Auckland chatbot startup Ambit has raised $1.75 million at a $9.75m valuation in an over-subscribed round supported by Sir David Levene's and the ubiquitous Sir Stephen Tindall.

The raise follows a June 2017 round that brought in $500,000.

The two-year-old company says its "conversation platform" technology has been used to help create a number of high-profile virtual assistants including Vodafone's Tui, KPMG's Kea, Flexigroup's Bosley, Glassons' Charlie, and Vector's Watt.

Property portal OneRoof, owned by NZ Herald publisher NZME, is also a customer with a pilot for real estate agents in the works.

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Chief executive, co-founder and major shareholder Josh Comrie says the new capital will be used to boost software development and hire more staff for a push into Australia and the US (the startup currently employs 20).

The funds will be allocated towards developing its machine learning and data science capabilities, "to better translate its large pool of data into even more valuable insights for its customers."

Ambit also makes a chatbot for its own site, called Bit, which boasts of its ability to tell jokes.

The Herald asked Bit for a one-liner.

Bit replied, "What do you get when you cross a robot and a tractor? A trans-farmer!" - indicating a highly-advanced level of Dad Joke capability.

Although crowded, the virtual assistant market is large and growing fast, Comrie says.

"By 2020, the AI market is estimated to be worth USD$1.2 trillion and the Natural Language Processing industry is expected to reach USD$13.4 billion. Ambit is well-placed to take advantage of this, and we're incredibly pleased to have found investors in our network who are keen to back our offering."

AI has been a hotspot for local venture capital over the past few months, with virtual assistant startups with FaceMe raising $15m and Soul Machines finding backers for its $30m Series B round.

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Ambit co-founder, chief executive and major shareholder Josh Comrie. Photo / Supplied.
Ambit co-founder, chief executive and major shareholder Josh Comrie. Photo / Supplied.