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Idealog's Most Innovative in AI/Data: Aider

The winner of Idealog's Most Innovative Companies in AI/Data is Aider. There are few technology sectors out there spoken about in such breathless terms as AI. With seemingly endless potential, there's one drawback, especially for smaller enterprises: much of the potential of AI seems available only to big players with bigger budgets.

That’s something AI assistant company Aider is working on: to make it available to the masses.  

“Small business owners are time poor and have to wear many hats,” says Jennifer Morrison, head of marketing at Aider. “No two days are the same and it's hard for them to be across their business.”

Maybe that explains the statistics: In New Zealand, 20 percent of small businesses fail in the first year, 30 percent in the second, and half are gone after five years.

Aider is looking to change that by providing small business owners with real-time insights into their businesses – sales, bills, inventory and more – and as well as scheduling tasks, paying invoices and staff - practically anything that makes running a small business easier, via the mobile-first digital assistant.

“Traditionally, this tech has been reserved for large players,” says Morrison. “We want to give small business owners the edge they need to succeed.”

Using AI technology, Aider helps small businesses access and analyse data from within their business and the world around them. Ask Aider a question via voice or message and accurate receive metrics instantly.

Getting such cutting-edge tech to market has its challenges, of course. After all, the core technologies of the product – natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning – are very much a developing discipline.

“Language is complex, so trying to provide valuable insights to customers and derive intent has been part of the learning curve,” says Morrison. “It's an exciting time to be in this space and we are learning from our customers every day to help make Aider the best digital assistant.”

But beyond the technical challenges, there are perceptions that need to be addressed as well. Morrison says that because Aider is operating on the bleeding edge, the challenge has been to make people realise just what is possible with AI.

“With the increased adoption of cloud-based apps, we are able to provide valuable data-driven insights that have never been possible,” says Morrison. “We have only grown from word of mouth while we've been testing and learning in beta, but one thing that has helped us strategically is being very close to our customers. We've done extensive market research and user testing to find out what are the key pain points we want to solve.”

Aider is the champion of the little guy looking for access enterprise-level tech. 

“If we can achieve our goal, not only will Aider be more successful, but we will have helped many other small businesses be successful too.

“But the technology is constantly evolving so we have to be quick to market. The adoption of voice-controlled devices like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home is booming in consumer markets both in New Zealand and internationally, so we need to ensure we are building the best technology as well as building trust with our customers.”

“We've had to create the right expectation with customers and then strive to deliver against those expectations.”

And just like the technology, the company is getting smarter as things progress. The Takapuna-based company has done extensive market research and user testing to find out what small business pain points are, the challenges they’re facing and the tools they need.

“We're lucky to have a very loyal and engaged customer base, which has helped us scale and grow quickly,” says Morrison.

“We don't get everything perfect on the first attempt, but we are constantly learning. We never stop learning from our customers, they keep asking for more features and apps which keeps our development team on their toes.”

Aider launches officially in Australia and New Zealand in November.

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