AI-startup FaceMe has wrapped up its US$10 million ($15m) raise and confirmed its post-money valuation of $US50m ($74m).
As first reported by the Herald on November 28, the round was led by Sydney-based Alium Capital, with noteworthy US investor Richard Socher also onboard. Socher was founder of MetaMind, a natural language processing and image recognition startup sold to Salesforce for US$32.8m in 2016.
Today, the Auckland-based maker of virtual assistants revealed three local investors also participated: Ice Angels, the Crown-backed NZVIF and the prolific Sir Stephen Tindall.
Post-raise, chief executive Danny Tomsett as the largest shareholder with a 21.6 per cent stake, Tindall has 12.39 per cent, Alium a 6.4 per cent holding and Ice Angels 1.5 per cent.
"We are grateful to our early adopter customers such as BNZ, ASB, Vodafone, UBS and many others as we've validated the value that digital humans bring to their customers," Tomsett said.
"We're about to announce even more companies who will be launching digital humans using our intelligent Digital Human platform over the next few months."
The raise comes on the back of two recent high-profile projects.
One is "Kiri", a kiosk-based smart assistant who will shortly be trialled in several of Vodafone's Auckland stores.
The other is a tie-up with Sir John Kirwan's startup Mentemia, which will offer a "virtual John" for counselling as part of a wider workplace wellbeing programme. Mentemia is still in still some distance from launching its product, but has managed to sign The Warehouse Group, Barfoot & Thompson and Andrew "Four-Day Week" Barnes' Perpetual Guardian as foundation customers.
The successful raise puts FaceMe closer to local rival Soul Machines, which has raised tens of millions from customer Mercedes Benz and other investors on the back of deals with Air New Zealand, ANZ and other blue-chip clients. Soul Machines has a $30m Series B round underway.
Both of the Kiwi startups develop virtual assistants with the help of IBM's Watson AI programme. They feature the ability to "learn" from responses over time, and to read someone's emotion from their facial expression, tone-of-voice and body language.
FaceMe chief operating officer Bradley Scott declined to give any financials, but said the 25-person company is in talks with potential customers around the world.