Welcome to The Venture Center’s Venture Voices series, a Q&A where entrepreneurs and startup founders share advice, encouragement, and inspiration for current and future entrepreneurs. Thanks to Slaven Bilac, Co-Founder and CEO of Agent IQ, for sharing his insights!
Venture Voices With Slaven Bilac, Co-Founder and CEO, Agent IQ
The Venture Center: What sparked the idea for Agent IQ?
Slaven Bilac: We started with a problem. I was working for Google and had to do a wire transfer. For whatever reason, it did not work, and I had to engage with my bank. The experience was not great. And I realized that, with what today’s technology can provide, the experience could be made much better, much easier. That was the genesis of the idea.
The VC: You find that poor digital experiences are still a real pain point for people?
Bilac: I’m pretty sure it’s happening with many customers now with COVID, as the situation has gotten worse to some extent. Today, going to your local branch is not easy. Calling a representative at a call center usually results in long wait times, having to answer many repetitive questions, a lot of transfer wait times, and after all that? Still not solving the problem which is frustrating for customers. We felt that we could make the experience more seamless and make customers happier.
VC: So you started with a problem and built a fantastic solution. Is that a typical path for people working in tech?
Bilac: There are many smart people, smart engineers, who want to work on the biggest, coolest tech out there. But my passion was always to create solutions for today – not some tech that might be useful and groundbreaking five, ten, fifteen years from now. For me, it’s always been about making something that works and can be usable now. I want to make it easier for people to use whatever the service is.
VC: Is Agent IQ your first entrepreneurial venture?
Bilac: Yes, this is my first real entrepreneurial enterprise, and it’s been a very humbling, and to some extent stressful, learning experience. But it is very satisfying to see the company grow from nothing, from a seed, into something that’s visible and helps financial institutions and their customers.
The VC: When it’s a humbling, stressful experience, what is the one thing that makes you get up in the morning and keep working at it?
Bilac: Ultimately, focusing on the end goal. I started Agent IQ to make the customer experience more efficient and satisfying, which can be very impactful, right? It’s that potential impact you can always look at, and it gives you motivation when it gets tough. It’s often up and down in the entrepreneurial world, and you can still focus on that potential impact. That’s what motivates the team and me to keep on moving along and making progress.
The VC: For entrepreneurs who are just getting started and looking for mentorship, what’s one piece of advice you could pass along?
Bilac: I think there’s only one piece of advice that I’ve heard that can make a difference, and it’s don’t give up. Just don’t give up. You will hear “nos.” People will not necessarily like the idea, or they will not like the approach you’re taking. There will be so many obstacles, but you can work through all of them. The most important thing is to keep pushing forward. The effort pays off.
Bilac became an entrepreneur when he encountered a problem in the world and set out to solve it. For him, “don’t give up” meant finding the courage to start, collaborating with the right people to complement his skill-set, getting comfortable with “no” and focusing on the positive impact his solution could make in the lives of others when the going got tough. Now the start-up he co-founded is off to the races, and we’re proud to have AgentIQ take part in ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator.
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