The People of Botpress is a series where we highlight our people and the great work they do by talking about life at Botpress.
In this edition of The People of Botpress, we interview our Chief Financial Officer, Jean-Bernard Perron.
I’m JB or Jean-Bernard Perron. I have been working for Botpress for the past 3 years. I was the first commercial employee. It was mostly engineers before I came in. What I’ve been doing at Botpress has evolved a lot. Among other things, I have overseen sales, finance, operations, and HR. At some point I was even doing customer support. But, that was the early days. Nowadays, I mostly focus on finance, operations and HR and I lend a hand day-to-day with sales.
In terms of my favourite code editor, I’m a finance guy, so I did a bit of quantitative work during my masters. I really like to use R, I also like VBA. It’s pretty cool what you can do with Excel in terms of creating a model and getting what you want. I’m definitely a dark theme person because it relaxes my eyes. I’m always staring at a screen for 10-12 hours a day so it helps. My favourite hobby is taking care of my new puppy. Other than that, I like to read a lot and play video games as well.
There is no regular day. I really like Botpress because of the lack of routine. Every day is unique, crunching numbers for the board on Monday, heading the cyber committee on Wednesday, taking strategic client meetings on Thursday, all while keeping a tight grip on the margins, the budget, our KPIS and my inbox.
I started working for my dad's business when I was 12. I could hold the books, process payroll, collect payables, deal with unsatisfied customers, all before graduating from high school. My generalist background really proved useful in the early days. I've been selling for years, first in the family business and then in retail banking, I find those skills to be highly transferable.
For most of my knowledge, I'm self-thought, I'm an avid reader and try to read a non-fiction book a week. Fields of interest vary from very useful like accounting, finance, governance, economics, and sales to less useful like Roman history, philosophy, cartography, urban planning, politics, and more.
I think the work environment is always key. In a big corporation, everything feels so impersonal. It’s very hard to enact change in those environments. The startup environment really spoke to me and my personality.
From a tech perspective, coming from a corporate background, I know that there is so much that is redundant, repeatable, and automatable through a chatbot. The possibilities are limitless. These companies are wasting so much time with these high cost resources doing things that are always the same thing. I think every corporation, no matter the country, is ripe for disruption, especially in our space. That’s what attracted me to Botpress.
Of course I like the tech but, at the end of the day, it’s the people. There’s this ownership and solidarity where my results affect others’ results. I care for everybody moving forward, not just me. So there’s this tremendous sense of solidarity and ownership that I wouldn’t find elsewhere.
It’s really cool when you can care about others and their results and not only yours. It’s less individual and more of a collective effort. I feel like people don’t hesitate to lend a hand even though it’s not their job. I really like that about Botpress.
The sales operations and automating some of our processes and adopting new softwares to enable sales has always been fun for me. In the past year, we have adopted 7-8 new softwares to enable and automate sales. That’s been very fun because you know what it is like when you are doing work without it. The new process is just simpler, way less time and way less error prone.
I’ve noticed that we generally do something manually until it becomes big enough that you need to figure out a new way of doing it. Ever since our Series A, there’s always something that we try to bring into a new and more robust system.
It’s more of a process, not necessarily a project for me. I never see what I do as a project, I see what I do as a continuous, never-ending process. I always ask myself: “What’s the newest thing that we’re not doing efficiently and how do we systematize that to make our lives easier.”
We just went through an audit. That was tough because you go from this “closed-capital, small business bookkeeping standard” to this standard spec where you are matching the highest standard and having the auditor go through your whole sequence of transactions for the past two years. There’s a lot of back and forth. That was definitely the most challenging thing.
It’s easy to say that a startup is dynamic, but for me it’s the intensity at botpress—That “can-do” attitude. There’s this confidence at Botpress and this culture of competence that really, to me, is everything. We are doing amazing things and we are always trying to surpass ourselves while doing it. I think a lot of startups are really dynamic and have a cool vibe to them but, in terms of striving, we’re pretty unique.
At the end of the day, it’s the environment. I have to like my colleagues and the environment. I like the culture we set up with our people. Even the way we’ve set things up with our hybrid work flex schedules. It’s the ability to hire people across the world and work remotely, while having that option to come into the office if they feel like it. It’s pure flexibility – you have an office and you have a home. As long as we can hear you and you have good internet access, that's the only criteria. Just have good internet!
Just try it. The things that make Botpress great are very subtle. It’s good DX all around. There’s a code editor embedded in it, you can call any action you want, you can customize it almost infinitely at every layer of the stack. It’s very open. Being a dev platform and being open source, at least for me, that’s key and it’s synonymous. If you want to truly embrace developer roots you need to be open like that. So, try it and then tell me it’s not the best developer experience in the chatbot and conversational AI platform industry. If it’s not, great because we’re going to get some great feedback. But, usually it is. I feel pretty confident.
At the end of the day, devs like to try things, so I just tell them to try it. Everything you do is built by devs, for devs, and the users are devs. It’s devs across the board. And then, there are elements to make your life easier when you hand it over to the conversational designers or the content managers. There is also the collaborative aspect. People value the fact that with Botpress you don’t have to maintain the content. You can have a non-technical person come in and manage the content.
For me, the future of this industry is clear as day. The timing is where you would probably have a harder time predicting. To me, it’s clear that, at some point, we’re not going to have our current, familiar, usual interfaces. Interfaces will be voice first where you can just say something and you don’t have to figure out how to do it, like ordering something by just saying it out loud.
An example is customer support. For sure you can beat that experience quickly by making a better customer experience than calling a 1-800 phone line. I feel like that is obvious to a lot of people. What I think is less obvious is that it’s going to transcend to everything like e-commerce and day-to-day tasks. Every industry will utilize chatbots.
I have complete confidence in our product people, our CEO, and everyone else at Botpress to figure out how to properly position ourselves. If you’re going to build some amazing conversational AI experiences, it has to start with the developers to integrate these systems. It just opens up possibilities. I am certain that having a project in chatbots and conversational AI go through a dev team is going to be exponentially better than having it go through a non-technical team just because of the increased possibilities.
I hope that you, the reader, felt compelled to join us. Botpress is a heck of a lot of fun. In terms of clients, I truly believe we are bar none the best. I think we have the best customer success team, and we have the best onboarding experience. Our platform is consistently getting better, and especially with our most recent Series A investment, we have increased the possibilities tremendously just from a capacity point of view by having more resources and more people working at Botpress—It's going to get better and better.
Read our last episode of The People of Botpress with François-Xavier Darveau, Head of Engineering
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