Since assuming the role of CEO, Satya Nadella has been increasing investments into mobile technologies, with AI another focus area. This is evidenced by the launch of an AI-focused fund under Microsoft Ventures.
The investment could see a partnership, with Laiye potentially leveraging on access to Microsofts’ information from assets such as Bing, in addition to serving as a channel for driving the growth of Microsoft software in China.
To date, the startup maintains a workforce of 60 staff, with some coordinating requests too complex for the AI. Users input service requests, which Laiye then sends to relevant providers. Certain tasks can be automated as well.
Currently operating on a freemium model, with apps for WeChat, as well as the iOS and Android platforms, the venture monetises free requests through commissions generated from services booked through its platform.
However, while freemium has become a widely adopted business model that has driven the emergence and contributed to the success of companies like file-sharing service Dropbox, note-taking software Evernote and internet calling service Skype, it is challenging to cover costs using such a business model.