Michael Lovegrove, co-founder and chief executive of JRNY, talks starting up a technology company and the potential for artificial intelligence.
What does your business do?
JRNY, pronounced journey, is a sales tool which makes scaling and growing a business easier, and we do that by streamlining the customer journey, converting a lead into a paying customer.
What was the motivation for starting it?
We started two years ago and have been playing with conversational artificial intelligence for the longest time and we started initially because we saw there was real value in the technology and that we could add a tremendous amount of value to businesses, though, at the start we weren't quite sure what value that would be.
At the start of the year we were part of the Kiwibank fintech accelerator and that allowed us to narrow down to what key areas we wanted to focus on, and that was where we saw this massive need around the start of a customer journey.
We want JRNY to be the go-to sales tool worldwide, and that if you don't have JRNY then you're doing your company a disservice.
How did you get into artificial intelligence?
I joined StartUpLanes directly out of university, eventually worked into product and, from there, managing tech teams became a thing I was good at. From there I started to play around with this technology through various companies I worked for and then from there we created our own company where we were going to focus on artificial intelligence and using it to streamline customer experiences.
What does New Zealand's AI market look like?
AI is quite a broad term, there's a few companies producing quite cool solutions, mainly bespoke [solutions]. I think New Zealand is a really unique testing ground for all this new type of technology but we have a bit of an issue with being shifted to market. Companies in the States or Asia, they're more resourced and have more people so they are naturally starting to develop the technology before us.
New Zealand is a really good place to start tech and see if it will fly before entering a market that's going to cost a lot of money to enter. There are a number of AI firms in New Zealand which are doing really cool things.
By 2027 officials predict you won't be able to tell the difference between whether you are talking to a person or talking to [AI]. People are worried their jobs are at risk but I'm confident in the opposite, it will be boring parts of your jobs that will be reduced.
By 2027 officials predict you won't be able to tell the difference between whether you are talking to a person or talking to [AI].
Which companies are using your software?
I can't give you names because we aren't legally allowed to yet but they are in the insurance industry and the whole premise of that is we want to make creating a quote and that the process is easy to understand and from an insurer's side it is much less mundane. We just have New Zealand customers at the moment but in the coming few months that is likely to change. We also have customers in the utilities, social organisations and councils, and real estate.
What challenges have you had to overcome to run this kind of business?
When you are trying to create a software service platform, it needs millions [of dollars] to properly create that technology and boot-strapping in unison with investment and having a really good plan around how you are going to develop your company and your product using cash in the most effective way possible is hard.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
There's never a right time to start a business, just start it, and always push on forward. Once you get started everything else starts to flow.