Go Big. Or Go Home.

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Go Big. Or Go Home.

by:
last updated:

Document intelligence company Base64.ai unveils its new A Team and strategy.

Last year I was briefed by Ozan Bilgen, founder of the IDP startup Base64.ai. Before launching the company in 2020, Ozan worked as a software engineer for Microsoft, PayPal, Netflix and Uber. As he tells the story, everyone thought Uber was a super-automated operation through its apps and the cloud. But behind the scenes Ozan saw the truth, a Mechanical Turk scenario where millions of documents had to be processed by humans. For example, to onboard tens of thousands of new Uber drivers, a human worker had to review and validate each and every driver’s license. Ozan experienced firsthand how Uber teams were blocked for days at times due to manual data entry problems such as typos, expired documents, and glare/blur problems from mobile cameras.

Ozan brought this real-world understanding of document processing to his startup. By 2023, Base64 had grown to 15 employees and became a highly-respected provider of document AI tools to Tungsten Automation (former Kofax), Eigen, Expert AI, and other software companies. My impression at the time: here was yet another brilliant technology startup without a competitive go to market (GTM) team and plan. Base64.ai was a solid little company with top AI talent and exceptional document AI tools, one that I would recommend to larger software companies and system integrators. 

Fast-forward to June 2024 and Base64.ai has gone big on GTM. I recently caught up with the new CEO Chris Huff, who I met when he was the Chief Strategy Officer at Tungsten Automation (Kofax) and one of the architects of their transformation into an intelligent automation company. Chris, who brings an infectious positive energy along with his peerless network of business contacts, briefed me on the new business strategy and positioning.

The first and really big change is all about the new GTM people. Chris and Ozan assembled an all-star roster to lead Base64.ai into the future. The new CMO Jeff Thomas worked executive marketing roles at Salesforce, Microsoft, H-P, and IDP industry player Indico Data. The new chief revenue officer Matt Mallette brings over ten years of enterprise software sales experience including time at Oracle. His new team includes SVP of Sales – Americas, Mike Chasteen, former SVP Sales at Tungsten and OpenText, and SVP of Partner Ecosystem Chris Maertz, formerly a channels executive for AI leader Instabase, Pegasystems, and Tungsten.

A different type of Logo slide

What’s in a word?

The second key change is to position the company away from IDP and into Document Intelligence. Yes, it’s only a clever play on the words already in “IDP”; but this messaging tweak will help Chris and team to create some daylight between Base64.ai and the very crowded IDP pack (see my latest blog on that), by positioning the company into the much larger AI conversation. Their addressable market slide shows aspirations to move beyond the $3 billion IDP market* into the newly defined $151 billion “AI-enabled workforce” market. Let’s be clear: that market could be just another Gartner hype story and never reach that. But there is no doubt that Base64.ai’s opportunities could be much larger outside of the little IDP corner.

Big team, big message: what about the product?

So there you have it. Base64.ai now has a big story and a big GTM team. Is the product big enough yet to match the effort?

From what I’ve seen so far, the core platform of document APIs has all the functionality we expect from an end-to-end document processing platform. The company claims to understand over 2,800 document types out of the box meaning the platform can work across industries. What are they doing with LLMs and GenAI? In 2023 Base64.ai was one of the first vendors to show us a generative AI (GenAI) integration with a voice-enabled user interface – which I tested, and it was very cool. The company has since added integrations with your choice of LLM and retrieval augmented generation (RAG) to power its document understanding and analysis tools.

The technology is very good; but the go to market challenge will be daunting. Base64.ai will find itself competing not only with better-known legacy capture products such as Tungsten TotalAgility or ABBYY, but also with document AI APIs from the AI giants (Google, Microsoft, AWS, Oracle, Salesforce) and well-financed AI startups like Instabase and Hyperscience.

To wildly paraphrase another cliché, Ozan had the foresight to bring big guns to the gunfight instead of knives. We all tend to focus too much on the AI tech, and often overlook that B2B software sales are still a people to people game. Base64.ai has hired the A Team. Expect Chris and team to disrupt the IDP partner ecosystem and land some big deals soon.

* from the Deep Analysis IDP Market Report 2024-2027

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