Drift: Sales Bot Engineering with David Cancel

David Cancel has started five companies, most recently Drift. Drift is a conversational marketing and sales platform. David has a depth of engineering skills and a breadth of business experience that make him an amazing source of knowledge. In today’s episode, David discusses topics ranging from the technical details of making a machine learning-driven sales platform to the battle scars from his early career, when he spent a lot of time building products that people did not want. He has found success by focusing on building software that the market has shown a desire for.

Chatbots were a popular, trendy subject a few years ago. The success of chatbots manifested in them fading into the background, and becoming a subtle, increasing part of our everyday interactions. Not every online interaction can be replaced by a chatbot, but many online interactions can be made more efficient by using chatbots. Chatbots can serve well-defined information, like product features, or the hours of operation of a business. When a chatbot gets a question that it cannot answer, the bot can route the conversation to a human.

When a customer lands on a web page of a company using Drift, they see a chat box appear in the corner of the screen. The customer is able to communicate through that chat box with a bot that represents the company. The customer can learn about the product, schedule a call with a salesperson, and get other useful utilities from the Drift sales bot.

The Drift chatbot messaging system is handled by Elixir/Erlang. Erlang is widely known as the messaging language that was used to scale WhatsApp while maintaining high availability. On the backend, Java services take the interactions from the Driftbot and pull it into a CRM, which allows sales and marketing people to manage information about the customers that are interacting with the chatbot. David gives lots more detail around the engineering stack, the deployment model, and his thoughts on the business and modern engineering.

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