BLOCK71 Singapore Entrepreneur Feature — Vouch
In this week’s Entrepreneur Feature, we speak to Joseph, the CEO and co-founder of Vouch, a start-up that drives conversational commerce for business regardless of platform.
- What is Vouch and how does it work?
Vouch leverages cutting edge artificial intelligence to help brands build brand value, boost revenue and save costs. Our platform works across different social media platforms — Facebook, Line, WeChat, Telegram and even on the web. We are trusted by big brands like Grand Hyatt, Reebonz, Cathay and NUS School of Public Policy.
2. What is Vouch’s secret sauce?
Vouch’s secret sauce is that we’ve built our own technology stack that we use to build chatbots for our clients — what this means is that we can build chatbots faster, smarter, and in more innovative ways. With our rigorously tested infrastructure, we can support tens of thousands of users using the chatbot at exactly the same time — this is something that large companies value and other chatbot companies are unable to do. Because we own the whole technology stack, we can easily customise bots for our clients for the most advanced use cases. We’ve also paid a lot of attention to ease of maintenance of our chatbots. To give clients maximum flexibility and power, we provide them with tools like a copy editor so that they can change how they want the bot to sound to their hearts’ content. In this way, we are able to lower costs of building chatbots and give clients more control over how their chatbot sounds and interacts with their client.
3. What is Vouch working on now?
Vouch has been building chatbots for corporate clients for a while now and we realised that there’s actually a lot of data that comes in. You’ll be surprised what people tell chatbots! If you think about it, this data can bring value to CRM (customer relationship management) software companies. Right now, we are entering the social CRM space, working with CRM companies to funnel all this data into a structured database where it can be used.
Besides collecting data, we’re trying to take social CRM to the next level. Current social CRMs have a very shallow use case. You can track the number of likes, track the people who share, etc. but that’s it. We are taking it one step further, where we can do things like if a customer likes a post of a product on your Facebook page, a chatbot can immediately engage them through and say something like “Hey, I noticed that you might be interested in this product, would you like to buy it? Here’s a link to do so”. Or if a customer reacts angrily to a post, you can immediately do customer recovery. The bot can message the customer to do first level recovery and then funnel the conversation to a human being to take over.
Chat has an extremely high open rate, much higher than email. Using our platform, we can also help automate marketing. Services like Mailchimp help you automate emails that go out to customers over time to help move them down the customer funnel or improve customer relations. We can do the same thing but on chat. So imagine that a customer buys something from you today and has a good experience. 7 days later you may want to send a message like this: “Hey, I just wanted to check in with you to see if you’re enjoying the pair of shoes you bought from us last week.”
We can already do all these things and are now creating a product for CRM companies to be able to do this easily using our services.
4. What is Vouch’s greatest challenge?
As a start up founder, I think there are many challenges that you’ll face. You’re going to run into all sorts of problems, whether you’re running out of money, how to reach product market fit, things like that.
For me, the greatest challenge we faced was this: one year ago, Vouch actually almost ran out of money. We were doing something completely different then, and things were not working out. At that point of time, the company had less than $500 dollars in our bank account, my personal bank account had less than $3,000 and my wife told me she was pregnant with our third child. So that was a period where it was really trying for me. At that point in time, I had thoughts about giving up, about finding a job somewhere. In fact, I was offered a job that was paying really great money at another start up. I had a long conversation with my co-founder, and that was were we decided to give it one more shot, pivot again and try once more. I learnt something about myself from that experience, which was how far I would go to make my dreams come true, how far I would go to make something out of my life. Things have been looking up since then, we’ve been getting a healthy stream of revenue, and I’m glad we persisted.
5. What is your best memory of BLOCK71?
My most vivid memory of BLOCK71 is ironically the time when the previous incubation manager left. No it wasn’t because he left that it was memorable, it was because when he left, we had a dinner that we threw for him among some of the closer friends here and we actually had a pretty deep conversation at night talking about all sorts of things. The pain, the joys of starting up, etc. One thing great about this community is its where you can develop this camaraderie and you can talk to people that share your pains that can understand the kind of things that you are going through. But it’s not just the pains, it’s about the ideas as well. You can talk to start ups who are doing something completely different, and they may tell you about techniques that they used to solve certain issues that can apply in your own business. Those are things that if you were working in a corporate environment, working in a place without other start ups around, you will never be able to understand. So that dinner was where I realised, this is a really valuable place to be in, and something to treasure.
Vouch is looking for businesses that want to create innovative ways to interact with their customers, businesses that want to create engaging relationships with their customers that don’t just stop at hello and goodbye. We are also looking for CRM companies looking to help us bring social CRM to the next level and engage customers instantly and effectively.
To connect with Vouch, visit them at vouch.sg.
Watch the full video interview with Joseph from Vouch here:
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If you are inspired by this story and have a start-up idea of your own, you can also apply to join the BLOCK71 ecosystem at http://bit.ly/BLOCK71SGApply !