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Omilia: Conversational AI that really works

Twenty years ago, Dimitris Vassos and Pelias Ioannidis started Omilia in a garage, with little more than a passion to help businesses deliver better customer interactions. Today, Omilia has grown to be a leader in speech recognition and conversational AI technologies, and we’re helping the team to deliver on their rapidly expanding business opportunities.

Dimitris Vassos has always been passionate about human-machine interactions. After a childhood spent worrying his mother with home automation experiments, he moved to London to study speech processing, and worked for IBM’s IVR (interactive voice response) team.

“Everybody hated IVR, including me,” Dimitris says, “and I could see a great opportunity to improve how people can interact with machines. I mean, my mother is never in her life going to be able to deal with her bank by pushing buttons on a phone, and she’s representative of a lot of people.”

Omilia was born in 2002, when Dimitris left IBM to set up his own company with co-founder Pelias Ioannidis. Starting in Dimitris’ garage, Omilia was initially a solutions integrator, bringing together third-party software to create automated voice solutions for customers.

View from the founder

Dimitris Vassos, Co-founder and CEO, Omilia

“We’re seeing a huge demand for our services, and we’re excited to have the support of the whole Expedition team to grow our business.”

The early years

It wasn’t long before Dimitris and Pelias discovered that the products they were selling to customers didn’t meet their needs. “Many of them simply didn’t do what they said on the box,” says Dimitris. “We had believed the marketing, the promise of these products’ natural language skills, and had committed to customers that we were going to deliver them this great solution. And we found we couldn’t.”

It was a problem Dimitris had to fix – and he did it by starting to develop his own solutions. And so Omilia turned from an integrator to a software company, creating its own technology stack and replacing the less reliable products bit by bit. Before long, Omilia had a complete platform that replaced the need for other vendor solutions, and was starting to get noticed.

“It was a fairly monopolistic marketplace at the time,” Dimitris says, “so customers held hostage to these big companies were thirsty for something new, better, and cheaper. We started off with a very successful implementation for Royal Bank of Canada, which led to us having a huge presence in North America.”

Loved by customers, rated by analysts

Gartner recognises Omilia in the 2022 Gartner Critical Capabilities for Enterprise Conversational AI platforms report.

IDC Marketscape positions Omilia in the Leaders category for Worldwide Conversational AI Software Platforms for Customer Service in its 2021 Vendor Assessment.

The opportunities of investment

Today, Omilia’s mission is to provide the most human-like human-to-machine communication experiences, so companies can provide the best customer care. Dimitris and the team have worked incredibly hard over the years, and this shows in Omilia’s growth. Its solutions are based on the latest conversational AI technologies, while the Omilia customer base now extends around the world and includes the UK Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Alfa Bank, Vodafone, and Yoigo – the largest mobile network operator in Spain.

But when Covid hit in 2020, there was an initial pause on technology spending, as businesses focused on services that they deemed ‘mission-critical’ rather than growth or transformation projects. For Omilia, this meant a temporary slowdown in business operations and product development.

It wasn’t long before businesses were ready to spend again. There was a significant pipeline of new business waiting for Omilia, and an extensive product roadmap ready to resume development, but the company needed additional capital to help them deliver on all the opportunities.

Our partnership

Dimitris turned to Oliver Thomas, Expedition’s founder and CEO, to discuss a possible investment. Oliver knows Omilia well, having been on the company’s board since 2020, and he already had a good idea of what Omilia would be able to achieve with funding.

“Oliver is a person who understands not only our business but also how Pelias, John Nikolaidis and I work,” Dimitris says. “He has always been really aligned with the Omilia philosophy: he doesn’t tell us what to do or how to do it at any point, but he is always next to us, supporting and helping us along the way. So we welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with him and the wider Expedition team.” Oliver’s existing involvement also meant that the funding process could be accelerated.

Likewise, the opportunity to work with Dimitris is a big part of why we chose to invest in Omilia. “Dimitris is world expert in his field,” say Oliver. “In Omilia, he has built a global centre of excellence in artificially intelligent customer care. Like many of the founders we back, Dimitris, Pelias and John had been able to bootstrap their business, winning prestigious accounts without the advantages of outside funding.”

So in December 2021, we invested in Omilia. Oliver remains on the board, but has brought Mark Turner to join him, whose previous experience as Global VP Sales and Field Operations at Genesys will be invaluable for the Omilia team. On a day-to-day basis, Dimitris and the team also work with Expedition Portfolio Performance Director, Alex Myers, to accelerate the implementation of best practice across various functions of the business.

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Founded in 2002

Dimitris Vassos and Pelias Ioannidis set up Omilia at home in Athens.

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Global presence

Omilia is headquartered in Cyprus and serves customers around the world, including North America, Europe and Africa.

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Growing workforce

Omilia has approximately 300 employees based around the world.

Looking ahead

Today, Omilia continues to do great things, growing its market share and customer base at the top of the enterprise category of conversational AI. And it’s doing this despite being a smaller organisation than many of its peers.

“Over the last few years, we have seen significant changes in the way that customers interact with businesses,” says Dimitris. “Omilia is incredibly well positioned to help companies meet these needs, and to become a much bigger and stronger company. We’re excited to be working with Expedition to achieve this.”

Oliver agrees. “Omilia has a huge opportunity in front of it, and our investment enables the team to scale more quickly to capitalise on it,” he says. “It’s an exciting moment in an exciting industry, for a company that can credibly claim to be a leader. And we’re very pleased to be part of the team.”

Find out more about Omilia at omilia.com