PolyAI raises $14m from Khosla Ventures to accelerate US expansion for ‘superhuman’ voice assistants


13-09-2021
PolyAI team

Enterprise voice bot market heats up as companies use AI to route calls, answer questions, book reservations and take orders.

PolyAI, the leading supplier of enterprise-ready voice assistants, is poised for rapid growth in the US thanks to investment from Khosla Ventures and recent deals with Landry’s Entertainment, Greene King, Starling Bank and Viasat.

Staffing shortages are driving more companies to deploy smart voice assistants for frontline phone support. PolyAI can handle over 95% of all calls, from start to finish, without involving human agents.

“We were expecting the system to handle 40% of calls, but at launch it handled 80%, and within two weeks it was up to 87%,” says Brian Jeppesen of Landry’s Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos. “Callers think the AI agent is human”, Jeppesen continued, “which is great because the voice assistant never has a bad day, and is on 24/7. I wish I could hire more agents like that!”

“Customers are now very comfortable with voice assistants, thanks to Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant”, said Dr Nikola Mrkšić, Co-founder & CEO of PolyAI. “People prefer to speak to voice assistants immediately, rather than wait for 20+ minutes to speak to a human agent.”

PolyAI currently has a dozen clients in the UK and US, spanning industries including hospitality, banking and telecoms. “For a while, many believed chatbots would remove the need for the voice channel. COVID-19 sank that narrative. Even though the pandemic has reduced contact center capacity, over 60% of consumers still choose to endure prolonged waiting times instead of using chat,” said Mrkšić.

“PolyAI is one of the first AI companies using large pre-trained machine learning models (akin to BERT and GPT-3) in a real-world enterprise product. This means they can deploy automated AI agents in as little as two weeks, where incumbent voice IVR providers would take up to six months to deploy an older version of this technology.” said Vinod Khosla.

A spinout of the University of Cambridge in the UK, PolyAI uses machine learning and AI to understand customers’ intent and identify accurate responses. Callers can speak to PolyAI’s voice assistants as they would to a human, questions do not need special formulation or keywords, unlike previous generations of voice technology.

“The technical term for our technology is ‘multi-turn conversational AI’, but all the caller has to do is talk to it, like they would to a human,” said Mrkšić. “Compared to existing call centers, our assistants can boost customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores by up to 40% and reduce handling times by up to five minutes.”

PolyAI has raised a total of $28m to date. Khosla Ventures is joining Point72 Ventures, Amadeus Capital Partners, Passion Capital, Sands Capital and Entrepreneur First as investors.

About PolyAI
PolyAI is an artificial intelligence company that automates customer service using AI voice assistants. PolyAI’s assistants allow companies to provide a superhuman customer experience over their phone lines. The company’s product emulates the best human operators, helping to reduce customer waiting times and increase customer satisfaction and retention. In 2020, PolyAI’s voice assistants helped reduce pressure on call centers during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The product offering is available in 50+ languages and is currently in use by leading banks, telcos, retailers and hospitality groups across Europe and North America. PolyAI is a spinout from the University of Cambridge, and its proprietary technology stack was built upon years of academic research by the founding team. To date, the company has raised $28m of VC funding and has 60+ employees across the US and the UK.

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Amadeus Capital Partners is a global technology investor. Since 1997, the firm has raised over $1bn for investment and used it to back more than 130 companies. With vast experience and a great network, Amadeus’ team of investors and entrepreneurs share a passion for the transformative power of technology. We invest in consumer services, financial technology, artificial intelligence, cyber security, medical technology, digital healthcare and digital media.

Amadeus Capital Partners Ltd