Company known for Relationship Modeling Engine.
Long gone are the days when venture capitalists threw money at any and every start-up company that had an innovative business plan. But for San Francisco-based Banter Inc., a soft VC market and a tech slowdown hasn’t stopped them from securing funding and winning new customers. We spoke recently with Tom Aden, Banter’s CEO, about how the company has continued to thrive in a weak economy.
Could you tell us a little bit about Banter?
Banter was founded in 1997 by a team of experienced engineers headed up by Yori Nelken. Using his 17 years of experience researching natural-language processing solutions, Yori created a technology capable of understanding everyday human communication. With Yori’s leadership, Banter advanced this technology to be suited to the real requirements of human communication in forms such as e-mail, the Web, and natural-language inquiries.
Banter created a solution by combining natural language processing with our Relationship Modeling Engine (RME), and by making that RME capable of learning in real time, thereby allowing the engine to get smarter and smarter, evolving and learning alongside the user.
Banter first developed an enterprise e-mail management application that helps customer support agents automatically respond to inbound e-mails more efficiently by suggesting the correct responses. Banter has successfully installed this application with some of the largest online banks, including Wells Fargo, Royal Bank of Canada, and ABN-AMRO, as well as other organizations including Nintendo. Banter is now in the process of launching its Web-based self-help application, and Banter’s RME technology is also embedded in many of the top customer relationship management [CRM] applications.
The Gartner Group lists customer self-service as one of the four key emerging trends for the next decade. How has Banter worked to provide a unique application in this growing market?
Having the RME at its core makes Banter’s application particularly accurate, easy to maintain, and flexible. Banter’s RME learns over time, adapting to its environment, learning from its users and becoming more and more accurate with every response.
Banter just completed a successful $20 million round of funding. Given the state of the economy and a soft VC market, what steps has Banter taken to remain successful and draw financial backing from investors?
Banter has managed to get funding primarily by focusing on the achievement of its core objectives: building partner channels, winning key customers, maintaining customer satisfaction, and focusing on burn-rate control. These combined to help us achieve our objectives, which has reinforced our position as the proven leader in our space. Quite simply, VCs see the value of our technology and recognize that we are gaining commercial traction.
What can we expect from Banter in 2002?
This year promises to be a year of major deployment of our technology through our partnerships with many of the world’s largest companies. This will help change the perspective on what can be both changed and achieved through our kind of automation. Banter will continue to advance its core natural-language technology, expanding the applications in which it can be used. We expect to enter at least two new major solution areas with partners over the course of 2002.
The self-help/self-service market is very new and its potential is only just beginning to be realized. Banter intends to continue its leadership position in this growing and important market by working closely with its partners and customers to develop exciting, new, and, of course, profitable uses for its RME.
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