Optio-Ai Georgian Finance Chatbot

Irrational planning and the management of personal finances is a universal challenge around the world. Optio-AI, the winner of ‘Startup Georgia ’high-tech projects, offers Georgian consumers (and later consumers abroad), alternative ways of spending their money in a reasonable manner. The founders of the startup – Shota Giorgobiani and Giorgi Mirzikashvili – estimate that their startup, which is the first of its kind in the region and one of the first finance chatbots on the world market, may eventually become an innovation of international scale and will establish a new standard of managing personal finances.

If you ask the rebel founders of Optio-AI, they’ll tell you that they too played a role in making Donald Trump rich. Well, maybe not these two particular people, but their American colleagues definitely contributed to the enrichment of Donald Trump. Nobody argues about the importance of a financial adviser. When asked as to when their capital would come anywhere close to Donald Trump’s riches, their answer is that Optio-Ai will say what needs to be said in the near future.

OptioAI is the first Georgian finance chatbot. A chatbot or a chatter robot is a type of conversational agent, a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via voice or text. Communication via chatbot is no different than interacting with a friend or a real financial adviser: you can write the chatbot about your financial plans and wishes and the chatbot will assist you in organizing your plans and achieving them. However, chatbot is only an external form. The main ‘brain’ of OptioAI is an artificial intelligence based core, which works 24/7 to improve the financial life of the consumer.

In order to provide consumers with effective and personalized advice, Optio-AI connects with their bank account through secure channels and analyzes the history of a given consumer’s financial data. Obviously, the program has access to bank accounts in a read-only format, so there is no risk of an unwanted transaction.

The authors of Optio-AI Shota Giorgobiani and Giorgi Mirzikashvili explain that managing one’s finances begins with budget preparation and then acting based on this budget. However, this is just the beginning of the multi-component process of efficient finance management. This is something that a consumer can manage to do alone or through the help of the products currently available on the market. The engagement of a financial adviser plays a crucial role in the success of the entire process. Along with analyzing the collected data, the financial adviser can offer consumers recommendations that only professionals that are competent in finance can provide. In view of the fact that hiring a personal financial adviser is quite expensive, technology offers us a cheaper alternative. That is exactly where the idea behind Optio-AI lies. The founders of the startup claim that lowering the price for the services of a personal financial adviser is quite realistic, and can be done by making this service more accessible via chatbot and artificial intelligence.

Maintaining healthy finances depends on the correct management of income and spending. With the help of a financial adviser, the highly important task of making the right financial decisions can become a simple, efficient and fun process.

Experience around the world shows that the ability to manage finances efficiently is not directly linked to the level of development of a country. In this regard, it is important to mention the results of a survey conducted by the US Federal Reserve: 46% of middle-income Americans cannot afford to pay $400 for unforeseen expenses without taking a loan. Moreover, inefficient management of finances is not in direct correlation with the amount of one’s income: a habit of rationally managing one’s finances and not the amount of money plays a decisive role for middle and high income Americans.

A survey was conducted with the purpose of assessing the Georgian market’s readiness for the new product. On the question of whether a person should have savings, 100% of the surveyed answered affirmatively. However, the same survey revealed that 45% of those surveyed don’t have any savings, and 29% have GEL 500 or less.

According to the same survey, those who keep a record of their expenses in some form manage to save 25% more than those with equal income who don’t control their income and spend freely.

“You often meet two people with same income but have completely different financial situations. Along with lifestyle, character and impetuousness, the efficient management of finances is a crucial factor that determines a person’s financial status. We believe that every person deserves a healthy financial life and less stress. Therefore, we intend to create a product that will allow our customers – despite their geographic location, education, income and social stratum – to achieve the maximum with the funds that are available to them,” says Mirzikashvili.

The founders of Optio-AI believe that as much as it is important to make a habit of controlling our income and turning it into a daily routine, it is also crucial to make sure that this does not take a lot of our valuable time. However, the question remains: how can we make this process automated and simple as much as possible? In other words, how can a financial adviser with artificial intelligence replace a real advisor – a technological ‘type’ that can see your finances and have the ability to identify certain trends for managing them, and one that will analyze your behavior, and based on your spending priorities, identify a certain pattern?

Shota Giorgobiani and Giorgi Mirzikashvili’s business and friendly relations started long before ‘Startup Georgia’. Mirzikashvili has an MBA and Giorgobiani a master’s degree in Information Technology. Their first joint technological project was a web design and software studio called GMDesign. Mirzikashvili was in charge of marketing and sales, whereas Giorgobiani was responsible for all technical issues and most of the software. The company was founded in 2006, and for four years the business was going ‘not so bad’, by their own account.

The idea of the first Georgian financial chatbot came from personal experience.

“I never controlled my spending and had no idea what portion of my income was spent on unforeseen or repeat expenses. Hence, in the middle of the month, just like most of my friends, I always found myself penniless,” noted Giorgobiani. “Software that would help people manage their personal finances sounded very innovative for the Georgian market. Particularly in view of the fact that the majority of similar western companies only addressed the local markets, and some internationally-accessible solutions were technically inconvenient and time-consuming for the Georgian consumer. The accounting of expenses using Excel did not prove efficient either,” he added.

So, Giorgobiani decided to use his technical competence and 10 years of practical experience to create an unprecedented Georgian product for the local consumer. He started working on the Optio-AI project. However, the study showed that the market was not ready for this innovation, and the product seemed like an exact replica of what already existed on the foreign market.

A few years later, Giorgobiani and Mirzikashvili started thinking about the problems in the sphere of personal finance management. Only this time it was a joint endeavor. By that time, Giorgobiani’s professional resume included a few major IT projects for the banking sector and the Ministry of Finance. At this point, Mirzikashvili had extensive experience working in financial institutions and managing various projects. The assumption that Georgia would be more ready for the new product was based on the development of new technologies, like the overwhelming number of smart phones and the fact that internet banking had evolved into a simple consumer tool.

In view of the massive financial technological boom on the world market, a smart financial adviser is an ultimate innovation for Georgia. The authors intend to test the practical exploitation of the project first in Georgia, and later they will try to win the US and European markets. The European companies that exist now are only operating on the local markets, and are only oriented on budgeting problems. For example, the large American company called mint.com that was founded in 2007. Over 12 million people trust this company to do the accounting of their finances.

2017 will be entirely dedicated to winning the Georgian market. The first three to four months of the startup will be spent on developing a prototype for the financial adviser. However, the prize money from ‘Startup Georgia’ (GEL 100,000) is not enough for the completion of the project. So, the authors of Optio-AI will once again present their idea to investors, only this time in California. Giorgobiani and Mirzikashvili will have to finish working on the prototype before the trip. In the meantime, the work is progressing based on the weekly recommendations of the ‘Startup Georgia’ experts from Silicon Valley.

“The prototype will allow us to check and improve this concept in working, and make it more comprehensible for potential investors. Products are more reliable when they are finished. It’s like handing someone a cell phone and telling them to start talking,” says Giorgobiani.

Before the trip to California, there was Germany. Optio-AI successfully completed the qualifying contest for ‘Fincluders’, the startup challenge organized by the East and South Europe Development Fund. They were chosen among 15 selected teams. Their team had to fight for a place in the top three in Berlin.

They speak very emotionally, but at the same time convincingly: Optio-AI will say everything! But before Optio-AI says anything about itself and the financial prospects of its founders, both Giorgobiani and Mirzikashvili need to answer the following question: what was so special about their seven minute presentation at ‘Startup Georgia’ that prompted the investor to make a capital investment in the high-tech venture? Both Giorgobiani and Mirzikashvili believe that ‘the idea sounded bold and maybe a bit too daring’. They also believe that the timing was very good.

“The presentation itself was very important. The success of the presentation was based on our years of hard work and experience. Lastly, they liked us as a team – in terms of our potential,” explained Giorgobiani.

This is a self-assessment. The audience has its own version: the notion of creating the first Georgian financial chatbot already sounds intriguing. At the same time, Giorgobiani and Mirzikashvili found themselves in a leadership position thanks to their adventurous, cheerful and broad-minded personalities. Their credibility and daring approach to the idea doesn’t leave any room for skepticism. Your only choice is to follow these two and befriend a smart financial adviser Optio-AI on your messenger. 

ARTICLE IN GEORGIAN.

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