In 2013, my friend Kunal and I founded AppZen, the first artificial intelligence (AI) solution for back office automation. At the time, personal assistants like Siri seemed to be the next frontier for enterprise applications. But we saw an opportunity to apply that idea to a conversational engine (what’s called a ‘chatbot’ today) for expenses and provide a ‘personal assistant’ experience for employers and employees. The conversational feature turned out to be very exciting to see, but unfortunately less relevant to use.
So after taking a step back, we thought, "What if business systems actually had the ability to read, think, research and then make decisions? What if those decisions were independent of an individual's knowledge, skills and biases?" Our answers led us to pivot toward the opportunity of using our AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology to automate the business back office. That’s what AppZen’s mission is — to reinvent and automate the back office with artificial intelligence, one process at a time.
Today we’re very excited to announce our next step toward that goal. We’ve closed a round of funding and brought on board top-notch investors to enable us to accelerate development and bring the AppZen AI solution to even more customers. For details on the funding check out the Wall Street Journal and our press release.
For more on what AppZen is up to, read on --
Back office processes include everything from human resources, finance, customer service, procurement, order processing and more. They’re the gears behind the scenes that keep a business running smoothly and ensure that company policies and government regulations are followed. Most back office processes are work-flow driven, moving information from one party to another where it’s reviewed, analyzed, and approved. Over the years, we’ve seen back office processes improve — for example, what was once paper-based moved to digital, then web-based, and is now accessible via smartphone. Workflows have improved from paper in-boxes to email and now mobile alerts on your smartphone.
All of these improvements have certainly increased business efficiency. However, they’ve simply streamlined the flow of information, not the analysis and decision-making required at each step in the work flow. That’s where the big efficiency gains are to be had.
This is already possible today and AppZen is leading the way with our first solution — using AI to automate travel and expense (T&E) report processing and auditing. Like other back office processes, the T&E process has evolved over the years from manual to digital, with rules and policies used to enforce how a company expects employees to spend. While this allows for more control and usability, the expense report review and verification that the T&E team performs has remained the same — manual, expensive, and ineffective in detecting fraud, misuse and compliance to regulations.
For expense report audits, AppZen uses artificial intelligence to automate the analysis, understanding, research, and reasoning performed by human reviewers. At a fraction of the cost, AppZen’s AI completes these tasks ten times more effectively.
Our technology, specifically built for back office domains, uses innovative techniques (patent-pending!) for real-time data augmentation using web-scale research alongside NLP and Machine Learning. This allows us to extend the technology to other domains to truly provide the next generation of automation — leading to massive productivity and efficiency gains across the back office.
We’re excited and fortunate to have to investors like Resolute Ventures, Bloomberg Beta, MasterCard, Silicon Valley Bank, 500 Startups, FundersClub and others who believe in our vision for the future of the back office. With the funding we’ve raised, we will be investing in further strengthening our Engineering and Customer Success teams, and building out a Sales and Marketing division. The entire team at AppZen is excited to have this opportunity and we’re looking forward to changing the industry!
Founder & CEO