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This week we caught up with Paul Shepherd, the founder and CEO of We Build Bots, the creator of IntelAgent; an AI driven chatbot platform built to improve productivity and efficiency in contact centres.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for We Build Bots?
I founded and ran a social media/mobile agency for 8 years and a big part of what we did was to run the social media customer support channels for blue chip clients like Lloyds Banking Group, RAC, AA, GoCompare. In doing so we spotted just how repetitive customer queries are and we began to build rudimentary FAQ apps to save time internally. Though we didn’t know it at the time, that was the beginning of IntelAgent. When Facebook opened the Messenger development platform in April 2016 we saw a real opportunity to take what we’d done and build it into a chatbot and analytics platform for the customer service and contact centre sector.
How does We Build Bots differ from IntelAgent?
We Build Bots (WBB) is the company and IntelAgent is the product. In time we plan to develop a suite of products under the WBB banner so it was important that IntelAgent wasn’t an all encapsulating name from the outset. The way we’re set up now means we can develop that suite of products under the company name.
What’s been the most exciting moment in the We Build Bots journey so far?
We could be about to reach it as our campaign hits its target! Securing world renowned clients like AA and Amnesty is always a real buzz, as is getting shown new product functionalities, designs and progress; I love that aspect of creation and product design. I think the most exciting moment though was that first contract, that first commitment that a company believed in (and was willing to pay for) something we’ve created from scratch. That was awesome and everytime a new client puts pen to paper that buzz returns just as strongly.
Why are you raising capital through crowdfunding?
I think it fills a good gap between the £100k-£250k raises which you can secure from angel networks, and the £1m-£5m which you can secure through larger funds and VCs. Early conversations we had with the latter told us we were asking for too small a cheque but our plan and our forecasts predict we don’t need millions to execute our plan so we were in between that angel/ VC amount. I also knew of Seedrs and had discussed it in the past. The chance to highlight our product and articulate answers to questions and discussions via the platform was also attractive.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I worked in digital for financial services before going freelance in 2008. That role took me out to the US for 2 years where I worked with amazing brands like Google, Bank of America and Visa, advising on content strategies. I reached a point where I either moved out there, or came home and set up my own agency; with a young family, I chose the latter. That agency is now 7 years old and was recently voted one of the fastest growing in the country. A big part of what we did was support social media channels for customer services, and that led to the development of IntelAgent and the incorporation of We Build Bots. I focus solely on that now, with the agency run by an MD who has a team of his own.
What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur?
I love concepting and executing ideas. Watching something come to life and people paying for it is such a fulfilling thing to happen. I love the opportunities being anpresents as well – opportunities that you wouldn’t be exposed to in a 9-5 role. It definitely brings pressures and stresses but I embrace that and I love the hustle and bustle of making things happen whatever the obstacles. As an entrepreneur you reap what you sew and I love that correlation to hard work – something I’ve never been afraid of. It’s not for everyone but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What advice would you give people who are eager to set up their own business?
I do think if you can plan and raise some funds before taking the leap, that will relieve some pressure and allow you to focus on executing your plan. I didn’t do that and it meant we were always sailing pretty close to the wind until we became established – that said it also meant I acquired some battle scars that have made me very resilient – an essential quality I think. I’d definitely say ‘do it’ though. It’s very hard work with lots of ups and downs but ultimately it’s a fantastic journey and I’d recommend anyone thinking about it should go for it.
Where would you like to see We Build Bots in a year’s time?
We have a clear plan with targets so I’d like to have exceeded those targets and be on track to do the same for years 2-5. We’ve worked long and hard to create a realistic and robust plan and if we hit our targets each year we’ll be in excellent shape for an exit. As long as we stay focussed and on track then we have a great chance of achieving or over achieving on our plan which will deliver a fantastic return for our investors. That all starts with hitting year one targets so that’s what I’d like to look back on in 12 months time and say we achieved step 1 of our journey. I’m confident we will.
If you’d like to ask Paul your own questions, you can do so via the discussion forum on the campaign page, where you can also find out more about how We Build Bots brings IntelAgent to market.
Investing in startups involves risks, including loss of capital, illiquidity, lack of dividends and dilution, and it should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. This blog post has been approved as a financial promotion by Seedrs Limited.