(this article originally appeared in TechCrunch and was written by Ingrid Lunden)
No-code is the name of the game in enterprise software, and today a startup called Ushur that has built a platform for any business to create its own AI-based customer communication flows with no coding required is announcing some funding to help fuel its growth.
The startup has picked up $25 million in a Series B round of funding led by Third Point Ventures (the fund founded and led by activist investor and hedge fund supremo Daniel Loeb), with previous investor 8VC (Joe Lonsdale’s fund) also participating. It brings the total raised by Ushur to $36 million.
Ushur is not disclosing its valuation, but it’s growing fast. As a mark of how it is doing, the startup is currently focusing on the insurance sector (a big one when it comes to speaking with customers and amassing data during the conversation) and it counts Aetna, Irish Life, Tower Insurance and Unum among its customers building chatbots (dubbed Virtual Customer Assistants by Ushur), automated email response flows (branded SmartMail) and tools to help customer service agents serve people more quickly (FlowBuilder). It has APIs for those who need them, with integrations into Slack, ServiceNow, Salesforce and Jira, and works in 60 languages (not just English).
It’s now widening the net to also target financial services and telecoms companies, with the plan being to use the funding primarily to expand Ushur’s sales and marketing to keep growing its business after seeing a rise in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO and co-founder Simha Sadasiva said in an interview.
As companies — not just e-commerce or other online companies, but all companies — have turned to having more virtual interactions with their customers, solutions like Ushur’s have come into their own.
That’s been especially true for companies that are not “tech” at their core. They may lack the in-house talent and other resources to build and run tech-based services from the ground up, but at the same time also are looking for solutions that don’t involve the cost (and time) of working with third-party system integrators to implement them. This is the case, Sadasiva said, with RPA (robotic process automation) solutions, which he described as a competing approach that typically requires technical expertise or systems integrators to create and implement software.
Enter no-code: solutions — software platforms really — that are built with all the nitty gritty coding behind the scenes, and easy-to-use interfaces at the front for users to knit together programs, query databases and run calculations without needing to know how to do these at the coding level, at a typically lower cost.
“For every dollar you spend on RPA tool you have to spend $3-4 more to deploy it so we are very competitive,” Sadasiva said. One email service developed by Irish Life for its agents reduced typical enquiry processing times from between 3 hours – 2.5 days to “less than a second” with 40% fewer resources, the company claims.
To be clear, these are not off-the-shelf pieces of software, but flows that are customised by the customers based on what they need and then powered by natural language processing (which is also baked in behind the scenes).
“We have hundreds of templates already created,” Sadasiva said. “But the key thing is that they are like Lego pieces, or building blocks. We provide the assembly kit to make lots of new shapes and objects.”
Although there are a lot of companies marketing themselves as no-code and low-code, and indeed there is a big demand for more productivity and communication tools that don’t require you to be a programmer to use them but give you the flexibility of building what you need, not what a software company thinks you need, Ushur is finding a lot of traction with investors and customers.
“They’re right at the intersection of some of the biggest developments in enterprise software,” said Third Point Ventures Managing Partner Robert Schwartz in a statement. “Automation that feels personal yet delivers tremendous efficiencies to the enterprise. No-code design that allows customers to get to deployment and benefit easily and incredibly fast. Customer experiences that actually favor the customer. And they’re doing an incredible job with execution.”