Announcing the 2018 class of Techstars Montreal AI!

While it’s been a few months already since Techstars and Real Ventures announced a new AI focused accelerator program in Montreal, today feels like the “real” first day. That’s right, we are finally welcoming the group of men and women that will be part of the first Techstars Montreal AI program. These founders from ten companies will be joining us for three months of hard work, capped off by Demo Day on December 5.

At the heart of every Techstars program is a group of strong partners and mentors. We’re grateful for the enthusiasm with which our local community responded to our call as well as the strong interest people from out of town showed for contributing to Techstars Montreal as mentors. Thank you.

When I joined Techstars as Managing Director, one objective I had was for this program to be a bridge that brings international talent and ambition to our beloved island as much as it will be a path for local talent to shine internationally. The companies and mentors forming the first Techstars Montreal class is a big first step towards that objective.

Without further ado, here are the Techstars Montreal AI 2018 companies:


Alexsei provides precise answers to complex legal questions for lawyers and is squarely focused on achieving full automation of legal research with AI.

Arctic Fox AI

AI-powered radiology tools for the diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, beginning with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. We allow clinicians & scientists to use the full potential of brain MRIs by extracting data that would be invisible to the human eye.


We help cooks build confidence as they learn new skills and recipes. Chef Connie is a conversational cooking assistant that answers kitchen questions like “what’s next for the lasagna?” and “how much olive oil do I need?”


Crescendo sends employees personalized diversity training into Slack & Microsoft Teams. It uses machine learning to identify bias in the way employees communicate with each other and creates personalized learning plans to reduce those biases.


EatSleepRIDE® Motorcycle GPS is the social, tracking and safety platform for motorcycle enthusiasts. Using machine learning technology, combined with open data, we’ve built a predictive platform to deliver indispensable safety to motorcycle riders.

Green Eye Technology

Green Eye Technology utilizes machine learning and AI to revolutionize the current pest control process in agriculture, by providing precise herbicide application.


Intelistyle is the first AI fashion stylist that instantly styles your own clothes or suggests new clothes to buy based on what you own, while tailoring recommendations to personal style, body type as well as the latest fashion trends.


InVivo AI is streamlining pharmaceutical R&D by enabling accurate toxicity screening in the earliest phases of drug development.


Mathpix is breaking down the barrier between the digital and analog world. Mathpix is the most accurate math OCR in the world, powering learning, grading, and typesetting apps with its image-to-LaTeX conversion API. Mathpix also offers its own mobile and desktop apps, focused on solving the difficult problem of digitizing math for documents like assessments, academic research, and STEM related presentations.


Our patent-pending AI saves power plants and manufacturers millions in fuel costs and drastically reduce their emissions by optimizing their combustion. Our solution features a customized analysis of client’s historical data, which we then use to train our models and give optimization recommendations to operators in real-time.

Bruno Morency Joins Techstars as Managing Director for Montreal AI Accelerator

Link to French version

In March, Techstars announced its new AI focused accelerator in Montreal. Today, it’s a great pleasure to share with everyone that I will be Managing Director (MD) of this program. In this post, I’d like to share the reasons why I’m so excited about this challenge and talk about what an AI-focused program in Montreal means.

Being a Managing Director

As managing director, I’ll be in charge of recruiting the best teams to join the program and help them realize their vision. That help starts from the moment they become a Techstars-backed company, during the intense weeks of the program, and continues well beyond. By “helping” I mean way more than being a mentor myself. It’s connecting you with even better mentors from the Techstars network, finding the right connections to get that meeting with a prospective client, get that intro to the awesome candidate you want on your team, and whatever else is needed to help you succeed.

As an entrepreneur myself, with my share of duds and more successful attempts in the past 15+ years, I’ve learned how critical help can be even if you are convinced (maybe rightfully so) that you can do this on your own.

People I’ve met in the last few years in the local startup ecosystem know my passion for building tech products and the companies based on them. Since the acquisition of ContextIO, I’ve had the chance to mentor entrepreneurs at FounderFuel and Founder Institute and developed lasting bonds. The best part about those relationships is they begin with you providing help based on past experience but quickly morph into a source of learning for both parties.

I’ve probably learned as much from the startups I’ve advised in the last few years as I have leading my own startups! Becoming a Techstars MD means I can now do this full time, on a much grander scale, backed by a world-class network and organization. What more could I ask for?

AI will profoundly change our lives

Artificial Intelligence is a term that generates excitement as much as it generates fear. When faced with something that can deeply and irremediably transform the way humans live, both reactions are justified. This must have been how people felt when the first steam engines and human-built machines got to a point where it became clear that production of goods and life in general would never be the same. It turns out that humanity adapted and the change was for good. We used to clear snow from the streets after a storm with people shoveling it in sleds pulled by horses (this program is in Montreal after all). Does anyone think that’s better than how we do it today?

I have worked in a startup that uses AI to make preventive screening for early detection of skin cancer something people can do from home on a monthly basis, rather than in a clinic every year. I’ve also worked on projects automating removal of personally identifiable information from purchase receipts so they can safely be used for aggregated reporting of e-commerce activity.

Add to those all the founders I’ve met applying AI to solve problems we can’t currently solve at scale, and I’m convinced a few decades from now, people will wonder how we could ever have lived without the changes AI is bringing upon us.

Techstars in Montreal

Montreal has always been a great city for university students with the highest concentration per-capita in North America. This both reinforces and feeds off the creativity of people living here. With top engineering and science faculties, training wasn’t the problem, but retaining talent was. It used to be only those who were stubborn or deeply in love with the city (or with someone living in the city) who refused to move out. Not anymore.

In recent years, we’ve seen AI focused labs in local universities establishing themselves as world-renowned leaders in the field. The AI ecosystem in Montreal grew organically from its academic research roots and Real Ventures, the main partner for this program, has been instrumental in this growth. It is now the most active early-stage venture fund in Canada. In addition, leading corporations like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Thales, and others have invested millions of dollars in AI labs across the city.

Now, Techstars amplifies this ecosystem to make Montreal the place to launch and establish the most ambitious AI startups. As Managing Director, I want to make it a gateway that brings more talent and ambition to our beloved island as much as it will be a path for local talent to shine internationally.

I’m inviting entrepreneurs interested in applying to the Techstars Montreal AI Accelerator to check out the Application Toolkit and Apply now

We’ll be hosting an AMA session on April 17th to answer questions you may have about the program, register here to join us.

Miser sur Techstars et Montréal

Lien vers la version anglaise.

En mars dernier, Techstars a annoncé l’arrivée à Montréal d’un nouvel accélérateur centré sur l’intelligence artificielle (IA). C’est un grand plaisir d’annoncer aujourd’hui que j’en serai le Directeur général. Dans ce billet, je partage avec vous mon enthousiasme face à ce défi et l’impact que ce programme Techstars aura pour l’écosystème montréalais.

Le rôle de directeur général

En tant que directeur général, ma principale responsabilité est d’attirer les meilleures équipes à joindre le programme et les aider à réaliser leur vision. Cette aide commence dès le moment où l’équipe joint le réseau Techstars, s’intensifie durant les 12 semaines du programme puis continue à vie. Concrètement, cette aide, c’est bien plus qu’être personnellement un mentor. C’est jumeler les entrepreneurs avec des mentors extraordinaires, trouver le bon contact pour obtenir cette rencontre avec un gros client potentiel ou encore dénicher la bonne introduction auprès de ce candidat rêvé pour joindre l’équipe. Bref, faire l’impossible pour aider les entrepreneurs à réussir. J’ai démarré différentes startups au cours de 15 dernières années, avec ma part d’échecs et de succès. J’ai compris avec le temps à quel point s’entourer est capital, peu importe le stade de l’entreprise ou l’impression qu’on peut y arriver sans cet appui.

Ceux que j’ai côtoyés au cours des dernières années connaissent ma passion pour le développement et la commercialisation de produits technos. Depuis l’acquisition de ContextIO, j’ai eu l’opportunité d’être mentor pour FounderFuel ainsi que le Founder Institute à Montréal. Cette implication a mené à des relations solides qui durent toujours. Ce qui est intéressant avec le mentorat c’est que le partage de son expérience avec les nouveaux entrepreneurs laisse éventuellement place à un apprentissage mutuel. J’ai probablement appris autant des startups pour lesquelles j’ai été mentor que celles que j’ai moi-même démarrées! En devenant DG de Techstars Montréal, je fais de cette implication bénévole mon occupation à temps plein, à un niveau supérieur et avec l’appui d’un réseau et une organisation mondialement reconnus. Que demander de plus?

L’intelligence artificielle changera profondément nos vies

L’intelligence artificielle est un terme qui génère l’enthousiasme autant que la peur. Face à une technologie qui peut profondément et irrémédiablement transformer la façon dont nous vivons, ces deux réactions sont justifiées. Ce sont probablement ces mêmes émotions que nos ancêtres ressentaient face aux moteurs à vapeur et machines mécaniques qui s’apprêtaient à transformer pour de bon la production de biens et la vie en général. L’humanité s’est adaptée et ce changement a été pour le mieux. Il fût un temps où on déneigeait les rues après une tempête en pelletant la neige dans des chariots tirés par des chevaux. Qui voudrait retourner à cette époque?

Je suis convaincu que nous verrons l’impact de l’I.A. de la même façon dans quelques décennies. J’ai travaillé au sein d’une startup qui utilise des algorithmes d’I.A. pour le dépistage et la détection précoce du cancer de la peau grâce à des vérifications mensuelles à domicile plutôt que des rendez-vous annuels en clinique. J’ai aussi mené un projet qui appliquait d’autres algorithmes pour détecter et effacer l’information personnelle contenue dans un reçu d’achat avant d’inclure cet achat dans la production de rapports sur l’évolution du commerce en ligne. C’est sans compter les nombreux entrepreneurs que j’ai rencontrés qui utilisent l’I.A. pour résoudre des problèmes à une échelle et une efficacité qui seraient impensables d’atteindre sans elle. Dans un avenir pas si lointain, on se demandera comment on vivait sans les changements qu’elle amènera.

Techstars et l’écosystème montréalais

Montréal est reconnue depuis longtemps comme une ville de premier choix pour les études universitaires. C’est ici qu’on trouve la plus grande densité d’étudiants post-secondaire en Amérique du Nord. Cette population nourrit le courant créatif de notre ville autant qu’elle s’en inspire. Avec quatre facultés d’ingénierie et de sciences de haut niveau, former le talent n’était pas un problème, le retenir ici était une autre histoire. Il fut une époque où les seuls qui refusaient de partir étaient les entêtés amoureux de notre ville ou d’un partenaire qui l’était! Plus maintenant.

Au cours des dernières années, des centres de recherches universitaires en I.A. ont atteint une renommée mondiale. L’écosystème local a grandi de façon organique avec l’aide  d’acteurs tel Real Ventures, partenaire principal de ce programme Techstars. Real Ventures est aujourd’hui le fonds de capital de démarrage le plus actif au Canada. Puis Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, Thales et d’autres entreprises ont établi des laboratoires d’I.A. à Montréal avec des investissements privés de plusieurs millions de dollars. Maintenant, Techstars vient amplifier l’écosystème pour faire de Montréal la viIle où démarrer les startups d’I.A. les plus ambitieuses. En tant que DG, je veux faire de ce programme le pont qui amène encore plus de talent et d’ambition vers notre île tout en permettant au talent local d’aller conquérir le monde.

J’invite donc les entrepreneurs intéressés à soumettre leur candidature pour Techstars Montréal AI à consulter les ressources d’aide puis d’appliquer avant le 13 mai prochain. Nous organiserons une séance de questions-réponses en ligne le 17 avril à midi, inscrivez-vous ici pour vous joindre à nous.

Global Techstars Startup Weekend AI is Coming to a City Near You!

At Techstars Startup Weekend our community drives us to be at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship. Never has this been more true than with the most recent community driven global initiative, Global Techstars Startup Weekend Artificial Intelligence. Eleven cities across the world are coming together in the last two weekends of September to build, innovate and create new startups by leveraging AI.

The world needs more vibrant deep tech startups. This can be done if we work together to build a more distributed global startup ecosystem that is educated and prepared to tackle innovation challenges with AI. That’s what the team behind the AI initiative wants to achieve, bringing together innovators from all around the world to create the next big thing in Artificial Intelligence.

The global AI organizing team, founded by Laura Calmore & Josse Blais, previously organized their first Techstars Startup Weekend AI in Paris in October 2016. With over 100 attendees they saw the demand for events focussed on artificial intelligence where attendees can make an impact in only 54 hours.

At the end of each Techstars Startup Weekend AI a winner will be announced from all of the companies created. Those 11 companies will then go on to be judged by our global judging panel who will announce an overall winner. The winning team will then be flown to Paris to attend the Hello Tomorrow conference and experience the next generation of AI first hand.

Not only will attendees be working alongside other developers, designers and innovators to create the next big thing but they will have free use of Snips. The Snips Voice Platform allows anyone to integrate AI powered voice interaction in their devices with ease and all teams participating in Techstars Startup Weekend AI will get to use the platform. Further to this, Recast.AI giving free access for one year for each team to their platform Recast is a collaborative platform to build, train, deploy and monitor intelligent bots. All participants will all get free access to google cloud. Alongside the fantastic platforms participants will be able to leverage to develop their products, the global event is sponsored by L’oreal and le hub France IA.

If you’re interested in participating in any of the Global Startup Weekend AI events register below.



Register Now

Douala, Cameroon

September 22


Guadalajara, Mexico

September 22


Lima, Peru

September 22


Montreal, Canada

September 22


Bangalore, India

September 29


Beirut, Lebanon

September 29


Carthage, Tunisia

September 29


Hong Kong

September 29


Mexico City, Mexico

September 29


Paris, France

September 29


Istanbul, Turkey

September 29


Can’t see an event in your region why don’t you apply to organize a Techstars Startup Weekend in the future? Apply here

Why Everyone is Talking About Artificial Intelligence

When 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968, viewers around the world were incredibly fascinated by the potential of HAL, the on-board computer of the Discovery 1. Designed to be infallible, HAL commits its first mistake during the space mission, becoming suddenly unreliable. And it’s just when he discovers that the astronauts on board plan to disarm it that the Artificial Intelligence device begins to plan to eliminate the entire crew.

If Kubrik’s masterpiece was projected today, if 2001: A Space Odyssey suddenly became 2031: A Space Odyssey, the public’s reaction would be totally different.

Artificial Intelligence has become reality and has been recently the center of an intense debate involving important decision makers, scientists, philosophers, and innovators around themes such as ethics, progress, and (in the last instance) safeguard of the human race.

The debate about the consequences of this technology reignited last month when Facebook suddenly stopped an Artificial Intelligence experiment after discovering the robots had independently developed a brand-new language, unintelligible to humans. Researchers from the Facebook AI Research Lab (FAIR) had noticed that the machines were communicating in a totally unexpected way: an episode that emphasizes both the potentials and the most disturbing aspects of AI.

In spite of the incident, Zuckerberg is optimistic about AI, and in particular about the progress in basic research which, according to the CEO of Facebook, can improve systems in many different fields – from the diagnosis of illnesses to the use driverless-cars, from the improvement of virtual assistants to the optimization of search engines.

Elon Musk, CEO at Tesla, is not of the same opinion, and recently defined Artificial Intelligence as being more dangerous than North Korea. Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak have both repeatedly stressed how using this technology can lead to tragic and unexpected consequences.

In 2014, Stephen Hawking had already alerted the world and the scientific community on how AI could mean the end of mankind. Unlike man, which is limited by slow biological evolution, robots are able to reprogram and learn new languages at higher speeds, leading to the inevitable supremacy of machines, the scientist argued.

Google has also intervened several times in the public debate and has recently released a video highlighting the danger of using Artificial Intelligence in decision-making processes. According to the tech giant, computers find solutions by identifying patterns in large amounts of data, driving to think there is no bias in this operation. However, just because something is based on data doesn’t automatically make it neutral (read this article to learn more on the three categories of bias identified by Google).

The centrality of topics connected to Artificial Intelligence on the world agenda reflects the growing investments and commercial operations. In 2014, Google absorbed the startup DeepMind for a reported $400 million, one of the most significant acquisitions in the history of this industry. Spotify has also recently assimilated several companies with the goal of using technology to improve its content recommendations and advertisement targeting. Microsoft Ventures itself has launched a new investment fund for AI startups.

Artificial Intelligence has therefore become a central theme in any tech conference, festival or workshop. On November 9th and 10th, the most influential actors of emerging technologies will gather in Milan in a ‘two days’ of near future scenarios and practical demonstrations, sharing insights and solutions for the business of various industries, including retail, manufacturing, automotive, entertainment and media.

So the discussion around AI continues, and it will just become more intense.

What will make a difference is the ability (technical but especially strategic) of small startups (which are however likely to be acquired by tech giants) and large companies to control this technology and to quickly identify evolutions and applications that their competitors haven’t imagined yet.

Startup Weekend AI: Are Bots Going to Take Over the World?

Technology has long wanted to make the world a better place, a new place, and yet, the future seems still unstable. At what extend is Artificial Intelligence critical? At what extend will Artificial Intelligence erase human creativity, even replace it?

Everyone talks about AI but do we really understand what it stands for, it’s exponential growth and where it can bring us? Do we know how to create a business around it?

Are bots going to take over the world?

Not likely, we’re too far from having enough data. Here’s where we stand (deeplearning by MIT). 

Joke aside, we need educate ourselves enough to stop believing this nonsense.

I had the pleasure of attenting one of Martin Wezowski, chief designer at SAP, talks on creating the future we want to live in. Jobs in sequential steps, that can be translated in algorithms, will be replaced by robots and automized. So we must rise higher, leave the dirty work to them and head towards more creative & innovative endeavors.

Let’s indeed create a future we all want to live in!

Global Startup Weekend Artificial Intelligence

AI can influence and change health, wealth, jobs, and the world. Do we want to stand besides and take the risk of getting left behind or do you want be part and influence the change? We know we want to be part of the change! What about yourself?

This is why at GlobalSWAI we believe that we need to help communities educate on the theme, democratize the AI concept, and push them out of their comfort zone to build the better tomorrow.

It all started in Paris

It’s been already more than 6 months that the first Startup Weekend in the world dedicated to Artificial Intelligence has been organized in Paris with my wonderful friend Josse Blais as co-lead.

In November 2016, during 54 hours, one hundred web developers, graphic designers, business experts, engineers, researchers, and students interested in the entrepreneurial experience worked intensively on functional startup prototypes, presented to a panel of experts, investors and local entrepreneurs on the Sunday evening.

The insights of PhD students and researchers are very valuable in the field of artificial intelligence.

Based on the fact that too few researchers transform their discoveries into real products and further on into real companies with business models, we partnered up with INRIA (French National Research Institute Dedicated to Digital Technology) to build a bridge between the institute researchers and the French entrepreneurial ecosystem.

We believe that the insights of PhD students and researchers are very valuable in the field of artificial intelligence, and they need to get closer to the entrepreneurial mindset to think beyond the technology and into a practical business.

This first edition was such a great success that we came to realize that this need for researchers profiles is a global need and not limited to France, and several cities around the world soon started talking to us to bring SWAI (Startup Weekend AI) to their city.

In addition, the theme of Artificial Intelligence appears to be one of the main challenges of the coming months, with the multiplication of natural interfaces interacting with computers, machine learning, and all the benefits coming around in med- and bio-technology.

This is how the idea of a Global Startup Weekend around the theme of artificial intelligence saw the light. At the end of September 2017 and during two weeks, Startup Weekend will flourish in more than fifteen global capitals. The list of cities is growing, including Mexico City, London, Paris, Barcelona, Seoul, Cork, and Hong Kong.

This global initiative is more than a simultaneous event in several capitals around the world. It is federating a genuine community around artificial intelligence, democratizing its use, and making it more diverse, inclusive and impactful by removing boundaries.

Awesome communities and startups are supporting this initiative. They will help merge communities interested in AI around the world to discover trends and knowledge on how to apply AI in products and services and steer collaboration in this field among startups, developers, corporates, investors, and researchers.

“The problem with the AI space is that there is too much hype and too little collaboration in terms of sharing lessons learned. It’s time to zoom into the business value of AI, be transparent about the downsides and push relevant change. There is an incredible opportunity here, but AI is not a solution in itself. We forget thats its people who are shaping our future and we need a global community to enable more cross border sharing and collaboration.” say Mike Reiner and Christoph Auer-Welsbach, co-founders of CITY.AI

Snips backed SWAI last year and in the spirit of their community. This year, they are going global with us. The Snips Voice Platform allows anyone to integrate AI powered voice interaction in their devices with ease and all teams participating in GSWAI will get to use the platform.

It’s gonna be legend. 

We want to bring the communities together at Hello Tomorrow, a global non-profit on a mission to accelerate the transfer of breakthrough technologies into real world solutions by highlighting, empowering, and connecting the most promising deep-tech entrepreneurs across the globe with the right enablers.

Innovation will take place around the world and countries showcase their startup communities during GSWAI.

Two weekends for over fifteen cities to organize a SWAI end of September.

Over 1000 entrepreneurs and researchers will come together for tens of events during the two last weekends of September 21st and 29th, 2017 for Global Startup Weekend Artificial Intelligence.

We want to connect entrepreneurs, organizing teams, and startup communities for innovation to take place around the world and for countries to showcase their startup communities.

Join today and learn, connect, and startup at Global Startup Weekend AIOver 20 cities have applied already!


This post was originally posted here.

Here is a review of this year’s Best Tech April Fool Pranks!

This is a guest blog post by Hira Saeed, Community Leader, Startup Weekend Karachi who writes about AI startups, Chatbots and Big data.

April Fools’ Day is something that we humans celebrate with all our hearts. Whether it’s making the fool out of parents or friends, we do it wholeheartedly. To get familiar among the masses, Tech companies do it as well with of course with of course highly paid ads and other stuff. Silicon Valley where most of the tech companies live is known to be sort of un-funny because of the geeks working there but in this April Fools’ Day there were super hilarious! Last year was a good one, but this year the giants stepped up their game and were really funny. So let’s have a review of this year’s top Tech April Fools Hoaxes!

The AI Revolution

LOL-BOT was hilarious but we’re not talking about it right now and yes, the AI Trip Managers are real! We’re reviewing the super-funny ad by Infiniti Telecommunications. It was a super fun and satirical dig at our industry where everything is “revolutionised by AI” nowadays. The ad started with the Top Management of Infiniti Telecommunications explaining the revolutionary technology that’s going to replace all their customer service’ staff. They further explained that with this technology, they wouldn’t need to outsource the customer service from Philippines or India. The chatbot in the ad was funny and performed like every other chatbot. And when are they going to release it? 1st April!


With Google, it’s always the polite humour! Google is known to be the funniest tech company because it was Google that started this trend of celebrating April Fools’ in the tech industry. To celebrate this April Fools’ Day Google turned the Google Maps into a Pac Man game. So by using the Google Map, you’re actually Pac Man munching its way to the destination. This prank of Google received critical acclamation because of the decency and great design of this campaign. Google even started a competition between among people which basically nominates the highest scorer as the winner. With this sweet collaboration with Pac Man spread smiles all around the globe.

Pac Prank

A Study in Pink

Just like last year, T-Mobile was hilarious and satirical this year as well! Okay so, the ad started with how “little wrist bands” cannot analyse what’s going on in the other parts of body and that is a huge problem making T-Mobile to come up with a revolutionary pink full-body wearable named ONEsie. According to T-Mobile, it’s where “couture meets connectivity”. The ridiculous full-body wearable is hailed by T-Mobile in this ad as a sporty and comfortable design. Oh, and it keeps track of what’s happening in your body and along with that, it incorporates 4G LTE as well, making you a human hotspot. Well played, T-Mobile.  

T Mobile April fool

Funny Pets

Amazon usually comes off as a bored tech giant but it’s really funny when it comes to pranking. This year Amazon has create Petlexa! Petlexa is the alternative of Alexa (yes, the AI assistant). Amazon killed it with a hilarious ad where pets are trying to communicate with Petlexa and it’s not really helping them. For example, in a shot, a cat grunts and Petlexa says:” Okay, ordering sushi now”. Well, the satirical tone of ad is just like the prank that they’re roasting the not-so-useful AI-assistants.

petlexa-by Amazon

The Future of Bots

Today’s tech companies all agree that AI, bots and voice are the next big things. In today’s day and age, all we have to be able to interact with machines are keyboards, and they have reached their limits. What’s the next step? Conversation. But making a machine understand us and respond in natural language is a challenge that has yet to be solved.

The idea is to solve what Elon Musk sees as human’s fundamental input/output limitations. He said our hand input, say thumbs on a virtual iPhone keyboard, is incredibly slow. On the input side, we’re a lot better because we have a high-bandwidth visual interface. Today’s solutions remain very technical and too conceptual for people to truly comprehend and implement in their lives.

Zuckerberg envisages his AI ambition as follows: ‘I’ll start with the technology that we already have and then I’ll teach it to recognize my voice to operate everything in the house. Music, lights, temperature and so on. I’ll teach the technology to let my friends in by identifying their faces when they ring the bell. And I’ll also teach the technology to warn me when something is the matter in the bedroom of my daughter Max.’ In reply to the tens of thousands of reactions to his message, Zuckerberg writes that he has already found one product that he is taken with: ‘In the field of music, Amazon Echo is pretty good. It’s simple to control music with my voice while both my hands are busy tending to Max.’


Bots are a preoccupation in tech because they’re exploring artificial intelligence (AI) at scale. AI comes in two broad flavors: strong/general or weak/specific. The former is recursive and can contend with a wide set of questions with open-ended answers. The latter, on the other hand, responds to narrow sets of questions with scripted answers. We don’t have strong AI yet, but the current generation of bots is a good example of weak AI.

“In the new workforce of 2030, the most successful organizations will optimize the usage of all their resources, both human and machine, for competitive advantage. An increasing portion of your workforce will not be human,” Mr. Prentice said. “However, while machines are very good for consistency, performance, predictability, efficiency and safety; they can’t match humans’ skills in ingenuity, novelty, art, creativity, emotion, and to address variability and provide context.” – Gartner Summary of the top news from Gartner Symposium.

Today’s bots are often a combination of algorithms and/or human turks. Google Now and Siri are the former, while on-demand delivery services like Magic in the United States and Fetch in the United Kingdom are the latter. Facebook’s virtual assistant M, on the other hand, is a hybrid.

Given the limitations of specific AI, we need both context and precision. Brand engagements are an interesting way to provide both because they are industry, product or service specific. For example, you can trust that someone won’t ask a banking bot a question about football. And methods such as onboarding and prompts can help people further understand what they can ask each bot. Niche domain expertise – such as bots for mortgages or asset management – are another way to focus a conversation and avoid awkward failures.

The concern that some people have with bots is the risk of a tedious backand-forth. No one wants an interactive voice response system in their pocket.

Chatbots VC landscape

To reduce such risk, many bot experiences are complementing text with cards and micro-apps. Both are ways to deliver thin, but robust, interactions inside of chats. “Show flights” within Google Now or ordering an Uber in Slack are both great examples.

At the end of the day, it is all sorts of virtual assistants that implement the ultimate customer experience, because they communicate with us in a natural manner and are aware of our deepest desires. Machine Intelligence plays a major role in this transition. We need Machine Intelligence to aggregate all our personal data, to filter and analyze them and eventually to transform them into an action or transaction. Albert Wenger, a partner with venture capital investor Juneon Square Ventures (USV), goes one step further. In his TEDx Talk: ‘A BIG idea, a bot idea’, he refers to the ‘right’ to have yourself be represented by a bot. These digital alter egos carry out work on behalf of their physical counterparts, based on personal data, and earn an income with which their owners of flesh and blood are able to support themselves. But to realize this, some steps will need to be taken first.

If software is eating the world, then it’s clear that messaging is eating software. Or to paraphrase another venture capitalist, Benedict Evans, “It used to be that all software expands until it includes messaging. Now all messaging expands until it includes software.”

The rise of chat gives entrepreneurs the unparalleled opportunity to align what their brands do with what they say. China, which was once known as the land of cheap rip-offs, may now be offering us a glimpse of the future. Facebook messenger is going to take over the world as WeChat did in China, according to the New York times. The right chat strategy, when executed well, will merge a brand’s persona with consumer expectations to create a seamless, intuitive experience. Whether that means adding chat functions to proprietary apps or creating branded bots on big platforms, organizations can now have more personalized conversations with their customers.


I’ll be at Silicon Beach Fest next week. Come say Hi! Btw you need a bot too. Give me 15 minutes or few emails if I can’t convince you, no one can!  Email me at to continue the conversation or try chatting with my bot.

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Our 5 Favorite Startup Digest Reading List Articles From Last Week

5 hand-picked articles from across the Startup Digest Reading Lists. Sign up to receive great weekly content on various topics from expert curators.


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