UPDATED 09:00 EST / JANUARY 16 2018

APPS

Smartsheet acquires UK-based chatbot startup Converse.AI

Collaboration software provider Smartsheet Inc. today said it’s acquiring a British artificial intelligence firm called Converse.AI Inc. that enables its customers to build chatbots to automate business processes.

Converse.AI’s secret sauce is its Chatflow technology, which the company describes as a “workflow orchestration engine” that customers can use to build and manage chatbots via a drag-and-drop interface, without needing to do any coding themselves.

Smartsheet, which raised $52.1 million in in a Series F funding round last May, said it’s acquiring Converse.AI in order to empower its own users with new natural language capabilities, as well as “sophisticated workflow automation” that integrates with popular messaging and business tools such as Slack, Workplace by Facebook, Salesforce, Google and PayPal.

The eventual plan is to integrate Converse.AI’s ChatFlow technology into Smartsheet’s own work management platform, which is used to manage and automate the tracking, updating and reporting of collaborative projects and processes. The integration will help support Smartsheet users on three major fronts, Gene Farrell, Smartsheet’s senior vice president of product, told SiliconANGLE.

First, it will accelerate Smartsheet’s ability to accelerate natural-language user experiences and conversational workflow automation from within Smartsheet, Farrell said. “Second, Converse.AI’s ChatFlow technology will eventually enable Smartsheet users to build and manage much more sophisticated workflow automations within Smartsheet, with no code required,” he said. “Lastly, Converse.AI’s technology will enable partners and customers to build their own integrations and capabilities on top of the Smartsheet platform, allowing for faster innovation.”

The fact that Converse.AI’s platform allows customers to create chatbots without any coding skills is one of the main factors that led to the acquisition, Farrell explained. “They share our vision of enabling enterprises to address business-critical problems through ‘no code’ workflow automation,” he said.

In addition, Farrell said, it was Converse.AI’s technology that sets it apart from its competitors. He explained that most chatbots simply mimic human interactions, whereas Converse.AI’s platform goes a bit further by enabling workflow automation and data exchange between humans and bots. It also taps into system data, “giving users the ability to make automatic updates on the back-end,” Farrell said.

Asked for an example of this, Farrell said Converse.AI’s chatbots can be used to help employees submit safety reports if they come across an issue in the workplace. “Field workers can easily submit safety issues including descriptions, photos and location data through a chatbot interface into Smartsheet where they will be logged and then acted upon through either automated or human interaction, based on severity, type, location or other factors,” he explained.

These kinds of features are likely to appeal to enterprises that have already embraced work execution platforms such as Smartsheet’s, said Constellation Research Inc. Vice President and Principal Analyst Alan Lepofsky. “The addition of next-gen capabilities, like natural language processing and intelligent workflow automation, improves the way enterprises interact with these tools and helps accelerate the pace of innovation in organizations,” he added.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Smartsheet said it intends to let Converse.AI and its entire team stay intact as a wholly owned subsidiary. Converse.AI’s platform will therefore remain as a standalone offering while it’s also integrated into Smartsheet’s own products.

Image: geralt/Pixabay

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