Microsoft acquires portfolio company Colloquis

It is always great to see hard work rewarded.  Congratulations to Steve Klein, Pierre Berkaloff, and the rest of the Colloquis team (my partner Ned Carlson is on the board) for building the company over the last few years and making this happen.  For any startup there are always a few missteps along the way but being flexible and adapting to the market to find the right opportunity is key.  Colloquis did that in spades taking its bot and agent technology from an IM only platform to the web and creating a killer SAAS platform that enables any company to engage customers in typed natural language conversations, delivering answers to customers in real time.  Take a look at AskComcast (see comcast.net and top right corner is AskComcast) to see the technology live - customers who need help engage in an online chat with one of our automated agents giving the customer the feel of a live, real-time dialogue with a human while being powered by our natural language processing technology.  As Microsoft says in the press release today:

Xbox will be the first group within Microsoft to use Windows Live Service Agents. Colloquis technology will be a strong contributor in enabling Xbox® customers to rapidly find helpful information related to their support needs. The conversational tone and ease of use of the product will offer customers another approach with which to address commonly asked questions, providing quick resolution to customer issues. The product’s technical flexibility makes it an excellent fit with other self-service options that Xbox plans to release in the fall.

In addition, Microsoft plans to take advantage of Colloquis Internet bot technology in an application called Windows Live Agents, a conversational application that users can interact with via Windows Live Messenger. These “agents” are used to entertain, encourage engagement with products or services, provide a new advertising opportunity for brand advertisers, and drive search and information retrieval.

On the Windows Live Agents side, take a look at what can be done using Colloquis technology delivered over the Messenger platform.  According to the Microsoft site, think of a bot as an automated contact that can be added to your contact list and that you can converse with using text to deliver information, complete tasks, or be entertained.  I look forward to seeing how developers using this bot technology will tie together various web services and applications all through a simple buddy contact on your IM list.  On the current Windows Live Gallery page, you can see an Encarta bot, a map searcher bot which interacts with the Virtual Earth Map through an IM chat, and an InsideMessenger bot that "interacts with Amazon, finds flights in realtime, integrates with RSS feeds and soon will integrate with YouTube/MySpace video feeds."  I look forward to seeing Microsoft bring bots and automated agents into the mainstream.  I can't think of a simpler way to interact with web services or initiate commands than through a simple text chat. 

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This post was written by who has written 358 posts on BeyondVC.

4 Responses to “Microsoft acquires portfolio company Colloquis”

  1. Paul Oct 14, 2006 at 1:44 pm #

    Congratulations on the selling of your company. How much was Colloquis sold to Microsoft? My guess is that it should be in the 15-20M range.

    These could be good applications, but none is a must, and Colloquis technology is very limited in terms of NLP capabilities. I’ve heard that in Europe, other companies are doing a better job that that, but I haven’t found their name yet. Any idea?

  2. Marcus Oct 17, 2006 at 11:33 am #

    I would also be interested in other companies, especially ones that work with AIM Bots in this space.

  3. Paul Oct 17, 2006 at 12:43 pm #

    After a thorough research, I found that French Company virtuoz is gaining some traction as many sites seem to have their bots in France. I don’t know if they are on AIM though.

  4. Vish Desai Nov 4, 2006 at 11:15 pm #

    I believe that agents have a really good chance of reducing the costs of customer service.

    As I’ve mentioned in my blog – Windows Live, Agent Technology, and business rules – agents + BRMS technology can really add another dimension to this space.

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