Howdy is your new digital coworker

(and my first investment for betaworks)

When I joined betaworks back in July I was keenly interested in both how Slack was shifting away from being just a workplace chat app and into an emerging platform that developers could build their own products on top of and in how virtual assistant bots were beginning to change the way we work. I wasn’t exactly sure how all that would translate in terms of an investment, but I couldn’t shake my fascination with these two trends.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Ben Brown from XOXCO while he was visiting San Francisco a couple of months ago, and when he showed me what his team was building that I knew that I’d found what I was looking for. Today marks the launch of that product, a bot-based workplace automation tool for Slack teams they’re calling Howdy.

Text-based bots have been around for a long time — anyone remember SmarterChild? — but the explosion of messaging-based interfaces, combined with advancements in machine intelligence, means we’re at a point where these bots are no longer just clever parlor tricks, they can be incredibly useful tools for improving productivity and helping people work together more effectively.

This first version of Howdy is designed to take a lot of the pain out of coordinating teams by automating meetings, but what it does now is just the tip of the iceberg. Their larger goal, as Ben puts it, is to, “Make a bot that anyone can customize to be their bot, so that all teams can enjoy the benefits of automation and digital assistance without having to, you know, build a bot.” It’s a compelling vision of the future of collaboration and I’m excited that betaworks is going to be along for the ride.

You can sign up here if you’d like to try Howdy out with your Slack team.


P.S. — Here’s a video of Ben Brown, along with April Underwood of Slack and Naveen Selvadurai of Expa discussing bots and the Notifications Summit we hosted at betaworks on October 1st.

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