Rachel Martin caught up with Allan Gray, founder of Cosmient, to ask a few questions about his experience of the AI Foundry programme.

Company background

Allan Grey portrait, Founder of Cosmient

Cosmient was created in 2017 as a vehicle for technology research and development, allowing me to pursue my love for technological innovation after selling my prior business.

We later evolved into venture builders working on internally developed and unrestricted ideas and occasionally, contributing to external ventures in our close network. From conceptualisation and financing, all the way through to launch, we’ve worked in areas such as the world’s first UHD space video streaming satellite (launched with SpaceX), VR training for space tourism, treasure ship location and recovery in Iceland, and a few novel projects in between.

During the course of our venture development, we designed and built a prototype of a generative AI technology that is so ground-breaking and transformative that we have spun it, along with 100% of our resources, into two new startups that will help to power the future of immersive e-commerce, both in the real world, gaming and the metaverse when it truly arrives. One focuses on the core AI technology and the other develops a future pipeline of customers.

Cosmient is a great place to be. Everyone is given a seat at the table and encouraged to speak up. Our days are mostly spent brainstorming, designing, and developing our new products but now we’re starting to focus on sales and marketing.

What were the highlights of the course?

Cosmient’s sole purpose is to execute this vision. Receiving such high-quality advice and assistance at the perfect point in our journey has allowed us to make great strides with some of the tougher aspects related to the more complex elements of our product. It’s like possessing a time machine.

How has being on the course helped you as an individual?

It’s not easy to start a company; just ask any founder. Because of the multiple roles I play and the limited resources at my disposal, I appreciate anything that may be done to support Cosmient.

How has being on the course and the further support through the technical assist helped your business? (For example, efficiency improvements, unique selling points)

It has aided Cosmient in becoming investor ready, as acceptance into phase two provides an additional level of confidence, given the selection criteria.

This anticipated benefit was realised, and University of Salford was able to expertly evaluate multiple ways to solve our challenge, resulting in a feasible solution that can be expanded into a commercial product.

Is there anything you do now in your business that you wouldn’t have otherwise done?

In a way, but in reverse. An essential component of the work done by University of Salford was determining which approaches did not work and why they did not work, which will save us time and money during our own research and development.

Would you recommend the GM AI Foundry to other people? Why?

The apparent benefit of accelerating feature development within the product is obvious, but there is a level of kudos that comes with this collaboration. It is offered in two stages, the first of which is a commercial and technical evaluation of your proposal. We were helped by some of the best minds on the cutting edge of AI research. Getting accepted into phase two not only provides us great comfort, but it will also offer our prospective investors more confidence in us.

Have you had any recent successes in your business as a result of the programme? (For example, winning new business, recruiting new staff)

The University of Manchester gave us a fully financed, nine-month internship role as a direct result of our participation in the programme. This implies that we now have more resources to continue developing the technology into a commercial product.

Furthermore, our involvement in the GM AI Foundry has already provided Cosmient with an opportunity to pitch to investors at Zebox, a European innovation accelerator that will operate a UK-based accelerator next year.

With the assistance of University of Salford, we were able to focus on another use of our technology, which has already been launched as a private pilot on the Shopify platform. Cosmient AI automatically personifies products into digitally sentient characters on Shopify, making consumer interactions incredibly social and engaging.

Instead of scrolling through static text and photos connected to a product, customers can converse with them as if they were real individuals. The items are self-aware, but they can also chat about life, the universe, and whatever else a customer wants to discuss.

Shopify companies that sell wine, for example, can have their wine bottles speak directly to customers. Each wine is aware of its own characteristics, such as flavour profile and food pairing profile, but it can also hold human-like conversations about life in general. To accomplish this, the store owners just checked a box; no code is required.

Do you have any advice for other small to medium-sized businesses?

I would strongly advise them to investigate whether they can use AI technology in their organisation, but to be cautious not to deploy it only to be able to wave the AI flag. AI is not required to tackle all problems.

What was the best thing about your partnership with the universities?

The effectiveness of the assistance we received and the indirect benefits that we are occasionally presented with.