Atenean startups embrace generative AI to redefine customer experience
08 Jun 2023 | Celestine S Yu, Jhea Delgado, and Joseph Benjamin R Ilagan
Generative AI started being integrated into several industries like healthcare, transportation, and finance. The possible benefits that LLMs present to business encouraged the Information Technology Entrepreneurship (BS ITE) program at Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) to push its students to learn about generative AI with the potential of integrating it into their very own startups. Even with the surprising developments, The student startup co-founders of the ITE program met the challenge to adapt and innovate head on. This evolution has given rise to promising startups like Taikee, Petagon, and DesignScapes, all of which were created by students from Ateneo’s ITE Program. These ventures have embraced the prevailing LLM technology to enhance their operations and offer innovative solutions in their respective industries.
The public release of several platforms deploying generative artificial intelligence (AI), particularly ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion, took the world by surprise in late 2022. ChatGPT was able to surpass previous computational limitations and constraints. At present, through so-called large language models (LLMs), its features involve natural language and contextual understanding, language generation, and even adaptability. Another surprising ability of AI is image generation through diffusion models currently implemented in popular sites and editing software, like Google’s DeepDream, DALL-E, even Photoshop and Canva. However, understanding the true extent of generative AI's capabilities is no easy task. Researchers needed to gradually comprehend and explore the possibilities presented. OpenAI released different versions of models to the public to garner feedback and evaluation from users which they utilized to make improvements to their product.
Taikee: Managing Personal Finances
Taikee (https://taikee.co), founded by Cedric Joshua Atienza (Ceej) and Jose Emmanuel Erestain (JM) of BS ITE Batch '23, is an application developed to effectively assist and empower its users by tracking their income and expenses allowing them to make informed decisions in managing their personal finances. Aside from monitoring activities and budget plans, the app also offers visual reports and “finsights”. The founders are also planning to launch another feature allowing the users to link their bank accounts and E-wallets for transactions and balances.
Their incorporation of generative AI made Taikee unique from other budgeting tools present in the current market. With so many options now present, it took time for Ceej and JM to figure out which model to train, and which can be further aligned to the problems they are trying to solve. Finally, the product was embedded with OpenAI’s GPT-3 davinci LLM (released in 2020). It was heavily popularized due to its advanced ability in natural language processing allowing the response to be more human-like and contextually relevant. The founders of Taikee trained the model based on multiple conversations with financial advisors in order to generate personalized insights and recommendations based on the users’ past financial activities. According to Ceej, the CEO of Taikee, AI was not only beneficial in the technological aspect of their startup but it also significantly lessened their production cost. Without LLM technology, scaling their startup would require them to hire thousands of financial advisors.
Generative AI is a work in progress as it continuously undergoes research and development in aspects like model training techniques and algorithms to provide better responses. For Taikee, they will continuously follow the trend of generative AI integration and improve along with the technology. Taikee’s prototype started with manually reading users’ data through a Notion page. This was then used to automate customized insights based on users’ transactions. Through AI, the app is able to scan through the user’s spending and suggest possible ways of budgeting their income in order to achieve their target savings. User recommendations can be as simple as showing the user the amount they spend on coffee, or as goal-oriented as scaling on the amount of funds to be set aside. Still, Ceej explained the importance of being transparent with customers with regards to the evolving nature of AI. Although there are times when AI encounters inaccuracies, it is worth noting that the technology gradually improves with each use and update.
When asked for their advice for future start-up founders, they mentioned the need of analyzing the problems first, ensuring that there’s indeed a use case for AI, and to embed the right prompts into the code. All of which, for Taikee founders, is the key towards an efficient use of such technology. As Ceej says, “Use AI as a means to an end, not an actual goal,” emphasizing AI’s ability to support and enhance the product.
DesignScapes: Building Your Brand
AI creates business and job opportunities in multiple industries, even in design. DesignScapes (https://www.designscapes.asia/), led by CEO and co-founder Gabrielle Anne Uy (Gabbi) of 3 BS ITE, is revolutionizing the design industry by offering subscription-based design services. DesignScapes’ vision is to redesign the design process, making this service quick, easy, and affordable to clients. Through their subscription model, DesignScapes offers clients access to design services for the duration of their subscription, along with a money-back guarantee and unlimited revisions if clients are unsatisfied with the work.
With DesignScapes, generative AI through diffusion models is central to their value proposition. DesignScapes’ unique selling point (USP) lies in their ability to generate quick design drafts, solving the common challenge of miscommunication between clients and designers. Gabbi highlights the problem of clients struggling to visualize and convey their design preferences, often resulting in numerous design iterations, overall prolonging the design process. With AI, clients are guided through a prompt-based user interface. The AI system then visualizes mood boards, together with a multitude of color and style choices (ex. “Modern”, “Corporate 3D”). AI then collates these drafts into a cohesive design, which is then assigned to the most suitable designer from DesignScapes’ roster.
Of course, this came with the challenge of optimization. Generative AI, based on deep neural networks, behaves in certain ways not even their creators fully understand. Due to the lack of explainability with what goes on, the main hurdle for DesignScapes as of now is the right optimization of the diffusion models. As Gabbi notes, “People have to understand that AI cannot do everything. It can only translate what you communicate to it.” To jump this hurdle, DesignScapes did extensive research and experimentation on their service. The founders try out the service themselves, then ask real clients to try it out. With this, they obtain accurate feedback which can further improve their service. This iterative process follows the Design Thinking framework, which is a heavily enforced concept not only in the ITE program, but in the global startup community.
As Gabbi says, “AI is our tool, we shouldn’t be afraid of it.” By optimizing AI and mastering how to effectively communicate with it, designers can further leverage AI to enhance their workflow and serve clients more efficiently. AI is not meant to replace the designers, but help them.
Petagon: Making Pet Care Accessible
Throughout this article, we’ve seen how Taikee and DesignScapes improve the lives of humans, but we would also like to highlight Petagon (https://linktr.ee/petagon) which aims to improve the life of animals. Dione Gabrielle Gan (Dione) and Justin Luis Uy (Chio) of BS ITE Batch '23, the founders of Petagon, are passionate and loving pet owners. This is exactly what pushed them to create Petagon. Petagon aims to be the all-in-one platform for fur-parents, offering services such as record keeping, vet recommendations, and recently an AI-powered chatbot named Sumo (one of Chio’s real-life dogs!) that can quickly answer concerns on first-aid care for pets and more.
Sumo was recently launched and his main task is to assist users by offering pet care tips and directing them to appropriate veterinary services. Leveraging public and private datasets worldwide, Chio and Dione have trained Sumo to provide reliable information about clients’ pets while avoiding sensitive topics such as unethical animal or veterinary practices.
Petagon’s main value proposition are the numerous datasets they scrape information from globally. However, there were difficulties in obtaining these datasets and tailoring them to extend Sumo’s service in terms of personalized analytics. Available online public datasets are mostly for the UK and Malaysian market, but as Chio and Dione highlight, dogs are mostly the same across the world personality-wise, so the datasets were still applicable to Petagon’s users. In terms of the Philippine market, they were able to find private datasets they could add as well. Through this, Petagon is able to deliver insightful and personalized data about their users’ pets. Overall, Chio and Dione’s main goal is to bridge the gap between pet owners and their pets, and they are using AI to try and do so. Petagon aims to explore the entire range of AI possibilities in the pet care industry, surpassing that of a chatbot.
Both Chio and Dione believe that the integration of AI is inevitable, as it enhances productivity while unlocking a myriad of new opportunities. "AI acts as our super-assistant, streamlining tasks and improving our overall efficiency. It's not about replacing humans but making everyone's job easier," Chio notes.
One thing Taikee, DesignScapes, and Petagon all have in common is that all the founders encourage startups to embrace AI, leveraging available resources and exploring its enormous potential. However, as Ceej warns, startups should not throw around the term “AI” for the mere sake of looking attractive to potential customers and investors. It is vital that startups understand its use case in relation to advancing your platform. To start with AI, Chio suggests founders to scroll through available videos on TikTok and social media to learn more about AI integration – through this, he got the idea of creating Sumo. Taikee, DesignScapes, and Petagon especially urge startups to explore this AI in relation to their respective industries. By riding the wave of AI and seizing the first-mover advantage, startups can transform the industry landscape and revolutionize the market.
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