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Proto, which automates local language customer experiences, raises $5.6M to accelerate global expansion

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Canada-based Proto which helps contact center operators from the Philippines to Zambia – such as the National Bank of Rwanda, Bank of Ghana, and the Medical City Clinic – to automate local language customer experiences has raised $5.6 million to expand globally.

The chatbots and multilingual contact center automation startup uses AI Customer Experience (AICX) solutions to serve large central banks to small fintechs that require high-performance natural language understanding for under-resourced languages from Africa to Asia.

According to Proto CEO Curtis Matlock: “In the midst of crises that have been especially hard on people in the emerging world – we believe it’s more important than ever for citizen engagement and customer experience to prioritize inclusion as a guiding principle. Proto’s conversational AI deployments for local languages are at the forefront of overcoming long wait times, unresolved cases, and limited language and channel support in over a dozen emerging markets.”

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Local languages such as Cebuano, Kinyarwanda, and Twi can be notoriously difficult for chatbots to understand, due to the lack of machine learning training resources. Proto solves this problem with chatbots powered by its proprietary natural language processing (NLP) technology and nationwide, data-heavy deployments with regulators, such as central banks, across 2000+ private sector institutions. Proto’s NLP engine – called HermesAI™ – uniquely understands both local and mixed languages, such as Taglish (hybrid of Tagalog and English).

Proto was founded in 2018 at the National Taiwan University to deliver impactful and effective conversational AI for underserved markets.

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The startup has grown organically across four industries and over ten markets with the catalytic support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Omidyar Network, RegTech for Regulators Accelerator, National Research Council of Canada, and the African Development Bank. Clients range from the central banks of the Philippines, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia, and Côte d’Ivoire to the leading alternative medicare provider in India to fast-growing fintechs in Nigeria.

“The growth of mobile and internet adoption in the emerging world is stunning, and this continued trend is inevitable. However, due to poor support for their native languages, billions of people are still cut out from critical digital services. Proto’s multilingual, industry-relevant machine learning models and conversational chatbots can unlock greater inclusivity at a massive scale while generating significant ROI for the institutions that adopt it. We are thrilled to support Proto’s mission and partner with Curtis, Albert and the entire team,” said Mucker Capital Investor Joe Tsai.

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The Proto team has four immediate priorities:

  • HermesAI™ will open to developers via API to share Proto’s proprietary machine learning models for low-resourced languages with the widest possible base of consumers. This will include capability for automated speech recognition (ASR) & text-to-speech (TTS), leveraging domain-specific data from Proto’s largest deployments.
  • Regulator chatbots for more countries to strengthen financial inclusion and consumer protection across industries, in coordination with organizations like the University of Cambridge’s SupTech LabBFA Global, and the African Development Bank.
  • Free livechat and sample chatbots to help multilingual contact centres lean into customer support automation with the best cost and quickest implementation time.
  • Team expansion into new regions where Proto’s AICX solutions can make a real difference. Proto’s growth is only possible with its 95% BIPOC and 50% female team from the same countries as our customers. If you’re interested in joining our global community, check out the available roles.
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James Musoba
James Musoba
Studying Africa's startup and technology scene. I always look forward to discovering new exciting inventions and vibrant entrepreneurs.

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