AI2 spin-out BirchAI lands $3.1M for healthcare customer support platform

CEO and co-founder of BirchAI, Kevin Terrell. (Photo BirchAI)

A new spin-out from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, BirchAI, has landed $3.1 million in seed funding for its software to streamline customer support for healthcare companies.

The software summarizes and analyzes the content of telephone conversations between customers and representatives. The Seattle startup focuses on medical devices, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.

BirchAI aims to cover “those expensive calls where people spend a lot of time after the call documenting what they just did,” CEO Kevin Terrell said in an interview with GeekWire.

In many healthcare companies, highly skilled employees spend as much time talking to patients and other customers as they do summarizing every interaction. BirchAI instead saves time by creating a summary document after listening to the call. The employee can modify the document if necessary.

“It’s a rewarding opportunity for employees as they get rid of work they don’t want to do,” Terrell said. “It also allows employees to focus more on the conversation. So, ultimately: patient satisfaction.

Terrell co-founded the company in June 2020 with Austin-based CTO Yinhan Liu and COO Sumant Kawale.

The trio previously worked at SparkCognition, an AI-focused startup where Terrell led business development for healthcare, Liu was a research scientist, and Kawale was vice president of customer success and partnerships.

Terrell and Liu had first met even earlier, when he was working in healthcare marketing at McKinsey & Company and seeking guidance on the business side of technology during her junior high. undergraduate at the University of Minnesota.

Liu went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and mathematics and a master’s degree in operations science. Before founding BirchAI, she worked in Seattle at Facebook AI Research, where she was the first author of a study on a now widely used deep learning model called RoBERTa.

BirchAI CTO and co-founder Yinhan Liu. (Photo BirchAI)

“It was the first work that really showed itself equal to human or better on a number of NLP tasks,” Terrell said, referring to natural language processing, which applies computational methods to extract meaning. texts. Liu is an “NLP rock star,” Terrell said.

Both Terrell and Liu joined AI2 in 2020 as Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, where they hatched the idea for BirchAI.

“NLP had gotten to the point where it could start solving some of these complex unstructured problems in healthcare,” Terrell said, “There’s unstructured data everywhere in healthcare.”

This has led a number of companies to apply NLP to areas such as medical records and billing. Amazon Comprehend Medical, for example, provides a service to extract health data from doctors’ notes, clinical trial reports, and patient health records. Seattle-based 98point6 uses NLP in its products to increase efficiency in healthcare. Another Seattle-based startup, Saykara, with software to document doctor-patient conversations, was acquired by Nuance in February.

BirchAI targets a unique segment of the healthcare market, Terrell said. “We haven’t seen anyone in this space doing what we’re doing right now. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t [companies] these kinds of things look alike. Uniphore, for example, makes tools to improve call center interactions.

BirchAI has two Fortune 500 clients, one in the medical device industry and the other an insurance company, and brought in “a couple hundred thousand dollars” in revenue last year, Terrell said.

The startup’s software can also analyze datasets of customer conversations for information such as product defects. It’s a task well suited to one of the company’s goals, which is to move into post-marketing surveillance for pharmaceutical companies, which are increasingly required to monitor the effects of products after approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

BirchAI COO and co-founder Sumant Kawale. (Photo BirchAI)

Terrell recently moved to the Seattle area from Minneapolis, where he also co-founded the small nonprofit, Start Reading Now, which helps low-income children build up a small library of books.

The new funds will allow BirchAI to grow and increase hiring. New engineers would ideally be in the Seattle area, Terrell said. “It really works to our advantage to have everyone in the room. But we will see,” he said. The company is currently based at AI2, which provided $500,000 in pre-seed funding for the company.

AI2’s incubator matches entrepreneurs with tech co-founders to build AI startups and announced in 2020 a $10 million fund to power spin-off companies. Other recent AI spin-outs include cell therapy company Modulus Therapeutics and MajorBoost, which aims to help medical providers manage time-consuming calls to health insurance providers.

BirchAI’s name was inspired by the historic use of birch bark as a writing surface.

The funding round was led by Radical Ventures. In addition to Radical and AI2, backers include Flare Capital Partners and WRF Capital.

Joseph P. Harris