Foundation of the month: respeak
Founder of the month
What does your company stand for?
Respeak stands for several solutions with which we want to revolutionize the accessibility of knowledge in companies. Employees in companies need to quickly get the right knowledge at the right time to do their jobs in today’s volatile times. To achieve this accessibility, we do three things:
1) Extract information from existing documents at companies and make it accessible via natural language. In other words, Respeak quickly provides answers to questions, for example, about maintenance or processes.
2) Deliver new knowledge in a novel and interactive way, in a low-threshold learning dialogue with our chatbot. We use these dialogs in onboarding or corporate learning.
3) and conclude We also collect information with surveys that feel like an interview and are automatically evaluated.
Where and how did you get the bright idea to start up?
The initial impetus for Respeak came during our doctoral studies in business informatics at KIT with Professor Mädche. Here, we intensively studied the automation of qualitative data collection and analysis, but also the design of human-like chatbots. In research, we ourselves had a lot to do with accessing but also collecting information and developed our own solutions on a small scale. These first prototypes kept us so busy that we really wanted to put our ideas into practice – and that’s how Respeak came to be, with the help of the EXIST grant.
How did the founding team come together?
We got to know each other through our research at the chair IISM/ISSD, where we were colleagues during our doctorates. Since we had thematic overlaps, it was a good fit in terms of content. Tim already had experience with entrepreneurship topics from his studies – and when it came to the completion of our doctorates, Jasper also got involved in the journey. This commitment was incredibly important for the beginning and we were eager to get started quickly.
Where do you see the hurdles in the startup process? Where did you go for support?
The founding process went pretty smoothly overall. We primarily got support quickly for legal and tax issues – at this point it was great to have professional support and “keep our heads clear”. The biggest hurdle at the beginning was certainly finding the core team and also aligning ourselves with a core idea for the EXIST grant application. Since Respeak was founded, we have sharpened and developed our focus and idea with our first customers, so the idea is in flux. But for that, you need a team that is up for the journey and can and wants to take the step to independence together.
What was one of your biggest challenges during the start-up phase?
Certainly the step from the research world into entrepreneurship. As a researcher, you benefit from shedding light on everything very precisely and extensively and communicating as detailed and accurately as possible. In research, there is such a fundamentally different balance between speed and planning or precision. So moving from the research environment into practice was certainly a big adjustment for us in the early stages. Fortunately, we had already been able to get a taste of corporate life during our doctorates, either through projects or longer practical phases as IT consultants, so that we were able to find our way around the world of entrepreneurship and “just doing it” more quickly.
Has Corona had an impact on your startup/industry so far, and if so, what?
Fortunately, Corona has not had a particularly noticeable impact on us. We didn’t really start with Respeak until July 2021, so the Corona situation wasn’t that new anymore. Perhaps our first projects with more direct, physical customer contact would have looked a little different. But all in all, the shift to hybrid work was also helpful, for example, in hiring working students from other regions.
What qualities do you think a founder should have?
Openness, flexibility and resilience. It definitely helps a lot to be able to approach people and seek conversations and exchange. You should be flexible, because such conversations naturally always generate new ideas, comments and feedback that influence the current status. That’s why conversations with customers, mentors, investors and other startups are so valuable for sharpening and developing your own idea. But for that, you also need flexibility and a willingness to take on new things and experiment. And resilience is important to be able to deal with the responsibility, uncertainty and sometimes rejection that comes with entrepreneurship.
Do you have any practical tips for other young entrepreneurs?
Just do it and try it out. And don’t be afraid to talk about ideas. The challenge is usually not to have an idea, but to get the idea “on the road”. And for that, as much feedback as possible just helps especially. It’s super exciting what you can put together these days with just a few lines of code (or with the multitude of good no-code tools) – and how quickly you can demonstrate and test ideas with them. In addition, there are many good programs and accelerators, especially in BW, that support young founders in their first steps, both in terms of content and financially.
What would you perhaps do differently from today’s perspective?
Overall, we are very happy with where it has taken us in the now about 11 months since Respeak was founded. However, we flew through the foundation, the first prototypes and our MVP very quickly, especially in the early months. In the meantime, our product has become quite extensive and maps several use cases. From today’s perspective, we could have taken a little more time at the beginning and focused more on one case. That might have saved us some complexity today.
What are your plans for the future? What are your next big milestones?
In the coming months, in addition to growing our team, we’re mainly working on making our product even easier to use. That’s pretty exciting, as we’re working intensively with our customers on how to optimize the experience for both the administrators of our knowledge dialogs and the users. Also, the summer break is behind us for now, so of course we’re still working on our sales goals for the end of the year.
Thank you very much for answering the questions!
Listen to our podcast episode Foundation of the month: respeak.