chatterboxes

Houston startup hopes to revolutionize the chatbot business

Houston-based alive5 has over 800 customers using their chatbox services — and has found a special niche in sports team's websites. Photo via alive5.com

It seems like every other webpage nowadays has a virtual assistant that pops up via a chat box. A Houston startups is hoping to ride the wave of this digital marketing initiative.

Houston-based alive5 has created a platform that allows small-to-medium-sized businesses to engage customers using Chatbot Technology, from their websites, apps, SMS text-message, and social media pages.

"What we do at alive5 is really simple," says Glenn Gutierrez, COO and co-founder of alive5. "We help your business make more conversations."

Gutierrez and his co-founder Dustin Yu started out in 2017 as Alive Chat System and they were one of the first chat systems in Texas.

"Our chat system was kind of a common system that you might see on a website that says, 'Hey, how can I help you today?" says Gutierrez. "And when you press that button, somebody on the other end sends a message and says, 'Hey, how are you doing today? How can I help you?"

After exploring how to take the company, which was initially a lifestyle product, to scale, they added new products and found new ways for their clients to have more conversations with their customers.

"We had to create as many channels as possible outside of web chat," says Gutierrez. "We talked about the live chat system, moving into SMS text message, moving into social media and interestingly enough, we started moving into business cards with QR codes where people can actually scan a QR code or text a phone number and we can automatically build a relationship with a customer at an event, in person or from a billboard.

"And that activates pretty much all the rest of the system for businesses to be able to engage a customer. So we think about ourselves as the best way to help you create more conversations, not just on your website, but pretty much anywhere you would engage a customer."

The platform enjoyed a meteoric rise in the chat space due to its participation in Capital Factory's accelerator program. From there, they were placed in another accelerator program in Philadelphia, the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

"Because of the boost from the accelerator programs, we developed relationships with a lot of great organizations," says Gutierrez. "Today, we service over 800 customers, including 200 of the top college sports teams and pro teams like the NBA, NFL and NHL."

The platform's collaboration helps teams sell more tickets, especially premium seat tickets, by facilitating conversations with VIP clients and allowing fans the opportunity to go to the team's website to use the automated chat solution.

"A good example of one of those is the Jacksonville Jaguars website," says Gutierrez. "You can go there and see one of our chat boxes available to assist with inquiries or questions that you may have before, during or after a game. And our solution is built for organizations with a high volume of customer interactions to automate some of those tier one questions."

Alive5 also services customers like Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, major hotel brands and other companies in the hospitality space. They are also now collaborating with Spectra Venue Management, which manages hundreds of venues throughout North America, to pilot alive5's messaging and concierge services.

Outside of their inroads in the chat space, the platform is creating AI-powered strategies to help companies maximize their communication opportunities at personal touchpoint events such as conferences and trade shows.

"With our A.I. powered business cards, we're able to take an engagement that happens at a conference, an event or at a networking session and turn that into a prospect that's now part of a company's digital lead funnel," says Gutierrez. "What we're proposing is to give them a laser-etched metal business card with the QR code. That is better than just giving them a paper business card that they will take and may or may not call you and that's it, that's the end of the interaction.

"With the QR code, a potential contact can scan it and it will send them a demo of our product to their phone and it will give them all of a client's contact details so they can reach out to that client anytime they're ready to buy. The best part about that is that now you have something that no other system can do and you have that customer's phone number available to you at any point in time."

Moving forward, the Houston-based platform wants to do everything within its power to be one of the most successful chat companies nationwide.

"I like to think about our product like a Lego set," says Gutierrez. "It's up to you to choose what package you want. I've been in the startup space for a long time and to finally see that ecosystem starting to mature to the point that businesses are more open to digitally transforming their organizations, where they're understanding the need to take risks, to try new things, that's great for us.

"When you think about a company that can help you with your communication, I want alive5 to be the first company on their minds."

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Building Houston

 
 

Camilo Mejia, CEO and founder of Houston-based Enovate Upstream, has big plans for increasing efficiency across the oil and gas sector. Photo courtesy of Enovate

A Houston energy tech company announced a new artificial intelligence platform that aims to digitize the oil and gas sector to provide the best efficiency and return on investment at every stage of the supply chain cycle — from drilling and production to completion.

Enovate Upstream's exponential growth, says Camilo Mejia, CEO and founder of the company, has already led to two new strategic partnerships in the works with European and Latin American companies.

"We see a better future in the oil and gas industry," Mejia shares in an interview with InnovationMap. "Our team worked in various roles in O&G, and we don't think the industry will end up as some people may think. The future will be different and digitized, we are just here to facilitate that transition to give back to the industry that gave us a lot."

The company's proprietary cloud-based ADA AI digital ecosystem is challenging the assumptions of the industry by using new technology powered artificial intelligence to provide historical data with AI to give real-time production forecasting. Thanks to the cloud, users can access the information anywhere in the world.

The new platform combines three models — digital drilling, digital completions, and digital production — that provide precise data that can be customized to the client's needs, integrating into an existing platform easily for a real-time view of their return on investment and carbon emission output.

Mejia shares more about his company's growth and what goals Enovate Upstream is setting to continue the course of digitization in the oil and gas industry in the Q&A with InnovationMap.

InnovationMap: What inspired Enovate Upstream’s focus on artificial intelligence technology for the upstream value chain?

Camilo Mejia: For the past five or six years, there's been talk of digitalization, and the value of data. The next level is not the value of the data, it's about the automation, how you can improve operations, and how you can help customers to make better decisions. Every single technology that we are developing here is about the return of investment.

Our AI concept is about the physics behind the data. We are accelerating digital adoption by properly showing the tangible value of the technology by speaking the same language and showing the value from the oil and gas perspective, which was one of the challenges other AI technology faced to break into the industry before. Our artificial intelligence component upgrades this technology to optimize the industry while integrating it with this digital ecosystem all in one place. The digital ecosystem we're building covers the entire value chain.

One of the challenges the industry faces is around capital allocation — how we can help customers to properly allocate capital into projects, which is a fundamental way we forecast new projects. Another challenge is the size of the organization that ranges from corporations to small businesses. They have many opportunities to improve cost but that varies across companies.

We are overcoming that challenge in order to develop a technology that can show the inefficiencies between the sizes. The third challenge is the adoption of digital technology. There are two different ways of deploying artificial intelligence. One is data-driven analysis, data-driven models, or data trading — this is the foundation.

IM: What fundamental changes do you think your cloud-based ADA technology can provide across every stage of the value chain?

CM: The biggest change we have in the platform is revising the workflow based on the production size. We use the data the customers already have, to develop a model that changes the way we forecast production in the industry. Before you deploy the capital and execute the project, you are going to have a better idea of the maximum potential profitability, so you can make better decisions at any stage from that point.

One of the inspirations for this was Tesla. The automotive industry was failing to provide a self-driving vehicle because it was using mathematical approaches, but Tesla overcame that challenge using data of millions of drivers to drive and park the cars efficiently, optimizing the process.

We are doing exactly the same, which is applying mathematical equations only for drilling forecasts, production forecasts, and using the data from the wells to see how the projects are behaving. We also integrate the modules so every single module is communicating with each other at every stage to correlate back to a production forecast to set your targets or operation based on that expected return of investment.

Our concept is about the return of investment, in order to develop the ROI concept, you got to plan the events right and the varying size production, that becomes the second component. The third component is about optimization of operations, which is about automation to improve operations and therefore decision-making. We are developing technology that has a very modern interface to automate operations in a more intuitive way so customers can be independent in the process and make the best decisions.

IM: At the moment, there is a need for virtual connections. How does your technology allow certain hands-on tasks to be handled remotely?

CM: In many ways, we have a big project in the Gulf of Mexico. We place technologies that we are using in today's market and deploy a platform that customers can use independently. We can also automate operations to the cloud by just deploying, trimming the data out of the field straight to the cloud so that people in the field can actually use the AI component to optimize operations. We don't require face to face interaction using the cloud environment.

Since the coronavirus these digital components have been on demand, we have grown about 500 percent from the end of Q1 and into the middle of Q2. We are experiencing an acceleration in the adoption of digital technology, but the ability to deploy the technology through the cloud has been instrumental in gaining more traction in the market. As a matter of fact, just as an indicator, we have been hiring people since the start of the coronavirus.

IM: Enovate Upstream started a year ago since then you’ve experienced exponential growth. What are a couple of goals that the company will achieve by the end of the year?

CM: Our strategy is focused on the next level for the company, which is securing funding round with investors in London. We are also aiming to facilitate the deployment of our technology globally. We are focusing on the United States and Latin America, but we hope to expand our funding round to Europe and the Middle East.

Our other goal lies with our partnerships, we are working through a distribution channel, through larger service companies that are facilitating the commercialization of the technology. The focus is on enabling these companies to properly support the customers by doing more technology integration and increasing the value creation.

The next goal is obviously to sustain the company, even though we have been growing, there is a lot of uncertainty in the market, and we are focusing on building the culture of the company, which is challenging in a virtual space.

IM: How has Enovate Upstream navigated an unstable market amid your rapid growth?

CM: That's a good question. I think the lesson is that you can always end up in a different direction. Coronavirus is having a big impact on many businesses, often negatively, but for us, it was instrumental to realize the full potential of the technology we were developing.

We saw that the activity was going from operations to the financial sector with companies selling assets to sustain their business. There were a lot of customers trying to decide what kind of wells they need to continue producing, so that was a market that we didn't capture before.

We grew the technology in that direction by starting a second company called Energy Partners. We created a joint venture with some producers in South Texas to make better decisions in asset acquisition. It was instrumental for us to realize the full potential on the finance side, as opposed to operations where the initial focus was.

We have assets in South Texas now and from a technology standpoint, it's the ideal way to test our analytic technology. We use our technology to properly evaluate the return of investment to make decisions about acquiring assets to optimize the operations and increase production. We have the opportunity to prove the technology with our investments, so we can actually build trust with customers. We are 100 percent sure that the technology works the way we say it works.

IM: There’s a huge emphasis on sustainability in the energy industry. How does your technology reduce carbon emissions?

CM: There are two kinds of components here. The first one is about optimizing operations — personnel transportation at the field level. We have studied calculations of what carbon dioxide output looks like to reduce it in terms of optimizing transportation, technology, and contributing to innovative ideas. We are currently initiating a feasibility study on a carbon capture technology, and working with customers to provide value in the technology in various aspects.

IM: I see several partnerships have already begun. Are you looking for more and what role do these partnerships play for your business?

CM: We have two partnerships about to close. One is with Telefonica, a Spanish telecommunications company, and another with Pluspetrol, an Argentinian production company. Telefonica provides cybersecurity services to oil and gas companies, we actually work with them to deploy our technology in Latin America and Europe. They provide the cloud and cybersecurity component while we provide the AI component.

In terms of our technology development, Pluspetrol has been one of our partners from the very beginning and we continue developing more technologies with this particular customer. They provide us with access to real data and real operational conditions that facilitate technological innovation.

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