kea began with a simple mission: enabling businesses to never miss a call.
Our story began back in the summer of 2017 at a franchise convention in Las Vegas. I was pitching a labor optimization app and getting as many franchisees excited about what we were doing to help solve their labor shortage challenges. What we were doing was helpful but extremely challenging, especially when the restaurant labor market was significantly understaffed already.
As I sat down after a long day of presenting, I went to a panel called “Optimizing your Labor” led by a franchisee. He was talking about how much revenue they lost. “We’re losing 30–40% of revenue because we don’t pick up the phone to take orders. Our cashiers are either cooking the food or putting people on hold all the time, especially during peak times.”
And that was the lightbulb moment.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I chatted with over 50 franchisees all over the Bay Area and Los Angeles — and kept hearing the same thing over and over again: picking up every phone call is tough.
At the same time, I remembered my experiences of patiently waiting on hold calling up my favorite pizza place and would always be put on hold for several minutes to reach the restaurant. So, I decided to get creative and got a franchisee to simply forward his restaurants calls to me.
A week went by and I increased the restaurants phone sales by 19% by manually entering in the orders online.
August 24th, 2017 kea was born.
Local franchisees that knew the franchisee caught wind of the service and quickly started signing up and all of a sudden there was a backlog to fill. I brought on my close friend, Arjun Vasan to build the next generation version of kea, which aimed to automate the whole conversation flow without human interaction. We’d place orders day and night (and still do!) to learn how customers ordered, studied specific ways to up-sell, and created an experience designed to work with any restaurant that does carryout or delivery.
Since then, the team at kea has been working insanely hard to do everything we can to provide the best phone call experience: from hiring agents, working with restaurants, delighting customers to building out our complex, conversational AI system.
When we first started, we were trying to solve our own problem of not having to wait on hold. But soon, we realized that this is a problem faced with many customers. When we answer the phone right away and take the order fast, it’s as much about delivering happiness as it is about bringing convenience.
Ultimately, our vision is to build the Google Duplex for Business. We are a voice company more so than a food company. We help small businesses grow, we give underemployed people meaningful work, and we offer expected convenience to consumers. We’re tackling some of the most difficult linguistic challenges that come with speech to transaction — both in engineering and in operations.
In the mean time, we’re excited to announce that we raised our $2.8 million seed round from a terrific group of investors that includes: Streamlined Ventures (Ullas Naik — former founder, Cota Capital), xFund (Brandon Farwell and Patrick Chung), DEEPCORE, Softbank AI fund (Katsumasa Niki), Superangel (Rain Rannu), Craig Flom (Founding Team, Panera Bread), Dustin Dolginow (AngelList), Raj Kapoor (Chief Strategy Officer, Lyft), Tony Lam (Maven’s Creamery), and Tyler Willis (CEO, Unsupervised).
We’re looking to expand the founding team and grow into new cities. We want people who are excited about our mission to empower small businesses and build out the world’s first real-time voice fulfillment company. Let us know if you’re interested in joining us.
More to come!
Adam and Arjun