Sandstone wave.
Sandstone wave. (source: Pixabay)

Greylock Partners investor Sarah Guo joins us for episode two of our new pop-up podcast on bots and conversational interfaces. She’s written insightfully on bots and has worked on several investments in bot startups.

We open by asking how bots fit into Sarah’s investment thesis and why bot startups are appealing right now (short answer: they sit at the intersection between messaging, AI-based search, and mobile commerce).

In the middle of the episode, we raise a question that comes up often in bot circles: is WeChat the future of mobile commerce? It’s easy to look at WeChat usage in China, where it’s an almost universal payment and identity platform, and see it as the final evolution of messaging, and a model that must eventually arrive in the U.S. Sarah thinks it’s not; in China, it preceded many of the Internet services that have already been popular in the U.S. for some time—payments, file transfer, common identity, and so on. Bots and messaging-based commerce will need to find a more nuanced fit here.

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Bot of the week: Bots that fight the man

  • A bot that tweets at Comcast when Internet service is slower than advertised.

  • Do Not Pay, a bot that appeals parking tickets. It now also takes care of a handful of other bureaucratic hassles, like applying for delayed-flight compensation and generating applications for homeless assistance. “Bots are sneakernet APIs.”

  • Trim, a bot that scans credit card statements for subscriptions, then offers to go through the unsubscribe process for you.