New Zealand-founded artificial intelligence (AI) developer Soul Machines is set to further extend its global footprint and presence following the completion of its US$40 million Series B financing round.
The latest funding round was led by Singapore’s Temasek, with participation by European venture fund Lakestar and Salesforce’s corporate investment group, Salesforce Ventures.
Further investment also came from Soul Machine's existing investors Horizons Ventures, University of Auckland Inventors Fund and others from earlier financing rounds.
Soul Machines completed its Series A investment round in late 2016, with that funding round, led by Horizons Ventures with Iconiq Capital, bringing in US$7.5 million for the company.
Originally spun out of the University of Auckland by co-founders Mark Sagar and Greg Cross, Soul Machines bills itself as an artificial general intelligence (AGI) company developing an autonomous animation platform aimed at helping “humanise brands and the ways people engage with them”.
In practical terms, the company develops AI, computational brain models and experiential learning to create services that offer organisations new forms of customer experience and engagement.
Using Soul Machines’ technology, companies can create a digital version of their brand ambassadors or an entirely digitally virtual employee, such as a service agent, to interact with customers.
In August last year, energy company Vector and Soul Machines partnered to launch a "digital human" instructor called Will into New Zealand primary schools.
Today, some of the biggest global brands in retail, automotive, banking and finance, including enterprises like Procter & Gamble, Bank ABC, The Royal Bank of Scotland and others, have deployed Soul Machines’ HumanOS platform and created digital service agents for customer interaction.
It is the customer service element that attracted Salesforce’s involvement in the latest funding round, according to head of Salesforce Ventures in Australia Rob Keith.
“We’re proud to announce Salesforce Ventures’ investment in Soul Machines because it has an obsessive focus on improving customer experience by using artificial intelligence technology in new ways,” Keith said. “We look forward to continuing to work with Soul Machines as it scales and realises its global aspirations.”
Soul Machines plans to use the new funds, which bring its total investment tally to date to over US$47 million, to continue expanding globally, with a specific focus on research and development and increasing its operating footprint around the world to meet growing demand.
Already, the company claims offices in San Francisco, New York and Melbourne, in addition to its home base in Auckland.
For Cross, who is chief business officer for the company as well as co-founder, the latest investment represents a partnership that will underpin Soul Machines’ global expansion.
“We have enjoyed getting to know and work with the teams at Temasek, Lakestar and Salesforce Ventures and believe they are the perfect partners to help as we continue to expand and grow our business, technology and client base globally,” he said.
“We are very grateful for the continued support from Horizons Ventures who are highly valued partners that understand how great technology businesses are built,” Cross added.