A fast-growing artificial intelligence company is expanding from the fjords of Norway to Silicon Beach.
Boost.ai, which makes software that automates customer service, announced last week that it is opening a North American headquarters in downtown Santa Monica. The company is using $5 million in Series A funding from Alliance Venture to set up shop in Santa Monica. It is in negotiations with several American banks and had already partnered with consulting firms like Accenture and Deloitte, said Jeff Ester, the chief revenue officer of the company’s new American branch.
The Norwegian startup launched in 2016 and quickly became popular with European banks and insurance companies because its software is more adept at resolving customer inquiries than other AI assistants, Ester said.
Boost.ai is able to resolve more than 51 percent of customer support interactions without handing them off to a human because the AI is more aware of what it doesn’t know and can learn accordingly, he said.
At a base level, the AI can answer requests for information. The next level is more general customer service interactions and sales, and tasks like settling insurance claims rise above that in complexity. The step beyond those levels, Ester said, is proactively reaching out to customers.
“We’re just going into that,” he said. “For example, if you’re looking to purchase a new car but your credit is a little low, the AI could reach out and connect you with a service that could help you fix your credit.”
The company is hoping to serve large financial institutions in the United States but also anticipates attention from newer, millennial-focused budgeting and investing companies like Zest, Mint and Robinhood.
Ester said the company chose Santa Monica for its North American expansion because of the talent pool from UCLA, USC and Caltech and the diversity of industries in the Los Angeles area.
“Here, we’re not dealing with the groupthink of Silicon Valley or the purely financial mindset of New York,” he said. “Los Angeles is on fire right now and Santa Monica is the best city within that ecosystem.”
Boost.ai is planning to hire 20 local employees in the next six to nine months, Ester said.
“Depending on what happens here, it could go up quickly,” he said. “We’re still a startup with 100 people in the whole company, but we’re planning to have half the company here in two to three years.”