Last November, GE acquired the AI-centric startup Wise.io to bolster its machine learning capabilities. While Wise.io's core competency was in machine learning, its main product focused on helping enterprises manage customer service requests. Maybe unsurprisingly, GE has now spun out Wise.io in a new company, SmartAssist .io, which will continue to expand the service and work with existing customers like Twilio, MailChimp, ZenDesk, Zenefits and others.
SmartAssist CEO Pradeep Rathinam tells me GE realized that it had acquired a very interesting product, but that it would take a dedicated team and funding to scale it.
As the SmartAssist team also announced today, Seattle's Madrona Venture Group has invested $5 million in the company as the sole investor in its Series A round. Madrona managing partner (and former Microsoft executive VP) S. "Soma" Somasegar will join the company's board, which also includes Wise.io founder and GE Digital's VP of Intelligent Systems Jeff Erhardt.
Like similar services, SmartAssist uses its AI technology to smartly route service requests to the right human agents. When possible, the service also can respond automatically, based on the ticket's attributes and the routing rules a company can set for itself. Like all machine learning-based systems, SmartAssist needs a lot of data. Rathinam tells me this means the service works best for companies that handle at least 10,000 support tickets a month.
"Applying ML/AI to intelligently automate use cases and workflows in enterprises is an area where we see a tremendous amount of opportunity and some of our recent investments reflect that investment thesis," Madrona's Somasegar writes in today's announcement. "As we think about beachhead use cases of ML/AI within enterprises, customer support stands out as one of the most tangible areas that could be fundamentally disrupted through technology."
Looking ahead, the SmartAssist team plans to expand its service to also support chat-based customer service systems -- millennials don't exactly enjoy picking up the phone to talk to a customer service agent, after all, Rathinam noted.