Building an Open Source Developer Stack to Service the Growth of Contextual Communication

Contextual communication uses conversation as an interactivity layer to the user interface (as opposed to a graphical user interface on mobile and web). While this trend has seen steady growth for the past several years, COVID has prompted enterprises to invest further in conversational interfaces that improve their ability to communicate with both their teams and customers.

In parallel, we have long been watching other trends that have emerged and now make it possible for developers’ to build this necessary conversational interface.

  • NLP (Natural language processing): from a technology perspective, the early promise of NLP in conversational AI has only recently materialized. NLP is finally reaching an inflection whereby computer understanding and communication has approximated human connection in distinct areas.
  • Internal Automation: developers are looking for ways to automate workflows, and chatbots provide a no-brainer option for doing so. The scope of internal workflows that have the potential to be automated are endless, and enterprise has barely scratched the surface. While large top-down software vendors have been rolled out across enterprises, primarily customer-facing, these kinds of tools do not improve life for the internal developer who is looking for case-specific workflow automation nor do they create efficiencies within the enterprises.

In response to these trends, enterprises all over the world are building their own capabilities to support conversation as a crucial next-generation user interface. Some companies have chosen to build these capabilities in house and create their own conversational AI teams. This approach likely results in the highest quality product for the organization, but at a higher cost and is somewhat inefficient given that multiple layers of the conversational stack are quickly becoming commoditized. Others have opted instead for out-of-the-box solutions that are plug-and-play and require very little upfront investment. These solutions are limited in how they can scale inside an enterprise and provide little customizability.

A great solution to both enterprises’ efficiency challenges and greater customizability needs, is our newest portfolio company Botpress, which builds the infrastructure layer that allows enterprises to get quick time-to-value for conversational AI needs, is highly customizable and more affordable.

Today, Inovia is proud to announce its participation in Botpress’ $15M Series A investment round. Botpress is built for developers. The stack is a familiar environment to developers, and allows them to build, run and improve their conversational applications.

Botpress was founded to solve the needs of Sylvain Perron, company CEO. As he was building the Botpress infrastructure in 2017, conversational AI was gaining steam as an attractive area of innovation. Sylvain then decided to open source the entire Botpress platform on Github. Very quickly after open-sourcing, the company had tons of developers using their framework and providing positive feed-back; Botpress was born!

Through our extensive research on the market and multiple conversations with enterprises evaluating their conversational AI needs, we’ve quickly come to the conclusion that open source has a strong chance of being a winning approach to this market, for three main reasons;

  • Auditability: enterprises need the ability to extract meaning out of the conversations that are running through their bots, which they are incapable of doing with closed-source software vendors. Botpress provides the ability to learn and analyze the conversations occurring, to better service the needs of teams and customers and to A/B test on top of that data.
  • Strong community engagement: well-engaged open-source communities have knowledge and insights to offer all developers using the code. This allows enterprises to work with the community to augment their own product and there is tremendous power in a growing, highly-engaged community generating its own use cases and experimenting with the product in unpredictable ways.
  • Developer-First approach: as soon as Botpress open-sourced its technology, it began getting thousands of inbounds from developers trying the platform on their own and bringing it into their organizations. This bottom-up business development strategy, fueled by organic adoption by developers simply looking for software to solve their unique pain points, has driven tremendous growth to Botpress and allowed the company to accelerate much quicker than a traditional enterprise software vendor.

We are incredibly excited to be joining Decibel Ventures and the entire Botpress team on this journey to provide organizations the infrastructure they need to better support their customers using contextualized conversation.