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Carefully Crafted to launch AI for biz

New Taffy Tree software set to go in 2024

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Generative artificial intelligence exploded on the business scene in 2023, both worldwide and locally.

Many business leaders recognized AI’s potential for streamlining certain office functions, and they began tinkering on their own with popular large language model platforms, like ChatGPT.

Locally, Springfield-based digital design and development firm Carefully Crafted LLC has jumped to the fore with Taffy Tree, a new AI platform designed with a suite of functions that can replace multiple applications while serving businesses. The creators say users don’t have to reinvent the wheel by prompting and refining basic ideas with an AI chatbot.

Carefully Crafted LLC quickly responded to the growth of AI, which an August 2023 McKinsey Global Survey found a third of businesses are now using at least weekly. The company’s custom AI platform. Hey There, launched in May and provides users with avatars that give specialized assistance through a chat function. Taffy Tree veers that general-use technology sharply left into a business-only lane.

Hey There’s avatars – referred to as personas by the company – have names and faces and areas of expertise, like creative marketing, project management, event planning or even being a unicorn.

Taffy Tree builds on the avatar approach with a team of AI business professionals that the founders say can take the place of a hire or two.

“It makes Hey There look like a toy because it was a toy,” said Scott Blevins, one of the co-founders of Carefully Crafted.

Blevins said the company’s new release, Taffy Tree, is probably much more interesting to business users, and while the idea of incorporating AI into business is new to many, it’s old hat to Carefully Crafted.

“The software we’ve developed is something we’ve been working on for a long time,” said Brad Jones, Carefully Crafted co-founder and software developer. “We’ve been working on it for three years and using it to run our business for the last year.”

Blevins shared some jargon from the development world: eat your own dog food. It means building an application for yourself and using it so you can identify and fix problems along the way. Carefully Crafted has been eating its own dog food, correcting annoyances identified by its employees and finding ways to save time.

Taffy Tree is scheduled to launch in beta form on Jan. 1, 2024.

What it does
The McKinsey Global Survey on the state of AI released in August shows one-quarter of C-suite executives say they personally use generative AI in their work. Some 40% of respondents indicated a plan to increase their investment in AI.

Taffy Tree’s website states a business’ files, documents and tasks can be kept together on one platform, and AI is integrated throughout. Customer relationship management is a particular focus, as is proposal generation.

Blevins said the list of tasks performed by Taffy Tree includes AI integration, proposal generation and creation, customer relationship management, document creation, spreadsheets, project management and revisions, PDF creation, PDF custom themes, file and contact management, e-signatures, project management, time estimations and tracking, scope creep monitoring, reporting and AI prompt building. The company is also testing the integration of AI insights, allowing a user to upload a photo and ask AI to analyze it.

“It’s full business software,” Blevins said.

Taffy Tree costs $399 per month, according to Blevins. Custom onboarding is not required but is available for a one-time cost of $3,499. Blevins said the company can create a persona for the business owner and create templates, processes and systems that are available to an adopter out of the box.

The founders say Taffy Tree can replace multiple office tools, including applications with monthly subscriptions. Users can log into one application for multiple uses, replacing Google Docs and Drive and Microsoft Teams, as well as project management and communication software.

“By the time you’ve put together everything Taffy Tree can do, you’ve got 15 (software as a service) subscriptions, all of them bleeding you for $50 or $99 a month, but they’re not aware of each other, so good luck gluing that all together,” Jones said.

Additionally, the invented personas that Carefully Crafted worked on for Hey There have graduated into something new: personalization for the people who use them.

“That’s what’s cool about the personal aspect – now you can get a head start on content, and it’s written in the way you would write it,” Blevins said. “It sounds like you.”

With Taffy Tree, a persona can be trained to adopt its user’s tone, so a writing task matches the style of the user.

“I trained this model off of some of my existing writings, and it identified that I have a semicasual, friendly tone,” Blevins said. “I make jokes, but not overly so. I’m humorous, but not in-your-face slapstick. It really picked up on some of the nuances of how I write.”

When a piece of writing is finished, Taffy Tree can put it on fully customizable letterhead, he added – whether that’s a tidy and formal logo document or a splashier format.

Blevins said ChatGPT allows users to chat back and forth with a large language model with prompts for the job that is expected.

“You would have to be very specific in order to get it to do things like create a chart or do something to a document,” he said. “Most people aren’t super great at writing prompts, but we can take your initial prompt, feed it into AI, and it will take all the context cues and format a prompt for itself to perform a task. It can keep refining that in an automated fashion.”

Jones compared Taffy Tree to a project management platform like Basecamp, Hive or Monday.com and noted those are not set up for CRM, electronic signatures or some of the other functions Taffy Tree can do.

“This is project management plus everything else,” Jones said.

Taffy Tree can keep up on work done with a client and provide status updates on a project. A chat function is built in so that team members can communicate.

Because it’s based on AI, Taffy Tree also offers integration among all of its applications.

“This is actually a patent-pending thing, but we are the first that I’m aware of to have such a context-aware document editor,” Jones said. “When you get into your document, you can attach projects, proposals, tasks, and the document has access to all that information. It understands, ‘I’m a document that belongs to this project.’

“That’s something you’re not going to find in Basecamp.”

Early adopter
Marko Schmitt is the owner of New England-based Guiderly, a company that coaches professionals making a shift to entrepreneurship, and an early user of Taffy Tree.

Schmitt said the ideal market for the platform is owners of agencies that do project work for clients.

“It’s people who have two to 10 employees and are using a suite of applications to take care of everything from proposal generation, contact management, getting e-signatures,” he said. “Right now, most agency owners are using a bunch of different apps that don’t necessarily integrate.”

Schmitt described Taffy Tree as a seamless app that keeps track of where things are.

“With proposal generation, a bunch of people’s hands have to touch it on an agency level,” Schmitt said, adding that the proposal then has to go out to a customer for revisions and signatures. “With Taffy Tree, the agency owner has a seamless tool, and the more they use it, the more valuable it becomes. It develops processes and procedures that can be replicated for all clients.”

A problem identified with AI has been named hallucinations. It happens when large language models like ChatGPT invent information or citations whole cloth, rather than locating information in a reputable source. ChatGPT’s creator, OpenAI, was sued this year for libel that occurred when made-up information about a court case was reported upon in the media.

Blevins said Taffy Tree has been instructed not to hallucinate.

Another common criticism of AI is that it can’t replace human creativity. Jones pointed out that he is one of a small number of developers doing the kind of work he does, so his time is better spent serving current clients and refining applications than doing tasks AI is capable of handling, like writing proposals.

Blevins said there are a handful of users on board with Taffy Tree already in its pre-beta stage, like a Springfield-based asphalt company he didn’t name. Clients come from throughout the United States, however, like Schmitt’s Guiderly.

Schmitt called Taffy Tree future forward.

“When you buy Microsoft Word, Salesforce or any one of those other enterprise applications, you’re buying a legacy product, designed a long time ago,” he said. “They offer a legacy of processes and functions and features that are the way it used to be.”

Taffy Tree, on the other hand, is brand new, Schmitt said.

“Brad and his team know things are going to be changing rapidly; that’s their job. They keep the features of Taffy Tree fully up to date, starting today,” he said. “Clients will be able to ride on top of that instead of having to go and be where the friction is and try to make things work with older ideas.”

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