Summary:

Tempo’s quest to build the industry’s most contextually aware smartphone calendar got a $10 million boost. According to CEO Raj Singh, though, the calendar is just a proxy for its much more ambitious virtual assistant plans.

The Tempo AI team
photo: Tempo AI

It’s fair to say that Tempo AI’s big February public launch of its smart calendar app attracted the attention of investors, CEO Raj Singh said. Tempo wasn’t planning on raising money until later this summer, but it wound up closing a $10 million Series A within a month of starting negotiations, he said.

“It was a very competitive round,” Singh said. “The competition was high even from the inside investors to participate.”

Relay Ventures and new investor Sierra Ventures led the charge, but all of Tempo’s $2.5 million seed round investors also re-upped: Mayfield Fund, Horizon Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, SingTel Innov8, Miramar Venture Partners, SRI International, Golden Venture Partners, Seavest Capital Partners, ENIAC Ventures, as well as angel investors Gaurav Garg (formerly of Sequoia Capital) and Peter Wagner (formerly of Accel Partners).

Tempo AI screen shotTempo makes a calendar app for the iPhone and iPad that connects to your various email and social media accounts and scours them for contextual information. It then uses artificial intelligence technology originally developed by SRI – much of which went into Apple’s Siri – to process that data in the cloud. It then spits back into your app details about appointments and scheduled activities you never entered.

For instance, if you enter “Meet Bob at Starbucks” into the calendar, Tempo can figure out which Bob you mean by examining your contacts and email. It knows what Starbucks you’re referring to based on past meeting and email history, your likely location based on nearby calendar appointments and by examining your check-in data on Facebook and Foursquare.

It can then plug in Bob’s contact details and meeting location details automatically into a calendar. If the AI finds more than one likely option it will present you with those choices. (For more details, check out GigaOM Research analyst Stowe Boyd’s review of the app.)

Tempo’s goal, however, is to evolve beyond a mere calendar into a full-bore virtual assistant, but it doesn’t want to just be a Siri clone. Instead of creating an assistant you actively query for info, it wants to create a background assistant that anticipates your actions by processing reams of public and private user data. For instance, in the example above, Tempo wants to be able make suggestions on when you should leave for that meeting with Bob based on traffic conditions, and make suggestions to both you and Bob on alternate locations or times in case one of you has to cancel.

Beyond that, Singh said he sees Tempo’s technology making its way into other apps and possibly into the core user interface of existing operating systems. Singh wouldn’t go into specific details, but he said if Tempo is only making a calendar app in a few years, then the company will have failed to achieve its goals. “The calendar has always been a proxy for a full-fledged virtual assistant,” Singh said.

Smart calendars are getting a lot of attention lately as well as a lot of investor love. Sunrise just raised $2.2 million, and as my colleague Erica Ogg points out a host of new and existing companies are taking their own spin on the iOS calendar, including Readle and Cue. Tempo garnered a lot of attention when it launched, though, because of its association with SRI and Siri — so much attention that it had to stop taking new customers in its second week as its AI struggled to process the email and social media data of 100,000 backlogged registrants.

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