The buzz in Silicon Valley is bots: they’re cheaper and faster to build than apps, and make it a snap to reach users where and when they want to communicate. Are bots the future of customer engagement? Join our free VB Live event to find out.

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“The trend is very clear here that people don’t want to talk on the phone,” says Paul English, cofounder of Kayak and now founder of a new, exclusive personalized travel app called Lola. “It’s why messaging has become such an important communication platform.”

And it’s a trend that has opened up the doors to a new revolution in bot technology. According to a recent Mary Meeker report, only 12 percent of Millennials and 29 percent of Gen Xers are interested in phone customer service. So companies need to learn to connect with their customers on the channels they’re most comfortable with — and make it as easy, responsive, and cost effective as possible.

And that’s why English has developed Lola as a messaging app that allows customers to use natural language when making their travel requests, either speaking or typing the way that they think, rather than filling out forms with boxes and pull-down menus and calendars.

Then human agents work to create trips for users, but their recommendations are powered by a sophisticated AI database which boosts efficiency and makes the experience tremendously personalized.

The AI is able to plug into user preferences, predict likes and dislikes, and use complex algorithms to compare user profiles and build a comprehensive picture of customers.

“If we’re successful in the right type of travel agents and developing the right type of AI, our travelers will trust the recommendations,” English says. “They won’t even have to read the reviews, because our AI actually looks at review data across multiple sites for all our properties.” It’s all about getting to that point of consumer trust, English says, and it wouldn’t be possible without AI technology.

But, English warns, the applications of bot technology are still just beginning to become clear, and the technology is still in its infancy.

“I look at bots similar to way I look at self-driving cars,” English says. “I have a Tesla Model S and it has self driving capabilities, but I never trust it completely. You’re supposed to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes open. I think bots are the same way.”

It does also depend on the complexity of your industry vertical. “For some applications, a bot will do a flawless job, like if you want to build a weather bot, and ask a question,” explains English. “One data point. That stuff is easy.”

“As our AI gets better and better, some queries will get answered immediately by the AI and we’ll be able to feed our human travel agents better information and better tools,” he continues, “but at least for the foreseeable future, I want a human on the other end.”

Find out more about what bots can — and can’t (yet) —  do for your company, and why now is the time to get on board, register for our VB Live event. English will be joined by Eugenia Kuyda, CEO of Luka, and VB analyst Jon Cifuentes.

Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.

In this VB Live event, you’ll learn how to:

  • Recognize bad as well as good bots and their implications for your business
  • Understand the difference between chatbots and SMS
  • Take advantage of developments in bot technology
  • Identify the key players in the bot landscape


  • Paul English, Cofounder, Kayak
  • Eugenia Kuyda, CEO, Luka
  • Jon Cifuentes, Analyst, VentureBeat


  • Wendy Schuchart, Moderator, VentureBeat