Nigerian “Alexa” QuickHelp acquired by Canadian firm

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Nigeria-based business directory chatbot QuickHelp has been officially acquired by Canadian firm 1001 Squared Artificial Intelligence.

1001squared Artificial Intelligence is an enterprise with the goal to facilitate and advance the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications to enhance and improve the quality of education, especially in underprivileged and underserved areas of the world.

After due negotiations, the core technologies, IP rights and associated technologies of the AI-powered Nigerian startup QuickHelp Nigeria was transferred to 1001squared Artificial Intelligence in an acquire/merger deal at an undisclosed amount. The Canadian firm is based in Kingston, Ontario.

QuickHelp Nigeria is an AI-powered virtual agent that helps Nigerians find businesses close to them, check traffic, buy airtime, get a bike or taxi, and discover people and places “the Nigerian style”.

QuickHelp Nigeria provides these services seamlessly, in contrast with labyrinth business directories found online serving a long list of contacts, leaving the user with the hard work of searching through to find what is actually desired. With the virile power of AI, QuickHelp performs a “contact search” which offers the user verified business contacts that suits specific needs.  

The QuickHelp voice-enabled virtual agent, called QuickMe, makes it convenient for users to automatically locate goods or services based in their community within a Conversational User Interface (CUI). A major feature of QuickHelp on the web channel is the recently activated Speech Recognition and Text to Speech (TTS) feature, which makes the chatbot able to talk and respond audibly. QuickHelp is also available on Twitter and Messenger, and the app is available for download on the Google Play store.

According to CEO and co-founder Tosin Odubela, QuickHelp is an SME haven, making it easier for businesses to be discovered locally.

“There are many businesses out there doing great things and people do not know them. Some of them do not have the wherewithal to advertise and promote themselves effectively,” he said.

“QuickHelp adopts a random algorithm to serve businesses that have been verified. This gives every single business an opportunity to be discovered.”

QuickHelp is the brainchild of a team of business professionals, enthusiasts and techies, which includes Olayande Biola, Peter Laniran, Fayemi David, Isaac Falade, Kayode Idowu, and CEO Odubela.

Odubela recounted that QuickHelp was inspired within the premises of Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, in a quest to get the services of a local plumber.  

“As at that time, sometime in 2014, I could not get any reliable help despite several calls to several friends. I then thought that this was a problem that could be solved if there were a vibrant directory service,” he said.

“QuickHelp was born out of the need to solve that problem. With so much excitement, I started out with an SMS directory service. After about a year of trials and vigorous iterations, with challenges posed by the Do Not Disturb (DND) imposed on most telecommunication network in Nigeria,  the QuickHelp team decided to adopt AI as its backend technology.

“The journey into AI has been quite remarkable. QuickHelp has since inspired so many other ideas. We have had some proposals, but we are very thrilled we are able to secure the deal with 1001squared. This has definitely raised the bar for us and boosted our confidence. The team is really excited with the development.”

With the acquisition deal, QuickHelp Nigeria hopes to scale to Africa in the coming months.

“We are working on adopting indigenous TTS in strategic partnership with leading African linguists, home and abroad. Our mission is simple: to contribute to a new era of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) that allows more ordinary Africans gain more inclusion in the fast evolving digital landsacape. We are just starting,” said Odubela.

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