Google is betting on the future of chatbots.

The company has acquired automated customer service startup Onward for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 2015 in New York City, Onward makes an automated chat tool for businesses, using artificial intelligence to communicate with customers. The product is designed to help businesses reduce response times for traditional customer service. Google has also been developing artificial intelligence and machine learning for similar reasons. In May, it debuted "Google Duplex," which lets customers book appointments at businesses through an AI assistant.

"[W]e've remained focused on unlocking the magical experiences that are possible when computers understand the subtleties hidden in a user's actions and messages," Onward said in a blog post announcing the acquisition. The company did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Onward launched its flagship product in February and has raised just $120,000 in funding, according to CrunchBase. Onward does not list its clients, but the company's product is built into software from businesses including ZenDesk, Salesforce, HubSpot and Shopify. 

Onward co-founder and CEO Pramod Thammaiah is a former product manager at Google who led the development of the HP Chromebook 14, according to his LinkedIn profile. Co-founder and chief product officer Remi Cossart was a former analyst at San Francisco-based management consulting company Cornerstone Research. Both co-founders will join Google, TechCrunch reports

Formerly known as Agent Q, Onward previously developed an AI shopping assistant that would offer product recommendations to consumers based on customer data. The founders eventually changed their business model to focus on B2B chat tool.

Published on: Oct 3, 2018