Bots in Developing Economies Are a Major Startup Opportunity

August 26, 2016 - 2 minutes read

Hindsight is always 20/20, among iPhone app developers as well as anybody else creating products in a fast-paced market. Guessing trends isn’t easy. Luckily, we’re starting to see proven success for two emerging trends, both of which have big growth opportunities for startups that jump in early: bots and developing economies.

While the bot trend might cause San Francisco iPhone app developers to think of cutting-edge young professionals with custom Slackbot and early adaptors ordering services via Messenger, the trend actually originated in less tech-saturated markets like China and Thailand, where WeChat blazed the trail for all-encompassing chat apps. The runaway success of WeChat is only now being replicated in the form of Facebook Messenger, and so it’s no surprise that both apps are incorporating artificial intelligence into their services to keep users within the “walled garden” of their respective branded ecosystems.

Nikibot, a startup based entirely on a Messenger bot service, launched last week specifically to serve Facebook Messenger users in India’s fast emerging middle class, and iPhone app developers will be watching closely to see how that concept performs financially over the coming months and years.

A lean startup of 25 employees, Nikibot has already picked up over 75,000 users, who use the bot to process services for Uber, fast food orders, and dozens of other services. For users, the benefit is obvious: keep it streamlined, limit native app use. After all, if you can ask for a ride in one place and receive it quickly at a fair price, who cares if the ride is provided by Uber or some other company?

A key challenge for Nikibot and other middle-man bot app developers will be maintaining user trust and delivering the best price to the end user — rather than the service that cuts Nikibot the best commission.

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