(Image: William Blake, “Beatrice Addressing Dante from the Car,” from Purgatory Canto 29, 1824-7)
What NLP and text analytics companies got funded in the last year? What mergers & acquisitions went down in 2016?
This article is the fifth iteration of what has become an annual exercise, a recap of prior-year industry activity. Premise #1: Natural language process (NLP) and associated analytical technologies are key innovation drivers, for bots and conversational interface, for customer experience and market research, for media, life sciences, finance, and intelligence. Premise #2: Past performance is a best predictor (although not a guarantor) of future behavior. Understand what worked last year to get a sense what might work this year from product, market, and organizational perspectives.
Investment funds R&D, productization, and market entry and expansion. (I’ll lift some language from last year’s What NLP & Text Analytics Companies Got Funded in 2015? at this point:) Academic and government research funding is important, but it’s angel, VC, institutional, and acquisition money that’s a best indicator of growth directions. It’s that money – investment in emerging text analytics players – that I’ve tracked, for 2016 just as in previous years. Still, do keep in mind that actual investment goes far beyond what I’ll be listing, if you consider government-funded and corporate R&D, product development, and commercialization initiatives.
Here is my compilation, with brief elaboration and link to sources. Where you place your bets is up to you.
Follow the Money: 2016 Investments in NLP and Text and Sentiment Analysis
I’ll preface my list by offering industry and application focal points, a set of points that is unsurprisingly headed by analysis of online and social media followed, equally unsurprisingly, by funding toward broadly-usable tech tools, which are split out in two forms as second and third on my focal-point list. My categorization of 2016 funding and acquisition events is as follows:
- nine provide AI/tech platforms (Aylien, Digital Reasoning, Panoply, Proxem, Salesforce (MetaMind), Skymind, Stratifyd, Stride.ai, VirtualWorks)
- eight are in customer insights/experience (Beyond Verbal, CaliberMind, Clarabridge, Dictanova, NICE, Nortek, Solvvy, SoapBox)
- five are in social/media analysis (BehaviorMatrix, Canvs, Crimson Hexagon, Revuze, Signal Media)
- four are in finance (AlphaSense, CogniSent, iSentium, TerraManta)
- four specialize in legal information (Brainspace, kCura, LawGeex, Text IQ)
- three involve bots and conversational interfaces (Angel, Inbenta, Legendary)
- two are in life sciences (Lexigram, Semantix)
- one is in HR (Ultimate)
- one focuses on politics (FiscalNote)
- one focuses on EdTech (Volley Labs)
- one is content focused (OpenText)
Now the detailed breakout. Let’s start with –
- Anexinet Acquires ListenLogic to Expand Digital Solutions Portfolio (January 15, 2016).
- kCura Acquires Content Analyst Company, Developers of Advanced Text Analytics Technologies (March 15, 2016). kCura’s focus is e-discovery; Content Analyst has/had been a leading OEM supplier in the space.
- MetaMind acquired by Salesforce (April 4, 2016) with MetaMind mastermind Richard Socher becoming Salesforce chief scientist. See also VentureBeat, Salesforce buys hot deep learning startup MetaMind.
- VirtualWorks and Language Tools Announce Merger (April 5, 2016).
- Nortek Acquires Next-Generation Language Processing Platform Nuiku (May 24, 2016) I wrote about this one:
Is Recently-Acquired Nuiku a ‘Next-Generation NLP Platform’? A Cautionary Tale.
- OpenText Signs Definitive Agreement to Acquire Recommind, Inc. (June 2, 2016).
- Angel.ai, a company that builds chat bots, acqui-hired by Amazon (September 20, 2016).
- Ultimate Software Acquires Cloud Workforce Intelligence Provider Kanjoya; Introduces “UltiPro Perception” to Help Customers Understand & Improve the Employee Experience (September 30, 2016).
- BC Partners, Medina Capital Announce Definitive Agreement To Acquire Brainspace (November 4, 2016, close in Q1 2017).
What’s all the M&A activity worth? Hard to say. A few of those deals involve major talent and others involve solid, revenue producing companies. Talent and revenue are both factors that produce strong valuations. I’ll leave the guessing to others – but if you have numbers for any of these deals, do let me know – and report only that my tally of the disclosed value of the investments that I’ll list next is $211 million. My detailed list –
2016 in Investments
- Dictanova lève 1,2 million d’euros pour accélérer son développement (Dictanova raises 1.2 million euros to accelerate development)(January 8, 2016). Dictanova was founded in 2011 to commercialize NLP tech developed at the Univ. of Nantes, for Voice of the Customer applications.
- Customer experience text-analytics provider Attensity sold its Europe arm Attensity Europe GmbH, to CEO Thomas Dreikauss and IMCap Partners for an undisclosed amount (January 13, 2016). Subsequently, InContact “acquired intellectual property (including 5 patents) around advanced analytics technology from Attensity, Inc., a leading provider of text based analytics” (February 16, 2016) and NICE acquired InContact (May 18, 2016).
- Canvs Raised $5.6 Million in Series A Financing Round Led by KEC Ventures (January 21, 2016). Canvs’s play is in social TV.
- Stratifyd claims multilingual NLP among its capabilities, and took $1.7 million Series A, $177 thousand seed, and undisclosed angel funding in January 2016. (January 31, 2016).
- FiscalNote: This Startup Just Got $10M to Predict Politics with Tech, reported Fortune (February 2, 2016). Also read the company’s press release.
- Stride.ai wrote a convertible note for $100 thousand (February 26, 2016). This startup’s focus is information extraction.
- Proxem lève 1 M€ auprès d’ODYSSEE Venture pour accélérer son développement (Proxem raises €1 million to accelerate development) (March 3, 2016). The company took an additional, unspecified investment, later in 2016 (October 6, 2016).
- AlphaSense, Search Engine For Financial Professionals, Raises $33 Million (March 6, 2016).
- Sageview leads $20 mln investment in Crimson Hexagon (March 8, 2016). The company’s press release: Crimson Hexagon Raises $20 Million to Extend Leadership in Social Data Analysis.
- Irish-based technology firm Aylien has raised €580,000 in its latest funding round, backed by SOSV and Enterprise Ireland (March 9, 2016).
- Attivio Closes $31 Million in Financing as Company Celebrates Strongest Results Ever (March 9, 2016). (Disclosure: Attivio paid me to present in a January webinar, on Cognitive Search, at Enterprise Scale.)
- Volley Labs Wins $2.3 Million in Seed Funding to Build Learning Algorithms (March 10, 2016).
- Emotion analytics provider BehaviorMatrix filed $1.7 million in debt financing (March 17, 2016). (Disclosure: BehaviorMatrix is a consulting client of mine.)
- Semantix, AI technology for healthcare information extraction, $100 thousand seed (April 1, 2016).
- Contract review platform co LawGeex raises $2.5m (April 19, 2016). See below for a March 2017, $7 million raise.
- Digital Reasoning Raises $40 Million in Series D Round Led by Lemhi Ventures and Nasdaq (May 3, 2016); the initial raise, based on a $36 million late-January filing, was $18.6 million (February 1, 2016).
- Findo raises $3M to help you find files and documents through natural language queries (May 21, 2016).
- Panoply.io raises $7M Series A for its data analytics and warehousing platform (August 3, 2016). For what? “Panoply utilizes machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to learn, model and automate… data management activities.”
- iSentium raised at least $2 million, according to June and August SEC filings, for real-time sentiment search for financial markets (August 26, 2016). (iSentium’s Sameer Gupta will be speaking in the NLP & Sentiment in Finance workshop at the 2017 Sentiment Analysis Symposium.)
- Revuze Introduces Artificial Intelligence to Transform Brand Intelligence, Raises $4 Million Seed Round, Opens U.S. Operations (August 31, 2016). I profiled Revuze in a VentureBeat article, 4 AI startups that analyze customer reviews.
- Emotional analytics startup Beyond Verbal secures $3 million Series A round (September 1, 2016). I like this one: Emotion via speech analysis.
- Inbenta Raises $12M in Series B Funding Round (September 14, 2016). Inbenta originated in Spain and focuses on conversational user interfaces.
- Deep learning startup Skymind raises $3 million, launches Intelligence Layer distribution (September 28, 2016).
- Clarabridge‘s CEO Explains Why a $13M Funding Round is No Big Deal (October 6, 2016). Clarabridge is a customer experience text analytics leader.
- Martech Startup CaliberMind Closes $1.1M Seed Funding (October 26, 2016). (Data scientist Patrick Houlihan will speak in the Data Science and Technology at the 2017 Sentiment Analysis Symposium.)
- Lexigram Nabs $2M to Transform Unstructured Medical Data Through NLP (November 30, 2016).
- Solvvy Raises $4.5 Million to Bring Machine Learning to Customer Support (December 12, 2016). “By combining advanced machine learning technology and natural language sciences, we make a true self-service platform instantly available for the enterprise.” Sounds good.
- Signal Media raises £5.8M to help companies monitor and sift through the news (December 13, 2016).
- Legendary, which offers an agent platform supporting “conversation across syntactic, semantic and pragmatic boundaries,” did a $2 million Seed round (December 20, 2016).
I’ve picked up a few new launches that took seed or angel funding for undisclosed amounts:
- “SoapBox is developing the first Intelligent Customer Service Platform leveraging leading edge ML and NLP,” according to the CrunchBase record (February 10, 2016).
- TerraManta, focusing on commodity markets (March 1, 2016).
- CogniSent, which is “building a robo equity research analyst using AI and Alternative Data” (April 15, 2016).
- Text IQ applies NLP and machine learning for e-discovery and took seed funding for an undisclosed amount (September 20, 2016).
A 2017 Start
Finally, a start on 2017 events worth noting:
- Talkwalker secures €5M funding from Main Mezzanine Capital to spearhead development of AI powered social media analytics for Marketing and PR (January 11, 2017).
- With a $1.5M seed round, Eloquent Labs mixes AI and Mechanical Turk to fix customer service (January 19, 2017).
- With a $16M Series A, Chorus.ai listens to your sales calls to help your team close deals (February 17, 2017).
- Contract Review Co. LawGeex Raises $7M (March 8, 2017).
That’s it for my run-down of 2016 investment and M&A activity in NLP and text analytics. Thanks for reading. Please do tip me off to any activity I’ve missed, and if you’re in NLP or text analytics, I hope you have a great 2017!
The 2017 Sentiment Analysis Symposium will provide two days of NLP, text, sentiment, and emotion analytics coverage, June 27-28 in New York. This year’s program includes half-day workshops on Text Analytics for Market Research & Consumer Insights and NLP and Sentiment in Finance, in addition to other leading-edge material, with great networking opportunities. See you there?