Anja Zobrist spoke with one of the founders of LASTMILE, Alexander Weidauer
What is LASTMILE?
LASTMILE is a technology company which builds AI-powered conversational software, allowing users to naturally talk to a bot in chat interfaces like Facebook Messenger, Slack, or WhatsApp. Dialogues are entirely based on machine learning.
Why do you think the Users need this capability?
We think conversations in the future will be simplified through language, and that we can exchange information without having to look at a screen all the time.
What kind of companies do you work with?
We are already working with Raiffeisenbank and also other companies which are not offical yet. Insurance or travel sites would be logical partners. The unique feature of Lastmile is that you can program the application on different platforms, according to the user’s needs. And LASTMILE also developed a unique AI dialogue technology that allows for more human-like conversations and thus higher conversations and engagement.
What were the key milestones during the founding of LASTMILE?
It’s a long story. My co-founder and I have been working together for more than two years. We got to know each other at the university and started a different project before this one, but it unfortunately failed.
What was the first project exactly?
We created a search platform for company-internal documents, comparable to Google and easy for companies. The main reason the project didn’t work was that the need of the companies was simply not there. And finally, we decided to kill the project and start a new one.
What did you learn from the First Project?
We learned a lot. With the first project, we thought our idea was unique. But we were wrong, because every project or product already exists in some form. You have to ask yourself repeatedly whether the thing you have created fulfills an actual need. Can it be implemented and will it be bought? And as soon as investors give you money for your start-up, you know: That could work. This was not the case with our first project. At Lastmile, all these questions have been asked and answered.
Why did you decide to try again?
My co-founder and I are both very positive thinkers. We don’t believe the idea that we could make more money in a permanent position or that the risk of self-employment is too much to bear. In my opinion, the risks one has in a fixed position outweigh the risks of being your own boss. As an entrepreneur, one carries a great deal of responsibility, but you get to make all the decisions. And besides, my partner and I have always liked to work together.
Have you ever been in Silicon Valley?
I’ve been there about five times. I think the last time was two years ago. The first time, I was working on my masters degree. I was focused on how start-ups work together with investors and mentors and how a deal can be generated. This was my first introduction to Silicon Valley.
How far along is Silicon Valley in terms of data exchange via language?
I’d say Silicon Valley is about as far developmentally as we are in Europe. The only difference is that the users in America are working much more with data exchange via language than the users here in Europe. In the Bay Area, people are more focused on the digital future than the people in Europe. This is also one of the reasons why we are working closely with America and the Silicon Valley for our start-up.
How do you feel about Kickstart Accelerator?
It was definitely a very exciting time, but I must honestly say that Switzerland is not the core market for LASTMILE.
What would your core market be?
It would be America or other English-speaking countries. Nevertheless, it was very exciting for us to see how the market in Switzerland or in the German-speaking countries works. We found the market in Switzerland more exciting than the market in Germany. We also noticed that Swiss companies are more open to trying out new products than companies in Germany. It was a great time for us.
Where will LASTMILE be a year from today?
We will probably have ten projects in production. In any case, we would like to have a larger team built up by then.