During this 8th edition of the Startup Breakfast, we welcomed Stéphane Nouy and Thomas Solignac, respectively MD and CEO of Moneythor and Golem.ai, to the Finance Innovation offices at Palais Brongniart.
Two different paths but a common mentality
Stéphane and Thomas, two passionate engineers, want to be realistic and critical, and refuse to present themselves in a classic way by romanticizing their entrepreneurial adventure. From 8:30 in the morning, Thomas, a computer scientist and philosopher at heart, began by bouncing back on our question and sending the first spade: “entrepreneurial stories are false”.
“Entrepreneurs sometimes tell their stories as if the facts were the result of a logical sequence of events, where success would have been planned well in advance. When in reality, there is a huge cognitive bias, he tells us. We discover our project and its market while we prepare and sell the project. And that’s normal: AI (artificial intelligence) is a rising market. Everything is emerging. Innovation requires rapid change, on which we are dependent and involved! ».
Golem.ai originally developed with the idea of popularizing voice interfaces.
“Time has shown that the heart of our added value lies in our unique approach to semantic interpretation, and not specifically in voice. On the other hand, the market has responded strongly to a wide range of solutions where voice is not predominant, but where the complexity of competing text analysis systems is limiting. In addition, the very strong popularization of maching learning, which was not anticipated at the beginning of our history in 2012, has highlighted our radically different approach.”
Indeed, the entrepreneur is not in control of his environment, quite the contrary. He must adapt, try things, have talent but also success. The market is complex and it is impossible to determine which strategy is the most optimal well in advance. The easy solution would be to say that success will decide. But how many make the right decisions and still fail? And successful entrepreneurs may have made good decisions for the wrong reasons. Those who fail underline the chance factor, those who succeed minimize it.
Stéphane also tells us about his adventure in a purely factual way. Moneythor was designed by a team that has worked for more than 15 years in the banking software industry. They have already successfully developed a previous software package together, which is still used by more than 90 banks. The founders of Moneythor’s extensive experience in banking coupled with an entrepreneurial mentality gives them the necessary energy to seek to develop a sector that tends to rest on its laurels.
The first solution created and sold by Stéphane also allowed them to finance in equity, the accumulated experience and profile of the co-founders reassured the first customers in their choice of a FinTech. Once again, thanks to the solid experience in the sector, the team was able to quickly define the product scope and business model, focus exclusively on it without dispersing – this is one of the keys to success – and Moneythor is from its very first versions not only innovative but already solid and perfectly exploitable software for banks. Stéphane is also well aware and does not hide the fact that Moneythor invests more in his product than in marketing or in an unbridled commercial development financed by fundraising. It’s the team’s DNA, right or wrong.
As Thomas points out, it is the bias of engineers who are too perfectionist and who focus on the technical performance of their product, neglecting marketing at first, preferring to start marketing, with an already very successful product, and therefore often unnecessarily late. And he does not hesitate to send his second spade to the business schools/Po science schools, which do the opposite: a product whose market is well analysed, well sold but which does not yet exist, very experimental, or whose technological aspects are relegated to the background.
But what do they do in practice?
Golem.ai started from the feeling of the band of engineers from Epitech that voice was the future of technology. However, they refuse to take part in the trend of machine learning to solve language problems, preferring a more pragmatic and, above all, more multidisciplinary approach. “We have a classic and modern approach,” Thomas explains. The added value of Golem.ai is in semantics. “We have text, how can we make the machine make sense of it in a given context? This is the heart of our technology, and our R&D.”
As at Moneythor, the team faced the challenges of sales. It takes firepower to satisfy a market, or to turn into prescribers, and sell the API to those who have the financial power to do so.
But Golem.ai has already found funding from Business Angels. A quite unique experience for him.
“There is a lot of variety in the BA, they bring something different. In my experience, a VC will not always seek to evaluate the impact of the technology or products, it will more often focus on the profitability already achieved, and the elements that can be quantified immediately,” Thomas tells us.
Stéphane and his team, for their part, have built a digital solution to improve banks’ digital services, in particular by analysing transactions and generating personalised and contextual recommendations for their clients. This helps customers manage their finances, and most importantly generates digital engagement, by opening up new customer satisfaction, marketing and cross-selling opportunities for banks!
And many of them are already adopting the solution… In Europe of course, but also in Asia where Moneythor is well established and is growing even faster!
Stéphane explains that there is indeed an incredible demand in Asia for fintech solutions, coupled with very strong government institutions to connect innovators with key accounts. Its partners are precisely present in Singapore, which boosts Moneythor’s international development. This presence on several continents and in various innovative markets also enriches the solution.
From Startup to Breakfast
This was followed by a half hour of Networking over a good coffee/croissant.
We hope to see many of you for the next one!
Article written by Jean-Baptiste Bordenave Estimeo