Adaptability and Survival

This is the third of a series of interviews I am conducting with members of the Machine Commons supplier Collective. Subscribe to the site to be alerted about future posts, or become a partner today!

Colin Dillon and Essa Jabang are the co-founders of Taybull Ltd, a ‘Low-Code Rapid Application Development Platform’ company based just outside London.

How’s life in the pandemic era? Have you felt much impact?

“They keep lifting restrictions - quarantine lifted, then putting them back on. In day to day life, you have to wear a mask in all public places. So no, it’s not ideal”

And business specifically?

“It’s been tricky for us as the main product we launched was for the airline industry. So yeah, wasn’t perfect."

"It wasn’t the best timing for a once-in-a-lifetime product geared at the airline industry!"

Oh dear. Tell me about the airline industry solution?

“We built an OCR (optical character recognition) solution; you may not know there’s an ‘airway bill’ – a piece of documentation – that goes along with every airway transportation. It holds information about where stuff is from, where it’s going to, the weight. It’s used by every airline.”

“Well, instead of keying in all the info on a piece of paper, you can just scan a sheet. The software we built reads the text and puts it into a digital format.”

"We’re building a [generic] document scanning solution off the back of that.”

How did you choose the airline industry?

“It wasn't one of the industries we thought we were going into!”

“We were talking about an analytics product we were going to sell to them, but then – while we were there – the manager mentioned this huge problem they had.”

“The manager asked: ‘can your tool do this functionality; can it extract this info and then send it to other systems?’. And we said, well no we don’t have that yet… but we can build it!”

Huh. Pretty random!

“Yeah we didn’t even know this need existed at all!They said if you can build this then this is where our interest would be.”

Open dialogue with your client helps lot, it seems.

Having talked to a few machine learning startups, this is definitely a common trend. Entrepreneurs find themselves in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, win a project, then they realise they can apply the nuts and bolts of the project elsewhere. It’s basically paid R&D.

Colin and Essa worked together long enough that they thought they may as well start a business.

“Colin and I worked together at Yell in the R&D team.We were doing a lot of stuff around machine learning. Colin’s got the entrepreneurial spirit and I thought the same way, so we decided to start up a company.”

(There’s definitely a type of person who revels in the instability of enterprise!)

Any strategies for the Covid era?

“Covid has definitely put a spanner in everybody’s works. But we didn’t have offices. We didn’t have loads of monthly outputs, so we were very lean anyway. Thankfully we weren’t left in a situation where we had huge bills and suddenly no revenue.”

“We know plenty of companies that just fell off a cliff.”