Meet the Norwich company building chatbots for global brands

Thea Goodluck, July 16, 2019 3 min read

Tech is increasingly used by businesses to automate work and free up time for employees to focus on less mundane tasks. Enter Norwich-based ubisend, which builds customised AI-driven chatbot solutions that aim to do just that while solving modern business challenges.

The company had been working with SMS until turning its attention to chatbots in 2016, the year that the tech progressed from so-called “weak AI” to sophisticated applications for news, productivity, travel, and much more.

Cofounder and CMO Alex Debecker says that the opportunity for his company to build chatbots for (and work with) global brands such as Unilever and Johnson & Johnson demonstrated how his company’s integrated solutions could add value for established companies.

We spoke to Debecker to find out more.

What problem are you trying to solve?

Alex Debecker: We focus on solving modern business challenges, with an emphasis on three key departments: HR, customer service, and sales.

Conversational software is excellent for automating business processes and removing the burden of responding to routine and repetitive tasks. As an example, in HR, we can instantly remove over 40% of employee HR-related enquiries.

This is only scratching the surface of what chatbots can do. We build custom solutions to solve specific challenges, integrate with software and processes, and integrate into current tech stacks. They can talk to thousands of people simultaneously, and they’re online 24/7, never get sick, grumpy or turn up late. They can speak any language and never make a mistake.

What’s the story of ubisend?

Ubisend spun out of a larger company in 2016. Until then, we had been working our conversational magic through SMS, a somewhat antiquated channel. However, in 2016, messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WeChat started enabling programmatic access, allowing companies to build conversational software straight into their preferred channel.

This opened many doors and drove the incorporation of ubisend, an enterprise-grade, future-tech oriented brand that builds bespoke AI-powered conversational software, commonly referred to as chatbots.

What was your ‘eureka!’ moment?

In our first year, we were lucky enough to work with some of the biggest brands in the world, such as Unilever and Johnson & Johnson. It wasn’t a Eureka ‘moment’ but rather a realisation of all the ways we can positively impact these complicated and well-established companies.

To this day, this is what excites us: solving real business challenges with complex, but seamless and simple-looking, AI solutions.

Talk us through your team

Ubisend’s team is made up of developers and artificial intelligence experts, copywriters, marketers and software implementation specialists. We also have vast experience in behaviour change messaging, high-volume infrastructure services, and multi-lingual deployments. We’re in the middle of a hiring spree, aiming to onboard 20 new staff over the coming months.

What makes you better than the competition?

Three characteristics differentiate us from others. First, we build 100% custom; all our solutions are tailored to solve the challenges our client faces. We’re not in the business of squeezing square pegs into round holes. We know our clients are unique, like their chatbot solution.

Second, we can work across any department and language. Our years of experience enable us to work on a uniquely wide variety of projects. We become our client’s go-to AI supplier, saving them from procuring new services for new features, departments or problems.

Third, we can deploy on-premise. Most of our clients are large companies for which data privacy and data ownership are a top concern. We solve this by implementing an entire AI tech-stack directly into their infrastructure, including code, ML and NLP services, and algorithms.

“Norwich has a growing pool of talent. We’re seeing fantastic talent emerge from local universities. We’re also starting to attract experience from surrounding cities and regions, such as Cambridge, Ipswich, and even London.”

What’s it like being a tech company in your city?

Norwich has a growing pool of talent. We’re seeing fantastic talent emerge from local universities. We’re also starting to attract experience from surrounding cities and regions, such as Cambridge, Ipswich, and even London.

The tech circles in Norwich are still relatively small; everyone knows everyone. This strong network has been a real asset for ubisend, even when we primarily work nationally and internationally.

What’s your investment journey to date?

Ubisend is entirely bootstrapped – we grow from the results of our services and abilities. While we do not dismiss the option of raising money one day, this isn’t on our radar at the moment. We’re proud of being able to grow from our results. This also means we can set decide our own direction and share results with employees.

What’s on the horizon for your company?

Growth, growth, and more growth. We’ve at least doubled turnover every year, and this year is looking even stronger, enabling us to invest in ourselves and scale processes. This year, we are launching a new software product, expanding our international presence, increasing UK market share, and hiring many more ubians (people!).

Community, East of England