Sex education is a sensitive topic in many households in Kenya and world over, with most parents tiptoing around the subject. As a result, children grow into people afraid of asking certain questions. Irving Amukasa, CEO Sophie bot and team, have come up with a solution for this in form of an AI bot. We met with Irving and this is what he told us on his plans to achieve this goal.
Tell us about yourself and your team.. Your educational backgrounds, roles, skillsets.
Irving Amukasa,C.E.O and Co founder,I lead the team making sure we are working towards vision and also the lead on new tech,actuarial science drop out been developing android apps since I cleared high-school in 2013, been working on bots since 2014.
Derick Mureithi,C.T.O and Co-Founder , he maintains and updates our current tech stack,runs point on our 4 man tech team,including myself.IT graduate,JKUAT. Core Python developer
Beverly Mutindi C.F.O and Co-founder, she is our money man/lady,runs our books and business developer. Undergrad Genomic Science,JKUAT
The rest of the team is our developers John Nzau,also doubles up as our social media lead,Rashid Beduni and Justice Muinde,a biz dev.
Tell us about your company Sophie Bot and its journey so far
We started off August 2016,basically me re-purposing an old bible chat robot i had built in 2014 to now answer questions on sexual health.I had just been robbed so all the initial code was written in a cold secluded corner at JKUAT with strong WIFI,on Derick’s Laptop.We deploy on the google playstore with only answers to three questions and within a fortnight,with 150 users we feature on an early morning TV show, and secure 10,000 USD plus 3 months incubation from UNFPA Kenya,that afternoon.We spend 3 months gaining traction and impact figures trying to validate if sexual health is a problem worth solving and is our solution,Sophie Bot the right solution.
After literally doubling our user base from the press and showcase at the Nairobi innovation Week its clear we had grown past early adopters and the technology with predefined questions and answers could not scale further. We are forced to invest in new technology that would let Sophie bot learn from conversations and subsequently our sustainable business model of Using the same technology to automate customer support for businesses in sexual and reproductive health. The last 6 month have been just that,developing the new technology and raising 100,000 USD in capital to deploy the new technology on a B2B business model.
Sexual reproduction is a sensitive topic and we rarely see men venturing into this space. What motivated you to do this?
Its the intersection between the problem, us as a society unwilling to talk about sexual health, and the technology, chat robots automating conversations hence anonymity and zero judgement. That I’ve learnt is the secret recipe to all lasting and meaningful innovation and I couldn’t help myself but dive in. I live to solve problems.
How are you able to monetize bots and keep your company profitable and sustainable
We spent the last year running on invested capital,but that was to provide insight to what monetizable value we could create,and we have learnt the value of our tech is to automate customer support for businesses in our space and we have set forth to execute on that.
Who is your major competitor, what do you do to stand out?
Sophie Bot as a resource on sexual health competition is random webMD searches and wellness portals by porn sites,like the Pornhub sexual wellness center.
Sophie Bot wins on anonymity ,credible answers (sourced from the UNFPA peer mentor curiculum),platform independence (you can use her on our app or through messenger,telegram or twitter) and our conversational interface.
Sophie Bot for customer support,competes against overwhelmed customer support agents.Sophie Bot wins on platform independence,scale(Sophie Bot handling multiple clients at the same time) and pricing ,she is priced as the yearly wage for maintaining two customer support staff.
You were recently at Lion’s Den, and secured an investment. How was your experience and what has changed for your company since?
First of all the Den is hot,don’t show up with jackets like we did.The press from the show has served to cement us as an authoritative resource on sexual health,even largely increased our user base since the episode aired.With the new investor and the investment our efforts to roll out the new technology has been hastened and also Kris is already lining up clients to deploy too.His personal networks,not only his cash investment,are a huge resource for us.The feedback from viewers and the other Lions has changed how we approach the business and its all for the better.
Where do you see your company in 5-10yrs
We want to be the #1 resource on sexual health world over,having solved how bots can understand our natural language,how we speak.
Halfway to unicorn status ( Billion Dollar valuation), is also in our sights.