Ada raises $44M Series B to improve its chatbot customer service platform

Ada today took the wraps off its $44M Series B that it hopes will allow the company to expand its offering of the company’s AI-powered customer service chatbot.

Accel lead the round with participation from existing investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners, FirstMark, Version One, Leaders Fund, and Burst Capital.

“Although AI gets thrown around a lot in the enterprise, we are focused on companies offering solutions that are driving real business value, and Ada is doing exactly that. Ada is breaking through the crowded market of chatbots to define a new category of automated customer experience that can manage far greater customer inquiry volumes while delivering some of the strongest customer satisfaction scores we’ve seen,” said Ben Fletcher, partner at Accel, in a released statement.

He adds that Ada delivers compelling value through “uniting automation, personalization, speedy implementation, and a no-code platform for non-technical users.”

Ada’s ACX platform features a chatbot powered by an AI engine that allows the company to deliver personalized customer service conversations. The company says it uses machine learning to increase the accuracy of its platform, and allows its customers in different markets to tailor the experience to its customers. For instance, for a company in fintech, the ACX platform can be trained to understand the industry’s jargon, typos, spelling errors, and work with 100 languages.

“Our founding team spent over a year in the trenches of customer support and saw first-hand that existing solutions just couldn’t scale in the face of soaring ticket volumes and sky-high customer expectations,” said Mike Murchison, Co-founder, and CEO of Ada, in a released statement. “We designed Ada to help customer service teams take advantage of all the benefits of automation without sacrificing the personalized touches that are so essential to winning loyal, long-term customers. Ada will use this investment to lead the next phase of this market, extending our best-in-class AI with the aim of delivering personalized experiences across all customer properties, while providing more tools to help businesses better calibrate their customer service strategy and optimize their bottom line.”

Several years back, the chatbot market suffered a quick rise and fall, but the current players are providing a critical service to its customers. They’re up against rising expectations from consumers and increasing demands from organizations looking to scale operations. Mature startups like Ada are well-positioned to continue to capitalize on the increased requirements, and this funding round should carry the company to new markets.

Deere & Co reports unexpected rise in first-quarter profits

Deere & Co reports unexpected rise in first-quarter profitsDeere & Co on Friday reported an unexpected rise in first-quarter profits, helped by early signs of stabilization in the U.S. farm sector. The farm equipment manufacturer reported net income of $517 million or $1.63 per share for the quarter ended Feb. 2, up from $498 million or $1.54 per share in the same period last year. Deere’s earnings in the past quarters were buffeted by a nearly two-year-long U.S.-China trade war that hit U.S. agricultural exports, leaving farmers struggling to turn a profit.


Tesla gets court approval to clear forest for German Gigafactory

Tesla gets court approval to clear forest for German GigafactoryTesla Inc got approval from a German court on Thursday to continue to cut down forest near the capital Berlin to build its first European car and battery factory, in a defeat for local environmental activists. The court said in a statement it had rejected urgent applications to stop the land being cleared of trees from several environmental groups, adding its ruling was final. The U.S. electric carmaker announced plans last November to build a Gigafactory in Gruenheide in the eastern state of Brandenburg that surrounds Berlin, a decision that was initially lauded as a vote of confidence in Germany.


Facebook backs Indian education startup Unacademy

Unacademy, one of India’s fastest growing education startups, has just received the backing of a major technology giant: Facebook.

The social juggernaut has participated in the four-year-old Indian startup’s Series E financing round, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

General Atlantic is leading the round, the size of which is about $100 million, the sources said. It wasn’t immediately clear to us exactly how big of a check Facebook has cut, but one of the sources said it was under $20 million. The round values the startup, which had raised $90 million prior to the ongoing round, at over $400 million, the source said.

Unacademy helps students prepare for competitive exams to get into a college and also those who are pursuing graduation-level courses. On its app, students watch live classes from educators and later engage in sessions to review topics in more detail.

A year ago, the startup launched a subscription service that offers students access to all live classes. Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and chief executive of Unacademy, tweeted earlier this month that the subscription service had become a $30 million ARR business.

This is the second time Facebook is investing in an Indian startup. Last year, it participated in social commerce Meesho’s $125 million financing round led by Prosus Ventures.

Facebook and Unacademy did not respond to a request for comment.

Ajit Mohan, VP and managing director of Facebook India, told TechCrunch in an interview last year that the company was open to engaging with startups that are building solutions for the Indian market for more investing opportunities.

“Wherever we believe there is opportunity beyond the work we do today, we are open to exploring further investment deals,” he said.

Indian newspaper Mint first reported in December that Unacademy was in talks with General Atlantic and GGV Capital to raise as much as $100 million. TechCrunch understands that GGV Capital, which earlier this month invested in edtech startup Vedantu, is not participating in Unacademy’s funding round.

Vedantu and Unacademy compete with Byju’s, which counts General Atlantic as an investor and is valued at $8 billion. Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has invested in Byju’s, but has sold at least some of its stake, according to a regulatory filing analyzed by business outlet Entrackr.

As India’s startup ecosystem begins to mature, it has started to attract several corporate giants. Google, Amazon and Twitter also have made investments in Indian startups. While Twitter has backed social platform ShareChat, Google has invested in hyperlocal concierge app Dunzo.

Unacademy counts Nexus Venture Partners, SAIF Partners India, and Blume Ventures, which announced its $102 million third fund for the Indian startup ecosystem on Wednesday, among its investors.

Boeing sees at least two years before 737 MAX production rate reaches pre-grounding target

Boeing sees at least two years before 737 MAX production rate reaches pre-grounding targetBoeing Co Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith said on Wednesday that it will take at least a couple of years before 737 MAX production rate can reach the 57 units per month that the company was targeting before the airplane was grounded last year. Speaking at an investor conference, Smith said the production rate will depend largely on supplier inventory and noted that discussions on the supply chain are “front and center” of daily company calls on the 737 MAX.


‘Playing With Fire’: Tesla’s Wild Week Gets Hearts Pumping on Wall Street

‘Playing With Fire’: Tesla’s Wild Week Gets Hearts Pumping on Wall Street(Bloomberg) — Paul Nolte would never dream of plugging a stock like Tesla Inc. into a client portfolio at his advisory firm, Kingsview Wealth Management in Chicago. Too volatile. But a bearish options flier for his own account after the thing more than doubled in two months? Maybe.The 34-year money management veteran had been noticing double-digit price gaps that he considers hallmarks of shorts getting squeezed. When the forced buying was over, he figured, support would vanish and the shares would plunge. So he teed up $10,000 worth of puts and waited. And watched. And waited. And thought about it. In the end, he couldn’t pull the trigger.“I was playing with fire,” Nolte said by phone. “I’m better off going to a casino and putting it on black. $10,000 can go to zero really fast.”All week Tesla’s been doing that, tempting and taunting the pros, lighting up brokerage phone lines and getting blood pumping like no time since 1999. If the poster children for the market’s plodding march since 2009 were Apple Inc. and Netflix Inc., Elon Musk’s bear-burner has become the standard bearer for what some now expect to be its last and looniest leg.With the stock spiking from $650 to $950 on Monday and Tuesday, Chris Brown, a Tesla short, barely slept. Lunch with colleagues was canceled and breakfast didn’t come till 2 p.m. He thought about buying the stock after the shares breached a chart line at the end of last week, and selling it Monday — but decided against it. “It was discordant with my fundamental belief.”“When something is going on that is this big and this organized, you sit and watch,” Brown, managing member at Aristides Capital in Toledo, Ohio, said by phone, describing his actions on Monday. “I stared at my computer non-stop, all day.”Tuesday was different. Brown bought a call spread and a few bearish options, priced about half as much as ones betting the rally would keep going. That was the day Tesla plunged 14% into the close. The price of the put contract Brown eyed went from $9 to $12 by the time his order was filled, before soaring to $84. “We ended up making money.”Few were closer to the center of the storm than Dan Ives, a managing director at Wedbush, whose once-bullish price targets were overtaken as Tesla vaulted over $700, $800, $900 in two days. At least 100 investors have called him looking for an edge on a stock that at peak frenzy made Bitcoin feel like a toothpaste maker in terms of buying pressure.What was it like? “Newark Airport,” Ives said. “The chaos around the stock this week was like being in Newark Airport on a Friday night.”Almost $170 billion worth of Tesla shares have traded in five days, three times as much as Apple and five times as much as Microsoft Corp. The stock’s 20-day volatility is nearly twice that of the next bounciest name in the Nasdaq 100, Biogen Inc., which soared 26% this week. Three-quarters of a million trades have been executed since Monday, seven times the number in Boeing Co.“We’re talking about one of the more historic moves in a stock that’s happened over the last decade,” Ives said. “It’s caught the Street by surprise, which is very rare in a market where information is well-known within two seconds of coming out. It’s been out of a Stephen King movie.”Brian Frank sees it differently: Tesla as a harbinger of long-overdue doom, the beginning of the end to the buy-everything ethic that has been making his life miserable as a value investor.Bitcoin is the only other asset that has elicited as many calls, Frank said, maybe 5% of his clients have phone about Tesla. Those all stopped when the shares rolled over on Wednesday, giving up 17%.“That it can happen with something as big and as visible as Tesla – it gives me hope that it’s clear there are bubbles out there,” said Frank, president at Frank Capital Partners in Key Biscayne, Florida. “This is an over-$100 billion company that’s clearly in the old Eiffel Tower pattern, exactly like Bitcoin. And many other bubbles look like that, too.”To contact the reporters on this story: Elena Popina in New York at [email protected];Vildana Hajric in New York at [email protected] contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeremy Herron at [email protected] more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.