StartupReporter would like to continue a new series of articles “Startup Journey: from 0 to 1”. In this series of articles, we would like to show startuppers not only through their innovative projects but also by talking about their personality and the team.
Botsociety is a design suite for chatbots and voice assistants. It’s like Photoshop for A.I.
Oleksandr Komarevych (OK): – Vittorio, please tell me what BotSociety is, where did the idea come from and why in this period?
Vittorio Banfi: – Me and Stefano were working on chatbots and voice assistants for big companies in Italy. Before actually building the agents, we wanted to design and preview the experience. I was sure that a design tool was out there already, that somebody was already tackling this problem. There was nobody, so we had to build an internal tool. Then I published it on a Facebook group, we got the first 20 clients in 24 hours and we figured this is a real thing.
OK: – How was your experience in 500Startups? What did you learn and can share to give insights into it?
Vittorio: – 500Startups helped us a lot! In particular Marvin Liao and Chris Neumann pushed us to approach a lot of things in a different way. During our time at 500Startups, the company grew by a factor of 5. It was an amazing ride.
OK: – What are you working on right now with Botsociety?
Vittorio: – We are working to support all of the conversational platforms out there. It’s already possible to design for voice and chatbots. We need to work more on supporting Twitter, the Google Assistant, Alexa, and more.
OK: – The team is very important for a startup at any stage. Who is in your team? Could you tell our readers about the uniqueness of each team member?
Vittorio: – Stefano, of course, is my co-founder, we started this together even before we knew what we wanted to do exactly. Massimiliano joined us shortly after. Massimiliano is now a cornerstone of the development team. In the first 6 months with us, he had to move 6 times. Giacomo joined us after 500Startups – he’s one of the most talented developers I know. Bianca joined us shortly after. She’s very young and very talented. She left Facebook to bet on us and is now in charge of all of our marketing things. I’m excited as we are welcoming 5 new talents in the next weeks.
OK: – How would you describe your team in one word?
Vittorio: Dream team.
OK: – What is your plan with Botsociety for the next 6 months? What is your vision?
Vittorio: When we started out, I was explaining to investors that we were competing with the incumbent of the design industry, like Adobe. I then stopped doing that because nobody took us seriously. 2 months ago Adobe acquired our biggest competitor. Our product is better, but we have to maintain the lead.
OK: – Now, let’s go with a bit more in details about your personality.
Often, in an interview, I ask why you choose this project and not others, why were you so interested in this specific topic. Going the long way around, this brings to the questions: what kind of child were you? Did you have someone who influenced you?
Vittorio: – Difficult to say who influenced me the most. Both of my grandfathers were engineers, and both spent their life working on the game changing technologies of their time. My father is a journalist, he works with information. So I guess me working in the information technology was a natural next step.
OK: – Why did you become a founder and what should anyone develop in him/herself to become a founder?
Vittorio: – Being a founder is a lot of work and a lot of stress. A lot of satisfaction for sure, but they arrive much later. Me and Stefano started Botsociety because we could not really think about anything else, and we find it difficult and frustrating working on anything else. So I don’t think that becoming is really a choice, it’s more an obsession that becomes your job.
OK: – What is the most important lesson you received in your startup journey so far?
Vittorio: First, when you feel uneasy and moving into an uncharted territory, it’s usually a good sign that you are moving into the right direction. Second: persistence is key.
OK: – What would you recommend to readers who have an idea, but haven’t figured out where to start yet? Based on your experience, what would be your advice to them?
Vittorio: – Ask yourself: Why didn’t I start yet? Is there something I can do that would bring me closer to starting? Another useful question is: If I start this, am I sure I want to dedicate the next 5 years working obsessively on this problem?
OK: – What purchase of €100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
Vittorio: Great question lol. I don’t purchase a lot of stuff for myself, so it’s hard to say. I really enjoy using my Google Home in the morning
OK: – What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
Vittorio: – Luca Rancilio, one of our investors, gifted me ‘Search inside yourself’. I now gift it a lot to other people, as it’s a great book about practical meditation practices written by a rational engineer.
OK: – What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Vittorio: – That the amount of work that is needed in a startup is similar to any other job. In the first two years, you are going to work overtime every day, kick in some weekends, just to avoid things from failing.
OK: – If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph.
– I really like civil right movements quotes: ‘Keep the eye on the prize’.
OK: – What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
Vittorio: – Getting an ADSL connection when I was 15. Connecting to the internet at that age opened a world for me. My parents were not very happy when the modem was delivered to our house without them knowing.
OK: – What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
Vittorio: – I really like to eat 2 pizzas at a time. I sometimes eat only pizzas for 2 or 3 weeks, like a ninja turtle or something.
OK: – Vittorio, what would you like to wish the readers?
– Find your inner voice!