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Conversational AI startup Cognigy today announced that it closed a $44 million series B funding round led by Insight Partners, which brings the company’s total raised to over $50 million to date. Cofounder and CEO Philipp Heltewig says that the proceeds will be put toward accelerating customer growth, creating new partnerships, and continuing to enhance Cognigy’s AI platform.
The ubiquity of smartphones and messaging apps — as well as the pandemic — have contributed to the increased adoption of conversational technologies. Fifty-six percent of companies told Accenture in a survey that conversational bots and other experiences are driving disruption in their industry. And a Twilio study showed that 9 out of 10 consumers would like the option to use messaging to contact a business.
Founded in 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany, Cognigy provides a low-code platform that enables customers to create text and voice virtual agents. From a graphical conversation editor, users can manage the conversational flow of chatbots, developing experiences across a range of channels including the web, WhatsApp, Amazon Alexa, and more.
“Heltewig and former communications engineer Sascha Poggemann recognized a strong need for enterprises to adopt mature language technologies five years ago. With their combined knowledge in enterprise software and communication, they built Cognigy to what it’s known for today: an AI-first, self-service automation solution for large enterprises, especially in customer service,” a spokesperson told VentureBeat via email.
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With Cognigy, customers can retain conversation context across channels and allow handovers between different interaction points. A module lets customers tune bots by reviewing the natural language understanding (NLU) results and providing feedback, with an intent review system that delivers assistance with NLU training. For added flexibility, Cognigy offers integrations with natural language understanding engines including Google Dialogflow, Microsoft LUIS, and IBM Watson. And the platform works with existing live chat tools like RingCentral Engage Digital, Avaya Oceana, and Genesys Pure Cloud.
Users can tap Cognigy to perform automated regression testing, ensuring that business objectives are met after flow changes. The platform also supports extensions, which hook directly into a flow editor and can be written and deployed by anyone, the company said. Cognigy’s Snapshot capability, meanwhile, orchestrates the packaging and migration of virtual agents and NLU models. Snapshots can be used in combination with a command-line interface to automate processes like roll-out, external backup, or bot configuration.
“Cognigy [acts] as an intelligent AI-powered middleware that can engage with customers and employees on the one hand, while being deeply integrated with enterprise systems and robotics on the other,” the spokesperson said. “Our customers use this technology for a broad range of use cases, ranging from human resources virtual assistants to product recommendations and intelligent contact center [platforms]. The recurring pattern is end-to-end automation, with deep system integration; a conversational interface — regardless of the channel — is only truly useful if it can actually engage in a transaction.”
A growing market
Cognigy, which has more than 100 employees, occupies a chatbot market that’s anticipated to be worth $142 billion by 2024, according to Insider Intelligence, up from $2 billion in 2019. Gartner predicts that over 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on chatbot creation than mobile app development by this year. And Juniper Research expects that 75% to 90% of customer queries will be handled by chatbots within the next year.
Even before the pandemic, autonomous agents were on the way to becoming the rule rather than the exception, partly because consumers prefer it that way. According to research published last year by Vonage subsidiary NewVoiceMedia, 25% of people prefer to have their queries handled by a chatbot or other self-service alternative. And Salesforce says roughly 69% of consumers choose chatbots for quick communication with brands.
Despite competition from Gupshup, Ada, Omilia, Mindsay, Directly, and others, Cognigy claims its over 400 customers now include brands like Lufthansa, Mobily, Pfizer partner BioNTech, Vueling Airlines, Bosch, and Daimler. As of 2021, they’ve built and deployed thousands of virtual agents in more than 120 languages.
“As a global leader in Conversational AI, we have a responsibility that goes beyond our ambitions for Cognigy. Our responsibility now is to continuously develop our product to lower the barriers to entry for enterprises to adopt AI in their organizations and help bring about a world in which artificial intelligence works alongside human workers in leading enterprises globally,” Heltewig said. “With this funding round, we can achieve this vision by continuing to hire the best talent, developing our platform Cognigy.AI, and establishing ourselves as the global leader in Conversational AI.”
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