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Announcing our investment in augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) leader TechSee.

“Look for an LED on the back of the router. What color is it?”

“It’s blinking red.”

“Ok, try this…”

We all know how deeply frustrating it can be to help someone troubleshoot a technology problem over the phone. Patience wears thin quickly when you can’t see what they’re seeing.

The world’s 14.5 million call center agents know all about this challenge. Wireless carriers, cable companies, insurers, and other service providers manage extensive (and costly) customer support infrastructure that does everything possible to prevent customer dissatisfaction. Frustrated customers are more likely to return products, change service providers, and complain about their bad experiences to anyone who will listen. Margins and brand equity suffer greatly.

Tel Aviv-based TechSee is changing these dynamics. The company has developed the first cognitive visual customer assistance platform powered by computer vision AI and AR. The system lets consumers troubleshoot and onboard visually on their smartphones screens via guidance provided by human experts or visual tech assistants. Today we’re announcing that ScaleVP will lead TechSee’s $16 million Series B funding round.

Consumers and service providers struggle against device complexity

Each generation of consumer products delivers new features and expanded capabilities, whether you’re talking about smartphones or “smart” appliances or networking equipment. Yet for many consumers, “new and improved” represents added complexity for setup and use. And not just in consumer electronics but in market segments as diverse as retail and ecommerce, automobiles, and even self-assembled furniture.

In the U.S., all of this complexity and confusion requires an army of 2.8 million customer service reps who field billions of support calls annually. For device manufacturers and service providers, those support calls are a critical first line of defense against two very costly escalations: field service visits (a technician dispatched to resolve the issue onsite) and product returns.

The average field service visit costs $100 to $175 per dispatch, with 24% of dispatches requiring one or more follow-up visits. The product return picture is no better: consumers return $642 billion of products annually, forcing retailers to devote 2 to 3% of sales to managing returns; for manufacturers, the figure is 5 to 6%. Accenture determined that No Trouble Found (NTF) returns account for 68% of all consumer electronics returns. These are returns where the product is found to have no manufacturing defects, yet incurs costs for receiving, testing, reboxing, restocking, and reselling.

All of which underscores how important it is to successfully resolve a customer’s initial support request. That’s where TechSee comes in.

Another set of eyes on the problem

TechSee’s first product is a visual customer assistance application called TechSee Live. Using proprietary computer vision and AR technology, the application bridges the gap between what a customer sees and what the agent sees. The application gives customer service representatives new visibility to troubleshoot issues during phone and chat sessions. The TechSee Live product suite has dedicated versions for contact centers and field services.

Under the hood, TechSee Live is powered by a deep learning computer vision (CV) system trained on a device database with millions of images covering thousands of products, collected by contact centers every day, creating the world’s largest repository of visual tech issues. The company leverages AI to both improve its image recognition capabilities as well as to learn how to resolve common troubleshooting scenarios. Every time a support call is resolved with TechSee Live, the system gets a little bit smarter.

Already, more than 15,000 reps at companies as diverse as Vodafone, Nespresso, and Liberty Global rely on TechSee for streamlined call center operations. Data shows that TechSee Live deployments improve customer experience (as measured by net promoter score) by enhancing agents’ knowledge, reducing customer effort, and improving resolution rates.

Well-positioned for long-term growth

The TechSee team is led by CEO Eitan Cohen and a deep bench of experienced executives including COO and Co-Founder Amir Yoffe and Chief Scientist and Co-Founder Prof. Gabby Sarusi. The company is well-positioned in the near term to sell TechSee Live into additional reps and service providers. Longer term, the company’s AR and CV technologies allow it to move into new areas, like a visual tech assistant product that can revolutionize self-service activities like guided unboxing and setup. All of which adds up to significant improvements in customer experiences: no more frustrating troubleshooting calls, no more waiting for technicians to arrive, no more struggling to understand an instruction manual.

We are pleased to welcome TechSee to the Scale Venture Partners portfolio and look forward to seeing great things from the team.

Jeremy Kaufmann contributed to this blog post.

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