Cogito & Romulus – In The Cloud

We’re happy to announce that we’ve led the Series A for Cogito. It was a highly competitive round – hardly surprising given its technology pedigree (out of Sandy Pentland’s lab at the MIT Media Lab) and the massive market opportunity it tackles. I view life as a series of stories, some longer than others; the Cogito story commenced over 5 years ago when I sat beside Ali Azarbayejani (Co-Founder and CTO) on a flight, months after we had helped another company out of Sandy’s lab ( get off the ground. While I made a real-time decision that I liked the vision of Ali and his co-founder Josh (doesn’t hurt that we hold several MIT degrees between us), they decided to remain bootstrapped and have run a highly efficient operation over the years. I am pleased the story has now arrived at a complementary partnership between Romulus, Cogito, and Salesforce – one forged in the cloud(s).

So what is Cogito? The team has developed a real-time voice analytics platform that captures and analyzes the “honest signals” present in our voices and creates actionable insights based on the same. Think about the varied situational emotions – such as the confidence of being right, the intent to purchase something, the frustration of being mistreated – that are all conveyed in a mixture of tonality, speed, and a variety of other elements that are contained in a basic unit of sound. Think also about how these vary across geographies and sub-cultures and you start to appreciate the complexity that underpins how we communicate via voice.

But, despite its name, Cogito is not all about thinking. It’s the only company in the world that can accurately capture these signals and translate them into useful data. Truly difficult technology to build as it couples complex signal processing (capturing) with machine learning (analyzing), and does this entirely in real-time and in the cloud. It’s telling that the company has spent nearly a decade (and nearly $10M in R&D) building and iterating on this technology stack.

Cogito is focused on the customer service technology market today (a multi-billion dollar market in the US alone) but the applications of its technology go well beyond this segment. Our partnership with Salesforce – through Ventures as well as its service cloud group – is aimed squarely at capturing this customer engagement market. As Salesforce is the dominant leader in cloud-based CRM technology, Cogito provides tremendous complementarity to its offering.

And the market needs it. Agents today are trained, monitored, and given feedback on the basis of retroactive recordings or, at best, some form of real-time speech analytics (speech analysis looks only at the spoken words, not at the full spectrum of signals). At the other end, customer engagement is often measured today by using the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a rather hand-wavy measurement retroactive by definition. Cogito changes these paradigms entirely. We capture and process immediately, and capture real-time engagement with the Cogito Engagement Score (CES). Everyone now has a real-time perspective focused on improving performance and engagement, rather than on simply monitoring quality. It’s a win-win-win for the agent, the manager, and the customer with an increase in efficacy (shorter calls and more sales) and satisfaction (reduced turnover and churn). That all adds up to a giant win for the corporation.

Cogito fits neatly into our belief at Romulus that real-time analytics will change how businesses make decisions, particularly those involving human beings. Most business decision-making is based on retroactive data collection; as such, performance always lags action, which always lags measurement. Cogito allows companies to have 100% visibility – in real-time – of the voice calls agents are making, which represent a large part of a company’s customer engagement effort. It allows the agents themselves to be trained more effectively and to have a data-driven measure of improvement. That visibility has been shown to increase both efficacy and satisfaction, turning the agents into more productive and positive drivers of value for the corporation.

One perhaps always enters the realm of hyperbole when discussing a new deal, but I certainly believe enabling corporations across the world to make real-time decisions based on real-time data is one of the most transformational and actionable concepts for the enterprise to embrace over the next few years. If Cogito is successful, it will power voice analytics (another of our companies out of Sandy’s lab, Humanyze, focuses on interactivity analytics) just as more corporations realize the need to do so. Indeed, I’m rather keen to skip ahead 5 years to see how the chapters play out! In the interim, if we can help your large enterprise improve your voice-driven customer service and engagement operations, please don’t hesitate to reach out.