Curious Thing closes $7m pre-series A to aid fintech and health services

Dr. Han Xu, Sam Zheng and David Mckeague, Co-founders Curious Thing

Voice AI communication platform, Curious Thing, has announced that it has closed a AUD$7 million pre-series A funding round led by private investment firm Hawkstone with participation from Blacksheep Capital, January Capital and return investors Reinventure and Qualgro.

The injection represents a tactical investment to expedite business and consumer comfort and adoption of voice AI assistants, as the scepticism surrounding this advanced technology continues to subside and the normalisation of the human-AI relationship grows. Prior to this funding round, Curious Thing raised AUD$1.5 million from Reinventure and Qualgro in 2019.

What is the market growth Curious Thing?

With co-founders Sam Zheng (CEO), Dr. Han Xu (CTO) and David Mckeague (Chief Strategy Officer) at the helm, Curious Thing’s pre-series A will accelerate the firm’s expansion in its primary verticals; financial services, health and tech firms. In addition to building out further offerings in its key industries, the firm will expand its footprint in Southeast Asia and the US.

The latest investment comes after the firm experienced a period of strong growth, including through its significant pivot away from HR tech into customer engagement. Since inception, Curious Thing has experienced 1340% year-on-year growth and has been recognised among the Top 5 Rising Stars at the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards for 2021. In 2021, the firm processed over three million minutes of AI-human conversations through the platform.

Curious Thing currently serves a slew of Australian clients including Quitline, Calvary, Brighte, Humm Group and a number of state and local governments. It has grown its core team in Australia to over 30 employees, with additional team members located in the United States.

What are executive’s thoughts on the funding?

With this new funding, the company will add to its world-class pool of technology talent, as well as its commercial, sales, marketing and customer success teams. Sam Zheng, Co-founder and CEO of Curious Thing said: “Helping businesses reimagine B2C communication is the core of Curious Thing’s mission as there is an increasing misalignment between customer expectation and what businesses are able to deliver when communicating with customers.”

“In the past, businesses usually dealt with a static view of customer touch points. Today, passively responding to customers’ needs is simply not good enough; businesses have to proactively engage and curiously discover insights about customers,” Zheng further said.

“We are proud to be trusted by our clients, especially for the socially impactful work we do in the health sector. We look forward to using this funding to continuously build our unique voice AI tech as well as deepen our expertise in human-AI trust and conversational user experience – at a time when voice AI rapidly emerges from a ‘good to have’ to ‘strategic business tool.’”

What are investors’ thoughts on Curious Thing?

John Hollingsworth, Managing Director of Hawkstone Asia Pacific, commented: “We are excited to partner with Curious Thing to facilitate this funding round. Hawkstone has lengthy and extensive investor and management expertise in customer care and voice automation, so we firmly grasp the value and potential of the Curious Thing product. We can’t wait to witness how the voice AI category evolves over the coming months and years.”

“There is a lot of work to be done in the voice AI space around engaging users on the benefits of this tech and creating more positive and trusting human-AI relationships. We have every confidence in Curious Thing playing a leading role in the growing adoption of voice AI.”

Daniel Gavel, Director at Black Sheep Capital, commented: “We have known the Curious Thing team for several years now and are excited to be investing. We initially got to know them when using the solution as a customer as part of our internal hiring process.”

“It has been great to stay connected with the team, and exciting to see them face the challenges presented by COVID pandemic, commit to a pivot and come out the other side with a bigger opportunity. The ability to turn a business around, commit to a new strategy and accumulate revenue and use cases so quickly, is very impressive,” Daniel further said.

In a Curious Thing survey administered by Pureprofile in December 2021, the findings of 1000 Australians revealed that consumers are increasingly open to businesses using voice AI assistants in their communications, as long as there is transparency ahead of time, the AI assistant resembles a human voice and there is the option to speak to a human if required.

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