Hazy is an AI based fintech company that generates smart synthetic data that’s safe to use, and works as a drop in replacement for real data science and analytics workloads. Since 2017, Harry and his team have been through several Capital Enterprise programmes, including ‘Green Light’, a programme run by CE and funded by CASTS. They are also part of the portfolio of AI Seed, the fund co-founded by our CEO John Spindler, through which they were introduced to their lead investor and first pilot customer.
Q: Tell us about yourself – what’s your background, and how did you choose to become a founder?
A: I come from an engineering background, but have always been a generalist – I’m always interested in getting a few levels deep on any subject. Then I get bored and want to try something else – I’m not good at specialising! As an engineer I’ve worked in areas ranging from software development, to data science, to mechanical engineering as a student. I got into Hazy when quitting my last job a few years ago.
I ended up as founder quite naturally – it captures my generalised skills, and interest in learning about many subjects. My driving motivation is how as a founder, you’re constantly learning. I’ve learnt so much about the commercial side of things for example, tactical sales, engaging customers, engaging investors – it perfectly suits my always wanting to learn more.
Q: Tell us a bit more about Hazy – what do you do, and what is the problem you are solving?
A: We are a synthetic data company. We generate data based on our customers’ real data, and produce synthetic data sets that contain all the statistical characteristics of that real data, which is good because it means your data set is fully private.
It makes it much much easier and safer for companies like banks to use their data, when they don’t have to go through long approval processes. Banks’ problem is they have all this data and they want to get a lot out of it through market analysis – but they can’t! It’s interesting because challenger banks do this really well – they create products easily and quickly; larger banks are looking for ways to keep up. Creating synthetic data alleviates some of those problems.
Q: How was Hazy founded?
A: So about three years ago my co-founder and I quit our jobs at the same company – we both left completely independently, but linked back up again and decided to work on a few ideas. That is effectively when Hazy started – it quite naturally snowballed from there. I’d like to say we saw this big thing with data analysis that we set out to solve, but actually we just saw this problem in our previous company, and it just so happened that a year after we started, Cambridge Analytica hit and data privacy became a much more widely discussed issue. Another layer of the snowball was Microsoft choosing us as a company they wanted to back.
It’s been a fascinating process!
Q: How far into that process did you come across Capital Enterprise?
A: Mid 2017, we finished the Microsoft Cylon accelerator programme, and through that started getting intros with Nick Slater from AI Seed [an early stage fund with close connections to Capital Enterprise] and other investors through that. In addition, Capital Enterprise linked us with the London Co-investment Fund, which was also helpful.
Q: And how did you find being on an accelerator like that?
A: It was really good – a great testbed; When we went in we had the bare bones of an idea, and we came out of it with an accelerated progression of what that idea might develop as. And we’re still moodling away! Cylon was kind of a management tool to introduce us to dozens of people across various industries, people from automatives to banking – it was great to hone our ideas, a great step on our journey.
I also remember going into Cylon as an early stage startup, and thinking it’s great meeting tonnes of people doing similar stuff – It certainly has been useful to chat to other founders at other events and programmes like that.
Q: How did you find the Greenlight Programme?
A: It was a very light touch programme, one session a week or a month, or a couple per month over two months – which suited us. It was very useful, it got some good speakers in, some VCs.
One session does stick out in my mind; it was a really open-hearted open session with Chris Haley from 0.1 Ventures. He gave a really good, open and honest intro to how VCs think. We met a couple of VCs through Cylon but they were sort of a relatively new beast to us – so that was a really useful insight, I haven’t had a huge amount of similar sessions since.
Q: How have you found working with AI Seed?
A: Yeah they’ve been a big part of our journey, they’ve been fantastic. Great networks, and they’re always trying to hook us up to customers and other investors. They actually got us our big break with Microsoft via their M12 micro-venture arm, and that has really been a big thing for us. They’ve invested in each of our rounds in some capacity since then – they’ve been really good for us.
Q: You’ve also had a student placed and part funded by us through our Cap AI programme; and I gather he’s still working for you?
A: Well actually technically he was already working for us before we got the funding! But it was very useful having a contribution to his salary, a not insignificant contribution. Yes he is still working for us – he is a data scientist, and works on building new algorithms for us.
Q: Are there any other ways Capital Enterprise has helped you that we’ve missed?
Yes! Also through Nick, we got an intro to the innovations team at a large bank. We ended up running some proof of concept trials for them – that was really useful for us, as a first bank we were engaging with. We learnt a lot about that process along the way with them; that was a fantastic introduction which we wouldn’t have got without Nick.
Q: How do you still keep up with CE opportunities? Are you signed up to our newsletter?
A: I read the occasional newsletter, yeah!
Q:Would you recommend other startups get involved with Capital Enterprise?
A: Yes, of course!
It’s a big supporter of the ecosystem, a great network, and always trying to help. I’d definitely recommend other founders get involved.