The impact of COVID-19 on Industry
An interview with Sirma-AI
We interviewed ExaMode companies to understand what their main assets are and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their business. In this blog post we discuss with Sirma AI, a company helping enterprises identify meaning across diverse datasets and massive amounts of unstructured information. What are the main assets of Sirma AI and what changed due to COVID-19? Let’s find it out!
[Q] What are your main business and customers?
[A] Our core business focuses on tools and services required to build (enterprise) knowledge graphs. Target customers range from start-ups to large multinational enterprises. Besides, we also have special agreements with research institutions, whereas Semantic Web enthusiasts use the community-free versions of our products.
[Q] What is the impact that COVID-19 had on your business? Did the target customers of your products decrease, increase, or change due to COVID-19?
[A] The advent of COVID-19 did not impact our business significantly. There has not been a significant change in the customers’ pool and the downloads of our products are even increasing.
[Q] What type of employees do you look for? What are the skills required to work in Sirma AI?
[A] We mainly hire software engineers and data scientists. Regarding software engineers, we look for candidates with a solid experience in the company technology stack we use (e.g., Java, Angular JS, etc.). On the other hand, for data scientists working on our technologies (e.g., RDF, SPARQL, triple stores, etc.), the specific skills vary and could require a particular experience within different fields — e.g., Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning. Nevertheless, we prefer training data scientists internally.
[Q] Did COVID-19 affect your hiring process?
[A] At the beginning of the pandemic, the hiring process was put on hold. After the first wave passed, the hiring process resumed. Luckily, we did not observe significant differences in the overall hiring process.
[Q] In terms of R&D, did COVID-19 impact the efforts on in-developing products?
[A] The R&D budget was almost doubled and focused on future features/capabilities of our products.
[Q] How did COVID-19 impact teamworking, communications, and company social behaviors?
[A] There has been a significant overhead due to the increased number of online meetings. This resulted – and still does – in frequent overtime which worsen work/life balance.
[Q] Regarding research and conferences, what is the feedback on online conferences? Do you plan to keep attending conferences in-person after COVID-19?
[A] We have very negative feedback from our employees attending online conferences (with clear commercial profiles). In particular, all our senior employees prefer conferences in-person.
[Q] After the pandemic, do you plan to go back to normal or are you going to change old habits into new ones?
[A] The company is planning to switch to a normal working process as the conditions will allow it. However, the policy for remote work might become more flexible/relaxed.
Thank you for your time, one last question.
[Q] After the pandemics, what do you think will be the “normality” for a company? What positive aspects developed during COVID-19 would you keep after it, and what would you instead discard?
[A] We are focusing on three key aspects:
1) Increase remote work;
2) Better tools for collaborative work and communications;
3) Increase the number of contractors and partners.
So, this is Sirma AI and how it faced — and still faces — the challenges brought by COVID-19. You can find its main products at the following URLs:
Ontotext Platform: https://www.ontotext.com/products/ontotext-platform/