Q&A with Automation Hero Founder and CEO Stefan Groschupf
Q&A with Automation Hero Founder and CEO Stefan Groschupf
by Ryan Prindiville
May 25, 2021

Armanino’s Ryan Prindiville recently connected with Stefan Groschupf, founder and CEO of Automation Hero – a leader in the artificial intelligence (AI) space on a mission to empower businesses through AI.

Ryan: Share a bit about how Automation Hero was started.

Stefan: Two insights led us to start Automation Hero: number one, whenever we build big data solutions, companies analyze the history, but don’t know how to make the data actionable. And then the second observation was that 80% of the data is unstructured.

So, we built an operating system to automate complex business processes such as input management, customer engagement or invoicing processes. These manual processes are still very painful, cumbersome and lead to errors. Our secret sauce is the innovations and deep AI learning that transforms unstructured data into structured information used to automate business processes.

Ryan: There are a lot of other companies jumping in and doing things in the AI space as well. Let’s talk a bit about what makes your company different.

Stefan: There are so many technical things out there that are great if you’re a tech nerd like me, but they’re completely meaningless if you’re a CFO or a CEO who wants to make their company more profitable and grow faster. It's on us as technology companies to build simple-to-use products that have instant impact without needing a two-hour presentation to explain what this thing does.

What makes us different is that we make AI practical, real, deployable and fast. We put it to work every day without the special need for an army of data scientists. You can go into the details to use AI to automatically answer emails, extract information and update your financial systems, but the key difference is that we make technology accessible and make it valuable.

Ryan: When companies start looking to automate processes with AI, are they thinking that this technology will impact their business strategy or that this will change the way they leveraged their existing team, or both?

Stefan: In the beginning, people are always looking to lower the amount of manual labor and save on costs. But that's really just scratching the surface. On the other side of the spectrum is the possibility of using AI to open up new businesses, apply the insights and sell something.

But if you take it to the next level and go deeper with the help of faster insights, you gain a competitive edge. So now, the data allows you to really open up and be more aggressive on the business side. If you use AI’s leading indicators to predict usage, there’s a massive opportunity for you.

Ryan: Have you seen changes or adaptations in the way that clients have been using your platform this past year that you wouldn't have expected the year prior?

Stefan: For consumer-to-business interactions, true automation has helped companies step up their customer care at a really critical time. And that was very impactful for these businesses because in their time of need, they could be there for their customers. They could answer a phone call within two minutes and all the standard stuff could be automated away, so clients didn’t have to wait 15 minutes or fill out forms.

Of course, everybody is under massive economic pressure to lower their operational costs. A difficult topic for people in the AI space to talk about is whether AI will replace people. I always say – and I strongly believe – that AI is not automating jobs, it's automating tasks. We absolutely improve operational efficiency by having the same amount of people doing way more things.

Ryan: You mentioned that AI isn’t about replacing people and jobs but replacing tasks. How do you think the people component plays into an AI strategy?

Stefan: It’s always about the people. A great example is the CFO role. I think CFOs need to become more strategic because they are truly flying the airplane. As CFO, you have everything in front of you, you have all the business insights. There’s nothing the CFO doesn't know when it comes to what's happening in the company. It always surfaces somewhere in the numbers.

I think CFOs need to be a little bit more tech savvy as well. Not necessarily know about technology but understand its strategic impact. And then I think CFOs need to combine the insights they have as financial leaders with some of the strategic changes that are in front of them.

Ryan: What's the biggest challenge companies are facing today in terms of being able to leverage the technology? Is it the people challenge, the understanding or the actual technology itself?

Stefan: Our mission is to put AI to work. AI is really good technology if you don't even realize it’s there. With Automation Hero, you have inputs, you have outputs and in between you have a pipeline. You don't have to get training or build anything with a data scientist. The action just happens after a few clicks. You can fiddle around a little bit and customize it to your needs, but that's it.

Historically, of course, AI’s biggest barriers to entry are domain knowledge and the data. But the game is changing and that's important for people to understand. You do not need big training data anymore to do AI. Zero-shot learning allows us to do really sophisticated AI without having to train your models. It makes AI real for you and me, and it's all around removing these barriers to entry.

Ryan: How do you get mid-market companies that don’t have big data sets going quickly?

Stefan: We absolutely have true startups as clients and – maybe also thanks to our technology – they’re absolutely killing it. Our technology is extremely strong around not needing training data anymore. The innovations in the market allow us to do that, along with some really cool IP that we have.

This is really exciting for small companies because it levels the playing field. If you are a small company that just can't afford certain things, having technology automate as much as possible and then having the rest be picked up by the team might be the right approach.

And it gives you a competitive edge. You can do something that historically would have cost a couple hundred thousand dollars and now you can do it within the budget that you have.

Ryan: What's the biggest mistake you think companies make when they start thinking about AI?

Stefan: The biggest mistake is underestimating how fast this train is moving. And how quickly AI will disrupt every part of the business. Whether it's in accounting, sales, customer success or product development — they will all be broadly disrupted by AI.

If you wait even just three more years, you will be too late because everybody else will have already adopted the technology. The biggest mistake is thinking you still have a few years to figure this out. You should get your feet wet now, before it's too late.

It's not about investing $50K and expecting $500K. It’s investing $50K and learning something that then secures the future of your business. Move quickly, learn, do retrospectives and iterate. You want to bring agility, learning and quick reactions to market changes in all parts of your business.

Thank you to Stefan and the Automation Hero team for participating in Armanino’s AI Leader Series.

Learn more about digital transformation and AI with Armanino.

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