Zendesk Ventures will target startups developing AI technology that can be used with its corporate parent's customer service platform, from seed onwards.

A row of call centre operators, with a woman operator close up
Photo courtesy of Charanjeet Dhiman via Unsplash

Customer service software provider Zendesk has launched a corporate venture capital unit called Zendesk Ventures that will invest in artificial intelligence startups.

“Every organisation is on a path to becoming AI-driven, and we’re eager to form partnerships with companies leading this new era,” said Ben Barclay, Zendesk’s senior vice-president of strategy, corporate development and transformation.

“Our goal extends beyond building our own products; we’re also supporting an ecosystem of startups whose visions align with ours. Customer and employee service is changing rapidly because of advancements in AI. Investing in these companies does more than drive their growth, it elevates our customers’ ability to provide exceptional interactions.”

The US-based company is targeting startups working on AI-powered products that can be featured on its application platform, Zendesk Marketplace. Startups taking investment from Zendesk will also be able to benefit from the expertise of the company’s executives.

Although Zendesk has not disclosed the size of the fund, CEO Tom Eggemeier told Axios it will be financed by tens of millions of dollars from the corporate’s balance sheet. It will invest globally, supplying $500,000 to $1m per deal, mostly at seed stage, with series A rounds also considered.

Zendesk Ventures has a four-strong portfolio at launch that includes field service management software provider Zuper and Observe.AI, creator of a conversational intelligence platform for call centres, that had raised over $210m as of 2022.

The unit has now added investments in PolyAI, developer of a tool enabling Zendesk users to handle tasks like order tracking and delivery updates with voice commands, and UnitQ, which provides an AI platform that analyses customer interactions and feedback in real time.

Robert Lavine

Robert Lavine is special features editor for Global Venturing.