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Duke grads’ artificial intelligence startup focuses on shopping, lands funding

Duke grads’ artificial intelligence startup focuses on shopping, lands funding

A fledgling, artificial intelligence (AI) startup founded by two Duke University grads, has landed early-stage round funding.

Toucan AI – started by North Carolina natives and Duke grads Arjun Devarajan and Vishnu Menon – has raised an undisclosed sum from a number of sources. They include Seraph Group, Play Fund, Southern Connection Ventures, and a syndicate of angel investors.

That cash injection gives a boost to efforts in pursuing its mission to install “an instant salesperson for your online marketplace” by guiding shoppers with “intelligent, personalized conversations,” according to its website.

Devarajan said his firm is stands out from other “chat” platforms.“In short, 99 percent of the ‘chat’ or ‘conversational’ platforms in the marketplace require custom coding “scripts”, support only customer service, and usually leverage a live agent. These require money time, and resources.

“We have taken a different path. One, our platform simply requires our clients to embed a short Java snippet to get started. We do not require any custom coding per deployment.

“Second, we are geared towards “sales,” not customer support. So our platform helps our clients convert more of their online shoppers into paying customers.

“Third, clients do not have to spend money on a live agent to support our chat (or, they can now have their agents focus on higher-urgency support challenges than answering sales questions).

Devarajan and Vishnu Menon started Toucan after graduating from Duke University together, but have recently relocated to the Georgia Tech’s incubator in Midtown Atlanta, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), to help them recruit machine-learning engineers.

Toucan AI previously graduated from the Play Labs accelerator at MIT.

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