We Just Raised our $10.5M Series A—Next Stop, Replacing Intent-Based Solutions with Adaptive Communications
When Uri Valevski, Rom Cohen and I began our journey founding Hyro in 2018, we were fascinated with the idea that humans can communicate with technology via natural language (voice assistants and chatbots), but at the same time disappointed with the over-simplistic, rigid experiences that were nothing like the natural language communication we’d imagined.
Businesses struggled to provide quality chat and voice solutions, and their customers noticed. To be blunt—chatbots were everywhere, and they sucked.
The technology didn’t live up to the demand, or the hype. Low understanding rates, high cost and time to develop, as well as an inability to scale across different use cases were some of the biggest lingering issues that caused customer headaches.
We knew that with a new approach, centered around flexibility, we could cut through the noise and hit the reset button on intent-based chatbots, voice assistants and IVRs.
Fast forward a few years, and 2020-2021 revealed what we’d already suspected; enterprise communications suffer under unexpected change. Big ships are increasingly difficult to steer, and in the wake of a pandemic, it became near-impossible to keep up with the intense shift in choices, conditions and demands of the modern-day customer. Content, data and information were constantly changing, and intent-based conversational AI couldn’t keep up as most updates still had to happen manually.
Take COVID-19 as a key example—questions originally centered around travel restrictions, then symptoms, then quarantine protocols, then antibodies and have now moved on to vaccinations. Adjusting web-based, SMS and call center interfaces to reflect all of that new information was a time-consuming, costly and often impossible challenge.
So, on the heels of a pandemic that taught us the importance of adaptability, we’re launching the world’s first Adaptive Communications Platform—and we’ve raised a 10.5M Series A to push us forward, led by Spero Ventures, and with participation from the leading cloud communications platform Twilio Inc., Mindset Ventures and R-squared ventures. Our existing investors, Hanaco Ventures, Spider Capital and Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, are all participating as well.
We plan to use the new funding to accelerate the adoption of our Adaptive Communications Platform as the go-to solution for organizations looking to meet customers and employees in any conversational setting without expending heavy business resources. The investment from and partnership with Twilio echoes our common goals, which include flexibility and scale for our respective customers across all communication channels. We’re also planning to hire top talent in our California, New York and Israel offices, doubling the size of our ‘SuperHyro’ team.
By emphasizing a language-based approach, including knowledge graph and natural language automation, we’re enabling enterprises to easily streamline processes and messaging across their most valuable platforms, services and channels, ensuring that all their key comms are ready for anything.
Being adaptive doesn’t just mean being able to change consistently; it means being able to thrive through change. For the past 20 years, enterprises have embraced digital transformation. We’re now in the age of the adaptive enterprise, in which digital channels and communications need to rapidly adjust to the language, medium and preferences of the customer, wherever they are. Excuse the Darwinism here, but it’s truly become “adapt or die”.
So what does that mean on a practical level?
- Speed - using knowledge graphs to automatically ingest information and computational linguistics methods to query it without relying heavily on Machine Learning.
- Simplicity - providing conversational AI interfaces in a plug & play manner without taxing efforts on the customer end.
- Scalability - adding new use-cases and updating existing ones automatically.
Now let’s talk about what this replaces—most frequently found chatbots, voice assistants and IVR systems are intent-based. So what is an intent? Let’s take, for example, a use case like “find a physician”. A single intent would be to find a physician based on their speciality, another single intent would be to find a physician based on their insurance plan, and another would be the combination of those two parameters. The number of intents grows exponentially with the number of data points an organization has.
In addition, to be able to match the user's utterance to an intent, the organization needs mounds of data to tag and train Machine Learning models just to deploy and later realize that their users want to know something completely different. For example, whether or not their desired physician accepts their specific insurance plan (which is a totally different, out-of-scope intent).
That’s why instead of having chatbots and voice assistants, customers are often getting click-bots and pre-recorded IVR systems. It’s relatively easy to construct click-bots (there are hundreds of bots building platforms), and for use case-specific deployments, sometimes a click-bot is all an organization truly needs.
The actual tradeoff for these cheaper, DIY chatbots usually appears when organizations need to scale; that’s when it becomes apparent that adding different channels, use cases and understanding layers, while building out hundreds of conversational flows, becomes resource-heavy. In tandem, that’s when organizations usually discover that to truly automate digital engagement on their websites and call centers, they’ll need solutions that require less manual effort and more automation.
We are currently working with the forefront of adaptive enterprises that are dropping intent-based solutions due to their friction of deployment, inflexibility of maintenance, and lack of scale. Some of the organizations that we’ve helped become adaptive include: Carroll, WheelPros, Il Makiage, Contra Costa County, CA, Mercy Health, Novant Health, Montefiore Medical Center and of course, our legacy partner, Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Curtis Cole, CIO of WCM, said it best;
“What attracted us to Hyro was the sophistication and flexibility of their approach. They adapted to us rather than us having to adapt to them. Their ability to quickly add and scale new use cases with little client-side maintenance is increasingly valuable in a world where digital engagement has become essential." - Dr. Curtis Cole, Chief Information Officer, Weill Cornell Medicine
We’re particularly proud of the impact that we’ve had on our friends, clients and partners in healthcare, and vice versa. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we deepened those roots, and our relationships, by creating chat and voice solutions specifically designed to help overwhelmed administrative and clinical teams handle spikes in call volumes surrounding patient concerns. What began as a free initiative that matched up with our values, including good karma = good business, ended up netting us millions of successfully automated conversations. We were able to showcase our adaptive advantage during a period of tremendous uncertainty—we scraped data from the CDC and WHO quickly, fed it through our natural language (NLU) engine, and set up automated interactions within 48 hours. We’ve since expanded to vaccine distribution with our VAXA product, answering frequently asked questions about eligibility and proactively calling and sending messages to community members to assist them in scheduling their vaccinations.
The ability to help patients across a wide array of use cases, including scheduling appointments end-to-end through EMR Systems like Epic, has given rise in demand among other information-heavy verticals, including government, real estate and retail. Within those industries, we’ve experienced the same type of success in automating interactions that truly matter with a 47% increase in goal-completion rate.
As we continue to grow the Hyro team, and our Adaptive Communications Platform, we remain grateful for the journey thus far. As CEO, I’m particularly excited about the road ahead in expanding our product offering for new verticals, bettering our conversational capabilities and accelerating (even more) our time-to-launch. I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank our amazing team—I’m heartened by their effort to make 2020 a year of tremendous growth amidst worldwide crisis, and couldn’t be prouder of the individuals, including employees, investors, partners, customers and friends, who have helped us thrive through change. We, too, have been adaptive thanks to your support.
To the road ahead,
Israel Krush, CEO & Co-founder at Hyro