Attractive has raised a $1M seed round, lead by the Finnish VC, Superhero Capital, being one of the first investments from their new fund. Other investors include Tue Lumbye (founder of BetXpert), Jaakko Salminen, Tatsuro Shimada and Keisuke Honda (Japan’s #1 footballer).
We reached out to Kristoffer Lawson, Attractive’s Founder and CEO to dig a bit deeper.
Kristoffer, you are on the frontlines again?
The old saying goes that startups are always about timing. Personally I’ve never liked to be a follower but trailblazers have the downside of having to, well, blaze that trail. A trail full of brambles and body-swallowing swamps. I remember when we were starting with Holvi ‘fintech’ was barely a term. Why on earth would any startup want to create a bank? We literally had to explain to investors that the banking industry was an order of a magnitude larger than gaming companies, with technology that was so out of date they had to pay extra for developers with the skills and willingness to touch any of it. We made many mistakes along the way, which other followers could then avoid. Holvi succeeded only by avoiding death several times. In Solu we faced an even greater challenge in bringing a whole new OS to the world and a whole new UI. We knew it would be an uphill struggle — and it was. Ultimately we had to close the company, but many of the ideas linger. You can see them in Apple’s Touchbar, for instance, or in their new iPad mouse feature.
Looking back at those times, some might criticise our timing, and certainly when it came to financing they were right. There were a few key investors in both companies that were willing to take the bets, but both companies struggled in no small part due to lack of resources and also, in Holvi’s case, unique circumstances in some markets. But fintech became a thing. A very big thing, and investors started pumping serious cash into the new generation of unicorns. However, I don’t believe either company had fundamentally the wrong market timing. Holvi came out at a time when the respect for traditional banks was at an all-time low. For Solu we could ride on an existing app ecosystem (Android), but were also seeing signs of stagnation from the big players, and frustration from people following them. By being those trail blazers, however, we certainly did not make our lives easy.
Tell us about the round and the momentum?
Attractive.ai has just closed a significant $1m seed round. We’re the first company in the world to holistically analyse user experience by machine, and with a model that can scale to cover the whole of the web. We have only just reached Level 2 in my 5 levels of Artificial Assistance, so there is much yet to do to fully convey our ambition, but we’re currently ahead of everyone.
I’ve been wanting to work with Superhero Capital for some time, it’s a great feeling to have a supportive investor with real entrepreneurial background and who you can be open with while building something as ambitious as Attractive. It’s the kind of relationship we’re incredibly lucky to have also built with all our investors. Regarding the Japanese connection, I believe there is a mental bridge between the countries that has been very underused. Japan also has this fantastic concept of ‘omotenashi’, or impeccable service, which we feel hasn’t been brought to the digital world, and it’s about time we do that.
Superhero Capital, and our other investors, have taken a significant bet on the team and the concept, and we have a duty as a team to deliver the best we can. We’ve approached many companies and some have been amazingly enthusiastic about working to improve UX, while others have been slower. So, as a trailblazer again, we constantly ask the question: will the jungle we are blazing through be so thick we won’t emerge through the other end?
Quite coincidentally Google has just announced something that will completely change the face of the web. They are shaking up their indexing algorithm to make it focus more on UX. This is a mission we know they have been on for some time, but given the nature and publicity of their announcement, this has to be significant. It means the search results everyone interacts with, daily, will be fundamentally different. As the only company actually preparing the world for this shift, could we just possibly have stumbled upon a clearing in the woods? One that would allow us to jump on our bikes and ride straight into glory?
Well, I’m sure the world will figure out some ways to serve us a few curve balls — to borrow a phrase from my American compatriots — but right now it looks like the world is out there, ripe for our taking, and we have the people and backers to make that happen.
How does Attractive work?
Attractive’s virtual assistant, Poe, encodes decades worth of product building and UX knowledge, all used to make the whole world more enjoyable. Poe can independently simulate how a human would use a service, without any prior configuration or setup, and generates well thought-out analyses about all aspects of the online experience, including navigation, engagement, language, layout and accessibility (including, but not limited to all the WCAG technical recommendations). It does this tirelessly and constantly, alerting about critical problems (performance, broken user paths), and creating regular analyses to help constantly improve online products.
The generated analysis shows screenshots of the key areas to evolve, with suggestions. Poe also constantly learns from changes customers have been making and by an ever-increasing library of interaction patterns.
Until now, Attractive has been mostly available to closed and paying customers, but we just launched a free version of the service, which can offer advice on a monthly basis.
Thank you, Kristoffer!