In February, Biller, an Amsterdam-based B2B fintech startup, announced its acquisition by Banking Circle Group. The acquisition, which came just six months after its founding, showed the possibilities of the BNPL platform for B2B and also how AI technologies can change financial services. The AI technologies used by Biller were developed in collaboration with Slimmer AI.
Based in Amsterdam and Groningen, Slimmer AI is an AI B2B venture studio building applied AI products that improve people’s work. The work of Slimmer AI also shines light on this new way of building startups and enterprises where the founders don’t do it all on their own.
Every company wants to be a data company and thus needs to use AI tools. Slimmer AI is unique because it helps startups and entrepreneurs embed data and AI services in their products without having to learn AI technologies. The successful exit from Biller and Sentinels, and current portfolio of Uncover, Hadrian, and Vesper shows the collaboration is working. Last week, Slimmer AI announced the Founder in Residence programme to further help entrepreneurs realise their dream of building AI-fuelled companies.
Co-building with startups and entrepreneurs
Slimmer AI is a startup that helps startups and entrepreneurs realise their goal of building tech companies with AI. The AI B2B venture studio also sees the need for companies to keep iterating and evolving the tech venture, right from go–to-market strategy, product roadmap to engineering and machine learning models. This journey can be time consuming and even become a roadmap. Slimmer AI works as a co-builder to streamline the process.
“As co-founder, we de-risk the entrepreneurial journey and support founders in every aspect of venture building,” says Daniela Redondo Vélez, Founder Scout at Slimmer AI. “Our practices are based on proven means, from assessing and entering markets, navigating agile product delivery, and structuring and hiring the founding team. We bring an experienced point of view on just-in-time sequencing to help founders stay focused and grounded on the sprint to the start line.”
Slimmer AI also brings its deep AI software capability to ensure that AI becomes a long term competitive advantage. In a Medium post, Giuseppe Lacerenza, an investor and Head of New Ventures at Slimmer AI, says it is important to be in the right market with the right people. However, he says it is important for founders to leverage their own network for talent.
While co-building with founders and entrepreneurs, Slimmer AI encourages the need to find the right talent early and build a culture that is thoughtful and deliberate in shaping the future. It also instals the need for founders to balance the pace of development with that of technical debt.
Lacerenza also says founders should not waste their time with distractions and utilise the critical path method to cut through the noise. “The key is to balance your courage with the needed humility to get help from those with real business building expertise, trusted advisors with shared incentives to help you reach your greatest potential,” he says.
Finding the right synergy
This co-building journey only begins after Slimmer AI finds synergy in the companies, startups, or founders. Daniela says Slimmer AI is an ideal partner for founders with deep domain knowledge and a strong conviction to address an identified opportunity. Slimmer AI looks at two key aspects when deciding to work with a startup founder.
The first step, according to Daniela, is to understand whether the founder is fit for the venture studio model. This means analysing whether the founder has all the confidence, grit, and drive expected and ability to openly ask for help, coaching, or new ideas. Heather Devereaux, Chief People Officer at Slimmer AI, outlines a proprietary model looking at competencies from “spatial ability” to “self-reflection” and “empathy”.
The second key factor that Slimmer AI looks for in founders is their ability to build and incentivise a strong team. The AI venture studio strongly advocates the need to build a strong team and even helps its portfolio companies find right talent. It helps founders decide when to “add a senior role, or what level of seniority is actually just right for the young venture.”
Founder in Residence Programme
The Founder in Residence Programme may have been announced only last week but the inklings were always there. In its decades long existence, Slimmer AI has focussed on solving problems and applying the latest AI technologies with a differentiated and unique approach.
First, it focussed on software development and then became a co-founder or co-builder under its venture studio model. This switch came from the desire of CEO JC Heyneke and the team at Slimmer AI to have a bigger impact by focussing on the totality of product building.
“Our Founder in Residence programme is a logical next step to find and work with the best early stage founders in Europe,” says Daniela.
With the Founder in Residence programme, Slimmer AI wants to find startups or founders at their very early stage of building a product. It wants to help startups even before they have validated the new product they want to build. “As part of this programme, we will go through the validation and venture design phase together with the aspiring founders,” Daniela adds.
Like its venture studio model, Slimmer AI plans to work with only three 3 to 5 founders each year under this new initiative. At the startup, Slimmer AI will have a selection process to understand the cultural fit and the domain expertise or founder’s own excitement in building the product. The next step is what the AI venture studio calls the incubation phase.
“Throughout the process we have a number of stage gates where founders take a step back from the dense problem solving they are engaged in and take a bird’s eye view on their progress, allow themselves to be critically challenged, figure out the next critical questions to be answered, and eventually we (hopefully) conclude towards incubation,” explains Daniela Redondo Vélez.
One of the common threads between the Founder in Residence programme and the co-building effort is how Slimmer AI accesses a founder. It will continue to assess a founder for different competencies using its own proprietary framework. Founders with the skill to lead a team, take ownership of the product, and capable of selling to the customers will find themselves as a natural fit at Slimmer AI. Click here to apply to the Founder in Residence programme.
Finding the greatest talent
Daniela Redondo Vélez joined Slimmer AI in June after spending more than two years at ACE (Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship). As a seasoned professional with a knack for finding hidden talent in Europe’s bludgeoning startup ecosystem, she will lead Slimmer AI’s Founder in Residence programme as Founder Scout.
She says her role will see her look for the greatest talent in Europe with colleague Saumitra Dubey, head of venture investing. “I am scouting for aspiring, or early stage entrepreneurs with strong industry expertise, who want to co-build the next disruptive AI B2B SaaS venture with us,” she says.
However, finding these exceptional founders and startups will only be the first step of the Founder in Residence programme. She says the most important role will come in the form of being responsible for assessing these founders to understand their motivations, drivers, and needs.
She says her work will not be restricted to finding whether these founders are fit for Slimmer AI but also to evaluate if Slimmer AI is the right fit for them. With the right connection, she says they will be set up for success.
She also says that startups and entrepreneurs should come with a compelling current need for the software. They should also demonstrate a large eventual opportunity and a strong “hypothesis that machine learning will be the long-term competitive advantage in the market” to become part of the Founder in Residence programme.
There is a notion in the AI community to look at its current potential and implementation. Daniela Redondo Vélez dismisses these notions to say that Slimmer AI also looks at what AI can unlock in future. “Our short-term approach is pragmatic and might even underplay the AI angle, but we will only co-build a new venture if we believe AI will make the difference in the long run,” she explains.
A new age for B2B AI solutions
Slimmer AI has demonstrated that it can co-build B2B AI solutions that can be real disruptors in the market and even get acquired by leading market players. With its Founder in Residence programme, the AI venture studio is embarking on a journey to build a new crop of B2B AI solutions.
Daniela Redondo Vélez says Slimmer AI has figured how to reduce AI applications into smaller components to get early validation. It has also built expertise on user expectations of AI and a strategic understanding of how to scale AI products. With the ability to spin-off successful solutions and invest in R&D and talent development, Slimmer AI has become a collective group of expertise to build AI products faster and more scalable.
For Slimmer AI, the real challenge will lie in finding and working with future founders with domain knowledge expertise and desire to disrupt large business pain points. “Our biggest challenge is finding these founders before they hear about or realise they need us. Think of this as being able to brain scan our network for candidates who will become founders in the future,” says Daniela.
With a discovery phase that starts earlier than “Day 0” in the VC ecosystem and its vertically integrated building model, Slimmer AI is also uniquely positioned to overcome these challenges. Daniela says, “We’re constantly working on eliminating the lack of market education and reinforcing our true value for founders.”
Once Slimmer AI finds these founders who have domain expertise and aim to disrupt large businesses, the next goal will be to scale the programme. The startup wants to ensure that it works out the kinks and scale without compromising on quality.
“Our goal is to be able to scale this up and be able to work with even more amazing founders, building great AI products and ventures that will materially impact how people work,” Redondo Vélez concludes.