Josh Ziegler is the founder and CEO of ZUMATA, a technology company that builds conversational chatbots leveraging on artificial intelligence. Josh shares how their experience in the travel technology space in helping clients make sense of the large amount of both structured and unstructured data led to the discovery of their competency in training cognitive systems.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am the founder and CEO of ZUMATA, a technology company that helps our clients simplify the complex.
• Believer that technology is an enabler to better lives and experiences
• Serial entrepreneur (ZUMATA is the 5th business I have started)
• Global citizen (lived in 32 places, traveled to over 50 countries)
• Likes – travel, sports and games of all kinds (i.e. competition), food
What is your business venture about?
We deliver game changing technology that helps our clients connect with their users, improve user experience, provide speed to market, and speed of results.
In the FinTech space, we are all about bringing customer experience to the next level. We help our clients deploy intelligent chatbots that simplify and bring delight to their customers through the entire journey.
Solutions range from helping customers to find the right product or service for their needs, answering of FAQs, through to customer support functions.
We do all this through the use of artificial intelligence, problem-solving, and co-creation.
What is your mission at the outset?
ZUMATA aims to simplify the complex through business-grade technology solutions. This means making things easier for both customers and the companies that hire us, through smart and well thought out solutions that solve real problems.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
We started out in the travel technology space helping our clients make sense of the large amount of both structured and unstructured data involved in the distribution of hotels. While improving our processes, we began leveraging artificial intelligence. The problem scope was enormous when you consider all hotels, amenities, points of interest, concepts and combinations that a user could ask for, etc.
As we told the story of what we were doing to help customers find their perfect hotel, banks and insurance companies began approaching us wondering whether we could apply the technology to their use cases. As we dug deeper, we discovered our real core competency was the ability to train cognitive systems, and as a result we now working with clients in these verticals and others. Now we’re a customer experience solutions provider for any company that wishes to help customers find the products or services that meet their needs or any company looking to automate customer service interactions.
What is unique about your business?
We are continually innovating and pushing technical limits. These philosophies have allowed us to win a number of honors and gain noticeable recognition. Among other acknowledgements, we were named one of the ten most disruptive companies in travel, we won IBM’s Partner of the Year award, and we were one of the first companies to release a natural language API on the IBM Bluemix Catalog.
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
Our artificial intelligence offerings cut across industries. We are engaging with insurance companies, banks, telcos, retailers, and many others.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
Delivering on-time, offering high-quality products, and solving problems that generate significant ROI make us a competent and trusted partner. Developing and maintaining customer trust is our top priority, and it is a primary reason customers keep coming back.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
When dealing with enterprise clients, things move very slowly as there are many stakeholders involved. Adding to this, people change jobs, internal processes are cumbersome, priorities shift, and we often need to re-start conversations multiple times. The result is long sales cycles and hard to predict outcomes.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Start! Once started, listen to your customers, and adapt as needed to solve their pain points.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Entrepreneurship is long and difficult journey. It is not glamorous and it is a lot of work. It is equal parts patience, perseverance, determination, and stamina. It is not a sprint, but a marathon.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
Being a role model to my children is important to me. I want to instill the values of hard-work, responsibility, integrity, devotion to family, while letting them know that they can and should chase whatever they want in life. Actions speak louder than words, and they are a constant reminder for me to push hard every day while ensuring I still have time for the ones I love.
What’s next for you and for ZUMATA?
For me, it’s purely a matter of increasing my knowledge and trying to improve on a daily basis. Things are really coming together for the company, and the efforts of the past few years are starting to take shape. We’re expanding our client-base and range of products and services.
That said, our biggest area of focus is execution. New clients are great, but we’re finding a great deal of opportunity to expand existing relationships and do more with the clients and partners we already have.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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