Dear Reader, I am the CEO and Co-founder of Builder.ai – and over the past 5 years, I have poured my heart, soul and sweat into this company. I mortgaged my house to infuse the startup with cash--all in a bid to solve the problem of democratizing access to tailor-made software. Especially as so many companies now need software (and subsequently, effective cloud management) to stay relevant. We bootstrapped the company until we closed our Series A round last year. We deliver on our promises every week; else we would have never reached $23M in revenue in the financial year before our raise (2018). It pains me to see stories like this; when now, almost 200 people in 3 cities pour their hearts into delivering our client projects to exceed our clients needs every. Single. Week. Where we continue to build technology to automate wasteful, repetitive parts of the, "build, run & scale" journey. We've never claimed to automate software development, we have always said Human-Assisted AI was more accurate. I'm all too aware of just how complicated Program Synthesis is from my own conversations with many academics that we are endeavoring to partner with as well as our own internal teams.
Our focus has always been to build the right things at the right time; whether it's improving the top of the funnel journey, so people can ideate with greater ease or making sure we deliver better to our current and prospective customers.The team and I have written a detailed note covering why we think this story and others like it are not a fair representation of our business; how we work and our integrity. We've never misrepresented to investors; the emails below hopefully explain this more. We never misrepresented to customers; obtaining a clear and transparent price has been built into our model from the beginning--clients even get a timeline to see when their platform will be complete.I hope you give us the time to read this; and I hope you find the opportunity to look at the full picture.With Metta,Sachin
Many questions arose after the Wall Street Journal (a publication we love reading) published the article, “AI startup boom raises questions of exaggerated tech savvy”; a piece on Artificial Intelligence as a technology landscape, but with a seemingly singular parti pris flag bearer in the story- our company. It was unfortunately also carried by other sites; none of whom reached out to us.
(Pulled from Builder.ai Investor Tech Due Diligence Deck)
When our investors Deepcore, Lakestar, and Jungle Ventures were contacted. All three unequivocally expressed their complete confidence in us.
A spokeswoman for Deepcore said it has, "complete confidence" in Mr. Duggal’s vision and team. A spokesman for Jungle Ventures said it is a, "proud investor in Builder.ai and its technology," acknowledging that AI landscape is a varied spectrum. And, the Lakestar spokeswoman added that it also has confidence in Engineer.ai and its team, noting, “growth in the AI space does not happen overnight.” It said Builder.ai had been very careful in presenting its technology to Lakestar and other investors.
We believe that the investors that sit on our board and often receive 90+ page updates, should bear more significance than the claims of a terminated employee. What's more:
We will vigorously defend the lawsuit from a former employee. We are not sure how this can simply be cited in the article, as it is common practice not to talk about active litigation (and we were advised by counsel) so we could never really answer it on the record. All allegations in the article show up in a public court docket and our limited answers (because of the above point) were also not included; such as investor emails to the publication debunking any alleged misrepresentations or financial governance. It’s a way to imply there is a problem, even though nothing wrong has been done, because someone who is upset with us and didn't fully understand or didn't want to fully understand the ground situation claimed it so.
Our last few weeks could have come straight out of a John Grisham meets Shakespeare book. There was sensationalism, behind the scenes maneuvering, covert collusion, grandstanding and unfortunately, a victim bewildered at what was going on. We’ve realized just how misunderstand Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be; its imprecise nature, open definition, and understandably wide interpretation. It has been worrying to see this could create a negative disruption in the startup community; people who have the potential to otherwise positively influence the world and humanity. Collectively we have to avoid running the risk of stalling innovation when reporting, especially in software companies powered by AI.
Our team huddled together and focused their energy (and a vast amount of time) on how to manage and respond to the inquiries that felt very unfair and very directional. Our employees, customers, investors and partners were written to, under the premise that we did not have any AI adoption, questions were asked about our customer and partner engagements, investments, and the founder’s profile based on actively disputed allegations from a past employee who was a senior figure in the media circle in India. Our company bootstrapped itself to reach $23 million in revenue (Mar 2018) before it raised an investment round, one of the largest Series A funding rounds in Europe, and has helped countless number of companies including, something very close to our CEO's heart, nonprofits, build software at heavily shredded costs. We are just heads-down executing to grow.
It goes without saying that you cannot summarize everything we do, the approach we have taken, nor begin to understand our thinking in a few weeks of “investigating”; it’s taken 5 years to reach where we are.
Our product and platform are predicated on being transparent; we tell people how much something is going to cost; how long it's going to take and we honor our price (in some cases even deliver below that price). It begs the question, have we always done this? Always.As a company powered by AI (as opposed to one selling AI) we use technology to make tailor-made software more accessible with a better price, quality and speed efficiency compared to traditional software development practices. Our customers are buying the overlying service, the ability to “build, run and scale” tailor-made software; and our platform has helped customers who would probably never have done so without it. What’s more, we’ve done this at the machine generated guaranteed price and indicative timeline. To be able to have done this, we have to have a lot more than use “cheap Indian workers” - a distasteful positioning of some of our teams or our capacity partners that we came across. Below is how we have moved the needle because of the platform we have built:
A large part of how we managed to bootstrap to $23m in revenue (March 2018) was because we took the approach of building the right technology at the right time. Often, this meant building some parts of the platform in part and some parts in full; else we would make the mistake that many young companies make, build everything and pray that customers come; or worse still, build the wrong thing. Our company currently and will continue to use AI to eventually automate all of the repetitive tasks in the build, run, and scale process. Some of these are a pain at the start (think: idea to specification), some are a pain during early scale (think: developer matching and allocation) and others are when you start to scale more (think: human-less interfacing of features - our soon-to-launch RunEngine). On our part, we have explained everything we had worked on, what we had built (without going into trade secrets) and how much data we had collected. Sadly, some of our responses were reduced to one liners--which when out of context-- create an incorrect wider narrative about the company, especially when the subject in discussion is so complex. We also received questions about the credibility of our CEO’s work experience at Deutsche Bank at the age of 17 because, “he was a teenager”. It took sending copies of emails from 2001 to 2005 to have this clarified.
After we replied to the reporter he then sent us this
Here is some of what we have built, achieved and also shared with media. In all of this, we feel that the report over-indexed on decision trees being a 1950s AI technology. We don’t believe that to be relevant. What about facial recognition? NLP? Neural Networks?
There are many more features in production or beta, from common code reuse to a RunEngine (noted above) that allows seamless interfacing of code building blocks without human involvement.
We have a great belief in our team. Time after time, they have delivered against the goals we set them and let us proceed on our journey from start to finish. We were first asked if we have any AI expertise and later asked why one of our Senior Engineers who has 3 masters degrees and a PhD in Econometrics doesn’t list AI Expertise on his Linkedin. We provided media people with an assessment done by a 3rd Party Firm in 2017 showing how strong our team was then and they put us (Elmer) in the following chart, which was left out from coverage altogether.
(Updated Image. In copying from document to document there was an error in the prior version).We explained our progress since, and what skillsets are required for AI as well as how we recruit, but this only changed the question from no people with AI capability to not having a deep bench. Our advisors were asked questions without any neutrality; being asked the same questions asked of our financial investors (which as we understand, were already answered). Truth is, just asking a question in a derogatory light can do damage to businesses, no matter how unfounded it is; and to scrutinize them despite getting several responses to the contrary just feels deeply unfair and inappropriate.
We don’t believe we were given a fair chance to be presented; the article fell short on representing the full story. Many of the questions were leading; thereby creating a stakeholder doubt even by merely asking them. The coverage spanned many areas from individual integrity to pending litigation, proprietary technology to human capital; all completely unfounded. Whilst we respect the integrity of the Wall Street Journal, we cannot help but feel that this report served a purpose much other than informing the public about our alleged misrepresentations (to which we deny there are any).
We were questioned, for example, about the status of one of our key partnerships; when we showed our position on the said partner’s website, we were questioned if we updated the partner’s portal overnight, something seemingly impossible when the partner is a multi billion dollar cloud provider. It’s without a shadow of doubt that one can and should write a story with all the issues that a company may have.
However, clearly this is done when you have proof of facts that may not have been explained. Attacking a company’s reputation, any company for that matter, by singling them out in a landscape story on AI through questions implying wrongdoing, when they can all be dispelled, simply causes irreparable damage. It’s like you’re guilty because you were alleged. So, there you have it.
As always, we encourage you to make your own decisions--we do hope you’ll take our concerns into consideration. If you care about the thousands and thousands of opportunities we’ll generate for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, small and big, to have technology in their hand across the world--please stay with us right here. As before, we sincerely appreciate your support and value all our clients--future, current, and past.
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