Bots Get Serious: My Two New Investments from General Catalyst

Anyone who’s talked to me in the last few months knows that I’m excited about bots. “But Phil,” I brain-hear you asking, “aren’t most current bots stupendously lame?” Yes, yes they are. The first generation of bots, like the first generation of apps before them, are trivial. That’s because most of them are either experimental toys or were rushed to market with use cases that don’t make any sense. You don’t need a chatbot to tell you the weather, and you don’t need to buy flowers from inside of messenger. These trivial uses are “fart bots”; if you were around at the beginning of the app cycle in 2008 you’ll understand why. The consequential use cases take more than a weekend to build. Luckily, we’ve now had more than a weekend, and quality bots are starting to emerge.

And I’m thrilled to say that I’ve just invested in two amazing teams that are making consequential bots: Growbot and Butter.ai. Growbot lets you give feedback and kudos to team members in a transparent and organized way. Butter helps you find information no matter where it’s lodged in the convoluted nooks and crannies that make up corporate information systems. You can use Growbot today and Butter will be online in a few months.

Check out the announcement posts from Jeremy and Jack!

What makes these companies stand out in a field of underwhelming fart bots? Three things:

1. Both are super simple solutions to actual problems.

2. Neither are are mere “app-replacements”; you couldn’t tackle these problems with apps, but they’re perfect for the new approach of conversational UX.

3. Both work in-line with existing communication channels. The real potential of bots isn’t going to be realized with one person using one bot (that’s the old app model), but with multiple people having a normal conversation while the bots augment the stream with relevant context and functionality. This is a pretty far-reaching evolution of how humans interact with technology. It’s cognitively ergonomic. It’s finally within reach.

These three principles are critical to making important bots and meaningful companies. I’m glad to see talented teams taking up the challenge!