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State's Chatbot, Business Portal Streamline Online Filings

The California Secretary of State’s Office is using technology to cut out the middleman when it comes to registering a new business in the state. The tech takes two forms: an interactive search assistant called a chatbot, and a tool relating to businesses registered in the state.

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The California Secretary of State’s Office is using technology to cut out the middleman when it comes to registering a new business in the state.

The tech takes two forms: an interactive search assistant called a chatbot, and a portal relating to businesses registered in the state.

The chatbot, named Eureka, is being rolled out so anyone seeking help with an online business license filing can use the search assistant, which uses artificial intelligence to help users “easily navigate business resources on the Secretary of State’s website,” says a news release from Sam Mahood, press secretary to Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

“The Secretary of State’s new chatbot Eureka was developed in partnership with Microsoft,” the release says. “It answers frequently asked business entity and trademark questions. Customers can ask a question such as ‘How do I get a copy of a filed document?’ and Eureka will link them to the California Business Search website, where they can look up their business record and access documents for free. Eureka responds best to short questions or keywords.”

Mahood notes that the Secretary of State’s Office is “the first state-level department or agency to use Microsoft’s artificial intelligence and bot services to modernize and create efficiencies when providing services to customers.”

In addition to the chatbot, the state agency is rolling out an LLC Formation portal, designed to help residents form a limited liability company (LLC) online.

“The days of only being able to form an LLC in-person at the Secretary of State’s Office or by mail are gone with our new, easy online filing option,” Padilla said in a statement. “Now, businesses can submit LLC formation documents, submit LLC Statements of Information, or file a trademark or service mark application all online from the convenience of their laptop, tablet or smartphone.”

Mahood notes that the LLC Formation tool was a product of collaboration between agency staff and the ThinkSmart LLC Platform

“ThinkSmart is proud to power the LLC Formations online process,” said Troy Bare, vice president of sales for ThinkSmart LLC. “The core values of our technology focus on streamlining processes for the government through automation with the ultimate goal of making it easier than ever to do business in California.”

The LLC Formation tool and the Eureka chatbot are part of Padilla’s Digital Initiative to modernize and digitize the agency’s divisions. Other elements of the initiative include an online trademark and service mark filing tool, 11 million searchable business records through California Business Search, an updated search engine for the state’s successor-in-interest claims, and a Starting a New Business resource page. All of these tools can be found at bizfile.sos.ca.gov.

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.