Generative AI Voice Startup Slang.ai Raises $20M to Answer Phones at Restaurants and Retailers
Generative AI voice startup Slang.ai has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round led by Homebrew. Slang.ai’s platform serves as an AI phone concierge for restaurants and other retailers, capable of mimicking human voices and conversational abilities for setting reservations and answering customer questions.
The startup links its platform with the phone system of a restaurant or other business and takes over as a more sophisticated version of the standard automated phone menu. The idea is to cut out any waiting time and free up employee time from routine reservation booking and answering the most common questions in favor of the generative AI model trained for the purpose.
“With the emergence of generative AI, businesses are searching for real-world applications for this powerful technology. For decades, customers have experienced the frustrating process of calling a business and being put on hold in order to make a new appointment or say they’re running late for a reservation,” Slang.ai CEO Alex Sambvani said. Now, there is a better way. We’re excited to help businesses use this technology to dramatically improve the phone experience, helping them serve their customers better than they ever thought possible.”
Sambvani and CTO Gabriel Duncan co-founded Slang.ai after working together at Spotify as data scientists. Slang.ai is emerging from stealth after its initial founding in 2019. The funding’s contributors include the restauranteur and Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio. The new capital will go toward enhancing the software and the generative AI powering it. Slang.ai is looking to entice restaurants and retailers intrigued by generative AI. The company claims to have onboarded more than 200 customers since its 2020 founding. The list includes the Palm House Hospitality Group, Slutty Vegan, Hammitt, and Nikki Beach Miami.
Generative AI Enterprise
Voice AI for restaurants and retail began taking off in recent years, but the advent of generative AI and its capacity for more natural and complex conversations has accelerated the trend. Recently, Wendy’s and Google Cloud have been experimenting with a generative AI-powered voice assistant at a drive-thru. Restaurant voice AI startups like Presto Automation are embedding ChatGPT’s API into their drive-thru voice assistants or developing their own, like Valyant AI.
Slang.ai’s focus on phone calls may not immediately overlap with a drive-thru, but it will face competition there as well from players like SoundHound, which began moving into the restaurant space last year and incorporating generative AI into all of its products in recent months. Slang.ai boasts of standing out for its customized services. The AI for its clients is branded with unique voices, background sounds, and multiple language options, but the scramble among retail generative AI customer service is far from settled.
“We’re focusing not just on the automation but also on delivering a truly delightful audio experience,” Sambvani said. “We are ecstatic when we see callers tell our virtual assistants things like ‘wow I never thought a robot could do that’ and ‘you were so helpful, I love you!’ We’re reshaping what it means to have an automated, AI experience, and helping everyone realize that in this new AI-era, great automated customer experiences are possible.”