Interview: Marili 't Hooft-Bolle on Her Role as Trengo's New CEO
As of September 1st, 2023, Trengo welcomed a new CEO! Marili 't Hooft-Bolle took over from Patrick Meutzner, who has served as the company's CEO since 2020 and has now transitioned to fulfill the role of Trengo’s first Chief Product Officer (CPO).
Marili brings with her an impressive track record in the software space, and while her CV speaks for itself 💅 we wanted the low down on the why, what and how of her new role and her vision for Trengo moving forward.
We’re curious to know, what drives a She-EO? Check out what she has to say 👀
So Marili, What prompted you to join Trengo six months ago?
Having spent time at an AI company in 2021, I already learned how fast the new reality was taking off. Meanwhile, customer support has proven to be one of the first areas where the practical impact will materialise, and I think Trengo is well positioned to translate the value of the endless automation possibilities for customer conversations in a very digestible way.
What exactly compelled you to step into the CEO role at Trengo?
l think the market that Trengo operates in is attractive and growing. We are not mostly selling into SaaS businesses and therefore not suffering as much from the downward spiral of cost-cutting and market correction that we have seen over the past year. We offer a tool that brings efficiency, a topic on every business agenda right now, and we have the backing of a great investor team and a good runway so don't have to worry about raising in this changed climate.
Next to that, I believe my skills are very complementary to the founding team. In fact, the transition into this role has been very organic with strong support from both the founders and investors. It feels very natural 🙂
Trengo has seen significant growth in recent years. What are the key factors behind this success, and how do you plan to build upon it in your role as CEO?
The founding team has done an amazing job bringing the company to where it is today. I think one of the contributing factors has been their can-do attitude. They will always find an option to solve or deliver something. For me, the main priority is to now reinvent the Trengo value in the world of AI. That means that we're not building the next version of what we have, but we’re literally reimagining how the value is offered and delivered in this new world of endless possibilities.
This is going to be a challenge, albeit a fun one! So what challenges do you foresee in your role as CEO, and how do you plan to address them?
As with some of my former CEO and Managing Director roles, the challenge is always that there are more ideas and opportunities than resources. The only way to solve that is laser sharp prioritisation. I’m the person who firstly makes sure we have a crystal clear vision and mission for the company - to the extent that if you ask 30 people, you get 30 identical answers. Once the dot on the horizon is clear, I make sure that we build out a plan on how to get there as fast as we can, spending the least amount of resources and, of course, ensuring we’re having fun on the way 🥳
“Saying yes to opportunities is easy, saying no is hard but needs to be done to stay on track.”
With an eye for opportunities, which ones have you seen in the market, product or customer base since you joined Trengo?
A lot of our customers don’t have a very sophisticated tech stack yet. Once they start using Trengo, they realise how much efficiency it brings and how much time is then freed up to engage with their customers on the more important things. Our mission to automate repetitive work to unleash meaningful conversations comes to life very frequently.
But we also see how our more tech-savvy customers build sophisticated layers and integrations onto Trengo’s product, which then creates INCREDIBLE value. So now it’s on us to translate and offer that value in a more digestible product for our customers that don’t have extensive IT or developer help.
How critical is Artificial Intelligence to Trengo’s product vision?
Like in many other markets, it is a total GAME CHANGER. As we speak, we’re developing our new AI-based feature set, taking the tech-savviness of our customers into consideration.
AI is so promising, but also quite intangible for many. How do we make the plethora of possibilities digestible for any type of company and person? Also, with everything in the space developing so rapidly, what do we develop ourselves and which parts of the AI value chain is commoditising? Should we source in the open market?
Also, more importantly, where do we stand on the ethical implications of AI? How does regulation play into this? I am a glass half full thinker and tend to embrace most new technology so I am excited about the value that AI can bring in many aspects of our lives.
As the new CEO, what is your vision for Trengo's future? Are there any specific goals or milestones you want to achieve?
Because of AI, the present does and the future will look very different from the past few years. Smart automation will be the name of the game and that may imply that the departing point for customer engagement moves away from the inbox concept that we are so familiar with.
We are starting to shape what that may look like from a product perspective and are looking to test and validate with our customers soon. In terms of milestones, we believe we can automate up to 90% of the existing conversations of our core customer base in the coming years.
What should your customers expect from Trengo in 2024-25?
We’re looking into ways of matching our product to customer value. This always comes first.
Then we’ll continue to make sure that our customers can engage with their own customer base wherever they prefer - be it Instagram, WhatsApp, email or chat. But most of all, our customers will see us offering our various AI-driven automation features so we can help unleash those meaningful conversations. Those features will be paired with data insights and analytics so they can easily track the impact not only on efficiency, but more importantly the satisfaction and delight of their own customers.