Started playing: Q4/2017
Joined the band: Q4/2017
We had the pleasure to get visited by the joy spreading founders of PrompterAI; Lauri Hynynen (CEO), Niko Ahonen and Juho Hyytiäinen. These three previous Smartly musketeers decided that it was about time to start solving a problem they kept running into in different organizations.
Icebreaker (IB): Hi guys, how are you doing?
Lauri: Hi, we are doing great, thanks for asking. We are having a lot going on, but I guess that’s a good sign.
IB: So, could you tell us a little bit about your backgrounds, what you have been doing before you started with PrompterAI?
Niko: To begin with, we all met during our time at smartly.io where we were among the first 20 employees. I worked as a data scientist, and before that, I designed algorithms at DealDash. My educational background is from Aalto University where I studied industrial engineering and had a vision of becoming a white-collar consultant, but I had a re-awakening and realized that it wasn't something for me and now I am on this path.
Lauri: We have all worked at Smartly before and studied at Aalto University, so we have known each other for quite a while. I have also been building my own startup in San Francisco a couple of years back, so I have a good sense of the startup scene that is blooming now.
Juho: As Lauri, I have a strong background in the Helsinki startup scene. I was one of the first employees at Aalto Venture Garage that kicked off Startup Sauna, for example. At Smartly I focused on operations and later sales operations. I’m also an engineer at Aalto Uni.
IB: You all previously worked at Smartly, but what got you to start your own thing?
Niko: We had been discussing for a while that it’s quite odd that nobody has developed a proper solution for knowledge management and specifically sales productivity. We ran into this problem in our work time and time again and got annoyed for the waste of time and effort it caused. Since all of us love to automate things to minimize human hassle, we started to solve this issue.
IB: What do you mean when you talk about sales productivity?
Lauri: Doing sales in a productive way requires good processes for creating, sharing and managing information and knowledge in an organization. There are plenty of tools for this, but it also means that information is scattered.
Juho: Let me give an example: when a salesperson is prepping for a meeting with a potential customer, they are likely going through their email, updated sales decks, and CRM. In addition to these internal tools, they are likely checking LinkedIn, news and the potential client’s website for more information. Likely they will also ask a few things from a colleague and end up using not only their own time but bothering others as well.
Niko: The funny thing is that when companies have a CRM in place, they think all of their customer data related problems are solved. This, of course, is not true: information is always spread into various places and using human effort to bring it together separately for each customer and each meeting is a huge waste of time.
Juho: Like, how many times have you gotten a team ping for something people could’ve just looked up themselves?
IB: What is it that PrompterAI does to solve these issues that arise in almost every organization?
Lauri: As mentioned, CRM or other all-in-one tools are thought to be silver bullets bringing all information into one place. Since experience has shown that information is always spread to many channels, at PrompterAI we’re not building yet another tool for storing information. Instead, we are gathering together the information from all the existing tools and channels so that all information can easily be found when it's needed and nothing will be missed, whichever device you are using.
Niko: In other words, we are providing a search layer on top of all underlying information sources from where our tool can automatically find the most needed and recent information, which keeps you on the track where your client discussions ended last time.
Lauri: It can be described as an automatic personal assistant that provides you with necessary information and helps you stay on top of your daily plans.
IB: At which point are you now with PrompterAI?
Lauri: We started working in September 2017 and got our first users during the first few weeks. Now, just six months later, we have a well-functioning product with users from all around the globe.
Niko: I think it was essential for us to just start doing: what we have learned from our previous ventures is that building product from the beginning together with customers speeds things up and makes sure you’re solving the right problems.
Juho: We’re still very much focusing on building the product and onboarding, new users. This is what we have been doing from day 1.
IB: All of you had some background form the startup scene or even founded a company by yourself, so has it been different this time?
Lauri: I started my first own business back in 2010, and when I look back at those times I realize how much experience I have gained over the years. This time I am better prepared for obstacles that will occur during the way, and I have learned to focus on the right things.
Juho: I found it super cool to try to solve a real problem that many people struggle with, and hopefully develop a solution that will help people to manage their day-to-day better.
Niko: I have been working for several companies and see them grow from 10 persons up to 100 employees but never been self in the position to develop something from the idea stage which I find fascinating.
IB: What are the future goals for PrompterAI?
Lauri: Like most entrepreneurs, who usually dream about going global and scale the company fast, so do we. We are aiming to become a widely-used product that has a real impact on the working environment in different sectors. I see a lot of potential in our team and product, to achieve these goals.
For the short term, we are focusing on further improve the product and recruit more talents to our team, for different tasks that will occur during our growth path. So, if someone is interested in joining our team and thinks they would be a spot-on fit, please be in contact.
IB: Would you recommend the entrepreneurial lifestyle to others that are thinking of starting something on their own?
Lauri: I assume that it is different from being in a corporation, for example, Nokia, where your input isn't visible in the same way as in a small startup. In big companies, you get a ready-made playbook of best practices, but in startups, you get to figure out a lot of things by yourself. If you like to pull up your sleeves and work hard to create something new, then the startup life is perfect for you.
Juho: I think it is a question about what you want to do, and you should be honest with yourself. Working at a big corporation or a startup is very different, you learn a lot from both but in different ways. You should listen to yourself and find out what you want to contribute to, that's also why PrompterAI was born.
Niko: It's pretty much about your attitude: if you like a stable 9 to 5 job, then starting a company is maybe not for you.
IB: One thing that I was wondering about is where the name PrompterAI comes from?
Lauri: Nice that you asked this question. It was one of the hardest tasks we faced in the beginning.
Juho: We struggled a long time with finding a name that we were pleased with. We gave ourselves a deadline, and then we chose the best one that we had come up with at that point. We had thousands of different possible names everything from Norwegian mythology to hard rock band names. But what prompter means is the hidden person whispering to the actors on stage during an opera or a play.
IB: How has Icebreaker contributed to your journey?
Lauri: It has been great, they have given us the opportunity to focus on what we do best, and we haven't needed to worry about the financial situation. They are a perfect fit for us, straightforward and with a knowledge of the SaaS business, so they have a good understanding of what we are doing. We are pleased to be a part of the Icebreaker.vc band!