From standup to startup

Today, people know Jill Bourque as the CEO of RushTix, a platform that helps users discover carefully curated events to attend in the San Francisco Bay Area. But her career started off on a much different path — before she was running a tech company that helps people discover local shows tailored to their likes and interests, she was on the other side of the business performing improv and standup comedy.

As a self-employed live performer, Jill knew first-hand the challenges of marketing events to get a packed house. She figured out pretty quickly that learning how to build a website was the key to growing her personal brand. From there her discovery and love of coding blossomed. Fast forward to today and she’s the brains behind RushTix, which helps drive more of those audiences to venues. And the thing she’s most proud of—in addition to starting a company from the ground up—is Roscoe, a chatbot she built using IBM Watson Conversation technology. Check out our interview with Jill from RushTix to learn more about RushTix and the AI that powers Roscoe.

What is Roscoe?

Roscoe is a bot with a huge personality that not only interacts with RushTix users, but really understands what they’re saying. Roscoe is the face of RushTix, and it’s what users chat with in order to get event recommendations as well as put their name on guest lists. Before Roscoe came to be, Jill and her team put a lot of effort into defining what his personality would look like. They wanted a bot that was witty, irreverent, fun, and smart, and they needed the right technology to bring this idea to life. They also needed a platform that was simple to use. After looking into almost every platform available, IBM Watson was the clear choice for creating their bot. Jill found that IBM Watson was the easiest to learn and build on since there was so much information and so many tutorials available to get her up to speed, fast. And with IBM Watson Conversation technology, the RushTix team had the ability to create a chatbot that understood natural-language and would respond to users in human-like conversation.

Roscoe was a star from the start. It was awarded “most useful” bot at the 2016 DevCon conference by IBM, and it also won the “bot vs. bot” competition — a face-off where two bots interacted with each other live on stage to see which could hold a more realistic conversation. A year later, Roscoe is even more useful. It’s responsible for streamlining RushTix’s customer service experience so that users can discover and RSVP to events in a simple, fun, and easy way. It’s also helping venues like The Chapel in San Francisco, which partners with RushTix to get more people through their door.

IBM Watson helps RushTix constantly improve Roscoe

With IBM Watson, Jill and team are able to continuously improve Roscoe. They iterate on their bot on a weekly basis, constantly making it smarter and more useful for their users. The thoughtful curation of events tailored to each user is what Jill thinks will propel RushTix forward, and Watson will be the power behind that curation. They’re excited to continue to work with IBM Watson Conversation technology as AI continues to evolve and get smarter, and they look forward to rolling out to new cities in the future, including Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, and many more!

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