If you’re struggling to come up with a good gift idea for a customer or prospect, Boston startup Alyce thinks it has a solution for your: artificial intelligence.
Founded by serial entrepreneur Greg Segall, Alyce is a corporate gifting software platform that uses AI to help identify the “perfect gift” by analyzing the recipient’s social media accounts and other publicly available data. By looking at text and images from these sources, the AI can pick up on behaviors to determine gift preferences.
“Our AI can tell you whether or not that person is seen drinking in a picture,” Segall told BostInno in a recent interview. If someone isn’t seen drinking in any photos, the platform will likely hold off from recommending a bottle of wine as a gift. Segall said the AI is human-assisted, meaning that agents at the company will check the machine’s findings for every recipient and validate whether they’re correct, helping it learn over time.
Alyce sources its gifts, which range from products to services and experiences, from a number of merchants, including The Grommet and UncommonGoods. And unlike a normal gift, the recipient receives either an email or a physical note that gives them the option to either redeem the gift, select something else from Alyce’s platform or donate it to charity.
So what’s the big deal? Corporate gifting is a $120 billion market, Segall said, and companies are struggling to find ways to send the right gifts to prospects and customers in a way that is repeatable and scalable. They also don’t have a way to measure the return on investment for gifts, which can be significant if done at the right time. These realizations came from a survey Alyce conducted with over 500 businesses last year.
Since Alyce launched last year, it has already attracted over 300 customers in the United States and Canada, including Lenovo and InVision. Segall said these companies have seen a hit rate of 12.5 percent with prospects and customers, which is higher than the 2-3 percent hit rate sales professionals see when they make cold calls. Part of what helps that is that Alyce integrates with Salesforce so that it can, for instance, time the sending of a gift ahead of a contract renewal that is coming due.
To capitalize on its early traction, Alyce announced on Tuesday that it has raised a $5.3 million round led by Boston Seed Capital, with participation from Founder Collective, General Catalyst, Manifest Investment Partners and Golden Venture Partners. The funding will be used to hire key executives, expand the capabilities of hits platform and accelerate growth.
“This is a very large opportunity,” Segall said. “For us, it really comes down to our belief that we can turn into one of those communication channels for prospects and customers.”