Narrative Science raises $10 million, Fires its robot reporters
I’m breaking out the champagne tonight; that dystopian future where I get replaced by an algorithm has drawn one step further away.
Narrative Science announced on Friday that they had raised another $10 million in a capital funding round as it shifted its focus from algorithmically generated news stories to private reports written for corporate customers. GigaOm reported on Friday that:
Narrative Science now courts organizations like financial-service providers who may have already invested in data-gathering services but have no idea what to do with all that information. Frankel claimed that Narrative Science can basically cut out a lot of busy work; a business can use the Quill platform instead of having someone on staff whose job is to sift through data, read from a dashboard, annotate the data and send off a report to the appropriate person.
“Rather than sticking a human in front the of the data, you actually have a machine [in place],” said Frankel.
A subsidiary of the The United Services Automobile Association drove the funding round with previous investors investors Sapphire Ventures, Jump Capital and Battery Ventures. Sapphire Ventures’s managing director Jai Das will join the startup’s board of directors.
This was Narrative Science’s third funding round, bringing their total capital investment to $32 million. Other investors this time around included existing investor Sapphire Ventures (formerly SAP Ventures), Jump Capital, and Battery Ventures. The startup had last raised capital in September 2013 ($11.5 million).
It’s not clear how much of the hype was deserved, but Narrative Science had been getting a lot of attention over the past few years for its AI-driven Quill platform, which can be used to create simple news stories based on collections of statistics like financial earnings projections (this is how Forbes used it).
But that was yesterday; now Narrative Sciences is turning its tech to serve corporate customers like financial service providers. I won’t speculate at length as to why but I will note that Narrative Science has numerous competitors in the robot reporter market.
As I reported in June:
The AP is partnering with a North Carolina company called Automated Insights. This firm, which just raised $5.5 million in a Series B funding round, has developed a patented natural language generation platform called Wordsmith. Like the many other bots working in journalism, Wordsmith spots patterns, correlations, and insights in large data sets and then describes them in plain English.
It’s by no means the first bot to get a press card; perhaps the best known are the ones developed by the 4 year old startup Narrative Science, which says it counts many news organizations among its customers. There’s also BookStats, which has been offering a similar sports-focused bot since at least 2010.
And in addition to the startups, a number of newspapers have been experimenting internally. The AP, for example, also reports that they “have been automating a good chunk of AP’s sports agate report for several years”. And the LA Times has been using a couple bots to generate seeds for stories, including one focused on police reports and another called Quakebot.
When I first read this story I thought that NS might be shifting industries because there was more money outside of the news industry, but now I wonder if perhaps NS is expanding into an industry where there is less competition for its services.
Either is a good possibility, I think.
images by CJ Isherwood, Arthur40A