The Tetra, from the latin tetrao, is an endangered species of bird. In stark contrast, such is not at all the case for startup Tetrao—a company that seems to keep on growing. On October 24, 2018, Tetrao officially opened a new subsidiary in Bras-sur-Meuse, France, a small city situated on the Meuse in the heart of Lorraine. We met Christian Gillot, founder of Tetrao, and Ludivine Renier, head of Tetrao France, at the LHoFT, their current home in Luxembourg.
(Featured Image: Christian Gillot, founder of Tetrao, and Ludivine Renier, head of Tetrao France, during the inauguration of Tetrao’s new subsidiary in France / Image Credit © Tetrao)
Tetrao was created in November 2014 with the goal of developing and industrializing an innovative technology based on artificial intelligence. The startup’s technology helps build robots capable of automating tasks related to company management and the financial industry—tasks that have required, until the present, human attention. To cite one example, Tetrao’s technology can automate the process of understanding company statuses and the documentation needed in investment funds. “We would like to simplify companies’ day-to-day lives in order to then facilitate their clients’ daily experience,” explained simply Christian Gillot, founder at Tetrao.
As is all too common during the creation of innovative technology, the idea started with a personal need on the founder’s side. “I have to give the OK on hundreds of thousands of web sites to make sure our clients’ e-books were sold at a good price, with the correct cover, under the right description, among other criteria. So, I decided to program some robots that could go do research themselves. However, the robots were verifying how the websites were constructed via HTML. The problem is that on certain websites, several versions of the source code are active simultaneously, and they all change constantly. Thus, the robot research I developed stopped working. It was for that reason that I began to ask myself how a computer could make errors that a human being didn’t; that is, once someone explains to him/her how to conduct the research the right way.”
“BPSS became interested in our technology, and we started working on investment funds by researching more ample information about individual funds.”
The software that Tetrao has developed is in this way unique, as it combines humanity to technology. In contrast to other solutions on the market, Tetrao does not research how a website or a PDF is constructed from a technological point of view. “The source code on a website changes constantly, and thus becomes a source of error. With our program, computers perform the same work as the human being. We simplu teach them to analyze a bigger picture, thus eliminated the confusion of changing code. We then create algorithms based on annotations, which must be done by human beings.”
After two years of research and development in Luxembourg, Tetrao has succeeded in simulated the cognitive process found in humans, and in automating it at a technological level. “In the beginning, we wanted to develop a global platform for meet ups, and we hoped to do so by indexing every company website—all domains mixed together,” recalled the founder. The game really changed when we sat down with Richard Jones from BNP Paribas’s Services Securities (BPSS) in February 2017. He shed new light on our ideas and ambitions. “BPSS became interested in our technology, and we started working on investment funds by researching more ample information about individual funds. Today, we have automated the tracking process of daily activities in funds in order to respond to around forty question, separated by individual parts of the fund,” explained Christian.
Tetrao then won the BNP Paribas International Hackathon in December 2017, beating out 160 other fintechs coming from 10 different countries, and it did so by disrupting and accelerating the process of account opening for a company. Tetrao then earned its place among the 10 Most Promising Fintechs in Europe on the Hot10 List, established by the Fintech50 2018 Power List.
The startup has seen rapid expansion at the international level ever since.
Today, the once-débutant has 14 employees based in both its Luxembourgish headquarters, which hosts technical engineers, artificial intelligence researchers, and programmers, and Spain, where the local subsidiary is focusing on website development and server management. Now, France is home to the production team made of human annotators, the real added value herein.
“The ultimate goal for us is to bring artificial intelligence where it has never gone before, and mainly the unseen places where it has an enormous advantage. Companies in the insurance sector in particular have demonstrated a clear interest in our technology.”
Bringing AI to places it has never gone before
The company works on essentials in investment funds, the main partner of which is FFYN, a company that puts professional investors in contact with investment funds. “We bring them information on their existing funds, and we do so in complete independence. We only transfer them the data collected on the websites, eliminating superfluous information.” Tetrao hopes to eventually work directly with investments funds in order to be able to work out incoherencies that arise every day on websites treated with the program. “Thanks to our knowledge of investment funds, we hope to work directly with CSSF. We can help CSSF verify fund data collected on a daily basis and allow their employees to gain time and in workflow efficiency,” specified the founder.
Since the Hackathon, Tetrao has also been working with BNP Paribas and other large banks in Luxembourg, in France, in Belgium, in Germany and in the United States. “We also have the Big Four in our client pool, as well as LuxInnovation. You know, just to name a few,” proudly listed Christian.
Beyond today’s financial sector mainly concerned by Tetrao’s technology, many other domains will soon see themselves in need of the technology. “The ultimate goal for us is to bring artificial intelligence where it has never gone before, and mainly the unseen places where it has an enormous advantage. Companies in the insurance sector in particular have demonstrated a clear interest in our technology.”
“The human factor is essential in our activity. Just as a child who is learning to count, artificial intelligence learns with the help of a high number of examples that the annotation team provides for it.”
Human beings at the heart of Tetrao
Tetrao is growing rapidly, but it holds one ambition very dear: maintaining a high quality of work. “We prefer to take our time in order to well equip our teams. We are thus seeing more and more successful employment efforts, which will be necessary in order to guarantee an efficient team both at the office and in the field,” clarified the founder.
To be clear, annotations are the primordial river in Tetrao’s technology, and they must be tested and assured to ensure the highest product quality. “The human factor is essential in our activity. Just as a child who is learning to count, artificial intelligence learns with the help of a high number of examples that the annotation team provides for it. The system of automation that we develop is in this way the fruit of our work, obviously combined with our engineers’ savoir-faire,” explained Ludivine Renier, leader of Tetrao France.
No specific professional qualifications are necessary to become an annotator. “There are a few absolutely necessary qualities, namely rigor, concentration and a real capacity for swift and nimble adaptation, but interested persons don’t need technical backgrounds,” clarified Ludivine Renier.
Our annotator teams can in this way work on documents in French, English, German or even Dutch. “Our annotators are pretty dang smart! Even without speaking the language with which their working documents are written, they find a way to locate the necessary information on the screen!” proudly declared Christian.
“In contrast to many opinions we have seen these past few years, artificial intelligence will create jobs. Our technology will allow our clients to offer more all while keeping its teams where they are. Tetrao helps companies do more with much less, to put it simply.”
Expansion into francophonia
The Tetrao subsidiary in France will start with four people in Bras-sur-Meuse. “The introduction of our French subsidiary will allow us to respond to the growing demand from our clients, and we will do so with a qualified and high-performing team, which reflects the culture of the region. We plan to employ twenty annotators by the end of next year,” confidently declared the founder.
Tetrao France will set up in a coworking space in Bras sur Meuse, which was created as an initiative of the local government leader, Monsieur Julien Didry. “Workici,” as it’s called, provides working space to companies that have established teams and a grouping of adapted services.
Bras sur Meuse was chosen because the founder, an original Mosellane, had a real desire to give back to the region, to develop employment in the area, by investing in the workforce and giving the chance at a better quality of life. “We didn’t consider Metz or Nancy because these are cities with a trimmed down employment market, and yet there are people with just as much talent and just as qualified who are looking for work in other cities in the region. It must be said that an annotator’s salary allows for a very comfortable life in Bras sur Meuse and the surrounding areas, which would not be as easily accessible in Metz or Nancy!”
With this seemingly exponential growth for the annotation team in France next year, the AI team based in Luxembourg will also have its turn to grow and prosper. Growth in one location translates to growth for the whole company.
“In contrast to many opinions we have seen these past few years, artificial intelligence will create jobs. Our technology will allow our clients to offer more all while keeping its teams where they are. Tetrao helps companies do more with much less, to put it simply,” concluded Christian.
Current projections predict that the startup will have around 500 people working in its centers in about five years. Tetrao is, thus, an organization on the path of expansion.