Aisera, a startup developing what it describes as an “AI-driven” support ticketing system, announced today that it has raised $90 million in Series D funding led by Goldman Sachs with participation from True Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Icon Ventures, Khosla Ventures, First Round Capital and others. CEO Muddu Sudhakar said the new money will be spent on market expansion and supporting Aisera’s go-to-market strategy, in addition to investing in the company’s product development, R&D, sales and marketing initiatives.
Sudhakar says he built Aisera after noticing the need for “predictive AI” solutions that could automatically solve customer service, IT, sales and operations issues. By leveraging AI, the platform can connect to existing registration systems, including help desk portals, to respond to incoming questions and requests.
Sudhakar founded Aisera in 2017 together with Christos Tryfonas, a longtime colleague. Sudhakar most recently led teams at ServiceNow and EMC, and previously founded startups (Caspida, Cetas, Kazeon and Sanera Systems) that were acquired by VMware and Splunk. Tryfonas, a former AT&T Bell Labs researcher, worked with Sudhakar at several of his ventures before joining Aisera.
“We thought [the pandemic] would be a problem, but Aisera’s technology does very well in remote environments. Customers wanted AI and automation to drive user engagement and adoption,” Sudhakar told toptecheasy.com in an email interview. “Now, in the current downturn in the market, we see the need for cost reduction on licenses and people. This is encouraging. demand for Aisera because we can help organizations reduce IT and business services costs.”
As Sudhakar explains, Aisera’s platform learns to solve problems through a combination of language-analysing AI and robotic process automation, or RPA. RPA technology attempts to mimic the way people interact with software to perform simple, repeatable tasks at scale. It’s not a particularly new idea – RPA vendors, including Automation Anywhere and UiPath, claim to be able to do this to some degree. But Sudhakar claims that Aisera’s RPA brand is tailored for customer/employee use cases.
“In some ways Aisera competes with ServiceNow and Zendesk, but it also complements those solutions because we partner with them, as well as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Salesforce, Atlassian and Cisco,” said Sudhakar. “Aisera is unique and differentiated with ontology and taxonomy for every domain and vertical industry… [We also do] AI learning and training on customer datasets to capture specific intents, phrases, and utterances needed for natural language processing and natural language comprehension.”
When a request comes in via email, voice, ticket or chat room, Aisera tries to understand it by analyzing it with an algorithm trained to understand language. The platform then references sources such as ServiceNow, Salesforce, Oracle, Confluence, and SharePoint for customer data to personalize responses to the request. After that step, Aisera creates a list of actions to complete to fulfill the request, which it submits to a “workflow management” engine.
Aisera can return articles or excerpts of articles from a company’s knowledge base that most likely answer a customer’s question. In addition, it can automatically take certain actions itself, such as resetting a user’s password – which is where the RPA comes in handy – or forwarding requests to the appropriate team. For tougher issues, Aisera can also make recommendations to teams for the “next-best action” and improve with each additional data point.
“Our technology helps companies improve their operational results and enable them to reduce the costs associated with help and service desk support, customer service and support, and [more]’ added Sudhakar. “Aisera provides solutions for organizations of all sizes that can be used in business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets for IT, HR, cybersecurity, customer service, sales, marketing, legal and financial departments.”
Aisera claims to do a lot. Unfortunately, without access to internal data, it is difficult to know how well the product works in practice. The platform supposedly recognizes more than 70 languages, but does it understand all those languages equally well? What happens if Aisera makes a mistake (e.g. gets the wrong support article) when handling requests? It is unclear; we asked the company for more information.
However, by stepping back to examine the larger industry, it is clear that there is a strong interest in AI technologies for customer service. a 2021 questionnaire of ManageEngine (Zoho’s IT division) found that 59% of executives in the US are using AI, for example in chatbots, to improve customer service in some way. Realistic or not, AI is seen by many as a path to greater efficiency (i.e., handling more customer queries with fewer resources) and more personalization (e.g., upselling).
It’s not a panacea – findings are mixed whether customers even prefer basic chatbots over human agents. But the hype surrounding AI has fueled the rise of startups like Lang.ai, which automatically tag customer conversations to solve service issues. Last year, Zendesk acquired Cleverly, whose product platform offered a range of AI-powered capabilities, including a triage feature to automatically tag incoming service requests to categorize workflow. There is also Ultimate.ai, a bot builder platform for data ingestion; Ushur, which provides a service for companies to create AI-based communication flows; and Tidio, a suite of live chat apps and AI-powered chatbots.
Competition aside, Sudhakar believes Aisera is well positioned for growth with over 100 customers and nearly 80 million users. Current subscribers include brands like Zoom, Chegg, McAfee, and Autodesk, plus federal, state, military, and defense agencies.
“We are in a somewhat recession-proof industry where our cloud-native and AI-native technology can accommodate budgets better than others. AI and automation are important fundamental pillars to beat inflation,” said Sudhakar. “Aisera is experiencing tremendous growth – 300% year-over-year – with gross margins between 80% and 90%. . . . As the tech industry faces levels of uncertainty and economic headwinds, business is thriving for Aisera.”
To date, Aisera, with approximately 250 employees, has raised $180 million in capital.