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Rise, Fall & Rebirth of Chatbots
2016-2017 was an exciting era for chatbots. All the major tech companies made a dash to build chatbots. Satya Nathella of Microsoft proclaimed that “bots are new apps”. Naturally, a bunch of startups smelled blood and jumped in the fray. So did a bunch of early stage investors.
But, the excitement didn’t last long. Who could forget the debacle that was Microsoft’s Tay, Thinking About You, chatbot for Twitter. The tech publication Verge wrote about in their article titled “Twitter taught Microsoft’s AI chatbot to be a racist a****** in less than a day“. Microsoft had to shutdown Tay after a mere 16 hours.
Tay was not alone in the chatbot graveyard. In January 2018, facebook closed its chatbot M after it had revealed that M failed in handling over 70% of the user requests. So, you can begin to understand how complex it is to build a chatbot that could understand context and the human language. At one point over 100,000 bots were developed for Facebook messenger alone. Most of them failed too.
But, one startup from India defied these odds. Yellow Messenger is a b2b2c conversational AI startup that became a darling of enterprises. Yellow Messenger has been powering over 80 million monthly conversations on chatbots across over 250 clients around the globe. Notably they have partnered with Google and Whatsapp as well.
I spoke with Raghu first in early 2017 while I was scouting for chatbots and evaluate them for funding. Raghu respectfully declined and said he was currently not engaging in fundraising. Since then, he successfully built a 250 strong team at Yellow Messenger and grew the business 5X YoY every year since we first spoke.
Raghu has a calm demeanor about himself and strikes as someone with patience of a saint. I should know because we taped this episode not in one shot. We had to do it in two parts because I had a power outage. I obviously appreciate and thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule.
In this episode…
I covered a vast variety of topics with Raghu from building a defensible product in a hyper competitive space to his fundraise from Lightspeed Ventures. He also opened up about his challenges building the company over the past 5 years. Catch this and many more interesting musings in this episode.