Investec, Crossfin concludes Series-A round with SA chatbot service Atura

Atura, an automated chatbot for asset management companies, has landed an undisclosed Series-A investment from Blue Garnet Ventures, an investment company that counts Investec and local investment fund Crossfin among others as investors. Crossfin has the majority share in Blue Garnet.

The deal was confirmed earlier this week by Atura CEO Paul Cartmel. Atura is a separate company owned by Cape Town software firm New Media Labs (NML), which was founded in 2007.

Cartmel told Ventureburn in an email yesterday that the deal was signed last Friday (7 September).

While he declined to disclose the amount invested, he said Blue Garnet Ventures’ will take a 10% stake in Atura in a Series-A round.

“I would prefer not to mention the value of the investment as it will create some confusion with other potential investors who offered better terms, (which) we didn’t think was as good a fit as Crossfin,” he added.

Atura’s current clients are Nedgroup Investments, Nedbank Insurance, Direct Axis and 10X, he said.

Investec’s investment is to fund a chatbot designed by Atura and was built to handle frequent call centre queries and to facilitate investment instructions

The chatbot has been built handle frequent call centre queries and to facilitate investment instructions for both direct clients and financial planners.

It is utilised by Nedbank under the name “My Extraordinary Life”. Earlier this year won the 2018 Banker Tech Project of the Year in the category ­Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (see this announcement).

Cartmel said the chatbot can save the client 90% of their call centre cost. “Said another way we charge per conversational session and these sessions cost one tenth of what a call centre conversational session is,” he added.

He said other added benefits include increased lead generation and a higher percentage of completed applications in quoting (in regards to insurance) or for robotic advice (for investments or for personal loans applications).

‘Chatbot will complement fintech solutions’

In an emailed statement yesterday, Crossfin COO Anton Gaylard said Blue Garnet Ventures’ took the decision to invest in Atura because it believes that future fintech, payments and transactional solutions will be augmented by AI-enabled bots and robo-advisors.

“By facilitating smoother social commerce and payment transactions, these tools will complement fintech solutions and improve the efficiency of the collection of loans, insurance and investment premiums among a host of other payment interactions.

He said the investment would create synergies with Crossfin’s broader fintech portfolio both in South Africa and across the continent.

“We chose to back Paul and his team for their expertise and knowledge in this space, as well as a track record of success in their ventures under New Media Labs,” he added.

‘Deal not part of Investec Emerging Companies’

In a call with Ventureburn yesterday, Gaylard clarified that the Atura investment does not form part of Investec Emerging Companies’ mandate to invest in three or four early-stage SA fintech startups through Blue Garnet Ventures, which was announced in July (see this story).

Gaylard said Blue Garnet Ventures’ mandate in general is to invest in very early-stage fintech companies and pointed out that Investec’s mandate through the initiative announced in July would be for fintech companies at a slightly later stage than this.

*Correction (17 September 2018): We incorrectly referred to Blue Garnet Ventures as Blue Garnet Investments. We regret the error.

Editor’s note (18 September 2018): Ventureburn asked what Blue Garnet Venture’s Andre Fourie to provide the equity holding that Crossfin and Investec has in Blue Garnet Ventures, as well as a full list of investors that make up the third stake.

Fourie responded saying that Crossfin is the majority shareholder in Blue Garnet Ventures, with Investec taking “a smaller equity stake”.



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