Persado, With $21M More, Tools Up Its Software for Persuasion

On Thursday, New York-based Persado announced it raised $21 million in a Series B round led by StarVest Partners, with participation from Bain Capital Ventures, American Express Ventures, and Citi Ventures.

The funding will go towards marketing and various development efforts for Persado’s software, which uses natural language processing to help marketers pick the right digital messages to send to their customers.

This can include generating e-mails by using information relevant to the customers. CEO and co-founder Alex Vratskides believes Persado is an upgrade from traditional marketing methods.

“When it comes to pitching something, the best the industry has to offer is A/B testing,” he says, referring to the process of showing people two versions of the same message to see which one drives a more desirable response. Choosing a message to send still often comes down to the gut instincts of marketers, Vratskides says.

Persado aims to turn this process into a science, which he calls persuasion automation. He says the company’s technology was first built around text messages used by mobile phones. “It’s a great agent for innovation, because there is no color, there is no sound,” he says. “You just have the text that you write.”

Because of the barebones nature of text messages, the response rates to such marketing pitches would be based on how well they were written, he says. Persado expanded to e-mail messages, he says, which became the primary means for using the technology.

Vratskides says other digital sales channels such as Facebook, paid Web searches, and push notifications on mobile could use his software. Persado’s clientele includes MetLife, Best Buy, American Express, Verizon Wireless, and other businesses in retail, financial services, hospitality, and telecommunications.

The software, Vratskides says, can boost revenue from marketing efforts by its customers. “Going with Persado becomes a rational decision; it’s about making more money,” he says.

Vratskides says his company got its start in 2012, first as a division within mobile marketing firm Upstream Systems in London, which he also co-founded. With a $15 million Series A round in 2013, led by Bain, Persado moved the bulk of its staff to New York and was spun out as its own company.

With the latest funding, the company wants to further establish its place in the marketing technology scene and open up more opportunities. “We want to be implemented in Google AdWords, and in Facebook,” he says. Vratskides also believes Persado could be used in political campaigns to get the word out to voters. “The presidential election is in a couple of years,” he says.

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