In this Google Hangout, we are talking to ITyx, an AI startup from Berlin.

Andreas is heading the Working Group “Artificial Intelligence” at Bitkom (https://www.bitkom.org/) Germany’s IT and Telecommunications Association (likely one of the largest trade groups for digitized business in the whole world).

He is CMO of ITyX (pronounced ITIX https://www.ityx.eu/) (https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreasklugityx/) a Hidden Champion from Germany in the field of AI. In his ebook „The future of Human-Machine-Collaboration“ published on thinkowl (https://www.thinkowl.com/) he is taking a view on our future workplaces.

ThinkOwl is an omnichannel service desk software that tries to give Service Reps exactly the information they need to finish their tasks. Studies suggest people spent 20% of their working hours to search for contextual information. ThinkOwl provides contextual information with the tickets. Companies like Ikea or Samsung are already working with ITyX tools. ITyX is a spin-off of University of Koblenz-Landau (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Koblenz_and_Landau). Andreas has more than 25 years of experience, working in large and small companies, before joining ITyx.

During the interview we are talking about:
Deutsche Telekom (Germany’s former monopoly telecoms provider, now listed at Frankfurt Stock Exchange): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deutsche_Telekom
Deutsches Zentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz (https://www.dfki.de/web/)
Germany has a lot of small and medium enterprises, in German “Mittelstand” or KMU (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mittelstand)

Learn more about AI in the videos of Bitkom below:

 

Think Owl wants to take over the European Market from Zendesk

 

Announcer: Welcome to startuprad.io. Your podcast and Youtube blog covering the German startup scene with news interviews and live events.

Joe: Hello and welcome everybody. This is Joe from startuprad.io. Your podcast and Youtube blog from Germany. As you can tell from the background, I am here again in my study and I do have a guest here. We do have an interview via Google hangouts. Hey Andreas, how are you doing?

Andreas: I’m fine thanks.

Joe: Very glad to have you here. In addition, you are here for multiple reasons. First thing I would like to talk a little bit about is what you did before. Because usually you, when we talk to the people because we are more a B2B medium and when we talk to the people, it’s usually that they take the idea from a former job. And basically, get a solution that the business they used to work for actually needs. So what did he do before and how does it tie in? It’s not pronounced ITYX? It is pronounced?

Andreas: I-TIX.

Joe: I-TIX exactly. And you have multiple products and today we are only talking about one of them.

Andreas: Yeah. We’re talking about Think Owl which is in a way our startup activity. But to come back to your question, it’s a very simple story. I was born in a way as a banker and I skipped an into the service industry well around 25 years ago I guess. And I was working for a very huge telecommunication company, Mobile Communication Company. And I was always driven by topics like a modern digital CRM, paperless workstations. Paperless places where people could work. So this topic paperless has always been a topic in my, professional journey. Whereas I have to admit, as you know, we’re still not paperless. We are, that’s my feeling far away from being paperless.

Joe: If you were to guess like in 10, 15, 20 years, we will be completely paperless.

Andreas: I’m very curious about comments on that topic. Because as you see, still the amount of paper that is sent through companies like Deutsche Posts in Germany especially is still only at a minimum decreasing. So we’re talking about 2% or 3% a year. So if I take as an example, it will probably take us another 30 years until we are paperless. So this is why I would not dare to see if it’s taken 30 years or only three. I just have no opinion on that because I am very afraid of maybe having the wrong guess. However, I do have some guesses and some opinions when it comes to how I will change the workspace or station. Our work as knowledge workers into companies. But that’s another story. But coming from the banking topic, I was always working on this.
Kind of pre-digitized work in companies. And I was part of the first big startup rally. An internet startup rally, which we had, by the end of the nineties, beginning of the new decade.

Joe: And when Netscape did its IPO. I remember I was already around by then.

Andreas: Yeah, yeah. And, Telekom, had this IPO, you remember? And there were the first some companies that were actually crashing at that time.

Joe: For everybody who’s not from Germany because Germany only makes up like 2% of our YouTube traffic. That Deutsche Telekom we just talking about, used to be the monopoly, telecommunications provider in Germany. Their monopoly was cut and they were transformed into a private company. I think it was like a PLC and then they got listed during that time. Sorry for the interruption.

Andreas: Absolutely. And, that’s true. And, as we all know, this first wave into that digitization was taking place at that time. At the end of the nineties, beginning of the 2000 years. And, well actually from some projects in the field of a chat and co-browsing by the Internet. I was one of the founding members of I Think, which is, a spinoff famous German spinoff of the University of Koblenz-Landau. And we are dealing with the computer linguistics a still day one. So that means, in the late nineties, we started to work on, automating emails for example. So reading emails, detecting emails, recognize the topic, extract the data. And make it usable in an assisted way for people working on the workstations. And this is formerly our birth in a way. And we have done a kind of rebirth in, inventing Think Owl, which is our way of bringing a multichannel desktop for service and back offices into a new decade.

Joe: And, you talked about Think Owl before. We’ll get back to that. But what’s also interesting for our viewers, our listeners, when this gets as an audio podcast out there like on Spotify, on iTunes, on, Google Podcasts. I was curious, how did you become a member of Bitkom? And can you explain to everybody who doesn’t have a touch point with Germany? What Bitkom actually is?

Andreas: Yes well Bitkom is actually the biggest association if that’s true. The biggest association in all of Europe and even between the associations that you have in the industry sector or in other sectors of the economy. It was formerly the association for Telecommunication and Internet. And it is today probably the biggest association for the digitized economy in the whole world. So it is situated in Berlin, Germany. It has more than 2,500 companies organized in it. They are top companies when it comes to talking about digitization and AI is organized in Bitkom. I’m happy and proud to be the president of the working group, artificial intelligence in this association. That means that I have a very close touch to other companies like IBM, Accenture, PWC. And others that are international, working on the topic of using AI as one of the key technologies in the digital change.

For just changing our economy, which is actually happening right now. And the way to Bitkom. My personal way in Bitkom came through the fact that that I was organizing, some activities around this working group. And today this working in person more than 2000 followers. It is around 30 months or so. You see how, what a dynamic, explosive, growth is in this topic of artificial intelligence in Germany and in Europe especially. And so what we do day to day is we are working on some publications. And activities around of gaining more visibility for artificial intelligence in our economy but also in our society. And on the other hand side, we tried to bring together people that work with artificial intelligence companies that want to include artificial intelligence in their mindset.

Because my personal belief is that 80% of this digital change through AI is a mindset thing. It’s not a technology thing. This is a very, very good time now I am absolutely sure that we have just started working that. We are meeting around five times a year in upcoming weeks in Berlin there will be the hub conference, which is the number one digitization conference in Europe. And so we are living in quite a good times today.

Joe: Just a very short statement from you. Do you really believe Germany is so much back in an AI artificial intelligence like everybody wants us to believe? Or is it that we are once again pretty bad in marketing? Because when I was reading through some studies, nobody really noticed that Germany has one of the world’s largest research centers for AI.

Andreas: True. Yeah, it’s true. I know that if it is for most of the people, it is in a way, funny to hear that the German government wants to spend around 500 million euro every year for the next six years. So the plan is 3 billion euros for the next six years. And in a time where in China there is an investment of 40 billion a year every year right now. So it seems like being a bit funny. So you could laugh about it. That’s true. On the other hand side, we have to be realistic in a way. We are at the moment only talking about state investments and not about the economic investments in Germany, especially in Europe.

Joe: Just to make it clear for everybody who is not familiar with Germany, we just talking about like the federal government investment. No corporate investment or state investment or city investment whatsoever, it is just the federal budget we are talking about right now.

Andreas: Exactly. Exactly. And, so it may sound funny because it’s such a small amount of investment there. But on the other hand side, I see lots of topics where we are really trying to catch up with what’s happening on the international base. China especially has quite an offensive way of investing in artificial intelligence. We have to admit that they have some kind of a playground where it’s easier to work on new ideas and new platforms for artificial intelligence. This would be a problem data wise, security wise in Europe. But sometimes security and data protection must not be a negative point in this game. But then I think we should not think that Germany is out of the race. That I have a very positive opinion when it comes to talking about our German Mittelstand as most of the people that listen to yours.

Joe: Small and medium enterprises in Germany Der Mittelstand.

Andreas: Yes, yes. SME`s, the SME section is probably the engine in Germany’s economy in a way. So they all say well this engine you’re on this engine always starting a bit late, but it’s running well afterward. And this is why I’m quite optimistic when it comes to discussing the role of the German economy. But there are still some things in the direction of AI that we have to admit and work on. For example, there are lots of very good brain people coming from German universities and they go to Google or somewhere else in Silicon Valley. And so one of the topics where we personally want to fight for is that lots of our good brains stay in our economy, but you know, on a pretty good way of working on that topic.

Joe: Pretty good. Let’s talk a little bit about Think Owl. When I understood you right when we talked before this recording. Basically, Think Owl wants to take over the European market from Zendesk.

Andreas: Well, okay that’s a kind of interpretation that would be okay. In a way, we have to admit that the size of our marketing budgets is not as big. But not to come back to it. in a way it’s, we are coming from this topic of a Hashtag, Omnichannel customer service. And we are coming from the Hashtag of intelligent automation of processes through Ai. And so our vision is to provide the right contextual information on the desktops of our knowledge workers in enterprises. This is our basic vision and AI is the key feature for it.

We see that some studies in the USA for example, that around 38% of our time is just wasted because we’re searching for contextual information for what we do right now in real time.

I think 38% is a big number. it sounds a bit unserious, but let it be 20. Let it be 20%. That, let us estimate that 20% of our time just gets wasted because we have the lack of contextual information to what we do. Right now we’re searching, we are researching, we have to change between applications. And these may be exactly this 20% amount of productivity. When we talk about, the lack of knowledge workers in the industry is at the moment. And this is where we, with think Al, we’ve found it out very young team, a young way, of providing Omni channel application in the service and back office industries.

And we have step by step, bringing it on desktops all over the enterprise. And the basic idea is whatever you do at the moment, whatever email you open, whatever message you get, whatever social information or whatever ticket is routed to your desktop. We tried to give you exactly the information that fits to the recognition of the topic.

Joe: One example of how this could work.

Andreas: It’s working already today with our former product mediatrics, which is not cloud-based. But Think Owl is cloud-based. Think Owl we call a democratizing of Ai because it’s usable for companies that have only three, four, five seats, in customer service. We used to work for companies that have a hundred, 150, 200, 300 seats in customer service.

So there is a bit of office change. I call it a democratizing of artificial intelligence. It can be useful for all companies, all their enterprises. And an example would be, for example, if you send a complaint to companies like Ikea, this Swedish furniture company. Or for FedEx or Samsung. If you have a complaint or some issue with your products from Samsung and just contact them by email for example. Then we try to make sure.

Joe: They already used you?

Andreas: Yeah, sure, sure. They use our technology from ITyx and to make sure that at the moment I open a ticket, I opened your email, I an overview of what you do, what product is it is about how to prioritize your ticket. When does it have to meet your expectations and so on and so on? So it’s not just picking a ticket and working on it. But have the right information there at exactly the right time and with the right priority. And this is probably with our workstations in 2025. And after this point will look like. I’m absolutely sure that my children, I have some children, 11, 13 years old. And I’m absolutely sure if they get their first jobs, after being in University and College hopefully. And they go into have their first job somewhere in enterprises. So in, let’s say, 12 years from now. I’m absolutely sure that, we will have workstations and desktop in companies where we don’t use keyboards. We don’t use the mouse for it. But we will talk to them and they will have the right information just there for 80% of the things that we do, right there when we need them. And this is exactly what digitization and artificial intelligence and special it can bring into our working life for the next couple of years. And this is absolutely amazing. It’s an amazing time for digitized workstations and workplaces.

Joe: And basically when such a ticket comes in and there’s just the email of the person complaining. What additional information does your tool get out for the person replying to this email?

Andreas: Its a lot of points where artificial intelligence, measures the information from the past. And just tries to find out what makes sense for this information that you have on your screen right now. So for example who is the expert and we’d call it an expert owl. Who was the person or are the persons in your environment and your team in your company that has been the best working on topics like this in the past? What were the answers to our customer in the past that met the expectation of the customers best? What are the topics that are coming in that should be worked on now? And others that could wait until this evening to work on them.

So these are just some of the possibilities. Actually at the moment just to have another example, what do we have at the moment is a so-called intelligent routing. So today still the routing of tickets in a company is always measured by a regular expression. So sure, if someone complains you take it as a high priority. And if someone has a change of accuracy, take it as low priority. But sometimes depending on the people that are available in your teams in an enterprise. There is sometimes you need a kind of intelligent routing. So in the past, what’s happened if I gave this tickets to this person and this team, how did this behave? Did we meet the expectations? And so on and so on. So this all has to do with data and we all know data is the fuel for the engine of artificial intelligence.

And so our concern and our goal with Think Owl is to make sure that processes in enterprises. Especially in customer service and back office, organizations, get rid of this 20% of searching, researching and waiting. But just act with some good suggestions in context.

Joe: And talking about that. Where could you apply? You already talked about customer services. I mean that’s a picture book example. You’re also talked about back offers. What came to my mind is something like Help Desk. Is it still too complicated? Or is it where you could apply it as well?

Andreas: Absolutely. Help Desk activities are one of the winners, the situations where Think Owl could help. Help the activities or service desk activities too. And when it comes to back office work, we have to admit there are so many things today and then we are back to the paper. You are where we started from paper. If we see there are so many, activities still when it comes to working on applications in the economy all over the place, by the way. In the US my personal experience from our projects in the US because we’re doing lots of projects in the USA too. And my experience is that if, when it comes to basic traditional applications and the processes and companies, the US companies are even behind the digitalization that I see in some European companies. But to come back to what I mean, like, for example, in the financial sector, if you want to start a loan or if you have a mortgage process. Because you want to buy a house or something, it is always a matter of lots of paper. And there are always people going through this digitized or real paper to check out where is the real information from AMD for example. That makes me help to check whether we are able to give them a mortgage for his new house.

And this is just one of the lots of examples. We are still using knowledge workers to search in papers for the right information, bring it together and to draw decision or drive a decision out of it. And this is a part where AI can help us enormously. So two years ago, the last sentence, two years ago when you have asked me. Andy are you sure that we are able to do some mortgage processing in two years through AI? I would have admitted, hey, that’s quite complicated stuff. To work on this application of a mortgage or a loan or a normal credit. That you take from your bank. It’s a lot of time. It has to be done manually and steps but I was wrong. AI is able to gain around 80% of all needed information in context to what you do. And bring it on to the screen of a knowledge worker.

So by the end of the day, it’s, it’s an assistant of a reparative work on the workstations of people. And this is to come back to this point. And this is where I think AI we’ll give workers a possibility to do more. And have more substantial of decision making in their work. And I think today through with this manual steps and through this change in media. People in banks are working on eight applications, same time. And AI can be this clue. And that’s what we want to do with Think Owl to be this clue and bring together everything people need on their desktops. To work on the tickets.

Joe: That was pretty cool. A pretty good explained. Two more questions. Number one, what would be the most exciting thing you think we’ll see in the next five years? Talking about Ai? What will be your expectation? In five year, maybe we could have x, y, z.

Andreas: Well, the second part.

Joe: The second question comes after that.

Andreas: Okay. So, I’m pretty sure there were so many topics I could mention. Now, let me mention one of the topics that are very widely discussed at the moment. I’m doing around 35 to 40 speeches, keynote speeches in Europe when it comes to AI conferences a year. And always when I ask decision makers from management, it’s from time to time, even c level management people that I’m discussing the chances of artificial intelligence and digitization. And, it’s quite naive sometimes because when I asked them what is AI for you, they always say it’s chatbots. AI is chatbots, and this is all naive because it’s the wrong way of thinking that we will have machines replacing knowledge workers on our workstations.

That’s naive. We have to stop discussing human and machine being rivals. I’m absolutely sure in the next five years we will understand that it’s never about human or machine. It’s always about how can we use machines in an optimal way. To efficiently help people, gain more efficiency and be more productive and have a better workplace. You can’t tell me that working in eight applications and copying things from the left screen and put it into the right screen is a nice thing to do every day. And I think AI will help companies come through this, change in media that they have through the high speed of changes. IT changes in most of the enterprises. But to come back to your questions, what will we see within the next five years?

I don’t believe that there will be chatbots all over the place. And I don’t believe that we will do anything in five years in talking to machines and they will understand us clearly. I still believe that it will take some more time until we’re there. Whereas I see that there are lots of low hanging fruits, in the market. There are lots of things in platforms that are able to be operated today through the use of AI., for example, our modern and future mobility. And in a way, our answer on the problems we have when we talk about climate change. Artificial intelligence and big data will be the key technology to make this happen. There will be no modern mobility concept in our modern societies without AI. For example, when we talk about health, this is a sector that is a rising AI and health is raising at the moment extremely.

When we talk about the chances that we have when we talk about the cities and the governmental use of artificial intelligence. When we talk about the government a better communication between consumers and as citizens to the state departments and state authorities. And these are only a few that I can mention. That we talk about lots of things where I can really make a big change in our day to day life. And this will help us to meet some of the expectations and some of the needs that we need to find some solutions for in modern society.

Joe: Very, very big answer. But hopefully, most of it comes true. the last question would be, it’s like a curveball. I usually like to do that at the end of an interview. If you could be the CEO for any given company in the world for just one day, which company would it be and why?

Andreas: That’s a difficult question. Well in a way it’s a difficult question, but in a way, it’s a very easy question. Or it’s an easy answer for me. I really love what I do. And, in a way and something like this person that is trying to make things happen for Think Owl that is trying to bridge this traditional SSC of the color of my hair. I’m always familiar with the traditional way of doing management in companies. And the startup period is a very, very exciting period for me too. And I liked it so much to be in touch with young people in their twenties or late twenties that are opening their new businesses. And this is really an absolutely amazing time. On the other hand site, I would do some changes or if I would be a CEO of one of the big four or big five US companies for example. Like Google or Facebook. I would try to use this one day in reminding us of the fact that we are sure. Our currency of what we gain is money or it is an option. It’s a subscription. It’s data, no doubt about it. That’s fine. But we still should never forget that everything we do is we want to, make the life of citizens or consumers more comfortable and we should never forget this and secure, comfortable and secure.

Joe: Great. Thank you very much for the interview. Sorry for my allergies. I had to cough from time to time. It’s spring here and I don’t like it at all. So sorry guys, it’s my allergy. Thanks for staying with me. Thank you very much for the interview. It was a pleasure having you here guys. Remember sharing is caring. Thank you much Andreas.

Andreas: Pleasure was mine young. Bye Bye

Joe: Bye.

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