No one doubts that artificial intelligence will power the businesses of tomorrow.
As data increases exponentially and the algorithms trained upon it become ever smarter, AI is beginning to assist with – and sometimes take over – the more menial tasks historically completed by human workers.
So how can companies capture that lightning in a bottle and electrify their business today?
Step forward North West Tech 50 winner Peak, a tech company founded by Richard Potter, CTO Atul Sharma and COO David Leitch in 2014 after the trio became frustrated by the difficulties growing businesses faced in accessing predictive data analytics services.
“AI can create value in a business: it can optimise efficiencies from a working capital perspective, from a margin perspective and it can also help grow revenues,” CEO Potter tells BusinessCloud.
“Every company in the world is going to need to power itself with machine learning and artificial intelligence in the future. Our belief is that they are going to do that from a dedicated enterprise AI system.”
Potter believes that Peak can win the race to become that system after blasting out of the starting blocks. “We’ve taken that concept to market and proven that a single central AI system is going to be the catalyst for mass market adoption within enterprise,” he explains.
“We think there’s a category of product there that is as significant as the market for CRM systems – and we want to create that category and then dominate it worldwide.
“We’re a long way away from achieving that, but that’s the course we’re on. I think we’ve managed to hit upon something that’s really needed.”
Peak’s subscription-based service model helps companies of all sizes harness the power of AI to drive growth. Its cloud-native platforms plug into a client’s business to clean, crunch and analyse data before making recommendations.
For example, high street retailer Footasylum introduced Peak’s AI and machine learning algorithms into its social media advertising campaigns to make them ‘hyper-personalised’ to people most likely to engage with its footwear products. It says the partnership has yielded a 28 per cent increase in marketing-driven revenues.
Creating long-term partnerships with clients is key to Peak’s business model, says Potter. “If our system is adding value to the bottom line of your business and helping it grow quicker, why would you ever want to turn that off?” he asks.
“We are a bit different to a lot of SaaS (software-as-a-service) businesses because we have built the product but we also set it up for our customers and then, if it creates that value, we create a long-term, valuable relationship.
“I think that’s how people want to engage tech companies going forward, rather than through a customer-supplier relationship – and partnerships are even more important when it comes to something as fundamental and complex as AI.
“Our customers also benefit from each other indirectly. Every business is different and the more of them that run on our system, the smarter and smarter it gets – and the better it will be for everybody.”
Alongside retail, Peak has built a significant presence in the consumer goods, automotive and manufacturing sectors which are keen to gain insights into supply chain forecasting and fulfilment. Clients ASOS, Speedy Hire, The Economist, Morissons, AstraZeneca and Regit were also recently joined by one of the world’s biggest companies in Pepsico.
Former Northern Stars winner Peak tripled its growth in both 2017 and 2018 with the help of £5 million funding. “We’ve certainly established ourselves as the leading commercial AI business in the UK, but also in the sectors that we work in,” says Potter.
“We want to continue to grow in line with the best SaaS businesses globally.”
A fresh round of investment is planned for next year alongside a strategy of expanding into the United States. For now, more than a quarter of the firm’s 100-plus workforce is based in Jaipur, India.
“We’ve a very tight and firm view on how we’re going to grow the business,” says Potter. “Headcount is a great way to describe the size and scale of your business to somebody, but it’s not the barometer for us: I would think in terms of how many companies are going to be running our system; how big the commercial cycle is going to be; and where do we think our revenues are going to be.
“Part of delivering that for our customers is to build [top-class] engineering, data science and commercial teams, so the by-product of the growth ambition is the size of the team.”
However adding the right people is an essential ingredient to future success. Potter says it recently interviewed 115 people for just three positions. “It’s hard to scale a high-quality team and continuously build and strengthen your culture. We’re very rigorous with how we select people to join the business and we have a zero per cent attrition rate.
“Most of our selection process is geared around the company’s values and behaviours. We also set ourselves some strong diversity targets a couple of years ago, which we’ve recently blown through. That’s helped us build a cohesive organisation with a great team spirit, I think.”
He adds: “Everyone’s role has to matter, they need to be trusted to do that job and empowered to do it and make a meaningful contribution every day. Work should be difficult and demanding, but it should also be rewarding.
“We’re trying to create a really high-performance but sustainable culture which could be a competitive advantage for us: we’re only going to win in the market that we’re trying to create globally if we’ve got the best team in the world.”
Headquartered in Bruntwood’s flagship Neo building in central Manchester, Peak was recently voted no.1 by a judging panel and BusinessCloud’s readers in our North West Tech 50 ranking.
“It’s great recognition for all the hard work the team have done,” reflects Potter. “Everyone is empowered here to make it the most amazing company in the world to work for, so they’re delighted that we’ve been voted top.
“Everyone can take that as a personal pat on the back and a great bit of recognition. Hopefully, over the years, we’ll be recognised on more and more lists.”