Building a business on Alexa and Google Assistant with Tom Hewitson

Building a business on Alexa and Google Assistant with Tom Hewitson 1800 1200 Kane Simms

Founder and CEO, Labworks.io, Tom Hewitson joins us to share his advice on how to build a business on Alexa and Google Assistant.


Building a business on Alexa and Google Assistant

In 2017 and 2018, when Amazon Alexa began rolling out in-skill purchasing (ISP), many thought that there’d be a gold rush on the Alexa platform. 

Business will be built, money will be made and all will be well. It happened with the App Store on mobile, after all.

There was two problem that most developers were facing: how do you create something that’s good enough to keep users coming back for more, and then how do you create an offer for those users that’s worth paying for?

Those challenges turned out to be pretty difficult to overcome and, to date, only three companies have managed to reach the levels of success many were aiming for in the Alexa space: Matchbox, with their suite of quizzes and kids games, Invoked apps with it’s load of sleep and ambient sounds and, our guest this week, Labworks, with Voice Arcade.

One weekend, wanting to explore Alexa for investigatory purposes, in case any clients were to ask about it in future, Tom Hewiston, founder of then-chatbot agency, Labworks, set about building a game.

After launching the game and pretty much forgetting about it, some months later, Tom received a call from Amazon. Turns out, Tom’s game was the third most popular game on the Alexa platform. Amazon were starting to pay developers for having popular skills as an incentive for them to continue improving skills and developing new skills.

These rewards were enough for Tom to employ someone to help build out more games. Labworks pivoted from building chatbots for clients and into building games for Alexa and the rest is history.

We chat to Tom about his journey, what he’s learned, his thoughts on the industry and advice for others looking to build successful skills and actions on Alexa and Google Assistant.

Here’s the running order:

00:02:50​ About Tom Hewitson and Labworks.io
00:05:50​ Last year’s Alexa skills usage
00:09:30​ Was it good timing to launch Voice Arcade?
00:11:15​ Ten hot takes on voice: what’s changed in voice since 2019?
00:13:00​ What’s changed for the better?
00:15:20​ Developer rewards: how helpful were they?
00:19:15​ What works and what doesn’t for in-skill purchasing?
00:20:00​ What’s the difference in typical ISPs vs Voice Arcade?
00:22:15​ Challenges with ISPs, offering more value than you’re asking for in return
00:24:30​ How are you showing value?
00:26:00​ Vishnu Saran: How are you solving discoverability?
00:30:40​ Marek Mis: Advice for hobbyist voice devs wanting to go pro?
00:33:40​ Is there much experimentation left?
00:38:40​ How do you prioritise and test features?
00:40:55​ Any new platform features you’re excited about?
00:43:00​ Matt Buck: Have you thought about putting your games in apps or on web?
00:47:09​ Katy Boungard: Brand identity and sonic branding
00:49:20​ Richard Warzecha: Discovering features within skills
00:50:00​ How much time is spent on happy path vs everything else?
00:55:44​ Manual testing vs code testing
00:57:05​ Example of something that took a lot of iteration to get right
00:58:35: Richard Warzecha: Transferable principles from games to other voice experiences
01:03:00​ Tooling and Jovo
01:04:00​ General takeaways and contact details



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