Interview with Timothy Kotin (CEO) Superfluid Labs (*)
Why did you create Superfluid Labs?
Prior to founding Superfluid Labs, I was a Research Scientist at IBM in Kenya where my team supported enterprise clients to develop new products and innovations to drive access to financial services and inclusion building on the foundation of existing innovations like M-Pesa and IBM’s technology innovations. I was fortunate to both support and witness first-hand how a regional bank at the time with only about 50,000 retail customers launched and rapidly scaled a digital banking offering for the underbanked which has now reached over 25+ million customers with credit and saving products on basic mobile phones. That product is called M-Shwari, and this innovation was possible by leveraging the power of data analytics to reach, score, and service the previously underserved. The motivation for founding Superfluid was thus the desire to develop affordable platforms which democratize access to similar advanced analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities for many more businesses, large or small, in order to expand economic opportunities by better serving the essential needs of hundreds of millions of underserved consumers, starting in Africa.
Could you please describe your products?
Superfluid has developed an enterprise analytics and intelligence platform called SuperML (https://superml.io) as well as a consumer insights and credit scoring platform called SuperScore (https://superscore.me/). Together these platforms enable businesses in any mass retail (or B2C) vertical to i) to understand consumer transactional behaviour, ii) score customers to establish an accurate risk exposure, iii) offer personalised and relevant products, iv) increase customer lifetime value and v) reduce revenue churn in a scalable and accessible manner.
Behind the scenes, our platforms harness advanced analytics and artificial intelligence technologies to process both traditional and alternative data, structured and unstructured data sources, in order to predict valuable business events or outcomes and reveal relevant strategic insights for stakeholders. The company serves clients in Financial Services, PAYG Solar, Agriculture, Technology, and Retail industries across several African countries.
What is the business driver for your clients?
Historically, high credit risk is one of the factors cited by lenders for either not serving millions of potential consumers or charging high-interest rates and fees to their current customers. With Superfluid’s credit risk scoring models which more accurately predict risk at the individual customer level, lenders can i) save working capital (sometimes up to 20%) that would have otherwise been lent to the wrong customers, yet still, generate more profits from a higher quality of good customers (sometimes up to 50-75% higher total profits). With these significant gains, lenders can therefore confidently lend to more customers previously declined or not considered or further can also reduce the interest rates charged to their current customers with lower risk profiles.
What is your marketing strategy?
Having validated our offering and proven the return on investments for our customers, we are now looking to expand our offerings to empower more businesses providing solutions for consumer lifestyle needs. The strategies we are looking to leverage for growth are two-fold: 1) establishing partnerships with aggregators which serve other specialized industries/verticals, like Solar PayGO, retail/commerce, fintech, and 2) providing white-label versions of products which can be branded by our business customers or embedded in their own systems.
What is your ‘magic formula’?
Based on our proprietary automated machine learning platforms and other deliberate process improvements over the years, we are now able to provide our value offering at a significantly reduced initial setup cost and time to support our clients as their businesses scale efficiently. We have successfully served the clients at varying growth stages – from those serving just a few hundred customers to multinational companies serving almost millions of customers.
Our objective is to have both low barriers to adoption through a pay-as-you-go or volume-based pricing model based on the scale of a business as well as clearly demonstrate the ROI link between investment in our solutions and specific business outcomes.
Challenges, competitors and growth opportunities
Data analytics and artificial intelligence are still an emerging industry in many markets so our major challenges usually come from getting clients to understand the transformative power analytics can provide for growth for them. To help mitigate this, we occasionally provide training and capacity building to enable key stakeholders to understand and adopt the requisite analytics capabilities needed to scale strategic growth and optimize current business opportunities.
Our immediate competition really comes from some businesses who will rather employ internal data scientists to deliver their needs. However, our comparative advantage lies in the broader diversity of our team’s combined depth of expertise, experiences across multiple use cases, and focus which provides much more valuable returns when we engage with clients. Even where some customization is necessary for complex use-cases, the maturity of our platforms and in-built automation means that we can deliver value in weeks rather than several months or years.
As digitization explodes globally and especially in emerging markets, we see more business understanding and desiring the power advanced analytics and machine learning provides for scale, efficiency, and growth. We are already preparing in multiple ways to provide the needed offerings for serving these anticipated needs profitably and at scale.
What would you do today if you knew exactly what will happen in the future?Superfluid Labs
(*) I am a shareholder – check my portfolio