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PolyAI raises $50m for call centre voice assistants

Image credit: PolyAI

PolyAI, a London-based startup developing AI-generated voices for use in call centres, has closed a $50m (£39.4m) funding round valuing it close to $500m.

Founded in 2017 as a spinout from the University of Cambridge, PolyAI lists Volkswagen, Marriott and Caesar’s Entertainment among its clients for its conversational virtual assistants.

The company’s co-founder and CEO Nikola Mrkšić previously worked at Apple as a machine learning researcher in Cambridge working with the team behind the Siri virtual assistant.

The Series C funding round, first reported by the Financial Times, was led by Hedosophia and NVentures – the VC arm of NVIDIA. It featured participation from existing investors Khosla Ventures and Point72 Ventures.

Mrkšić told the FT:We want to make people fall in love with voice assistants because [calling] is still the main way people interact with businesses. It’s been very sticky and has stayed past a digital transformation elsewhere.”

PolyAI has previously raised $66m from investors, according to Crunchbase.

According to the firm’s latest accounts, it generated almost £3m in revenue for the year ended January 2023, though high costs meant it ultimately lost £10.9m. PolyAI said that US companies represent 70% of its revenue.

The major funding round follows a series of boosts for the British AI industry last week, including a $1.05bn funding round for autonomous vehicle software firm Wayve, a pledge from US firm CoreWeave to spend £1bn on UK AI infrastructure and the opening of Scale AI’s European headquarters in London.

Amelia Armour, partner on Amadeus Capital Partner’s Early Stage Team, long-term investor and board observer at PolyAI, said: “It’s been a very strong month so far for the AI sector in the UK, so to see a company we have followed and supported since its inception at Cambridge University expand internationally, attract investment, and most importantly roll out its tech to large customers is very exciting.”