Californian tech firm Rasa to open R&D base in Edinburgh

A burgeoning conversational artificial intelligence (AI) firm that helps drive voice and text assistants for major global firms has chosen Edinburgh for its new research and development (R&D) hub and completed a major funding round.

The team at Rasa, which is based in San Francisco and already has an R&D hub in Berlin. Picture: contributed.

Rasa Technologies has signed up Adam Lopez, a researcher from the University of Edinburgh, who brings two decades of solving hard problems in natural language processing (NLP). He will lead the new Rasa technology hub in the Scottish capital, and he joins its research efforts on 1 July.

The firm, which is based in San Francisco and has an R&D hub in Berlin, says it is used by developers working in organisations of every size, including six of the world’s top ten banks, and five of both the largest ten global telecommunications and insurance companies. It says it stands out by offering a “resilient, fully contextual” assistant rather than a “simplistic” chatbot.

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From left: Rasa co-founders Alex Weidauer and Alan Nichol. Picture: contributed.

Lopez said: “Rasa is making the best conversational AI technology available to everyone, while ensuring data can remain private. I look forward to building a team in Edinburgh to further that mission.”

Scottish trade, investment and innovation minister Ivan McKee welcomed Rasa choosing Edinburgh for its new R&D hub. “Rasa is a major player in [AI] and a company committed to diversity,” he added.

“The City Region Deal’s Data-Driven Innovation programme, partly funded by the Scottish Government, aims to establish Edinburgh as the data capital of Europe. We hope that the Edinburgh city region will continue to attract even more talent and investment like this to help achieve that ambition.”

Rasa unveiled its plans to move into the Scottish capital alongside news of the completion of a Series B financing round totalling $26 million (£21m), led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and including participation from the latter’s Cultural Leadership Fund, a strategic fund designed to bring African-American cultural leaders onto the cap tables of new technology companies.

The round brings Rasa’s total funding to $40m, including a Series A completed in 2019. It aims to use the latest funding to invest in continuing growth in its open source and other products, AI research, developer and community education, and to better serve its growing commercial customer base.

It flags “enormous” growth in product usage in the past 14 months since its last round of funding, with six-fold growth in software downloads to more than 3 million, and tripled community membership, for example. Rasa works with product teams at firms such as Deutsche Telekom, Adobe, BMW, Airbus, Engie, HCA Healthcare, and Orange.

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