Updated: Oct 28, 2021
Liziana Carter is the Founder and CEO of GROW.AI, a full-service conversational AI agency, that designs and implements AI chatbots for established eCommerce brands looking to convert customer visits into sales.
In our interview with Liziana, we explore her entrepreneurial journey and the value proposition of GROW.AI.
Hello Liziana. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your origin story. Please give us an overview of your background and career to date?
Liziana: I am originally from Romania but have lived in Australia for over four years now with my 10 years old daughter. I received my first Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration when I was 23, then moved back to my hometown to run the family forestry business with my father. At the same time, I continued my education, getting a Master's Degree in Business Accounting and then a second Bachelor's in Forestry Engineering.
My father and I did a great job running the family forestry business together for the first couple of years. We eventually had the opportunity for expansion but that required a forestry engineer to materialize it. We didn’t have many options to hire one, so I decided to complete a second Bachelor’s Degree in Forestry Engineering to push forward the family business.
Around that same time, I started thinking about emigrating to Australia and having my own business. After a long seven years, I made it to Australia and tried starting four different companies, unsuccessfully.
The experience taught me a few lessons. Amid my entrepreneurial attempts, I considered a more stable job in the Microsoft space, which went well and allowed me a good income that would fund my business costs and living expenses in the first few months my business wasn't profitable.
What originally attracted you to entrepreneurship?
Liziana: I am a very ambitious person and I always look for challenges. Everything I've done in my life was for two reasons: I wanted to be different and at the same time, I wanted to have the freedom and do it all on my terms. What I do today allows me both. The fact that I sprinted through 10s of ideas and failures gave me a huge competitive advantage. I've been putting in a 14hr workday for years. That's allowed me to get fast at executing. At the same time, I got good at consuming information and even better at discerning what's worth my time and what's not. An entrepreneur is a generalist. You have to get very good at multiple things, then combine them well together.
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any present or past business leaders, and how?
Liziana: Oh, they were so many. There's a lot of trial and error when choosing who you let influence you. After spending a good chunk of change in the last seven years on courses, books, and masterminds. Not all are worth it. However, it's close to impossible to do it all on your own. You only have your own life experience to rely on, which is not enough. Looking back, a select few made (and still make) a huge impact.
Naval Ravikant taught me to productize myself, shift away from renting my time, and move into scaling through specific knowledge.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 4 books changed my entire perception of the world (Antifragile, Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Skin in the Game). I think everyone, entrepreneur or not, should read them. And then re-read them. And finally, Grant Cardone's approach to life and business. The last book I read from him, "If You're Not First, You're Last" talks about becoming very skilled at what you do and how to hustle your way to the top. I found it interesting how he courted his wife, Elena, and built the life they have now. I think it's essential to look up to entrepreneurs who've nailed both their businesses and their personal lives. That's the real challenge. I'm also a firm believer in all things in their time. If I'd tried to take on these learnings seven years ago, I would have broken under their weight or completely ignored them. I just wasn't ready.
What is the origin story behind your startup GROW.AI?
Liziana: I quit my Microsoft position in late 2019 because I (still) wanted to be different. I wanted to do something that would have a significant impact on the economic landscape. I built chatbots for a couple of years back in 2016 while running my online fitness business, and I felt that automation was where the world was heading. From my experience engaging with any business online, the direct experience a company would deliver to visitors was utterly lacking. Plus, it seemed like most businesses focused so hard on acquiring new customers, they forgot to treat the ones they had as royalty. That was just low-hanging fruit. So I started targeting local businesses (gyms and medspas) to build chatbots for them. Five months into it, the COVID 19 pandemic hit, and they all closed down. I was back to the drawing board but this allowed me to get creative and re-think my company's offering.
I needed to get much better at it, I needed to merge all my previous skills into it, and I had to learn AI. Although most people still don't see it, I saw it then. AI and automation will change our lives irreversibly. The next step was to find a new niche. A niche I could deliver mind-blowing results for, and that could put me in the spotlight for doing it. That was eCommerce, which had already blown up due to the COVID 19 pandemic. In a few months, I became highly efficient and fast at creating campaigns that would allow AI-Assisted chatbots built on Facebook Messenger to sell and engage people in a way they hadn't experienced before. Then I started cold outreaching to eCommerce CEOs, showing them what I could do for them. The reality is, I had no idea how the service would 100% look like. I just knew that if somebody gave me a chance to put it in action, I would do everything humanly possible to overdeliver to them. It turns out my first chatbot campaigns generated $101k for my client in 21 days. One year later, that same chatbot made them $3m in extra revenue. Although I had predicted that one client would stick with me for 3-6 months, my first clients are still with me after one year. The first challenge was getting started without any case studies of my own, in an industry where many don't know what a chatbot is or have a poor understanding of it. The second challenge was to manage to do all that and charge a high ticket price from day one. Initially, I was doing the entire implementation myself, and I had no expenses, so I could leverage a 100% money-back guarantee, which allowed me to sign contracts and get started.
How would you describe the value proposition of GROW.AI and what sets it apart from other AI Chatbots in the market?
Liziana: With GR0W.AI, eCommerce businesses get happier shoppers with less effort. So, let's say you own an eCommerce business and a visitor interacts with your brand via Facebook Messenger, Instagram DM, or WhatsApp, and you help them buy in minutes. How? Through multilingual omnichannel AI-Assisted experiences across three messaging apps: Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion monthly active users), Instagram DM Automation (1 billion monthly active users), and WhatsApp Automation (2 billion monthly active users). You then delivered unique experiences designed just for them at every step of their customer journey and win a customer who wants to stay.
Examples would be: answering any questions they have, in any language, instantly, designing product recommendations catered just for them, or educating them around your product via a daily value sequence. What GR0W.AI. does, is build sales, marketing, and operation oriented user cases that:
Meet buyers where they are -- people are sitting on their platform of preference, just waiting for businesses to engage them in meaningful experiences;
Help them buy easier -- one of the main reasons people buy, even things they don't even need, is because it's easy. If it's a high barrier to buy or the business takes one day to answer, they'll drop off;
Automate easy, effective interactions that are highly personal and contextual to their current needs;
Gain intelligence and refine the user's experience with each future interaction with the brand;
Accelerate growth -- well-designed conversations that continuously re-engage users, increase brand popularity, accelerate growth and win more customers who want to stay.
What is Grow AI’s Business model?
Liziana: GR0W.AI is a full-service conversational AI agency. Currently, eCommerce businesses mainly purchase my skillset to design complex conversational AI campaigns that solve one or more problems they have. Then my team takes the strategy I design and implements it, each with their own dedicated skill sets. Some handle the bot building part, others the AI, others the data and analytics, and so on.
Brand awareness and business credibility are key to building brand equity. What is GROW AI’s brand awareness and marketing strategy?
Liziana: Credibility comes down to whether you have results to show or not. That's why it's hard to get started. Once you're able to show numbers, you're well on your way to success.
Furthermore, GR0W.AI is endorsed by the leading figure in the chatbot industry, School of Bots, who trust us enough to refer clients to us directly as their Agency Partner. Brand awareness is an ongoing project I’m working on. Making myself heard and sharing my knowledge is key. I remember reading something that Bill Gates said: "If I was down to my last dollar, I'd spend it on public relations." That's exactly what I'm doing. PR has my full attention right now. The more my business grows, the more I'll aim to be everywhere.
What mitigations has GROW.AI put in place to protect customer data and prevent hacks?
Are there any other ethical issues GROW.AI should take into consideration, when applying its AI technology?
Liziana: While we've created a robust conversational AI framework tailored to the eCommerce industry, it's important to follow different international laws for each country. For example, in the US, by law, you have to inform the user they are talking to a bot. We take this further by informing the user when the conversation is transferred over to a human and vice versa. At all times, we want the user to feel comfortable and have a clear understanding of what's going on to avoid confusion.
Transparency, data privacy, and specific country law compliance are some of the most important considerations to consider when building trust between customers and the business.
Where would you say the application of AI sits within the business ecosystem?
Liziana: Our AI-Assisted chatbots tackle use cases relating to the sales, marketing, and operations departments of one given e-commerce business. Pre-purchase, the goal is to deliver immediate contextual experiences that help the buyer buy. Post-purchase, the goal is to be there whenever that customer needs something and solve that problem instantly. For example, the chatbot is connected to the user's entire past-purchase history and can return an order status immediately (via Facebook Messenger). Or use the chatbot to hype and list build toward a flash sale or new product launch, then broadcast to that audience. Besides this, we build use cases that aim to re-engage visitors and customers and deliver different experiences every time, to create unique offers that speak to them only. Although our chatbots can now handle 90% of all multilingual inquiries and re-engage the users through different experiences designed just for them, it's important to note that the goal is not to automate everything. There is always that 10-20% dedicated to interactions that only a human can handle: solving complex problems instead of repetitive ones. This is what GR0W.AI aims to do: get the chatbot to work hand-in-hand with the human team to deliver the best customer experience at scale.
Before we conclude this interview, is there anything else you would like to add?
Liziana: It's easy to get distracted and chase shiny objects, but you need to become highly selective to build something that will make a true impact.
I'd recommend the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. It teaches how to build a disciplined way of thinking, become selective about what is essential and gain control of your own choices so you can channel your time, energy, and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter. This is what I've been doing, and it pays dividends.
Thank you Liziana for participating in this Q&A session. We wish you all the best.
Liziana: It was my pleasure!