Paul Shepherd, a serial entrepreneur, is founder and chief executive of We Build Bots, which has developed an AI platform designed to save hours of frustrating phone calls through automation, chatbots and voice assistants.
As part of a new series of interviews with fast-growing tech businesses, I spoke to Paul for some insights into how he had grown the brand in an increasingly competitive market.
Voice technology will be the biggest sea-change in tech since the birth of the smartphone. Over the next 18 months, the screenless interface is going to be massive. That’s what the research says and that’s the direction we’re heading in – as well as developing chatbots, we’re now starting to build voice experiences.
AI is going through a hype cycle. It was the same with big data, and before that everyone was putting media or mobile on the end of their business name. It’s the same with any kind of tech and eventually the hype dies down. I think that’s when a lot of these companies that aren’t necessarily doing what they say they do with AI will fall away.
People just want to get things done. Companies are starting to understand that there’s a place for chatbots, voice assistance, and automation in general. There’ll be good and bad experiences with them. But as long as a chatbot does things more quickly than was previously possible, then it’s doing its job.
Tech entrepreneurs don’t need to be techy. Not in terms of knowing how to actually develop the product. But you do need a really good understanding of what techy people in the business do, the challenges they’re likely to face and what’s possible. In my experience the important thing is to have an understanding of the sector, the opportunities and how tech can exploit those opportunities.
Plan to raise finance early on. If you’ve got an idea and want to scale a business, then you need to go into it with one eye on raising finance. I didn’t do that with an earlier business I started as I was impatient to get it started. And eight years down the line, we were still a medium-sized agency. But with the two software companies I’ve since founded, they’ve both raised finance in a fraction of that time to become bigger, more profitable businesses.
Crowdfunding fills a gap between angel investors and VCs. It worked really well for us. You get exposure to a lot of investors you wouldn’t otherwise meet. You get asked lots of questions and can give really well-considered responses as you’re not put on the spot like in a pitching environment. But if you’re think you’ll just raise money then it won’t work. You need to work hard at it for the full 60 days.
Paul was speaking to Chris Marshall, editor at BrandContent. Get in touch if you are a tech entrepreneur and would like to be interviewed as part of this series.