After it has secured $10 million in Series A funding, voice artificial intelligence startup kea is looking to change the game by providing a human-assisted voice-AI to thousands of restaurants come 2021.
The Series A investment round was led by Marbruck. Other investors who participated in the said funding round include AVG Funds, Barrel Ventures, DEEPCORE, Heartland Ventures, Streamlined Ventures, and Xfund.
In addition to these investors, angel investors such as Lyft’s Chief Strategy Officer Raj Kapoor, Panera Bread founding team member Craig Flom, Tony Lam from Wingstop, and Five Guys Franchisee Jonathan Kelly also joined the Series A funding round.
Founded in 2018, kea is a fast-growing voice artificial intelligence firm that seeks to empower restaurants by providing products that boost the ordering system in these establishments. Based on its press release, it aims to “bring[s] AI and real people together to customize and upsell orders.”
kea’s desire to provide AI products to restaurants comes as more and more dining establishments struggle to answer their phone lines, mostly due to being understaffed, said founder and chief executive officer Adam Ahmad in an interview with Tech Crunch.
This lack of attention to the phone not only entails that the restaurant loses customers but also emphasizes the failure to establish a relationship with its customers. The phone, being an essential ordering channel, remains vital as many restaurants are adapting to the effects of the virus pandemic.
In a statement, Ahmad said, “After creating the first on-demand food delivery company, Fluc, exiting to Google Shopping and leading other startups that focused on addressing labor shortages, I decided to dedicate my career to saving the restaurant industry.”
“It wasn’t until I took over 400 phone orders for one of the largest buffalo wing franchises in America that I realized the current ordering system was broken and kea was the solution.”
According to Tech Crunch, by kea offering a “virtual cashier” of sorts, this automated voice assistant can help take the initial orders of customers and parlay with a restaurant employee when needed.
The voice AI system by kea works by being integrated into a restaurant’s ordering system by making it learn all the menu items and inventory. Based on the press release, this allows the establishment in question to upsell items based on the customer’s preference and the like.
The $10-million funding will reportedly be used to expand kea’s engineering department and grow their company as they start to bring the AI system to 1,000 restaurants in 37 states by 2021.
As of writing, Tech Crunch states kea is already in place in more than 250 restaurants such as Donatos, Papa John’s, and Primanti Brothers.