Prowler.io: the success of being decision-centric in a big data-obsessed world

16 December 2019

7 minute read

Named one of Fast Track’s top 100 disruptors, PROWLER.io is changing the face of organisations with its decision-making artificial intelligence and machine learning.

From Delhi’s rickshaw drivers to yellow New York cabs, taxi drivers worldwide are crawling cities hoping to chance upon their next passengers.

Even with the likes of Waze and Google Maps, this system is profoundly inefficient in terms of time and energy.  Every minute, an idling car produces about 150 balloons worth of harmful chemicals1, with air pollution costing London up to £3.7bn every year, 2019 figures show2.

One start-up believes a cab driver’s limited awareness of passenger demand and traffic can be solved by using predictive decision-making technology to coordinate movement city-wide.

PROWLER.io, one of Fast Track’s 2019 top 100 technology disruptors, aims to do this by combining artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning with past and real-time data. This will be gathered from consenting drivers and third-parties in order to foresee future traffic movements. Intelligently coordinated cabs could reduce traffic and predict where demand will be, before it arises.

Simulator trials show that 75% of taxis using PROWLER.io technology were able to arrive within half the time, compared with current estimates.

The Cambridge-based company is already using these decision-making capabilities to help companies operate more efficiently in both logistics and asset management.

Quality data, not quantity

“The world doesn’t have a big data problem, it has a small data problem,” Vishal Chatrath, PROWLER.io's co-founder and chief executive officer tells Barclays Private Bank.

Many firms are using AI to make decisions based on the data available, Chatrath explains. PROWLER.io has flipped this on its head: it looks at what decision needs to be made and then collects the data needed to make that happen, using machine learning and AI.

“Companies need to move from data-centric to decision-centric thinking when applying AI," he says.

Using this approach, the company has already broken through the ultra-competitive AI market in supply chain management and asset management.

For example, transporting pallets is crucial to the economics of the world’s supply chain management, with more than five billion pallets in circulation globally every year.

To use decision-making AI in this industry, PROWLER.io needed data. However, due to lack of adequate information, the company created a model environment to collect synthetic data.

“We could show the improvement if we had the data, allowing companies to see its value,” says Chatrath.

This allowed logistics firms to create key performance indicators with PROWLER.io to decide whether it was worthwhile in collecting the necessary real-world data. As a result, PROWLER.io is now working with one the world's largest logistics firms.

Standing out in AI’s crowded market

Over the next 12 months, the three-year-old tech firm will continue to focus on growing its supply chain capabilities rather than efficiencies for cab companies, Chatrath argues. However, taxi firms may have to wait around 24 months for PROWLER.io to launch its taxi solution.

He argues that what we’re seeing today is only the beginning for AI and machine learning.

Despite only being formed in 2016, PROWLER.io has already raised US$50m from investors. This is one of the keys to the company’s early success.

“The investors are so critical to the success of the company, much more than the capital that they invested. If I had to say the value of the investor, of a good investor, I would say that 30% of the value is from the capital invested, 70% is from the [support and advice] of the investor,” says Chatrath.

He stresses the importance of a good balance between the needs of entrepreneurs and investors.

“If you push the entrepreneur too hard and they have a very low stake in the business they will lose all motivation. … At the same time, we shouldn’t squeeze the investors to the Nth degree because if an … investor feels that they didn’t get a good deal, they’re not going to work for you,” he adds.

The support to succeed

Chatrath says another essential element to PROWLER.io’s success was being able to use Barclays Eagle Labs, Chatrath says.

Eagle Labs offers small businesses and start-ups across the UK work space along with a range of other resources. These include event spaces, entrepreneur communities, talks and tools such as 3D printing.

Chatrath explains: “Eagle Labs was key to our success, I can’t overstate that. When you’re a young company like us with low capital, you have to be very careful with your time and resources.

“All of the infrastructure was top-class. The basics of what you needed was there, which took a big weight off our shoulders when building a business. If we didn’t have that we would have had to hire about five extra people in the first year – about a 30% increase in headcount,” Chatrath adds.

Attractions of Europe

He argues that Europe is the best place to launch an AI company right now due to the quality of the talent pool and lower salaries than in Silicon Valley.

Rob Agnew, Managing Director of High Growth Fin/Tech Founders and Investors, Barclays Private Bank, agrees: “More money is flowing into European technology start-ups than ever before, and it’s increasingly coming from top US venture capital firms.”

He adds: “PROWLER.io’s success is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when great minds are combined with support from key investors and the resources provided by Eagle Labs.”

Both Barclays Private Bank and the wider Barclays Group support entrepreneurs and investors through a range of services. To find out more, contact us or speak to your Private Banker.

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