Goldman Sachs, known more for its Wall Street bankers than its technology, has just spun out the first startup from its internal incubator.
The company, a networking platform for employees called Louisa, was funded and owned by the New York-based investment bank until a few weeks ago, when it became independent, according to founder-CEO Rohan Doctor.
Now Doctor is hustling to grow his client base beyond the confines of Goldman, whose employees have used Louisa for the past two and a half years. The software automatically creates user profiles from an employer’s databases and pulls in newsfeeds to proactively connect people who might benefit from knowing each other, he said.
“Think of Louisa as an A.I.-powered LinkedIn on steroids,” Doctor, 42, said this week in an interview. “We have smart profiles and a smart network, and Louisa reads millions of articles a week from 250 providers and begins connecting people” based on possible deals gleaned from news, he said.
Under CEO David Solomon, Goldman has sought to speed up its digital makeover by hiring Google and Amazon executives and asking employees to pitch leaders on startup ideas. Louisa was part of the inaugural class of Goldman’s incubator program, which encourages employees with startup ideas to develop them in-house.
Doctor, a 17-year Goldman veteran who had stints in Hong Kong and London as head of bank solutions, got the idea for Louisa after landing a massive deal in 2018.
The elation of securing the transaction, a complex risk transfer between a bank and an insurer worth tens of millions of dollars, was followed by nagging questions: How did Doctor pull it off, and was it repeatable?
“The real answer was serendipity, happenstance,” he said. “It was dumb luck that me and another guy got thirsty at the same time, go to a [bar] in London and start exchanging information.”
There has to be a better way, thought Doctor. Professional services firms like Goldman rely on the expertise and contacts of their employees, but there’s a limit to how many colleagues anyone can know.
“This is costing companies billions of dollars in terms of missed opportunities, disconnected colleagues and fractured client experiences,” he said.
So he moved to New York from Hong Kong and began hiring programmers for his nascent effort.
The company’s name originally referred to Louisa Goldman Sachs, the youngest daughter of Marcus Goldman and wife of Samuel Sachs. But, seeing as how Doctor has to cater to competitors of Goldman, the startup’s name now refers more generally to a “renowned warrior,” he said.
Louisa has more than 20,000 monthly active users, according to Goldman, which declined to say how much it spent launching the company.
Doctor has begun signing up clients besides Goldman, including a commercial bank and a venture capital fund with nearly $100 billion in assets, he said. They will focus initially on a small subset of five or six professional services clients before broadening their efforts, he said.
He believes two factors make his startup especially timely.
The arrival of generative A.I. technology like OpenAI’s ChatGPT has created excitement in an otherwise subdued environment for technology firms, he said.
“What OpenAI has done is just phenomenal,” he said. “We can use it to sort of map out what’s in people’s minds and how they want to describe themselves in seconds.”
Further, remote and hybrid work has disrupted the way employees interact, creating the need for a networking platform like Louisa, Doctor said.
“The way it used to be done if you had a question, you’d lean back on a crowded trading floor and ask around,” he said. “Hybrid is here to stay, even at places that don’t want it, and asking around no longer works.”