Niche technology startups seem to be the sweet spot for investors these days. Out of these, fintech startups have grown at a staggering 31% YoY growth with over $200 million funding received in H1-2017, as per the 2017 Nasscom Startup report. Implementation of advanced technology is becoming prominent, with 33% of fintech funding geared towards advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics.
Active.Ai is the latest artificial intelligence (AI)-based fintech startup to receive $8.25 million Series A funding led by Vertex Ventures, Creditease Holdings and Dream Incubator. Existing investors Kalaari and IDG Ventures India will also participate in the round. Ben Mathias, Managing Partner at Vertex Ventures and Vani Kola, Managing Director at Kalaari Capital will join Sanat Rao from IDG Ventures India on the company’s board of directors. Anju Patwardhan from Creditease will join as a board observer.
Founded in 2016 by Ravi Shankar, Shankar Narayanan and Parikshit Paspulati, Active.ai is headquartered in Singapore but has a significant presence in India with an innovation lab in Bengaluru, that delivers conversational banking through AI.
Active.ai’s proprietary AI engine, Triniti enables financial institutions to have a better engagement with their customers in an “intuitive natural format over multiple apertures covering messaging, voice and IOT devices.” According to the company, the full stack solution has been built ground-up and comprises machine learning, natural language processing and natural language generation. Keeping in mind the requirements of financial institutions, the company offers flexibility of deployment: on-premise or on the cloud.
In an exclusive chat with The Startup Observer, Ravi Shankar, co-founder and CEO of the company shares more details on the funding and its products. Excerpts:
Q. What will the latest funding be used for?
The latest fund will be utilised mainly for resource expansion especially for the building of product team and sales force in North America.
Q. You have customers in India, Malaysia, Singapore and North America. Where are Indian banks in terms of adoption of AI as compared to the others? What percentage of your customers are Indian banks and what is the growth rate?
We have secured some of the major progressive banks in India as our customers. Major banks both in India and other regions, have expressed keen interest in our AI enterprise solutions.
Q. What is the size (in terms of employees) of the Innovation lab in Bangalore and what is the kind of work that is carried out from here?
We have close to 60 staff and growing. Our innovation lab is building a new generation of AI banking solutions. Two examples would be building machine learning APIs and a system with the ability to learn from large data sets and build predictive models specific to financial services that are more precise and accurate.
Q. What is the USP of your AI solution ‘Triniti’ which makes it really stand apart from competition?
Trinity AI engine helps our clients’ AI bot with the capacity to learn. It becomes more intelligent over time as it gathers information and data which is then stored across their neural network. These deep learning processes through NLP allows the AI bot to understand the intent of questions and human context. Above all, Triniti’s USP is in its highly customisable APIs that can be deployed very fast and with ease.
Q. Do you have plans to look at other verticals apart from banks or stick to banking and insurance?
For now, we will stay focussed within the financial services that include banks, insurance and trading verticals.
Q. What is the scene in terms of availability of the right AI skill sets in India?
Active.ai has managed to attract and retain some of the best talent in the industry despite the surging demand for AI professionals such as data scientists, machine learning engineers, algorithm experts and CX designers. There is a shortage for the right kind of talent in AI not only in India, but in Asia as a whole.