Microsoft To Buy XOXCO As Part Of AI Acquisition Binge


In its fourth artificial intelligence-related acquisition of the year so far, Microsoft on Wednesday announced it will acquire XOXCO, a company that builds bots and conversational tools.

The deal, according to Microsoft, will help democratize AI development and integrate more conversation into customer experiences.

Microsoft has been on an AI acquisition tear as it seeks to make AI development easier on its Azure platform for users. The tech giant in June bought Bonsai, a Berkeley, Calif.-based startup focused on creating methods for training autonomous systems. In May, Microsoft acquired Berkeley, Calif.-based Semantic Machines, a company with a similar focus as XOXCO on conversational AI. Most recently, Microsoft bought Lobe, a San Francisco-based provider that offers AI development capabilities through a visual interface, no coding required.

[Related: Microsoft Buys Lobe, A No-Code AI Development Startup]

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Austin-based XOXCO, founded in 2009, has focused on software design, and then later, bot development beginning in 2013. The company created Howdy, the first bot for collaboration platform Slack that helps schedule meetings, and Botkit, a developer tool for building chat bots, apps, and custom integration which is available today to developers on GitHub, which Microsoft officially acquired in October.

Microsoft and XOXCO are no strangers to one another. The two companies have been working together for several years, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said in blog post announcing the deal.

"Conversational AI is quickly becoming a way in which businesses engage with employees and customers: from creating virtual assistants and redesigning customer interactions to using conversational assistants to help employees communicate and work better together … We’re excited to welcome the XOXCO team and look forward to working with the community to accelerate innovation and help customers capitalize on the many benefits AI can offer," said Lili Cheng, corporate vice president for conversational AI at Microsoft, in her blog post.

Microsoft on Wednesday also revealed plans for a new bot-building tool, the Virtual Assistant Accelerator, that will help companies build their own branded, conversational bots more easily -- a solution that aligns with its latest acquisition target.

The two companies did not reveal any financial terms of the deal, or when the deal is expected to close.