Freshdesk makes sixth acquisition to build enterprise AI chatbots

Customer engagement software provider Freshdesk has acquired social chat platform Chatimity to strengthen its AI chatbot capabilities.

Bangalore-based startup Chatimity is the latest in a series of acquisitions made by customer engagement software provider Freshdesk in a little over a year.

Chatimity, founded in May 2011 by former Google Music Search employees Tarkeshwar Thakur and Aravind Murthy, uses artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot technology to enable user interaction and engagement. It is available as a software developer kit that can be integrated into an app to provide a chatbot.

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Chatimity's bot "MITI" uses a combination of natural language processing, state machines, and artificial intelligence markup language to have thousands of conversations at the same time.

The startup boasts 3 million users, and is the sixth acquisition made by Freshdesk in just over a year.

"People want a fast, personalised response. Chat will play an important role in the future of communication for customer service, but scaling that infrastructure continues to be a challenge," said Girish Mathrubootham, co-founder and CEO of Freshdesk.

"With their focus on artificial intelligence and chatbots, the Chatimity team, now part of Freshdesk, has already started to create a scalable customer engagement chat platform that is future ready."

While Freshdesk already had a chat platform, its CEO said its acquisition of Chatimity will allow the company to add intelligence to it and scale faster.

Operating on a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, Freshdesk brings a company's customer communication points -- such as email and social media -- into one platform, allowing business owners to manage all of their communications via one dashboard. It competes with the likes of Zendesk and Desk.com.

Freshdesk has raised $94 million since its founding in 2011, with backers including Google Capital, Accel Partners, and Tiger Global, and the latest acquisition will allow the SaaS company to enhance its AI chat capabilities.

Mathrubootham launched Freshdesk in India in 2011 with co-founder Shan Krishnasamy. The company's first paying customer was Atwell College in Western Australia. Last year, Freshdesk set up an Australian base to strengthen its position in the local market.

Nishant Rao, Freshdesk's chief operating officer, described Australia as a "critical" market for the company, in particular the small to medium-size business sector, which has driven a majority of the company's business locally.

The company made its first acquisition in August last year, when it bought live video chat platform 1CLICK. The aim of this acquisition was to strengthen Freshdesk's real-time chat support capabilities through co-browsing technology, which enables help desk agents to see a customer's screen and interact with it in real-time to resolve issues.

It has also acquired social media customer care app Airwoot, as well as messaging app Konotor, cloud-based feedback platform Framebench, and social recommendation app Frilp.

Freshdesk is currently headquartered in San Bruno, California, with offices in the UK, Australia, India, and Germany. Its 80,000 customers include 3M, Honda, Toshiba, and Cisco.

Companies like Salesforce, Oracle, Linkedin, and Microsoft have all recently invested in chatbot platforms and technologies.

Last month, LinkedIn launched new bots to help people make the connections and build the skills they need to advance their careers; while, earlier this month, Salesforce announced the launch of LiveMessage, a feature of the existing Service Cloud product that will allow customer support representatives to interact with customers across multiple messaging apps. This is part of Salesforce's "one platform" approach.

Last month, at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco, CTO Larry Ellison showcased Oracle's new chatbot development platform.

Microsoft also announced its plans to create enterprise bots to help with customer management. The Microsoft Bot Framework, launched earlier this year, reportedly surpassed Facebook in popularity, with more than 45,000 developers using it to create bots and machine-learning programs for Skype, Facebook Messenger, Kik, and other chat platforms. This is compared to roughly 34,000 developers making bots on Facebook messenger.

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