Webio raises €1.5m as it seeks to make conversations around debt easier – The Irish Times

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Webio raises €1.5m as it seeks to make conversations around debt easier – The Irish Times

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Messaging specialist Webio has raised €1.5 million in investment in a pre-Series A funding round.

Founded in 2016, the company helps clients in financial services, insurance and other sectors to communicate with their customers on sensitive subjects such as credit, collections and payments. Its customers include The Very Group, Energia and Littlewoods.

Webio came in second place on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list last year. It operates in the conversational artificial intelligence (AI) market which is expected to grow to €11 billion by 2024.

The company’s no-code platform allows partners to get up and running quickly with conversational AI over SMS, WhatsApp, Webchat and other channels.

Speaking to The Irish Times, chief executive Cormac O’Neill said the funding would go towards further product development and increase staff numbers with a plan to double the company’s R&D team.

“A company like Webio needs to continually invest in its product. We can never let up because things change so fast,” said Mr O’Neill.

Webio is seeking to change the manner in which conversations around credit, collections and payments are made by shifting the balance of power back to the consumer. The company believes that by using conversational messaging to remove stress it is possible to deliver a more empathic experience.

The company’s technology works by helping to predict conversational outcomes by analysing in real time what is being said and the manner in which it is being said so that it can identify the best way to respond.

Mr O’Neill said that while Webio lost some ground during the coronavirus pandemic it was now expecting increased demand as companies prepare for a rise in customers who were having issues making payments.

“Unfortunately, given the pandemic, there are going to be more people facing financial difficulties as State supports are removed, and so there is going to be more demand for the technology we provide,” said Mr O’Neill.

Finch Capital, which recently announced plans to step up its investment in Irish start-ups after completing the first close of a new €150 million fund, led the latest funding round with a €500,000 contribution. Other participants included Enterprise Ireland and EIT Digital.

Large market

“The credit and collections industry is ripe for disruption, its approach to its customers is outdated and the sector has been overlooked for far too long,” said Mike Brennan, principal at Finch Capital.

“It’s an extremely large market which is set for significant growth and we believe that as a specialist in this space Webio is extremely well positioned to lead the industry in a new direction where customer engagement across the debt cycle is a positive experience.”

Finch is a partner with Enterprise Ireland in a €20 million fund aimed at fintech companies. It also backs companies focused on areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Other Irish companies it has backed include AccountsIQ and Aylien, which was last week named as the overall winner of the second annual Deloitte Financial Services Innovation awards.

Philip Lee, led by Eoghan Doyle, acted for Finch Capital on the investment, while Jerome Maume of OFX advised the company.

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