153rd 1M/1M Roundtable For Entrepreneurs: Focus On Artificial Intelligence
Every year, in December, as I think through the various trends I see from our blog’s coverage, I start to synthesize the nuggets. This year, one of the trends I see clearly is an increased adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in various walks of business. At today’s roundtable, we had a company that is trying to use AI to design a user experience for travel.
The entrepreneur, Raul Juarez, from Cordoba, Argentina, pitched Beweegs.com, a travel search engine that he is designing to offer a personalized ‘emotional’ connection to hotels and travel experiences as part of the travel planning process.
Well, it’s a topic that holds huge interest for me, both as an avid traveler, and also a connoisseur of AI technology. A long, long time back, I wrote a column on Forbes called Connecting With Your Intimate Bot. Here is an excerpt from the column:
Imagine this: You are planning a trip to Rome. You are looking for a hotel around Piazza Espagna, not something large and impersonal–which rules out the Hassler Villa Medici. You like smaller bed-and-breakfasts, with charm, warmth, and character.
You want an online travel agent who can understand your needs and preferences, and find you not only the right hotel but also really interesting restaurants, boutiques and shows all aligned with your taste. Normally, you use Guide du Routard as your travel guide, but today there is still a gulf between travel guides and online travel-booking sites–in other words, content and commerce are fragmented. In Web 3.0, you will see the content and commerce finally come together in a big way, no longer forcing you to hop from site to site to get your job done.
On this same trip, you would love to meet local people who share your interests–say, cooking, jazz, opera. In Web 3.0, you will see the community elements of Web 2.0 pulled into the context, making it as easy to find new friends with common interests, even in a distant city, as it is to book a hotel room.
Some user-generated content is already becoming an integral part of travel planning today. At TripAdvisor, for instance, travelers can report back on their experiences at hotels around the world. The missing element, however, is the notion of the individual user and his or her personal needs. You don’t want to read reviews from anyone. You want to read reviews by people whose taste and judgment you trust.
In a Web 3.0 world, then, a personalized travel agent will help you find and book a highly customized itinerary, leveraging all the power of previous generations of Web technology–searching (both generic and vertical), community building, content and commerce. That’s how I get Web 3.0=(4C+P+VS)–the sum of content, commerce, community and context, with personalization and vertical search.
This is complex technology, requiring sophisticated artificial-intelligence algorithms. After all, your Web 3.0 travel agent will not be a “person” but a “bot,” or intelligent agent.
But I suspect you will like your travel bot. And your career bot. And your shopping bot.
So be patient with the technology entrepreneurs around the world, who are working through these generations of the evolving Web, trying to bring about a dramatically better user experience. After all, they–and their bots–are working for you.
Well, I am still waiting for my personalized travel agent. The article was written in January 2008. I did not think I would be kept waiting so long.
So, I am very interested in what Raul is trying to do, although I pointed out a number of issues with his current assumptions, design principles, and taxonomy set up.
Next, Marc Beneteau from Norristown, Pennsylvania, pitched WP Academy, an online education offering for WordPress and related technologies, including plug-ins for SEO, e-commerce, etc. Marc is selling an online WordPress encyclopedia, some live coaching, courses, as well as a couple of niche software modules. He is currently generating about $150k in annual revenue.
Marc positioned his presentation as an investor pitch, and I gave him corresponding feedback. Key questions: How do you differentiate in this super noisy market place? What is the TAM? What is the customer acquisition strategy?
Needless to say, Marc needs answers to these questions.
Then Carmen Brown from Chicago, Illinois, pitched Girly Stuff, Inc., which is a web business concept that springs from a book she has written. She wants to merchandise the characters of the book, and develop an e-commerce business around them. However, there is a small problem: the book has barely sold a few copies.
First order of business? Market and sell the book, of course!
Before I end, I’d like to encourage all entrepreneurs who want to apply for the 1M/1M New Year Challenge to submit completed applications. We have received a large number of incomplete applications, and quite possibly, you are working on honing your material to present the most compelling front. That’s fine. You have time, until December 20, 2012.
In case you are looking for the application guidelines, please check the official rules for the contest. There, you will find comprehensive instructions on what questions need to be answered to qualify for the voting round that begins on December 21, 2012.
Also, please note that to get to the finals on January 10 and 17, you will need at least 50 votes. And the top 20 applications from those that make it to the voting round will be chosen by audience votes. So, depending on how your competition is gearing up, you better line up friends and colleagues to help you during the voting period (December 21 to January 7).
Most importantly, though, have fun with the contest!
You can listen to the recording of today’s roundtable here.
Sramana Mitra is the founder of the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) initiative, a virtual incubation program that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. Sramana has a master’s degree in electrical