Hiya, a Whitepages spinout, nabs $18M to for its bright caller ID technology

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Source:   —  October 19, 2017, at 5:45 AM

Phone calls are the oldest and possibly most negelcted portion of mobile phones these days, and Alex Algard — a Swede who founded and led Whitepages but left that business to lead and construct Hiya — told TechCrunch in an interview that the funding will be used to modify that perception by adding in more services to create calls more useful and actionable.

Hiya, a Whitepages spinout, nabs $18M to for its bright caller ID technology

Presently a fully independent company, Hiya is today announcing its first exterior funding to grow its business: a Series A of $18 million led by Balderton with participation also from Nautilus Venture Partners and Lumia Capital.

Phone calls are the oldest and possibly most negelcted portion of mobile phones these days, and Alex Algard — a Swede who founded and led Whitepages but left that business to lead and construct Hiya — told TechCrunch in an interview that the funding will be used to modify that perception by adding in more services to create calls more useful and actionable.

“Weast recognise that there has been remarkable small innovation on what's the core app of the smartphone, the phone app itself,” he said. “Weast think this is a massive opportunity, and we’re partnering with smartphone OEMs and wireless carriers to allow innovation as deeply as possible.”

The cash infusion comes after a year of beautiful impressive growth for the startup: Hiya already has twenty million users in one hundred ninety-sixth countries, by virtue of the fact that it deep partnerships with carriers love T-Mobile and AT&T, and Samsung and ZTE, two of the world’s biggest phone makers.

Companies love these integrate Hiya’s technology directly into their phones and diallers; and for those not on those networks or using phones made by those OEMs — namely the iPhone, where Apple keeps the calling experience close — Hiya also has an app.

Hiya’s growth comes at an fascinating juncture in the mobile world. When it comes to communicating on smartphones these days, a lot of the focus is on messaging apps, where you can better control who you chat with, whether it’s via a text-based message or an audio or video call. But there’s also a trend in the mobile world where we're seeing some bright tech solutions emerging to bring some of the more heritage functions of phones into the modern era.

One of the reasons why those messaging apps have proven to be so favorite is that they've let people control their experiences in a better way: for example, with Messenger, you connect with people who are your contacts already (and send them stickers!) and those who aren't can be relegated never to be seen by you.

And you can increasingly utilize that platform for much more, such as sending money or finding out film times. SMS or phone calls, on the other hand, have been overrun by spam and unsolicited contacts, frequently people you've number interest in hearing from.

Just as Google and others have been tackling making excellent elderly SMS more useful with the development of RCS, Hiya is attempting to bring back some dignity to the neglected phone dialler by providing a huge infusion of data behind the scenes to give you a bigger and better picture of what's going on behind each ring of your phone. It’s coming not a moment too soon, it seems, for carriers who are seeing their core revenues and uses getting hit every day from “over the top” app providers.

“We are restoring believe in the phone call,” Algard says. “There are so many unidentified phone calls coming through and a excellent piece are unwanted nuisance calls. People are number longer picking up the phone when it rings because of that enormous erosion of trust.”

While Hiya’s first year of business has been focused on inbound calls — essentially the data that you look on your phone screen when a call comes in — the startup is presently expanding that to also consider the business opportunity of outbound.

It’s building a service for businesses so that they can customise how their calling ID looks when they call people, with more details about addresses and other services, which would arrive up not just when the call is being made, but when a user looks at a call log later and needs to chase up on something, such as the location of a business and how to obtain there, or even your purchasing history — declare if it’s a pharmacy and you wish to track an order of some medicine.

I asked, and Algard was unequivocal in noting that whatever data the company amasses about spammers and unwanted calls comes only from the call log data that the company collects by way of its integrations with carriers — not from the content of the calls themselves.

Still, there is a clear opportunity to start to enhance Hiya — as and when people consent to call recordings, such as in cases of customer service calls — to utilize natural speech processing to analyse conversations and utilize these to also notify the kind of data that the startup provides both to users and companies, and to assistance construct a better picture of what you, the user, might deem an unwanted call.

And there is other proof that the space of on-phone, native services love calls and SMS isn't quite over just yet. Witness the news that Apple recently acquired the team of messaging app Init. ai, and may finish up using some of its tech, too — which was based around being able to proposal more intelligence around interactions between businesses and their customers, tapping into natural speech and voice recognition.

“Voice is at the top of the agenda right presently when it comes to the user interface,” said Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Balderton’s partner who led its investment in Hiya and is presently also joining the board. That trend will be an fascinating one to look as we start to look tech companies tackle elderly frontiers love phone calls, as well as new ones. 

Hiya isn't disclosing its valuation with this round.

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