Big Data Startup Automated Insights Acquired by Vista Equity

Automated Insights, a startup whose software turns “big data” into plain English, has been acquired by private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.

The deal will bring the Durham, NC, company under STATS, a Chicago sports-data company that Vista acquired last year. No financial terms were disclosed for the Automated Insights deal. The company had raised $10.8 million from a syndicate of investors that included Samsung Venture Investment, The Associated Press, and AOL co-founder Steve Case. Vista, which has offices in Austin, TX, Chicago, and San Francisco, says it has invested more than $14 billion in technology companies.

The core technology of Automated Insights is called Wordsmith, a software platform that analyzes large data sets to find trends, correlations, and anomalies. The software then finds insights and turns those insights into reports that read as if they were written by humans—that’s the idea, anyway. The company says Wordsmith can automate 2,000 stories per second; the software created more than one billion articles and reports for customers in 2014. Those customers include Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMSCA), and the AP, which announced last summer that it would use the software to produce quarterly financial earnings articles based on the reported financial information from publicly traded companies.

Automated Insights was founded in 2007 by Robbie Allen, who was working as Cisco Systems’ (NASDAQ: CSCO) top software engineer. The company was initially called StatSheet, reflecting its focus on analyzing sports statistics. But the company changed its name to Automated Insights in 2011 as it broadened its scope beyond sports.

STATS is no stranger to Automated Insights. The companies have had a relationship since the early StatSheet days in 2007. Automated Insights was well funded after an oversubscribed $5.5 million Series B round last year and was not looking to be acquired, Allen wrote on a blog post about the deal. But he said the acquisition gives Automated Insights the financial backing and the market connections to grow.

“Vista’s resources and STATS’ distribution will allow us to fast-track our Wordsmith natural generation language platform across multiple industries including sports, business intelligence, media, personal fitness, healthcare, and beyond,” Allen wrote.

Automated Insights will remain headquartered in Durham, operating independently as a STATS subsidiary. The company says it will continue serving its existing customers even as it pursues new markets.

Frank Vinluan is editor of Xconomy Raleigh-Durham, based in Research Triangle Park. You can reach him at fvinluan [at] xconomy.com Follow @frankvinluan

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  • There is lots of scope for automated writing but it is best paired with either subject or analytical expertise, just as is the case with people. Expect future technologies in this area to not just do story-telling, but to devise ideas or insights worth writing about, and then writing about them.

  • Vista’s resources and STATS’ distribution will allow us to fast-track
    our Wordsmith natural generation language platform across multiple
    industries including sports, business intelligence, media, personal
    fitness, healthcare, and beyond