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Tuesday 14 September 2021

PolyAI rings up more funding to answer more calls

logoI don’t use Alexa or, for that matter, Google Assistant, Siri or Cortana because I prefer not to talk to machinery that can answer back. I’m old fashioned like that.

But sometimes I just don’t have the choice, particularly when calling customer help (I use the term loosely) lines which are invariably answered by some form of IVR (interactive voice response) system telling me how important my call is to them which is why I have to select through several layers of menu for the pleasure of waiting endlessly for a live person to pick up their headset.

Meanwhile, the quest to perfect technology that can pass the Turing test (look it up if you don’t know) has inspired countless startups to develop ever more sophisticated chatty systems to make people like me really believe that someone/thing out there really does care. These systems are now generally classed under the umbrella term ‘conversational AI’.

One such startup is University of Cambridge spin-out, PolyAI, which has raised a further $14m in a funding round led by Khosla Ventures. Prior backers who fuelled PolyAI’s Series A round in 2019, also participated (see PolyAI secures $12m for the art of conversational AI).

PolyAI claims that its platform learns new languages quickly and can be deployed in as little as two weeks. The business model is based on a one-time customisation fee and then a pay-per-minute usage charge (I can see some interesting ‘challenges’ from clients with that model). Founded in 2017 and now headquartered in London, PolyAI’s clients include Landry’s Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos and BP.

Whether PolyAI doers a better job than, say, ‘usual suspect’ Nuance et al or, for that matter, Wluper – a startup also launched in 2017 (see Wluper raises $1.3m for conversational AI) I really don’t know. But technology marches on and I pray for the day I really will feel that my call is important to whoever I’m phoning – that’s my Turing test!

Posted by: Anthony Miller at 08:27

Tags: funding   startup  

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