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While participating in a DIT-funded trade mission to China, ChAI’s founder saw the commercial and societal value in helping small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) manufacturers de-risk their supply chains by reducing price volatility risk in their input materials – using AI. Joining Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage has helped develop the idea into a promising new business which has rapidly attracted prestigious investors.

ChAI saw the value in developing AI-enabled commodity price forecasting

While attending a DIT-funded trade mission to China, ChAI founder and CEO Tristan Fletcher had an idea about harnessing the power of AI to create a modern price forecasting tool for commodities. His vision was to remove the pain of commodity price volatility for manufacturers who are highly dependent on their input materials.

By providing better forecasting that uses a wide range of data sources, Fletcher wanted to level the playing field for SME manufacturers in particular (a large share of the British manufacturing ecosystem) by providing them with the tools to de-risk their supply chain from commodity price volatility – tools that currently are only available to their larger peers through capital markets.

Turning these early ideas into an actual business presented a number of challenges – in particular how to access the expertise and computing power needed to develop the solution more fully. Another core challenge was to find investors willing to back the idea of a new type of forecasting tool and risk transfer mechanism.

Machine Intelligence Garage offered access to $100k Google Cloud Platform vouchers, pitch support and access to the investment community

When Founder and CEO of ChAI Dr Tristan Fletcher applied to join the Machine Intelligence Garage he had an idea for a solution which he had developed some basic code for that was able to take free data to predict the fluctuating price of copper for a Chinese multinational manufacturing company.

Selection by Machine Intelligence Garage gave ChAI access to the Google Cloud for startups programme and free credits worth $100k for Google Cloud Platform that enabled it to develop the idea more fully, testing and refining the algorithms and adding new data sources. The high cost of compute power is a common barrier to entry for AI startups that prevents or slows down development.

Machine Intelligence Garage also offered the opportunity for ChAI to participate in a pitching workshop that helped the founders develop a more impactful and professional pitch it could use to attract its first round of funding.

Once the pitch had been created, ChAI was invited to participate in an investor showcase where it could pitch to a carefully selected group of investors.

“ChAI’s success demonstrates how combined support from the UK Government and Digital Catapult can inspire new high potential startups, help attract investment and ensure the UK remains a global leader for AI in manufacturing and insurance” Danial Shaikh, Consul/Deputy Director – Innovation and Industry, Department for International Trade.

Digital Catapult gave ChAI external validation and credibility, its support accelerated the development of ChAI’s solution and enabled it to rapidly attract investment

Engaging with Digital Catapult’s Machine Intelligence Garage has had a huge impact on ChAI’s development as a business as well as the development of its solution.

“I don’t think ChAI would exist without Digital Catapult. It provided the first external validation of our ideas, raised our profile and introduced us to an investor community that led directly to successfully closing our first round of funding. The association with Digital Catapult and its validation of our ideas and our potential as a business meant that investors took us seriously. On a personal level too, as a founder it was helpful to receive support and encouragement to believe in my ideas and develop them to their full potential.” explains Dr Tristan Fletcher Founder and CEO of ChAI.

The Google Cloud Platform vouchers gave it free access to costly compute power that accelerated the development of the idea.

The pitching workshop helped the founders to develop a professional pitch that clearly communicated the business and its evolution as a narrative and the potential future of the company in a way that immediately started to engage investors. At the Investor showcase, the founder connected and followed up will all ten of the attending investors. Two of whom committed £50k almost immediately and which led rapidly to a further £150k. An added benefit of the investor showcase has been the introduction to the wider investment community. Through Digital Catapult the founders of ChAI have increased their network of investors fivefold which puts it in an excellent position for any future investment rounds. The investment it has attracted has come from established tech investors including two that were very early stage investors in the highly successful FinTech company Funding Circle, a good indicator that its pitch is appealing to seasoned and successful investors.

ChAI has now expanded to include five partners, bringing expertise in AI, commodity trading, computer science, and insurance. The initial investment will be used to build a demo to show ChAI’s predictive model can support the development of a ground breaking new offering in the risk market that will protect manufacturers and insurers alike from commodity price volatility. It will also be used to improve code in the back-end of the solution and add further data sources

Pitching workshop helped ChAI develop a winning pitch deck that led to investment within 2 months

External validation from Digital Catapult meant investors viewed ChAI as a startup with high potential