Icera, a startup developing what it describes as an “AI-driven” support ticketing system, today raised Series D funding led by Goldman Sachs along with True Ventures, Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Icon Ventures, Khosla Ventures, First Round Capital and others. CEO Mudhu Sudhakar said the new cash will support Iceran’s market expansion and go-to-market strategy, in addition to investing in the company’s product development, R&D, sales and marketing initiatives.
Sudhakar says he built Icera after realizing the need for “predictive AI” solutions to automate customer service, IT, sales and operations problems. Leveraging AI, the platform plugs into existing systems of record, including help desk portals to respond to incoming inquiries and questions.
Sudhakar co-founded Icera in 2017 with long-time colleague Christos Trifonas. Sudhakar most recently led teams at ServiceNow and EMC, creating startups (Caspida, Cetas, Kazeon and Sanera Systems) previously acquired by VMware and Splunk. Tryphonas, a former AT&T Bell Labs researcher, worked with Sudhakar on many of his projects before joining ISERA.
We thought. [the pandemic] It would be a problem, but the Acera technology works very well in remote areas. Customers have looked to AI and automation to increase user engagement and adoption,” Sudhakar told TechCrunch in an email interview. “With the current market downturn, we are seeing the need to reduce licensing and people costs. This has fueled interest in ISERA as we can help organizations reduce costs for IT and business services.
The way Sudhakar explains it, Aisera’s platform learns to solve problems through a combination of language-parsing AI and robotic process automation, or RPA. RPA technology tries to mimic the way people interact with software. It’s not a particularly new idea — RPA vendors, including Automation Anywhere and UiPath, say they can do this to some extent. But Sudhakar insists that ISERA’s brand of RPA is tailor-made for customer/employee service use cases.
“In some ways, Aysera competes with ServinceNow and Zendesk, but as we work with them, we also partner with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Salesforce, Atlassian and Cisco to complement those solutions,” Sudhakar said. “Aisera is unique and separate from the ontology and taxonomy for each domain and vertical industry… [We also do] Learning and training AI on customer data sets to capture speech, phrases, expressions needed for natural language processing and natural language understanding.
When a question comes in via email, voice, ticket or chat room, Aysera analyzes it with an algorithm trained to understand language and try to understand it. The platform leverages reference sources such as ServiceNow, Salesforce, Oracle, Confluence and SharePoint to provide customer data to personalize responses to queries. After that step, Aisera creates a list of actions that must be completed to fulfill the request, which it provides to the “workflow management” engine.
Icera can retrieve articles or snippets from the company’s knowledge base that answer a customer’s question. Additionally, it can take certain actions on its own, such as resetting user passwords – that’s where RPA comes in – or request it for the relevant team. For difficult problems, Aisera can also provide teams with “next-best-step” recommendations, improving with each additional data point.
“Our technology helps companies improve their business results while limiting costs associated with help and service desk support, customer service and support. [more]” Sudhakar added. “Aisera provides solutions for IT, HR, cybersecurity, customer service, sales, marketing, legal and finance departments for both large and small organizations in the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets.”
Aysera claims to do a lot. Unfortunately, without access to internal data, it’s hard to know how well the product will perform in practice. The platform supposedly knows more than 70 languages, but does it understand all those languages well? What happens when Icera makes a mistake solving queries (for example, fetching the wrong support text)? It is vague; We’ve reached out to the company for more information.
If we take a step back to examine the larger industry, it’s clear that there is a huge demand for AI technologies for customer service. In the year A 2021 survey from ManageEngine (Zoho’s IT division) found that 59% of executives in the US are implementing AI – such as through chatbots – to enhance customer service in some way. Realistic or not, AI is seen by many as a path to greater efficiency (ie, handling more customer requests with fewer resources) and more personalization (ie, disincentives).
It’s No Panacea – Findings are mixed on whether customers prefer even basic chatbots to human agents. But the buzz around AI has led to the rise of startups like Lang.AI, which automatically tags customer conversations to solve service issues. Last year, Zendesk acquired Cleverly, whose product platform offers a series of AI-powered capabilities, including automatically tagging requests for revenue services to assign workflows. There’s also Ultimate.ai, a data-ingesting, bot-building platform; Ushur, which provides services for businesses to create AI-based communication flows; and Tidio, a collection of live chat apps and AI-powered chatbots.
Competition aside, Sudhakar believes that Icera, with more than 100 customers and nearly 80 million users, has good room for growth. Current subscribers include companies such as Zoom, Chegg, McAfee and Autodesk, as well as federal, state, military and defense agencies.
“We’re in a somewhat recession-proof industry where our cloud-native and AI-native technology can handle budgets better than others. AI and automation are key pillars to beat inflation,” Sudhakar said. Up to 300% – between 80% and 90% total profit. . . . As the tech industry faces uncertainty and some economic headwinds, Acer’s business is booming.
So far, Icera, which employs about 250 people, has raised $180 million in capital.