October 14, 2017
MEDICI now! startup stories highlight the companies that are shaping the new FinTech industry. On the quest to shed light on some of the most talented FinTech entrepreneurs developing innovative technology solutions for the financial sector, the LTP Team had the pleasure of interviewing Zor Gorelov, Co-founder & CEO of Kasisto, the company behind conversational AI platform KAI, which enables companies to attract, engage, and transact with their customers via human-like and intelligent conversations anytime, anywhere.
LTP Team: Zor, please introduce yourself.
Zor Gorelov, Co-founder & CEO of Kasisto. I’m a serial entrepreneur, this is my fourth startup. My first was in the Soviet Union in the mid-to-late 80s during Perestroika; I was selling computer systems to hospitals. At the time banking systems did not exist, so all of my business ventures were handled in cash. My partner and I would fly to Moscow, find foreign students from socialist countries, give them cash and have them go buy computers in their home country, just hoping they’d come back to the Soviet Union. If they came back, and usually they did, I’d bring them to my hometown and code these systems for hospitals. Eventually, I had enough money to travel to the US with my wife and son. I didn’t speak English but I could code, so I landed a job at Microsoft.
Later on, I founded and ran BuzzCompany.com, a provider of enterprise collaboration and messaging software. Right before Kasisto, I co-founded SpeechCycle, a market leader in cloud-based contact center optimization solutions for the telco market.
Kasisto is a natural progression of my career creating companies in the RPA and customer self-service solutions space. It’s a quantum leap because, for the first-time, AI is ready to power human-like conversations. It’s like I’ve been waiting for this. My co-founders come from SRI International (where Siri was created) and IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, and we’re convinced the pieces have finally come together for the conversational user interface to go mainstream.
LTP Team: Give us a paragraph pitch of Kasisto.
Kasisto's conversational AI platform, KAI, powers smart bots and virtual assistants on messaging platforms, mobile apps and the web. We license KAI to financial institutions to empower intelligent conversations with their customers. Today’s banks and financial institutions want to weave managing money and financial decisions into their customers’ everyday lives – so that’s what the KAI platform aims to do. KAI-powered bots and assistants have the expertise to help customers with payments, transaction and account insights, and personal finance management, as well as provide banks with new ways to support and sell to their customers.
LTP Team: Who are your customers?
We’re licensing KAI Banking to financial institutions, including retail banks, credit card companies, brokerage houses and wealth management firms. Many leading FIs are in various stages of deployment under NDA. Publicly announced customers include DBS Bank, Mastercard, Wells Fargo and Varo Money.
Every day, we work at the intersection of the innovations in AI and conversation as a user interface to empower banks to create a more predictive, contextual and personalized banking experience for their customers.
As a platform, our approach to innovation is centered on empowering financial institutions. We zero in on the problems they are trying to solve – whether it’s reducing customer care costs or increasing the lifetime value of their customers – we enable them to use AI-driven conversations to achieve these goals. Sometimes, innovation is a solution looking for a problem, but that’s not the case when you leverage AI to create human-like conversations. Financial institutions have a gold mine of data about their customers, often siloed, so when we innovate we look for ways to unleash the data to feed a powerful AI brain.
We have a team of deep and diverse experts in AI and finance, and given that we’ve created a culture of listening and learning. Each perspective and insight makes us stronger. We innovate for the long run by employing the latest technology gains in AI and the near term with a disciplined product roadmap process that incorporates 360-degree feedback and insights from our customers, financial institutions, and their customers, consumers engaging with KAI-powered bots and assistants. Together, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine of innovation creating entirely new banking experiences with real business results.
LTP Team: How does Kasisto differentiate from competitors?
Kasisto’s biggest differentiator is what drew me to the company in the first place – decades of AI research out of SRI and deep domain expertise in finance. This has enabled us to build a platform capable of truly intelligent, human-like conversations. KAI can understand all of the idiosyncratic ways people communicate – whether it’s by text or voice – and extract the meaning and intent. We use sophisticated natural language understanding, AI reasoning and speech recognition technology.
We give our customers the tools to engage with their customers via smart bots and virtual assistants in their mobile app and website as well as messaging platforms. Smart bots cut customer care costs and generate brand loyalty through compelling user experiences. The consumers get 24/7 human-like conversations and access to problem-solving support from their bank. And beyond support, these AI-driven bots can actually help people manage their money. Users can also access personalized insights to their finances anytime, anywhere, as easily as chatting with a friend.
Key differentiators include:
LTP Team: What are your next milestones for the company?
Stay tuned for announcements coming soon about new KAI-powered banks in Asia, Europe and North America. We’re also looking ahead to scaling our business to new markets. Our platform is industry agnostic and we’re looking ahead to new verticals like insurance and wealth management.
We’re closing, watching and participating in the trend of banks transitioning from helping their customers move their money to helping them manage their money. Our role is helping banks to increase their customers’ financial literacy and well-being with data-driven insights and actionable recommendations across a variety of banking segments. Banks are rapidly moving beyond just telling customers their account balance to engaging them in conversations about actionable and relevant insights into spending patterns, helping them manage financial goals and more.