5 Mins with James Coombes, CEO of vector.ai

We caught up with James Coombes, the CEO of vector.ai, the SaaS platform that crunches and optimises your content to streamline your workflow.


Why was the business started?

We set up vector.ai because we care deeply about the human experience at work. We believe that monotonous tasks like ‘answer that email’, ‘key in that data’ and ‘find that piece of information’ prevent employees from spending their time on more valuable and enjoyable activities like delivering great customer service, learning new skills and driving growth.

Employees at freight forwarders in particular feel the pain of these monotonous tasks. They have to battle their way through cumbersome processes to handle cross-border transactions. This includes getting to grips with emails containing bills of lading, commercial invoices, certificates of origin, packing lists, arrival notices, customs declarations, export health certificates and more. Understanding and actioning them demands hundreds – if not thousands – of employee-hours to manually check and input the data into each forwarder’s systems.

We want to give time back to professionals so their ability to add value in the business can soar – and their job satisfaction at work can improve. That’s why we created vector.ai.  


How are you different? 

Many organisations pay lip service to AI and machine learning in some way, but we have built a business based on this technology woven into the core, which is why we’re so ground-breaking. 

We know how to apply AI in a real-world setting to automate operations and drive productivity. We do this by being incredibly focused on solving the problems that freight forwarders face. Our platform has the power to understand content and context, and turn this into actionable information, which freight forwarders can use to do all sorts of amazing things.

Our core belief is that people are a freight forwarder’s greatest assets, and if technology can give employees their time back to spend on more productive tasks, then that’s a win for everyone.




What have you learnt? 

I have learnt to always ask ‘why’. I enjoy questioning things and tend to chafe more than most at accepting norms that don’t make sense to me. Also, coming from a pretty nomadic family, I have been fortunate to have been exposed to many different cultures during my upbringing, which has allowed me to be more comfortable than most with the unfamiliar and the unknown. 

At vector.ai, the team and I are always challenging ourselves and iterating, from product to sales and marketing. No new approach is off the table. As a startup in the B2B space, our biggest advantage is our ability to adapt quickly and learn from our customers, partners and the market.

I have also learnt how difficult it can be for industry and societies to project forwards. We are only at the beginning of AI’s journey into automating established processes and businesses. This transformative technology still has much more to show us, which makes it hard to imagine its impact on the real world in years to come. The kind of stuff we are doing now, in hindsight, will just seem obvious in five years’ time.


What are your plans for growth? 

We’re on a pathway to rapid expansion in the freight forwarding industry. We truly believe no freight forwarder will be able to operate with technology like ours in the near future. The sky’s the limit.