Kasisto continues chatbot momentum with $9.2 million funding

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Kasisto, a provider of chatbots to banks, announced Thursday a $9.2 million Series A funding round led by Propel Venture Partners with participation from Mastercard and Commerce Ventures.

Propel is the venture capital firm that is funded by BBVA, but run autonomously.

Seed investors Two Sigma Ventures, DBS Bank, Partnership Fund for New York City, New York Angels and Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of New York also participated in the round. And Propel partner Thomas Whiteaker joined the Kasisto board of directors.

The startup is coming off a good year, in which it signed up Mastercard, the Development Bank of Singapore, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Kasisto is part of the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator program, which contributed to its seed round. RBC has been piloting Kasisto's chatbot, Kai, to its customers and Mastercard launched a pilot for Mastercard Kai, a bot for banks.

Kasisto calls its technology "conversational AI." It's meant to provide human-like interactions between customers and smart bots, answering customers' basic questions through text messages or Facebook. The software has been fed basic information about banking products and will "learn" about a specific bank's products and services. The $9.2 million will be invested in the product, sales and marketing, and research and development.

"This round is a validation of our progress and the traction we're seeing with customers," said CEO Zor Gorelov. He acknowledged that as with all virtual assistants, the technology needs to continue to mature and people need to be comfortable communicating with bots.

"This is my third startup and there are a lot of ups and downs," he said. "This is the year when virtual assistants in banking and chatbots are going mainstream. We're seeing it across the planet… Every bank is looking at this idea of how do we engage our customers conversationally, how do we engage them in the apps and devices where they spend their time?

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