Indisys, a Spanish company founded in 2005 which makes natural language virtual assistants and telephone operators to power 24/7 customer services, has raised a Series A funding round of $5 million, led by Intel Capital. Inveready Technology Investment Group also participated in the round. The investment is Intel Capital’s first in Spain — making it the 54th country the fund has invested in.
Indisys’ software has been deployed by banks, telecoms and retail companies in regions including Europe, Latin America, Oceania and the U.S. Customers include Mapfre, El Corte Ingles, BBVA and Junta de Andalucia in Spain, and VTR in Chile.
The new funding round will be used to accelerate the company’s international expansion including in Latin America and Europe but with a special focus on the U.S. It’s also currently increasing its executive team in the U.S. and Europe to further this goal. “With Intel’s support, global network and expertise, our potential is growing exponentially and our international expansion will be significantly accelerated, starting with a US corporation in Q1 2013,” noted founder and CEO, Pilar Manchón, in a statement.
Manchón told TechCrunch the company has raised around $7 million ”including capital and grants” to-date. ”Our main target is to grow faster in the U.S. and Latin America,” she added. “We will be opening our first US office in the Bay Area shortly.”
The proprietary AI technology powering Indisys’ virtual assistants is based on more than 15 years of academic and industrial research in multiple international projects, according to the company, including three PhD theses. Manchón trained at the Universities of Seville, Edinburgh, Stanford and MIT.
Indisys, which is short for intelligent dialogue systems, claims its virtual assistants display “Functional, Social & Emotional Intelligence, context awareness & flexible human-like conversational ability” — although judging by the samples on its website (such as Maya, right), it’s not quite yet managed to fix the ‘uncanny valley‘ phenomenon. The company says the benefits of its software for customer services use-cases include lower cost and 24/7 availability. It also offers social media, ERM and Live Chat products to further flesh out its offering (no pun intended).
Investor Inveready believes there is big potential for Indisys’ software beyond the virtual assistant model — with CEO Ignacio Fonts flagging up the growing importance of speech interfaces for human-machine interaction (see also: Apple’s Siri in that sphere).
“Indisys is much more than a Virtual Assistant company. Speech interfaces are bound to become the key to intelligent human-machine interaction and Indisys dialogue technology will make these interfaces more flexible, intelligent and human-like. I am confident this will be a great success,” said Fonts in a statement.
Commenting on the investment, Marcos Battisti, Managing Director Intel Capital Western Europe and Israel, said in a statement: “The company is at the forefront in the field of machine-human interactions, and we are very well placed to assist the company, by providing them with access to Intel Capital’s expertise and extensive network.”
“Indisys has a deep background in computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and machine learning,” added Erik Jorgensen, Investment Director, Intel Capital, in a statement. “We believe that natural language dialogue will be playing an increasingly important role in the way people communicate with their devices.”