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The Techcrunch Interviews: FuseMachines Artificial Intelligence Lead Machine

Fusemachines on Media Jobs

The artificial Intelligence lead machine has arrived!   The name of the lead master is Fusemachines and Sameer Maskey is the Founder and CEO and his team have been developing the software that applies Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning to the process of lead generation for B2B companies.

At Media Jobs we are always interested in finding the most innovative companies where you might want to work.  The big talk today is about Artificial Intelligence and today we’re talking with a company that is using the technology to drive more sales.

Its taken 3 PHD’s and 30 engineers to create SAM, the name they are calling their AI system.  But it gets better.  SAM interacts with humans through emails, mobile apps and sales software and learns from user behavior to perform some of the same tasks automatically. SAM learns and improves itself everyday!

Today, with a staff of 80 the company is blazing a trail to take the pain out of lead gen so that us humans can focus more on cash generation then lead generation.  If you like what you hear check out some of the jobs available now at Fusemachines.

In this podcast I speak with Alex Roeskestad from Fusemachines recently and he talked about how everything works and some of the customers that are currently benefiting from SAM.

Roy: This is Roy Weissman from Mediajobs.com and we’re talking with Alex Roeskestad from Fuse Machines. What is Fuse Machines and how did this come about? I see it says artificial intelligence for sales. Does that mean we no longer need sales people? What’s the problem we’re solving here?

 

Alex: That’s a good question. I don’t think you take the sales person out of the equation, but we try to do in so many words, is instead of having a sales department or a CEO or whoever does sales, instead of having that department spend a lot of time doing research and kind of wasting their time being bogged down by these things, we try to optimize the sales department to such an extent that the sales person could be focusing much more on the sales aspect of selling. So that being on the phone or writing with emails and closing deals versus spending a lot of time researching information. To give you one example, say that you’re selling a software solution and you want to have the right industry, you’re selling it to an industry. You’re trying to reach CEOs of small companies, but you also want to figure out your hiring needs. If these guys are hiring something where your product could be complimentary or could even take the job. You also want to have your Facebook feed, if that’s important, those four elements. You could certainly have a person do that for you, wholesale department. What we do is that we optimize it to such an extent that it takes us one second to find 1,000 leads that are pre-qualified leads, versus spending weeks and weeks gathering a list of 1,000 people. That’s kind of one way of doing sales using artificial intelligence.

 

Roy: How do you say it takes you a second to find 1,000 qualified leads? How does the computer know the lead is qualified?

 

Alex: Say that you’re the head of sales and you want to reach out to head of sales, head of marketing, CEO. You want the companies to be 1-10, 11-50 if you were to use the length of parameters. You want them to have a certain funding structure, series B if that’s important to you or calculations of revenue. We will basically scrape that information for you. We have all the information in the world and we can also scrape it on a daily basis and we’ll find all the information out there. We’ve spent a lot to give you some background. This has actually been developed at Columbia University by our CEO, Sameer Maskey, over many years. It’s not a simple thing. It’s almost like an academic endeavor disguised as a company in a way. It’s a very complex machinery in the background, but we will find it for you using a lot of artificial intelligence and some human beings. It does it extremely quickly.

 

Roy: You said it scrapes websites. A lot of times when you scrape websites you get a lot of garbage information and email addresses, info@, webmaster@, how does the software validate so that you end up with a good clean database? The reason people end up hiring people is because they need somebody to look at the information and say this company can’t be at 852 West 38rd Street, there’s no such address or info@ is worthless or John Jones hasn’t worked at this company in five years. How does the software address all of these issues so that you actually end up with a highly accurate data base?

 

Alex: Right, that’s a very good question. Let’s start with saying does Don Johnson work here? We can double check that by shooting out signal to LinkedIn, so we scrape 24/7 so if Don Johnson changed his job last week, we re-scrape this week and we know there’s been a change there. We don’t sell leads which are junk leads in the sense that the person isn’t working there in that position.

 

Your point about does this street exist. Like 250th Street, that doesn’t exist in the New York City in Manhattan. We will then check the post office and databases, Google maps, etc. So we will make sure that the information is correct then. What it does for us is that first it takes a snapshot of everything out there. Then it goes through and starts to clean all the data. You will see that in the cleaning process, it marks, for example in the color red, invalid emails. Emails that the machine knows are incorrect. These emails can’t be correct based on the pattern in that company. If a pattern is first and last name at domain and suddenly an email in that company comes up with a completely different version, it will mark that person as most likely incorrect. You can always override it, but it will help you go through junk leads. If people aren’t working there, the machine knows it. If the email is wrong then the machine knows it.

 

Roy: Does it validate the emails or various validation systems where it will tell you if the email is valid? Does it do that?

 

Alex: Yes. We will send out what we call a handshake and it will come back in basically reds, orange, and green. Red are invalid emails. We know that they’re incorrect. Yellow is what they call accept all. It’s a probability that they’re correct, but there’s some uncertainty. Green are valid emails. You basically move the emails through the tabs and the system helps you crack the emails and if you give it some time, it will give you all the correct emails, all valid, all greens. Then you can take the people with the emails and you can create a template. It shoots out to all these people. You don’t have to use gmail or mail chimp or some other system.

 

Roy: So this is also a CRM?

 

Alex: That’s a tough question. It doesn’t take over the job in sales for us or anything else. It tries to be as close to a CRM without stepping on the CRM’s toes.

 

Roy: I assume it’s integrated with companies like Sales Force. What kind of integrations do you have?

 

Alex: We are working on that integration. It’s not yet there. We are working on it to have a bridge from Fuse Machines to SAM, a software choose sales force. We’re also working on other integrations with a big kind of CRM. We’re trying to integrate with everyone out there. They’re kind of being discussed as we speak.

 

Roy: Are you integrated with any private databases for gathering information?

 

Alex: No, we scrape everything in house. We don’t purchase other lists. We don’t …

 

Roy: So it’s all publicly available.

 

Alex: Yes, people often ask us if we can hack information, which we can, but we wouldn’t be standing here talking, I guess. It’s public information. We scrape North America, Western Europe, and New Zealand and Australia. In the future we’re going to make in-roads into China and perhaps Russia, but that’s kind of into the future. It’s good to be a lead generator for the world, but for the time being we’re focused on English.

 

Roy: You would anticipate working any deals for API’s with private databases?

 

Alex: I could be. I’m not sure. We’re still early. We’re a small company. We have 40 clients. So I think it’s a bit early to make those strategic decisions, but we’re opening up for partnerships. We have a couple of partners. We’re trying to kind of, I wouldn’t say revolutionize the space, I think that’s too much of a big word, but we’re trying to re-think sales for people. That’s also why we’re here today is to tell people that sales can be done a bit differently than having humongous sales teams doing research and wasting time in the offices.

 

Roy: Can you tell us any names of any of your clients? Notable clients. Can you mention anyone?

 

Alex: Sure, I hope so. We’ve signed with a company called Mondo. Expand we signed last Friday. We have a lot of smaller companies. Some are based in England. I also spoke to a representative of the government of Slovenia which were interested in purchasing this. I don’t know for what reason, but they’re interested in lead generation and kind of getting the startup scene to become a little more vibrant in Slovenia. There’s kind of different strokes for different folks.

 

Roy: How would you define the market both in size … what kind of numbers would you define the market for this as in dollars?

 

Alex: That’s a very good question. As I said, we’re a small company and it depends on where we want to aim in the end. The market is humongous because artificial intelligence and sales could be sold to anyone. I’m also talking B to C. The market is humongous. For us as a company I think we’re going to hone in on the B to B side. Be more specialized in tech software, basically the companies that you see here today, and TechCrunch Disrupt. We can do other types of companies, but for us it’s also important for us to be very good at what we’re doing and not spreading ourselves too thin. It’s billions of dollars, for sure.

 

Roy: When you do research for company A, are you saving that in a database, so when company B needs the same information you already have it or are you just producing it one off thing.

 

Alex: Very good question. We try not to resell information, so say that we have five media agencies with us, we try not resell the information so that when company B reaches out and A has already done it, then they kind of meet the same answers and we’ve already spoken to company A. It’s important to us that the leads are fresh and they’re not resold. This is a very big space so we try to build sets of information. We try to build databases for different types of sectors. We could very easily tap into these sectors quickly. It’s kind of a fine balance between not reselling information which could hurt company B, but also having an info center internally at Fuse Machines so that we could sell this at mass.

 

Roy: You said the market was humongous. For your market, where you guys are looking, do you have a dollar value for that market?

 

Alex: No, to be honest we don’t have a dollar value because it’s very hard to assess what’s going to happen with the tech markets where we’re going. We have a lot of customers. A lot of people today are kind of surprised that we’ve pushed artificial intelligence so far. It doesn’t mean they convert into customers because there’s some tension between the old way of doing sales and using artificial intelligence. Some people think it’s a buzz word and they don’t buy it. It’s somewhat hard to see where the market is going. I would say it’s in the billions of dollars, but I don’t dare to put a straight number and say this is the value. I would recommend all companies to get in on this before it’s too late.

 

Roy: Why would it be too late?

 

Alex: Because we give people very good deals in the beginning. To be honest with you this artificial intelligence was available 10 years ago. It put hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars per leads. It was only done by the big boys. We’re basically selling you leads for $1. For the information that we give you, the price is unheard of, I would say. It’s very different from the old lists you could purchase from India or other countries, where you got copious amounts of leads with emails, but half of them were pure crap, to be honest with you. It didn’t convert to person who didn’t work anymore, etc. We’re selling you information which is guaranteed 100% no bounce back. They’re real emails. The person’s really working there. All the information is fresh. That’s why I’m saying that it wouldn’t be too late to get into it later, but with Fuse Machines I think this is a company which is really going to be valued a bit higher than we are right now.

 

Roy: When was the company founded?

 

Alex: It was founded in 2013. If you live in New York City, if you ever called 311 to complain about something or if you ever called the bank or chatted with someone in the bank, we did all the backgrounds, the software and computing in the background. We developed this ISR, internal sales software, to sell the other software. The other one was a very long sales cycle. It was very expensive so we had to come up with some sort of program where we could guarantee sales instead of wasting two years in the sales cycle. We needed to hone in on the right banks, the right principalities, etc. Then we figured out that this software is actually salable and people who really needed it so complex that you get a lot of data out of it. We tweaked it a bit and now we sell it B to B, business to business. We have done some B to C, business to customer, but I think it’s mostly business to business, to be honest with you.

 

Roy: You said it’s about a dollar a lead for someone to buy it?

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Roy: Is there a monthly fee?

 

Alex: It’s a monthly fee. We do a do-it-yourself software version, where there is a $499 fee per month. We don’t ask for annual subscriptions. There’s a full service, lead generation and consultancy where you’re the account manager and the whole shebang for $1,000 (US). Then we can build packages on top of that. Basically …

 

Roy: It’s $499 per month plus the cost of the lead?

 

Alex: No, its $499 then you do the lead gen yourself. You basically plug in the ICP, you help setup the software to clear the leads, and you shoot out emails. You kind of do it yourself. Perhaps a bit more for smaller teams. As a $499 there’s a cap of 1,000 leads per month. But it’s $500.

 

Roy: What happens if you go over 1,000 leads?

 

Alex: We would set a cap. If you go over 1,000 leads you basically pay 50 cents per lead or something. It’s not the full price or you could just buy more licenses. If you have a big team and you want to implement this and you have five guys selling, you could buy five licenses. If you need 5,000 leads per month. Or you could go with the full service and we will do everything for you and you basically lean back and we will send you once a week anything from 150 to 250 leads and you do as you please with the list.

 

Roy: Your company was founded in 2013. Who was it founded by?

 

Alex: Our CEO is Sameer Maskey originally from Nepal, but he also teaches at Columbia University. He teaches machine learning, artificial intelligence. He’s been in the country for over 15 years.

 

Roy: What university?

 

Alex: Columbia. Yeah, here in the city. He basically took 15 years of research from under grads, grads, PhD and kind of his professorial life and he wanted to see if he could push sales and artificial intelligence together. If you look around it’s kind of the boy on sexy part of artificial intelligence, but it’s perhaps the more useful part. You can gather so much information which is so useful for people.

 

Roy: Is there anything else you want to add? I think we’ve covered everything. What else would you like? Anything you want to add about Fuse Machines?

 

Alex: I also do business development. I think that Fuse Machines is one of those companies which is going to be something to look out for. I think it’s for me, I would recommend that everyone take a look at our website which is Fusemachines.com. I think it’s going to be a very interesting tool. We’re also adding different features. We’re adding futures where it has a component where it drafts emails for you. Yours from your style. If you’re a good father or a good mother and you teach the machine, you will have a very good child then which could do much more than any other software in the world can do.

 

Roy: So the software even learns your writing style?

 

Alex: Yes.

 

Roy: It can write the emails for you?

 

Alex: Right. If you help it a bit in the beginning like a good parent, at the end in a couple of months you can basically lean back and hit send.

 

Roy: Where are you guys based?

 

Alex: We’re based at 1 State Street in the city. It’s basically the last building in Manhattan. We have a beautiful view of Staten Island if that’s interesting.

 

Roy: How many employees do you guys have?

 

Alex: We have 100+. The majority is in Kathmandu in Nepal. We have about 50 computer scientists, 20 people in New York City. We’re a growing company. A new person started today. We’re trying to do something interesting with sales stuff and artificial intelligence.

 

Roy: Of the different disciplines, what types of people are you hiring for?

 

Alex: Everything, to be honest with you. We’re growing quickly. On the computer side we’re hiring different types of coders for the different languages, sales, customer service, marketing … it’s basically an expanding team. It’s hard to know for the future what’s going to happen, but I think when people start to see how beneficial this is going to be for them and how they can make money, because the conversion rate is better than most other things I’ve seen, I think it’s going to be one of those companies that you wish you knew about before it became famous.

 

 

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