A global nomad, Sindhu Joseph has created a company that uses machine learning from previous business agreements and customer service interactions and makes complaint resolution more efficient.
Microsoft Evangelist Ruud DeJonge interviews CogniCor CEO Sindhu Joseph on an application that could transform how businesses interact with customers.
When we sponsored the inaugural Tech All Stars Europe competition earlier this year, it was open to any start-up, but of course, we were pleased that some of the finalists who made the grade were either part of BizSpark or had been supported by Microsoft in one way or another. So we were delighted when we heard that the CEO of the overall winner, CogniCor, attributes some of her early success to fast-track business incubation program run by Microsoft in Spain.
CEO and founder Sindhu Joseph took time out of her busy schedule running her very successful business to tell us her story, talk about working with Microsoft, winning Tech All Stars and what it’s like being an entrepreneur in a tough economy.
“I’m originally from India, but we also lived in the UK and have been in Spain for the past seven years, so I like to think of myself as a global citizen. Following several years working for a large multi-national in India, I came to Spain as part of family relocation. In an year I was into a PhD program from the prestigious Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA-CSIC). After my thesis I started my own business when I had the idea for CogniCor.
The idea is simple but fills a very big gap in the market and, according to Sindhu, is pretty unique. Using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, CogniCor provides an automated complaint resolution service that minimizes the need for human intervention in resolving complaints.
To give that some context, it means that customer complaints get dealt with immediately and that resolutions – for example about a product order – are resolved much more quickly, when compared to manual procedures that can take weeks or months to deal with. As a result, customer satisfaction improves and companies have a more efficient and cost effective resolution process.
But having a great idea is one thing – putting into action is quite another, as Sindhu explains: “I had little experience of running a business and it can be very hard to know where to start. By becoming involved with the Microsoft BizSpark pre-incubation program that the company had in place with Barcelona Activa.” (This has subsequently evolved into a much bigger program called Emprendedor XXI Digital” in conjunction with other partners.)
“I found out how to create a business plan and learnt the basics of marketing, human resources, finance and everything else that is essential to running a business. It gave me a fast track into entrepreneurship."
“Over the past year, we’ve come a long way and we have pilot systems with some big global brands, which we cannot discuss just yet but hope to be able to soon. In the meantime, being named the 2012 Most innovative European Startup Award Winner at the Tech All Stars event in Brussels in June has given has a great boost. It also gave me the chance to network with lots of very interesting people, including potential investors.”
While it’s very exciting to win awards and get recognition, CogniCor has to face the same challenges as any other startup. “Because we’ve thought of ourselves as a global business since day one, we have not allowed the difficulties that are facing the Spanish economy to affect us. We’ve had a lot of great support, first of all we are a spinoff from IIIA-CSIC and hence great talent is within hands reach, and we are based at the Telefonica Wayra Accelerator, which means we have access to world-class facilities and great contacts. However, if I’d like to see governments change one thing, it would be to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and taxation that start-ups have to deal with in setting up and running in the initial years. And, for a Spanish business, it can be hard to attract customers and investors from elsewhere, so we really need to have offices in either the UK or USA.”
So what’s next for Cognicor? Says Sindhu: “We’re continuing to build our team of top talent and looking at expanding our presence on a more global scale. But that’s not to say that we don’t appreciate what Spain has to offer: Microsoft, other organisations and people here have given CogniCor great support and with its work/life balance, this country is a wonderful place to live. It’s hard to say what the next few years will bring, but these are exciting times.”