Aug

Reality of Bootstrapping

Going after investors? Do you know that less than 1 percent of startups actually raise VC (or angel) capital, which means that the vast majority are self-funded. Yet the main reason for it simply lies in the inability of most companies to find investors.

Bootstrapping, however, has several strategic advantages for your company's future growth. Perhaps the biggest is retaining the majority of shares and control over the strategy and direction your company is moving towards.

It also teaches financial discipline. Bootstrapping at the start helps to understand the importance of  revenue and cash flow, as opposed to unabridged product development, and keeps you connected to your company's financial reality. Only when profitability increase do you then green-light new opportunities, increased risk-taking, and growth acceleration.

In reality, the founders are expected to be flexible.  While entrepreneurs have certain intentions and philosophies when they are starting out, a hallmark trait for successful founders is the ability to adapt to changing environments and opportunities.

Sometimes, that means waiting a long time to generate the financial metrics that really matter, revenue and profit. By challenging your leadership team to focus on building the business organically and figuring out how to make the company consistently profitable on a model that can scale without VC capital, you make your company more valuable to future investors.

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Pros and cons of automation

Automation drives forward the economy. It allows businesses to scale and service large groups of customers. Automation first appeared in traditional industries, such as cotton production in England in 18th century or car conveyors in the US in early 20th century. The automation replaced physical labor.

With the invention of computers automated systems began to replace intellectual labour such as math calculations. Most of the software applications we use today can be described as automation. Online payments processing, online tickets purchasing, tax returns software, computer games, search engines, and endless other programs are all examples of software automation system.

As a next step we are now aiming at automating human decision making processing and high-level intellectual activities, historically considered to be sole domain of humans.

 

One interesting aspect of automation is lesser quality of service compared to manual service.

This is to be expected. If we gain in quantity we lose in quality.The gain in quantity is what automation is about - it allows to reach out to a large number of customers. Manual product or service can reach out to individuals only. The price we pay for the ability to deliver product or provide service en masse is the drop in quality.

 

Sometimes automation is an obvious choice. This is when the gain, the scalability, hugely outweighs the costs, lower quality. Search engine is a popular successful example. In other cases, the advantage in not so obvious. Online travel booking offers fast service without leaving the comforts of the home, but it does not often deliver the best option, such as finding the cheapest flight, and therefore many people still use ‘manual’ travel agents.

 

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Artificial Intelligence of Chatbots: What Do You Need to Know.

                                                 

While Chatbots have been around for a little while now, their presence is more noticeable thanks to Facebook and Microsoft’s recent advancements.

Initially customers complained about the robot-like experience and the limited functionality of first generation bots and rarely found them useful. The customers were skeptical about how valuable in practice chatbots actually are, which has left recent AI vendors like nmodes with the task to combat the leftover stigma from the poor customer experiences and shortcomings of these initial offerings.

Chatbots, like an IVR?

We’re all used to calling into a contact center and punching numbers into a menu to be routed to the correct agent or service to address our needs. Interactive Voice Response solutions (IVRs) drive this interaction and are basically If/then routing trees that “listen” to the digit entered and “transfer” the user to the appropriate next step. While tremendous advancements in technology have brought voice recognition capabilities, those first generation IVRs were all about automated actions based on prompts.  Enter your account number, press 1 to speak to an agent, etc…

The first generation Chatbots are just like an IVR. They can respond to prompts to progress through a predetermined process or display some canned information like pricing, a contact number, route to an agent, etc., but that was about the extent of it. Still 1stgeneration Chatbots came with 4thgeneration expectations. While these basic functions have tremendous value to a business, the customer expectation is very different when dealing with a phone call vs. a chat session. Consumers have experienced IVR routing for decades whereas chat is still relatively new and is perceived as a conversation with a person, rather than interacting with a machine. Add on the fact that many vendors and consumers mislabeled Chatbots as Artificial Intelligence in the beginning and the expectation of a dynamic, responsive customer experience is even greater.

So it’s no surprise that customers were less than impressed with “Artificial Intelligence” that could only display simple answers and basic information. We were expecting Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey or KIT from Knight Rider, and we got a pixelated PONG instead.

Let’s talk…

Now, Artificial Intelligence has evolved to be integrated into Chatbots to deliver a more powerful user experience.  While these new versions of Chatbots coming out are powered by Artificial Intelligence, AI powered chat also exists independent of bots in some instances. Confusing? Yeah, I was too.

The beauty behind true Artificial Intelligence is its ability to recognize the context of a conversation and respond with relevant, contextual information dynamically. A customer can now “speak” to technology the same way they would hold a conversation and the AI has the ability to “read” the customer’s intent to provide information quickly and efficiently. No more are you limited to a set of canned responses. The AI can reach in to a wider array of relevant information to craft unique responses based on any number of criteria. While in most cases AI is still limited to a few topics per use case, the technology is growing quickly, making almost daily improvements in functionality and customer experience.

What is even cooler is that the longer the AI is deployed, the more it “learns” and improves the speed and quality of responses. So while the scope of AI interactions is limited at first, the maturity curve is quick, delivering an ever-improving customer experience without having to invest in additional people, processes, or technology. It really is like a “growing up” of technology, right before your eyes. 

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