How To Build An AI Unicorn in Six Years

David Nour
David Nour

Today, Tractable is worth $1 billion. Its AI is used by millions of people across America, Asia, and Europe to recover faster from road accidents. It helps recycle as many cars as Tesla put on the road in 2019. And yet 6 years ago, Tractable was just cofounder Alex Dalyac, left, and Raz Ranca, pictured, center, with Adrien Cohen, right, two college grads coding in a London basement. A year before that Alex knew nothing about tech. If it can happen to these guys, it can happen to others, so here’s the story & learnings.


Alex had seen software as dry, rigid, and frustratingly intangible. Finding that Imperial College offered a computer science conversion course, two months later he was enrolled for a September start. This surprised the housemates. “It says modules in ‘data structures’, ‘relational databases’ and ‘compilers’ — you don’t even understand what these words mean. Are you sure about this?”


  • Looking back, narrowly focusing on a branch of applied science undergoing a breakthrough paradigm shift — that hasn’t yet reached the business world — changed everything. If you want to be a deep tech entrepreneur, I’d do that.


  • It wouldn’t have happened without Adrien, their 3rd Tractable cofounder, who’d joined right after the seed round. Adrien had previously co-founded Lazada, an online supermarket in South East Asia like Amazon and Alibaba, which sold to Alibaba for $1.5B. Adrien would come to teach them how to build a business, focus, inspire trust and hire world-class talent. They had met three years prior when Alex had interned at Lazada; he’ll always remember sitting next to him at a team dinner in Ho Chi Minh City and bonding around his stories of photography and acting. Alex had got pretty emotional on the last day; he’d become an older brother figure.


  • Signing the first million-dollar customer contract changed everything. It’s rare for a startup to sign that size, so that’s when they really started believing again. By showing an insurer that their AI could generate $50 worth of speed and expense reduction on each of their one million claims, a $1M contract to get going was well worth it. By then, AI had become an exciting technology for the public, and Mitchell had made them credible. A year ago Alex had ducked under the table to stifle nervous laughter as Adrien asked a prospect for $30k/month, now he was bringing back $1 million of business to feed the Tractable family for months.

They were proud to be building a fast-growth business centered on cutting-edge AI, yet the team kept asking what our mission was. We’d say “to build a real-world AI business,” but as a team member pointed out over drinks, it didn’t help them impress the opposite gender. Even if that sounded a bit coarse, it was downright honest and powerful. It taught them that a great mission needs to be inspiring, not just personally but yes, also in social settings. Getting that right meant attracting and retaining the best talent.


Read the rest of this article in Medium


I wrote extensively in Curve Benders about the impact of tech on the future of how we’ll work, live, play, and give to others. It’s also a major theme running through the third edition of the Relationship Economics book I’m currently writing.


What aspect of tech do you believe will most profoundly impact your world? David Nour


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