PolyAI, a London-based “conversational AI” business, has secured $14 million in a round led by Silicon Valley’s Khosla Ventures, with participation from previous investors (Point72 Ventures, Amadeus Capital, Sands Capital Ventures, Passion Capital, and Entrepreneur First). This follows their $12 million Series A round and will help the company expand its presence in the United States beyond its current team. To date, the company has raised $28 million.
PolyAI creates and installs voice assistants for customer service automation that, according to the company, sound like actual people. According to the company, this allows businesses to obtain a limitless and cheaper supply of their best human voice operators, which minimises customer wait times and improves customer happiness and retention.
The technical term for their system is ‘multi-turn conversational AI,’ but all the caller has to do is talk to it like they would a human, according to co-founder Dr. Nikola Mrki. Their assistants can improve customer satisfaction (CSAT) levels by up to 40% and cut handling times by up to five minutes when compared to existing contact centres.
He also mentioned that they develop these systems quickly (in comparison to the competition) – because of their transformer-based language understanding models and the underlying dialogue management platform, they can have experiences like these up and running in 2-4 weeks.
PolyAI is one of the first AI businesses, according to Vinod Khosla, to use the newest generation of massive pre-trained deep learning models (such as BERT and GPT-3) in a real-world corporate application. This implies companies can install automated AI agents in as little as two weeks, compared to up to six months for incumbent voice assistant providers to implement an older version of the technology.
PolyAI, a spinoff from the University of Cambridge, claims it is “pushing at an open door” because the pandemic has resulted in call centre staffing shortages, prompting more companies to deploy smart voice assistants, which appear to have not been replaced by chatbots at all, as consumers prefer to speak rather than type.
They expected the system to take 40% of calls, but it handled 80% at launch and 87 percent within two weeks, according to Brian Jeppesen of Landry’s Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos. Callers believe the AI agent is human, which is fantastic because the voice assistant never has a bad day and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He plans to hire more agents like that in the future.
Nuance (recently acquired by Microsoft), Isoft, Interactions, SmartAction, and Replicant are competitors. PolyAI, on the other hand, claims that their voice assistant can be activated more rapidly, in more languages, and on a per-minute basis.
Nikola Mrki (CEO), Tsung-Hsien Wen (CTO), and Pei-Hao Su (Engineering Director) founded the company while working on their PhDs with Professor Steve Young, a pioneer in spoken dialogue systems who developed many of the technologies that are used in voice assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa.
Landry’s Entertainment, Greene King, Starling Bank, and Viasat are just a few of PolyAI’s recent clients.