Talkabot Talks: Eric Soelzer, Talkabot Organizer

This post originally appeared on the the company blog to promote the Talkabot Conference

Eric has been juggling time between Howdy and the Talkabot Conference for some months now, and I thought it would be interesting to get his perspective on why everyone at Howdy is excited about our first conference.

How did Howdy decide that Talkabot needed to happen?

Howdy became a full-fledged startup in September 2015, and it was around that time we had the idea (to put on Talkabot). We got in touch with Peter Levitan and Robert Hoffer, the creators of SmarterChild, and pitched the idea that they get on stage and talk about their experience. When they agreed, we realized we had something really relevant and exciting to build a conference around. I’m really proud of the people we’ve brought together for this event.

What priorities did you have when deciding who you wanted to see speak at Talkabot?

When “peak bot hype” happened in April 2016, the mission became clearer:

(W)e had to help cut the hype around this stuff, work on building a community and hear from the people we knew had experience working on bots and related software.

There were communities established for creative art bots, but nothing for the opportunities for bots in platforms like Slack that are primarily used for work and business.

When Facebook announced bots for Messenger at F8, all sorts of hot takes about bots were flying around with wild speculation. It was obvious that the good information was being buried amongst articles stuffed with questions from people without experience.

We had a good perspective on who was doing smart work in the space and reached out to them.

As a person working at a bot startup, I am thrilled to hear from the lineup of presenters we’ve assembled.

As the maintainer of Botkit, how important are open-source tools to the success of bots as a platform?

It’s critical that people are able to experiment heavily with bots right now, and an open-source toolkit like Botkit with community-driven development is the best way for developers to make bots for Slack and Facebook without feeding their data into a (potentially-expensive) black box.

If we want to have major success with bots, it will take lots and lots of developers to get there.

We’re trying to make bots as ubiquitous as websites, so we’re committed to supporting and growing the Botkit community to help make that happen.

What makes Austin a great town for bots?

Austin is a fantastically collaborative place to work. In my experience, most everyone knows each other and shares their experience with one another. The quality of life here is high so the pool of technical talent is high. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the industries providing these massive opportunities are here, as well. Proof of that is in the work Conversable is doing creating bots for companies like Whole Foods.

It’s a boom time in Austin, so naturally it is a fertile place to invest in emerging technology. Bots have a bright future in Austin…and as someone who is never leaving, that makes me happy!

Join us Sept 28–29th in Austin, Texas to discuss bots, conversational software and community for the first ever Talkabot Conference. Full track tickets are still available but going fast!

Follow @TalkabotConf for the latest announcements and news.