PolyAI Raises $14 Million from Khosla Ventures to Accelerate US Expansion for their “Superhuman” Voice Assistants

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.

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“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.

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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.

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