BizSpark Startup of the Day - Clever Sense

The BizSpark startup of the day is o Clever Sense, based in the US. Below you will find an interview with o Babak Pahlavan, Co-founder and CEO of Clever Sense. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!


Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I am the co-founder and CEO of Clever Sense.

What did you do before creating your company?

Former Stanford graduate student and also a Product Line Manager of mobile software products at a $350 million privately held company.

How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?

Super excited!

What is your company’s mission?

To use artificial intelligence to help users find places & deals that truly matter to them when they are on the go.

In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:

How did you get the idea for your company?

My co-founder and I were frustrated at all the mindless lists of local results and hundreds of choices & reviews that we get through location-based search engines whenever we wanted to find a place to go eat or do things. We realized we live in a very “noisy” world and even though we have internet-connected devices in our pockets, it still is a daunting task to find what matches our tastes. Moreover, we realized everybody’s tastes are different when it comes to food, events, or activities in general. Also, these devices are tiny, making text entry and doing lots of repeated search quite painful. Then we remembered we were both good at machine learning, AI and data mining and then the idea of “Hint: Your Personal Concierge” was born!

The goal is to make your Smartphone, truly smart!

“Hint” will be the first mobile application powered by our “Clever Sense Learning & Recommendation Engine” Platform.

Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?

We have raised $1 million and we can raise an additional $500k at our current valuation. Our goal is to raise more capital to scale, either from a highly respected VC that knows the mobile space or from a strategic partner who can help us reach more customers. But we’ve done a good job of managing our spending so far and we’re in good shape; we’ll take our time to find the right people over the next few months.

How many employees do you have? How many developers?

6 full-time, 4 overseas outsourced developers. Everyone is a developer except our User Experience Designer (which we insisted on not being a developer).

Are you hiring?If yes, what are you hiring for and where?

Yes we are. We’d like to add another Mobile Product Manager who can also code (we love developers!) and a great mobile business developer.

Which platform are you building on?Why?

Our current plan is to launch on Windows Mobile 7. We like the UI and generally speaking we like the platform after we dove deeper into Microsoft’s offering. Also, the support that we were getting from Microsoft team has completely exceeded our expectations. Moving forward, knowing that our entire technology is on our cloud-based back-end, there is nothing that prevents our presence on iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices. It’ll be mainly a business decision and we will wait to see how it materializes as we go forward. The main focus right now is to keep listening to our users and iterate in order to build the best product. I think the latter point is the single most important element that we have to focus on right now.

Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?

I think curation of information, real-time personalization and finding what matters to users in the right place and right time is what people want. There is so much data and clutter out there on the internet and you really need services that can provide “subjective information delivery”; finding what matters to you wherever you are in real-time is a hard problem and there is significant opportunity there; especially in the mobile context.

What do you think about the BizSpark Program?

It’s been great for us so far. We’ve been getting software that we didn’t have to pay for (when you run a start-up, you learn quickly that you ALWAYS need to be cost conscious!). Also, the set of exposures that they provide in the market place, such as this one, is highly attractive.

Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?

If you believe in yourself and your partners, you can find the way forward. With huge advances in both mobile technology and cloud computing, the costs of building a start-up are so low that now is the best time to build a company. Don’t wait, just do it!

Who’s your role model?

There are a lot of people that come to mind but for instance I am a big fan of Randy Komisar; his speeches and his books are just too smart and full of wisdom. But generally speaking, I like a lot of things that a lot of successful people in Silicon Valley have done; especially after they made it big. But two things in general have inspired me the most: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the type of philanthropy activities that they are involved in and also, the commencement speech that Steve Jobs gave at the Stanford back in 2005. These two have had a deep impact on me personally. Also,

What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?

Dream big and execute on your dreams today! Now is the time to build a start-up if you are a technologist.