How Staple is Helping to Power the First Mile of Data Processing

We talked to Ben Stein, CEO at Staple about converting documents into structured data and here is what he said about it.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Ben Stein: We are all doing well, thank you! Like most of the world, all team members have been involuntarily separated from friends and family. Our team is decentralized across Singapore, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka. Our relationships have shifted online, and that is something we have grown accustomed to. Thankfully our team, our families and our friends are all doing well.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Staple.

Ben Stein: I previously worked with KPMG in Australia, Europe and North America for almost a decade, then in various corporate positions in London and Singapore. After working with clients in banking, energy, manufacturing and real estate, I noticed persistent inefficiencies in both enterprises and SMEs around data management. I left my CFO position at the time to explore how deep technology (“deep tech”) might present potential solutions to these inefficiencies. I joined EF (joinef.com), where I met my co-founder, Josh, a Ph.D. computer scientist. Together we met with more than 150 companies to understand their most pressing pain points, and we built Staple to address them. 

Staple’s solution can read, interpret, extract and reconcile data from semi-structured and unstructured documents, regardless of layout or language. Currently, we support more than 90 languages, and we are helping customers process data-heavy workflows in Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Indonesian. 

How does Staple innovate? 

Ben Stein: There is a lot of hype around big data, RPA, AI and analytics and their potential to rapidly accelerate the digitalization of business. What many don’t appreciate is that these technologies can’t function without a core ingredient: clean, structured data. RPA and bots are fantastic innovations, but they can only work with structured data. There is so much reliance on data, yet enterprises struggle to access, unlock and use it at scale because the data is not available in a standardized, accessible format. Without structured data, RPA bots cannot function, analytics tell an incomplete story, and information for decision making is either not timely, inaccurate, or not useful. 

Many businesses are unable to reap the benefits of automation technologies as they cannot cross the divide between structured system needs and the unstructured or semi-structured realities of business. It’s the classic adage of “garbage in, garbage out”: unless meaningful, accurate, standardized data is ingested from the outset, RPA and automation implementations will fail. It’s important that digitalization agendas have proper regard for the “first mile of data processing.” 

We dedicate a lot of effort to building software that employees actually enjoy using, as opposed to software that employees are forced to use. We don’t think there should be a distinction between software for SMEs or software for the enterprise; it should all just be software to be more productive. We also have a sharp focus on developing solutions that anybody – from the most junior employee to a highly technical CTO – can use. We’re working on tools that allow non-technical users to develop new AI models without touching a line of code. This introduces a level of flexibility that was previously out of reach for many users.

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Getting Energized to Level the Playing Field

A conversation with Amanda Niklaus, PPA Transaction Manager in the renewable industry.

The Road Less Traveled

What initially drew you to the energy industry?

During my Master’s studies, there was a mining boom in Australia. A lot of money was put into energy research, particularly for oil and gas. The Head of my university department suggested that I pursue mathematical economics in energy and work with some prestigious supervisors from the industry which I did. After graduation, I worked as an economist for the government and then in investment banking where we were looking at M&A opportunities. At the time, I found working within this very male-dominated industry a bit unsettling, and left for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) where I worked on providing training for investors and traders and we looked at battery viability for participating in different markets. A lot happened and changed over the time I worked there and that is one of the elements I like about the power market sector: it’s very dynamic, constantly evolving.

When I came back to Switzerland, I read about Pexapark. They were very new at that time and had a lot of potential. I thought it would be exciting to work with a focus in renewables and to help developing a business. I was right — it’s so far been an incredible experience to be part of and contribute to Pexapark’s development and growth.

What’s the most satisfying part of your role at Pexapark?

I really enjoy working across markets and looking at different issues, that clients are encountering or questions they are trying to answer. While our business is very specialised, I feel like a request is never ever the same. It’s always new, there is so much to learn constantly!

What’s your secret sauce that you bring to work with you each day?

A ‘can do’ attitude and resilience.

Making Strides in Renewables

What thoughts are going through your head (if any) and what are you experiencing when you find yourself to be the only woman in the room?

That’s often the case to be honest. With clients, I do not let that disturb me, I cannot. Otherwise I am going nowhere. It is of course harder to ignore for someone who works in this environment every day. There are many studies about the ‘Onlys’ — referring to the only woman in a team. A notable one is from McKinsey, showing that women in this situation often receive judgement or doubt about their own area of expertise. They feel under a constant pressure to provide a proof of competence compared to their male colleagues. The sad part is that you don’t know if it was intentional, or it is just a dynamic of the competitive environment. That is not always clear. What is clear to me — there is a way to improve the situation. A more gender- balanced team is very important and I’d like to think I try my best to influence in that direction.

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SAP Startup Spotlight: Future Grid

SAP invests in a lot of promising startups, and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of all of them. E-3 Magazine has selected the most interesting companies to showcase in our SAP Startup Spotlight Series. In this article, we will take a look at Future Grid.

Chris is the co-founder and CEO of Future Grid. He is dedicated to helping utilities around the world to integrate renewables at scale and thus decarbonising the grid. With over 20 years of experience in the energy market working for companies like AusNet Services, AGL in Australia, and the startup GridNet in San Francisco, he is well connected within the industry. Chris is a wine connoisseur, a coffee lover, and enjoys riding his bike. In this interview, he talks about what his company has to offer and what’s next for Future Grid.

E-3 Magazine: What exactly does Future Grid offer?

Chris Law: Future Grid is a software that turns smart meter data into improved grid reliability, asset management, and customer safety. Our software creates new visibility into the health of critical yet ‘invisible’ electricity assets such as wires, transformers, and fuses in support of the transition to renewable energy. Using Future Grid’s software, utilities are empowered to manage the increasing shifts in power quality due to renewables. Utilities can then deliver safe and reliable electricity to their customers. That’s how Future Grid is enabling the renewable grid of the future.

How does your solution work?

Law: Future Grid is a software that works by creating a real-time feedback loop that updates key utility systems with real-time insights from invisible assets within the grid. The Future Grid software has been designed to integrate many different sources within the utility, including smart meters, to create a near real-time ‘map’ of grid assets and network health. Future Grid will then execute a range of real-time analytics and integrate the results back into key systems such as SAP, ADSM, and GIS for operational actions. We call this the feedback loop, as for the first time, utilities have the ability to take grid edge data from smart meters (and in the future DER) and feedback real-time insights to help inform grid operations and control.

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SAP Startup Spotlight: Net2Grid

SAP invests in a lot of promising startups, and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of all of them. E-3 Magazine has selected the most interesting companies to showcase in our SAP Startup Spotlight Series. In this article, we will take a look at Net2Grid.

Bert Lutje Berenbroek has 20 years of experience in the semiconductor business with innovative companies in Silicon Valley and Boston. He started Net2Grid 10 years ago with the vision that access to real-time energy data is a necessary piece of the puzzle supporting the energy transition. In this interview, he talks about what his company has to offer and what’s next for Net2Grid.

What Does Net2Grid have to offer?

Bert Lutje Berenbroek: Net2Grid is an AI-enabled software company which turns energy consumption data into personalized and actionable insights, empowering end users to become energy efficient. Our clients are energy companies based in Europe, North America, and Australia who offer our products and services to their clients. Increasingly we see interest in our services by tech and financial corporations, too.

One concrete example of what our services can do is the successful collaboration we have with E.ON Germany. Net2Grid is the hardware, platform, and NILM (Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring) supplier of E.ON’s app iONA. Through iONA, customers can view and control their electricity consumption in detail, helping them prevent energy guzzlers, compare devices, and gain an overview of the breakdown of costs. E.ON Germany saw a customer engagement increase from 3 minutes/year to 120 minutes/year after adopting Net2Grid’s energy insight solution.

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Mind the Chat with Alexa Gorman – SAP, SAP.iO

Mind the Bridge and the International Chamber of Commerce recently awarded SAP as a TOP 25 Corporate Startup Stars last December. Indeed, with a hundred thousand employees, the B2B SaaS technology giant outperforms the majority of Fortune 500 corporations on the implementation of their Open Innovation programs and creates win-win-win relationships with startups, SAP’s clients and of course SAP.

In this Mind the Chat, we had the joy to sit down with Alexa Gorman, SVP and head of SAP.iO foundries in EMEA. Alexa joined SAP in 1999 in the retail space and led various teams and initiatives from marketing to strategy in both New York and Paris before finally joining SAP.io in Berlin, in 2017.

During the conversation, we covered the multiple areas of activities that SAP undertakes in the world of startups, namely SAP.iO, Sapphire Ventures, SAP’s Intrapreneurship program – SAP.iO Venture Studio, and the University Alliances. We took a deep dive into the structure of the SAP.iO, its Foundries, and the growing number of SAP’s innovation outposts around the world.

SAP.iO

SAP.iO is part of the New Ventures and Technology group that reports directly to the CTO office. The role of SAP.iO is to manage both startup-driven innovation and acceleration, as well as employee-driven innovation and acceleration.

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Q&A With Cogniac | SAP.iO Interview Series

Rheaply’s VP of External Affairs, Tom Fecarotta, met with Vahan Tchakerian of Cogniac to discuss their organization’s mission and involvement in the SAP.iO Foundry Cohort.

This is Part 1 of 3 in Rheaply’s discussions with other SAP.iO cohort members. Stay tuned for future Q&A’s with Wise Systems and Ivaldi.

Cogniac Q&A

Tom: I’m going to steal this first question from an investor who asked us this. Give me the high school version of the boilerplate and the version for a college student who maybe knows a little bit about AI.

Vahan: I always try to simplify things down. So we know our business, right, but when we introduce it to a new set of people, it’s always like, “what is AI?” Because AI is so universally used — everything is about AI today. For our purposes, we offer an AI platform — a software platform — where we’re working with a combination of neural networks and a deep learning component to automate visual inspection tasks. So anybody doing any sort of inspection is a candidate to use our solution. What’s really beneficial about what we do and how we do it is we’re offering a superhuman level of accuracy in work. In today’s world, inspections and products are super complex — at this rate, humans are missing stuff. We’re not only able to catch these things but catch them quickly, so we are really preventing any sort of downstream failures, etc. — that’s one of the benefits, along with more efficiency.

Tom: James, anything to add to that?

James: No, as Vahan mentioned, it’s going above and beyond what a human is currently capable of — that superhuman aspect is one that we tend to focus on. It’s a game-changer in the visual inspection world because it’s doing so much more at such a high level and operating at such a high degree of accuracy that it’s going to fundamentally change visual inspection and the AI industry within the manufacturing verticals we work in.

Tom: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Talk to me a little more about the application itself. Walk me through the use case for an end user and what that experience looks like.
Vahan: Sure. What we’ve tried to do is make the engagement super simple, to the point that there are no data scientists required — it’s literally technician-level work. Let’s say I’m talking to a potential customer — they have a subject matter expert on a given use case, and what the subject matter expert would need to do is label a few images. In traditional machine vision, somebody would be required to label tens of thousands of images, if not hundreds of thousands; in our case, it’s a few hundred images in what we call established ground truth. Everything we do is teaching with examples, right, in the simplest form. 

Let’s say we’re looking at a cast part — there’s a good part and a bad part. We have to have enough examples of a good part and a few more of a bad part to establish the ground truth of what that looks like. Then we upload that in our platform and the platform starts to make predictions against that data. So consistent labeling is key, and also key is having enough of a dataset of images where you establish ground truth to get the engine running through what we call AI creating AI. So then we look at these predictions, and the subject matter expert says, “You know what, this is kind of close, this is not close,” and so forth. Then there’s some fine-tuning back and forth between the subject matter expert and our platform, and within a couple weeks you’re looking at 95, 98, 100% model accuracy. So that’s the benefit of getting there really quickly, and if you’ve gone down the wrong path, it’s really easy to re-establish yourself and how you do your labeling.

Tom: Is this set into a maintenance system or some kind of internal system that can tell users about the health of item within a warehouse? What does the integration set look like?

Vahan: When we find something that is outside of the norm or there’s an issue, we would send an alert in any way the customer would want to see. Our platform is cloud-based or can be on-prem. Most of our customers are in the cloud. With a cloud solution in a manufacturing environment where someone needs super fast response, alerts — under a second, for example — then you would incorporate what we call an edge appliance. This edge appliance is basically doing the processing of the application at the edge — and if it finds something that’s outside the norm, it can send an alert to any user in any form that’s needed.

Tom: Wow, that’s really cool. I think we’re similar in the respect of wanting to make the process of finding things and understanding their utility easier, and in your case, you’re also working to determine what is potentially needed to improve a particular asset for people. And I think that’s really interesting.

This is a perfect segue into sustainability. Read More….

SAP Startup Spotlight: Cloverleaf

SAP invests in a lot of promising startups, and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of all of them. E-3 Magazine has selected the most interesting companies to showcase in our SAP Startup Spotlight Series. In this article, we will take a look at Cloverleaf.

Cloverleaf brings team coaching to the entire enterprise. Cloverleaf integrates with the communication and productivity tools employees use every day like Google for Business, Microsoft 365 and Slack. It provides micro-coaching through these tools to improve work relationships that lead to better collaboration, more inclusive teams and improved leadership competency. In this interview, Darrin Murriner, CEO and co-founder of Cloverleaf, talks about what the company has to offer and what’s next for the startup.

E-3 Magazine: How does your solution work?

Darrin Murriner: Everyone starts by taking market recognized assessments like DISC or StrengthsFinder and can then get custom insights about their personal development. Anyone can create a team by inviting their teammates and then get custom insights about their unique roles on the team. Integrating their Cloverleaf account with Microsoft 365, Google Workplace or Slack will then open the door to custom coaching that improves work relationships.

What are the customer-side requirements?

Murriner: Anyone can get started with a web browser, no special client-side hardware is required. It can take as little as ten minutes to create your account and begin receiving custom coaching. 

Why did you start Cloverleaf to begin with?

Murriner: Kirsten Moorefield and I worked together at a digital video agency. During our time there we noticed the unique role that team interaction had on the success or failure of project-based work and wanted to bring transparency to the process of team formation and team performance. This started us on a quest to identify the right inputs, data visualizations and coaching opportunities to improve team development.

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Increasing Team Effectiveness with SAP.iO Startup Cloverleaf

Team effectiveness helps employees integrate, increases employee satisfaction, and improves productivity. Cloverleaf, a startup in the Future of Work cohort at the SAP.iO Foundry San Francisco, helps to build great teams and improve employee engagement using existing employee data and assessments to provide insight into increased team effectiveness. We sat down with Cloverleaf Co-Founder Darrin Murriner to better understand the imperative for building great teams.

Q: What does Cloverleaf do?

A: Cloverleaf helps build great teams and improve employee engagement using existing employee data and assessments to provide insight into increased team effectiveness. From teams at small businesses to large enterprises, we equip employers and empower employees to give the greatest contribution to their organization and have the most fulfilling opportunity in their role. Cloverleaf gives users intelligent nudges and reminders before and after meetings to improve their team behavior.

Q: Why is team effectiveness so important?

A: Thriving teams have higher levels of productivity and higher levels of employee engagement. Creating strong teams is important because decreased levels of employee engagement lead to higher absenteeism, more errors, accidents and defects, lower productivity, lower profitability, and lower job growth.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted the need for Cloverleaf’s solution?

A: With many employees now working remotely, teams need to learn how to add value to their organization in a new environment. By providing team-based coaching in the flow of work, we give leaders the tools and insights they need to be effective leaders with remote and cross-functional teams. The goal of our product is to increase transparency and trust in a way that leaves everyone feeling a stronger sense of belonging and purpose. As a result, we have inclusive team environments that improve productivity.

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SAP Startup Spotlight: EasySend

SAP invests in a lot of promising startups, and it’s sometimes hard to keep track of all of them. E-3 Magazine has selected the most interesting companies to showcase in our SAP Startup Spotlight Series. In this article, we will take a look at EasySend.

E-3 Magazine talked to Tal Daskal, CEO and co-founder of EasySend, about what his solution has to offer and what is next for the company.

Why did you start EasySend to begin with?

Daskal: We – meaning EasySend’s founders, Omer Shirazi, Eran Shirazi, and me – worked at one of the largest insurance companies in Israel and saw first-hand the extent of the problem that paperwork and manual processes create in insurance. We understood the internal pain of employees – the amount of paper and PDF forms that needed to be filled out just didn’t make sense. And that’s how the idea for EasySend was born – eliminating manual processes and replacing them with digital journeys.

How could your solution potentially help customers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the different challenges of reopening?

Daskal: The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear to us and to our prospective customers that digital transformation is no longer optional. No matter the industry, enterprises are moving towards a more digital future. EasySend helps organizations achieve just that, creating a digital culture at scale in record time and at a fraction of the cost. We raised the funding amidst the Coronavirus pandemic within just two months after starting the fundraising process – which just goes to show the current demand for secure, efficient and easy-to-use digital processes.  

How are you connected to SAP? Can your solution be integrated in SAP systems?

Daskal: EasySend is an SAP Partner Edge Integrate partner. EasySend’s solution allows SAP’s current and future customers in the finance and insurance industries to digitize critical customer-facing processes, ultimately increasing conversion rates and improving user experience. Through the partnership with SAP, EasySend is able to create holistic solutions for potential customers by leveraging its unique proposition coupled with SAP’s technological capabilities and market share. EasySend’s intelligent eForms easily integrate with any legacy and core banking system and third-party service, including out-of-the-box integration with leading CRM and ERP systems, including SAP. EasySend is continuing to work with SAP in order to bring the solution to SAP’s customer base. We also joined the SAP.io program to build a solution together.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM DAY 1 OF ASIABERLINSUMMIT 2020

In the panel on accelerators and startups, Alexa Gorman, head of sap.io, tells: “Once you are in a large organization like SAP, there is not that sense of urgency that you have when you are a startup and you basically have to pay your employees and you need to close the deals to be able to have cash in the till”, she says. Working with startups therefore creates great opportunities: “We were able to create a win-win-win situation.”

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How AI And “Gaze Control” Will Help Businesses Reopen Safely

Recent projections by the US federal government estimate that there will be 200,000 new coronavirus cases in the US  by June 1. At the same time, governments around the world are grappling with the complexities of safely reopening businesses, schools and other public institutions.

Technology companies are rushing into that gap with software aimed at keeping people safe, while citizens navigate a patchwork approach to easing shelter-in-place orders. One well-known approach is the use of contact-tracing apps on smart phones created by tech and telecom companies. These apps alert people if they’ve been in close proximity to an infected person.

But other technologies can help. When businesses and other institutions open up, they will need to do a lot of things differently. A new technology called “gaze control” allows people to avoid touching surfaces, like ATM display screens or subway-fare vending machine, that may be potentially contaminated with the virus. Stephan Odörfer is founder and managing director of Munich-based 4tiitoo (pronounced “42”), a startup that creates gaze control technology. Put simply, this technology lets people use their eyes to interact with computers, replacing the need to touch a keyboard, mouse or screen.

Moreover, 4tiitoo has combined gaze control with AI to analyze patterns in users’ eye movement and predict what people want to do next within a particular computer screen or application. “Gaze control allows you to do two things. It controls the computer and we can use it to get an understanding of what the user actually wants to do, “said Odörfer. “By understanding intention, we can proactively support him.”

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