We are excited to bring Transform 2022 back in-person July 19 and virtually July 20 - 28. Join AI and data leaders for insightful talks and exciting networking opportunities. Amid an exploding market for AI chatbots, companies that target their virtual assistants to specialized enterprise sectors may get a firmer foothold than general chatbots, according to Gartner analysts. That's not news to Zowie, which claims to be the only AI-powered chatbot technology specifically built for ecommerce companies that use customer support to drive sales – no small feat in an industry in which customer service teams answer tens of thousands of repetitive questions daily. Today, the company announced it has secured $14 million in series A funding led by Tiger Global Management, bringing its total to $20 million. Chatbots -- sometimes referred to as virtual assistants -- are built on conversational AI platforms (CAIP) that combine speech-based technology, natural language processing and machine learning tools to develop applications for use across many verticals.
While some surveys show that people prefer to talk to a human as opposed to a chatbot, whether they're shopping online or dealing with a customer service issue, that hasn't dissuaded companies from adopting them. A 2019 Salesforce report found that 53% of service organizations expected to use chatbots within 18 months. According to Statista, the size of the global chatbot market could surpass $1.25 billion by 2025, a steep climb from $190 million in 2016. A customer's satisfaction -- or lack thereof -- with a chatbot ultimately depends on the scenario and the capabilities of the chatbot in question. Obviously, a chatbot that fails to answer basic questions will lead to frustration.
The Transform Technology Summits start October 13th with Low-Code/No Code: Enabling Enterprise Agility. Leena AI, an AI-powered conversational platform used by major enterprises such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and P&G, has raised $30 million in a series B round of funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Founded out of New York in 2018, Leena AI is one of numerous conversational AI platforms that enable companies of all sizes to automate conversations through chatbot-like technology. However, Leena AI is carving a niche for itself by focusing specifically on human resource (HR) teams -- it's basically an automated employee helpdesk. Leena AI CEO and cofounder Adit Jain said that his company is setting out to be a "Siri for employees," emulating shifts elsewhere in the technological spectrum -- it's about replacing the old way of doing things with something more in line with what people are accustomed to in their everyday lives.
Level AI, an early-stage startup from a former member of the Alexa product team, wants to help companies process customer service calls faster by understanding the interactions they're having with customers in real time. Today the company launched publicly, while announcing a $13 million Series A led by Battery Ventures, with help from seed investors Eniac and Village Global as well as some unnamed angels. Battery's Neeraj Agrawal will be joining the startup's board under the terms of the agreement. The company reports it has now raised $15 million, including an earlier $2 million seed. Company founder Ashish Nagar helped run product for the Amazon Alexa team, working on an experimental project to get Alexa to have an extended human conversation.
All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. Deepbrain AI (formerly Moneybrain), a conversational AI startup based in Seoul, South Korea, has raised $44 million in a series B round led by Korea Development Bank at a post-money valuation of $180 million. The capital will be used to expand the company's customer base and operations globally, CEO Eric Jang said in a statement, with a particular emphasis on the U.S. Deepbrain provides a range of AI-powered customer service products, but its focus is on "synthetic humans," or human-like avatars that respond to natural language questions. Because the pandemic makes online meetups a regular occurrence, the concept of "virtual people" is gaining steam. Startups including Soul Machines, Brud, Wave, Samsung-backed STAR Labs, the AI Foundation, and Deepbrain aim to will a sort of "metaverse" into existence by pursuing AI techniques that can mimic the experience of speaking with a human being (for example, a support agent).
Conversational AI startup Cognigy today announced that it closed a $44 million series B funding round led by Insight Partners, which brings the company's total raised to over $50 million to date. Cofounder and CEO Philipp Heltewig says that the proceeds will be put toward accelerating customer growth, creating new partnerships, and continuing to enhance Cognigy's AI platform. The ubiquity of smartphones and messaging apps -- as well as the pandemic -- have contributed to the increased adoption of conversational technologies. Fifty-six percent of companies told Accenture in a survey that conversational bots and other experiences are driving disruption in their industry. And a Twilio study showed that 9 out of 10 consumers would like the option to use messaging to contact a business.
Cresta, an AI-powered platform that offers real-time support to help customer service agents respond to inquiries on calls or in chats, has raised $50 million in a series B round of funding. The company's latest investment, which was led by Sequoia Capital, with participation from Greylock Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Allen & Company, and Porsche Ventures, comes after a year of growth that saw its revenues quadruple. It's difficult to read too much into any first-year revenue growth metrics, but it's clear that companies are hankering for technology that helps them optimize their customer-facing operations. Contact centers have proven fertile ground for AI, with a slew of companies emerging to offer their own take on how automation can improve companies' interactions with their customers. Just today, Uniphore announced a fresh $140 million investment to analyze emotion and engagement in both voice and video-based calls, while Talkdesk launched a new "human-in-the-loop" AI trainer for contact centers.
Bangkok Bank PLC announced the launch of its Thai language Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chatbot that was built in-house in a joint collaboration with Singapore-based fintech startup Pand.ai. The chatbot called TT01 was a result of Bangkok Bank's innovation programme, InnoHub. The development began earlier this year and the chatbot was fully completed in October. The solution will be available to clients of Pand.ai. Meanwhile, Bangkok Bank will use this as a digital sales assistant on LINE for their sales and relationship managers, scheduled to launch in Q1 2021.
When we covered Leena AI as a member of the Y Combinator Summer 2018 cohort, the young startup was firmly focused on building HR chatbots, but in the intervening years it has expanded the vision to a broader HR policy platform. Today, the company announced an $8 million Series A led by Greycroft with help from several individual industry investors. Company CEO and co-founder Adit Jain says that in 2018 the company was concentrating on building an intelligent virtual assistant for HR-related questions. It allowed employees to ask the bot questions like how many vacation days they have left or what holidays they have off this year. Over the last couple of years since leaving Y Combinator, the company has moved into broader HR service delivery.
On a rooftop in San Francisco, Replicant CEO Gadi Shamia signs the Series A term sheet with Scott ... [ ] Beechuk of Norwest Venture Partners, who joins the startup's board as part of the financing. Hundreds of millions of consumers use voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Apple's Siri for simple tasks in their daily lives. Now, one company wants to take talking bots to the next level: the highly conversational field of customer service. Replicant, named after Blade Runner's genetically engineering humans, is entering uncharted territory with its software that works as a combination between text-based chatbots and real-time AI assistants for customer service reps. On Thursday, the startup announced that it has raised a $27 million Series A funding round for its autonomous call center.