Strathclyde Inspire Case study - Wes Beard

Wes Beard is the Co-founder and CEO of konversable (previously known as Total Chatbots); a company whose technology provides class-leading online chat solutions for businesses.  Its technology consists of a combination of website chatbots and live chat, with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp integrations. Its latest feature, MediaFlo, is an industry-first in chat, allowing businesses to embed interactive video experiences within the chat.  It is looking to add Instagram integration to its armoury in the autumn.

Wes graduated from the University of Strathclyde in 2003 with a MEng in Engineering & Business Management. He followed this with an MBA in 2015 from Strathclyde Business School.

Wes was motivated to start his own business after noticing the increasing popularity of messaging apps as a way for businesses to communicate with customers; yet very few businesses at the time were embracing this opportunity, due to lack of knowledge or resource.  Utilising chatbot automation in combination with live chat, and allowing businesses to access web, Messenger and WhatsApp messaging channels in one place, would allow clients to manage online relationships with their customers efficiently, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and revenue.

After graduating from his Strathclyde MBA in 2015, Wes began pursuing his business idea. He reached out to Strathclyde Inspire, to help turn his idea into reality.  He then worked closely with his co-founder, Stephen Upton, who had already founded and grown a successful marketing agency, to build the initial technology and launch the business in 2018.

He credits Strathclyde Inspire for having a crucial role in his development as a successful entrepreneur.  Wes attended a number of Strathclyde Inspire’s events and received valuable guidance from their team of experts. Working with Strathclyde Inspire allowed Wes to improve and develop the various aspects of konversable alongside his co-founder and accelerate the business towards investment.

Their solution is in place with SMEs across multiple industries, including automotive, dental, financial services and property sectors, as well as with larger organisations such as Celebrity Cruises and the BBC.  konversable was a finalist in the 2021 Dentistry Awards, for their ‘Flori’ dental chat solution.  They have also recently launched a global partnership with one of the world’s largest technology businesses, putting them on track for exponential growth over the next 12-24 months.

Since launch, konversable has established itself as a key player in the online chat space, helped by initial and follow-on investment from the Strathclyde Inspire Entrepreneurs Fund, which provides early-stage patient capital to Strathclyde-related companies, and Shancastle Investments Ltd. Wes states:

Frankly we would not be where we are today without the support and guidance of our investors.  Their investment and advice have been critical to our ongoing and future success.

Dr Poonam Malik, Head of Investments at the University, adds:

We are proud to invest in Strathclyde students and alumni start-ups through our Strathclyde Inspire Entrepreneurs Fund (SIEF). Supporting high potential, innovative companies, like konversable, and passionate founders like Wes with his co-founder Stephen, alongside other co-investors and our external partners like Shancastle Investments is a priority for the University of Strathclyde. We look forward to continuing our support as the company progresses to next stages and its customers grow.

To be successful, Wes suggests that future business leaders and innovators first identify real-world problems and build a business that responds directly to those challenges. He also advises entrepreneurs to speak to potential customers and establish market demand before launching a business.

Wes highlights the importance of taking initial action and working to improve a product, rather than waiting until it is ‘perfect’ to launch. He also encourages entrepreneurs to research all different types of funding and to actively work on developing their sales skills. He offers some final advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.  It can be tough and unglamorous, but it is massively rewarding at the same time. In my experience, the businesses that succeed are the ones that can take the knocks. They know how to get back up again and pivot if necessary.

Wes Beard portrait in TIC building

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