Four thoughts for our fourth birthday

It’s not a milestone birthday, but damn, turning four is still really cool. Here's my reflection on four things the market tells us that we got right at NLX.

Andrei Papancea

  • Thoughts by Andrei

It’s not a milestone birthday, but damn, turning four is still really cool. We’ve done so many awesome things in our short time at this company, and we’ve learned a lot along the way that got us to the place we are today. As one of the three co-founders, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on four things the market tells us that we got right at NLX.

#1 Culture: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” - Sir Richard Branson.

I could speak about company culture for days, and in fact, we spend a lot of time focused on this key element, but I’ll keep things concise. In the past year and a half, we have grown from a company of three co-founders doing everything, to a diverse team of 25+. While we’ve added more members to our team, there are several things that remain consistent:

  • We are open, brave, and inclusive with everyone we interact with and in everything we do.
  • We treat people well and we treat people like adults.
  • We encourage employees to try new things, and if it fails, fail fast, learn from it, and move forward.
  • We don’t hire jerks. Hard stop.

In short, we are an employee-first company. I believe that creating an environment where employees can come to work as their full person, where they feel they can contribute ideas, do good work, and ultimately add value to the company, while also knowing they are valued. As we grow from 3 to 10, 10 to 25, and 25 to 100 or more people, maintaining and growing our diverse and inclusive culture will always remain top of mind for me. 

"You know there is something special about a company when employees are inviting their friends to work here and there is NO referral program." - Melanie Vargas, NLX Human Resources Consultant

#2 Customers: Being an employee-first company is what allows us to remain customer-centric. Happy employees with a strong culture of support extend our culture to our clients so that they can build the best customer service experience for their customers. 

This creates a positive feedback cycle: our employees are happy to work with our clients, our clients are happier working with their customers because their customers are happier with the client, who is then even happier with us.

Take Copa Airlines for example. The pandemic brought on numerous challenges for the airline, which led to a large increase in irregular operations where both employees and passengers needed to be aware of and communicate about changing flights. Against a customer expectation of 12 weeks, NLX huddled closely with the Copa team and in two weeks (that included Christmas and New Year) we delivered a production-ready solution for Copa Airlines that they could immediately implement. Using NLX, Copa Airlines was able to delight its customers and employees with a dedicated solution that enabled a self-service experience in real-time, overcoming the frustration and impact of unforeseen irregular operations. This made Copa Airlines happy, and they conveyed this happiness back to us in a few different ways that continue to be helpful to the business. 

But more than a happy feedback cycle, our customer-centricity is baked into our product - after all, our tools are built to give the best possible experience for our client’s customers, and the client simultaneously. As we continue to evolve our products and our customer approach, that centricity will remain, though it may look different over time as we grow our capabilities for our customers.  

#3 Focus: As a startup, there are so many shiny objects you can chase - it’s exhilarating looking at all the opportunities that pass in front of the company you built, and realizing everything is within your reach if you just put a little more time and money into it… 

However, in this world where you can do anything, it’s most important to ruthlessly prioritize where time and money are spent. Simply put: Doing stuff is just as important as not doing stuff.

For example, enterprise-class Conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding tools need to be very versatile. We recently considered adding features to enhance NLX products for a client looking to use our tools in a different way than intended. We weighed the opportunity against the known efforts and costs and finally decided to let the client know the features they requested were outside the scope of our product’s core mission. The client appreciated our honesty, and we refocused on features and opportunities that better fit the market we’re built to dazzle. 

At NLX, we’re regularly evaluating our focuses, pivoting, and shifting priorities to better position NLX in the marketplace, in front of our customers, and to investors. Some days, we don’t always get this right – I’m not sure that anyone really does daily – but setting goals, reflecting on past situations, asking questions, and asking if those questions are the right questions, continue to help us remain on the right path. 

#4 Partnerships: One of the bright opportunities we chase and continue to focus on is partnership. Specifically, our AWS partnership. We are an AWS Advanced Technology Partner, a Travel and Hospitality Competency Partner, and one of only seven Conversational AI Partners. 

Our technology augments AWS offerings like Amazon Connect and Amazon Lex, allowing organizations to quickly and easily transform customer contact into automated, personalized self-service experiences. We also solve a key element of no-code/low-code that is missing from the AWS product portfolio. Sold together, this creates a mutually beneficial relationship that has proven fruitful. AWS’ team of sellers affords introductions to large companies that we might not ordinarily be able to access. The end result is a triple win - for the customer, for AWS, and for ourselves.

Many CEOs and leaders have shared similar thoughts and lessons such as the one I’ve stated above… and it’s one thing to learn these lessons, but it’s another job entirely to implement them in a way that makes your company stand out in a fast-emerging industry. Having another successful year under our belt is a strong lead indicator that we’re going about integrating these lessons the right way. 

And so, to that, I say cheers NLX - to the great four years past, and many more to come.

Andrei Papancea

Andrei is our CEO and swiss-army knife for all things natural language-related.

He built the Natural Language Understanding platform for American Express, processing millions of conversations across AmEx’s main servicing channels.

As Director of Engineering, he deployed AWS across the business units of Argo Group, a publicly traded US company, and successfully passed the implementation through a technical audit (30+ AWS accounts managed).

He teaches graduate lectures on Cloud Computing and Big Data at Columbia University.

He holds a M.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University.