Founder Fireside: Ashraf Attia 🔥
The CEO of AI-startup Predictiva talks raising from UK investors, building in Leicester, achieving major milestones & more.
Martin here. Welcome to a Founder Fireside edition of Founders’ Hustle.
Today I’m sharing my Q&A with the CEO and Cofounder of Predictiva, an early-stage AI startup based in Leicester, UK.
How Predictiva achieved major milestones. 🧭
Building a startup in Leicester, UK. ⚒️
Raising from UK investors.🇬🇧
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In this very first edition of Founder Fireside, I sat down with Ashraf Attia, the CEO and Co-founder of Predictiva.
Ash and his cofounder Maysara Hammouda recently jumped into Predictiva full time with the simple but bold idea of making “advanced AI accessible for everyone”.
Over the last year or so they’ve achieved a ton:
Developed an MVP for a FinTech product, Investiva, a fully autonomous AI trading platform.
Participated in the first Leicester Startups Accelerator.
Won the Regional Award of the Tech Nation Rising Stars competition.
Won the IBM Best Machine Learning Project Award at the University of Edinburgh.
Hired a super talented advisory board.
Signed a memo of understanding with a lead customer.
Raised an angel round with a post-money valuation of £4.9m.
Prior to Predictiva, Ash worked at tech conglomerates such as Hitachi Vantara and Microsoft.
Next, Ash shares his journey so far. Plus, lessons learned.👇
🔥 Fireside Q&A
Why did you start Predictiva?
I wanted to make advanced AI applications more available to individuals and SMEs. I also wanted the freedom to explore new creative ideas and approaches to improve people’s lives with technology.
What is the mission of the company and what 'unmet need' are you pursuing to fulfill?
We want to enable financial traders to be more autonomous. Financial traders spend countless additional hours, over their assumed 60-hour work week, sorting through information to find reliable resources and create a solid trading plan. When they make a mistake, as many do, they resort to ‘emotional or revenge trading’ to immediately try to get their losses back as soon as possible. We want to take financial traders out of this emotional loop.
Introduce me to your team. How do you know your cofounder, Maysara Hammouda?
We are currently two founders, one AI engineer, and have five advisors on the advisory board. I met Maysara in 2020 after he finished his MSc in AI with the University of Edinburgh through one of his supervisors who was also my friend. Maysara has already spent his MSc developing what became later our first MVP.
Did you build an MVP to test your idea first? If so, how and what did that look like?
Yes, we did. We developed an MVP of our autonomous trading platform, which we called Investiva, because AI geeks love to give names to their AI models! Maysara and I developed the MVP in-house with no external resources. It was pretty much around the AI model itself, how it analyses data, and how it would act in real-life market trading. We then built a simple front-end platform to track and analyse the model performance. We are now getting ready for the first production release.
Where are you with regards to product-market-fit now?
We conducted a market research in 2020 with investment and equity managers from leading investment organisations. The participants confirmed that the current manual trading processes and profitability levels could be significantly improved using AI automation. We then circulated a pre-registration form, and had very good responses. We now have about 85 customers on the pre-registration list.
How did you acquire your first customers?
We signed an MoU with a lead customer that we got to know through our advisory board.
Do you have an ideal customer profile? If so, what?
Our ideal customer profile are SME investment management organisations, such as private equity funds, hedge funds, and family offices. However, we won’t mind of course working with larger investment banks or investment advisors.
How has the business been financed to date?
We were bootstrapped till last April 2021, after which we closed our first funding round with a group of seven angel investors.
Where is the business today and what key milestones have you achieved?
After closing our first funding round, we are accelerating our development to reach a production release by Q3 2021. We have had many ‘3rd party’ recognitions and awards that validate our successful journey so far. We were announced as a Tech Nation Rising Stars regional winner and recognized by The Next Web as one of the top 50 Data-driven AI startups in Europe. We also developed strategic partnerships with leading technology providers such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and IBM and leading Universities such as The University of Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University.
What were the top value-adds of participating in the Leicester Startups Accelerator?
Many values to be honest. We got the chance to connect with multiple mentors in different subjects, including experts from the Fintech industry. This allowed us to gather more validation of the idea, and to dig more about the market-fit and our go-to-market strategy. We also had a chance to connect to other entrepreneurs in Leicester, and we are still in contact to share knowledge, resources, and successes throughout our journey. It is good to know that you are not alone in this journey.
What has it been like building an AI company within the broader Leicester startup community?
Honestly, I love Leicester! Not only it is a nice and friendly city, but also is one of the top destinations in the UK to establish new businesses. We had a lot of support from many entities in Leicester including Leicester Startups, Leicester Innovation Hub, DMU Innovation Centre, LCB, and British Business Bank.
What has been the greatest challenges to overcome on your journey so far, and how did you go about solving them?
I guess like everyone else in 2020/2021, COVID-19 was a major challenge. We had to adapt quickly to remote working, using fully online resources, and adapt to video brainstorming sessions. The situation caused a lot of uncertainties in the market as well, which delayed our funding round. However, we managed to navigate through and close the funding round through our personal network and with the help of our advisory board.
How did you go about hiring your highly qualified Advisory Board?
Mostly through our personal, professional, and academic connections. It all started with two advisors who we personally knew, and they introduced us to the rest of the board members.
What are your core objectives for the rest of 2021?
Our main objective is to launch the production version of our autonomous trading platform, Investiva. We currently have around 85 customers on the pre-registration list, together with a signed MoU with a lead customer. Once ready with the production release, we want to accelerate customer onboarding and customer acquisition.
If you could change anything right now with a click of your fingers, what would it be?
The appetite of UK investors to invest and support technically innovative startups like ours. With all honesty, UK investors seem overly cautious when investing in startups, even when they have all the success criteria and a lot of validation.
Since you pulled it off, what advice would you give to other founders raising from UK investors?
They should either try to bootstrap for as long as possible until getting the first customer or try to get funded by international investors. Another possible approach if they need visibility with funding is crowdfunding.
Thanks, Ash. Exciting times ahead!
Until next time…
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