Hiya, which was spun out by Whitepages a year ago, announced its first outside funding: a Series A of $18 million led by Balderton Capital, with participation from Nautilus Venture Partners and Lumia Capital.
The Seattle-based Hiya uses machine learning analytics on a vast database of calling data (3.5 billion calls to date) to provide detailed information about who is calling you.
Alex Algard – who founded and led Whitepages but left to lead and build Hiya – told TechCrunch that the funding will be used to add more services to make calls more useful and actionable.
“We recognize that there has been remarkable little innovation on what is the core app of the smartphone, the phone app itself,” he said. “We think this is a massive opportunity, and we’re partnering with smartphone OEMs and wireless carriers to provide innovation as deeply as possible.”
Hiya has leveraged partnerships with carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, Samsung and ZTE to amass 20 million users in 196 countries. The companies integrate Hiya’s technology directly into select models of their phones and dialers; for those not on those networks and using phones made by those OEMs – namely the iPhone – Hiya also has an app.
“We are restoring trust in the phone call,” Algard says. “There are so many unidentified phone calls coming through, and a good portion are unwanted nuisance calls. People are no longer picking up the phone when it rings because of that enormous erosion of trust.”
While Hiya’s first year was focused on inbound calls, the company is now considering the business opportunity of outbound calls. It’s also building a service to enable businesses to customize how their caller ID looks when they place calls, with more details about addresses and other services.
There is also the opportunity to use natural language processing to analyze conversations and help build a better picture of what the user might deem to be an unwanted call.
“Voice is at the top of the agenda right now when it comes to the user interface,” said Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Balderton’s partner who led its investment in Hiya and is now also joining the board.