NEWS: Bot Design Firm Evolved Into Developing AI-Powered Web Chats. Botcopy Launches Its Software…
In 2015, Dustin Dye was running Expert Dojo’s startup accelerator in Santa Monica. He noticed how quickly AI was gaining traction in the community and saw the investment dollars fueling it.
Because AI and robots had been a lifelong passion of his, he felt the timing was finally right for him to leap full-time into the multi-billion dollar AI market.
He formed Botcopy, with two co-founders, with HQ in Santa Monica. They began building conversational AI tools for startups. Botcopy recently launched its debut software.
The other founders are Rob Lubow (CMO), an entrepreneur with a creative background, and Alexander Seegers (COO), a UX specialist, app developer and scrum master, essentially the facilitator for Botcopy’s development team.
Dye, with his extensive expertise in startup dynamics and finance, serves as CEO. Early on, his vision was to immerse his team in the process of building business bots for messaging apps.
A bot is a software application that runs automated tasks over the internet.
Finding the unmet needs in the messaging apps market was the first step.
He said the first one he found was for “good writing.”
“Naturally, engineers were the first to flock to AI and started building ‘robust experiences,’ but the quality of the verbiage was lacking,” Dye told OC Startups Now.
So he and his team, with their writing experience, provided character and dialogue “flourishes” with the goal of enhancing a chatbot’s ability to bond with users in a humanized way.
One early example of Botcopy’s successes in its endeavor to enhance language was Swelly, a bot that soared to the top of Facebook Messenger, with millions of users, Dye said.
Whether the team was creating bots built around button choices, known as “button bots” or “dumb bots,” or bots that can understand typed queries through natural language processing, known as “smart bots” or “NLP-powered bots,” the Botcopy team “immediately saw that excellent writing was table stakes for getting users to come along for the ride,” Dye said.
As Dye built more bots with his team, they leaned toward NLP bots.
“No matter how carefully planned the button bot arrays were, bot users tended to type queries and send the bot careening into a default loop, or the chatbot version of a brick wall,” he said.
Dialogflow – a bot building framework owned by Google – became Botcopy’s NLP framework of choice. Its capabilities include voice recognition, natural language understanding and text-to-speech capabilities.
Using Dialogflow is what led Botcopy to discover what it determined was another unmet need: There was no easy way to get a Dialogflow agent onto a website.
Dialogflow was 100% geared toward social media channels, Dye said.
“While messaging apps are a vital part of the bot ecosystem, sites still played a role, and big brands were looking for web chat solutions that were custom branded and could support rich media and didn’t require mandatory logins, such as with a Facebook Messenger web plugin,” he said. “The only way around this limitation was a complicated and expensive custom build that many companies weren’t willing or able to take on.”
So Botcopy looked to capitalize on that and became a software company virtually overnight.
While still offering custom builds as a service agency, Dye and his team pursued their vision to create software that helps companies connect Dialogflow to websites in minutes, not months.
“We were our (own) first clients,” he said. “We need this technology for our website as well as for our clients’ websites.”
Once the software beta launched and attracted Dialogflow developers and enterprises from around the world, Botcopy’s next goal is to integrate the software with other leading NLP-based frameworks, such as Amazon Lex, Microsoft Bot Framework and IBM Watson.
“Creating a good agent on Dialogflow takes time and talent,” Dye said. “Botcopy rewards these creators with a super-easy way to showcase their Dialogflow agent in a rich web experience they can be proud of.”
Since the software launched, only 40% of users are from the U.S., which Dye said he was surprised to see.
One of Botcopy’s clients is in OC, but he declined to disclose who it is.
Dye and his co-founders started the company three years ago. At first, it was a bot design firm. The team’s initial market was gaming companies and influencers. But, its clients always wanted to build “bigger and better” and Dye’s team wanted the same.
Around that time, legal issues swirling around Facebook Messenger caused Facebook to shut out bots for three months. Botcopy was primarily building chatbots for Facebook at the time, but had been “restless to diversify and experiment with Dialogflow and web chat.”
“That turned out to be far more difficult than we expected it would be,” Dye said. “(We) kept running into limitations and roadblocks that had no easy answers.”
“If we wanted to brand the color and style of a chat window, we sacrificed natural language processing,” explained co-founder and CMO, Rob Lubow. “If we sought both NLP and rich content, we had to lose the branding and have a social media login and follow the shifting rules and regs of Facebook.”
Dye adds that a lot of companies still deploy bots on Facebook, especially marketing agencies, since it’s conducive for sales, especially populating databases and starting conversations.
But, he said Botcopy seeks to go beyond that, building experiences “that understand customers, that have a lifetime relationship with the customer, that can remember a convo from the past.”
That’s what enterprise-level operations desire these days, he said.
Before chatbots, companies typically would spend $1/minute outsourcing conversations to call centers. While many of these calls are recorded for quality assurance, gleaning data and making changes is an “arduous process.”
Convincing companies to embrace automated conversations is a tough sell, mainly because AI is so new to a lot of businesses and there are many misconceptions about what’s involved, he said.
“Everyone has different [key performance indicators] and [having a chatbot] to boost KPIs, even if it’s just the ability to mitigate one common problem, thus routing users away from a live agent – that alone could save a company millions of dollars per year in live agent costs,” he said.
While it can be complicated to learn how to boost KPIs, Botcopy’s strives to make it easier by enabling its own team to access transcriptions so it can train its AI to learn rapidly.
“The company’s ethos of great writing also comes into play in the form of suggestions to clients on how to ‘train’ each AI, based on word usage and tone – approaches that have worked well for Botcopy customers in the past,” Dye said.
The founders – each with prior exits – self-funded the company with $550,000. They plan to open up a Series A and seek between $5 million and $10 million.
Botcopy is currently cash-positive. It would use Series A funds to ramp up operations as quickly as possible, with a team of dedicated developers to build out new features and integrations, as well as to boost global sales and marketing to help make more enterprise companies aware of the opportunities Botcopy provides.