Sep
19
2018
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Fresh out of Y Combinator, Leena AI scores $2M seed round

Leena AI, a recent Y Combinator graduate focusing on HR chatbots to help employees answer questions like how much vacation time they have left, announced a $2 million seed round today from a variety of investors including Elad Gil and Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal.

Company co-founder and CEO Adit Jain says the seed money is about scaling the company and gaining customers. They hope to have 50 enterprise customers within the next 12-18 months. They currently have 16.

We wrote about the company in June when it was part of the Y Combinator Summer 2018 class. At the time Jain explained that they began in 2015 in India as a company called Chatteron. The original idea was to help others build chatbots, but like many startups, they realized there was a need not being addressed, in this case around HR, and they started Leena AI last year to focus specifically on that.

As they delved deeper into the HR problem, they found most employees had trouble getting answers to basic questions like how much vacation time they had or how to get a new baby on their health insurance. This forced a call to a help desk when the information was available online, but not always easy to find.

Jain pointed out that most HR policies are defined in policy documents, but employees don’t always know where they are. They felt a chatbot would be a good way to solve this problem and save a lot of time searching or calling for answers that should be easily found. What’s more, they learned that the vast majority of questions are fairly common and therefore easier for a system to learn.

Employees can access the Leena chatbot in Slack, Workplace by Facebook, Outlook, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Spark. They also offer Web and mobile access to their service independent of these other tools.

Photo: Leena AI

What’s more, since most companies use a common set of backend HR systems like those from Oracle, SAP and NetSuite (also owned by Oracle), they have been able to build a set of standard integrators that are available out of the box with their solution.

The customer provides Leena with a handbook or a set of policy documents and they put their machine learning to work on that. Jain says, armed with this information, they can convert these documents into a structured set of questions and answers and feed that to the chatbot. They apply Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the question being asked and provide the correct answer.

They see room to move beyond HR and expand into other departments such as IT, finance and vendor procurement that could also take advantage of bots to answer a set of common questions. For now, as a recent YC graduate, they have their first bit of significant funding and they will concentrate on building HR chatbots and see where that takes them.

Jun
29
2018
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Leena AI builds HR chatbots to answer policy questions automatically

Say you have a job with a large company and you want to know how much vacation time you have left, or how to add your new baby to your healthcare. This usually involves emailing or calling HR and waiting for an answer, or it could even involve crossing multiple systems to get what you need.

Leena AI, a member of the Y Combinator Summer 2018 class, wants to change that by building HR bots to answer questions for employees instantly.

The bots can be integrated into Slack or Workplace by Facebook and they are built and trained using information in policy documents and by pulling data from various back-end systems like Oracle and SAP.

Adit Jain, co-founder at Leena AI, says the company has its roots in another startup called Chatteron, which the founders started after they got out of college in India in 2015. That product helped people build their own chatbots. Jain says along the way, they discovered while doing their market research a particularly strong need in HR. They started Leena AI last year to address that specific requirement.

Jain says when building bots, the team learned through its experience with Chatteron that it’s better to concentrate on a single subject because the underlying machine learning model gets better the more it’s used. “Once you create a bot, for it to really add value and be [extremely] accurate, and for it to really go deep, it takes a lot of time and effort and that can only happen through verticalization,” Jain explained.

Photo: Leena AI

What’s more, as the founders have become more knowledgeable about the needs of HR, they have learned that 80 percent of the questions cover similar topics, like vacation, sick time and expense reporting. They have also seen companies using similar back-end systems, so they can now build standard integrators for common applications like SAP, Oracle and NetSuite.

Of course, even though people may ask similar questions, the company may have unique terminology or people may ask the question in an unusual way. Jain says that’s where the natural language processing (NLP) comes in. The system can learn these variations over time as they build a larger database of possible queries.

The company just launched in 2017 and already has a dozen paying customers. They hope to double that number in just 60 days. Jain believes being part of Y Combinator should help in that regard. The partners are helping the team refine its pitch and making introductions to companies that could make use of this tool.

Their ultimate goal is nothing less than to be ubiquitous, to help bridge multiple legacy systems to provide answers seamlessly for employees to all their questions. If they can achieve that, they should be a successful company.

Jun
20
2018
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Beamery closes $28M Series B to stoke support for its ‘talent CRM’

Beamery, a London-based startup that offers self-styled “talent CRM”– aka ‘candidate relationship management’ — and recruitment marketing software targeted at fast-growing companies, has closed a $28M Series B funding round, led by EQT Ventures.

Also participating in the round are M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, and existing investors Index Ventures, Edenred Capital Partners and Angelpad Fund. Beamery last raised a $5M Series A, in April 2017, led by Index.

Its pitch centers on the notion of helping businesses win a ‘talent war’ by taking a more strategic and pro-active approach to future hires vs just maintaining a spreadsheet of potential candidates.

Its platform aims to help the target enterprises build and manage a talent pool of people they might want to hire in future to get out ahead of the competition in HR terms, including providing tools for customized marketing aimed at nurture relations with possible future hires.

Customer numbers for Beamery’s software have stepped up from around 50 in April 2017 to 100 using it now — including the likes of Facebook (which is using it globally), Continental, VMware, Zalando, Grab and Balfour Beatty.

It says the new funding will be going towards supporting customer growth, including by ramping up hiring in its offices in London (HQ), Austin and San Francisco.

It also wants to expand into more markets. “We’re focusing on some of the world’s biggest global businesses that need support in multiple timezones and geographies so really it’s a global approach,” said a spokesman on that.

“Companies adopting the system are large enterprises doing talent at scale, that are innovative in terms of being proactive about recruiting, candidate experience and employer brand,” he added.

A “significant” portion of the Series B funds will also go towards R&D and produce development focused on its HR tech niche.

“Across all sectors, there’s a shift towards proactive recruitment through technology, and Beamery is emerging as the category leader,” added Tom Mendoza, venture lead and investment advisor at EQT, in a supporting statement.

“Beamery has a fantastic product, world-class high-ambition founders, and an outstanding analytics-driven team. They’ve been relentless about building the best talent CRM and marketing platform and gaining a deep understanding of the industry-wide problems.”

Jun
15
2017
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Entelo steps up its AI game with $20M Series C 

 The race to crown a winner in the AI-powered recruiting software space is on. With both Workey and Mya nabbing rounds in the last few weeks, the timing is prime for a few players to seek advantage in the form of growth capital. This seems to be exactly what Entelo, a six year old player in the space, is doing. The company is announcing a $20 million Series C round of financing today led by U.S. Read More

Jan
05
2017
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After rejecting Google, Namely raises $50M to take on the biggies in HR

2240752018_37976b95df_b One of the big HR startup stories of the last year has been the trials and tribulations of Zenefits, but news coming out today from another company in the space shows that there is still a lot of opportunity in the industry with the right approach. Namely, a New York-based SaaS HR firm that focuses on mid-sized (100 to 1,000 employees) companies offering an all-in-one human resources… Read More

Dec
06
2016
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Airbnb plummets, Facebook ranks top in tech on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work 2017

Inside a Facebook office. Facebook has risen to the top spot among tech companies on the annual Glassdoor Best Places to Work U.S. rankings. That seems fitting for the company in a year when it is taking on Slack, Microsoft-owned Yammer, and other workplace collaboration platforms with its own Facebook Workplace. Facebook’s Head of People, Lori Matloff Goler, told TechCrunch that the social media giant focuses… Read More

Nov
01
2016
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Axonify raises $27M to gamify employee training without wasting your time

unnamed-3 Think back to the last time you had to do a corporate training. More likely than not it was a frustrating experience that you simply tried to survive rather than learn from. (If you feel otherwise, I’m genuinely worried about you). With $27 million in fresh funding led by JMI Equity and BDC Capital, Axonify, wants to hack your brain to help everyone get away with doing less while taking… Read More

May
20
2015
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BetterWorks’ Goal Is To Bring Goal Setting To Every Organization

Computer and tablet with goals. BetterWorks, a cloud platform that helps companies set and manage goals, announced a new feature today that automatically updates goal progress based on information in Salesforce and Workday. The platform enables employees to set goals in an open fashion so that everyone can understand what others are doing and see how the different pieces fit within the overall goals of the organization.… Read More

Nov
06
2014
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Randstad’s VC Fund Has $60M To Invest In HR Tech Startups Showing Early Traction

Gigwalk A strategic corporate VC fund set up this April by global HR services giant Randstad is looking to invest in startups working on the hard problem of matching people to jobs, and jobs to people, as well as coming up with more effective ways for employers to communicate with and motivate their existing workforce. Read More

Oct
13
2014
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VoloMetrix Raises $12M For Its People Analytics Service

6229660191_1f701638e6_o Seattle-based VoloMetrix today announced that it has raised a $12 million Series B round led by Split Rock Partners with participation from existing investor Shasta Ventures. Today’s round brings VoloMetrix’s total funding to $17 million. Read More

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