Lexis – the Entrepreneurs from the University
Four students won a technological competition with their software for automated responses to customer inquiries
Emil Kirilov, Deyan Denchev, Bilyal Mestanov and Milush Karadimov are four students from the Sofia University and the Technical University that are behind the Lexis business project. This is still a test software product that improves customer service in the banking and service sectors. In 2017, the team won the eight technological competition for development of software products "HackFMI" at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, as well as the Best Student Startup award of Junior Achievement Startup.
"Changing your focus is the most difficult thing - in the morning, you are a student, in the afternoon - a programmer, and in the evening - an entrepreneur. Of course, this will change after our graduation this year." This is how my conversation with Deyan, who is part of the student startup, started. His colleagues and he are torn between exams at the university, their work in the IT sector and their own business project, to which they will fully devote their attention in the future.
We will start with what Lexis actually is. "This is a software that offers automated responses to customer inquiries, thus optimizing the performance of the customer service agents. Our algorithm analyses the incoming written inquiries and offers a relevant response based on previous e-mails, templates and knowledge base. This allows employees to process a larger number of inquiries for the same time period, and reduces the training time for a new employee as they have access to the knowledge of their more experienced colleagues", Deyan says.
The idea for the software was born at the annual hackathon in the Faculty of Mathematics and Informatics of the Sofia University - HackFmi8. The students formed a team and started to work on a project on the topic of Big Data. They developed an algorithm for recognition of emotion in a text, with which they won the competition. "We decided to develop the idea and to see where we would come across a specific business need. For this purpose, we applied at two accelerators - Unistart and the Junior Achievement Startup Program. This is how the training process - "how to turn an idea into a real business", started, Deyan explains. After they won the award of the accelerators, the young men received a free office and servers for their algorithms. The fast development of the project encouraged some of the entrepreneurs to leave their work and to entirely devote themselves to Lехіѕ.
The team verified the product "through many conversations with people involved in the customer service sector, both with agents and higher-level office workers." After completing the ongoing test period, the most important test for Lexis will follow: to develop a stable version of the product that they can offer to real clients and to look for potential investors. The young men work also on incorporating elements of artificial intelligence in Lexis, and on complying the product with personal data protection regulation that will enter into force on 25th May 2018 in the countries of the European Union.
Emil, Deyan, Bilyal and Milush still take exams at the university, but they also have a clear idea of what they want to do after they graduate. They follow the beaten track for development of entrepreneurial activity in recent years - from the creation and verification of a business idea at a competition of the hackathon type, through an accelerator program and entry into the startup circles, to the creation of a company which starts looking for investors and opportunities on international markets. "We all made the choice to develop our common product and a dream. We are coming from the IT sector, but we have attended different courses, we have worked at different companies, and we have gained diverse experience. In our joint work, we often have to think, discuss and make decisions together which makes us even closer. In addition to programming, however, we need knowledge in many other fields. For this purpose, we have mentors who help us with tips and access to a network of contacts. We got the opportunity to enter the entrepreneurial circles by meeting a lot of people, with whom we exchange ideas."
Of course, the youth of the project, the commitment and the perseverance of the Lexis' team are confronted with the challenge to win the trust of the business sector. Deyan says that the product fights the lack of information and the scepticism toward the new with the presentation of its possible applications in many business areas. "The most difficult task is to find the balance between resolving a certain problem and coming up with a general solution for all customer service areas. We are encouraged by the fact that the business sector is aware of the need for deployment of innovative software solutions that optimize the workflow", Deyan explains. He adds that if there is communication between businesses and the end customer, it would be enough for them to find market for their software. "It is a fact that computers remember more than people, and that they search more quickly. Researches show that optimization in the banking and service sector is needed, and that the different algorithms can reach 35 % acceleration. The model of cooperation between robots and people will enter with an increasing pace, and our goal is for our product to be the pioneer in Bulgaria."
Where to then? Deyan dreams of first saturating the Bulgarian market, and then, the markets on the Balkans and in Europe. And in the meanwhile, the five student-entrepreneurs remain here, because "the ecosystem in Bulgaria is developing, and examples of successful companies are not lacking". "We wish for ourselves to become one of those companies, too." We keep our fingers crossed for them. Until then, they and Lexis will take an exam after exam at the university and in business.