Wellington-based start-up Arcanum AI is developing generative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for small-to-medium size enterprises (SMEs) in New Zealand and across the globe, aiming to tackle the “big players” operating in the realm of AI technologies such as ChatGPT.
The technology vendor has developed solutions, including an AI assistant, integrated with enterprise automation vendor Workato’s AI and machine learning (ML) technology, built on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Arcanum founder and CEO Asa Cox told Reseller News that the partnership with Workato was inked around nine months ago after searching for a “technology layer within our platform” to embed into businesses.
Both Workato and Arcanum are AWS independent software vendor (ISV) partners, “so we build predominantly on AWS and with AWS,” Workato Australia and New Zealand country manager John Deeb said. Customers can transact through the AWS marketplace.
Arcanum are an AWS ISV global partner associated with AI and machine learning, Cox said, and are working towards achieving the machine learning competency.
“We’ve seen recently the advent of new technologies and AI and machine learning really grow, and we’re really excited to have Arcanum AI with Asa and his team come on board as both a reseller as well as an embedded partner, to offer a combination of automation with AI/ML capability,” Deeb said.
Cox founded Arcanum in 2016 as a professional services company, initially delivering R&D projects for large organisations and “some start-ups who were thinking far ahead of time,” Cox said.
With a vision to expand to “products and platforms” with global scalability from the beginning, Cox explained that it took some time for local market interest to catch-up with its offerings that were attracting interest overseas.
With the explosion of AI into the public consciousness this year surrounding the launch of ChatGPT, Arcanum “packaged” its technology offering into the form of an AI assistant, which Cox says makes AI more accessible for non-technical businesses.
“What we’ve been able to do is continually build the product proposition to meet where the market was at,” he said.
“Until nine months ago, we always felt we were too far ahead of the market, so we were dealing with a lot more companies overseas. In the last six months since the explosion of ChatGPT, there’s now a lot more qualified conversations happening in New Zealand.”
Alongside continuing to field interest from overseas, Cox is aiming to grow locally and solidify itself as a homegrown tech company that can rival the “big players” in global tech, imagining itself as David in a battle against Goliath.
“It’s about figuring the right strategy to compete with the Goliaths in the market… we really see New Zealand tech companies being able to punch above their weight and produce some really good technology,” he said.
“We’re really pleased to be a part of that landscape and to take on some of the bigger players overseas, because we can move faster.”
Cox believes this growth will happen through meaningful partnerships and is looking to connect with channel partners who are targeting mid-size enterprises in "slightly less technical environments", he said.
“What we think what we can offer, with Workato, is a lot of value for those mid-size companies who are looking to innovate but don’t have the internal expertise. We don’t want to build out a large direct sales presence ourselves. We really believe in the channel and resellers.
“We’re really actively looking for anybody that has customers who want AI stuff, and they don’t have anybody to do it.”
He also emphasised that those looking for new solutions should consider the start-up market rather than global tech companies who “may or may not be present in New Zealand already”.
“I really encourage the channel to consider local New Zealand start-ups as part of the ecosystem,” he said.
The offering aims to create value for “non-technical” mid-size enterprises in New Zealand who are interested in AI but don’t know where to start.
“I’m a non-technical founder… so for me, it’s always been about what’s the business value in the technology,” Cox said.
“For us it’s about making AI really accessible to enterprises, but not big enterprise necessarily. We work with companies of all shapes and sizes to make it super easy to get business value from AI.”
Particularly, where New Zealand is experiencing a tight labour market, reducing labour costs and resources is a key proposition for AI assistants.
“Most people will have budget to expand their headcount. Instead of doing that, our proposition is to use an AI assistant who works 24/7, doesn’t need holiday pay, doesn’t need personal reviews and doesn’t get sick this time of year."
The focus is now on automating back-office operations, Cox said, now having AI assistants for finance, customer support, and soon human resources.
One customer that Cox references is Auckland-based Debtworks, who are using Workato for automation capability and using AI specifically to improve customer/debtor experience.
Debtworks are keen to “change the game” on debt collection, Cox said, and are working with Arcanum to develop “at-scale, personalised communications.”
“They’ve been really far-sighted in understanding how they can develop a better experience and therefore differentiate themselves in the market when it comes to securing customers like NZTA and the big telcos.”
Another customer is recruitment company Momentum Consulting, which Arcanum is helping with their finance operations.
With a large contractor and customer base with invoices of all types flowing through the organisation, Momentum Consulting was looking for a way to automate their accounts payable operations rather than taking on more staff.
“They’ve now got our AI system ‘Archie’ working in their Outlook to get all of those invoices processed into Xero using the Workato platform,” Cox said.
The potential for future use cases as the rate of AI adoption grows exponentially opens up a world of potential to become “10 times more productive,” Cox said.
“What’s been really exciting has been some of the discussions we’re having about future use cases with customers in the healthcare sector, in not-for profit where we’re able to demonstrate amazing increases in efficiency, like handwriting recognition for example… it’s now more accessible to more people,” Deeb said.
Cox added that ChatGPT has made AI accessible to everyone, with the potential for productivity gain across all industries and organisation types still being explored and discovered.
“There’s such incredible productivity gain with these large language models,” he said. “We’ve had discussions with such a broad range of companies, from concrete slab pouring associations, to the Dental Association, to the College of Law – everybody who has just started to see what is now possible is excited about how they’re going to use it.”
Despite the excitement, Cox emphasised that there are critical conversations to be had around privacy, security and cost of AI adoption, as well as integration into existing systems to keep businesses running.
“That mid-level organisation that we’re targeting needs to really start thinking about where the value is they can get from it, but also what kind of jobs, skills and recruitment do they need to start thinking about to really embrace the technology,” he said.
“It’s not just a case of being slightly faster – it changes the nature of some jobs and some workflows.
“I think people are going to be challenged in the near future about how to embrace it in a way which is sustainable to their business and to their existing staff.”