The demands of regulated industries helped this startup raise $8M for its conversational AI approach


As conversational AI begins to take over the world, chatbots are being given a new lease of life. However, there are clear hazards on the road ahead. Parcel delivery giant DPD recently had to disable part of its online support chatbot after it swore at a customer.

A user managed to convince the chatbot to be heavily critical of DPD, and convince it to criticize the firm in the form of a haiku.

The incident is even more of a warning sign for regulated industries such as healthcare and insurance, where leaving the heavy lifting to a haphazardly designed AI chatbot could leave the organization open to legal action.  OpenDialog, a UK startup from some serial entrepreneur founders, thinks it has an answer by combining the new world of LLMs with a customisable platform for regulated sectors.

It’s now raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Alboin VC. Dowgate Capital and several notable angel investors also participated, meaning the startup has now raised $13 million in total. 

The demand for conversational AI is skyrocketing, and is set to explode to a mind-boggling $38 billion globally by 2029. 

However, regulated sectors are still grappling with Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Large Language Models (LLMs). OpenDialog says its focus on healthcare and insurance will make it a good fit for those industries. 
While an LLM might be able to sound like a human and understand context, regulated industries need high guard rails on an AI-driven approach.  

OpenDialog claims its no-code platform could allow insurance giants and the likes of the UK’s NHS to mix and match the best AI models into one automation platform. 

It also claims one insurance client automated 9 out of 10 tasks, from selling policies to handling claims.
Co-founder and CEO Terry Walby, told me over a call that the platform has a “fluid architecture which means you can manage the conversation in a way that’s much more like humans have conversations, which is not predictable. It can expect the unexpected, and I can react to it, respond to it, and not lose the flow of the conversation.”

What Walby is hoping of course is that by not being built on one foundational model, and having a more flexible platform, OpenDiolog will be able to mix and match various LLMs so that clients can get the flexibility they want. 
That may be the case but it could leave OpenDiolog open to the charge that it is a mere ‘middle-ware’ player rather than having a robust platform of its own. 

He counters, saying that disaggregating from a single language model means it can “exploit them for certain parts of the conversation for which they are appropriate.”

Ed Lascelles, Partner at AlbionVC, commented: “Conversational AI has evolved massively since early chatbots” and noted that the OpenDialog has “built and scaled enterprise businesses before.”

Indeed, this is the second startup for the founding team, who scaled and sold Thoughtonomy, a software automation solution, to Blue Prism in 2019.



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By asm3a