Tell us about yourself?
I’m the CEO and co-founder of The Bot Forge. we are a digital agency specialising in chatbots and voice assistants.
We provide consultancy and development services to a global client base. Our expertise enables organisations to benefit from the latest in conversational AI technology. I have a background in software engineering.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
You need to develop a pretty thick skin. Life as an entrepreneur can be very up and down so you need to recover from setbacks quickly and move on.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Get help with marketing and sales early on. I tried to do everything, and it means you end up spreading yourself too thinly.
Being a technologist I thought I should do everything but this was a mistake. I should have been concentrating more on our service offering.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
As an early stage founder, it can be hard to switch off from work. Although this isn’t always a bad thing.
To be honest, I don’t mind as I love technology, which is a big part of my work. So a lot of the time I’m “working” but I often view it as a hobby.
I so put in a lot more hours than a 9-5 but because I’m my own boss I can be flexible with my time.
I can spend more time with the wife, kids, dog at the times that count. I also do a lot of running and cycling, so this flexibility means I can exercise when I Iike.
So my work-life balance is better overall. Although I do still have problems switching off during holiday periods
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
I’m a software engineer at heart, and I became interested in Conversational AI and it’s seemingly endless possibilities. I realised that chatbots, voice assistants, and the associated tech were here to stay.
Rapid evolution was clearly on the horizon, as was the growing importance of business automation. It’s a new and interesting field with technology evolving fast with 1000s of vendors..
I saw the need for a specialized digital agency which had deep subject knowledge who could help organisations benefit from conversational AI.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
Despite leaps forward in tech, most businesses don’t know how to leverage conversational AI in their favour.
We have a solid focus on the industry as a whole and have deep knowledge of many software products in the conversational AI space. Successful conversational AI solutions rely on more than just technical knowledge.
They require a special blend of engineering, conversation design, and AI training and copywriting.
These specialisms are what we concentrate on, and this is why we can provide better conversational AI consultation and development than digital agencies who try and support everything. This is also why digital agencies often come to us for advise and support.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
The sales process can be tough. Particularly for us as specialists in an emerging field. Pre sales and initial consultations can be laborious as they are often a learning process.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
Getting new clients has always been a challenge, and we are overcoming it through our content marketing and outbound efforts.
What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?
It is a vibrant city with a strong tech ecosystem although we operate on a remote-first basis so the benefits are not as prominent for our operation.
Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?
As we are remote, our location is not as important. London is expensive, so our remote flexibility means we can cast our net wider to hire the best candidates.
How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?
It’s tough as travel costs and living are crazy. Luckily, remote working means these can be reduced.
If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?
Birmingham because it’s a city with a vibrant technical ecosystem
How has BREXIT impacted your business (if at all)?
Not really any direct impact. However we did work on a chatbot for the Customs Clearance Consortium which answered import and export questions.
What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?
Our goal is to grow the team and our expertise so we can continue to forge conversational AI projects that deliver extraordinary value for the organisations that work with us.