Rakuten Ventures Leads Investment in U.S. Chatbot Service DexterBy
The e-commerce firm’s VC arm anchors a $2.3 million seed round
Companies are increasingly experimenting with online chatbots
Social Starts LLC and betaworks also took part in the seed round, company founder and chief executive officer Daniel Ilkovich said by phone from New York. Dexter will use the funds to expand production of chatbots for services and user growth against competitors like Chatfuel.
The investment by the venture arm of Japanese e-commerce and internet firm Rakuten Inc. comes as companies from Facebook Inc. to Tencent Holdings Ltd. experiment with chatbots that simulate conversations with customers, fulfilling requests for everything from dinner reservations to deliveries. Dexter wants to make it easy for people to write and deploy online concierges.
“Chatbots are a new modality of communication, and we believe writers and creatives are going to be the pioneers,’’ Ilkovich said. Rakuten Ventures’ other major investments include Send Anywhere, an application that allows people to share files across devices; online marketplace Carousell Pte; and ViSenze Pte, a developer of visual tools.
The share of time spent on chat applications is accelerating and Dexter is one of the first to build resources for that trend, said Saemin Ahn, managing partner at Rakuten Ventures, which has $285 million under management and invests globally.