Kea, which makes an AI-powered virtual phone assistant for restaurants, has raised a $10 million Series A round of funding. TechCrunch was first to report on the round, which was led by Marbruck, with Streamlined Ventures, Xfund, Heartland Ventures, DEEPCORE, Barrel Ventures and AVG Funds, as well as other angel investors participating. This brings the total amount raised by Kea to $17 million.
Basically, Kea is building an automated way for restaurants to answer the phone. The natural language processing software can hold a “conversation” with a customer to take and process their order. You can hear a demo of how it works on the Kea website.
As TechCrunch points out, many restaurants are understaffed and don’t always have a dedicated person to work the phones and take orders. During this time of off-premises eating, not answering the phone can translate into a lot of lost business. Plus, ordering directly from the restaurant instead of through a third-party like DoorDash or Uber Eats helps the restaurant avoid the sky-high commissions those services charge.
Kea is among a wave of natural language customer interaction systems coming to market. Google famously made news a couple years back with its Duplex AI-powered voice assistant for consumers to make automated restaurant reservations that sounded almost too human. Google also developed the CallJoy virtual phone assistant for small business owners. Clinc’s technology brings natural language conversations to the drive-thru, while McDonald’s acquired Apprente last year to add more voice capabilities to its drive-thru.
Kea told TechCrunch that its service is currently live in more than 250 restaurants including Papa John’s. With its new cash, the company is looking to be in 1,000 restaurants in 37 states next year.