What our new funding means for our developer community

TL;DR:

  • We’ll double-down on open source, new developer tools and machine learning research to build the standard infrastructure layer for conversational AI
  • We’ll open an office in San Francisco to help us be closer to our community in North and South America.

Today, we’re excited to share the news about our $13m Series A funding led by Accel (coverage on Techcrunch here) and want to explain what that means for our developer community.

From project to company

When we first open-sourced NLU in December 2016, Rasa was a growing project on Github, with a small, active community of early enthusiasts. Within months, we were blown away by how many developers picked it up, worked with it to use (and improve!) the code, and spread the word.

Fast forward to today, we have more than half a million downloads for our tools, thousands of community members (3,500+ in our forum alone) and more than 300 contributors.

Rasa turned from a project into a company, and we’re delighted to be able to champion open source in such an important space.

We wouldn’t be where it is now without some incredible groups of supporters. It is still the start of our journey, but we’d like to take a step back and say thanks to:

  • YOU: Our amazing developer community who spend endless hours improving our tools and supporting each other. Developers will always be at the heart of what we do and we’re very excited that so many of you have actively contributed — from small to large PRs; from writing a first tutorial to running entire local communities.
  • Early customers: We know that there are hundreds of conversational AI tools out there, and it’s a special feeling when smart people share our vision and turn it into real results. From startups like Talkspace (thanks Bonnie & Nick!) to hundred-year-old insurance companies like Helvetia (thanks Florian!) and many others.
  • The Rasa team: It is incredible to watch how fast everyone is learning on the team — we’ve brought together a unique team of smart and ambitious people, and we’re stoked to have had talented people support us from the earliest days. It is great to know that the folks that are working so hard to make our mission a reality are also such great humans!
  • Early investors: Matthaus has been with us since the very beginning of Rasa and instrumental in helping us find product-market fit. Lan and the entire Basis Set Ventures team have been incredible seed investors, as well as our early angel investors and advisors Ross, John, Jens @ Angel Invest Ventures, Cat, Steffen, Phil, Andy, Michael, Julian, James and Christian.

To all of you: thank you for believing in our mission and putting your trust in us.

Why we raised money

Growing the team has changed how we organize things, but what drives us is the same:

We want to empower all makers to create AI assistants that work for everyone.

We believe that the open core model is the best way to achieve this mission: having a strong open-source framework for the majority of developers, with premium features on top to support large companies run our tools at scale. In the last 18 months, we’ve proven that this model works for us and felt that now was a good time to double down.

We’re extremely excited that we have found the right partners who believe in our mission, our open-source approach, and are with us for the long run:

  • Our lead investor Accel has a track record of investing early in developer-focused companies like Atlassian, Cloudera, and Segment, and has been supporting them for a long time. We’re looking forward to working closely with Andrei Brasoveanu and Kevin Comolli, who ask great questions and have strong conviction.
  • Mango Capital is also joining this round, leveraging Robin Vasan’s 15+ years’ experience investing in open source.
  • We’re also welcoming great new angel investors who we have built successful companies in open source, AI and enterprise automation: Mitchell Hashimoto (Founder & CTO @ Hashicorp), Paul Dix (Co-founder & CTO @ InfluxData), Florian Leibert (Founder @ Mesosphere), Greg Brockman (Co-founder & CTO @ OpenAI), Daniel Dines (Founder & CEO @ UI Path), and Alex Rinke (Co-founder & Co-CEO @ Celonis).

So what are we going to do with $13m?

Chatbots and AI assistants have the potential to fundamentally change how we interact with machines. For that to happen, the underlying tools for developers need to get much better. We are building the standard infrastructure layer for conversational AI that allows all makers to create the best text- and voice-based AI assistants. This takes time and resources, so we’ll invest in two major areas:

  1. Research & development: AI assistants are still early and a lot of things have to be invented to get to level 5 — this is not only a machine-learning but an engineering, product, and design challenge as well. We’re fully committed to further improving our open-source framework and giving developers new tools to build better contextual assistants.
  2. San Francisco office: We started Rasa in Alex’s kitchen in Berlin, and over the last few years our community has been growing all over the world. A large chunk of that community and many customers are based in North and South America; that’s why we decided to move our commercial HQ to San Francisco to serve them better. We’re not abandoning Europe, though! We’ll continue to significantly grow our presence in Berlin.

We know that the road ahead is not easy. In fact, it’s a really hard and long undertaking. But we believe that we’re on the right track and with such a great community, anything is possible. Do you want to be part of this story? We’re hiring and have some open issues on Github! :-)

Alan, Alex and whole Rasa team


Originally published at blog.rasa.com on April 11, 2019.