Spanning Continents, PlayVox Picks Up $1.5M to Gamify Call Centers

PlayVox Inc. founder Oscar Giraldo
PlayVox Inc.

PlayVox Inc. has raised $1.5 million from a corporate venture investor in Colombia to make call centers better to places to work.

The company was founded three years ago by Oscar Giraldo, a systems engineer from Colombia, which is home to a growing number of call centers. Mr. Giraldo said he saw that call centers were tough places to work, and he wondered how technology could make them better.

“There were a lot of younger people, and there was no tech to manage them and no way to motivate people,” he said.

PlayVox has developed a dashboard that is designed to make it more fun for call center workers to achieve their goals. It includes social recognition by peers, rankings, prizes, training, and communication and management tools. It can be used by both workers and their managers.

FCP Innovacion, which provided the round, is the venture arm of Colombia’s largest utility, EPM, a holding company that handles multiple public services, including energy, water and telecommunications, across several countries.

PlayVox has developed roots in Latin America and the U.S. It was the first non-U.S. company admitted to Alchemist Accelerator, the Bay Area incubator for business software startups, and will be using its new money to tackle the North American market, Mr. Giraldo said.

“PlayVox is a true mission-driven company, and that’s what you need to warrant the interest of top venture capital funds,” said Alchemist Accelerator Managing Director Ravi Belani, who teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford University. Companies “have to be driven by more than a rational economic outcome. This is a company that could change the world,” he said.

PlayVox is competing against much larger companies, including Bunchball Inc., which is backed by Adobe Systems Inc. and several U.S. venture capital firms. PlayVox’s software offers more tools, said Felipe Zarate, general manager at FCP Innovacion and a PlayVox director.

Salesforce.com Inc. and Avaya Inc. also have call center tools. Mr. Zarate said PlayVox’s software is cheaper and easier to install and can run alongside other software so customers don’t have to replace what they already have.

Staff turnover in call centers can be notoriously high, and Mr. Zarate said EPM was looking for tools that could improve productivity and motivation, especially in situations where conversations can get tense.

“If there’s no energy or no water or nobody’s picking up waste, that does not lend itself to a comfortable discussion,” he said.

Alchemist Accelerator was able to provide PlayVox’s team with training on developing products and acquiring customers that isn’t generally available in Latin America, where startups and venture capitalists are fewer, Mr. Zarate said. The incubator also connected to U.S. executives, including Chairman Carol Snell and Vice President of North American Operations Joseph McFadden.

PlayVox has now raised about $2.2 million. The new money is expected to take the company to cash-flow break-even, Mr. Zarate said. The company might raise more money, he added.

Write to Deborah Gage at deborah.gage@wsj.com. Follow her on Twitter at @deborahgage