The big data market was $169 billion in 2018 and is estimated to grow to over $274 billion in 2022. AI and Financial Services are two of the fastest growing sectors in this space. But, in spite of this surge in data’s dominance, presently, businesses do not have a scalable and cost-effective solution for data curation. In an age wherein information is essential to every business’ operations, Bridged identified a market for high-quality hard to obtain data. From AI/ML chatbot training data to alternative data (that contributes to dynamic pricing models) for financial institutions, this startup discovered that business in practically every industry can benefit from access to data. Big data can be used for training AI models, improving e-commerce numbers, and to obtain insights on competitor activity. Data is the new oil, and simply put, they’ve created its equivalent of an oil rig. The startup Bridged.Co was launched on August 2018. We are publishing an interview with Mr. Ashwin Chalam, CEO – Bridged:
Q.: Please tell us about the founders
Ans: We began as a platform that would provide aspiring startup founders with a platform to interact with consultants that held expertise in various fields. We soon realized that our database of “consultants” was filled with more college students and young professionals. While our initial idea was to eliminate them from the database, we realized that there could be a use for these individuals. That’s when we explored using them to help us generate training datasets, and with that, Bridged, as we now know it, was formed.
I started Bridged in 2018. Using my experience as a former Executive Director at Goldman Sachs and a serial entrepreneur (ventured into fields such as finance and film-making), I understood the industry Bridged could cater to, and I built a young and dynamic team to join me in the journey towards becoming the standard-bearers of high-quality training data. Besides, I have a keen interest in alternative finance and documentary film-making.
Q.: List all the names of the core Team Members, along with their Designated Roles – How you see them evolving over time. What would be each of their Skill Sets? – Elaborate also if any of the team members has a specific domain expertise.
Ans: Our team has over 30 years’ experience across the corporate and startup worlds. We’ve held leadership positions in the world’s largest investment banks, have MBAs from top global schools, and have run our own startups previously that have generated millions of revenues in the process. Aside from the expertise, we are all about execution – we know how to get things done!
Apart from myself, the core members of the team include Harsha Aravalli, the VP of Sales, and Tarun Adnani, the VP of Product. Considering we are a young and growing startup, Harsha and Tarun have proven their ability to handle roles beyond their designations. Harsha primarily handles sales, but he is also a vital part of the project management process, and it benefits from his eye for detail and efficiency with operations. While Tarun is in charge of product development, his experience with content makes him essential to our content marketing efforts as we continue to expand our reach.
I’ve seen them grow due to their ability to constantly learn, think on their feet, and take ownership. That’s exactly the type of employee culture we’re looking to inculcate at Bridged.
Q.: Tell us about the Product / Solution. How did you get your first customer? Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
Ans: In essence, we provide bespoke solutions to businesses looking for data that can give them a competitive edge. Clients share their struggles with obtaining the right data, and we “bridge” the gap between them and the coveted data.
To ascertain product-market fit, we started out by engaging with multiple companies in the AI/ML space to understand our product’s need and their willingness to pay. On seeing interest, we offered paid pilots at nominal prices so companies could understand our offering’s value. Our offerings proved to be successful as it allowed companies to increase the quality of their data sets significantly. These companies were also able to enjoy the luxury of getting this service at a price that was 70% more affordable and 90% faster.
Q.: What is your USP? * What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Ans: The originality of our datasets and our ability to generate them at a large scale is what sets us apart. We have learned that businesses like having access to data that would be unique to their use case. Our unique offering is our proven ability to conduct bespoke projects to ensure that every data point delivered provides businesses with a unique advantage.
We’re open to working with customers from various industries. Our experience includes working with AI/ML developers, e-commerce sites, money transfer companies, and patent visualization platforms. Presently, we have one project in progress, with four pilots in the pipeline.
Q.: What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have? Who in your mind is your ideal customer? Do you have at least one of them signed up?
Ans: As providers of training data, I initially assumed that prospecting only AI/ML businesses would be worth our time, and I branded my business accordingly. While working with such clients, in parallel, attractive data-servicing opportunities in spaces such as financial services and e-commerce popped up. That’s when I understood that every business out there needs data and Bridged has the tools to service those needs.
Our ideal customers are businesses for whom we can offer a scalable data solution. Whether it’s content categorization, segmentation, natural language generation or crowdsourced competitor intelligence, if a business requires large scale data, we can “bridge” that gap.
I’m glad to say that we have had multiple contracts with clients that are interestingly close to our ideal customer archetype, and we’re working on exciting pilots that have excellent chances of conversion.
Q.: What has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it??
Ans: My biggest failure as an entrepreneur was underestimating the impact regulatory risk would have on the second start-up I founded. The start-up was a fintech company that dealt with invoice discounting through a P2P mechanism. Unfortunately, despite positive growth, we had to close the business because of the regulations changing against us.
Sometimes, as entrepreneurs, we fail to take a 360-degree view of all factors that could impact our business, and thus, fail to define a contingency plan should an unlikely event materialize.
Q.: How are you pricing the Product? What is the logic behind it? What is the model you are following – Free / Freemium / Premium etc. ? Explain your thought process.
Ans: Considering the wide variety of clients we cater to; we’ve understood that we don’t have a one size fits all pricing model. Every client has its unique training data requirement, and, based on the intensity of generating such data, we create a custom price. Every prospective client gets a free pilot because we’d like for them to subscribe to our service only once, they truly believe we’re a good fit for their business needs.
Q.: Please tell us about the investors (if any)
Ans: We were a part of the 2019 Class of the Western Union accelerator powered by Techstars. Techstars is an American seed accelerator founded in 2006 in Boulder, Colorado. As of 2019, the company had accepted over 1,600 companies into its programs with a combined market capitalization of $18.2bn USD. Less than 1% of applicants are accepted.
Q.: Is there any interesting success story of your startup? If yes, please write about it. ?
Ans: Satisfying clients is a success story enough for any business. We’ve had the privilege of working with chatbot developers, and money transfer companies, among others. One of our success stories involves our collaboration with an incumbent money transfer firm (the firm would like it’s identity to remain confidential). The firm was looking to obtain data on its competitors, data that could be used to study and optimize parameters such as transfer fees, transfer speed, and exchange rates offered. By working with Bridged, they were able to access hard-to-obtain financial data that covered such essential information, thus receiving a competitive edge.
Check out our business case studies to learn more!
Q.: Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? Please explain in detail.
Ans: We’ve provided data solutions to 8 clients globally, for whom we’ve delivered over 50M+ datasets, and from whom we’ve generated revenues north of $600,000. Our 13,000 strong workforce has a significant role to play in us achieving this feat.
Q.: What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product/service leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Ans: Our goal is to eventually become the standard-bearers of high-quality data. We presently have a pricing intelligence product for money transfer companies, and our long-term goal is to offer a similar product for other industries.
Q.: Who do You Perceive as Your Competition? How do you differentiate yourself with them?
Ans: We are in a space filled with highly exciting and determined competitors. What differentiates us is the fact that we’ve built a platform that sits between our clients and the workforce, and we offer a fully managed solution with our in-house teams of data scientists and dedicated project managers.
We take the requirements from the client and devise a bespoke solution for the entire process that covers qualifying, training, and managing the workforce on top of the data processing workflow with multiple levels of quality checks until final delivery.
We strive to be different from our competition by ensuring that we are not just a means to gain access to a large crowd force or just a tech interface with annotation capabilities. We take end-to-end ownership and fully-manage it, thus guaranteeing only the highest standards of data quality.
Q.: What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months? Any other information you would like to share?
Ans: We have a bunch of pilots lined up in the pipeline and we’re working with our clients to convert them into full-blown projects. Product-wise, we’ve developed a pricing intelligence system for money transfer companies, and we’re looking to perfect it. Another priority for us is increasing the strength of our workforce, and we’re putting strategies in place to further develop their skill sets.
Q.: What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Ans: Execution eats strategy for breakfast. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an idea similar to brands like Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon, but only a daring few attempts to make their idea see the light of day. Seize every opportunity that lies ahead of you, because irrespective of your idea succeeding or failing, you’ll end up learning.
Thanks Ashwin. All the best!