First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eliot Knepper: Indeed, challenging times for everyone. In July, there was an article that a squirrel in Colorado was tested positive for the bubonic plague – would work perfectly as a metaphor to describe 2020.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Mnemonic AI.
Eliot Knepper: I worked as the CMO of an international conference organizer and media outlet until I met Phil, my technical co-founder, in 2017. At every conference I visited, people craved innovative ways to use machine learning/artificial intelligence to solve real business problems. At one point, Phil and I participated in a Research Initiative from the European Union, where the idea of Mnemonic AI was born.
In the beginning, we just wanted to prove that AI is more than just a buzzword. Since customer-centricity is the key to business success nowadays, we searched for a specific problem within that space and came up with the persona creation process. Personas are archetypes of your customers and describe customer clusters in a very profound personal mode that goes way beyond classical target audiences.
The need for personas was unprecedented at every marketing conference I visited and their challenges when creating them. Horrendous costs, intense project management, human bias, and the time involved are just a few of them. Phil took on this challenge and trained a set of neural networks chained together for almost two years until our AI created personas fully automated, 100% data-driven within minutes rather than weeks or months.
How does Mnemonic AI innovate?
Eliot Knepper: Customer Feedback is undoubtedly our most prominent driver for innovation. After serving each customer, we go back to them and discuss the personas our AI created. There is always valuable feedback to iterate accordingly. We were able to include certain features in our personas that, without the input, we simply would have considered as unimportant.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Eliot Knepper: We started in September 2019, and when COVID hit a few months later we thought it was gone have a negative impact on our business. But fortunately, we were wrong. Especially in uncertain times like it is more important than ever to understand who the customers are and what they need. Needless to say that many customers have changed substantially over the past months, and companies need to adapt accordingly. Personas will help you do so, and therefore many companies approach us to understand what changed and how they should cope with it.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Eliot Knepper: Of course- as a startup, there is so much to do, and it is often difficult to set the right goals for the right time. Luckily we have good advisors that help us to avoid making the wrong decisions, but it happens, and that is ok. Phil, as a data scientist, and myself as a creative marketer, often face the challenge of having different opinions just because of our nature. Still, until now, we have not regretted any decision we made together and indeed let us grow closer together.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Mnemonic AI in the future?
Eliot Knepper: It might sound subtle, but simultaneously to setting up the company, I started with Yoga because I had back issues, and I must say that was one of the best decisions in my life. Having a startup is like having a baby – it needs attention 24/7 and to do something that allows you to turn off your thoughts for just a few minutes is extremely valuable. Phil drinks Coffee and plays American Football, and it seems to do the trick for him as well!
We are just getting started, but less than a year down the road, we overcame every pitfall and plan to do so in the future. I believe having someone that joins your journey helps to cope with stress and anxiety.
We have many plans for Mnemonic AI and are trying to make the right choices right now. Our end goal is to build a fully automated SaaS solution.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Eliot Knepper: Fortunately, we are in a business that historically was heavily based on consultancy. So we have marketing agencies that run person creation workshops in the house etc. as well as a couple of marketing tools such as Hubspot that offer persona templates for you to fill in the information you gathered prior. However, there is no fully automated persona creation service out there apart from us.
Your final thoughts?
Eliot Knepper: Even though the times are extremely challenging for everyone, I believe that in the end, it makes the world a better place. Companies are forced to rethink their strategies and positioning and should really not try to do business as usual. We are proud to be in a position to assist our clients in this transition, and as everyone else does, hope that “The New Normal” will offer the opportunity make the world a better place.