Sometimes, it takes money to make money. In this case, it's going to take $23 million.

The company that created Amy and Andrew, the personal-assistant bots that schedule meetings over email, announced Thursday it raised a round of venture funding that will help it beef up its data-science team and build out an enterprise product, along with teams to promote and sell it. Up to now, using X.ai's bots has been free for beta users. 

How does Amy work? So smoothly you might not even have noticed if you've encountered her--er, it--before. I sure didn't, the first time I was emailing with X.ai's founder, Dennis Mortensen. I described the interaction in an article:

I should have seen it coming. It was, after all, the founder of X.ai, an artificial-intelligence company, with whom I was trying to schedule a phone call.

I emailed his assistant, Amy, told her Friday was best for me, and ended the message with an emphatic "Thanks so much!" It wasn't until after I had hit "send" that I realized I had used an exclamation point to reply to a bot--a virtual assistant made of code and ether. I had spent the time to type out a sentence of gratitude a human would never read.

Maybe you, too, have encountered, and even thanked, Amy. Or perhaps Andrew, the other alias her cloud-based program can be set to use. They seem just like any other assistant over email, communicating in natural (American English) language to set up meeting times between two parties. There's no plug-in, app, or software needed; you conjure her just by adding her address to the "cc:" field on an email. Amy takes it from there.

Growth has been strong amongst the pool of existing Amy users. X.ai reports that it has seen 27 percent more meetings scheduled in February over January--and March saw another 28 percent uptick. Look for the company to be announcing soon Professional and Business Edition pricing, in something of a standard software-as-a-service pricing model, like Slack or Box (most likely in the $10- to $20-a-month range).  

X.ai was founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur Dennis Mortensen, along with Alex Poon, Matt Casey, and Marcos Jimenez. The company has 64 employees and is based in New York City.

Previously it raised $9.2 million in venture funding at a $40 million valuation. The new $23 million round of funding was led by Two Sigma Ventures, a venture-capital firm based in New York City that has invested in Canary, LittleBits, and, most recently, the $700 juicing system, Juicero

All of the company's previous investors--including Softbank Capital, Firstmark Capital, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures--chipped in, too.

 

Published on: Apr 7, 2016