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Slang.ai, an AI-powered phone answering product for the restaurant industry founded by two former Spotify data scientists, has successfully closed a $20 million Series A funding round led by Hunter Walk’s and Satya Patel’s venture capital outfit Homebrew, with additional backing from other VCs and celebrity restauranteur Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame.
The funding will support Slang.ai’s goals to equip restaurants and retailers with its generative AI voice products, allowing restaurants and hospitality groups to augment their answering capabilities with human-like artificial voices that can help customers book reservations, or answer common questions about menu items and opening hours.
“Everyone is frustrated with the experience of calling a business,” explained Alex Sambvani, Slang.ai CEO and cofounder. “No one likes waiting on hold with a retailer to check on an order status or calling their local restaurant to make a last-minute reservation and having their call go straight to voicemail. It doesn’t have to be this way. AI has the potential to fix this broken experience, and Slang AI is bringing AI to the phone.”
Samvani and his fellow cofounder and Slang.ai CTO Gabriel Duncan both formerly worked at Spotify as data scientists, which is where they “discovered how powerful and beneficial an AI-powered phone concierge could be for the restaurant/hospitality industry,” according to a Slang.ai spokesperson.
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A toast from new and existing investors
The company’s Series A round attracted participation from several prominent investors, including Stage 2 Capital, Wing VC, Underscore VC, Active Capital and Collide Capital. Scott Belsky, founder of Behance, also joined the round.
Additionally, existing investors including executives from leading technology companies like Snap and Zoom, upped their previous backing for Slang.ai.
When asked about the specific AI model(s) or technologies behind its product, the company declined to answer directly. However, Sambvani did provide VentureBeat with an emailed answer: “The specific details of our technology stack are confidential. Our AI engine is built upon a range of different technologies. This ensemble approach allows us to leverage the strengths of each individual technology, and is underpinned by a proprietary training dataset of millions of live, industry specific phone conversations.”
Avoid ‘robot hostage situation’
Slang.ai says its software is specifically designed for busy restaurants and retail businesses and aims to eliminate the need for customers to wait on hold, leave voicemails or get stuck in overly robotic, pre-programmed phone trees.
“Calling a business shouldn’t feel like a robot-hostage situation, where you’re forced to listen to horrible hold music and can never reach a human,” according to the company’s website. “By 2030, we will save businesses and consumers 1 billion minutes of precious time, while transforming branded voice experiences into the preferred mode of communication.”
Using generative AI capabilities, Slang.ai streamlines the phone experience, automates common interactions and enhances customer service.
The company additionally provides businesses with insights into their incoming phone call patterns. By analyzing data about customer inquiries, businesses can find the best opportunities to re-engage with customers and entice them to spend more.
Off to a promising start(er course)
Slang.ai has already gained a foothold among the restaurant and hospitality industries. The company counts more than 200 customers so far, including well-known restaurants Slutty Vegan, Palm House Hospitality Group, STUDS, PLANTA, Hammitt and Nikki Beach Miami, and says it has attained 6X revenue growth year-over-year from 2022.
Anthony Drockton, Hammitt cofounder and chairman said in a statement that Slang.ai has significantly improved customer interactions at his leather handbag and wallet company: “Slang.ai has been a game-changer, helping us to answer calls and serve our clients more consistently than we could with our team alone.”
Benson Wang, CEO of Palm House Hospitality, echoed that endorsement, saying: “Slang.ai has become an essential tool for our business. Our team is thrilled with the way it has decreased the disruption of phone calls while simultaneously enhancing the overall experience for our guests. With the intentional use of AI at our disposal, we don’t see ourselves going back.”
Serving up supporting data
Despite the widespread proliferation of restaurant-finding apps and sites, Slang.ai’s research suggests that 60% of customers still prefer to call restaurants on the phone. By handling more than half of inbound calls without human intervention, the company enables businesses to capture potential revenue that might have otherwise been lost to voicemail
In a recent study, Slang.ai says it saved 648 hours of phone time for a six-restaurant group while successfully managing reservations and orders.
Paul Weinstein, senior director of restaurants at PLANTA, shared his experience with Slang.ai: “The phone is a channel rich with data, but we had no way to access it before Slang.ai. We now understand categorically what our guests call for and can modify the AI verbiage to quickly address guest needs.”
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