Chatbot Investment Continues to Rise in 2019

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Serious tech and venture capital investment money continue to flow into chatbots, with UK personal financial advice bot Plum the latest to benefit with $4.5 million helping people save smarter.

Finance bots are big news

Money management tools are all the rage with apps, services and banks’ own features helping people save better by swapping products, finding better rates, getting people to trim excess spending, and moving spare pennies to useful pots so people have more cash. Among the standouts in this market is Plum, a chatbot on Facebook Messenger, or now via an iOS app with Android coming soon, that offers a range of investment advice to a customer base that has grown over 400% in a year to 400,000 users.

The latest investment comes from VentureFriends and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, bring funding to $6.3 million. The funding will likely help the Plum bolster its services and IT, it recently moved its back-end to a new Kubernetes cluster to increase the bot’s speed for end users. Plum also has a healthy open roles list as it looks to expand and capture more of the market, and if it can help users save $100 million this year, it should attract plenty of attention.

Last November, U.S. finance-bot Charlie picked up $9 million in funding to help grow its service to an audinence that has reached 250,000 mostly female users, and is growing at 30% a month.

Acquisitions and deals

The deal is just the latest for chatbots. Recently Indian firm Reliance Industries snapped up 87% of AI chat platform Haptik Inc for $100 million. One of India’s most popular personal assistant apps, it has grown rapidly over five years. Reliance was built on oil and textiles, but is moving into digital in a big way with a Jio mobile brand that Haptik will be part of.

Globally, this is just the latest move as tech brands seek to ensure they have an AI or bot as part of their services. Also in India, Netcore recently acquired AI-based chatbot-tool Quinto.Ai. As part of that deal, Quinto’s co-founder HrishikeshRajpathak becomes Netcore’s Chief Data Scientist bringing over 12 years of experience in machine learning, deep learning and NLP, highlighting the value of experts in the field.

Over in China, tech giant Baidu has partnered with the nations largest online travel firm Ctrip to provide its AI power and services to the holiday company. As part of the deal, the pair plan to explore using smart services in more scenarios, including speech technology. This highlights that vendors with established AI services will play a key role in equipping new and existing partners with that technology to build services and grow their data footprint to build better platforms for AI services to expand.

Note, if you’re worried from a western perspective about Chinese AI firms taking over the world, this piece on local AI development has a useful dose of reality about their advances, while warning how much China is absorbing from the west.

Travel bots remain the most vibrant market

Ignoring Asia is a business failure that many western companies are guilty of, but most are now starting to address. Finnair is the latest airlime looking east to expand its business, promising to bring chatbots and AI as part of the package for flyers to help smooth language barriers and provide global services.

And, when passengers get wherever they are going, chatbots will play a key role in getting around and communicating. In Japan, Microsoft is helping roll out the Japan Trip Navigator app with local travel firms, armed with a new Miko chatbot to answer questions and provide local information on local customers, things to see and do, and much more.

While banking and travel might be the most obvious highlights for the rise of AI and bots, they continue to emerge for healthcare, client-experience, customer service and other sectors on a daily basis, all of which can only help drive acceptance among users, and businesses who might pass them off as an IT fad.

With money flowing into AI and bot firms, and partnerships being forged between vendors and end-user-focused businesses, the march of the bot into the public arena continues at pace. Whatever your business, chatbots and intelligent services are playing a greater role in providing customer information, or being used internally among workers to improve efficiency.