Conversica is looking for top tier-talent in artificial intelligence and machine learning. That’s why the company, which makes AI software and bots to help marketing and salespeople, has joined more than 90 other out-of-town companies that have established engineering centers in Seattle.
Werner Koepf is the company’s senior vice president of engineering, and he is leading the recruiting effort in Seattle. He has worked for Amazon, Expedia, and most recently he was integral in building Ticketmaster’s Seattle office.
Conversica traces its roots to Bellingham, Wash., and still has a major office there, in addition to its California headquarters. The company’s first Seattle office was at Galvanize, and it recently picked up a permanent Seattle office space at the Provident building at 568 First Ave. S., just around the corner from CenturyLink Field. The Seattle office currently numbers around 10 people.
Koepf told GeekWire that the company wants to take advantage of Seattle’s status as a hub for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Amazon is investing majorly in its digital assistant Alexa and hiring in droves, Microsoft has its virtual brain Cortana, and Apple made Seattle its home base for AI and machine learning after dropping $200 million on Turi last year.
“Having those companies with big talent pools makes it attractive for smaller companies like us to come here and draw from,” Koepf said.
And it looks like the move is already paying off. Conversica recently brought in Nick Kypreos, a software engineer who has worked at Apple, Amazon Web Services and OfferUp, among others, to be its principal machine learning specialist.
Conversica was originally founded as AutoFerret.com in 2007 in Bellingham, about two hours north of Seattle. The company at the time sold leads and posted inventory in the automobile industry. In 2013, the company, then called AVA.ai, landed a $16 million investment, moved its corporate headquarters to Foster City, Calif., to be closer to investors and lure executive talent, and later changed its name to Conversica.
Conversica has retained a large presence in Bellingham, with roughly 60 of its 140 employees there. Many of those people, including engineers as well as customer-facing positions, have been with the company for years, and Koepf said Conversica wants to hold onto that institutional knowledge.
In December, Conversica landed a $34 million in a Series B round. It is using that cash infusion to expand sales and marketing, possibly add more integrations for its software and add more customers. Conversica counts more than 1,000 companies as customers at the moment.
Conversica is amping up hiring in multiple offices. The company plans to hire 20 to 30 more engineers in Bellingham in the near term, as well as another five to 10 people in Seattle. The company also has a sales office in Kansas City.
Koepf, who was worked all over the country, has always been a fan of the Seattle area as a tech hub. It has a few advantages over the San Francisco Bay Area, and chief among them is loyalty among employees.
“In Silicon Valley it’s a bit like a shiny ball. You are always competing with the new Facebook or Twitter. In Seattle, people don’t move around as much.”