Gathering high-quality customer feedback is critical, but let’s face it – surveys often garner responses as insightful as “it sucks.” On the other end of the spectrum, conducting 1:1 customer interviews provide illuminating perspectives, but simply don’t scale. Enter Merlin. The San Francisco-based startup provides the best of both worlds using the power of conversational AI. Merlin essentially bridges the gap between lackluster surveys and intensive 1:1 interviews by creating a scalable, natural language-powered research assistant.
According to founder Alfred Wahlforss, Merlin’s AI “digs deeper” by asking intelligent follow-up questions, uncovering more nuanced feedback in a way only humans could do before. This helps companies move beyond surface-level insights to truly understand customers’ needs, motivations, and pain points at scale. Merlin conversational assistants are available across modalities like text, web, and phone.
From a technical perspective, Merlin is built on Azure OpenAI Service, leveraging the inference layer of GPT-4 to power natural conversations. Key factors that led Merlin to choose Azure included low latency and enhanced reliability. Merlin’s conversational AI works through a multi-step process to have meaningful dialogues. First, the user answers an initial question. Merlin then retrieves the appropriate context for that user from a Postgres vector database to inform its next response. The user input and context are analyzed by Azure OpenAI’s GPT-4 model, which suggests an intelligent follow-up question. Finally, the full conversation is processed using Merlin’s proprietary natural language embeddings and fine-tuned large language models to extract nuanced insights. This technical workflow allows Merlin to dig deeper in customer conversations and uncover granular feedback at scale.
Alfred himself was inspired to create Merlin based on pain he experienced first-hand gathering customer insights for previous companies. He found surveys provided only superficial data, while 1:1 customer conversations delivered tremendously rich insights—but couldn’t feasibly scale. He realized conversational AI could essentially replicate responsive human interviews while broadly reaching customers. Once he had the idea, he soon discovered other founders shared this frustration, confirming the strong need for Merlin’s solution. The ability to ingest sensitive customer data securely on enterprise-grade infrastructure was also pivotal for their B2B target customers. Access to $150k credits from Founders Hub enabled Merlin to take more risks, run pilots, and land larger enterprise customers.
Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub members receive Azure cloud credits that can be used towards a variety of Azure services, including Azure OpenAI Service, as well as expert advisory from the team at Microsoft to build and deploy their solutions. Founders Hub is open to all startups and takes just minutes to apply – sign up today.