Pypestream’s CEO Talks Messaging Between Businesses and Consumers

It is pretty much a given that more and more people choose messaging apps as their primary means to talk to each other these days. But so far, companies have been sluggish in using this medium as a way to talk to their customers.

Sure, there is e-mail and the occasional exchange across social media with companies, but New York-based Pypestream wants to bring more direct communication to business and consumer interactions.

CEO Richard Smullen says his company’s app lets consumers, who opt in, send and receive messages from businesses they wish to interact with. That can include making payments on invoices and purchases within the app. Pypestream’s software launched in beta back in December, and the company already works with businesses such as MetroPCS and Billboard.

In the spring, Pypestream will put its artificial intelligence and machine learning software to work to let businesses automate customer service, and also try to make it personal. For instance, if the system cannot answer a question, the message will be directed to someone at the business for a response.

Smullen spoke with Xconomy about the development of Pypestream. He says when he first came to the U.S. seven years ago from South Africa, he was developing technology for verifying views of video advertising online. That became Genesis Media, based in New York. Seven months ago, he left his full-time role as chief revenue officer at that company, though he remains on the board. Now he devotes his time to Pypestream’s growth.

Xconomy: Where did the idea for Pypestream come from?

Richard Smullen: I was in Florida about a year ago at a dinner, and I had a flight back that evening to New York which I wasn’t going to make. I tried unsuccessfully to get through to the airline’s call center that told me to wait 11 minutes, and through their app, which had multi-leg responses and reward travel options which weren’t what I was looking for.

Through sheer frustration, I went onto WhatsApp and messaged my sister, who lives in New Jersey and asked her if she could please change my flight while I was at the dinner. I gave her the confirmation number; a few minutes later she came back with options. My flight was changed and I didn’t need to go through a clunky interface. And I thought, wouldn’t it have been cool if I were doing it directly with the airline.

In the ensuing weeks, I did a deep dive into … Next Page »

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