Facebook acquires AI chatbot developer Ozlo, expands Seattle presence

Ozlo co-founders Charles Jolley and Mike Hanson. Photo via Ozlo.

Facebook has acquired Ozlo, a two-year-old startup that developed an AI-powered chatbot assistant and was headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., with a sizable office in Seattle.

(BigStock Photo).

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that “a majority of the team” will join the Messenger team at its offices in either Silicon Valley or Seattle.

Founded in 2014 by former Facebook engineering manager Charles Jolley and former Mozilla Principal Engineer Mike Hanson, Ozlo spent the past two years building a conversational, interactive mobile search bot. It raised $ 14 million in May 2016 from Greylock and AME Cloud Ventures, a fund started by Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, and opened its first remote office in Seattle with room for 25 employees.

Recode first reported the news Monday, noting that Ozlo employed 30 people. A LinkedIn search shows seven Ozlo employees based in Seattle.

The acquisition further expands Facebook’s workforce in Seattle, where employees work on everything from Messenger to Facebook Analytics to Facebook Platforms. The social media giant, which opened its first Seattle engineering office in 2010, recently opened a huge new building in South Lake Union with room for 2,000 people.

Facebook added more space in December when it scooped up the Arbor Blocks, a pair of six-story structures that total 384,000 square feet of office space. Just a month later it took the 150,000-square-foot 1101 Westlake building.

Facebook first announced its chatbot platform last year, enabling developers to build robots that use artificial intelligence and natural language processing to let people talk with businesses just like they do with friends and family on Messenger. This past April, it released a new version of the AI-powered assistant called “M” to all U.S. users that differed from the original product announcement. Facebook is one of many tech companies developing similar AI platforms that help answer questions and perform tasks without human interaction.

Ozlo separated itself from other virtual assistants by linking together multiple sources of information to answer complicated questions that have meaning and context.

In a post on its website, Ozlo said it “has built a knowledge graph containing over 2 billion entities and created amazing AI technology that uses this data to understand real-world nuances.”

“Now, we’re ready to take the next step in our journey with Messenger,” it reads. “By joining a team that shares our values and our vision, we will be able to continue to work on building experiences powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. There’s a lot more for us to explore ahead and we’re excited to bring our technology to the Messenger community.”

GeekWire

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