In this exclusive interaction, Analytics India Magazine connected with Sachin Duggal to know about his startup Builder.AI (formerly Engineer.AI)
SoftBank-funded Engineer.AI raised 29.5 million in 2018 for an automated app development platform using AI. All had been going great until last year when the startup was caught in a controversy alleging it of not using artificial intelligence, but human developers to achieve app automation.
WSJ reported that the startup did not use AI and instead hired staff for its software automation services. The was followed by a storm of criticism from other media publications and all across social media, even though the startup clarified later multiple times that it utilised human-assisted intelligence.
More recently, Engineer.AI has been rebranded to Builder.AI, which shows the startup has been working hard to reshape its previous image. In an exclusive interaction, Sachin Duggal, Founder and CEO of Builder.AI (formerly Engineer.AI) shared in-depth details about his startup.
AIM: Now that you have rebranded and refocused your efforts on Builder, how do you want to clarify so there is no confusion regarding your services and targeted market?
Sachin Duggal: When we founded the company in 2016, we named it Engineer.ai with 2 essential products – DevOps and CloudOps. As Engineer.ai, we did some exemplary work with some of the best brands around the world. We built software that could solve all kinds of problems. Halfway through 2018 we decided to review our identity and conduct a branding activity and in early 2019 brought on board one of the best global creative agencies in London to support.
We wanted to simplify our brand to directly correlate and connect with our product offerings and our customers. That branding session led us to a huge realisation – that a lot of our customers were finding it confusing to deal with three different identities – DevOps, CloudOps and Engineer.ai. We learned that the name ‘Engineer.ai’ as a product in itself wasn’t effective. People aren’t simply looking for an engineer, instead, they’re looking for someone to help them build their dreams. The logic behind ‘Builder.ai’ is simple: we don’t just build software. We help companies build phenomenal, revolutionary, business altering ideas.
AIM: What was the idea behind launching the Builder platform?
Sachin Duggal: Four years ago, we started out with a dream to be the connection between every great idea and a fully realised product. The mission was – and still is – to empower everyone to build their ideas, especially given that only a few successfully take their idea to a live software product. Software development has always meant innumerable other challenges, such as delivering on time, creating flawless products, deciding on fair pricing and safeguarding the idea. So, Builder.ai was launched keeping in mind every single challenge faced by startups and enterprises during digital transformation.
Different teams from around the world work on their specific areas, bringing their core competencies to the final product. We apply this methodology to tailor-made software by employing an AI-powered assembly line. This brings together building blocks of frequently used features alongside the best human talent from across the globe. The result – in our case – is software delivered 3x the speed and a quarter of the price. This is possible because our customers don’t pay for code that’s common across the software.
AIM: Please elaborate on the current solutions and tech stack that the company is offering?
Sachin Duggal: Our human-assisted AI platform helps entrepreneurs and enterprises build, run and scale tailor-made software. Builder Studio lets you create mobile apps, websites and wearables. No techie skills needed. We also offer aftercare, so your software never goes out of date, and cloud capacity from all the big providers (our customers saved over $4.5m, last year).
There is Builder Studio, which turns any idea into tailor-made software, without writing any code or speaking to a developer or agency. Get guaranteed costs and decide your timeline, upfront. Then there is Builder Care, which keeps your software updated so you’re never blindsided by 3rd party changes. Builder Cloud, where you get multi-cloud access with world-class analytics, DevOps automation and commitment-free cost savings. Finally, Builder Now, which enables you to prototype your big idea for free in less than 10 minutes. You can see how your idea will work with no risk and zero cost.
AIM: According to you, what are the usual challenges/bottlenecks that startups face when it comes to software development and how can Builder.ai help in this context?
Sachin Duggal: Many people with a software idea get overwhelmed by the tech knowledge and money needed to build it. In a majority of the cases, the idea stops there.
Most of the time, entrepreneurs rely on word of mouth or Google for the best vendors and, with no or little knowledge in coding, the fear of getting fleeced can linger. Bugged software and delayed delivery are just some of the issues customers are dealing with.
Our products are user-friendly and our customers don’t need to know how to code. Someone with a basic knowledge of computers can make choices on our platform about how their final product will look and feel. A Builder can easily choose the timelines they want, where they’d like their team-based and then track the progress in real-time.
AIM: How are companies using Builder to develop application prototypes? Please give a few examples without naming any clients.
Sachin Duggal: Builder Now is our instant software prototyping tool that lets our customers explore their ideas and showcase the intention behind the overall design concept in minutes– before investing their time and money into development. Before Builder Now, users paid for prototypes which were assigned CPEs, and then a design team finalised the user flow, created designs from scratch and finally created prototypes. Now, from day one, they have a user flow and designers have a reference for designs to be created. This lets users have an in-depth understanding of their idea and feel confident.
AIM: How does Builder utilise AI for rapid application prototyping?
Sachin Duggal: We’re proud to share that every product within the Builder platform is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), with different degrees of evolution.
We have also made many advancements in how we manage the demand and supply within our marketplace. In this regard, we have put in place ML-powered toolsets for combating fraud, for ascertaining and quantifying the skill levels of developers both during onboarding as well as in-project and for predicting the likelihood of delays during software delivery. We are also making significant reductions to the time it takes to develop software through advances in the QA process.
Finally, a key problem in all marketplaces is the efficient allocation of resources. In our ecosystem, this problem has multiple guises such as: how do we efficiently assign human resources to individual projects or assign computational and technological resources during development. To make these decisions at scale, we are increasingly leveraging AI-based decision-making technologies.
AIM: What are your expansion and business growth plans for now?
Sachin Duggal: Builder.ai’s international footprint recently got larger. Last month we announced the opening of our new office in the Middle East located in Dubai. Our research shows that there are a lot of up and coming businesses in the Middle East that want to elevate their digital footprint to better serve their existing customers and expand their base internationally.
So, we’ve responded to this massive potential for digital disruption and are now in an optimal position to help our customers in the region. Now they can easily and cost-effectively develop their software ideas and go to market sooner with our human-assisted AI. This move underscores Builder.ai’s rapid international growth, as we now operate in five financial and business hubs across the globe (London, Los Angeles, Delhi, Tokyo and Dubai) with over 275 employees.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.