Established in August 2017 and headquartered in Cardiff, We Build Bots is a multi-award-winning customer service automation startup with a focus on AI within the public sector.
The company’s flagship product, IntelAgent, combines a number of technologies including chatbots, voice assistants, big data analytics and proprietary microservices to drive customer engagement, operational efficiencies and increase revenues.
Founder and CEO Paul Shepherd heads up a team of 11 people, comprising sales, technical development and data analysis. He had previously owned a digital agency and cofounded an analytics firm called Hello Soda.
We spoke to Shepherd to find out more about his latest venture.
What is the story of We Build Bots?
Paul Shepherd: I stepped away from the day-to-day of Hello Soda, a digital agency, to establish We Build Bots. I’m supported by my management team which includes Josh Evans, our CTO, and Marco Oliver, our CIO. The team blends strong strategic, operational and technical skills and is supported by an advisory board which has great experience of founding, building, corporatising and exiting businesses in the UK, and the USA.
“We just need a big success to breed success and confidence that Wales has what it takes to grow beyond its industrial heritage. We hope to be that success!”
What problem are you trying to solve?
Public sector organisations facing real-term spending cuts of up to 40% in the last decade, and according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the sector remains under continual pressure to cut costs. Regardless of these constraints, citizens increasingly expect better digitised services and more convenience in their dealings with public service providers.
Improvements, however, can’t be made while these organisations continue to manually process millions of high volume, low value, citizen interactions. Important issues aren’t being dealt with because civil servants’ time is eroded by menial, repetitive tasks, resulting in wasted time, wasted money, and frustrated citizens.
What as your Eureka moment?
GovTech (new technologies applied to public services) is changing the way local and national governments deliver services. We Build Bots is at the forefront of that change, and with our early traction are proving a market for our products. Simply put, we believe the timing and technology are right.
Active policies from national and supranational governments are increasing engagement with startups – there’s been £4.79bn spend through G-Cloud since 2012, £2.15bn directly with SMEs – and demographic shifts inside public administrations are bringing younger and more tech-savvy officials into departments.
Long-term contracts for legacy ICT systems expiring, in addition to falling technology prices, are allowing companies like us to deliver cloud-based, mobile-first services.
What’s your investment journey to date?
Since closing a £720,000 seed round in June 2018, we’ve gained great early traction, winning £700,000 worth of contracts, predominantly (but not exclusively) with local authorities. We have grown our team from three to 11, developed proprietary IP, won three awards for innovation and secured a position on the UK Government’s digital framework. We’ve also gained coverage across media outlets like Forbes, BBC and ITV.
What’s it like being a tech company in Wales?
Awesome! The government support startups as much as they can and there are always events going on. We just need a big success to breed success and confidence that Wales has what it takes to grow beyond its industrial heritage. We hope to be that success!
What’s on the horizon for We Build Bots?
We’re now raising a late seed round of £1m, at a £3m valuation to continue our growth. We’ll use the funds to scale the team and further increase brand awareness. We also plan to bring to market two new automation products; Tickit and Triage which are currently in trial phases with clients.
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