For Satyam Ramphal, Tampa native, CEO and Co-Founder of XiByte, the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered robots is here. With a team consisting of Satyam and his two brothers, Shivam and Shivanand, the goal was to develop a solution to allow companies to automate certain business functions, allowing the company to focus more on innovation and their core capabilities. Satyam shared the story behind his journey and described why Maya – XiByte’s smart assistant AI bot – is positioned to completely disrupt the startup ecosystem.
“I started my entrepreneurial life at age 19,” Satyam said. “I attended Hillsborough Community College and later The University of South Florida, but never completed my studies. At some point, the entrepreneurship spirit in me was just too strong of a calling. My dad’s a business owner and I’ve been around that environment my entire life.”
Satyam continued, “The first business I started was a marketing company, followed by a web services company. One of those startups failed miserably. We spent so much time on operations that we forgot to innovate – so we never grew. We completely flat-lined. Through that experience, in December 2019, we developed our current business model and sought out to help reduce the amount of failures experienced by startups.”
Enter Maya – an AI-powered smart assistant that helps entrepreneurs run operations using a formula to understand the business owner and the industry. Based on location, size, budget, industry and other inputs, Maya can predict success rate, give suggestions and connect the business to a network of partners with expertise in sales, human resources, marketing, accounting and more.
“She learns about the business,” Satyam said. “As suggestions are adopted and new inputs are given to Maya, she’ll make new suggestions and update her predicted success rate.”
Satyam added, “The analysis and prediction part is free. However, we’re moving towards a transaction fee based model.”
Satyam and his two co-founders have bootstrapped XiByte from the beginning. For the first two years, they worked remotely from place to place throughout Tampa, utilizing any available space to work on their startup. Satyam shared some of the challenges they’ve faced along the way as well as the company’s growth strategy.
“A big hurdle has been the trust factor surrounding the use of an AI facilitator,” Satyam said. “A lot of people still have to get adjusted to that. Another challenge is the financial piece and raising the required capital to continue development. We initially thought COVID-19 was going to be another big hurdle, but it actually turned into a huge positive for us. With a lot of people stuck at home, Maya became very popular with universities and some accelerators we partnered with. In some situations, entrepreneurs and founders lost motivation by being locked up at home. To address that, we came out with a reward system where Maya rewards business owners for milestones completed. These milestones unlock certain benefits with our partners.”
Satyam added, “In terms of our growth strategy, so far it’s been mostly through engagement, phone calls and communications with our partners. We’ve also reached a lot of people through virtual seminars and have presented at several 1 Million Cups communities in Florida. Our goal is to eventually present at all 1 Million Cups communities across the country. We want to reach as many entrepreneurs as possible to help them start their dreams and reduce the amount of startups that fail. It’s not easy to start a business – Maya can help.”
Looking ahead, Satyam, Shivam, who works on design and marketing, and Shivanand, who serves as XiByte’s Chief AI Scientist, are focused on executing a five year plan. By 2025, their goal is to create a free program or environment for K-12 students to learn about entrepreneurship. According to Satyam, the current entrepreneurship related curriculums lack engagement. By 2025, they also plan to incorporate a gaming feature with Maya, reach 200,000 users and touch 3% of all startups.
What advice does Satyam have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Procrastination is the death of progress,” he said. “Plan, execute and grow. If you have an idea, go for it. If you fail, pick yourself back up and try again. Also, pay attention to your taxes, finances and budgeting. If you let that go, it will bite you in the butt.”
In terms of business related resources, Satyam recommends a book called The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner and a podcast called Entrepreneurs on Fire with John Lee Dumas.
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