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AI alumni video stories: How Owlin bootstrapped its way to success

Although we’ve just opened applications for our inaugural AI acceleration program in Den Bosch, Rockstart has quite a bit of experience in the field. Since 2012, we’ve had a few graduates working with artificial intelligence and machine learning across very different industries, applying the innovative approaches and automating key business processes. In a series of blog posts, we’re telling more about the journeys and experiences of our AI graduates.

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In the first post of the series, the spotlight turns to Owlin, the 2012 Web & Mobile graduate that changes the way companies in the financial industry are making decisions based on the news landscape. We sat down with Sjoerd Leemhuis, the co-founder of the startup, to learn more about its story.

What is Owlin?

“What made us very different from the rest is that we chose to bootstrap the organization and immediately built a business. We were profitable from year one.”

What happened in and after Rockstart?

“Initially, when we came to Rockstart, we only had the idea. And we left with the idea of how to build a business out of it. And that’s a big difference.”

“All the tools were there, all the people were there, and all the best practices were shared, which enables you to do things faster. But it also enables you to come to a vision and validation of your ideas faster.”

“The single most valuable thing we got out of Rockstart was probably to keep an open mind on where your potential traction can arise, and not jump to conclusions too fast.”

Who’s working on AI at Owlin?

“[There is] a huge market in helping automate companies with even low-tech AI, with simple processes. I think the majority of the companies will have big challenges there in the next 10–20 years.”

The ethics: Is AI taking people’s jobs?

“We did have a situation where [our clients’] employees really spoke out their concern out loud in a meeting, saying ‘hey, but if you can do all that, what is there left for us to do?’ [After that meeting] we never closed a deal with those people. I think it had to do with employees refusing it.”

“We are changing the way people work and the skill set they need.”



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