Jan. 5, 2023

Chatbot Startup Umni has already saved over 15,000 work hours for Clients

Chatbot Startup Umni has already saved over 15,000 work hours for Clients
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Can you imagine working as a hotel GM, being exhausted after working a 16-hour shift and then getting a call from a customer asking to translate to the waiter “to not put onions on the pizza”?


Sounds horrific right? Well Elitza Stoilova, founder of ai chatbot startup Umni, felt the same way. 


After watching a YouTube video on chatbots, Elitza, with no technology background, began a journey of improving business operations for 40+ companies in the Bulgarian market. By developing and providing conversational ai chatbot software, she’s on a mission to save 1000s of hours for clients and businesses. 


In this chat we learn how she got a job in the Pacific American islands, getting burned out from working 14-hour days, her love for zumba, and of course, creating an ai chatbot startup.


Show highlights:


1:00 – tell me about love at first site (with chatbot)

3:40 – chatbot paralegals

4:40 – how did you get to the Pacific American islands?

7:15 – you speak Bulgarian and Russian, you’re hired

8:30 – working as an animator at a hotel

10:15 – I lived 3 months without water and power

11:38 – getting burned out working 14 hour days

14:15 – did you have to bootstrap to get your company off the ground?

18:10 – what obstacles did you have to overcome?

19:35 – what do customers enjoy about Umni?

20:25 – what does implementation look like?

21:50 – her dream is to display her chatbot physically inside her store

22:55 – a favorite hobby that you enjoy?

Do you wish to connect with our special guest?

Visit the Umni website: https://umni.bg


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Connect with Eric:

Visit his website: https://innovatorscanlaugh.com

For the Innovators Can Laugh ne

Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:
Visit his website: https://innovatorscanlaugh.com

For the Innovators Can Laugh newsletter in your inbox every week, subscribe at https://innovatorscanlaugh.substack.com

Past Guests:
Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.
Additional episodes you might enjoy:
#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury
#53 Tzvete Doncheva - Overcoming barriers to get into a VC with Tzvete Doncheva
#50 V...


Did you know that having an ai chatbot on your website can allow you to automate up to 75% of your customer questions and inquiries. My guest today is Bulgarian entrepreneur, Ellie Solo, chatbot startup founder of Umni. This ai chatbot startup is a no-code platform that helps businesses create, manage, and train AI chatbots for their website without any technical knowledge.

Alisa has over 20 years experience in the hotel industry and has successfully created, developed, and implemented strategies when it comes to marketing and operations. Ellie, welcome to innovators. Thank you for the Victor inviting me to this wonderful podcast, Eric. Yeah, my pleasure. Okay, so I wanna talk about love at first sight.

Okay. But not the kind that most people immediately think of, but another experience that you had when you were watching a YouTube video about chatbot and paralegal. What did you discover and why did you feel that way, Ellie? Yeah, that's a long story and it comes from the time when I was working in a hotel in Maria Islands in Asia Pacific.

I was working during the high season, some 16, 16, 18 hours a day, and one night at two o'clock in the morning, I was so exhausted from my work and it was actually. All repeating, repeater and task the same questions. Customer ask. Just hundreds of customers that change in front of your face. You don't remember them.

The questions are the same. It's like a Groundhog Day, the movie , and the morning when I was in my car, totally exhausted, didn't have time to eat nothing. That day I got a call from a customer asking me to translate to the waiter to not put onion on the pizza, and I was like, Really, I had a break moment at that time and I promised myself that something has to change.

It's not normal to have such a waste of time for human beings. That's not fair to people that Buddhist jobs really believe me. So I stopped searching for various instruments to automate the communication, to put the information between me and the customer. So when the customer come to me, I'm okay to speak again, 16 hours a day with him.

But it has to have value for me to, as an employee. It has to make me want to go to job, learn new things, be a better professional. So during my job in hospitality, I was testing different instruments. Even Rob the first website myself, just to put information on, needed to share it with customers, . So really I was one of the first people.

On the islands doing, at that time it called, was called web marketing, not a digital marketing, because all the customers were abroad, other side of the ocean. Okay? So the only way to get to them was to go digital. I was writing tourist guide books, printing them, designing them, anything that I could do, but it was not enough.

and when I came back to Bulgarian and start thinking what's next? One day I was watching a YouTube video and they were discussing chatbot paralegals and how successful they got a job. Uhhuh . It's like, gosh, I don't know what chat bot is. But I know what paralegal is. I, if chatbot can be a paralegal, chatbot can do anything.

Let me see what this chatbot is. And that was my calling you laws from first. I was like, who are you? Well, what are you? But that's what I mean. That's what whom what I'm looking for chatbots. And that's when my part in Cbot war began. Okay? That's when the love started. That's when the attraction began. Now let's go back and we're still in love with each other,

Okay. Because you can program them to say the things you want. You're right. But let's, let's, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So let's go back before, because you said you were working in for a hotel and the Pacific American Islands. Okay. First, that's, that's, that's a little bit out of the ordinary because that's very remote.

It's an island that's very far from bulgar. And how did you get there ? First of all, through internet . I was searching for a job somewhere. Let me start from the b, from the point that I was a reporter and one day I did something totally crazy. I decided to work as animator in hot hotel in Turkey. So I dropped my reporter job in a newspaper by education.

I also am reporter, a new paper and TV reporter, and so I was like, okay, I, I'm just going to Turkey working as animator entertaining people. And that's when my journey into tourism recent began, because I really liked the job and I didn't want to go back to the newspaper immediately. So I start traveling using.

This type of profession, people in CORs and from Turkey I moved to Tunisia. From Tunisia, I moved to Morocco and at that time, that was 2020, the internet cafe became very popular. That was the time when actually internet became a mass service and people were kind of didn't have internet at home, so they had to go to internet cafe to search online.

I remember, if I remember doing the. Same thing when I was living in Mexico abroad. And you would have these rows of computers and you would pay like for 30 minutes or an hour. The internet cafes. Yeah, exactly. And that's what I was doing on my weekend, on my day off and weekends, I was going to internet cafe, confession, searching because I loved learning and I find a new instrument to learn just.

All different things and just click and you're somewhere else click and you're somewhere else. It was so much fun for me and I was like, okay, let's see what another place I can find doing what I'm doing right now, but somewhere really far away from here, from North Africa. And I found a job offer for, from the Tels in Vienna Islands.

They were looking for animator with the English and Russian. It was like, I'm Bulgarian in Africa and they're looking for somebody with the English and Russian. They would not hire me, but doesn't matter. I'll just apply. And that's how I ended up there in Maria Alice because they hired me. . Yeah, but gimme a ticket and I didn't know when I'm going actually

So did you have the interview over the internet? Like did you have a pre-interview before you went there? Just a phone call. . They call me, they say, okay, and you speak English, you speak Russian. Doesn't matter. You're Bulgaria and it doesn't matter. You are in North Africa. We'll send you tickets, so just wait for the ticket at home.

So I moved back to Bulgaria waiting for my ticket. I grabbed my suitcase and it was one way ticket to I don't know where, because at that time, 2020. There was no information online where Mariana Islands and you couldn't find them on any map in the world. They didn't exist. It was someplace, somewhere there in the middle of Certifi Ocean.

Okay, so like where I'm going and what if this is a scam and I would only run my ticket and 400 bucks in my pocket. I could be totally, yeah, that's, that's a little, that's a little adventurous, Ellie, if I say so myself, and I'm an adventurous person too, but I don't think I would ever or ever did anything like that.

So that's requires, you know, bravery on your part and the, that adventurous spirit. Now, I, I think I heard you say 2020, but this wasn't 20 the year. 2020, was this the year? 2002, maybe. No, year two. Year 2000. Okay. And then the other, the other thing you said that it was a position for, and I didn't quite understand you, I, it sounded like it wasn't a waiter, but it wasn't an entertainer, it was another term that you referred to it as Animator.

Oh, animator. Okay. Animator Animat. These are the guys and girls in the leisure results that are doing sports. Play with kids, do night shows. Stuff like that. That job like used for five years to travel? Yeah, in different countries. Those people make the experience at hotels. There's this resort in Bulgaria on the coast.

We went to it this summer and last year. And the best part about that experience where? Where the animators, they got our kids dancing on the stage. And singing and just having a really good time. And when we went back this year, we saw one of the animators and we were so, like, it was like seeing Mickey Mouse, like there she is,

We went to go say hi to her and we're like, you know, you really made our experience last year. And you could tell it was a sort of a joy that she got from just us letting her know that. Yeah, the food is one thing. The pools are one thing, you know, the room is one thing, but it really comes down to is, is the experience.

And that's something that the animators can make or break that experience. Okay. So you're over there. How long were you at this hotel and obviously you, you ascended because you went from animator to I guess the GM at some point. Exactly. How long were you exactly, were you there? I was on, I work at Li, Maria, Maria Islands for 17 years.

I got stuck there. I went for a year, hadn't got, it's so easy to get stuck in tropical islands. You know, there's no, there's no hurricanes or no natural. A big, you know, they are, they are hurricane. So even there was a H hurricane after each. I live for three months without water and power. So there are disasters there, but you learn to live with that kind of nature environment.

But the rest of the time you have 20, 24 summer around yourself and tropical fruits and the beautiful goon with fewer water, clean air. So, well they were a couple Tys, you know, , not, not the type of living conditions. And Sophia during the winter. Talk to me about the contrast right now outside of the wind zone.

Yeah, . So I went there for really for a short time, but somewhere after six months of working in this hotel, there was a job opening for sales and marketing department and I was like, I don't have any sales and marketing experience, but why don't apply. And I got a sales marketing position in the hotel, and that's when I started developing in sales marketing area and grew up to director, sales marketing, and then to a GM of hotel.

Oh, right. It took 12 years to become gm. Yes. Okay. Okay. Well, good for you. Okay, so. Now your gm, but you're getting calls at 2:00 AM in the morning from customers asking you to translate that you, they don't want onion, onion on their pizza and you're reaching a breaking point. You're exhausted. I you're getting to the point of burned out working 14, 15 hour days.

You discover that hey, chatbots is something new and can probably relieve some of the, the common inquiries and questions that, that you're receiving from customers. So you saw this YouTube video, you mentioned you're back in Bulgaria. What did you do next? What did you go from there? Yeah. That moment I applied for Foundry Institute Accelerator.

I, when I came back to Bulgaria, I was looking what to do. I ended up in the startup ecosystem here and I start hanging out. So just to, you know, you haven't been 25 years at home, so what you do, you try to network and find out where the world got. By the, by the time you were in tropical islands. Yes. So I ended up in the STEM topic system, start networking.

I didn't know what startup is, I didn't know what accelerator is. But when the founder institutes opened their season here in so ball here, it was like, Hey, let's apply. I gonna learn something new and I gonna meet new friends. . So actually my idea of getting Accelerator was not to start a company, which happened.

It was like, oh, let's see what will happen. . I was looking for my thing and my thing happened. Really on the second win with the accelerator, I had, I enter fathers to, with an idea about online booking system. Okay? Which is like 1000 960 50 in the world, I guess. But really I heard during at Accelerator from the mentors, I, I guess I heard the right questions and this YouTube video was just the right time, the right place hitting the right story.

And I had was like this, this hit, this is what I want to do. So what was next, the next four months in the accelerator, I work on the concept of Omni, the, the AI chat bots look for team people for. For the team, for people to join. Found my co-founder and I found my first customer. That's what happened in the four months after this.

Wow. That's my thing. . Okay, so you've got customers now, like hotels, I believe there's hotels and spas. You've actually got libraries. You've got dermatology clinics. There's even singers that I think is, that are using your, your cat bot. Yeah. But before we get there did you have to bootstrap everything to get this off the ground, or did you have to get investment right from the very beginning?

How can you tell us about that? We, we bootstrapped from the beginning. I, as a GM of , I had a pretty good salary, so I got, I had savings and I used my savings to start the company and to supporting the first month's free development. Okay. During first year of our work, we were noticed by Canadian Venture Fund, low vc, and they give us a small investment that help us go to the Dead Valley.

And what's the death? What's the Death Valley on the startup language? Dead Valley is the time between your lunch and your first. Customers start getting enough revenue to support yourself. Okay, so you know what the time you still, you are, you have more expenses than income and that's the time when most of the startups actually die.

Unfortunately, not having enough money to go through this period of technology development, company development, team development, and having Kara customers to support yourself on your own. Yeah. So how long, how long does that period for? For us was around two years we start supporting ourself. Plus we had this small investment from low vc.

And where, where did you find your technical, your, your technical people? Because your background is not necessarily coding or technical, correct. My background has nothing to do with technology. I told you I, my, my first job was a newspaper reporter. Yeah. So I u I studied journalism and pr. Then my second education was in hospitality management.

So I have nothing to do with technology, but I love learning. So I told you, I wrote my first website myself. I learn HTML to write a. To put the information for the customer somewhere there online. So I love technology. I think technology is really important in our life because the idea of technology is to release us from the routine so we can focus on ourselves and develop ourselves as potential.

Yeah, that's, that's my vision of technology and that's actually my personal motivation, why I'm doing what I'm doing. We have to give back time back to people. Yeah. So people can become better human beings and people. So where I found the tech people around yourself, I look into my network and that's where I found my co-founder.

He, he's an IT person with over 20 years of experience behind himself. And when I, when I work at the hotels in Mariana Island, I was looking for somebody to, for some IT projects. Mm-hmm. , that's of course I look back to Bulgaria. . So the guy that is my co-founder now and putting crime, let's say we worked together on various small projects, IT projects since 2003.

Okay. So when I look for a co-founder, I look, I look at him, and not only even before looking for co-founder, I had so many technical tasks during the accelerator that I couldn't understand. Yep. So I look for somebody. To help me and tell me, okay, what's written here? I don't understand it. Like I have to do some tasks, but I don't know what is technical specification of your mobile app was like, what is this?

Yeah. And I have like wait four hours to create specification, so I look for somebody to support me. I look at an, I call him because that's an IT person I knew and I could trust. She, and that's how he got. Involves in Omni. So he was in shadow shadowing me almost from day one, and soon he became a deliver into what we do and became the co-founder.

Okay. So during this time, this death ballet period, what other, what other obstacles were you facing? Because it sounds like you, you had some savings. You had your co-founder who could take charge of the technical aspects. Were there any other big hurdles that you had to overcome of Yeah, of course.

Looking for, I'm, I'm, although I'm sales, a marketing person, I, I knew how to sell hotel rooms and activities, but I didn't know how to sell and promote software. Is that Yeah, yeah. Software product. and actually I had first to learn myself what is chatbot, how it works to create my first chatbot, to be able then to explain it to customers, to be able to translate the technology language into a human one.

Mm-hmm. , because one of, one of the challenges is for people that also, that didn't know anything about chatbot. To, to explain them in a few simple words, what is chat bot and why they need it. Okay. People were not educated. They had to get the information in a very simple way. So that was a challenge for me at the beginning, and I, five years later, I'm still learning every single day because the technology developed.

We develop what our team is creating and doing is changing on a daily basis. Yeah, that's, that's a journey. That's a journey. Personal journey and company journey and my own professional journey too. Okay. When customers discover Unni, what do they really like about it? What is one of the fav their favorite things?

Ellie, what I see every time when I talk to customer and or do a demo, the reaction is a hundred percent the same. Everyone's like, oh wow. But that's so. Like some, when some people, when people think about chatbot and ai, and especially when they think about ai, the first, first idea that come in their mind is like, I'll be back.

You know, coming here. So they, people think that this is something very, very expensive, very complicated, something that they cannot do themselves. Something that will take them a lot of time and efforts and they have to learn a lot and become professionals in some magic there. Cause ai. It's neighboring too magic for most people.

And when, when they start experiencing creating their first jump during the demo training and stuff like that, that's what is the first reaction. They're like, oh my gosh, that's so easy. Okay, so how easy is this implementation? Does it require their IT people to be to get involved? No, actually we, I'll give you a sample with one of our customers customers.

She is an owner of a small beauty salon. When she delivered first, first baby, she said, oh, I have a lot of calls and I have a baby, and I can not handle it. I need. Automation. So she came to us. She wanted to create a beauty salon, chabo, and basically she did it in one week between feeding her baby, going outside with the baby for a walk.

Yeah. And telling her customers Wow. That's it. You know, one week she had a chatbot and she, she's so happy now with it because just a few numbers. Now a hundred percent of the bookings go through the chatbot, especially for promotions. Some 40% of the customers are chatting and making appointments through the chatbot nighttime, and she said she doesn't remember when was the last customer who didn't show up for appointment.

Customer now can very easily cancel their appointment on time or change to date and time. So she doesn't have no show up. She doesn't Bible. When was the last time we didn't show up for the appointment? And she, she said now her dream is to have her chatbot physical presented physically in the beauty salon.

So she's thinking on putting some box there or some human-like toy and put that iPad. With the chatbot. So the chatbot can handle the customer inside of the beauty salon physically there. . Yeah. She wants to wait next step. That's her dream now to have a physical chatbot inside of her beauty salon. That is an awesome.

So that, yeah, that's an awesome story. Do you know how many hours she's probably saving a week. If you had to guess. I'm wondering. I am not sure how many hours she saved per week, or per month with her chatbots, but I know recently we did a calculation. Our chatbots currently this year and the year is not over yet, just by the end of October, actually saved over 15,000 work hours to their businesses.

And we calculated like one to five minutes per customer. But we know that our customer, our chatbots are saving up to 12 minutes per customer. So we talk about 15 to 30,000 hours this year. Yeah. Saved hours. That is Thousands of work days. Absolutely. Thousands of work. Absolutely. Yes. Anything that can, that can save you time and make you more productive is a, is a win in my, in my book.

Okay. A few more questions before we wrap it up here, some personality questions so we can get to know you better. Ellie, first question, A favorite hobby. That you enjoy whole Papercraft Papercraft? Yes. I love doing things with my hands gluing, creating 3D objects, making scrapbooks, making cards. So when I was on Maria Islands, I used to have my own studio.

And even on the weekends I was doing for PEs, for for women to teach them how to do different 3D objects and. Various craft. So I really love crafting. Okay. And another, my hobbies is Zumba Fitness. I used to work seven years as an instructor, Zumba fitness instructor, really on Maria Islands. I love Zumba, I love Latino.

And if, if I hear the music, my body start dancing before even I know it , you must have like this never ending energy. You're working like 14, 16 hour days as a gm and you're teaching Zumba at the same time. Really? Yes, I was doing early morning classes and late night classes, and usually I will change my clothing in the bathroom, in the Huddle hotel.

So a GM is walking in the restroom and a girl is getting out with all bright colors, jingle bells and things like that over. For the lobby to the Go Gym Fitness for Myk lessons, that's, that's something that brings me joy and fun really, and makes me relax so lot. Okay. That is so awesome. Next question for you, and it's a fill in the blank question.

Blank is the most valuable lesson they have learned in life. Blank is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life. Yes. I'll ask for with the story, the word. Do it, but I'll answer with the story. You know, I, I'm corporate girl, so when I had to make the choice to go to create and have my own company and just jump into, I don't know where I'm going, that was really a fear time.

I had a lot of thoughts and I was like, no, would I do it? How I gonna do it? I don't know anything. That's totally area of. Out of my comfort zone and my brother asked me a question, so what's the worst thing that can happen to you? It was like sale. He said, that's not the worst thing. Like what's the worst thing that can happen to you?

I was like, Hey, what will happen after that? He was like, yeah, I'll become a GM of HA again. So he said, is it that scary ? I was like, you have nothing to lose to try. You know, we always gonna go, can go back to your old, whatever you do, and whatever is your comfort zone, whatever is your profession, and you know what to do.

But you never will forgive yourself if you don't try. You don't know what's on the other side there for you. So that's, that's one question my brother asked me. What's the words that can happen to you? And the short answer is just do it. Yeah, that's the most valuable lesson I learned. Do it. You never know what the other side have for you.

That is I love, bless you. I love that story because he makes you look and realize what is the worst thing. Okay, I can fail and I can go back doing something that I'm, I'm actually good at. So yeah. I love that story. Great story. Alisa, thank you so much for coming on the show. For everybody listening, this is.

Ellie story, Lova, founder of Ummi, and I will put the links to Ummi and the show notes. And it was a pleasure having you on the show and getting to know you, Ellie. Thank you, Eric. Thanks for your invitation. Yeah. Alright. Thank you so much for coming on everybody. Until next week, have a fantastic week, and if you enjoy the show, tell others about it and you can also catch it on YouTube.

All right.

Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it if you could give us a review and star rating. Also, don't forget to sign up for the ICO newsletter@innovatorskalaugh.com where you can get the bio and details of each guest. Thanks