Four years ago, Bianca Ho made a list of the skills she’d need to be a business founder.
She had already cut her teeth helping a tech startup, Zendesk, commercialize customer-support software, on top of an internship and early stint at J.P. Morgan. What was missing was to just do it – to start something herself.
She was introduced by a venture investor to Ken Yeung, a former app developer at Saxo Bank, who had a prototype chatbot for personal finances. Together they participated in hackathons, where she honed the business idea into something for enterprises, and together they launched Clare.AI in 2016. The software drives chatbots with Asian-language capabilities – not just classic Mandarin or Japanese, but even hybrids like Singlish.
The software helps cut costs by relieving pressure on call centers, but Ho says the technology is also a good client-engagement tool: “We’re removing barriers for enterprises to communicate with customers…It’s very action-oriented: you can speak with the bot and order things.”
Clients now include Fidelity and J.P. Morgan, as well as insurers and telecom companies. Ho says chatbots will win greater adoption in part because instead of being job-killers, they are creating new jobs at digital and customer-support desks, and at the business integration level. And in Asia, the popularity of messaging apps only adds demand.
“We’re now doing three-year contracts,” she said. The business founder is going to need to come up with a new list of skills to acquire.