Mahi de Silva: Co-Founder & CEO, Botworx.ai

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Bio:

Mahi de Silva is the Co-Founder and CEO of Botworx.ai, a platform that enables companies to measure, optimize and manage the full life-cycle of a brand experience. He has been deeply involved in the tech world since 1989 working for Apple and has an in-depth understanding of technology’s ever-growing role in brand management and customer engagement. Prior to helping found Botworx, Mahi was part of the founding team, as CEO, of AdMarvel Inc, a mobile ad platform that enables publishers and operators to source, manage and track advertising from any ad network. After their buyout by Opera Software ASA in 2010, Mahi served as CEO Opera Mediaworks, the world’s largest mobile advertising platform, and then Strategic Advisor of Opera Software ASA. Along with leading and developing Botworx.ai, Mahi currently serves as chairman of the board for Noventis, Inc., a digital payment-processing platform.

How did you get into the industry?

I’m a geek at heart; I love finding innovative ways of solving real-world problems with cutting edge technology. My 30-year career in the tech industry has been centered  around content and communication. Each company I worked for, or formed, had one, or both, of these two characteristics  at the heart of what they did. While working at  Apple, a big focus was enabling high-quality design, content and publishing, and at VeriSign, we built the foundation of trust for the Internet that enabled secure communication and commerce. At Opera Mediaworks we were all about helping mobile publishers acquire customers and monetize their content. All of these previous experiences led me to co-found  Botworx.ai, where we are helping brands dramatically improve the way they communicate and transact with their customers via the next wave of chatbot and AI technology.  

Any emerging industry trends?

Artificial Intelligence , specifically machine learning, has been around for a while at places like NASA, Google and Amazon, organizing content and building predictive models for everything from image processing to search optimization to purchase intent. However, The pace of innovation around AI is accelerating, aided by vast amounts of real-world data, which can be fed back into machines to teach and train them to improve decisions and outcomes.  You can see this at work, around voice-recognition systems like Siri and Alexa or collision avoidance systems in passenger cars.  These aren’t perfect yet, but they are getting better and better every day.  At a macro level, this trend will allow us humans to focus our effort and attention on more rewarding activities, leaving the mundane (and error-prone) activities to AI assisted bots.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Companies continue to be challenged with acquiring and engaging customers.  The Internet, e-mail and search engines created a self-service revolution.  Social Media platforms amped up visibility with social sharing and significantly better ad targeting of consumers. Then mobile took this up another notch, with location awareness and ubiquitous connectedness.  But across all these mediums, engagement is starting to plateau. E-mail marketing is lost on millennials, “banner-blindness” has moved from desktop to mobile. Lots of consumers are combatting the barrage of multi-media advertising via ad-blockers. Search engine optimizers are conquering popular search terms and delivering fake news. Phishing attacks are moving from e-mail to SMS. Brands need to take a deep breath and re-focus on a more authentic relationship with their customers and prospective customers.  Using AI and rich messaging apps, we now have the unprecedented ability to engage consumers in a one-to-one “conversation” across their desktop, mobile and internet-of-things experiences. These conversations can be ephemeral or long lasting - across the customer lifecycle, from discover to purchase to support to re-purchase.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

The inspiration really comes from attacking a common pain-point experienced by CMOs across every marketing vertical; the challenge of constructing direct, meaningful and lasting relationships with customers.  Our vision is that we can elevate a company’s effort around data-driven marketing to Authentic Conversational Commerce.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We are working closely with a few early adopter customers to build marque examples of how our platform can be used to transform their businesses.  Some of them are here in the US and some in developing markets around the world.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

We are focusing on verticals where customers serve a large pool of consumers or constituents; Media and Entertainment, Financial Services, Fashion, Travel and Politics.  We focus improving their marketing ROI and expand the use of our platform across transactions and customer care.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Many customers don’t really understand the current state of Artificial Intelligence technology and how to harness the vast amount of consumer and transactional data that is housed across a variety of their systems and supply chain.  There’s a good bit of education and hand-holding in the early stages.  We’ve learned that we have to focus on a very specific outcome – and build from there.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

There’s a couple of ways we can easily move the needle for our customers.  First, we make it easy for a company to expand their social media landing page on FB or Twitter into a more dynamic channel of communication and customized engagement.  Secondly, for clients that focus on content, we create a new channel for deeper engagement that drives higher monetization.

How do you motivate others?

Since we are breaking new ground, we have to reference our past experiences – what worked, and what didn’t, to create inflection point in the marketplace.  We’ve had the good fortune of successfully driving adoption of new technologies across content, communication and commerce – and these concrete examples and our ability to draw convincing parallels with our current challenges, tends to motivate people towards a shared success.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Big shifts in technology adoption are highly unpredictable.  Many detractors (customers, investors, partners) make the false assumption that a lack of broad adoption today is a sure sign that the technology isn’t ready for prime time.  Yes, things take time, but rest assured that every aspect of technology is ripe for disruption. Disruptors gain an unfair advantage in accelerating the adoption curve by successfully attacking an industry-wide pain point.  Back up your assumptions with good data – if the data doesn’t prove it out, then find another pain point.

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