We were lucky enough to interview the CEO of collectAI, a company which is part of Germany’s largest retailer: Otto Group. Based in Hamburg, collectAI provides intelligent AI services to help manage receivables – balancing between collection rates, costs and customer retention!
1. First can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?
I’m the CEO of collectAI. collectAI takes care of the customer relationship after purchasing a product or service. This means we manage account receivables – balancing between collection rates, collection costs and customer retention. For this, collectAI provides an AI-driven end-to-end process for electronic invoices, dunning (white label debt collection) and debt collection.
2. What brought you to this area?
We realized that mostly traditional companies, but also digital providers from the new age, focus on and are already good at acquiring customers with their marketing strategy. Usually, this comes at a cost (CAC) and has the intention of closing the customer relationship with her or his purchase of a good or service. Regretfully, most companies do not give much thought on what happens after the checkout process, starting from which type of e-invoice they offer, how they approach a customer who delays in paying the invoice and ultimately, what happens if they do not receive a payment at all. Usually, the processes in place are highly manual and tend to neglect the customers’ needs.
We used this market gap as an opportunity to develop a smart technology based on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The technology enables us to learn more about the needs of specific customer groups and continuously assess how they behave in the payments process. This starts with an e-invoice service that simplifies and quickens the payment process by offering a variety of payment options. The self-learning algorithms also look at the tone, timing and channel to approach the customer to achieve higher conversion rates. The process aims to lower the number of debt collection cases, which are not only expensive for the company but also for the customer. With this customer-centric process we help our clients increase customer retention and in the same time boost their revenues.
3. What time does your day start, and what does your typical work day schedule look like?
No day is comparable with another, they are all highly individual, which makes the job what it is: very demanding but also very exciting. Usually my day starts between 8 and 9.30. Throughout the day I am in working sessions with team members about diverse topics like Sales and Marketing but also Product and Technology where we discuss next steps of our offering. Additionally, I am meeting with potential and existing partners and customers and also our shareholders. In the afternoon or in the evening I usually try to get some time to answer emails and I have time to “think” about diverse topics.
4. What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?
Putting together a phenomenal team of approximately 30 great people.
5. What is the one app you could not live without?
Since communication is very fragmented I can’t choose just one. I couldn’t live without Slack, WhatsApp or Telegram. Additionally, I desperately need Wunderlist.
6. What’s the best thing about working at your company?
We are a perfect mixture as a startup. On the one hand we are financed by the Otto Group, Germany’s largest e-commerce retailer, who is a great shareholder for us. On the other hand, we have kept a startup culture in our company. We are very international, so the company language is English as our colleagues come from all over the world. The team spirit is amazing and we keep it up with regular team meetings, demo sessions and offsite events.
7. Where is the after work hangout?
We just moved to a new office in Hamburg Hafencity a couple of days ago. It’s a great place close to the harbour, but we yet have to find out about the after work hangouts.
8. Who is your professional role model?
I don’t have one famous role model like many other do. It is not possible to really judge the famous ones, since you only see the surface. I learnt a lot from my previous bosses, some of them were really great. So they are my role models.
9. What makes Hamburg a good city for technology and startups?
Generally, Germany is very different to, for example, the UK. Berlin is of course a hotspot for startups, nevertheless we have many more centres. One is Hamburg. Hamburg is a good city for 3 reasons. First, it has a vital digital and fintech scene. Therefore, we have access to quite good people. Second, Hamburg is Germany’s 2nd biggest city so we have potential customers here. Third, Berlin is not far away. It take only 2 hours by train and finally, Hamburg is a really great city to live.
10. Which tech trends are you most excited about?
Everything around artificial intelligence / smart algorithms, since they are changing our lives dramatically. Furthermore, I am really into the general trend of digitization, voice commerce and internet of things.
11. What are the top 3 qualities you look for in an employee?
Self-organisation, individual responsibility and passion.
12. And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to an entrepreneur starting out?
Work hard and never give up!