Thinking Machine Systems has been a resident of Innovation Warehouse since mid-2019. We sat down with founder Richard Martins to get his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of Digital Transformation and entrepreneurship – and the value of community.
What is Thinking Machine Systems’ back story? How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I only ever worked for one company in my corporate background. I was there for ten years overall, filling about 12 different full-time roles during that time. I originally started off in call centres, moved into business operations supporting billing and credit enquiries for corporates; moved into data analytics and engineering for revenue-assurance based systems (Telco industry), which finally ended with me heading up multi-million dollar financial Digital Transformation programmes.
This was a fascinating experience, as I gained an insider perspective within a large Fortune 500 that was going through a tremendous period of upheaval and change. They were also shocking at core data management and governance – so when I came along with what I felt were fairly basic building blocks of good data practice and programme management, I was inspired by the positive changes I could affect while being tempered by the operational realities within such a large organisation.
In my last few corporate years, I was fortunate to spend a couple of months visiting the Microsoft AI&R building in Seattle (not as a worker, though it was assumed I was an intern). Here I got to talk and read some really inspiring bits of work, which is where I first thought of a ‘Thinking Machine’ – my perspective being a collection of informational building blocks that eventually connect together into an intelligent system at the heart of an organisation.
I was unaware at the time of the original supercomputer company – Thinking Machines Corporation from the 80s – though now I think of us as a fun ode to that past work.
What is your ambition for the company?
I believe there’s huge potential to improve how we understand and connect data in a way that supports our goals. This is particularly challenging in an organisational environment, where large amounts of data are created and thrown around every day, but it’s hard to understand the bigger picture that those data points add up to.
If we could do this effectively and consistently, I believe this would lead to a rapid acceleration of digitising business for the better – core functions would be automated, greater value added to the design and delivery of products, closer customer connections, and a general increase in enterprise intelligence.
I can see pieces of that puzzle in front us, and I’d like to see Thinking Machine Systems connect those pieces into a robust enterprise solution to help connect organisations around the world with the benefits of true digital transformation.
How would you define your USP and service offering? What is your value proposition?
Right now, we focus on doing one thing really well in the context of finance digital transformation, which is optimising the operational management of Telecom contracts for mid-to-large Enterprises. We intend our Telecom solution to be a significant proof-point for the CFO’s digitisation strategy, while being quick and easy to deploy.
We offer a SaaS solution that provides self-service analytics and reporting of Telecom expenses, intelligently linked to the customer’s contract and general market information. The platform automates the data engineering effort that is not accessible to business teams, allowing for key types of analytic patterns to be automated and a number of self-service features to be produced. This results in consistently high capital savings and operational efficiencies for the customer.
How did you (or will you) tap into your niche? What is your route to market?
I worked in Telecom for ten years, and my experience in data analytics and engineering crossed over many times into service areas for the largest Enterprise accounts like high-street banks, supermarket chains etc. Our current product draws from direct experience and direct customer testing.
We’ve secured a partnership with a large consulting firm here in the UK, and built a network of smaller partners between Australia and the UK. My old employer is also now actively exploring a partnership with us, so there’s always good validation.
How would you describe the main challenges in communicating value to both potential clients and investors?
From a client perspective, Telecom doesn’t mean an awful lot to senior execs outside the concept of negotiating a better contract. Our product is positioned against unlocking significant value, which may or may not be linked to a clear pain point.
You joined the Innovation Warehouse ecosystem last year. How did you discover the space and what role has it played in support of your company? How has your experience been so far?
I discovered Innovation Warehouse not long after I moved to London. I was looking for a coworking space in a good location and at a suitable price. I found Innovation Warehouse through their website and resonated well with their message (they must have an accomplished admin looking after it).
Innovation Warehouse has been fantastic for its location with links to each part of the city. The community here is very supportive with a range of expertise, which is always helpful to bounce off. I’ve connected with people who have helped me form key parts of my marketing strategy, and there’s also the support on the commercial side provided through workshops.
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