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Introducing ChatSME, South Africa’s first large language model for business owners

Retail Capital, a division of TymeBank, proudly announces the launch of ChatSME, a groundbreaking Large Language Model (LLM) designed to empower and revolutionize how South African entrepreneurs grow their businesses. This first-of-its-kind generative AI (Artificial Intelligence) model aims to provide easy access to valuable knowledge and resources, fostering growth and success in the vibrant, and crucially important SME (small medium enterprises) community.

In a world inundated with search engines, online learning platforms, and digital tools, accessing business information has become easier, but not necessarily safer. For many business owners, concerns about the risks associated with OpenAI platforms and potential leaks of proprietary information have prevented them from fully capitalizing on this much-needed technology. Moreover, the expenses linked to developing tailored and secure tools, often stops the adoption process before it starts. Recognizing the need, and identifying a gap in the market, Retail Capital has introduced ChatSME – an innovative solution aimed at democratizing access to information, expertise and time-saving technology. The ChatSME project empowers all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in South Africa, not just Retail Capital’s customers, to unlock the benefits offered by ChatGPT, Bard, and similar technologies but with more security, more direction, and more relevance and more up to date information on the market.

“We know, that while business owners are idea rich, they often find themselves time, resource and specialised expertise poor. This means they spend their time, in their businesses as opposed to on their businesses. And these are the people who stand to gain the most from productivity tools like ChatSME, for content generation, handling of routine tasks, and importantly data analysis for making well-informed business decisions, ” explains Erin Louw, Executive for Retail Capital Brand and HR.

Nesan Pather, the project lead on ChatSME at Retail Capital, stated, “With our BETA testing currently open for early users to trial, we are opening Retail Capital’s first-hand experience and industry knowledge to everyone, allowing all SMEs – not only our customers – to ask questions, get advice, and access tools to help grow their businesses. SMEs can find resources about managing finances, building a brand, or leveraging social commerce tools, all at the click of a button.”

ChatSME distinguishes itself by integrating all the content Retail Capital has created and curated over its 12 years as South Africa’s leading alternative business funder. Drawing from an extensive library of blogs, white papers, books, survey results, press releases, and emails, ChatSME provides small business owners with instant access to content tailored specifically for the South African market.

Miguel da Silva, Managing Executive of Retail Capital, emphasized the significance of empowering SMEs, stating, “The SME community plays an enormous role in South Africa’s economy, contributing roughly 34% to our GDP and creating new jobs, which is vital for reducing our cripplingly high rate of unemployment. We need to empower SMEs in every way possible to ensure their sustainability and growth.”

He further likened using ChatSME for having a dedicated business specialist on speed dial, always available to address any questions an SME owner may have. By harnessing this game-changing technology, specifically crafted to guide the SME sector, ChatSME promises to be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs, especially when it comes to finding the right source of funding for what your business needs.

While the BETA testing phase continues, Retail Capital are actively preparing for the phase one launch of ChatSME, aiming to make it readily available to South Africa’s vibrant SME community. LLMs (Large language models) represent the future, potentially replacing traditional search engines and becoming indispensable tools for professionals across sectors, providing tailored resources and information in response to user inquiries within seconds.

Karl Westvig, Chief Executive of Business Banking at TymeBank, expressed his enthusiasm for pioneering this technology, stating, “As the leading alternative funder in the country, we are excited to be the first company to create something with this level of technology for the SME community in South Africa. It is our hope that we can positively influence businesses and ultimately help drive the  economy forward”.

Retail Capital’s ChatSME is poised to revolutionize the way South African SMEs access knowledge and plan for business success. With a deep level of information and understanding available at the press of a button, the opportunities for sustained and successful growth within the SME landscape have just got more realistic.

Retail Capital is a proud National Partner of the NSBC

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