AI startup raises US$3 million in seed investment led by Costanoa Ventures, a platfrom for authentic conversational commerce, has raised US$3 million in seed investment led by Costanoa Ventures with participation from SV Angel.

Commenting on the investment, Neill Occhiogrosso, a partner at Costanoa Ventures said, “ is building an end-to-end platform that allows businesses to message directly with consumers instantly without having to open a separate app. This will change the way businesses engage with their customers, allowing every interaction to be personalised and one-to-one.”

With the latest proceeds, the California-based company will continue to build out its platform, enabling brands to easily and affordably acquire, engage and transact with consumers through popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and iMessage.

Founded in 2016 by Mahi de Silva, Manoj Malhotra, Mark Fruehan, and Arvind Gupta, is an artificial intelligence-powered platform that help brands engage with their clients and drive conversions.

The platform features full lifecycle management and analytics, an AI-powered natural language engine and security features. The company’s team spans Europe, Asia and Latin America. It has made chatbots for Telangana Today,, and others.

De Silva, Malhotra, and Fruehan are also co-founders of AdMarvel, which rebranded as Opera Mediworks, the third largest mobile advertising company in the world. Prior to founding AdMarvel, the team built the messaging and content business at VeriSign.

Built on their success of automating the purchasing and selling of mobile advertising, Botworx’s leadership team is now focused on building a bot creation and management platform. It will allow brands to use their chatbots and messaging services for acquiring customers, as well as customer service and retention.

Speaking on Bortworx, Mahi de Silva, the company’s CEO said, “Chatbot technology is a leapfrog opportunity for brands to elevate ephermal digital marketing campaigns into engaging and long-lived conversations with consumers.”

“Despite all of the technological innovation,” Mahi further adds, “marketing is still done one campaign at a time, where brands have very limited access to audience profile and engagement data. We’re building to give brands greater power to acquire customers, engage them with content and monetise the engagement.”

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media

Chinese B2B e-commerce platform Huimin to acquire Sequoia-backed Beequick

Based in Beijing, Huimin, a B2B-ecommerce platform that focuses on small-scale supermarkets has recently acquired a controlling stake in online-to-offline (O2O) platform Beequick.

This comes as an alternative for Beequick as the company is reportedly cutting staff last summer due to the lack of additional funding to keep the cash-burning business going. The firm also gave one of their two office floors in Beijing.

Following the acquisition by Huimin, which has raised RMB1.3 billion (about US$192 million) from domestic RMB funds in November, Beequick will survive as an independent unit under Huimin.

However, the deal also marks an official end to Beequick’s aspiration for an initial public offering (IPO), which appeared plausible in 2015 when it secured a US$750 million Series C financing round backed by Hillhouse, Tiantu, and Sequoia.

Founded in 2014, Beequick is an online-to-offline platform which provides under-an-hour delivery service for fresh produce and other convenient store products like snacks, beverages, liquor, and coffee etc after they purchase it on their mobile app.

Having over 100,000 convenient stores on its platform, it makes use of the large network of local convenient stores in China, reaching out to customers from the nearest convenient stores in town.

After the merger, Huimin and Beequick said there will be various opportunities to pursue cost saving and create synergies. The two companies also plan to consolidate their supply chain resources and enhance cooperation on convenience store operations.

Besides, with this agreement, Beequick can also focus more on their C-side user services, as well as to further enhance the speed and quality of their distribution services along with brand and marketing.

Established in 2013, Huimin currently operates 450,000 neighborhood stores across China. These modern stores offer standardized products and services, as well as computer and phone recharging facilities and umbrella deposit.

Previously, China Innovation Investment (Beijing) Ltd., China United SME Guarantee Corporation and Western Securities had invested RMB1.3 billion (US$192 million) in Huimin, with participation from existing investors Morningside Ventures, Zheshang Venture Capital and GP Capital.

By Vivian Foo, Unicorn Media