Multilingual chatbot startup Proto secures $5.6 million for global expansion

Proto’s polyglot chatbot was created to improve inclusion, protection of customers.

Waterloo-headquartered customer experience tech startup Proto (formerly Sinitic) has raised an all-equity, all-primary capital $5.6 million CAD Series A round. The financing was led by Mucker Capital with participation from current shareholder Yolo Investments.

Founded in 2018 by Curtis Matlock (CEO) and Albert Zhuang (CTO), Proto uses its Hermes AI natural processing engine to offer a multilingual chatbot for contact centres. In addition to its head office in Canada, Proto is also located in Panama City, London (United Kingdom), Kigali, and Taipei.

Since it first launched at National Taiwan University, Proto has expanded its client base to also serve governments and enterprises from industries, such as financial services and healthcare. The startup currently supports local languages such as Hindi, Kinyarwanda, Tagalog and Twi, as well as common mixed languages like Taglish (Tagalog-English) and Manglish (Malay-English).

By using its polyglot (which knows and uses several languages) chatbot, Proto claims that users are able to improve the inclusion and protection of their customers that otherwise face long wait times, unresolved cases, and limited language support.

“Due to poor support for their native languages, billions of people are still cut out from critical digital services,” said Mucker Capital investor Joe Tsai. “Proto’s multilingual … and conversational chatbots can unlock greater inclusivity at a massive scale while generating significant ROI for the institutions that adopt it.”

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According to Proto, its chatbot can be used in a variety of applications. In addition to financial and healthcare services, the chatbot can also be leveraged for uses in government, online gaming, energy and utility, as well as telecom. The technology is deployed in over 13 countries, including Cambodia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam. Proto claims that it has served around 2,250 companies.

Castlelab, which claimed on its website that it worked with Proto on designing the chatbot, said that the technology is being used by stakeholders like the Central Bank of the Philippines, administered by the RegTech for Regulators Accelerator and Rockefeller Philanthropy, and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (in a letter from its counsel following this article’s publishing, Proto states it is inaccurate to say Castlelab worked with Proto on designing the chatbot and suggests that Castlelab’s role was much more limited. Castlelab has since pulled down its entire website and all reference to Proto, ed.).

With a current headcount of more than 30 distributed across the world, Proto said its new Series A capital is earmarked for its team expansion.

Additionally, Proto intends to open source its Hermes AI machine learning models via API. This will include capability for automated speech recognition and text-to-speech. It also plans to deploy “regulator chatbots” for more countries to strengthen financial inclusion and consumer protection across industries by working with organizations such as the University of Cambridge’s SupTech Lab, BFA Global, and the African Development Bank.

With this latest round, Proto has raised $10 million to date in equity and grants.

Featured image from Proto’s blog post.

UPDATE (07/18/22): This story has been updated to include Proto’s position with respect to Castlelab. A previous version of this story included a link to Castlelab’s website, which has been removed since Proto advised BetaKit that the website contains false information. BetaKit has not verified these claims.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a journalism student at Ryerson University and a staff writer for BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter @charlizealcaraz

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