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Evernote founder says he's found the most exciting thing in tech since the iPhone

Phil Libin Michael Seto/Business InsiderPhil Libin.

Evernote founder Phil Libin has been a venture capitalist for about six months now since leaving Evernote, and he told Business Insider he’s found the most exciting thing he’s seen since the iPhone emerged: bots.

Specifically, chat bots that interact intelligently with people as they use apps, providing useful information before they even know they want it.

“In 2007, I had this vision when I first touched my very first iPhone where I kind of understood what the next five years would bring, and I haven’t had that kind of clarity since,” he told us in a conversation at Y Combinator’s demo day on Tuesday. “And now, I have the same kind of feeling about bots, about conversational UIs.”

Bots are at the heart of how Facebook, Apple, Google, and smaller companies like Atlassian and Slack are transforming how messaging works. These leaders are beyond sending simple text messages, and evolving chat into a whole tech platform almost like an operating system, where others can plug their own apps in and create entirely new functions.

But Libin thinks that chat apps like Facebook M, its virtual assistant, are just the beginning.

“It really feels like apps felt to me in ’08. Back when we started Evernote, all the apps were like fart apps and flashlights and kind of stupid crap like that, but you could see the potential if you squinted,” Libin said. “I think it’s like that right now. It’s super early days, but the world is going to get rewritten based on bots and conversational UIs soon.”

Libin also told us he’s already invested in one bot maker — he wouldn’t spill the name as they’re still “under the radar,” and he’s building a lab within General Catalyst, the venture capital firm where he’s now a partner, to explore the idea.

“Just a lab for now,” he says. He’ll “hack around with a few people, get smart around the space and then see what’s investable, what’s buildable, and so on.”

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