Speciate AI aims to improve the product development life cycle, overhauling the way companies interact with their consumers in the process. With a usable dashboard capable of providing real-time updates, and a unique solution for white space discovery, Speciate uses artificial intelligence tools to aggregate, analyze, and generate insights from unstructured data. Midwest Scout Dan Eidell sat down with co-founders Paul Blase and Kate Besser to discuss their progress to date and the road ahead.
Scratching the Surface
The idea that more data exist now than ever before has become cliché. Through connected devices, social media, and other daily staples, companies can collect information about and from their customers on a second-by-second basis. Much of this data, however, is unstructured – a blur of images, audio, video, social media posts, and long-form text, among others. Indeed, unstructured data represent between 80 and 90 percent of all existing data. While the prospect of harnessing said information presents a huge opportunity for companies, many struggle to process this information. Speciate AI has set out to solve this problem and modernize the way companies interact with their consumers.
“What was really frustrating (about traditional survey techniques) was that it took a long time to get the data back, and that it was very high level…Given the prevalence of unstructured data and the value of Natural Language Processing, you can go much deeper and create a much better output.”
– Paul Blase, Co-Founder and CEO
Co-Founders Paul Blase and Kate Besser saw the opportunity presented by artificial intelligence. As consultants with extensive experience in data analytics, they understood the challenges presented by traditional consumer studies. For companies, surveys were too high-level, unpredictable, and took too long to process and make actionable. Meanwhile, even when consumers wanted to communicate with companies, contact was reduced to rigid, company-driven, time-sensitive surveys rather than responding to consumer desires. The idea for Speciate AI was born.
Reimagining Product Development
Speciate offers a robust, integrated, AI-powered solution that its team believes product and brand managers could use every day and at each stage in the product development process.
That process begins with discovery, a stage at which 95% of the 30,000 new products introduced each year fail, even as market research firms in the United States generate between $11.5 billion and $20.6 billion in annual revenue. At this stage, established companies convene focus groups, craft surveys, and track potential customers, attempting to extract insights and identify untapped opportunities. Speciate AI, by contrast, harvests rich unstructured data that already exists, generating greater insights at a fraction of the cost. Speciate has developed a process of compiling information across formats and platforms – from long-form articles and blogs, to reviews of existing products, tweets, Instagram posts, and other social media. From there, artificial intelligence takes over. Using proprietary algorithms, Speciate cleans, categorizes, and analyzes this input, digesting the underlying sentiment and revealing “white space” that can drive forward-looking business decisions. This, according to Blase, is one of Speciate’s truly differentiated offerings.
“Designing a product without involving your customers is like clapping one-handed. [Our process] brings analytic rigor to a consulting process that was mostly speculative.”
– Paul Blase, Co-Founder and CEO
Speciate’s dashboard solution generates different insights from the same information once a company’s products hit the market. Whereas the initial stage focused on identifying opportunities, Their newest offering allows companies to see to-the-minute updates on customer perceptions of their products down to the feature level. As consumers tweet, blog, or otherwise review their newest purchases, Speciate uses its technology to update its tracking of consumer sentiment and identify the attributes that set products apart.
“What we provide is deeper, broader, and more meaningful than your basic survey, and far more cost-effective.”
– Paul Blase, Co-Founder and CEO
Speciate has also released the Hoot! app (available here on the App Store) plays a vital role at all stages in the process. Unlike traditional surveys, Hoot! offers companies the opportunity to collect rich, organic, customer feedback (e.g., photos, video, audio, long-form text, etc.) at a fraction of the current cost. In the early stages of development, companies can identify target populations and craft tailored questions that assess how, when, and where customers will actually use a potential product. The same target population can be sampled throughout the product development and launch processes, giving companies a constant link to prospective customers.
Doubling Down on Growth
The company team has achieved several milestones in the last year, including the expansion of its team, setting itself apart from competitors, and identifying target segments and categories for the future.
Speciate’s team has expanded to include individuals with complementary skillsets, fusing the strategic with the technical. For business development, Paul and Kate are joined by Katie Oates – a veteran of startups on both Coasts who has been vital in realizing product-market fit. On the technical side, CTO Nick Nafpliotis and Senior Data Scientist Gus Carlock do everything from architecture and development to designing the company’s products. Creative Director Jason Hsu plays an equally crucial role in ensuing that Speciate’s offerings are appealing, accessible, and easily digested.
The company has also set itself apart from its competition. Compared to traditional surveys and consumer studies, Speciate’s analysis is more agile, based on richer information, and is delivered in time to make decisions. And, among startups, their comprehensive approach sets them apart from companies like dScout, MFour, and others that focus on specific types of consumer feedback. As a platform for integrating unstructured consumer data into business decisions, Speciate stands alone.
“There are other companies that do small pieces of what we do – surveys, reviews, or other things. Nobody else offers the full package.”
– Kate Besser, Co-Founder and COO
The uniqueness of Speciate’s offering has already generated traction. Over the last year, the company has honed its focus to multi-feature, complex consumer products on which customers do significant research. To date, Speciate’s work has covered industries such as beauty and fashion, products for new parents such as strollers and car seats, and consumer electronics from speakers to power tools. The company looks forward to further expansion in 2019.
Speciate’s team is planning for a busy 2019. The company hopes to convert on several paid pilots in early 2019, further demonstrating the viability of both its dashboard and the Hoot! app. The company is also raising a Series A Round, the proceeds of which it intends to spend on resources for business development and the expansion of its dashboard to include additional features.