William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder, Evi
Evi was founded in August 2005, originally under the name of True Knowledge, with the mission of powering a new kind of search experience where users can access the world’s knowledge simply by asking for the information they need in a way that is completely natural.
The True Knowledge internet answer engine was launched in 2007 to excellent response from users who were not only able to access the wealth of information Evi could provide, but were able to contribute directly to the ever growing database of facts. The availability of the True Knowledge API resulted in numerous apps and services being powered by the True Knowledge engine. In January 2010 we logged one million users in a single month, which had grown to five million unique users in the month of November.
In 2011 development began on Evi, a brand new AI that advanced on the technology within the True Knowledge platform and which users would be able to interact with via her own mobile app. Evi was launched publicly in January 2012 to massive acclaim, with over one million users within four months of launch. In May 2012 the business was officially rebranded as Evi to reflect the focus on the ongoing development of the Evi AI. It remains headquartered in Cambridge.
1. What was the inspiration for Evi?The inspiration for Evi was to imagine what the perfect user experience would be in finding things out or getting things done. Being able to just ask in plain English for what you want, wherever you are and for it to be instantly taken care of was and is the dream.
2. There has been some negativity around forerunners and rivals to this technology so what makes Evi so reliable and so special?To make a product like Evi work requires multiple very difficult technologies to work together. Many of these have only recently got to the point where they are viable. This includes turning the sound of speech into words; having a computer understand those words and make sense of the meaning of what was said and what the user wants; representing knowledge in a form that a computer system can understand and reasoning with this knowledge to produce tailored responses. All of these technologies are very difficult and although all now viable they are not yet perfect. Having said that Evi is often reported as more reliable and stronger than the alternatives.
3. What sort of patent protection do you have on the IP and has this been difficult to obtain?We have two issued patents and another 10 pending. Our technology is very deep and original so it hasn’t been to difficult obtaining patent protection, though with the inevitable delays. We expect to obtain many more patents in the future.
4. Octopus seems to have a lot of empathy with the aims of the business. is it likely that as you expand globally you will need to raise more funds?We are a very ambitious business and the most ambitious outcome for our business will require a substantial amount of further capital. There are however a number of places this capital could come from.
5. Do you have the capability to push beyond English speaking territories into the huge middle class markets that are developing in main Asian territories?Yes – we have a very strong technology story about scaling Evi’s capabilities to many more languages beyond English and intend to do that.
6. What does it man to the business to secure as CEO someone with the track record of Barak Berkowitz?It means a great deal to the company to successfully hire someone of Barak’s experience and track record as his involvement will greatly increase our ability to expand and exploit the huge amount of momentum we have built up for the business after launch.
7. Are you likely to ramp up headcount in the UK and US as a result of your global growth strategy?We expect to grow considerably as a result of our recent success and that will involve additional hires to the team.
8. How much headroom is there for expanding the capability of Evi as a technology?Evi has had a considerable amount of acclaim since launch but in many ways we have just started to tap her potential. Her capabilities are growing daily and this is just the beginning.
9. Where do you feel Evi rates in the global pantheon having seen similar technology plays?Actually I’m not sure there have been similar technology plays.
10. What do you see as the major opportunities and potential threats going forward?The major opportunity is establishing Evi as the dominant personal assistant brand, used daily by a significant percentage of the world. There will be many difficulties to get there but we have made the first step.