With our newest space open in the heart of Hatton Garden, we are delighted to introduce Areaworks Farringdon’s first members, Poly AI. We sat down with them to find out a little more about the amazing things they are working on, so without further ado, here’s Poly AI!
Please tell us about your company, what you do, and a bit about your background.
We develop AI-powered customer service agents that truly understand what customers want. We come from an academic background and we’re really excited to be taking cutting edge academic research and applying it to real-life applications.
What exciting projects are you working on at the moment? Tell us all about all the fantastic things you’re doing.
We’ve recently launched our first commercial product! It’s a virtual agent that takes bookings and reservations over the phone. It’s currently being used by a large UK restaurant chain and we hope to deploy in other businesses soon!
What does 2020 look like for your company? What are you hoping to achieve?
In 2020 we’ll be exploring lots of interesting use-cases for AI technology in customer support, as well as rolling out our appointments/bookings agent across lots more exciting companies.
How did you manage to get your business off the ground?
The PolyAI founders met at Cambridge’s Dialog Systems Group, part of the Machine Intelligence Lab at the University of Cambridge.
They joined the Entrepreneur First accelerator in 2017 and started to build up the PolyAI team. Earlier this year, we closed our Series A round and here we are!
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Probably people’s past and current experiences of chatbots. If you’ve tried a Facebook Messenger bot or similar, you’ll know what I’m talking about. They hardly ever work! But these kinds of chatbots are often built on an if-this-then-that style flow, which isn’t really about artificial intelligence, it’s about logic.
Explaining how conversational AI works is challenging enough in its own right, but it becomes a lot more complicated when you also need to unpick people’s past negative experiences in order to show that you’re different.
That said, I think our technology speaks for itself, so we are getting there!
What’s your greatest achievement to date?
We’re really proud of everything we’ve done to get where we are today, but the greatest achievement is probably assembling our team. We have one of the best dialogue teams in the world all working together to create amazing products. Everyone at PolyAI could be working for one of the tech giants, but they’ve chosen to work with us instead which is super humbling and makes us proud every day.
Why did you decide to join Areaworks?
We have a private office in Areaworks, which has given us the space and freedom to create a real home for ourselves here. But we also get to benefit from the shared-workspace community which is really valuable for a young company like ourselves. And there’s great facilities like a roof terrace and gym!
What in your opinion, is the key to your success so far?
I have to say it’s all about building a great team and aligning them around the same problem. Our team come from all over the world, and we each have very different skills, but we all know what we’re working towards and we work together to get closer to it.
What are the things you do to relax and balance yourself after a hard days work?
We’re a pretty mixed bunch so relaxing could be any number of things: cooking, reading, working out, gaming, spending time with family, going to gigs etc.
We’re a pretty sociable bunch so you’ll usually find of us in the office until late most nights!
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
Like I said, we’re a pretty mixed bunch so it really varies. We’ve set up Slack channels for music and reading recommendations and we have a ‘social’ channel for inviting everyone to cool stuff we want to go to.
What are your favourite things about the Farringdon area?
It has to be Leather Lane market, surely?!
Is there any advice that you’d give to yourself when you were just starting out?
There must be a thousand things we all wish we didn’t have to find out the hard way, but honestly, I don’t think any of us would have really done anything different. I know that’s a bit of a cop-out but it’s really important to just try things and learn from the outcomes.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Probably the fact that we genuinely believe in what we’re building, and we can’t wait to show it off to the world. We get to work with people who inspire us every single day and while we might end up banging our heads against the walls every now and then, we know that we’re creating unique solutions to real-world problems.
Also, we have a pretty good snack selection.
If you want to read more about some of our other members, head over to our blog. And if you’d like to work with incredible, like-minded people like Poly AI, why not book a tour of one of our Areaworks spaces. Your new office could be closer than you think!