Deals: Luka, with $4.42 million in Series A, releases AI-powered chat bots

By Jordan Crook for Techcrunch

Just in time for the chat bot craze, Startup Battlefield alum Luka is enhancing its AI-powered messaging service with a variety of smart bots to help users get whatever they desire.

Luka originally launched as a Yelp competitor, all done over text. Users could ask Luka, via chat, about where they should go to eat, whether reservations were available, and recommended dishes.

The company has long had plans to expand beyond food, and the uptick in chat bots has provided a perfect path by which to execute the expansion plan.

With today’s launch, Luka will remain as the main operator of the service, connecting users with various bots depending on their desires.

Users can still ask restaurant-based questions, but Luka will also connect users with a bot for weather reports, news reports, bots to help you find images and gifs, bots that play adventure games, and trivia game bots.

What’s more interesting is that users don’t have to ask specifically for the bot they want, but simply explain their needs and desires to Luka, who will understand and make the right connection.

For example, the user could say “I’m bored” and Luka would pass the conversation off to a game-based bot so the user can play a game.

Cofounder and CEO Eugenia Kuyda said the company will eventually open up the platform to third-party developers, but for now the team wants to ensure that all the bots are of the highest quality.

“The challenge is that people don’t really use bots yet,” said Kuyda. “We’re trying to make that experience as natural and helpful as possible so that people start using bots more.”

The Luka app is also integrating a bot interface, complete with widgets and shortcuts, so that the process of asking for what you want doesn’t get too tiresome. For example, if you know you want to play a specific game or get the weather report, Luka will allow you to select that bot with a single tap instead of asking Luka to connect you.

The company is also announcing the close of a $4.42 million Series A led by Sherpa Capital, with participation from Y Combinator, Ludlow Ventures, and Justin Waldron.

You can learn more about Luka right here.