In late 2015 Vassil decided it was time to end his long corporate career in VMWare and gave in a generous 10 month notice. He carefully handed over the Professional Services Division based in Bulgaria which he helped setup and grow to some 60+ people to his colleagues and made plans to unwind. He spent the summer of 2016 in his favourite hobby – fishing. Make no mistake, all fish were treated humanely, and returned to the water after being treated with antibiotics. Here is a really big specimen.
Fishing and resting soon gave way to the necessity to be active, reading and developing and Vassil rented a space in Puzl Coworking where he began to visit each day spending time investigating interesting new technologies that could be the base of his new project.
In 2016 Facebook Messenger and Viber opened their platforms for software developers, and the idea dawned on Vassil that chatbots will transform every industry. Chatbots would improve customer experience, optimize customer service and serve as sales and marketing agents. Vassil researched the technological breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Understanding (NLP/NLU), that were transforming the software industry and decided to jump all in and develop chatbots.
According to Bill Aulet and his “Disciplined Entrepreneurship” there are three ways to start a venture. One is to have an idea, the second is to have a technology and the third is to have a passion. Vassil had all three.
He had the idea to do chatbots, he knew about the technological breakthroughs in AI, ML and NLU and he had the passion to learn the newly released developer tools and get his hands dirty.
Vassil did a Demo Chatbot for Facebook Messenger (MVP) with a powerful NLU, later redone for Viber, that showcased the ability to select a TV set from the database of products and showed it to as many people as he could to judge interest. At the same time, Vassil set out to find the right team. He knew that “finding the right partners for a venture is more important than finding your partner for marriage”. After some meetings and talks around town he chose Vladimir Rusev, a seasoned entrepreneur as CBDO and Rado Nikolov a veteran engineer as CTO. Vassil knew both Vladi and Rado very well from the times of Sciant/VMWare, dating back some 15 years, and knew that any arguing and misunderstandings were long in the past.
Vlady, a personal development junkie, instinctively knew that the values of positive attitude, solution orientation, honesty, directness, agility, teachability, he shared with Vassil would be a good base for building a successful software product company out of Bulgaria with a big enough “WHY” to inspire investors, clients and engineers. Rado, who had taken a long vacation from his previous gig in Transmetrics, had done soome camping in the mountains, and was ready to build quality software.
To complete the team Vasco recruited Ivan Barutchiyski, a self-driven engineer based in Plovdiv, who had created and supported the software systems of the clothing manufacturer BulgarConf.
The last member of the team, Ignat Ignatov, again from VMWare and a partner in myadventure.bg, came a while later and beefed up the effort for building the UI of the company’s product.
Once the team was in place it was time to start looking for funding. Vassil and Vladimir showed the MVP to all friends and business contacts they could think of. The first investment came from “friends and family” and the team assembled in Puzl Coworking on the 17th of January 2017.
Based on the strong team and the impressive MVP, angel investors from SiteGround Tenko Nikolov and Ivo Tzenov and the former Telerik CEO and Eleven and Launchub LP, Vassil Terziev also decided to back the startup and invested in it.
Vasko, Vlady and Rado did a couple of weeks brainstorming and decided that the name Connecto.ai most correctly reflectred their mission to connect businesses with humans through AI powered conversational interfaces.