If you’ve ever interacted online with a customer service rep who seemed highly responsive and polite, yet also incapable of nuanced conversation beyond basic queries, chances are you encountered an AI bot. And chances are, it was pretty obvious.
If investors have their way, however, there’s a strong likelihood that in the future it will be much harder to distinguish between a bot and an actual human.
In recent years, venture and growth investors have poured billions into developers of customer service-focused automation technology. Companies in the the space are focused heavily on employing AI to speed resolutions of customer issues and reduce reliance on human agents.
The space saw a major funding boost today as Uniphore, a fast-growing provider of conversational automation to enterprises, announced a $400 million Series E funding round led by NEA. The financing brings total funding to date to $610 billion and sets a valuation of $2.5 billion for the 14-year-old, Palo Alto-headquartered company.
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Uniphore says its technology combines conversational AI, workflow automation and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) in a software offering that businesses can deploy in their customer service operations. Its tools enable businesses to fully automate some interactions, while others may loop in human representatives for certain tasks.
The company says it plans to use the funding for R&D in areas including voice AI, computer vision and tonal emotion, as well as to expand its business operations in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
This fundraising comes amid an active period for investment in companies developing technologies to automate customer interactions. A Crunchbase query of funding rounds for companies working on conversational automation, chatbots and related areas, showed more than $2.3 billion in venture, growth and private equity investment over the past two years.
In addition to Uniphore, some of the larger recent funding recipients include:
- Infobip, a London-based provider of messaging channels and tools for customer engagement, raised $200 million in a July private equity round backed by One Equity Partners.
- Dixa, a Copenhagen-based provider of conversational customer engagement software, raised $105 million in a July Series C round led by General Atlantic.
- Wizard, a New York-based startup that applies conversational AI to e-commerce, raised $101 million across two funding rounds in September and January.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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