In our first interview, we talked to Nathanaël "Nate" Khodl, the creator of Paquebot.io - the most advanced Telegram bot platform. Paquebot.io is supported by 200 Labs which was in recent news after Google supposedly tried buying the company for it's new messaging service.
As Telegram's bot platform is becoming increasingly popular for extending the messengers functionality, more and more platforms are emerging to help users creating custom bots, Paquebot.io is such a platform.
What is Paquebot exactly and how did you come up with the idea?
Nate: Paquebot is a platform that allows anybody to create a bot on Telegram, without a single line of code.
This means that the audience can communicate with the bot through custom commands. The admins on the other side can send broadcasts to their audience, create collections of files, ask questions and even synch it with external services like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and more.
I came up with the idea after creating my first two Telegram bots. The first one helped me getting public transportation information in my country, whereas the second one helped me finding jobs around the world (@job_bot).
For job_bot I needed to send text updates to my users and realized it could be needed by more people than just me. So instead of creating that solution only for myself, I built a service.
Over time I improved it and got some help from other people, including my new coworkers and a great team of volunteers.
The initial idea of handling broadcasts messages lost a lot of interest after Telegram introduced Channels, so we shifted and started focusing on other bot features.
Paquebot is growing very fast. How did you promote the platform?
Nate: All the promotion was free. In our case, the bot creators are indirectly onboarding their users to our platform by promoting their bot.
Beyond that, one of the most important features of Paquebot is to give bot creators direct access to StoreBot, the most popular bot platform since the early days of Telegram bots.
Eventually, to make the final user try Paquebot too, we implemented the well known Hotmail tactic: You also want a bot? Use Paquebot.io
In the early days of Paquebot I also published few articles on Reddit to get the first users. Some blogs talked about it, but I can’t say that the coverage was important.
Why did you choose Telegram as a platform and what do you think are the main benefits of this messenger?
Nate: First of all, because it's a platform I personally use. I guess it's the most important point of every project started: Know the environment you’re working in.
The second reason is that it's amazingly simple to use! It's the easiest registration process possible with a clear documentation. Basically, it does exactly what we expect it to do, without any friction.
Telegram also has other advantages and the one that made me start to use it is the synchronization across all my devices. Also many details make it better than its competitors: Message replies, channels, supergroups, usernames, file access and of course: bots!
What was something totally unexpected that happened during your work on Paquebot?
Nate: The cultural element is amazing. The way people use social networks can be really different from one part of the world to another.
Few weeks after the initial release, I received feedback that some people were using Paquebot to get the freedom of speech they don't have in their country, as they don't have to be afraid anymore to be linked to their phone numbers. I really didn't expected something like that!
Also the users of the platform have an amazing creativity. With patience, it's possible to create almost every kind of bot. Some users even created collections with thousands of pictures, apps to download and even gambling bots! This helped us to deliver a better experience with Paquebot over time.
As far as I can see, Paquebot is a free service. Are you planning to monetize it now or in the future?
Nate: Yes, but not yet. For the moment, we can support the service and keep money outside of it and focus on improvements. For the medium and long term perspective, we will of course need to earn money to pay the infrastructures and development.
However, we think that making bot creators paying for the service is not the only solution. We thought of some business models, but we need to make it the smart way, not the easy way.
What are your next steps with Paquebot?
Nate: Our users suggested many good ideas, which we will implement one by one. The goal is to open new possibilities of customization.
Right now, there are plenty of small details to do: Renaming commands, deleting bots, notifications, tutorials, etc. Once it's done, we can go back to the bigger improvements!
If you could send a special wish to Telegram founder Pavel Durov, what feature would you like to see in the near future?
Nate: I’m sure that mobile payment could open new possibilities for bots and it will take the whole messenger experience to a new level: Selling products, making donations, buying concert tickets, booking plane tickets, refunding clients etc.
Interest from big brand is automatically coming in if money is involved. I'm looking forward to order my pizza via Telegram very soon! 😉
- Telegram to roll out Inline Bots. Payment coming soon?, orat.io Blog (Jan 2016)
- Telegram gains 1.5m new users after WhatsApp ban in Brazil, orat.io Blog (Dec 2015)
- A Glimpse into Telegram's Security, orat.io Blog (Dec 2015)