InnovationDisruptive MarTechMeet, the AI-driven software personalizing consumer engagement

Meet, the AI-driven software personalizing consumer engagement

Interview with's CEO, Mahi de Silva, on what the company is up to, what challenges they expect for 2019, and where they're headed.

There are nearly 7,000 vendors in the martech landscape. Dizzying, to say the least. We want to help you get to know a few of the better ones.

In this series, we pick one extra cool martech company and profile them each week. What problems do they solve? What challenges do they face? Where do they go for clarity? How do they prepare for the future?

Next up in our martech company of the week series, we sit down with CEO Mahi de Silva to learn what their company is up to and where they’re headed.

ClickZ: To begin, how was founded?

Mahi de Silva: In 2008, I was a co-founder of a mobile advertising startup called AdMarvel that provided in-application advertising solutions for publishers (which we later sold to Opera). At that time, delivering advertising to consumers on their mobile phones was a far-fetched idea.

We were at the cusp of mobile really taking off. Around 2009/2010, it all changed as companies realized how mobile ads helped them amplify their brand messages and improve customer engagement. It really was on fire. That experience informed my decision to start to enable brands to deliver a highly personalized and conversational experience via a self-paced journey in social media.

CZ: What is the biggest problem you solve for your customers?

MS: We primarily work with brands to help drive better engagement with consumers on Facebook. It could be something as simple as helping somebody that uses Facebook ads to get better results from those ads, not letting opportunities to interact with engaged consumers slip away. Or maybe a political party is looking to promote their message. We can help amplify and follow up on organic engagement.

Ultimately, we’re able to solve problems across a very broad spectrum for people looking to really drive engagement.

CZ: Briefly describe your company – what’s your elevator pitch?

MS: enables brands to leverage AI to create lasting and personalized engagements on social media. Over 100 brands have used to create over one billion brand interactions with more than than 100 million consumer around the world.

CZ: Walk me through it. How does it look from the brand’s end?

MS: We work with brands to help drive better engagement with consumers on Facebook. We also support WhatsApp, WeChat, and Google’s Rich Business Messaging. For Facebook, the first thing we do is install a plugin to a client’s Facebook Business Page, which takes all of 30 seconds. We then introduce the client to their dashboard, which they can use to monitor what’s going on.

Once the plugin is installed, we can see any and all consumer interactions with the brand. A like, an emoji, a comment, a share: all of these events we can see in real time and grade by sentiment and intent. For example, something like a “like” is pretty easy to analyze for intent, but if somebody types a comment, our AI engine is able to grade it for sentiment and extract some kind of intent. Maybe it’s somebody expressing interest in buying something or asking about store hours. The client can see this all analyzed and documented in their dashboard. We can then turn that engagement into a one-to-one experience, taking that consumer’s comment and moving it into Messenger.

Our ultimate goal is to automate these conversations. At least 90% of them are machine-driven by our AI, so the client can focus on running their business and let handle engagement and communication with customers. Sometimes a customer really needs to chat with a live human being though. In those cases, the AI can detect when the customer is looking for human interaction and do a simple hand-off, putting the customer in touch with a live agent. We integrate with live chat services, so the chat will show up in the client’s conversation queue in their dashboard so they can handle it all right there.

What we’ve created is a much more friendly chat experience for customers instead of your typical digital marketing. As a result, we consistently see – at a minimum – user engagement doubled across the Facebook Feed and Messenger.

CZ: That’s fantastic. What technology underpins this solution?

MS: has developed natural language processing (NLP) technology and machine learning models to customize the user experience for our brand partners in verticals such as ecommerce, media, travel, customer service and hospitality. This is how we’re able to build rich consumer profiles that incorporate user’s intent, sentiment, and preferences based on their behaviors.

The messaging experience can be fine-tuned to deliver on any of the KPIs or business outcomes that customers intend to achieve through the tools we can provide, and marketers can use these tools to use messaging as a key strategy to engage and interact with their consumers.

CZ: What, if anything, has surprised you about

MS: Our journey has been interesting because when you start a company, you want to zoom in on a target customer, but we’ve been surprised to have customers from every vertical, and even within those verticals, we’ve seen unique cases where our technology has been useful.

For example, one company came to us and asked if could be used for sales training. This company has over 4000 sales agents around the world and wanted to make their sales training more interactive rather than simply sending a sales catalog to all their employees and hoping they understand it. We customized a system for them that’s completely interactive with conversational experiences, videos, quizzes, and grades to see how well the employees understand the products. Sales agents are able to ask the AI questions, and if something comes up that the AI can’t answer or the agent just wants to speak to a real person, the chat gets queued up in a system for a support team to follow up on.

Now the company has a dashboard with all of their sales people and are able to see just how well they understand the products and if this interactive training actually improves sales. This is something we never imagined and really shows the promise of the technology.

CZ: Looking ahead, what goals do you have for 2019?

MS: A couple months ago, we reached 100 million consumers, but as of last week, we reached 144 million. We’re growing really fast and have a goal to hit 200 million consumers by the end of this year. We’re close to the 2 billion mark in interactions for our brands, which we’re very proud of.

What we’re really excited about is working with Google’s Rich Business Messaging solution. There are ways that we can bring automated conversations into search, making it a much more interactive experience for consumers. This should really change things, especially for local businesses like small grocery stores, clothing stores, and mom and pop enterprises. The chat option will become much more mainstream and I predict that by the end of this year, we will see virtually every brand with some kind of conversational experience as an option for consumers.

With this comes its challenges though. Conversation marketing has been overhyped, and marketers’ initial enthusiasm has turned into fatigue and doubt. However, just like any major trend that started out slow, like mobile advertising or social media, once you come out of that trough of disillusionment, there are amazing opportunities for growth. Our challenge is to show customers to what they can achieve, not just empty promises, and lead them out of that trough.

CZ: What are you doing to prepare for these challenges?

MS: First, we want to educate and enlighten brands by showing how their peers are using the platform to dramatically change the way they engage with consumers.

Second, we recognize there is an arms race between tech giants like Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon to dominate the B2C messaging channel space. You can argue that Tencent (also known as WeChat) has already won that battle in China, and Facebook in the US, but it’s by no means a done deal. MySpace was once crowned the social media platform king, but couldn’t sustain its growth.

So, embraces every single messaging channel and platform that consumers are adopting. The brands have to be wherever their consumers are, and that gives a significant competitive advantage because our customers can leverage the platform’s key strength – understanding messaging and consumer behavior – on whatever messaging apps are most popular with their target consumers anywhere in the world.

CZ: Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out!

MS: I like to think so. What’s important to us is to always take into account the three pillars of opportunity in digital marketing: display, social, and search. By tying all these types of engagements together in a single AI system, we’re able to make big waves.

For any brand – big or small – AI is an investment. You’ll see small returns in the early days, but as time goes by, you’ll see bigger and better rewards. We’re just now seeing this with our early adopters and think it will become mainstream in the next five years. We’re looking forward to it.

Quick facts about

Employees: 30
Customers: 150
Year founded: 2016
Headquarters: Palo Alto, California
Martech landscape category: Social & Relationships: Social Media Monitoring & Marketing
Direct competitors: 0


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