Conversational AI is pushing deeper into enterprise with Workfit, a new startup promising to make conference call follow-ups and mid-meeting CRM updates as easy as playing a song or checking the weather on Google Home or Amazon Echo. Battery Ventures, Greycroft Partners, Salesforce Ventures and a number of angels joined together to finance a $5.5 million seed investment in the startup.
Workfit’s announcement is underscored by a general uptick in activity around conversational AI for enterprise. Amazon’s Alexa, perhaps the most enterprise-friendly of the popular conversational tools available today, boasts integrations with companies like Hipchat and Sisense for both team collaboration and data recall. Of course, the reality is that most meetings are not limited to a single conference room and even fewer have an Echo listening in.
Workfit’s assistant Eva listens in to business meetings and lends managers a helping hand by highlighting important action items. Aside from just coordinating follow-ups, Eva will plug into your CRM du jour to allow for voice-driven updates. This means that you can update the status of a given sale and even pull or update data entries. Workfit integrates with major meeting hosting players like BlueJeans, WebEx and Zoom.
Other tools like the recently launched Chorus.ai and Cogito are respectively more squarely focused on using AI to boost sales and improve the effectiveness of customer support. Though Chorus.ai will join conference calls with roughly the same mechanism as Workfit, and both will highlight key action items, Workfit has no problem playing an active part in meetings.
In lieu of fading to the background, the team behind Workfit wants enterprise users to lend the assistant a hand by explicitly calling out follow-ups. The workflow might sound unpolished, but the company argues that summarizing key points during a meeting is a best practice, regardless of the presence of an AI, to ensure all human participants are on the same page. Eva will do as much in the background as she can, but has no problem being recognized in the spirit of X.ai‘s personal scheduling assistant Amy.
“With consumer AI, if you play the wrong song that’s ok,” asserts Workfit CEO Omar Tawakol. “But wrong info in a pipeline on Salesforce, that’s not ok.”
This is the logic behind why the startup is focusing so heavily on Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), even bringing on Ahmad Abdulkader, a former leader within Facebook’s applied AI group. Though working on ASR in 2017 isn’t necessarily sexy, there are some gains to be made by building a system for a specific use case — in this situation a lot of meeting language.
When asked about sales, the Workfit team told TechCrunch that they hadn’t secured any sales yet and that they still considered it early days. Tawakol’s previous experience driving data management platform BlueKai to a $400 million Oracle acquisition in 2014 undoubtedly helped streamline the fundraising process. Battery Ventures was an early investor in BlueKai.
From here the team wants individual project managers to lead the charge in driving adoption. Once Workfit sees that a group of users is developing at a given company, it will jump in to try to close an enterprise sale.