At the end of last year, the Ukrainian Startup Fund jointly with the European Business Association launched a new initiative — “Corporate Innovation“, which aims to promote the implementation of innovative developments from Ukrainian startups in enterprises. The initiative has become a much-desired platform that helps businesses and startups find each other. The mechanism is that corporations register on the Fund’s website, where they describe their challenges and then receive suggestions from startups that can address these issues.
Today we are ready to tell you about the first successes of the pioneers of this initiative and that is why we are launching a new column dedicated to the real cases of national startups: how they solve the problems of corporations through the introduction of innovations.
How it started
Aurora is an all-Ukrainian network of household goods stores with 650 retail locations. Like every retail player, this business is very sensitive to the mood of customers with whom it is in contact every day on a national scale. “Every company positions itself as customer-oriented, but only manifestos are not enough. First of all, we need tools that can help put this into practice. One of the key locations in any store is still the cash box, where communication between customers and staff occurs all the time. We are fully aware that in such places conflict situations can and are likely to arise, so it is important to keep your eye on the ball and respond to such things. It is important that the client not only came in a good mood but also came out”, the company’s team comments on the challenges they faced.
To address this and other related issues, on the basis of the networks of stores the own R&D department was created to find and implement innovations in the business. One of the priority tasks was to find a solution that would automate the collection of information and control of service quality. “The state initiative to create the Fund has been known to us for a long time, but we did not pay much attention to it, but in vain. At the end of last year, we became interested in startups and watched Pitch Days, where we found several potential partners among startups, the development of which we were attracted. Since then, the Fund has become a proven source of useful information for us”, said a representative of the R&D team about their history of acquaintance with the corporate innovation program. “We consider such events to be a catalyst for the development of Ukrainian business ideas.”
After receiving a request from Aurora, the Fund reviewed the company’s requirements, analyzed the proposals from startups, and recommended the Checki team to cooperate. “I have been controlling cash transactions for more than five years, so I am familiar with many clients in the field of HoReCa and retail. During communication with them from time to time, I heard about mystery shoppers who check the quality of service but realized that this method is expensive and inefficient. After a long search for an alternative in open sources, it turned out that the entrepreneur needs to assemble a real constructor from different services, which are scattered in different places. This is at least irrational”, commented the history of the Checki startup their CEO Oleksiy Ievlev. “This was the impetus for the implementation of the service, in which businesses do not need to spend time on complex and endless things, namely listening to dialogues with customers. I immediately joined the community, which is creating an open data set to convert voice in Ukrainian to text. At that time, there was simply no such data on the web“.
The results did not take long to come: soon “Aurora” through the Fund contacted the startup and agreed to launch a pilot. “Initially, I planned to set up the system, working with small clients, so that in the future it would be easier to pitch for large companies. But everything turned out the other way around and much better than expected“, he added.
The startup offered to install microphones in each cash area to collect voice information. Then it is converted into text and immediately after that, there is a search for keywords. As a result, you can automatically monitor the execution of the sales script and the correctness of the statements. “In addition, we also analyze and compare data from checks to establish patterns. This happens in parallel with the conversion of voice into text. We are now in the process of connecting the equipment. Everything is happening very dynamically and there is definitely a demand for such technologies”, Oleksiy comments on the technical details.
Aurora’s R&D department met the offer ambitiously and, despite the technical challenges and capital intensity, considers the decision to be strategically advantageous. “We have long felt the trend and prospects of using neural networks and expertise in working with voice streams. This is a future that has already come and the sooner we can use it in practice, the better”, they say. “The most difficult issue has always been human capital, which is able to implement all this in practice. The competitive advantage of such technologies is not even discussed. We are ready to invest in business development“.
Business always needs new solutions and optimizations of existing ones. At that time, startups often already have the right solutions. “The launch of the initiative for the development of corporate innovations together with the European Business Association was aimed at making real the following cases: pilot projects of startups and corporations, which resulted in mutually beneficial results“, said Pavlo Kartashov, director of the Ukrainian Startup Fund. “Between the desire and implementation of real innovations in practice, there may sometimes be a banal lack of information from corporations about the tools that startups have, and we will help close this gap. We look forward to the next heroes of our column“.