In many cases, digital tools should and can make working life easier, faster and more efficient for specific use cases. However, it is not uncommon for us to use a plethora of such applications at the same time, turning time-savers into time-eaters again. The young Berlin-based startup Spoke has therefore set itself the goal of using AI to create summaries from text-based, asynchronous status messages and third-party data from integrations in order to quickly provide necessary context. This is to leave more time for the essentials, loosely based on the motto "Create the context for work." We spoke with co-founder Max Brenssell about their approach, the importance of data protection, and the funding opportunities and networking of the AI scene in Berlin.
Hi Max, first of all thank you very much for your time. What is the biggest time eater for you in your daily life that you would like to automate or streamline?
Hi, also thank you very much for your time. In my daily (work) life, the biggest time eater for me is finding and understanding information in different tools to quickly get the context I need to work on or answer or solve a topic.
How did you come up with the idea for Spoke? And how does your solution work exactly?
In our previous jobs at fast-growing companies like N26 and WeWork, my co-founders Jack, Carl and I often suffered ourselves from being overwhelmed by a large volume of messages and information flows. Especially when companies grow quickly, there is a lot of inefficiency and frustration when it comes to communication and processes. Another factor is the multitude of software tools, such as Slack, MS Teams, Notion, JIRA, Figma or Miro, which give us many important features but also open additional communication channels.
For these reasons, we have dedicated Spoke to the mission of creating work context ("Create the context for work"). We create this context through an AI-based operating system with three application areas for our users:
- Prioritization and facilitated processing of incoming messages from all tools through AI-generated summaries with relevant context.
- Overview of all outgoing communications with intelligent suggestions for faster resolution of outstanding issues
- Semantic search capability across all summaries and data sources
In addition, we build plug-ins for tools like Slack that allow users* to create context even within their existing tools through AI-based summaries with just a few clicks. For example, by accurately summarizing long discussions in Slack.
How compatible is Spoke for potential users? Can your solution be easily integrated or linked into existing workflows?
Our goal is to integrate all existing tools into an intuitive interface through which our users communicate or share information. We integrate flexibly into existing workflows by offering additional plug-ins for tools like Slack.
Data security is the be-all and end-all when it comes to processing sensitive data. How are you positioned in this regard?
Data security and data protection are of course very important topics for us due to our business model. Since we work with sensitive data of our users, we have attached great importance to data security on a technical and operational level from the very beginning. This includes both our technical infrastructure and anonymization and encryption of data, as well as operational processes such as device management, access management and password management.
In addition, with the support of external experts, we are already preparing for certification of our data security and compliance processes.
Let's talk about funding: You were supported by the Future City Accelerator and the Berlin Senate, as well as by pre-seed funding. How did this come about and how do you assess the funding structure in Berlin and in general for a company like yours?
We see the diverse support for startups in Berlin very positively and were able to gain suitable partners at various stages, such as the Future City Accelerator and recently the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB). We deliberately looked for the right programs for different development phases here, as the effort naturally increases according to the funding amount and should not be underestimated.
In addition to the funding from IBB, we have closed a pre-seed funding round in 2022, which we will communicate publicly soon.
From experience, Berlin has so much to offer for startups. How do you perceive the tech scene and especially the AI ecosystem in the city? What makes it attractive compared to metropolises like San Francisco or London?
We strongly believe in Berlin as a location and therefore have our HQ here as a "remote-first" team. About half of the team works from here and we all very much appreciate the diverse and international character of the city, including the cultural scene and gastronomy.
Despite the housing shortage and current inflation, Berlin is also still significantly more affordable than comparable cities like London or New York, which further contributes to the diversity in the job market and startup scene.
In terms of the AI ecosystem, we see many positive developments and are excited to take advantage of the many exciting offerings, for example through our membership in the German AI Association or interesting events at AI Campus.
Let's take a look into the (near) future: what challenges and opportunities will we face with the help of AI in ten years?
As an AI-focused startup, we strongly believe in the positive potential of AI to create new innovations, industries and, most importantly, jobs. Along the way, it will be a big challenge to regulate AI in Europe in a meaningful way and ensure our competitiveness.
The big opportunity ten years from now is that AI-based automation will free up a lot of human time and creativity for more productive new activities and jobs that we probably cannot imagine today.
Thanks for your time, Max.