Automated Insights’ storytelling robots got more legit today with a freshly-inked deal with the Associated Press and $5.5 million in new funding from all sorts of intriguing new investors.
According to founder Robbie Allen (pictured left), the deal cements Automated Insights as the world’s leader in using data to tell stories about sports, finance, marketing and more. It already, “has achieved a scale that nobody else has even come close to,” he says. The company’s software will write a billion stories this year, up from 300 million in 2013.
“We think it’s a true testament to what our technology can do,” Allen says. “It’s not about replacing people-we can help people focus on more value-added reporting. We really think the AP’s willingness to get aggressive in the space is validation for the technology.”
Besides the AP, new investors include the Seoul investment arm of Samsung and AOL co-founder Steve Case, who doled out $100K to Automated Insights and the nine other startups pitching at April’s Google Demo Day. (According to Allen, the round was already raised by this time.)
Lead investor Osage Venture Partners– a connection through Square One Bank- makes its first investment south of Virginia. The firm looks for early stage enterprise technology and healthcare IT startups with recurring revenue models and disruptive innovation in markets bigger than $500 million in size.
Allen says that Samsung and the AP asked to get into the round, helping to oversubscribe it. Automated Insights has completed several pilot projects with Samsung, the details of which Allen declines to share. But he hopes in the near future to use his technology to produce content for the manufacturers’ mobile devices and smart TVs. Automated Insights has already used its technology to aid the AP’s sports coverage, converting sports scores and stats into stories.
The new funding brings Automated Insights’ total venture capital raised to $10.8 million. Investors in multiple rounds include Durham’s IDEA Fund Partners, Court Square Ventures of Charlottesville, VA and OCA Ventures of Chicago.
Said Idea Fund partner Lister Delgado in a March 2014 interview about the company and fellow Google Demo Day presenter Windsor Circle: “These are companies that are starting to get out of startup mode. They’ve proven their concepts at a small scale and need funding to accelerate their growth.”
Automated Insights’ most powerful competitor, Narrative Science of Chicago, has raised $22.4 million since its start in 2010. Though both companies got started using software to turn sports scores into stories and though they do compete in some verticals, they’ve taken separate paths. Narrative Science has focused on helping its clients improve decision-making and better communicate with customers.
Allen says his company rarely comes in contact with competitors when pitching clients.
He hopes to widen that gap by expanding business with high-profile clients like the AP, Yahoo!, Edmunds.com and the NFL, and expanding use of the company’s newest offering for marketing agencies. Called Site ai, it translates Google Analytics data into digestible narratives.
With funding secure, Allen has already turned his attention back to his team. Last month, he moved his existing 35 employees into new office space in Durham overlooking the Durham Bulls stadium. As new employees come on board in coming weeks and months, he’ll work to maintain the culture that earned the company “Best Place to Work” status in 2012 and 2013.
“We continue to grow, obviously,” he says. “But it’ll be measured growth. We won’t hire 50 people in a couple months. We’re doing the things necessary to have high-quality culture and to continue to improve that over time.”