Spanish startup Landbot bags €6.5M to boost customer engagement with human conversations; here’s how

Landbot

At present, numerous companies are drastically changing the way they communicate with the customers, be it sales, marketing, or service. In this regard, ‘chatbot’ is becoming an increasingly popular option among many companies for frontline communication. 

According to a prediction made by research analyst Forrester, digital customer service interactions will increase by 40 per cent in 2021, which will bring significantly more widespread chatbot adoption.

Raised €6.5M funding

In this regard, Landbot, a Barcelona-based company known for “no-code” chatbot builder, has secured €6.5M funding in Series A round led by Spanish-Israeli Venture Capital firm Swanlaab, alongside Spanish national innovation agency CDTI, with previous investors Nauta Capital, Encomenda, and Bankinter. 

The Spanish company will use the funding to double the Landbot team in 2021, hiring executive members across sales, marketing and engineering. To date, the company has raised $ 10.2M (approx €8.3M) funding. 

No-Code Chatbot builder 

Co-founded by Jiaqi Pan, Cristobal Villar, and Fernando Guirao in 2017, Landbot aims to create frictionless experiences for businesses and their customers, building technology that puts people first and can be built by anyone.

It requires no coding knowledge and uses a drag-and-drop solution to design a web page experience filled with gifs and visual elements to capture the attention of the end-user, claims the company. 

As easy as assembling LEGO

Landbot says that the product can be integrated with marketing tools such as Mailchimp and Salesforce, databases such as Airtable and Google Drive, and communication platforms like Slack and WhatsApp. 

One key use case for Landbot is providing its conversational interface to capture and process complex data, taking over the form builder market with its communication automation solution. This, according to the company, enhances the data exchange between company and customer, providing a frictionless experience. The service is available via a freemium and premium subscription.

Serves around 50,000 users 

Currently, the company has over 50,000 users ranging from SMEs to larger organisations in many different industries, from banking to marketing to e-commerce. Some of the notable names include Nestlé, MediaMarkt, CocaCola, Cepsa, PcComponentes, and Prudential. 

According to the company, the product started as an internal experiment to manage its operations, but later it was offered to customers as well once the co-founder realised the value it could provide to other companies.

Acquired Indian company

Notably, Landbot acquired India-based Morph.AI, a chat-based marketing automation tool to further expand its presence into the Asian market. 

To date, 90 per cent of its customers are international, and 60 per cent of its customers come from the US, UK, and Germany. Since its seed round the recurrent revenue has increased 10x and the team has grown to 40 people. 

Jiaqi Pan, CEO and co-founder of Landbot, says, “Increasingly we’re seeing more people use chatbots to communicate with businesses, rather than call them. Speaking to your customer on the channels they use most is crucial, and digital channels are winning. But building a bespoke AI solution is costly for most businesses where the precision rate for natural language processing (NLP) solutions remains below 60 per cent, which is unacceptable for most business use cases and can have a negative effect on the customer’s experience. Our solutions mean anyone can build an effective conversational workflow in minutes, without relying on AI engineers and huge amounts of data to train the AI system.”

“The past year has moved communication automation from nice-to-have to a must-have. Businesses have had to meet the challenge the past year placed on them where digitalisation is accelerating at an unprecedented level, and they were not set up to manage the volume of digital communications in the pandemic. Since the Covid19 outbreak started, we have tripled our monthly revenue as more people have actively searched for a solution that can quickly fix this problem.”

Startups – Silicon Canals

Human AI nabs $3.2M seed to build personal intelligence platform

The last we heard from Luther.ai, the startup was participating in the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in September. The company got a lot of attention from that appearance, which culminated in a $ 3.2 million seed round it announced today. While they were at it, the founders decided to change the company name to Human AI, which they believe better reflects their mission.

Differential VC led the round, joined by Village Global VC, Good Friends VC, Beni VC and Keshif Ventures. David Magerman from Differential will join the startup’s board.

The investors were attracted to Human AI’s personalized kind of artificial intelligence, and co-founder and CEO Suman Kanuganti says the Battlefield appearance led directly to investor interest, which quickly resulted in a deal four weeks later.

“I think overall the messaging of what we delivered at TechCrunch Disrupt regarding an individual personal AI that is secured by blockchain to retain and recall [information] really set the stage for what the company is all about, both from a user standpoint as well as from an investor standpoint,” Kanuganti told me.

As for the name change, he reported that there was some confusion in the market that Luther was an AI assistant like Alexa or a chatbot, and the founders wanted the name to better reflect the personalized nature of the product.

“We are creating AI for the individual and there is so much emphasis on the authenticity and the voice and the thoughts of an individual, and how we also use blockchain to secure ownership of the data. So most of the principle lies in creating this AI for an individual human. So we thought, let’s call it Human AI,” he explained.

As Kanuganti described it in September, the tool allows individuals to search for nuggets of information from past events using a variety of AI technologies:

It’s made possible through a convergence of neuroscience, NLP and blockchain to deliver seamless in-the-moment recall. GPT-3 is built on the memories of the public internet, while Luther is built on the memories of your private self.

The company is still in the process of refining the product and finding its audience, but reports that so far they have found interest from creative people such as writers, professionals such as therapists, high-tech workers interested in AI, students looking to track school work and seniors looking for a way to track their memories for memoir purposes. All of these groups have the common theme of having to find nuggets of information from a ton of signals, and that’s where Human AI’s strength lies.

The company’s diverse founding team includes two women, CTO Sharon Zhang and designer Kristie Kaiser, along with Kanuganti, who is himself an immigrant. The founders want to continue building a diverse organization as they add employees. “I think in general we just want to attract a diverse kind of talent, especially because we are also Human AI and we believe that everyone should have the same opportunity,” Zhang told me.

The company currently has seven full-time employees and a dozen consultants, but with the new funding is looking to hire engineers and AI talent and a head of marketing to push the notion of consumer AI. While the company is remote today and has employees around the world, it will look to build a headquarters at some point post-COVID where some percentage of the employees can work in the same space together.

Startups – TechCrunch

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Women are valuable human resource, there should be zero tolerance towards gender insensitivity: HC  TechnoCodex
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German Bionic raises $20M led by Samsung for exoskeleton tech to supercharge human labor

Exoskeleton technology has been one of the more interesting developments in the world of robotics: Instead of building machines that replace humans altogether, build hardware that humans can wear to supercharge their abilities. Today, German Bionic, one of the startups designing exoskeletons specifically aimed at industrial and physical applications — it describes its Cray X robot as “the world’s first connected exoskeleton for industrial use,” that is, to help people lifting and working with heavy objects, providing more power, precision and safety — is announcing a funding round that underscores the opportunity ahead.

The Augsburg, Germany-based company has raised $ 20 million, funding that it plans to use to continue building out its business, as well as its technology, both in terms of the hardware and the cloud-based software platform, German Bionic IO, that works with the exoskeletons to optimize them and help them “learn” to work better.

The Cray X currently can compensate up to 30 kg for each lifting movement, the company says.

“With our groundbreaking robotic technology that combines human work with the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), we literally strengthen the shop floor workers’ backs in an immediate and sustainable way. Measurable data underscores that this ultimately increases productivity and the efficiency of the work done,” says Armin G. Schmidt, CEO of German Bionic, in a statement. “The market for smart human-machine systems is huge and we are now perfectly positioned to take a major share and substantially improve numerous working lives.”

The Series A is being co-led by Samsung Catalyst Fund, a strategic investment arm from the hardware giant, and German investor MIG AG, one of the original backers of BioNtech, the breakthrough company that’s developed the first COVID-19 vaccine to be rolled out globally.

Storm Ventures, Benhamou Global Ventures (founded and led by Eric Benhamou, who was the founding CEO of Palm and before that the CEO of 3com) and IT Farm also participated. Previously, German Bionic had only raised $ 3.5 million in seed funding (with IT Farm, Atlantic Labs and individual investors participating).

German Bionic’s rise comes at an interesting moment in terms of how automation and cloud technology are sweeping the world of work. When people talk about the next generation of industrial work, the focus is usually on more automation and the rise of robots to replace humans in different stages of production.

But at the same time, some robotics technologists have worked on another idea. Because we’re probably still a long way away from being able to make robots that are just like humans, but better in terms of cognition and all movements, instead, create hardware that doesn’t replace, but augments, live laborers, to help make them stronger while still being able to retain the reliable and fine-tuned expertise of those humans.

The argument for more automation in industrial settings has taken on a more pointed urgency in recent times, with the rise of the COVID-19 health pandemic: Factories have been one of the focus points for outbreaks, and the tendency has been to reduce physical contact and proximity to reduce the spread of the virus.

Exoskeletons don’t really address that aspect of COVID-19 — even if you might require less of them as a result of using exoskeletons, you still require humans to wear them, after all — but the general focus that automation has had has brought more attention to the opportunity of using them.

And in any case, even putting the pandemic to one side, we are still a long way away from cost-effective robots that completely replace humans in all situations. So, as we roll out vaccinations and develop a better understanding of how the virus operates, this still means a strong market for the exoskeleton concept, which analysts (quoted by German Bionic) predict could be worth as much as $ 20 billion by 2030.

In that context, it’s interesting to consider Samsung as an investor: The company itself, as one of the world’s leading consumer electronics and industrial electronics providers, is a manufacturing powerhouse in its own right. But it also makes equipment for others to use in their industrial work, both as a direct brand and through subsidiaries like Harman. It’s not clear which of these use cases interests Samsung: whether to use the Cray X in its own manufacturing and logistics work, or whether to become a strategic partner in manufacturing these for others. It could easily be both.

“We are pleased to support German Bionic in its continued development of world-leading exoskeleton technology,” says Young Sohn, corporate president and chief strategy officer for Samsung Electronics and chairman of the board, Harman, in a statement. “Exoskeleton technologies have great promise in enhancing human’s health, wellbeing and productivity. We believe that it can be a transformative technology with mass market potential.”

German Bionic describes its Cray X as a “self-learning power suit” aimed primarily at reinforcing lifting movements and to safeguard the wearer from making bad calls that could cause injuries. That could apply both to those in factories, or those in warehouses, or even sole trader mechanics working in your local garage. The company is not disclosing a list of customers, except to note that it includes, in the words of a spokesperson, “a big logistics player, industrial producers and infrastructure hubs.” One of these, the Stuttgart Airport, is highlighted on its site.  

“Previously, efficiency gains and health promotion in manual labor were often at odds with one another. German Bionic Systems managed to not only break through this paradigm, but also to make manual labor a part of the digital transformation and elegantly integrate it into the smart factory,” says Michael Motschmann, managing partner with MIG in a statement. “We see immense potential with the company and are particularly happy to be working together with a first-class team of experienced entrepreneurs and engineers.”

Exoskeletons as a concept have been around for over a decade already — MIT developed its first exoskeleton, aimed to help soldiers carrying heavy loads — back in 2007, but advancements in cloud computing, smaller processors for the hardware itself and artificial intelligence have really opened up the idea of where and how these might augment humans. In addition to industry, some of the other applications have included helping people with knee injuries (or looking to avoid knee injuries!) ski better, and for medical purposes, although the recent pandemic has put a strain on some of these use cases, leading to indefinite pauses in production.

Startups – TechCrunch

Finland-based Port 6 raises €1 million to build the future of human – computer interaction

Port 6, a Finnish startup innovating human computer interaction, has raised €1 million in seed funding. The round was led by investment fund Superangel, and saw participation from Superhero Capital, Charlotta Björnberg-Paul, as well as and the founders of Pipedrive: Urmas Purde, Timo Rein, and Peep Vain. The company’s story got its start as classically…

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EU-Startups

London-based Cosmos Video raises €2.2 million to enable human connection in the remote era

Cosmos Video, the virtual venues platform which allows people to work, hang out and socialise together, has raised around €2.2 million in seed funding from Europe’s leading seed investors, LocalGlobe with participation from Entrepreneur First, Andy Chung and Phillip Moehring (AngelList), and Omid Ashtari (ex-President, Citymapper). Founded by serial entrepreneurs Rahul Goyal and Karan Baweja…

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Hibob raises $70M for its new take on human resources

Productivity software has been getting a major re-examination this year, and human resources platforms — used for hiring, firing, paying and managing employees — have been no exception. Today, one of the startups that’s built what it believes is the next generation of how HR should and will work is announcing a big fundraise, underscoring its own growth and the focus on the category.

Hibob, the startup behind the HR platform that goes by the name of “bob” (the company name is pronounced, “Hi, Bob!”), has picked up $ 70 million in funding at a valuation that reliable sources close to the company tell us is around $ 500 million.

“Our mission is to modernize HR technology,” said Ronni Zehavi, Hibob’s CEO, who co-founded the company with Israel David. “We are a people management platform for how people work today. Whether that’s remotely or physically collaborative, our customers face challenges with work. We believe that the HR platforms of the future will not be clunky systems, annoying, giant platforms. We believe it should be different. We are a system of engagement rather than record.”

The Series B is being led by SEEK and Israel Growth Partners, with participation also from Bessemer Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, Eight Roads Ventures, Arbor Ventures, Presidio Ventures, Entree Capital, Cerca Partners and Perpetual Partners, the same group that also backed Hibob in its last round (a Series A extension) in 2019. It has raised $ 124 million to date.

The company has its roots in Israel but these days describes its headquarters as London and New York, and the funding comes on the back of strong growth in multiple markets. In an interview, Zehavi said that Hibob specialises in the mid-market customers and says that it has more than 1,000 of them currently on its books across the U.S., Europe and Asia, including Monzo, Revolut, Happy Socks, ironSource, Receipt Bank, Fiverr, Gong and VaynerMedia. In the last year Hibob has had “triple-digit” year-on-year growth (it didn’t specify what those digits are).

Human resources has never been at the more glamorous end of how a company works, and it can sometimes even be looked on with some disdain. However, HR has found itself in a new spotlight in 2020, the year when every company — whether one based around people sitting at desks or in more interactive and active environments — had to change how it worked.

That might have involved sending everyone home to sign in from offices possibly made out of corners of bedrooms or kitchens, or that might have involved a vastly different set of practices in terms of when and where workers showed up and how they interacted with people once they did. But regardless of the implementations, they all involved a team of people who needed to be linked together, still feeling connected and managed; and sometimes hired, furloughed, or let go.

That focus has started to reveal the strains of how some legacy systems worked, with older systems built to consider little more than creating an employee identity number that could then be tracked for payroll and other purposes.

Hibob — Zehavi said they chose the name after the person who owned the bob.com domain wanted too much to sell it, but they liked “bob” for the actual product — takes an approach from the ground up that is in line with how many people work today, balancing different software and apps depending on what they are doing, and linking them up by way of integrations: its own includes Slack, Microsoft Teams and Mercer, and other packages that are popular with HR departments. 

While it covers all of the necessary HR bases like payroll and further compensation, onboarding, managing time off and benefits, it further brings in a variety of other features that help build out bigger profiles of users, such as performance and culture, with the ability for peers, managers and workers themselves to provide feedback to enhance their own engagement with the company, and for the company to have a better idea of how they are fitting into the organization, and what might need more attention in the future.

That then links into a bigger organizational chart and conceptual charts that highlight strong performers, those who are possible flight risks, those who are leaders and so on. While there have been a number of others in the HR world that have built standalone apps that cover some of these features (for example, 15five was early to spot the value of a platform that made it much easier to set goals and provide feedback), what’s notable here is how they are all folded into one system together.

The end effect, as you can see here, looks less like word salad and more interactive, graphic interfaces that are presumably a lot more enjoyable and at least easier to use for HR people themselves.

The importance for investors has been that the product and the startup has identified the opportunity, but has delivered not just more engagement, but a strong piece of software that still provides the essentials.

“This is certainly not a Workday,” said Adam Fisher, a partner at Bessemer, in an interview. “Our overall thesis has been that HR is only growing in importance. And while engagement is super important, that opportunity is not enough to create the market.”

The end result is a platform that has a significant shot at building in even more over time. For example, another large area that has been seeing traction in the world of enterprise and B2B software is employee training. Specifically, enterprise learning systems are creating another way to help keep people not only up to speed on important aspects of how they work, but also engaged at a time when connections are under strain.

“Training, a SuccessFactors -style offering, is definitely in our road map,” said Zehavi, who noted they are adding new features all the time. The latest has been compensation, sometimes known as merit increase cycles. “That is a very complex issue and requires deeper integrations finance and the CFO’s office. We streamlined it and made it easy to use. We launched two months ago and it’s on fire. After learning and development there are other modules also down the road.”

Startups – TechCrunch