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Transformative Tech: Meet the Visionary Behind Genysys Engine and Wally, the Game-Changing Website Assistant

  • Publish Date: Posted 10 months ago
  • Author:by VANRATH

An exclusive interview with Women in Tech’s ‘One to Watch in the Future’ winner discussing the transformative power of AI and the journey behind Genysys Engine and building Wally, the groundbreaking website assistant!

This week’s Tech-sperts series includes the impressive Emma McClenaghan who recently took home the award for ‘One To Watch in the Future’ at the Women in Tech Awards for her work with Genysys Engine and their groundbreaking creation, Wally, the friendly website assistant.

In this interview, we delve into the challenges Emma and her partner Matthew faced, the impact of their technology on small businesses, and the future possibilities of their innovative solutions. Keep on reading to find out how Emma is reshaping the digital landscape with her passion and perseverance!

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Congratulations on receiving the 'One to Watch in the Future' award! How does it feel to be recognised for your work with Genysys Engine and Wally the friendly website assistant?

Thank you so much. I am over the moon to have received the award! It is incredible to be recognised for the technology we have built. It has taken myself and my partner, Matthew Eaton, four years to get to this point and it has not been an easy road. We have been turned down for most grants and were told by organisations across the UK that Wally could not be done and that there was no need for him - someone even called our technology ‘witchcraft.’

Now Wally is on the brink of being the first AGI website assistant in the world, and he has his own research paper coming out. Winning this award is super important to me because it is proof that you can make the impossible happen, against all odds, with a little perseverance and passion.

Can you tell us more about Genysys Engine and how it utilises Artificial Intelligence to impact the greater good of humanity?

Genysys Engine is an artificial intelligence startup based in Dromara, Northern Ireland. We help small and micro businesses create and manage effective websites with our website assistant - Wally. Wally replaces full teams of designers, developers and marketers, he uses AI to create websites tailored to each business's specific needs and goals. We were founded by both myself and my partner, Matthew Eaton to democratise website development by making it possible for businesses of all sizes to create professional websites without the need for specialised knowledge or skills.

This helps the greater good of humanity by giving any individual the ability to innovate and digitally transform their company. We live in a world where unless you have expertise and revenue, it is very difficult to compete. If we look at Proof of concept grants alone, we allocate public funding which all goes to software development to prove an idea. Costing between £35k and £120k. By removing human development, startups can test an idea for less than £2k, allowing this public funding to be allocated to scaling innovative ideas. Also, by removing the cost and expertise involved, we can add more diversity to innovation.

What inspired you to specialise in customer-focused website design and use data-based decisions to scale small businesses?

I believe small businesses make up the heart of our community. Throughout my life, I have held leadership roles and organised events and campaigns to help my community. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career, but I enjoyed marketing and organising events. I started my career as a free events intern and within 6 months I was Digital Marketing Executive. Receiving website visitors from Google is the most cost-effective way to bring traffic to a website.

As a charity, minimising spend and maximising donations were key. I see SEO as a big puzzle to be solved and at the heart of that puzzle was the website and customer experience. One day, I was setting up a Facebook Pixel to track conversions and received a quote from a local development agency for £2.5k, I reduced this to only £17.50 with my experience. This was the first time I noticed the divide between businesses with in-house tech expertise and those without. I wanted to help these businesses and started working freelance, traveling and working with small businesses worldwide.

How did the idea of developing Wally, the intelligent system that automates the website development process, come about? What problems does it solve for small businesses?

When I was working with these businesses across the world, it was time-consuming. I could only help 3-4 businesses at any one given time. As these businesses did not have the experience, I needed to educate them. Simple things like an image, would come in a Word Document which couldn’t be used. To educate them, give control and deliver transparency, we needed a way to automate the process. Wally was originally an internal tool to help us develop custom and professional websites quicker. We had built this in 6 months but at the same time the pandemic hit, and the online world changed. More businesses moved online in the hope to find their customers and cover their operating costs.

This increased competition for search results and Google was releasing a new algorithm update based on further customer experience. Building a professional website was not enough, it needed to be updated and maintained based on data to deliver value to the user. With small business owners, carrying out several jobs and not having enough hours in the day, they would create a DIY website, and push it to the side a few months later. They didn’t have the time, expertise or resources to pay an agency. Wally provides an affordable option for them to reach their goals online, have a steady stream of customers and build a brand without these limitations.

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Can you share with us how Wally learns and adapts every day to work with small businesses and help them reach their goals online?

Wally learns from the business information he is provided from the client, audience, competitor and industry data. He pulls all the information/data together to make the best decision-based choice to reach the small business's goals.

Clients speak to him just like they would a person. They can ask him for advice, rank them for a keyword, ask for article recommendations, create a page and much more. Wally then monitors the work he has carried out to find out how he could make improvements for the business to reach their goals.

You mentioned that Wally will transition from a reactive website assistant to a proactive one. Could you explain how this transition will occur and how it will enhance the user experience?

The transition is already in process, we have our own models which we are training with large amounts of data to complete the proactive process. It will enhance the user experience because they won’t need to ask for anything, it will predict their needs and solve them without being asked to. They will just need to approve the work, as they do with employees.

For the website user, it predicts their goals and intentions to change the website for them. This delivers a better user experience and helps them find what they are looking for much faster.

For Genysys Engine, he will continue to build applications to scale himself, for example for customers who have asked for an intranet system, Wally will be able to create this and add it to his own network to create the functionality, without me or Matthew having to design it, build it or research it - pretty cool right?

What are your plans for scaling Wally in the next 12 months? How do you envision giving individuals the opportunity to create and manage a website or app using voice, text, or media alone?

Our plans for scaling Wally are to make him proactive to help 136 million businesses. Businesses can already create and manage a website with their voice, text or media using Wally but he is currently only available on desktop. We will be including him on every phone and even adding the ability to speak to him via SMS, for underdeveloped nations.

How do you see Wally transforming the online shopping experience and making it similar to the brick-and-mortar shopping experience?

Wally personalises the online experience. When you go into a physical store, there is a sales assistant to help you with your purchase and personalise the experience for you. Wally does the same thing. He develops the website in front of your eyes so each user gets a version of the website bespoke to their needs and goals. For example, if we were both buying a car and you wanted a BMW and I wanted a Ford Fiesta, we would see different experiences. If the user is 80 years old or 13, they will see different content e.g. image vs video, tone of voice, words used, readability and much more.

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    As a female entrepreneur in the tech industry, what challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

The main challenges I have faced come down to Hardware and expertise. From my experience, the organisations in the UK are not designed for novel innovation but for applying innovation. Many of our grant boards are Accountants and Business Managers, which are super important for business but so are qualified Engineers who have been part of a founding team. For a person to understand something fully, they need to experience it. For example, if I described a Skittle to you, I could say it is delicious, juicy and sweet. But until you eat that Skittle, you won’t know what it tastes like.

Novel innovation is the same. If you look at grant funding in our country, innovative businesses like ours don’t get it until 6 years in. They need to create it before anyone understands it. Whereas, when you apply innovation that already exists e.g. an app, it’s much easier to understand as you require very little context. I have overcome the challenges by being tenacious and finding my moral courage. I stand up and voice my concerns when logic is missing and I built a product I could sell to fund my innovation.

What advice would you give to other young women aspiring to make an impact in the tech industry and create innovative solutions?

Find your moral courage. A lot of women in technology that I meet have very little confidence to speak up about issues and barriers in case they upset someone and lose opportunities. You cannot innovate if you do not disrupt. My second piece of advice is do not get into technology to make money, you need to love it. We work 90 hours a week to create our innovation, be sure it’s what you want to do. As stated above, it will take 6 years before you receive any funding.

What did you do previously and have you always come from a tech background?

I studied philosophy at the University of Dundee and fell in love with the philosophy of technology and how we can use AI to remove manual work so humans can focus on ethics, virtues and quality of life. I have always worked with technology, from phone sales, phone repairs, digital marketing, customer-focused websites and now AI. I have always been interested in Sci-Fi and had a computer from a young age. I was very lucky to have a Dad that worked in the IT industry so I had access to equipment before a computer was a staple in every home. I never saw myself building Wally or working in AI, as I wasn’t an engineer but AI requires all skill sets. The more diversity and experience we can bring to it the better it will be.


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