Yoav Barel founder and CEO of the international conference Chatbot Summit in interview
Please introduce yourself briefly to our readers
Yoav Barel: I am a tech entrepreneur working in tech over 17 years and love it. My work lets me collaborate with others on creating the best digital experiences for people. Before launching Chatbot Summit, I have been lucky to lead and work with great teams at the forefront of some of the most exciting developments in tech at leading industry companies, including Sun Microsystems developing and deploying leading Telco’s; Oracle, where we put the first Telco App Store on Android and deployed it with Verizon; and at LivePerson, where we created the first Enterprise App-Messaging customer service product and launched it with U.S. T-Mobile. At LivePerson, it hit me that conversational experience was going to be the next digital revolution. Back then, we called them “Conversational Service Apps,” which are today’s Chatbots.
You are founder and CEO of the international conference Chatbot Summit. Why have you founded the conference and since when does the conference exist?
Yoav Barel: I left LivePerson to dive into Chatbots but was not sure what form that would take-maybe a tech startup. Being around other Chatbot enthusiasts in Tel Aviv made me realize Israel did not have a place for our Chatbot community. The first event I created was Chatbots World Tel Aviv and the response was amazing.
We had over 200 people attend the first meetups, all around Tel Aviv. Something larger was needed to hold, and grow, the exploding interest and momentum of the Bot revolution, so I created Chatbot Summit. Chatbot enthusiasts and tech entrepreneurs came on board quickly and we created the first summit for November 2016 in Tel Aviv from A-Z in less than 3 months. We got over 1,000 people to participate, from early stage startup founders to industry brands such as IBM, Oracle, Cisco, LivePerson, Deloitte, and many more. We had many international participants from all over the world-the US, Canada, Europe, and the far east.
What idea is behind the Chatbot Summit?
Yoav Barel: Our mission is simple: connect, learn, and scale.
When a technology is this disruptive, collaboration and bringing major players together so they can market their services to each other is key. If you are not a Chatbot enthusiast yet, that is okay-we will make you one!
We put a huge emphasis on content, curating every speaker, each session. We are very proud of our speakers–these are the folks spearheading the Bot revolution. Our speakers represent top tech giants (Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM) and leading brands including Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Telekom, and Lufthansa. We offer over 40 session across 5 different tracks.
We make a lot of effort bringing in the brands. These are the “buyers” at the top of the value chain who everyone eventually sells into, and then they [the brands] sell to their customers. One of the main reasons I wanted to do our second Chatbot Summit in Berlin is because it is so much easier getting this momentum going when all the top brands are together.
I want to also mention Chatbot Summit is open to professionals at any stage of involvement with Bots-the most important thing we hope brought you here is realizing that Bots are on their way to becoming our new digital comrade and a must-have in our daily digital life experiences. Soon, we will not do much business or life investigating or living without them.
How many Chatbot Summits take place each year and where do they take place?
Yoav Barel: The first one was last November (2016) in Tel Aviv and we have two planned for 2017: the next will be in Berlin this month, June 26, and we will have another one in the fall in Tel Aviv.
We plan to have four Chatbot Summits a year and are developing the possibility of holding monthly Chatbot Summit Community events.
In which places do you plan to have the next summits?
Berlin, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, and Las Vegas
What awaits participants this year in Berlin? What highlight speakers will be on-site?
Yoav Barel: The Chatbot Summit is essentially a global think tank and collaborator haven, tech style-think fast-brain with start-up mojo in the digital space-for tech, big brand, entrepreneurs, developers, and freelancers. Through bringing together our sponsors, speakers, and participants representing this diverse expertise in tech, the event will give everyone participating the opportunity to discuss and explore each other’s services, strategize, and overall become driving players in the Bot Revolution.
We will have a very exciting panel with executives from Zalando, LivePerson, Deutsche Telekom, and Deutsche Post and leaders in Bots as our speakers. There will be keynotes from the Founder of Poncho, one of the most famous Bots currently out there; Ariel, the CEO of Sensay, another one of the leading Bots (I use her to schedule and manage appointments!); and Peter Buchroithner, Co-Founder of Swell, another top Bot on messenger, who was featured in David Markus’ F8 Conference. Beerud Sheth, CEO of Gupshup, will speak on inter-bot communication and Mike Gozzo, Co-Founder of Smooch, will talk about the future of Messaging as Platform.
We will have breaking update announcements at the summit from LivePerson and from lots of other great companies, too. I will give the opening keynote, sharing interesting statistics and talking about what brands and entrepreneurs can do right now to move themselves towards using Bots as their main customer service agent in their businesses.
What target group do you address?
Yoav Barel: We plan our summit and for the opportunities it provides to five main groups. They are:
Brand product managers and digital executives who want to define their Chatbot strategy and find Bot collaborators
Startups and Chatbot enthusiasts (at any level of Bot mania)
Freelance digital marketers and UX experts and developers who want to learn what the Bot Revolution is about-these folks want to be ahead of the game
Consulting companies, digital services, and IT service companies who want to learn what the next digital revolution is about
Investors and innovation managers who are interested in funding startups
What is the feedback from participants so far?
Yoav Barel: The first Chatbook Summit in Tel Aviv drew over 1,000 participants and was a huge success. People loved it. We were surprised at how organically it flowed once folks came together. We saw how much people were learning and growing as Bot leaders and thinkers, even in just one short day. I knew I had to do another one (and another one, and another one).
What highlights await participants of the upcoming Chatbot Summits after this one?
Yoav Barel: Stay tuned for more news about our next two summits (this coming fall back in Tel Aviv and next spring or summer in Shanghai). You can sign up on our website or like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest goings on at Chatbot Summit. If we start introducing monthly meetings, for example, you will be one of the first to know all the details!
How would you rate the international start-up scene compared to the German? Where do you see the biggest differences?
Yoav Barel: I can speak most closely to Tel Aviv and Berlin, since these are the cities I have been focused on with Chatbot Summit and have been engaging directly with industry in both cities. Generally speaking, there are more deep tech startups in Israel, whereas in Berlin there are more platforms launching with major brands. That being said, you can find good examples of both types of innovation happening in both countries.
Mr. Barel what are you next goals to achieve?
Yoav Barel: That is a great question. Even though most of my time is now spent working with the team on Chatbot Summit, I am also working on other enterprises with Bots. I recently founded Sunrize-essentially, the uber brand for Chatbots, a wider vision beyond Chatbot Summit. It will include:
– Chatbot Summits and community events. We are building a core team to take Chatbot Summit to the next level.
– A boutique strategy consulting practice will help leading brands create better digital experiences for their customers. This would include advising business strategy, an area I would love to develop as a brand consultant. When talking with brands or startups, I emphasize that making a strategic plan to run your business with Bots puts you at the forefront of the next digital wave.
– Angel investing in early stage conversational AI startups. Having been approached by several early stage venture capitalists and angel investors who want to co-invest, we want to give back and invest in early stage AI startups as well as startups at other phases and help them grow faster.
– Education/Keynotes/Evangelizing the Bot revolution. I get many requests to speak at other organizations about the Bot revolution and the work we are building with Chatbot Summit. My team and I want to be best equipped to answer these outreaches and be a part of building greater community in the Bot world.
What should every Entrepreneur today know about Chatbot ?
Yoav Barel: I believe any and all entrepreneurs today must know what Chatbots are and what they do, even if they are not launching a Bot company. Imagine you are an entrepreneur in 2008 and you do not know anything about Apps. You would be at a huge disadvantage! Not everyone needs to develop a Chabot, but I can tell you this-when startups come to me for advice and I see them invest in an App not a Bot, I know they are making the wrong decision that will cost them (and not so far) down the line. (Creating an MVP with a Chatbot, by the way, is much easier than with an App, but that is a separate discussion.)
If you are a Chatbot entrepreneur, I believe you are riding the right wave . My advice is make sure you know exactly where you fit into the ecosystem and keep asking yourself, what is my unique value proposition to the market? Is it: I am doing the same as many but better than some, and I will gain my market share? Or, is there something I am that is doing totally disruptive and will create non-linear advancement for the market?
What three tips would you give to future founders?
Yoav Barel: As someone who loves being an entrepreneur and the opportunities it creates, I am super excited about supporting other becoming-entrepreneurs. When people ask for my advice about starting their own venture, my first tip is to start with a big “why.” Why do you want to do this? Setting up your mission takes time, but it ends up forming the mission of your company. I have found that lots of the time people are more interested in why you are doing something more than what you are actually providing.
The second advice I give is to create a vision; it has to be something you yourself can imagine. You need two visions, one for the market (i.e., how will the market look 3-5-10 years from the day I launch my business), and one for your company (i.e., how will my company look once it is successful?) You will know when you got your vision “right” because you will be very excited–and your friends will roll their eyes when they hear it for the first time because it seems impossible. But you know it is not!
Lastly, get the best possible team together: create a plan, execute it, and iterate. The team is everything. If you do the first two things right, you are in a great position to assemble your dream team. It really is all about the team–without the team there is nothing, with it there is everything.
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Thank you Yoav Barel for the Interview
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