Thursday, July 7, 2022

AI voice bot startup raises $7 million on pre-Series A

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Sydney-based voice communications platform Curious Thing has raised $7 million in pre-series A funding.

The round led by private equity firm Hawkstone, backed by Blacksheep Capital and January Capital, with existing investors, Westpac’s venture capital fund Reinventure and Qualgro, returned after a support of $1.5 million in 2019.

The cash injection will be used to help the company ramp up staffing and growth in the startup’s key vertical markets; clients in financial services, healthcare and technology, as well as additional expansion in Southeast Asia and the United States.

Co-founder and CEO Sam Zheng said the company decided to shift its software capabilities from software, from HR and job interviews to customer engagement, with companies using AI speech bots for companies to proactively engage with their customers. The company has already processed more than three million minutes of AI human conversations through the platform.

Curious Thing’s customer base includes Quitline, Calvary, Brighte and Humm Group, as well as state and local governments. It has expanded its core team in Australia to over 30, with additional staff in the US.

“Helping businesses reshape B2C communications is at the heart of Curious Thing’s mission, as there is an increasing mismatch between customer expectations and what businesses can deliver when they interact with customers,” said Zheng.

“In the past, companies usually had to deal with a static view of customer touchpoints. Today, passively responding to customer needs just isn’t good enough; companies need to be proactive and discover curious insights about customers.”

Zheng said they were particularly proud of their social impact in the health sector.

“We look forward to using this funding to continue to build our unique voice AI technology and deepen our expertise in human AI trust and conversational user experience – at a time when voice AI is quickly moving from a ‘good to have’ to “strategic business tool,” he said.

Hawkstone Asia Pacific MD John Hollingsworth said his firm has long-standing and extensive investor and management expertise in customer service and voice automation.

“So we really understand the value and potential of the Curious Thing product. We can’t wait to see how the speech AI category develops in the coming months and years,” he said.

“There is certainly a lot of work to be done in speech AI to engage users in the benefits of this technology and to create more positive and trusting relationships between humans and AI. We are confident that Curious Thing will play a leading role in the growing adoption of speech AI.”

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