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SD Startup SOCi Raises $120M

TECH: Using ChatGPT For Online Reviews

San Diego-based marketing platform SOCi announced this month it has raised $120 million to invest in AI marketing, including the integration of chatbots to respond to customers’ online reviews.

Afif Khoury
Founder and CEO
SOCi, Inc.

The funding announcement comes as a wave of high-profile companies have recently embraced AI chatbot integration, including Salesforce, Snapchat, Instacart and Shopify.

Led by a team of neuro and data scientists, tech startup SOCi – stemming from the word “social” – works with brands across multiple locations employing a centralized platform aimed at managing data collected through searches and social media. This includes optimizing brands’ reputations from review websites like Google, Facebook and Yelp.

In an emailed response, Founder and CEO Afif Khoury said that several San Diego-based businesses are included in the more than 700 customers that SOCi serves.

SOCi also works with franchise brands that have San Diego locations, including Jersey Mike’s, Nekter Juice Bar and Kumon.

Attractive Location

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“San Diego is an attractive location for businesses due to its favorable business climate, talented workforce, and proximity to major markets,” Khoury added. “I am proud to be based in San Diego and to be part of the thriving business community ecosystem here.”

SOCi recently launched the first “Genius” product, which incorporates chatbot technology into its review response management tool, meaning that Open AI’s ChatGPT will generate responses to the reviews that customers write online.

Khoury explained, “In an organization that is receiving reviews across 5,000 locations, this could take the responsibility and cost of responding out of the hands of 5,000 individuals and dwindle it down to just five or less individuals at corporate who are reviewing the list of automated responses. The savings and efficiency delivered are unmatched, and more importantly, the customer experience and reputation of the brand are the healthiest it’s ever been.”

Authenticity undoubtedly plays a positive role in the customer service world. Questions have been raised about whether a customer will feel put off by a response that’s generated by a machine. Khoury doesn’t think so.

“Ultimately, it will be our responsibility to build up AI solutions to deliver not only a responsive experience but one that is customized so that every customer feels heard and gets the attention and answers that they seek. Automation is only one step toward the goal of a world-class customer experience.”

As the Chatbot hype builds, so do the stories of its inaccuracies. Widely published articles have revealed ChatGPT responses that are dead wrong.

Khoury said SOCi’s platform currently requires human review before responses are published, to ensure that inaccurate or misguided responses don’t reach the customer.

Extensive Testing

“As with any AI model, SOCi conducts extensive testing and sampling both internally, programmatically as well as with alpha and beta customers to continue to refine our models, prompts, context feeds, and filters,” Khoury said. “SOCi has also developed compliance features and other safeguards, such as approval processes to ensure that certain terms and phrases are never used and flagged prior to distribution.”

In addition to its investment in AI technology, SOCi will use the funding to expand into new markets, including manufactured goods.

The new funding round was led by JMI Equity (JMI) a growth equity firm focused on investing in leading enterprise software companies, with participation from Vertical Venture Partners, (VVP), Blossom Street Ventures and Renew Group Private Limited, owner of 5-hour Energy International.

Before this latest round, SOCi had raised approximately $110M in funding.

SOCi, Inc.
FOUNDED: 2012
FOUNDER AND CEO: Afif Khoury
HEADQUARTERS: San Diego
EMPLOYEES: More than 600 (including contractors)
WEBSITE: meetsoci.com
CONTACT: (858) 225-4110
NOTABLE: SOCi has received recognitions including Deloitte Technology Fast 500, Forbes’ America’s Best Startup Employers list and The Financial Times’ List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies.

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