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World Cup star Luminoso scores US$6.5M to fund expansion of text analytics business

Bob Brown | July 3, 2014
MIT Media Lab spinoff rolling amidst buzzy World Cup partnership with Sony.

Text analytics company Luminoso, a 2010 MIT Media Lab spinoff that helps its customers make sense out of unstructured data, has raised a $6.5 million Series A round of funding. The 25-person outfit plans to use the funds for new hires in sales, product management and client services as well as to expand its product line.

The fresh funds come via Acadia Woods and Digital Garage, the latter of which is based in Tokyo and was co-founded by MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito. Cambridge, Mass.-based Luminoso, which offers its dashboard service via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model and also provides APIs that can be incorporated into customers' existing systems, raised $2 million in seed funding in 2012.

Luminoso is currently riding a high profile customer win -- its partnership with Sony on a social network dedicated to World Cup soccer. Luminoso's language processing technology powers Sony's One Stadium Live system, bringing organization to the many World Cup conversations taking place across the world on social networks Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

One thing Luminoso is looking to do with its new funding is take its technology behind One Stadium Live and "build a product that helps manage unstructured data in customer service and support," says CEO Catherine Havasi, who is also a research scientist in artificial intelligence and computational linguistics at MIT Media Lab. "We're working on another SaaS product that takes incoming streams of text data and helps with issue and risk spotting and tracking," she says.

Other Luminoso customers have included Yelp, Olive Garden and Intel. Its technology understands language within context and picks up on new lingo, enabling companies to use it for gauging customer satisfaction and spotting trends that can be converted into new products and services. Havasi says the dashboard gives insight to product development and market research teams, for example, so that they "are taking what was a qualitative process and turning it into a more quantitative process. They pick between product prototypes, design marketing campaigns, determine what stores should carry, and determine if brands have purchase to go into certain areas or develop certain products." The API offering is mainly used for giving decision making capabilities to computers, for applications such as predictive analytics and document tagging.

Luminoso, one of many MIT Media Lab spinoffs, competes with companies large and small, ranging from SAP and SAS to Clarabridge and Lexalytics. 

Industry analyst Seth Grimes of Alta Plana says one of Luminoso's big differentiators is that it uses unsupervised learning methods in which machines figure out what themes and topics are within data sets (as opposed to supervised methods in which business analysts determine categories and classifications ahead of time).


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