Innovator of the Week
Co-founder of Refly
Please provide your 30-second pitch about your company.
Refly is an AI-powered smart text editor for content marketers. Content is the corner stone of inbound marketing. It will grow to a $300 billion industry in 2019. Content Marketers face a unique challenge. At times they have to generate content for a global audience. Other times, they have to write content targeting a specific geographical location. But, everyone has cultural biases. Their cultural lineage creeps into their writing too. That’s where Refly helps. Refly has a powerful AI algorithm in cloud. A writer can choose a specific AI rule guide. If she chooses a generic AI rule guide, Refly prompts to any cultural nuances in the content or prompts with cultural examples when she is writing for a specific location. Refly can help you fix grammar and spelling errors. Writers can apply SEO rules to their content and publish to any popular content management sites. Refly’s mission is to remove the language barriers in writing, helping people to write stories with emotions.
Who or what was your best resource for starting your company?
The best resource is my co-founder, Melson Zacharias. We connected through a friend of mine who happened to be Melson’s professor at the university. Melson was about to leave for a high paying job, but I convinced him to buy into my vision. He curbed his plan for a corporate career and jumped in. It turned out to be the best decision for both of us. Melson now handles the Engineering and Development at Refly. He grew as an Engineer and a manager in a short period of time.
What was your biggest obstacle in starting your company and how did you overcome it?
I was an Engineering Manager at a large manufacturing company and I was a card-carrying member of geekdom. You could fit me in all stereotypes of a classic geek. So, other aspects of business seemed irrelevant. I started off with the naive notion of “If you build it, they will come”. I was in for a surprise. It wasn’t pleasant. So I went through a period of self-study and contemplation. It helped a bit to change my world view. But how it works in real world still eluded me.
Luckily I got into the 2017 Accelerate NH program with Alpha Loft. And I am almost in the 7th week now. I can’t emphasize how much it had changed myself in last 6 weeks. Entrepreneurship is a science. There is a proven framework you can follow and be successful. It is not the world of suits and sweet talks, but a grinding reality of applying data and an ability to garner wisdom off of it. Accelerate NH helped me to see my blind spots.
What’s the best advice you have received?
Years ago I read a book called Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. When he was at Wharton for his undergrad, a roommate suggested that he should consider a job that is “scalable”. Taleb used this piece of information to postulate and prove theories of uncertainties. It helped me orient in a different direction. Until then all the options I tried for upward momentum at my day job seemed irrelevant. A developer’s job is not scalable. It can only impact my life and my family’s. To scale it to an extent that can impact the world seemed impossible. Of course there is a little thrill in seeing how your code is touching a real life. Yet, it is so much not scalable to an extent I want my life to be. Entrepreneurship seems to be the obvious path to take. Nassim Nicholas Taleb and I fall to two extreme of the political spectrum. Yet, this small piece of advice had changed my world view.
What about the NH lifestyle appeals to you?
I have lived in 6 states across the country. Even lived on the other coast in California. NH is the ideal place to grow a family and a business. Live free or die is not only a state motto, it is a philosophy that is in the DNA of every community of New Hampshire. Streets are not crowded. Rent is low. Also there is plenty of options to choose from. Many NH cities have a UNH campus that provides an ample pool of talent to access. NH schools and communities are very supportive of small businesses.
What does the future look like for your company?
I don’t like to make big plans. Yet for 2017 we have set an achievable goal. The goal is to roll out all the features we have in pipeline. We will focus on improving the AI algorithm, so a writer can see tangible improvements and quantify the difference. We would shift to the growth gear in the beginning of 2018. We are working on some strategic partnerships and integration. These integrations will add more value to our customers. Refly will become the go to tool in content marketer’s arsenal. And by the beginning of 2018, we will be ready to hire from local communities. In the next 5 years we should be a company of 35-50 employees.