Customer Service Voice AI Startup Tenyx Raises $15M
Enterprise voice AI startup Tenyx has raised $15 million in a seed funding round led by Point72 Ventures. Tenyx provides a platform for building virtual customer service agents, a market that has exploded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tenyx’s founders are also notable for having launched drive-thru restaurant voice AI provider Apprente, acquired by McDonald’s in 2019 for its new McD Tech Labs before IBM purchased the division late last year.
Tenyx offers companies a way to build automated customer service voice AI adapted to the particular company. The company describes its AI as neuroscience-inspired, meaning it is better able to understand intent and respond accordingly. Tenyx claims its AI improves through real-time learning, incorporating new information as it arrives. That reduces the time needed to train new models for a client and ups the AI’s value the more it talks to customers. Tenyx’s first funding round is earmarked for both technical improvements and business development, including growing the Palo Alto-based team.
“The AI community has accepted limitations of current technology, including the inability to learn continually, as humans do, and the prohibitively long model training times in contemporary systems. Inspired by how the brain represents and learns new information, we set out to solve these challenges and deliver the long-awaited robust voice-based customer support agents” Tenyx CEO Itamar Arel said. “Leveraging its groundbreaking AI tech, Tenyx will automate customer service initiatives by endowing machines with the ability to continually learn from interacting with humans, much like new employees do. The result is substantial cost reduction along with vastly improved personalized customer experience.”
Voice AI Service
The burgeoning demand for combining voice AI and customer service has seen plenty of significant funding and acquisitions. The amounts range broadly, but large checks are a regular event, whether Observe.AI’s $125 million, Glia’s $45 million, or the truly enormous $400 million raised by Uniphore. Meanwhile, Gupshup has applied the $340 million raised last year and gone on a buying spree of conversational AI providers specializing in verticals like banking and e-commerce.
Arel and his team are almost certainly applying what they learned from Apprente to Tenyx. The link between food orders and general customer interactions is not hard to follow, though the corporate changeovers are a little more complex. McDonald’s had worked with Apprente to run field tests of its Automated Order Taking (AOT) tech before deciding to buy the company. The fast-food giant made Apprente the core of its plans for tech development, naming Arel as vice president and leader of the new McD Technology Labs. 10 McDonald’s drive-thrus around Chicago began trialing the voice AI on after. The sale of McD Tech Labs to IBM supposedly also marked a joint investment in automated drive-thrus, with a particular focus on scaling the tech with IBM’s Watson AI and natural language understanding. The close of that acquisition in December is also when Arel and his team left to found Tenyx.