At this year’s Concept $5K competition, three University of Waterloo roommates returned home with a coveted $5,000 prize to invest in their growing startup.
Kevin Cheng (Mathematics), Neil Liu (Computer Science), and David Zhao (Accounting & Financial Management) co-founded Flowy to meet a growing demand for faster, easier process documentation by companies seeking to automate their operations.
Zhao first developed the idea for Flowy during a co-op experience. “Companies hire teams of consultants to spend months interviewing users in order to manually create pieces of process documentation that may still be outdated and inaccurate,” he explained in the opening minutes of Flowy’s pitch to the panel of judges at Concept $5K. Most companies are eager to automate repetitive, manual tasks in departments like accounts payable and human resources, he adds—but first, they have to pay a small fortune to document the processes that need to be automated.
“We at Flowy have found a solution,” says Zhao. “We’re creating software that will automatically create process documentation for businesses in a way that’s highly accurate and cost-effective.”
When Zhao came home from work with a seed of inspiration for Flowy, Liu and Cheng used their skills to grow it into a working software program. “Doing something like this requires a lot of practical experience,” says Liu. Co-op roles at Google and other software companies gave him the expertise he needed to code a prototype for Flowy. “I created software that tracks that actions that users perform on screen,” he explains. While Liu used his coding skills to get the project off the ground, Cheng applied a mathematics lens to the equation, and sifted through data to identify common patterns and make process maps that our clients can understand.
After months of painstaking work, the trio created a working software program. “In two weeks, our software can detect patterns in workflow and automatically populate a piece of process documentation that would take a management team upwards of six months to produce,” explains Liu. In their Concept $5K pitch, the team estimated that Flowy could save companies up to 75 percent of the time and cost it takes to automate.
By focusing their efforts on documenting processes rather than implementing automation software, the founders of Flowy aim to carve out a unique niche within the automation sector.
“So far, we’ve received positive feedback,” says Zhao. “We have two demos in our pipeline as well as a letter of intent from an insurance company looking for us to help them with their accounts payable processes. We’ll use the winnings from the Concept $5K competition to really perfect and customize our software to take us to the next level.”
After the trio graduates, they will join local accelerators and incubators to help propel them forward. They plan to embark on their first paid pilot in March 2020, and grow their funding and staff throughout the year to reach $100,000 in revenue by November 2020. Their dreams for expansion are lofty, but they’re confident in their ability to achieve them. “Together, we have the technical and operational experience to make Flowy a huge success,” says Zhao.