Luīze Sila

OptOSS AI sets the example of startup and corporate collaboration during Rockstart AI program

The second iteration of the Rockstart AI program is open for applications, but we also happily look back on the great example the first batch of startups have set. Throughout the 180 day program, nine startups from all over the world did their best to get the most out of the program and accelerate their growth. OPT/NET BV, which has built an AI-driven anomaly detection platform OptOSS AI, is one of the nine startups and can tell a story or two about how a startup builds toward working with a big corporate.

Years of experience leading up to founding a startup

The story behind OptOSS AI shows the strengths and benefits of AI and how can it be used to do things no human can. Taras Matselyukh, founder and CEO of OPT/NET BV, has been working in the telecom market for more than twenty years. Drawing upon his extensive knowledge Taras started to develop a tool in 2004, now known as OptOSS AI. Around six years ago this allowed Taras to become an independent consultant and to found his own company.

“Because of the tool, I could do the job faster than my competitors. I could do the job of a ten person team faster on my own,” revealed Taras. “About three years ago I had the idea that OptOSS AI can evolve and process even more data by tackling the problem I had identified. That’s when we went through an SBIC incubation program of ESA. We graduated from it with a minimum viable product which was effective and producing promising results.”

The incubation program helped OptOSS AI shape a product that is able to solve the problem of data overload. “Statistics show that four out of five telecom operators will suffer a critical system outage every year. Almost all the data that the company needs to prevent these incidents is already there. It just needs to be discovered… but nobody’s looking! There’s simply far too much data to look at!” explained Taras. “An average person can read maybe a page of text in a minute, and that’s fast. These systems output speed is millions of pages per second. In one day a network can generate as much information as is stored in the Library of Congress. (in print form)” OptOSS AI can process this data in real time and provide clients with clustered information about the problems the system has. Customers can then immediately act upon it and figure out how to solve these issues.

The experience in the field, successful incubation process, and support provided to a research project at the University of Amsterdam lead OptOSS AI team to join the Rockstart AI program, because there was a need to find a better product-market fit.

Rockstart AI program and the first big client

During the Rockstart AI program application period, OPT/NET was actually applying for another accelerator program. After hearing about Rockstart, however, they decided to apply for the AI program as well. Ultimately the team was selected for both programs, but they decided to join Rockstart because of the AI-specific focus. The first big thing Rockstart contributed to OPT/NET was helping them find the right market. “We were plastering the market with our product and the market was not giving in. We had to reconsider some techniques and adjust the product so that it can actually squeeze in the market and we could start making money with it,” revealed Taras.

The second big achievement for OPT/NET during the program was an introduction to Vodafone Ziggo. “The great thing about the program is the ability to get exposure to partners and large corporates who are supporting the program. It was critically important for us,” explained Taras. “We are in a specific market, very different to traditional B2B. Telecoms and service providers have their own rules and their own playbooks. Because VodafoneZiggo was part of the program we could figure out a lot by working with them. We had some great people at Vodafone who were helping us. They took us on board and opened closed doors for us.”

Taras is convinced that this is the best time for startups to try to get access to corporates because right now they are opening their doors to new collaborations. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be straightforward or easy. As their experience shows, it takes a couple of months to find the right project within big organizations with the right resources and budget, but if both sides are invested then opportunities can definitely be found. This applies to the collaboration between OPT/NET and VodafoneZiggo because even after the Rockstart AI program new possible projects are being actively explored.

Lessons learned while becoming a part of AI ecosystem

Summarizing the experience gained during the program, Taras highlights some important things that every startup should keep in mind –  product fit not only for the market and right clients, but also for the program you’re applying for, hard work/patience, and openness to new ideas and suggestions.

It can be seen from the OptOSS AI story how important it is to find correct product-market fit, but Taras also underscores how important it is to be sure that your product fits the accelerator program as well: “My advice for startups who are applying now for the program is to be well prepared. Also, it is important for startups to know what they are coming for. In our case, we knew that we need help with AI and that was the focus of our application. It’s important to make sure that the product fits the program, otherwise, the program will not be able to help you.”

Secondly, Taras accents the importance of the connections that the program opens up but insists that without contribution from a startup no development is going to happen. “More than a year ago I was going to AI-related events and I didn’t know anyone. I was just a ‘fly on the wall’ that nobody even noticed,” Taras explained. “Now it’s easier to start conversations. Once people get to know you and your product, opportunities start emerging. It’s like picking up berries in the woods. At the beginning you see nothing but then you get acquainted and you start seeing the landscape, you start seeing where the berries are and then you just go in and you end up with a basket full of berries! This describes the startup experience perfectly. At the end of the day, it’s hard work and it’s painfully slow. You have to be patient, but it’s rewarding at the same time.”

Last but not least Taras opens up that sometimes maybe their team had to be more open-minded about suggestions and ideas that they received from the program. Now he stands by the idea that it’s important to take a look at all criticisms and questions from various angles. More perspectives provide a better view for the best solutions. “You have to be prepared that you’re going to fall a thousand times and more, but you should be ready to get up every time and continue what you’re doing,” concludes Taras.

Just this week, OPT/NET announced that they have successfully closed another seed round which brings total sum of investments into the company to more than 500k Euro. This investment will allow the company to further develop OptOSS AI and fulfill their goals of revolutionizing the way companies process and analyse massive amounts of data in real-time.

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