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Call center AI firm ASAPP unveils funding as COVID-19 boosts business

(Reuters) - ASAPP Inc an artificial intelligence software that helps call center agents work better and faster, on Friday announced a $185 million series B funding round as the coronavirus pandemic pushes up call center volume at a time when companies are looking to cut labor costs.

The latest funding round was carried out in several installments starting in August, 2018, from investors including former CISCO Systems Inc chief executive John Chambers and prominent venture capitalist John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins.

The latest tranche of $60 million was raised a month ago from existing investors who wanted to provide more capital as they saw the business booming with the pandemic, said Gustavo Sapoznik, founder and chief executive of ASAPP.

A source close to the company said ASAPP was now valued over $800 million.

ASAPP software does not replace human call center agents, but instead analyzes the calls of a center’s most efficient agent and then sends to all agents real-time suggestions of what to say in response to specific things said by customers. For web chats, it presents the agent with multiple potential responses that can be sent with a click.

Sapoznik said that ASAPP works mainly with large corporations, like JetBlue Airways Corp and Dish Network Corp , spending over a billion dollars on call centers. The pandemic has led to many challenges as calls to those centers exploded at a time when the agents had to work from home, many lacking the necessary internet access or equipment. He said that’s helped to bring in more customers, but didn’t share any details on new contracts or revenue growth.

“If they wanted to really push, they probably could have been a unicorn,” said Chambers who was an early investor in three companies that have grown to be unicorns, startups valued at $1 billion or more, since he stepped down as CEO of Cisco in 2017. He said there was no decrease in valuation for the latest tranche.

While there are other startups developing AI solutions for call centers, Chambers, who is on the ASAPP board, said that the company had a strong lead with 55 AI and machine learning engineers with PhDs.

(This story has been refiled to correct that Gustavo Sapoznik is the founder of ASAPP not co-founder)

Reporting By Jane Lanhee Lee; Editing by Alistair Bell

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