Tiebe Parmentier, CTO & Co-Founder, Tekst

Tiebe Parmentier is one of the Co-founders of and CTO at Tekst, an AI automation platform that customizes models to customers. With a background in Computer science and natural language processing, Tiebe is always looking at how to make things work, for real.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Tiebe shared his professional trajectory, what sets Tekst apart from other market competitors, personal source of inspiration, the secret sauce behind his success, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Tiebe. Please give us an overview of your background and career to date.

Hi, I’m Tiebe Parmentier, I’ve had a keen interest in computer programming from a very young age. I took computer science as an engineering degree at university, and that’s where I got heavily involved in AI. This was before the GenAI boom happened. With some friends I trained an AI model to bring structure to our personal – and overflowing – inboxes. At one point, we crashed the university’s servers, but it was all good fun and the experience inspired me to start Tekst.com, together with my friend Wouter Janssen, whom I’ve known since primary school. Tekst.com is an AI platform that lets enterprises that work with large, shared inboxes efficiently prioritize, route and answer customer and employer’s requests. I love the combination of data science and Generative AI, and I’m really excited to see our customers get value from AI. There’s simply so much more to AI than chatting with ChatGPT.

What originally attracted you to entrepreneurship?

My first encounter with ‘AI for work’ was at my summer job: I spent 2 summers working at Robovision, an AI company that helps farmers by for example using computer vision to sort tulip bulbs. It really opened my eyes to the value that AI can bring to existing industries. I did quite a bit of research to see where enterprises have an ‘unmet need’, and many of the business leaders I talked to mentioned B2B communication, and email in particular, as being a pain in the …. Every company has various databases like ERPs or CRMs in place, but getting the raw text-based input from customers and employees into those systems is always a challenge. It takes a lot of manual work, there are many chances for error, and the type of work tends to be repetitive and stressful. When I saw the potential of generative AI, I knew many issues could be automated, but as an engineer I also knew that it wouldn’t be an ‘out of the box’ automation. AI models need to be specifically designed to work with the existing business processes, and once trained, the models require retraining. That’s where the value of Tekst.com lies: it helps enterprises automate in a structured and safe way, incorporating feedback without extra effort.

Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any present or past business leaders, and how?

While Satya Nadella or Elon Musk have a spark of brilliance / madness that definitely is inspiring, I have to say that in my case, my mother influenced my entrepreneurial journey immensely. It being Mother’s Day in Belgium, let’s have a big shoutout to all mothers who help their children step outside of their comfort zones from an early age!

What is the origin story behind your startup Tekst? What sets it apart from other market competitors?

Ah, that’s always a fun question. Tekst.com is unique in creating a ‘data layer from text’ specific to a company. This makes what we do structurally different from more generic solutions, and it allows our customers to tackle very complicated back-office automation tasks. Customization of the models for each company allows us to go much further than others.

What are some of the industries that AI will most impact over the next decade?

AI will impact every industry, but the most important improvements will not always be the most visible. Data governance, machine learning, the more back-end automations… that’s where I see AI benefit all so-called traditional industries. All cases where AI can run in the background without it looking like AI.

What should entrepreneurs know about AI?

That it’s not magic. Neither a magic bullet nor a magical demon creature. AI is a means to an end, and it really is the time to get fully involved. Making stuff work is about 200 things done right instead of 1 trick.

Apart from AI, what technology are you most excited about right now?

If it wasn’t for AI, I would be deep into cybersecurity. I find it fascinating how small things can have such profound effects on a company’s attack vector and I would certainly try to make things more secure.

What, personally, has allowed you the success you have had in the role of a leader in technology?

Working with young people as a leader in summer camps has definitely helped me :), but on a more serious level I’ve benefited from having access to advice from experienced managers and CEOs. Then again, it’s a lot about learning as you’re doing it, so every day teaches me new things.

Where or whom do you seek motivation and inspiration from? How?

Motivation comes quite naturally to me. I’m excited about the technology we’re building, that feeling really keeps me going.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Honestly, 5 years seem so far away. By next year, I’ll have a better grasp on that question.

What piece of advice would you give to aspiring AI entrepreneurs?

Write down a few bullet points about where you want to make the difference and stick to it. There are so many options, so many opportunities, but it really pays off to stay laser focused on the path you have chosen. Stay strong and keep going.

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