Welcome To The Future
Observations from this week's Project Voice 2023: The World of Conversational AI conference
Project Voice Capital Partners was gratified to have the CEOs of both PVCP portfolio companies, Matt Hammersley of Novel Effect (flying in from Seattle) and Maxim Makatchev of susuROBO (flying in from Osaka, Japan), on hand at Project Voice 2023 this week.
We are continuing to accept new LPs beginning in Q2 and beyond - if you are an accredited/qualified investor looking for exposure to conversational AI, talk to us.
Longtime country music superstar Brad Paisley co-wrote one of his many hits, Welcome to the Future, after learning of Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States.
He would later go on and perform the song at the White House, in front of the Obamas and many others in attendance.
The song is a brilliant fusion of technology and history, speaking to the challenges we all face in dealing with ambiguity about the future. No one knows how it’s gonna go, so when good things happen, we are profoundly grateful.
Project Voice 2023: The World of Conversational AI wrapped up yesterday. A joyful time, a time where business was done from day one, and a well attended few days.
Here are some observations:
1)) VC fund + existing conference = elevation
We had numerous AI celebrities on hand this week, and perhaps more quietly, rabid interest from media and analysts.
My advice to all outside observers of the CAI space is always the same:
Attend a company’s session. For half the companies at Project Voice 2023, the CEO or founder represented the firm. For the other half of the companies, it was somebody else. Who has the CEO entrusted to represent the organization?
I disallow expensive, extravagant booth activations at Project Voice, with booths required to take a more utilitarian approach that often consists only of a pull-up sign and fliers. I and our team also do not spend money on conference frills, something else I view as deeply irresponsible. The net result is you learn far more about the company than you otherwise would from their booth presence, because (gasp) you have to actually talk to someone, and that someone’s attitude, care, and whether they have CEO-level magnanimity is laid bare to observe.
A little known but longstanding fact about this conference, outside of marketing circles, is that I do not provide the attendee list to any participating company or sponsor prior to the event - only afterward. Thus, there’s a cone of silence for attendees leading up to this conference which is (sadly) unique, and private meetings that overwrite the conference program are rare, all of which lends itself to the communal and warm feel of the conference.
There’s a strong private dinner and event scene these days at Project Voice, some of which I participate in and help companies fill, and some of which happens by companies attending the conference almost in stealth, with no official presence, and yet still meeting with people off-site. The multi-directional insight arising from these is immense.
The business intelligence from Project Voice Capital Partners, now combined with the business intelligence from the annual Project Voice conference, provides a nearly panoramic and highly information-rich view of the conversational AI space, and is something I began to realize as this year’s conference progressed.
2)) Two must-see videos shown during Project Voice 2023
Special shout-out to two fantastic videos I saw while watching every main stage presentation over the 2.5 days.
The first is from Veritone, who collaborated with Cameo to create a children-oriented product called Cameo Kids.
Children (via their parents) can receive a personalized message from their favorite cartoon characters, akin to how celebrities and public figures deliver personalized messages to adults through Cameo.
The company showed this video, which provides an eye-opening glimpse into how conversational AI is going to impact the media and entertainment market massively, moving forward.
The second is from KomBea, a leading contact center AI company whose CEO Art Coombs showcased how powerful the technology can be when applied to sales.
With a human in the middle, supervising this conversation among others and intervening with the AI as needed, this video is singularly valuable in learning how conversational AI is re-shaping not just the labor force involved with modern contact centers, but the expertise and entire philosophical approach around the concept as well.
3)) The birth of the Project Voice Women’s Summit
This, alongside the formation of the Conversational AI Leadership Council and corresponding signing of the Ethics & Integrity Charter for LLM-based AI (which will be covered separately, in the newsletter to follow next week) ranks among the most important aspects of this week’s Project Voice 2023 conference.
No recordings, no documentation, no usual trappings of a gathering like this (including a decision I made to provide no physical award, in keeping with Project Voice getting out of the awards business entirely, which in turn helps attract participants with the right mindset), this is the speakeasy of women in AI, and one that is going to be very difficult to access moving forward.
The Women Leaders of Conversational AI, Class of 2024, will be selected almost entirely by the women in this picture - that power being their gift from us - with any remaining spots vetted in a process similar to this year’s, on a smaller scale. We expect these Women Leaders to be named soon, by early summer.
We purposefully had no sponsor of this event-within-the-event, keeping it devoid of corporate influence in order to create a space with greatest probability that these accomplished women could truly meet each other, forming connections that will help increase their leverage and power.
Take note of the woman in the bottom right of the second picture. Dottie Daniels, who has spent the most recent part of her lengthy career researching educational implementations of conversational AI, is a multi-year veteran of Project Voice and one of our favorites. A good example of what Project Voice, as a conference and organization, is about can be viewed in this LinkedIn post from another attendee who happened to meet her. We value this type of interaction and serendipity very highly.
A final word of thanks to the conference team: Deborah Corn, Edmund Amoye, and Phillip Felli, along with friends George (long-time graphic designer) and Jennifer Otvos (handles all promotional items), all of which served the conference with a servant heart and lent their considerable talents to making the conference a business accelerant for its participants.
Project Voice 2024: The Pillars of Conversational AI takes place April 22-24 in Chattanooga and will follow a nearly identical format, with the exception being breakout tracks will be full-day on Tuesday next year instead of half-day. Exhibits will continue to be co-located with the main stage program, and the last half-day will be reserved for more thought-provoking, non-commercial presentations including the Contrarian Speaker.