Proactive Phone Voice AI Startup Curious Thing Raises $4.8M
Australian voice AI startup Curious Thing has raised about $4.8 million (AUD 7 million) in a pre-Series A funding round led by Hawkstone. Curious Thing’s phone voice assistant platform acts as a proactive customer service center, calling people on behalf of mainly healthcare and financial organizations and processing the conversation into a report for Curious Thing’s client.
Curious Thing began as an HR tech developer in 2018 but revamped its model this year to focus on the conversational AI facet. The voice assistant is designed to be more than just a recording with rote, limited responses. The AI asks open questions and follows up for more detail. For instance, a healthcare provider might call to ask how a patient is feeling after a doctor’s visit and then ask for more detail. The AI can handle less ambiguous customer service needs too. Companies might employ it to remind clients about upcoming payments and appointments or just to get feedback on the customer’s experience. Curious Thing has already signed up prominent Australian healthcare and financial service providers like Medibank, Calvary, Humm Group, and Brighte. A handful of municipal and state governments have employed the voice tech for a while, using it to check up on COVID patients and keep abreast of their symptoms to ensure they receive appropriate medical support without requiring endless hours of calling by healthcare professionals.
“Helping businesses reimagine B2C communication is the core of Curious Thing’s mission as there is an increasing misalignment between customer expectation and what businesses are able to deliver when communicating with customers,” Curious Thing CEO Sam Zheng said. “In the past, businesses usually dealt with a static view of customer touch points. Today, passively responding to customers’ needs is simply not good enough; businesses have to proactively engage and curiously discover insights about customers.”
Proactive voice AI has begun to take off in the last couple of years, particularly in healthcare. Naver published a voice assistant to call seniors after their COVID-19 vaccinations, while Clinical health tech provider Wolters Kluwer, Health published an Alexa skill that prompts a patient to answer questions about their health after being discharged from the hospital. Orbita created an even more flexible conversational AI outreach tool that adds text and email to phone calls to patients. Curious Thing’s revenue is primarily from Australian clients, with just 15% or so from elsewhere. The startup plans to leverage its new funding to widen its geographic reach in Southeast Asia and the U.S., as well as hire more technical staff.
“We are proud to be trusted by our clients, especially for the socially impactful work we do in the health sector,” Zheng said. “We look forward to using this funding to continuously build our unique voice AI tech as well as deepen our expertise in human-AI trust and conversational user experience – at a time when voice AI rapidly emerges from a ‘good to have’ to ‘strategic business tool.’”