Enterprise Voice AI Startup PolyAI Raises $40M
Enterprise conversational voice AI startup Poly AI has raised a $40 million Series B funding round led by Georgian and adding Twilio Ventures to its circle of investors. PolyAI offers businesses a voice assistant to engage with customers that it claims can mimic humans by inferring and extending the meaning of what they say without requiring that all of the information conform to a single mode of speech, as evidenced in the example dialogue above..
PolyAI’s platform can generate and deploy virtual agents to call centers and businesses in need of support at the phone bank. The AI is designed to come off as friendly and able to respond to casual language and syntax without confusion. That means people don’t have to stick to short, declarative sentences when conversing with a business’ voice AI. PolyAI’s model can successfully handle 95% of incoming calls, according to the company, and uses machine learning to improve its performance.
PolyAI’s client list of hospitality, telecom, and banking is steadily growing list, with big names joining in incldung of notable clients, including FedEx, Marriott and the Beefeater chain of restaurants in Britain. PolyAI $28 million from investors following a $14 million round last fall. The company claims its voice AI can handle 95% of incoming calls for its mix of banking, hospitality, and telecom clients. mostly in its native Great Britain. The company spun out of the proprietary tech group at the University of Cambridge on applying machine learning to understanding intent in human voices.
“Previous attempts at contact center automation have been disappointing,” PolyAI CEO Nikola Mrkšić said. “Conversational IVRs have made callers guess which keywords they have to use – and even then, have consistently failed to understand what they’re saying. At PolyAI, we’re dedicated to developing systems that understand every customer, regardless of what they say and how they say it, and making these systems accessible and affordable for enterprises to use.”
Customer service AI has been a hot investment space for a couple of years now and doesn’t seem in danger of slowing down. Venture capitalists are eager to throw money at startups working on better customer assistance AI. That scored AI customer service platform Aisera an easy $90 million, while Invoca raised $83 million in June. PolyAI plans to use its new capital to accurate and extend its growth, with a particular interest in scaling up its U.S. operation. The $40 million round will help in that goal, as it nearly doubles the total raised by the startup to $70 million.
“Many people have become used to the narrow capabilities of voice technology. We hear that we’re speaking to a bot, and we speak back in a robotic way. At PolyAI, we’ve found that the better our voice assistants understand callers, the more callers become open to speaking more naturally. And the more naturally callers speak, the better our voice assistants are able to solve their problems,” Mrkšić explained. “Our entire tech stack was purpose-built to understand people whatever they say and however they speak, regardless of accent or background noise. Our voice assistants can carry on a conversation for as long as it takes to solve a customer’s query, while callers are free to deviate from standard customer journeys or change their minds half-way through the conversation.