The nuts and bolts
Berlin-based startup parlamind is developing a ground-breaking analytics software to fundamentally change the way companies manage customer care. Founded by four seriously clever people – serial entrepreneur Christian Wolf (CEO), Tina Kluewer (CTO), Núria Bertomeu Castelló (CSO), and Tobias Lehmann (CIO), their super-sophisticated software provides insights into what customers are asking, how they feel, what the issue is, how fast stuff gets resolved, and how happy customers are afterwards. The six-strong team are working on a prototype to be ready in a few weeks. This will be rolled out to three pilot customers, then tweaked and launched in a first version very soon.
We talked to Chris and Tina about the evolution of parlamind and how being part of GTEC is going to help them.
Where did the idea come from?
Tina: “I come from a research background in language technology and making computers more humanlike in conversations. About a year ago, my colleague (Núria – one of parlamind‘s co-founders) and I had an idea to create a business out of this technology and applied for an EXIST startup grant. For that, we needed letters of intent from e-commerce companies, saying they thought it was a good idea; we approached Chris.”
Chris: “I was still CEO of wirkaufens.de – the e-commerce business I founded in 2008, re-furbishing and re-selling electronic goods. Of course, I supported their application, though they didn’t get in the end. Around that time, I stepped back from being CEO to take a position on the board and went travelling. That was when I got thinking about the great potential in Tina and Núria’s idea and what you could do with the base technology. As CEO I made point of spending a couple of days a year working in customer care, reading through emails and answering them to really understand the challenges our customers faced. I drew on the problems in my own business and could see what a huge potential there was in this space to make getting this sort of in-depth understanding easier to access and more efficient.”
What was the evolution from idea to business?
Chris: “I’m convinced the next big battle ground for e-commerce is customer care. There has been price (margins are now near zero), traffic, ads (getting more and more expensive). After that you’re only left with one viable strategy – loyal customers who come over and over again and who promote you. If you nail customer care, you’ve turned customer problems into opportunities to win over an even bigger fan of your business. Tina and I started talking seriously about the idea in September 2014. But we wanted to validate it, so we went out and talked to a lot of e-commerce companies. There was clearly a pain point, which we could address.”
Tina: “Now we know the focus has to be giving insight to team leaders, department heads and for entrepreneurs so that they can see exactly which parts of the customer experience work well and which are a constant source of anger.”
Chris: “We’ve designed the software to identify problems much more quickly than a person could, pinpoint exactly what the problem is and relay this to the relevant people in the organisation. This improves the quality of customer care and makes companies more efficient.”
Chris: “From my previous companies I have a good network of potential investors and advisors. But that’s just one aspect of what a startup needs. It was hard developing the prototype whilst not all being in the same place – now we are. Being part of GTEC and using the Lab has taken away a big cost and address-wise (Schlossplatz 1) it just couldn’t get any better. Also, it’s really important for us to be in a network of other tech startups doing really innovative stuff. We can learn a lot from them.”
Tina: “We’re fully focused on getting the prototype ready, so it’s all about coding and final tweaks. Then it goes out to our three pilot companies for them to use and give us feedback. We’ll use that to develop the first version of our product.”
Chris: “Alongside that we need to go out and get some seed investment. Until recently it’s been self-funded, then in August we won the EXIST grant (with a big pivot on the idea and with Chris and Tobias also on the team), but we want to grow fast and more investment would really help.”
Thanks Chris and Tina – we’re delighted to have the parlamind team in the Lab!