Ben Stein is CEO and cofounder of Staple, a Singapore-headquartered AI company specializing in data capture, processing, and reconciliation in more than 90 languages. He is a chartered accountant with past experience at KPMG, Octopus Investments, and Entrepreneur First. Ben Stein has degrees in law and commerce and is a full stack developer. In this interview, he explains what his company has to offer and what’s next for Staple.
E-3 Magazine: What does Staple offer?
Ben Stein: Staple’s solution can read, interpret, extract and reconcile data from semi-structured and unstructured documents, regardless of layout or language. Currently we support more than 90 languages and we are helping customers process data-heavy workflows in Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Indonesian.
What problems does your solution address?
Stein: There is a lot of hype around big data, RPA, AI, and analytics and their potential to rapidly accelerate the digitalization of business. What many don’t appreciate is that these technologies can’t function without a core ingredient: clean, structured data. RPA and bots are fantastic innovations, but they can only work with structured data. There is so much reliance on data, yet enterprises struggle to access, unlock, and use it at scale because the data is not available in a standardized, accessible format. Without structured data, RPA bots cannot function, analytics tell an incomplete story, and information for decision-making is either out of date, inaccurate, or useless. Many businesses are unable to reap the benefits of automation technologies as they cannot cross the divide between structured system needs and the unstructured or semi-structured realities of business. It’s the classic adage of “garbage in, garbage out”. Unless meaningful, accurate, standardized data is ingested from the outset, RPA and automation implementations will fail. It’s important that digitalization agendas have proper regard for the “first mile of data processing”. And this is where our solution comes in.
Do customers need special technology to use your solution?
Stein: Staple can be used as a standalone tool, but it also offers integrations with SAP Concur, Xero and Quickbooks. Customers can either access Staple as a cloud-based (SaaS) platform or deploy an instance of our technology on premises or on a private cloud. Aside from an internet connection, nothing else is needed!
Why did you found Staple?
Stein: I previously worked with KPMG in Australia, Europe, and North America for almost a decade, then in various corporate positions in London and Singapore. After working with clients in banking, energy, manufacturing, and real estate, I noticed persistent inefficiencies in both enterprises and SMEs around data management. I left my CFO position at the time to explore how deep technology (“deep tech”) might present potential solutions to these inefficiencies. I joined Entrepreneur First (EF) where I met my cofounder, Josh, who is a PhD computer scientist. Together we met with more than 150 companies to understand their most pressing pain points, and we built Staple to address them.
How could your solution potentially help customers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and the different challenges of reopening?
Stein: Our core product offering is focused on process automation and acceleration. These objectives facilitate both in-house and remote working structures, and given most companies’ transition to a hybrid workforce, we have had no shortage of interest from prospects.
How are you connected to SAP?
Stein: Staple was a member in SAP Foundry’s Singapore Fall 2020 program, which included startups focused on making the perfect transaction in the new economy. Along with SAP Concur and other startups, we collectively offer solutions that can help enterprises to process, record, and pay the perfect transaction in this new economic climate. Staple is now also listed as a partner on SAP Concur’s App Center.
How has SAP.io’s involvement impacted your journey?
Stein: Our involvement with SAP.io has been invaluable in multiple respects. For example, we were able to identify new use cases across different industries. SAP.io and its affiliates were able to make various recommendations to enhance and improve the product and to facilitate adoption in different customer jurisdictions. Furthermore, SAP.io provided technical assistance with building our integration to the Concur platform.
What’s next for Staple?
Stein: We have a sharp focus on developing solutions that anybody – from the most junior employee to a highly technical CTO – can use. We’re working on tools that allow non-technical users to develop new AI models without touching a line of code. This introduces a level of flexibility that was previously out of reach for many users and empowers anyone to get involved with AI!
Thank you for the interview.
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