SightCall Raises $42 Million for AR-Based Remote Assistance Platform
The startup SightCall developed an augmented reality platform to assist field service teams, their companies, and customers to carry out technical and mechanical maintenance and repairs in a more efficient way. The company has now announced a $42 million in funding that the startup plans to invest in its tech stack with additional AI tools and in expanding its customer base.
SightCall co-founder and CEO Thomas Cottereau explained that the startup’s core of service is Augmented Reality technology that is embedded in their apps or the service apps used by its customers together with integrations into other standard software that are used by customer service environments such as SAP, Microsoft, Salesforce, and ServiceNow. The AR experience overlays extra information, pointers as well as other videos over the video stream.
This can, for instance, be used by field service engineers to coordinate with central offices during equipment servicing. It can also be used by manufacturers to give better assistance to customers during emergencies. The technology can be used in situations in which something isn’t working and could easily be fixed quickly by the customers themselves without engineers being called out. The tech can also be used by call centers aided by AI to diagnose problems for customers. This could represent a great leap forward for scenarios that have previously relied on work orders, hastily drawn diagrams, instruction manuals, or in-voice-based descriptions to solve some problem in question. According to Cottereau, SightCall aims to be the link between field service organizations and their customers.
The technology is unique to SightCall and has been developed over several years. The platform has been designed for use via simple smartphones as well as over a basic mobile network. This works even in areas where there is poor reception or in remote locations.
SightCall was originally founded in Paris but later relocated to San Francisco. The company already has extensive business across many verticals including telecoms, insurance, transportation, manufacturing, telehealth, utilities as well as in life sciences or medical devices.
SightCall already has 200 big-name enterprise clients, amongst them Allianz, Lincoln Motor Company, and Kraft-Heinz, and offers services both B2B as well as for teams working in the field for consumers. In 2019 and 2020, SightCall saw a 100% year-over-year growth in annual recurring revenue. According to SightCall CEO, the company will also hit this rate this year with a $100 million annual recurring revenue goal.
The SightCall funding round was led by the European private equity firm InfraVia. Also participating was Bpifrance. The company did not disclose the valuation during this funding round.
InfraVia has also invested in various other industrial businesses as well as strategic investments in other tech companies that are building services that are related to those of the industrial businesses it has poured money into. One such company is Jobandtalent. SightCall has so to date raised $67 million.
In recent years, several startups have emerged that are building out a tech stack used by people working on the frontlines in the field. This represents a gradual shift from years of knowledge workers being given the most attention and priority by startups building new generation apps.
For instance, Jobber and Workiz are developing platforms for small business tradespeople where they can book jobs and also manage them after they are on the books. There is also BigChange which allows users to manage bigger fleets or Hover which is a builder’s platform where they can assess and estimate the cost for work by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze the images captured by their or prospective customers’ smartphone cameras.
Another interesting platform is Streem. Last year, it was acquired by Frontdoor to assist with the latter’s bid to develop its own home services businesses.
However, what sets SightCall apart is the technology it leverages. SightCall was co-founded in 2007 by Antoine Vervoot and Cottereau. The two co-founders are telecom industry veterans who have both previously worked on the technical side of developing next-generation networks.
SightCall began as Weemo which built video chat services capable of running on WebRTC-based frameworks that emerged at the time when there was a concerted effort to introduce more rich media services into mobile web and SMS apps.
Mobile apps running “over the top” (distributed by companies that are running the phone’s operating system rather than the mobile network carrier) have come to dominate the messaging market as well as innovations in messaging.
Weemo eventually pivoted and changed its name to SightCall. The startup focused on packaging the tech that could be built into any app, whether mobile or native, depending on where the enterprise customer wanted the technology to reside.
The key to SightCall’s functionality lies in how the platform was built. According to Cottereau, the startup spent a decade building and optimizing a network across data centers in close proximity to the location of the customers which thus interconnects with the Tier 1 telecoms carriers and features lots of latency in the system for uptime. According to Cottereau, SightCall works with firms where this kind of connectivity is mission-critical and where the video solution must work.
SightCall is a hybrid system incorporating its own IP that seamlessly works with the telecoms hardware and software and results in a video service that gives up to 10 different ways of streaming video. It also provides a system that automatically picks the best streaming in a particular environment based on where the user is located. This means that even where broadband reception and mobile data don’t work, video streaming will still work. This is because the software and telecoms are “still very separate worlds” which “don’t speak the same language”, a state of affairs that enables SightCall to roll out a global roaming mechanism.
SightCall’s tech, developed over several years, has given the startup some solid grounding against competitors who also want to build products for this space. SightCall’s technology has also led to strong traction with customers. Next, the company is planning to build out the technology to tap into the automation trend that is already being implemented in industries leveraging SightCall’s technology.
As a pioneer in the AR-powered visual assistance market segment, SightCall appears well-positioned to drive the digital transformation of the remote assistance service according to InfraVia Capital Partners’ Alban Wyniecki. Wyniecki says that having established its global leadership, SightCall can now expand its capabilities, make the interactions more intelligent, and also introduce more automation that will help humans work at their optimal best.
According to Bpifrance’s Antoine Izsack, the latest $42 million funding is the biggest funding round yet in this market segment. As a result, SightCall has emerged as “the undisputed leader in capital, R&D resources and partnerships with leading technology companies” that makes it possible for its solutions to be embedded into complex enterprise IT. Izsack stated that businesses are currently looking for the kinds of solutions offered by SightCall that allow for customer-centricity at a much bigger scale while at the same time augmenting technicians with both knowledge and expertise to unlock efficiencies and drive continuous performance and profit.
According to SightCall CEO Cottereau, the startup has received several acquisition offers over the past few years thanks to its foundational technology that allows for the architecting of video networks across different carriers and data centers and which can work even in the most unreliable network environments. He stated that the company wants to stay independent as it sees a huge market opportunity in this area. The company not only wants to continue along its path but it wants to lead it.