Durham’s big-data humanizer and personalized content creator Automated Insights, the company behind Yahoo Fantasy Football’s automated weekly Matchup Recaps, has been chosen as one of 24 semifinalists in Amazon Web Services’ 2012 Startup Challenge. The challenge is a global contest for startups built on AWS, on which Automated Insights powers millions of automated, personalized articles per week, across several verticals, and created at the rate of 1000+ per second.

AI was selected into the Big Data and Performance Computing category, and is going up against:

  • DemystData, a financial institution social and online data aggregator from Hong Kong.
  • Mortar, a Hadoop Platform-as-a-Service and open source development framework.
  • Positive Bioscience, from India, who creates cloud-based bioinformatics software to decipher Whole Human Genomes for clinical and research use.
  • QMedic, who provides real-time health updates on your (usually elderly) loved one, delivered to your smartphone.
  • Seven Bridges Genomics, a cloud-based service that enables bioinformaticians and biologists to perform data analysis for genomics.

    The other 18 nominees fall into three other categories: Gaming, Business Applications, and Consumer Applications.

    Finalists will be selected, at least two from each category, some time in early January, and winners will be invited to San Francisco for an hour-long demo/Q&A session with the judges.

    Former winners and runners-up include Localytics, who raised a $5.5M Series B in September, M-Dot Network, acquired by Inmar in May, GoodData, who raised $25M Series C in July, and original winner (2007) Ooyala, who raised a $35M Series E in June.

    Yes. I am a total homer here. I was the first management hire at AI, and was tasked with making this whole robot-writing, human-sounding, deep-diving, content where content was heretofore impossible thing happen.

    We’ve come a long, long way since the days of measuring assist to turnover ratios of low-rated mid-major basketball teams wondering if there was a threshold therein which added any relevance to the outcome of the game.

    Two and a half years of eye-bleeding, database-plundering, language-wrangling, statistics-geeking later, we’ve developed patent-pending technology and engines that can write in any style, with any tone, using any lexicon. Tonight we’ll spin up our last batch of recaps for the season for Yahoo, then turn our sights to some just-as-ridiculously-big projects we’ve got lined up for 2013.

    The recognition from Amazon is not only about how far we’ve come, but how viable personalized content is in the future of the web. What’s more is that it’s now much easier to explain what we do. In fact, we rarely use the “robot writers” analogy anymore. People are starting to get the value of personalized content

    I saw a quote not too long ago, maybe on Twitter, talking about how you can now throw out the phrase “there’s an app for that” and replace it with “your phone will do that,” implying that personalized technology is becoming deeply integrated into the devices themselves with notifications, Siri, Google Now, etc.

    I see the same thing happening with the Internet as a whole. With millions and millions (and millions) of articles created for sports, fantasy sports, real estate, finance, entertainment, even some areas you wouldn’t imagine we’d be creating content for (and I’m not at liberty to talk about), we’ve probably already created some kind of content for you.

    Without you asking for it or realizing it.