Cognigy Raises Funding to Expand Contact Center Automation Business

AI For Business

Philip Hertewig, who was CIO at marketing company Sitecore before it was sold to private equity group EQT in 2016, teamed up with Sascha Poggemann and Benjamin Meyer to found customer service automation startup Cognigy eight years ago. He says the impetus came from what he felt was confusion among both consumers and C-suite executives about how AI works, particularly around its limitations.

“Big tech companies have 'false' expectations when it comes to AI,” Hertewig told TechCrunch. “In 2015, IBM was claiming you could do anything with its Watson platform. In 2024, they're claiming again: 'You can do anything with Copilot.' Neither is true.”

Through Cognigy, Heltewig, Poggemann and Mayr sought to deliver on a more modest promise: to help create an AI that could handle the highly repetitive, mechanical processes that the center's workers face every day.

AI for contact centers isn't a new trend: Research shows that more than half of businesses are already investing in AI capabilities to support customer service operations. According to market research firm Markets and Markets, revenue from the call center AI market alone is expected to grow from $1.6 billion in 2022 to $4.1 billion by the end of 2027.

Besides the big tech companies, there are a number of startups offering AI-powered products to automate basic call center tasks, including Parloa, which focuses on text-to-speech applications;, which is developing conversational AI apps for enterprises; Lang, whose technology automatically tags and categorizes customer conversations; and PolyAI and Retell AI, which are building autonomous phone agents.

So what sets Cognigy apart? First, the platform can be deployed locally, on a private cloud, or on a public cloud (such as AWS). It's also scalable: Cognigy manages AI agents that can handle up to tens of thousands of customer conversations at a time.

Image credits: Cognizy

“Cognigy provides a platform for building, operating and analyzing AI agents for customer experience in the contact center,” Heltewig said. “In addition to servicing the end customer, those same AI agents can also take over as a 'co-pilot' for human agents, providing contextual assistance to them or automating routine tasks like call wrap-up.”

Cognigy sells three core products: (1) a self-service Q&A chatbot that leverages an organization's knowledge base to answer customer inquiries, (2) a toolset for building chatbot experiences, and (3) an AI-powered support agent dashboard that provides agents with information that may be useful during customer interactions.

Cognigy trains its own generative AI models to power various aspects of its platform, but it also integrates third-party models, including OpenAI's recently released GPT-4o, Anthropic's Claude 3, Google's Gemini, and Aleph Alpha's Luminous.

This vendor-agnostic, bring-your-own-model approach may be one of the reasons why Cognigy has grown so strongly in recent years.

The company now has around 175 customers deploying its Cognigy contact centre solutions across 1,000 different brands, including Toyota and Bosch, and this week Cognigy closed a major Series C tranche led by European private equity group Eurazeo, which invested $100 million in Cognigy alongside Insight Partners, DTCP and DN Capital, bringing Cognigy's total funding to $175 million.

With 175 employees based in Dusseldorf and San Francisco, and Hertewig expects that number to grow to 250 by the end of the year, Cognigy plans to use the new capital to invest in geographic expansion across the U.S. and in product research and development.

“We aim to create more sophisticated customer service solutions and accelerate AI-first technology that delivers a return on investment,” Heltewig said.

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