Taha Zemmouri, Eden AI: “It’s very difficult to project that far ahead in an AI world where developments occur in weeks, not years.”

This is only the third of our TakeOff interviews with startup founders, but already we’re seeing a pattern: listen to the market! In short, don’t cling on to your idea when users tell you that it’s not quite right. That’s just one message from today’s interviewee, Taha Zemmouri, the CEO and Co-Founder of Eden AI.

Following studies in AI engineering, Taha first launched a data science services company with his Co-Founder Samy Melaine. But, just to emphasise the need to listen to your audience, the pair soon spotted an opportunity to pivot.

You can read all about their journey in the interview below. But just to prove that Taha isn’t all about work, he added that he “loves volleyball, board games, and nice bike rides”. Enjoy the ride…

What’s your elevator pitch?

Eden AI simplifies AI integration for developers by bringing together the best AI APIs into a single one, allowing you to choose the most accurate, fastest, and/or cheapest provider at any time.

What made you launch a startup?

My co-founder (Samy) and I came up with the idea while initially providing AI services and working for a customer who wanted to integrate speech recognition into its internal tools. We realised how many suppliers there were out there, and how complex it could be to choose the right one and change if necessary. We initially developed an internal tool as a side project before deciding to dedicate ourselves fully to it.

Taha Zemmouri - EdenAI
Taha Zemmouri, CEO of EdenAI

What problem are you trying to solve?

The problem we’re solving is the complexity developers face in making the right choice in an AI API market that is evolving extremely rapidly, particularly so in recent months. In this way, we democratise access to these technologies for as many product builders as possible.

Can you talk us through your journey so far? What’s a major milestone you’ve reached?

Samy and I started out by providing data science and AI services between 2017 and 2021, working with various companies ranging from startups to major corporations. We raised funds in March 2022 from business angels who had launched developer tools (Datadog, Docker, Algolia, etc). We have since launched a robust product and will soon reach 20K users worldwide. The main milestone was the acquisition and retention of the very first customers.

Who are your main competitors and what distinguishes your startup from them?

To date, we have no direct competitors. What sets us apart is our particular positioning, where we don’t develop our own AI models but rather promote those of others. Our position as an AI enabler means that we work closely with all the AI API providers we bring together on our platform.

How has the startup scene in Lyon, France helped and/or challenged your own startup’s development?

Eden AI offers a service accessible to everyone worldwide. In fact, our main market is abroad (USA, India, Brazil, etc). However, we are located in Lyon, a French city that offers a pleasant living environment for our team members, as well as a number of schools and universities that train the profiles that will enrich our workforce as we grow.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and how did you overcome it?

We made a lot of mistakes, but fortunately, none were so serious as to jeopardise our project and business. A mistake to avoid for other startups might be going to investment funds too early. We’ve come to understand that VCs, with rare exceptions, invest in companies founded by repeat entrepreneurs who have already sold their previous companies, or startups already generating traction and revenue. In our case, we would have saved a few months by going directly to business angels willing to take a little more risk with their own money than VCs.

Where do you hope your startup will be in ten years?

It’s very difficult to project that far ahead in an AI world where developments occur in weeks, not years. But our long-term vision remains to develop the technological solution that keeps pace with the ongoing AI revolution, democratising the best of the best for as many people as possible. In particular, this means being able to address larger companies and offer them services that meet their high standards.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time?

The advice I’d give myself is to try and talk to way more people than we did at the beginning. We made much better progress when we multiplied the channels of discussion with our prospects and users: community on Discord, direct emailing, chat on the app, etc. It’s with all this feedback that we’ve recently improved the product, and perhaps we could have moved faster if we’d done it earlier.

What would you say to potential investors reading this interview?

We’ve worked well since our first financing round with business angels and currently have excellent traction. Within the next few months, we plan to raise a further seed round with a VC, ideally with one experienced in companies developing APIs, developer tools, and/or AI solutions.

What are the key factors contributing to the success of startups in France?

We’re still a long way from success. But we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by successful entrepreneurs, including our own investors, and I think the two most important things I’ve observed in them are firstly persistence and a high level of resilience and optimism. It’s a quality that you don’t find in everyone, namely the ability to carry a project through for years without being too affected by the multitude of difficulties encountered.

The second quality, it seems to me, is an ability to actively listen, and not remain limited to an idea you’ve built up at a given time.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone looking to launch their startup?

I’m fond of an Arab proverb that says: “The wise man is the one who learns from others’ mistakes”. Of course, it’s good to make mistakes and learn from them, but it’s wiser to talk to more experienced people and try to learn as much as possible from the mistakes they’ve encountered along the way. People are more willing to share their experiences than you might think.

Our thanks to Taha for his candid answers. And here are links to the two other articles we mentioned above:

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Tim Danton

Tim has worked in IT publishing since the days when all PCs were beige, and is editor-in-chief of the UK's PC Pro magazine. He has been writing about hardware for TechFinitive since 2023.