SAN ANTONIO, TX: The best artificial intelligence (AI) systems extract insights from extremely large datasets. What if AI could tell a company which customers were ready to buy specific services or products, searching across all social data, including social media posts, regardless of platform or forum?
Co-founder Sridhar Kamma created the first automated sales funnel company to use AI. FunnelAI provides companies targeted data on potential customers who post about their readiness to buy certain products or services, down to their ZIP code. FunnelAI’s algorithm can sort through millions of social data posts daily, generating sales leads for many different types of companies.
Kamma, who is a mechanical engineer and data scientist, found himself looking online for prospects when working on his prior startup since he lacked social media advertising or content marketing expertise.
“There’s a lot of noise in social posts and looking for the intent to purchase was taking too much time,” Kamma said. “I have a background in AI and decided to build an AI model to search for intentional, real-time social data leads on prospective customers looking for specific products or services.”
Sridhar Kamma first built Apposphere, a cloud-based app for businesses that bundled 10 different applications into one to address every part of the business lifecycle, from customer relations management (CRM) to billing. One of its applications was the AI-fueled generation of new customer prospects.
RealCo accelerator co-founder Michael Girdley saw Kamma pitch Apposphere in Austin and encouraged him to pivot the startup to focus on the AI-generated customer leads. The result was Aingines, the proprietary software algorithm that forms the foundation for FunnelAI.
Kamma co-founded FunnelAI with his sister Sujatha Kamma who is also an investor. Sujatha is chief operations officer with Sridhar serving as the chief executive officer. Suman Poluri is the third co-founder, joining FunnelAI in 2017 to lead the coding team.
“Sri saw a pain point, how the conversion rate from interest to purchase was very low with traditional approaches,” Sujatha Kamma said. “FunnelAI provides leads with a high conversion rate for customers.”
After more conversations with Girdley, Kamma moved from Austin to San Antonio in May 2017 and renamed his startup FunnelAI, becoming the third company to join RealCo’s cohort.
“Every company is trying to reach millennials and FunnelAI has figured out how to do that,” Girdley said. “The secret is the millennials are speaking—just no one was listening.”
FunnelAI’s proprietary algorithm can distinguish between someone complaining or asking for advice on a purchasing decision. The software scans posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Craigslist, and multiple forums, running in real time as it focuses on specific metropolitan areas. ZIP code generated leads will be available by summer, as well as leads from customers’ image searches.
The startup is in the process of securing a strategic partnership with VinSolutions, a CRM software provider for car dealerships, and is looking to work with Edmunds, a car research website and independent auto dealers, as well as real estate agents in San Antonio and Austin. Other potential markets for FunnelAI include health insurance, fitness companies, and companies manufacturing health products.
“Others use conventional methods, like keyword searches from social media, Facebook leads, and Google Adwords,” Kamma said. “We want to create a streamlined AI platform where we tell businesses and customers the intended audiences looking for a particular product or services in real time.”
Companies leverage AI to analyze its marketing data for more targeted information to find potential new customers, using services from near-competitors like Node to find new leads based on data the company already has. Social media companies like Facebook may also be the startup’s biggest competition if each roll out something similar in the coming years, but San Antonio investor Pat Matthews thinks they are not comparable.
“One important macro trend right now is that typical lead gen sources for everyday businesses are tapped out,” said Matthews, who has funded FunnelAI. “Facebook and Google only work for the largest companies, or companies with very specific offers, who can bid the most money for keywords and impressions. There is only so much keyword inventory or ad impression inventory.”
RealCo’s Micro Venture Capital fund has invested $125,000 in FunnelAI and the company’s co-founders are now connected to the local mentorship network. A seed fundraising round before its Series A is estimated to bring in about $500,000 for AI engineers and staff for sales and marketing to help scale the business. FunnelAI was selected out of 520 applicants to participate in MassChallenge’s first cohort in its first Texas-based accelerator. Kamma will also be a panelist for the Fund Conference in Austin April 26, which connects entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, and industry experts to startups.
With so many larger tech companies moving to Austin, finding tech talent is becoming more of a challenge for startups there, according to Kamma. The transition from Austin to San Antonio has been “a pleasant surprise” since FunnelAI joined RealCo.
“In San Antonio we were able to hire talent from Codeup,” Kamma said. “Realco had a really good tailored program for our company—we’ve gotten connected to so many people here. I was introduced to many local investors, something I was not able to find in Austin, which is saturated and the competition is fierce.
The featured image shows the FunnelAI team. Standing are co-founder Sridhar Kamma, co-founder Suman Poluri, and Larry Gonzales. Seated are co-founder Sujatha Kamma and Vivian Canales. Gonzales and Canales are full stack developers and Codeup graduates. Courtesy FunnelAI photo.