Conversational AI Startup Omilia Raises $20M, Countersues Nuance for Antitrust Violations
Omilia, a conversational artificial intelligence platform developer, has raised $20 million in a funding round led by Grafton Capital. The Cyprus-based startup also received approval this week from a U.S. federal judge to sue voice AI giant Nuance for violating antitrust rules after previously facing legal accusations for violating Nuance’s patents.
Omilia provides a platform for conversational AI, mainly for call centers and similar businesses. The company’s Dialog Management Technology integrates into company systems and uses speech or text to interact with customers. The tech offers voice biometrics and speech recognition technology to prevent fraud and the company claims that its virtual assistants are more accurate and efficient than Amazon or Google. According to Omilia, the AI can handle more than 90% of tasks without humans and understand speech with 96% accuracy. The result adds almost 50% to a call center’s capacity and cuts call times in half. This is Omilia’s first funding round and is aimed specifically at bringing the company’s products to North America and Western Europe.
“Current automated customer service technologies promise so much but deliver so little. Refreshingly, at Omilia we are not just riding the AI wave; we are delivering the advanced levels of customer care we’ve been sold for decades, at scale and with excellent customer experience,” Omilia CEO Dimitris Vassos said in a statement. “We abandoned the legacy approaches and outdated open standards which were holding back the customer experience, and with the customer care journey at its heart, we’ve built a platform capable of human-like natural language interaction, that delivers business benefits in the real world, at scale. Comparing Omilia with current competitors, is like comparing a luxury car to an engine on four wheels. Both will get you from A to B, but you would not trust the latter for a family trip with the kids.”
The new investment arrives just as Omilia received some good news about an ongoing legal wrangle with Nuance. The larger company had sued Omilia last summer for patent infringement, claiming that Omilia was using its speech recognition technology for call centers after its license to do so outside the U.S. expired. Omilia at first tried to have the case dismissed but was denied. Now, the startup is pushing back by claiming that Nuance had broken antitrust regulation with its patents. Judge Patti B. Saris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts approved Omilia’s request to countersue Nuance on Wednesday. Both cases will now be decided in court.
This isn’t Nuance’s first time being accused of antitrust violations. The Department of Justice investigated the company in 2009 after it acquired Philips Speech Recognition Systems from Royal Philips Electronics for $96.1 million. Regulators were concerned Nuance owned too much of the world’s medical transcription market. Nuance survived that investigation, but the AI and voice tech market has changed enormously in the last decade. With $20 million in new capital earmarked for expansion in North America and Europe, it’s likely Omilia won’t give in easily.