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DataProphet hopes to leverage Yellowwoods investment for international expansion [Updated]

Machine learning startup DataProphet says it hopes to use its recent investment partnership with Yellowwoods Capital Holdings to expand its international offering.

The partnership, which saw Yellowwoods acquire a significant portion of the company, is the latest from a private equity company which has a pretty strong record in the South African business space. Previous investments include Hollard Insurance, Clientele Limited and Nando’s, amongst others.

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As part of the deal, DataProphet will act as the advanced analytics partner for the group.

“This investment is a testament to the team we have built, to our capabilities and ultimately to the field as a whole – all of which is very exciting,” says DataProphet commercial director and co-founder Daniel Schwartzkopff.

“It has given us the freedom to do what we are good at while also being able to invest in additional resources and machines if and when necessary,” he adds.

DataProphet is one of the pioneering players in the African machine learning space. While that meant it would’ve been tempting to go generalist, the startup instead decided to stick to a particular niche: call centres.

As we noted in our profile of DataProphet in July last year, the company claims to be able to increase sales from call centres by around 20% to 30%.

Since then however, it has expanded its focus to other promising commercial areas.

According to Schwartzkopff, machine learning has largely been confined to academic theory for much of its existence, but we can expect to see a serious uptake in commercial applications in the next few years.

“While machine learning has been around for some time now,” he says, “this has mainly been as an academic subject, rather than an industry in itself. Global interest and uptake of this technology is significant with industry giants Facebook, Google and Uber all recognising and utilising machine learning solutions.”

Schwartzkopff says DataProphet is also working with a number of small businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area.

South African businesses, he says haven’t been as quick to jump on board as those in the US, mainly due to a shortage of Artificial Intelligence skills in the country.

“Recently, however, a number of large local and international corporates in South Africa have begun to allow for these solutions in their budgets,” the DataProphet co-founder says.

He explains that, while DataProphet is good at building algorithms, any machine learning business requires partners who have data for which these products can be developed. Schwartzkopff highlights that such a partnership is mutually beneficial in that businesses are increasingly concerned about disruptive technologies.

“This is especially relevant in the South African context where cost efficiencies for businesses as well as consumers are necessary to extend financial inclusion.”

“For example due to high mobile data costs, South Africans have typically been seen to be cautious with data usage; thus they are unlikely to download an App that they would use rarely, or to communicate with a specific service provider, for example. Businesses, such as those falling under the Yellowwoods Group, are therefore looking for effective alternatives.”

According to Schwartzkopff, this is yet another area where machine learning can assist businesses.

“We are currently working on a number of potential solutions, one of which will enable businesses to integrate an automated support agent. Through platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, the use of this technology will enable companies to keep in touch with customers and answer any questions they have about their business – all without requiring the user to download an app and the business to incur substantial operational cost” he concludes.

Update: feature image correction

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