Mobile Ecosystem

VC Rich Wong on mobile, marketing, AI, bots, and digital assistants

John Koetsier

Rich Wong

“The AI-driven chatbot is not going to dominate everything, by any means, or even get anywhere close to that.”

That’s just one of the things that venture capitalist Rich Wong told me a couple of weeks ago at TUNE’s Postback conference in Seattle. But bots will, he said, be an important point of interaction for certain kinds of companies and certain kinds of use cases:

But bots — especially AI-driven bots available today — are limited. Something that many technologists hope will be much less limited are personal digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, OK Google, Viv.ai, and others … perhaps even including a Watson-powered initiative from IBM at some point.

I asked Wong when these will be good enough to book a flight, reserve a room, and order tickets at the big game on demand, just as we ask them. His answer?

“Some of that is real now,” he said.

A real question for many brands, of course, is how they’ll communicate with customers. With bots, it’s on someone else’s messaging service. With personal digital assistants, it may very well be at the whim of platform owners. That’s challenging, because the great thing about apps right now is that when your app is on your customers’ phones, you are riding along with them on the “three-foot device” …never more than three feet from their bodies.

In other words, it’s the ultimate owned marketing platform.

Wong is confident, however, that whoever wins, there will be ways for marketers to message, communicate with, and hear from their customers. Apps will be a part of that story, as will bots. And, of course, artificially intelligent agents.

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Author
John Koetsier

Before acting as a mobile economist for TUNE, John built the VB Insight research team at VentureBeat and managed teams creating software for partners like Intel and Disney. In addition, he led technical teams, built social sites and mobile apps, and consulted on mobile, social, and IoT. In 2014, he was named to Folio's top 100 of the media industry's "most innovative entrepreneurs and market shaker-uppers.” John lives in British Columbia, Canada with his family, where he coaches baseball and hockey, though not at the same time.