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12 March, 2019 - 09:47 By Tony Quested

$12m Series A for speech tech company built on Cambridge IP

Steve Young with the PolyAI founders

A speech technology business founded by three Cambridge PhDs has raised $12 million Series A funding from a group of investors including Hermann Hauser’s Amadeus Capital Partners.

PolyAI has created a platform for conversational artificial intelligence and its advisers are Apple’s Steve Young, founder of VocalIQ, Entropic and Phonetic Arts, and Vishal Chatrath who is CEO of PROWLER.io.

The young business is targeting a $1.3 trillion market with its conversational AI. 

PolyAI founders Nikola Mrkšić, Tsung-Hsien Wen and Pei-Hao Su have experience with Apple Siri, Google and Facebook AI, respectively. They all studied under Professor Young at Cambridge University; Steve sold businesses to Microsoft, Apple and Google. 

Hermann Hauser said: “PolyAI has identified, in customer experience, a major market in need of intelligent automation. They have a deep knowledge of how conversational AI can enhance human interaction and communication in order to transform the customer service experience.”

The Series A round was led by Point72 Ventures and included investments from Sands Capital Ventures, Amadeus, Passion Capital, and Entrepreneur First. It follows an earlier $2.4m seed round, led by Amadeus and Passion Capital.

PolyAI’s platform powers conversational AI agents that guide users through complex customer support scenarios. 

The agents are based on PolyAI’s proprietary machine learning and natural language processing technology, which allows them to scale seamlessly across different use cases and world languages.

Nikola Mrkšić, PolyAI co-founder and CEO said: “Developing sophisticated AI technology while formulating a compelling SaaS proposition is a significant challenge and it has delayed the real-world deployment of conversational AI for far too long. 

“Attempts to bring modern AI to customer support have been largely unsuccessful – due to a lack of data and insufficient understanding of contact centre operations. To make rapid progress, we plan to pursue very close integration with existing contact centres.”

Mrkšić was the first engineer at VocalIQ, a start-up that developed proprietary software to improve dialogue interactions in voice-activated systems, sold to Apple in 2015 to be integrated with Siri.

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