The Disruptors: Steve Desjarlais Of Heyday

The Disruptors is Pursuit’s monthly feature that showcases thought leaders and CEOs who are changing the way we do business, how we perceive the startup landscape, taking ideas to the next level. It is where innovation meets a created market where none existed before.

BIO: Steve Desjarlais, CEO of Heyday.ai, is a former Head of Product of Ubisoft, a crown jewel in the video game industry. Prior to co-founding Heyday.ai, he led a team of 50 developers overseeing the development of award-winning blockbuster games like Splinter Cell, Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and Just Dance to name a few. Steve’s extensive software development and gamification knowledge infuse Heyday.ai with a focus on user experience, where every interaction is designed to personally engage customers.

Steve will be part of a panel on how A.I. helps create personalized relationships with customers at the Dx3 Conference, Canada’s largest retail, marketing and tech event taking place at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, March 6-7.

ABOUT: Heyday.ai is a conversational commerce platform for retailers. Their AI-powered digital assistant gives conversational power to sales and support teams, to help them delight customers with highly personalized service, delivered via messaging apps, and web-based chat.

QUOTABLE: “Messaging is a new customer experience channel. And the best shopping experience is neither AI-driven or human-driven, it’s a collaboration of the best of both worlds: the instantaneity and scalability of AI, combined with the emotional intelligence and human touch of support agents.”

NUTSHELL: “We’re on a mission to give AI superpowers to retailers, to help them deliver customer happiness, one conversation at a time.”

 

INTERVIEW:

What is the “wow factor” of Heyday.ai?

There are many wow factors but mainly: 1. The seamless collaboration between our AI assistant and human agents 2. the powerful e-commerce integrations that turn every conversation into an engaging, assistive, and personalized shopping experience and 3. marketing automation capabilities, that enable highly personalized retargeting and conversion.

What are the top qualities every CEO should have?

A great CEO – or leader – should be selfless. CEOs should be at the service of their team, not the other way around. Great companies are rarely built out of ego; they’re built out of a relentless and selfless effort from a collective of talented people, who pursue the same mission. Ego and talent are not enough: great products are the product of great teams who put the company first.

Describe your leadership style.

I lead with positive energy. The startup grind can be harsh: long working hours, unforeseen turns of events, so the working environment should be fun, positive, and collaborative. My goal is to foster an environment where people can feel free and safe to bring their best self to the table and contribute to the team. I’m very much of a macro manager: My job is to recruit stars who are better than me and to let them do what they do best: their job.

Tell me about an adjustment in the product, that resulted in a shift in how it’s made?

In the beginning, we were focused primarily on building marketing chatbots. Although they were great to create engagement short term, we realized by chatting with retail clients that the opportunity was much bigger. Messaging is a new customer experience channel. And the best shopping experience is neither AI-driven or human-driven, it’s a collaboration of the best of both worlds: the instantaneity and scalability of AI, combined with the emotional intelligence and human touch of support agents. So we pivoted to create a platform that augments sales and support teams, as opposed to replacing them. We’re on a mission to give AI superpowers to retailers to help them deliver customer happiness, one conversation at a time.

What advice would you give the budding entrepreneur?

Keep your feet moving. One meeting leads you to the next. It’s a networking game – stay in the action, keep hustling, always be pitching, and great things will end up happening. The sooner you open the feedback loop, the better. But for that, you need to accept the vulnerability that comes with it. Entrepreneurship is a very fulfilling yet humbling experience.

What was your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

Being a bootstrapped startup, the biggest challenge was to build the platform, while delivering service to our early-stage clients. We had limited bandwidth in the beginning, so it could be challenging at times. That said, it was a real blessing because it allowed us to iterate faster and to build the product of their dreams. Retailers were literally at the drawing table with us, helping us expand and refine our roadmap. There’s nothing more golden than real market validation. That’s how you know you’re building the right thing.

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