VentureBeat’s Bots Channel tracks all the important and interesting news related to the exploding field of bots and messaging. Each week, we select the top stories and present them in in our free weekly newsletter, BotBeat. We include news stories by VentureBeat staff, guest articles from leading figures in the bots community, and a good number of posts from a wide variety of other outlets. You can subscribe to our BotBeat newsletter to receive this information in your inbox every Thursday.

Here’s this week’s newsletter:

We’ll see the first bot IPOs in the next two or three years, Phil Libin told me when I visited him recently. Libin, of course, is a leading figure in the bots community who joined venture capital firm General Catalyst Partners a year ago and already has made five investments in bot companies. As an investor, Libin is bullish, as you’d expect. But he was also conscious of the challenges facing the current bot ecosystem. “Right now there’s a lot of fart bots,” he said, almost apologetically. “None of which are meant to be substantive. They’re there because developers want to see what it’s like to write one and ask: What does it feel like? What are the analytics that I can get? How many people will discover it? You’re not supposed to take them seriously.”

Libin was speaking about the relatively trivial bots that do things like order pizza, check the weather, or send flowers. In his view, bot startups need to satisfy three criteria in order to have a chance at becoming a viable, independent company:

  1. A company’s bot (or bots) must solve a real problem, not a manufactured one.
  2. The bot cannot be just an app replacement.
  3. The bot should help multiple people have a conversation among themselves, with the bot providing functionality and structure in-line to that conversation.

The first two criteria eliminate perhaps 99 percent of bots today, Libin estimates. And while there are many variables for a startup seeking funding and then building a sustainable, profitable business (let alone going public), Libin’s criteria are clearly a good place to start when thinking about the value being created by bots. Our full interview with Libin is available here.

Thanks to everyone who has visited our revamped Bots Channel and sent us feedback. We continue to make improvements, so please keep the suggestions coming via email.  And as always, please share your ideas for guest posts with John Brandon, and send story tips to Khari Johnson.

— Blaise Zerega
Editor in Chief

P.S. We hope you enjoy this video of Robert “The Botfather” Hoffer as he argues that bots need personality and soul.


From the Bots Channel

A promotional photo of the iPhone 7 Plus


The bigger implications of Apple’s machine learning technology

Today, all eyes are on Apple. The company has long been hailed as a leader in technology, and we’ve seen many interesting developments come out of the Cupertino office, especially today, with the news about the new iPhone 7. Though there are plenty of new updates and products, there’s also the question of what goes on behind the scenes to […]

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How people use chatbots, according to the stats.

5 chatbot stats that reveal what users want

We at recently surpassed 32 million messages processed! Given three months worth of data processed, we wanted to highlight some interesting findings. (The stats below are based on Facebook Messenger bots only.) The average messages per session and time per session across all bots jumped quite a bit from June to July and appears […]

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What the Cisco Spark user interface looks like.

Cisco doesn’t want Spark to be like Slack. Here’s why

Joseph Fu is part of a team at Cisco building Spark, an enterprise messenger app that seeks to overtake the likes of  Yammer, Skype, and Hipchat, and eventually, to dethrone Slack from its early leadership position. In less than two years, Slack has gone from a little-known gaming chat company to an enterprise darling valued at $3.8 billion […]

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Left to right: Wingstop CIO Stacey Peterson, Facebook Messenger Product Manager Seth Rosenberg, Fandango SVP Mark Young, and panel moderator Stewart Rogers of VentureBeat. Panel participants discussed opportunities and challenges in commerce and bots at MobileBeat, a two-day chatbot and artificial intelligence gathering held July 12-13 at The Village in San Francisco. Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

Facebook’s Seth Rosenberg on bots, business, and the future of Messenger

With all the chatter and hype that surround bots, artificial intelligence, and conversational commerce, it can be hard to remember that there’s very little percolating today on chat platforms (with their billions of users) that didn’t exist a year ago. Since CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would open its platform to bot makers, businesses, and […]

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Facebook-Messenger-large2 big reasons Facebook Messenger is the wrong platform for chatbots

While chatbots have been around since the early 1990’s, this is the year they became completely synonymous with Facebook Messenger. Facebook brought automated, chat-based customer service into the mainstream at a time when businesses and buyers are obsessed with improving the customer experience. This technology will be transformative. It’s part of a wave of innovations that is […]

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Chatbots can help you create a story

Chatbots are a creation channel for storytelling

I worked at Betaworks this past summer. Pursuing an opportunity to work there was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. The experiences were invaluable, and I have already documented two of the major lessons I picked up (Permission vs Advice and Influence vs Authority). A highlight of the summer was getting to work on the botcamp program at Betaworks. My […]

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Related coverage

How tech giants are devising real ethics for artificial intelligence

For years, science fiction moviemakers have been making us fear the bad things that artificially intelligent machines might do to their human creators. But for the next decade or two, our biggest concern is more likely to be that robots will take away our jobs or bump into us on the highway. (via NYTimes)

Read the full story

What The Guardian has learned from chatbots

For the past two months, the Guardian has been testing a Facebook Messenger bot, “Sous-chef,” that provides recipe suggestions to people based on what they have in their fridges. Now, it’s using the learnings to shape its main news bot, which launched a week ago. (via DIGIDAY)

Read the full story

Microsoft is putting Cortana machine learning in a fridge

Microsoft is working with Liebherr’s appliance division to rebuild the refrigerator and make it smarter, faster, stronger…well, maybe just smarter. The new collaboration between the two will see Microsoft provide computer vision technology, via its Microsoft Cognitive Services Computer Vision API, to let the fridge identify objects contained within. (via TechCrunch)

Read the full story

How Facebook chatbots can revolutionize your social media strategy

The artificial intelligence era… It’s all about embedding human smarts in machines. Facebook chatbots are one application of this revolution, as they rapidly gain popularity and provide a new tool for marketers to leverage. These chatbots are the incorporation of automatic chatbots within Facebook Messenger. (via

Read the full story

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