Sydney AI startup Curious Thing raises $1.5 million from Reinventure and Qualgro

- February 5, 2019 2 MIN READ
Curious Thing

Sydney artificial intelligence startup Curious Thing has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Reinventure Group and Qualgro.

Founded last year by startup veterans Sam Zheng, previously cofounder and CTO of Reinventure portfolio company Hyper Anna; Dr Han Xu, formerly head of machine learning at the ASX-listed Flamingo AI; and David McKeague, previously cofounder of Incoming Media, the startup’s technology focuses on asking, rather than answering, questions.

According to the startup, Curious Thing is working in the area of ‘computational curiosity’: its aim is to enable AI to discover and learn new knowledge from humans by asking questions.

Curious Thing is currently applying its solution to the field of job interviewing. With its digital interviewer able to conduct voice-based interviews, the startup believes it can free up the time of hiring managers by conducting initial interviews, such as phone interviews, at scale.

It then provides recruiters with data on each candidate, which Curious Thing stated can help them make fairer hiring decisions. Candidates are also provided with post-interview feedback via email.

McKeague, chief strategist at Curious Thing, said enabling machines to naturally converse with people is the next category in AI.

“The enterprise can now scale its talent acquisition efforts and rethink how it approaches the future of work. We think we can build a world-class company by leveraging Sydney’s exceptional pool of Natural Language Processing talent,” he said.

The seed funding will go towards expanding Curious Thing’s techn team, product improvement and customer development.

Zheng, the startup’s CEO, said, “Curious Thing is driven by the team’s great technology ambition and our desire to build a world-changing conversational AI product. In 2019, we will keep pushing the technology frontier, focus on real-life problems and deliver the best solution to our clients.”

The startup’s tech has already been put to work in a pilot, with its digital interviewer helping the CSIRO interview applicants to its ON Accelerate accelerator program.

David Burt, executive manager at CSIRO and cofounder of the ON program, said the digital interviewer enabled the team to better understand the entrepreneurial mindset of potential candidates at scale.

Curious Thing is one of several startups working to better recruitment processes.

Also tackling those first interviews is Vervoe, which last May raised $4.64 million in a round led by Seek. Vervoe looks to replace face to face interviews with automated interviews and online simulations. It works by having employers pick from a library of interview scripts or set their own questions for applicants to answer via video.

Employers can also ask for work samples, or set simulations of tasks, again able to set their own or choose from a library of tasks written by experts.

Recruitment is just the first step for Curious Thing, however.

Rohen Sood of Reinventure said, “We are excited to back Curious Thing to pioneer the next big leap in NLP. Talent acquisition is the perfect place to start, however, the applications for the underlying technology are much broader.”

Image: Dr Han Xu, Dr Amanda Parker, Sam Zheng, Dr Yasaman Motazedi, David McKeague, Chainat Wongtapan. Source: Supplied.