South African startup DataProphet is collecting customers from all over the world with its artificial intelligence (AI) platform that makes manufacturing firms more efficient.
DataProphet was formed in 2014 when two friends at the University of Cape Town, Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopff, decided to use their knowledge of AI to start their own business.
The pair started off working as consultants within various sectors, before identifying manufacturing as a primary target.
“Over the years, manufacturing businesses have amassed a lot of data which is underutilised, in some cases, only collected for compliance purposes. Most manufacturers are still using traditional approaches to analyse their data, which were not built to handle the amount of data being collected nowadays, therefore sub-optimal,” Cronje told Disrupt Africa.
“Much investment has gone into setting up of infrastructure for the acquisition and storage of such data, with very little advanced analytics happening on it. You’ll, therefore, find that manufacturers are sitting on a lot of insights into their process within that data and the potential for a return on their investment.”
This presented Cronje and Schwartzkopff with an opportunity to develop a system specifically for manufacturing, that would detect defects and scrap in the manufacturing process, save on waste, and increase yields. This it did with its flagship product – OMNI.
AI is on the rise across Africa, and Cronje said DataProphet has been riding the crest of a wave.
“More and more industries are getting their feet wet when it comes to AI, and more budgets are being made available,” he said.
That said, AI projects are still seen as innovation projects, as most organisations are not sure of the results.
“Currently, AI is used to optimise processes – make them more efficient – but it does require the process to be in place. This will, however, gradually change as processes are built with AI in mind; rather than AI attached. So we will see a move from a manufacturer improved by AI, to a manufacturer built around AI,” said Cronje.
For now, DataProphet is being used by a large variety of clients, from foundries to car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. These clients are based in South Africa, the United States (US), South America and parts of Europe, with further expansion underway after the startup raised further funding last year.
“We were initially funded by a private investor, then secured VC funding in 2016 from Yellowoods Capital, before a further round, led by Knife Capital, was raised in 2018 to help us scale our operations globally,” Cronje said.