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Next IT plans to deploy an army of chatbots

Sgt. Star, the virtual assistant that Next IT created for Army.com, can answer questions via smartphones. (Credit: Next IT)
Sgt. Star, the virtual assistant that Next IT created for Army.com, can answer questions via smartphones. (Credit: Next IT)

Before Siri, Cortana and Alexa, there was Next IT and its chatbots: The Spokane Valley company made it possible for you to “Ask Jenn” at Alaska Airlines, or “Ask Julie” at Amtrak, or check in with “Sgt. Star” at GoArmy.com.

Now Next IT is raising $20 million to take advantage of the new wave of enthusiasm about conversational AI assistants.

“That’s a wave we’re certainly ready to ride,” Tracy Malingo, Next IT’s president, told GeekWire.

Malingo said $12 million of Next IT’s investment round is in the form of equity, with the remaining $8 million taking the form of debt restructuring. “We are pleased with the response that we’ve gotten,” she said. About $14.5 million has been raised so far, and she expects to hit the $20 million target within 90 days.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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