders behind this amazing technology. Read ahead to learn about the journey of Adit Jain, and the various facets related to Leena AI.
1) Can you briefly talk about the origin story for Leena AI and your own personal Journey as one of the co-founders?
Absolutely so I completed my undergrad in 2015. You know at that time, we had services like the Swiggy and Zomato. These services were changing lives. You know how you eat food and access stuff and then there was this movement of entrepreneurship that started.
I along with my two best friends from college were pulled into the stream and that is where it all started. We essentially started with building a platform called Chatteron. So Chatteron is a horizontal platform that enables anyone to create chatbots without writing a single line of code. It was a DIY platform to build chatbots for use cases like customer support, marketing, sales, etc for websites such as Facebook Messenger pages and Twitter handles.
This was where we started off. The first two years were amazing. So from 2015 to 2017 again, we went from zero to over 30 000 businesses that were just creating bots for different use cases. You know while all of this was happening and the growth was great, it was a freemium model so while the top of the funnel had expanded to over 30 000 businesses globally using Chatteron for different use cases, our conversions were pretty bad.
We had only around 20 odd-paying customers. You know, when we dug a little deeper, we realized the problem. We were trying to be everything for everyone. It's a classic rookie mistake of Entrepreneurship. We were not actually going deep and adding a lot of value to one particular persona. We were trying to be everything for everyone. We were essentially nothing for anybody which is why we weren’t converting on the web.
When we looked at the customer that had converted from the top 20 who started paying us, we realized that they were using Chatteron to build internal HR and IT Bots. This was very interesting for us because at that time IIT does not teach you what HR and IT really do. It's probably useless information that we get most days but in practical, I would use it. So after we started looking at you why are they doing this, why are they essentially building HR and IT Bots? That is where we realize that there is a problem of access to information right.
In large enterprises, there are so many teams, people, applications systems, and departments that find the right information. It means getting your job done is just impossible. This is where we realize that we have to solve that problem. We can actually solve the problem of access to information in large enterprises. That's essentially the birth of Leena AI with the vision of building a SIRI for the enterprise.
2) You’ve raised around 30 million till now. What was your biggest challenge in raising capital for the first time?
I think the biggest issue for a first-time entrepreneur who just came out of college is having no experience. It is very hard to know where to start right. I think that was one of the biggest things. I feel like you spend a lot of the first three months and six months trying to figure out, questions like what do investors care about?, how do you think about raising?, etc.
I specifically believe that the problem seems to be lesser in today's world. Now, I'm on the other side of the table and I receive these pitches. I do think that you know even for people who are still in college, second years or third year, they are actually able to concisely communicate and get all of this. Very fast as compared to what we used to be back in like seven years ago. I think that was one thing that has significantly changed but it was very tough for us back then.
3) Based on your experience what is one piece of advice for startups with no prior experience in raising funding?
One thing that is always of prime importance is that you need to know most of the time people series B people are investing in you. Therefore, you need to be as authentic as possible.
By the end of the day, any VC even at series B level is going to bet on you and not the business. It is important to nail the communication and articulate your ideas in such a manner that it depicts trust.
4) As your profile states you as an investor, angel investors such as you receive tons of successful and unsuccessful pitches. What differentiates you from other investors?
I think the most important thing to know before investing is to look for early-stage opportunities. I also think about the league of the business, the idea, the product, etc.
You spend time in the market, you learn, and then you pivot right. I believe if you have the right team which wants to solve something in a specific space that is one core thing most ninja investors are betting on. If I have to go back and take off all my experience then I will make sure that I sell myself to the angel investors. I will research about the space, I will be articulate, and clear why I exited the space.
I think these are the two most important things that as an entrepreneur, I would like to do. In fact, angel investors know that you will be paying with things that are gonna go wrong but you’ll keep pivoting and figure them out. I think the biggest thing that you are selling is the angel investor’s pitch.
5) Considering there are multiple data privacy laws and regulations, can you walk me through the regulation in India when it comes to conversational AI?
I think it is global and not just in India. However, globally the data security and privacy regulations are in line with what they are for any software. They're no different regulations right. I think that's fair because we cannot extend it to the conversation AI context.
However, from a linear perspective, let’s say an employee comes in and say why is my salary less. Leena AI would respond by checking out your profile. For instance employee ID, email ID, and all that. The system would require salary slip, attendance data, leave data, etc. in order to answer that. To do this, Leena AI is accessing the information that has already existed in an enterprise.
You know data security and privacy regulation in any enterprise software should be right. You simply need to extend this for Leena AI to support all the customer cases. For instance, if you call Airtel or Vodafone, or ATNT, and ask “Hey you know why is my bill high, I did not make international roaming calls”. In the case of an intelligent system, intelligent voice support can actually tell that no you made a call to Dubai and it cost you $40. Therefore, the question is again answered by the system which is subjected to the standard of data privacy and production regulation.
Right now, I believe this is all that conversational AI companies are doing. However, the main ones for us would be GDPR, ISO 27K, CCPA, fed ramp, etc. These are the big ones that we need to abide by and it makes sense.
6) As you’ve already extrapolated a lot about the HR sector. I wanted to know what you want to get a better idea of and which is the most sensitive sector that you are working on right now?
We are an enterprise virtual assistant, therefore, we cover everything from HR, admin, finance, procurement, sales, etc to literally everything. We position ourselves as the SIRI for the enterprise or Jarvis for the enterprise. It is like everything that you do as an employer day-to-day is going to help you.
Right now, the most sensitive data is the employee information itself. Leena AI does not touch customer information at all. So likewise, we don’t touch our customer data, we only check out the sales use case or operation’s use case.
For instance, let’s say Coca-cola is a customer of Leena AI and the employee asks “Okay, how much of Coca-Cola does a particular distributor distribute to buyer?”. In that case, they will get a real-time response. However, the most information that we have is of the employees themselves, and it covers all kinds of data i.e. for instance instance financial information.
7) How much do linguistics and accents play a part in terms of accuracy when it comes to conversational AI?
It plays a big role. I think there are languages that are globally available but don’t have resources. There are languages that are less spoken or which are very complicated. In these cases, the accuracy wildly varies when you compare it with something like English, Spanish, French, German, etc. All these languages are widely spoken. Although, I need to mention that now globally there are 40 to 50 languages that are supported in NLP and AI.
8) What are some of the core values that make up your company culture and how has that evolved over time?
You know as an organization our company culture has three strong pillars. The first pillar is just maintaining your curiosity. We want to work with people and we want to be very curious. People who try and solve problems through and through.
We fundamentally rely on a very high speed of innovation and I think curiosity is good, it's literally a cultural value for us. It is because, at the end of the day, that's how we have been able to succeed. In fact, this is how we have been able to transformationally change the industry because we are just very curious.
The second one is more along the lines of being extremely open to accepting. You know criticism. So one of the things that we champion within the organization is not ever take criticism as negative. Everything has to be taken and has to be seen as a positive reinforcement or positive criticism. How can you take it in your stride?, how can you improve?, I think a lot of time criticism has been taken extremely negatively. You know people are scared that you know this is happening, they get defensive. I personally embrace criticism because you know hey, it was my blind spot. I didn't get to see it.
Just think about it you know in a car crash, if somebody would have told you that there's a car coming you know, you'd appreciate it. You’re not to be defensive about it. You would appreciate it and you put the brakes on. That’s exactly how I look at criticism. I think that's one of the things that we champion in the organization.
The third pillar is also very similar. It's also very contrary and very similar in nature so it's basically how can we have patience. Let's say, I asked the customer success manager and I asked her for some information being in sales, that’s okay. What's happening with that customer? I have a cross-sell opportunity going on. I won't say I'm going to come back to you by today evening. I'm not gonna think that she is not working. I'm gonna think that she's busy with something right and that's probably why she forgot. Let me quickly remind her.
So how can you always come from a place of trust, how can you always give the benefit of the doubt? We also call it always giving the benefit of the doubt. So, how can I give you the benefit of the doubt for everything. Of course, if you fail or if you take advantage of it then the system is kind of built in a way, if 95% of people are good and five percent who are not, they'll eventually get weeded out.
You'll always get better and better at it. However, at the core of it, we will always trust our people. We always give them the benefit of the doubt and it's kind of served us well. Overall, I think these are three specific pillars for us as an organization. The Curiosity one creates makes sure that we keep marching forward at a very high pace. The other two are more about how do we want to?, how do we behave?, Who we are? How do we act all of that?
The evolution of company culture over time and how it has evolved and changed with our interactions, with our customers, I think, we've gone from three people to 450 in the last four years right.
It's been an incredible journey but of course, every stage requires us to rethink. Go back to basics and understand. What are our core values? and how do you want the culture to be right?
Now, of course, the basics don't change right. The basic three things, I told you they don't check but how do you implement them in day-to-day life? How does it look like on the ground.
There might be things that become valuable or invaluable over a period of time. So just keep in check on that. What happens is, we work very closely with leadership across organizations and across the globe. We get very good insights and a lot of feedback. I myself speak to a lot of CIOs, CHROs, CEOs, COOs to understand how they think about topics and issues. How they think about culture in their own organizations to craft our own as we keep moving forward. However, I think the culture of an organization is also like a living organism and it keeps evolving over a period of time. As per the needs of the market, the company, and the organization change
9) I was wondering if there have been any sources of inspiration or mentors in your journey so far in this sector?
I think there have been a lot of people. I and the other founders have relied on for saying advice as we have gone through multiple stages of our own organization. Think of it as a living and breathing thing because what you need, or what you need to learn, or what you need to think about sometimes cannot happen from just one kind of person. You know that the people you rely on also evolve over time. Right now, we have a proper formal board but apart from that is a person, I rely on.
Now the problem is it's a dichotomy because when you are doing it for the first time, you know nobody in the world. How do you find a job basically? You know you keep talking to people until you figure out who can help you get to the next step. Later on, the next step of course is everybody's advice. It is important to get to that next step.
Once you think, you have someone whose advice on multiple levels and you stick with them throughout generally. However, on a practical level, it becomes tough for a first-time entrepreneur. This is especially when they have no network. So, I think at that time, you should just find people who have just done it even if they are just one step above you. I think it is because I don’t think you can find a senior folk to come and mentor you on day one. Therefore, to go to the next step, figure out someone who can help you at least get there. Later on, keep repeating it until you find that person. A person capable of actually advising you throughout the stages. I think there have been a lot of people, we have relied on to get where we are.
10) What advice would you like to give to anyone approaching networking in any particular field?
I think, one is you have to be okay with networking as a need. You have to be okay with rejections. I think initially when I started, my mindset was what if they say “NO”. So there is a lot of hesitation on that part and you are scared.
I think, you just have to do it for the first 10-15 times. When it's done 15 times then you’ll be okay. So my advice has always been to get to the first 15 knowns ASAP. Once you’ve achieved that number then you’ll be fine. Also, think about what I can do for them for free. It’ll be great to know why he/she should know me or what I can do for him/her to make their life better.
So for instance tomorrow maybe if you know I need it for something, you know she'd want to spend some time with me. Of course like if you can't just be thinking okay what do I, what do I give her right now, and what do I take from her today itself. You just give and you hope that someday, you know it will all come together that's the idea.
So for instance tomorrow if I need them for something, they’ll most likely be willing to spend some time with me to sort out my problem. Of course, if you can’t provide anything today just give the hope that someday, you will give. Once you know and follow this, it will all come together and that’s the idea.
11) What are your five-year plans for Leena AI and what are the plans for this year?
We actually have a lot of customers in the U.S. However most of our customers are from the Middle East, Europe, and South America, therefore, we are a global company by that sort. You know even while the globe was suffering or was on the verge of a meltdown, I think we are uniquely placed for good growth because we are a cost-saving solution for organizations. We are determined to do a 3X business this year, and that’s our biggest goal for 2023.
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