Applied XL, a startup creating machine learning tools with what it describes as a journalistic lens, is announcing that it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding.
Emerging from the Newlab Venture Studio last year, the company is led by CEO Francesco Marconi (previously R&D chief at The Wall Street Journal) and CTO Erin Riglin (former WSJ automation editor). Marconi told me that Applied XL started out by working on a number of different data and machine learning projects as it looked for product-market fit — but it's now ready to focus on its first major industry, life sciences, with a product launching broadly this summer.
He said that Applied XL's technology consists of "essentially a swarm of editorial algorithms developed by computational journalists." These algorithms benefit from "the point of view and expertise of journalists, as well as taking into account things like transparency and bias and other issues that derive from straightforward machine learning development."
Marconi compared the startup to Bloomberg and Dow Jones, suggesting that just as those companies were able to collect and standardize financial data, Applied XL will do the same in a variety of other industries.
He suggested that it makes sense to start with life sciences because there's both a clear need and high demand. Customers might include competitive intelligence teams at pharmaceutical companies and life sciences funds, which might normally try to track this data by searching large databases and receiving "data vomit" in response.
Update: Marconi provided additional context about the startup's initial focus via email, writing,"The life science industry has specific information needs currently not being fully met by existing private and public data sources; for example, many existing data providers cannot provide the kind of real-time context life science organizations require to make decisions on clinical development, competitive positioning and commercialization."
"Our solution for scaling [the ability to spot] newsworthy events is to design the algorithms with the same principles that a journalist would approach a story or an investigation," Marconi said. "It might be related to the size of the study and the number of patients, it might be related to a drug that is receiving a lot of attention in terms of R&D investment. All of these criteria that a science journalist would bring to clinical trials, we're encoding that into algorithms."
Eventually, Marconi said the startup could expand into other categories, building industry "micro models." Broadly speaking, he suggested that the company's mission is "measuring the health of people, places and the planet."
The seed funding was led by Tuesday Capital, with participation from Frog Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Team Europe (the investment arm of Delivery Hero co-founder Lukasz Gadowski) and Ringier executive Robin Lingg.
"With industry leading real-time data pipelining, Applied XL is building the tools and platform for the next generation of data-based decision making that business leaders will rely on for decades," said Tuesday Capital partner Prashant Fonseka in a statement. "Data is the new oil and the team at Applied XL have figured out how to identify, extract and leverage one of the most valuable commodities in the world."