Founded in 2018, Ask Brian already has angel funding. Björn Kolbmüller and Paul Schwarzenholz, the founders of Zenloop and Flaconi, as well as other business angels from consulting firms have been supporting the startup since June 2020. Founder and CEO Pavol Sikula answered our Seven Questions.
Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourself!
Pavol Sikula, Ask Brian: Pavol Sikula (CEO) and Matthias Ruppel (CTO) are the bedrock of Ask Brian. I’m Pavol Sikula (40), an economist with fifteen years in management consulting and a focus on reorganization, restructuring and support functions optimization. Matthias Ruppel (34) studied computer science and worked for many years in software development with a focus on IT architecture design, backend development and big data.
Brian not only answers questions, but also generates documents
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Pavol Sikula, Ask Brian: Too much precious time is wasted on tasks that could be performed faster and more affordably by using the best digital services and databases. The problem is that busy professionals aren’t familiar with these solutions, don’t trust them or don’t know how to use them.
Our Brian – an AI-based business assistant – takes care of these tasks. You could think of him like Siri, except that he (for the time being) communicates by email and answers not only questions, but also prepares or modifies documents. For example, he can translate documents from or into 100 languages, provide information about industries and companies and also generate PowerPoint graphs. The current ‘skills’ are customized to suit the needs of consultants and are continuously upgraded.
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Pavol Sikula, Ask Brian: Of course there are alternatives for each of the features (for example for translation, text recognition or research). But there’s no product that easily integrates the features and makes them immediately usable across company boundaries. It’s the integration that makes it exciting: For example, Brian can translate scanned documents into 100 languages or provide research content in 100 languages. We’ve yet to hear of a solution that can give customers that kind of added value – 24/7 and in less than three minutes. We would love for you to give Brian a try, we offer a free trial for everyone.
The first version of Brian could tell jokes
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Pavol Sikula, Ask Brian: It was difficult until we found Matthias – we had big ideas and at the same time a Brian who could only tell jokes and relay tax rates. A decisive factor was establishing a core team with skills that optimally complement one another and, most importantly, works well on a personal level and shares the same vision. The second challenge was building Brian – which was much more difficult than we had both first anticipated. And the last challenge was completing our first round of financing in the middle of the corona crisis – right at the time when the DAX plummeted to 8.500 points.
Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years?
Pavol Sikula, Ask Brian: In one year, we want to have thousands of happy users and to have developed into a gold standard in business consulting in particular. We want every consultant to want to have Brian by their side – because that will allow them to focus on the tasks that are really interesting and give their own clients more added value. If Brian’s users then even enjoy working with him on a global level, we will have achieved our goals.
“Isar Valley has a clear advantage over Silicon Valley”
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Pavol Sikula, Ask Brian: For us, Munich is the perfect city: a global consultancy stronghold, talent, experienced B2B investors, an amazing quality of living…I can’t imagine a better location anywhere in the world. For us, Isar Valley has a very clear advantage over Silicon Valley.
Munich Startup: Risk or security?
Pavol Sikula, Ask Brian: There is definitely risk involved. But we are also confident that we give our customers added value. And we’re confident that collaborating with us is interesting for our business partners. We’re also confident that we’re an exciting asset for our investors. Will that be enough to truly be successful? Give Brian a try and decide for yourself!