Purdue Startup Scores Federal Funding

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(L to R) The Perceive staff includes Anuraag Rajasekhar, Kyle McNulty, Aaron Michaux, Odilia Lirani, Matt Woenker, and Everett Berry. (photo courtesy Purdue University) (L to R) The Perceive staff includes Anuraag Rajasekhar, Kyle McNulty, Aaron Michaux, Odilia Lirani, Matt Woenker, and Everett Berry. (photo courtesy Purdue University)
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The National Science Foundation has awarded a $750,000 grant to a Purdue University-based tech startup. The university says the funding will help Perceive Inc., which is located at the Anvil coworking space on the West Lafayette campus, further develop its automated customer service coaching software.

Perceive uses video and audio sensors to monitor interactions between customers and sales associates. Its software then measures how well the associates interact with customers with data such as the percentage of customers greeted by a sales associate and how much time an associate spends talking and listening to a customer. 

Perceive Chief Executive Officer Kyle McNulty says the funding will go toward software improvements to provide more in-depth feedback to sales associates about how they interact with customers.

"Traffic into stores has been declining for several years, so it is becoming more and more important for stores to differentiate themselves on customer service," said McNulty. "Because the one thing a website can't replicate is one-on-one human interaction. And when you have fewer customers in the store, you need to convert as many as possible."

Purdue says Perceive is currently working with one store in Indianapolis and is hoping to move into two or three additional stores by next spring. McNulty says the company is looking to raise more funding before expanding its service to a nationwide retailer by the end of 2018.

The two-year grant comes from the NSF Phase II Small Business Innovation Research program. Perceive previously received a $225,000 Phase I SBIR grant.

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