2016 has been a good year for chatbots.
If you’ve been following the chatbot craze as closely as the iNovia team, you’ve heard that Kik, Facebook and Google are all getting on board. You might have even tested out a chatbot or two. I’ve made it a personal mission to test them all. Poncho gave me the weather forecast, Luka invited a trivia chatbot to a work conversation, and Fatherly’s Dad Joke Bot appealed to my (admittedly) unsophisticated sense of humour.
Messaging is innate to me. When I got my first cell phone, I had a strict limit of 30 texts a month, a far cry from the 30 messages an hour that I now send over iMessage, Slack and Snapchat (my three most used apps). Since entering the workforce, I’ve become slightly less phone call phobic, but the majority of my communication takes the form of messaging. I organize dinner plans over Messenger, send selfies in Snapchat, and test the boundaries of my friends’ affection by spamming them with Bitmojis. I’m platform-impartial, but firmly in favour of rich text. Yes, I’m a typical millennial, but I’m also a passionate advocate for the expansion of messaging into the commercial realm.
As an Analyst at iNovia Capital, I spend a lot of time interacting with startups, engaging with their technologies and predicting value creation. Recently, we’ve seen an increasing number of these startups develop or enable chatbots. As I was digging into the space, one of my earliest insights was the relative simplicity of building a chatbot. If I’ve had a conversation with you over the past few months, I’ve likely told you:
“It’s not technically challenging to build a chatbot. An engineer can get one out in a weekend! The real challenge lies in tackling natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning or finding a valuable use case.”
Surprisingly, last Friday was the first time an entrepreneur ever pushed back on that statement and asked me if I had ever built a chatbot. I hadn’t, but I had spent a lot of time that week researching different builders and platform connectors. So I finally found the inspiration to build a chatbot!
Meet Sarah – a chatbot version of me, whose sole purpose is to engage with startup entrepreneurs.
After 90 minutes of tinkering, Sarahbot was ready for testing! I invited Facebook friends and Twitter followers to help identify any glitches and share their feedback. After a weekend of minor adjustments, Sarahbot has officially proven she’s up for the challenge of helping me connect with tech entrepreneurs.
iNovia believes in engaging with our entrepreneurs in the channels that are most convenient for them. Our distributed team model is tangible evidence of this commitment. I joined iNovia to expand the Kitchener-Waterloo presence, and I’m excited to bring a second team member on board. Welcome Sarahbot! My goal is for her is to enable yet another communication channel between myself and local entrepreneurs. Try her out and tell me what you think! Sarahbot can be reached at m.me/sarahatinovia.