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Posts Tagged ‘Automated Insights’

Automated Insights now offers plain English web analytics

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

By Allan Maurer

Automated InsightsIf you’ve ever spent hours digging through Google Analytics trying to find the stats that are meaningful to you, you’ll appreciate the new offering from Durham, NC-based Automated Insights called SiteAi.

The first-of-its-kind service helps website owners find the hidden insights buried in web analytics by providing daily and plain English actionable reports in email.

It’s the latest use of the Automated Insights sophisticated AI engine, which sifts through large data sets looking for patterns and trends. Previously the company sold Yahoo a product that automatically produces recaps of Fantasy Football games, cranking out 500-1,000 word articles for millions of players at the rate of more than 1,000 per second.

Automated Insights started life as the StatSheet network in 2007, a very popular college basketball stats site, and soon expanded coverage to MLB, NFL, NBA, and college football. It was founded by CEO Robbie Allen.

Expanding off its first base

Using no human writers whatsoever, it published tens of thousands of articles for over 400 team-based web sites, over 450 team-based mobile apps, and thousands of Facebook and twitter feeds. The websites and apps are data and visual rich, with articles, charts, lists, and feeds.

AI’s Joe Procopio tells us, “When we became Automated Insights, our goal was to expand off our sports base.” The company’s mantra is to automate everything. “We’re still working on automating our ping pong games,” Procopio quipped in an earlier interview.

The goal of the new product, he says, “Is to help website owners maximize whatever their goals may be, not just report the statistics. But it does save you from needing to click through all those charts on Google Analytics.”

Viral pricing

Joe Procopio at a TechMedia event. If you're in the Research Triangle and involved in startups, you've probably run into him. He gets around.

Joe Procopio at a TechMedia event. If you’re in the Research Triangle and involved in startups, you’ve probably run into him. He gets around.

The company is “Eating its own dogfood,” says Procopio. “We have hundreds of websites and its a huge time-saver for us, helping us maximize impact from how and where we run our ads.”

The company is also using something Procopio calls “viral pricing.” He explains, “The product is free for 60 days, then we start charging a fee based on the number of people we’ve signed up.” The fee will range from $4 to $10 a month, he says.

Just a start

“The more people who sign up, the less the price will be, so it encourages users to tell others about it.”

Analytics is a sweet spot for the company, Procopio adds. “There is so much data and much of it is difficult to access. We automate reports and do it quickly.”

The new product, though is just “a first shot,” at product development outside the sports arena. “We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do with AI,” Procopio says.

Fasten your seatbelt: Three tips on riding the startup roller coaster

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

By Allan Maurer

roller coasterIt’s much easier to launch a startup company these days, but not nearly so easy to get venture or angel financing, says Joe Procopio.

New technologies such as cloud computing infrastructure, fairly easy to use website development and content management systems, and other advances make it a much simpler matter to get a company launched with very little capital.

But getting seed or venture funding these days is a different matter.

“It started with the Facebook hangover,” says Procopio. The number of financing deals and the dollars invested are down compared to last year. I think we’ll be seeing smaller deals with less game-changing technology behind them and a greater emphasis on revenues.”

In fact, he adds, “It’s not just about the idea any more. Financials are king. You really have to have customers and show good financials — or have a very clear path to them – to get funded these days.”

Get into the startup ecosystem

On the other hand, he says, “Often, getting funding is not the way to go.” Instead, he says, entrepreneurs should take advantage of the startup ecosystems popping up in many cities and regions.

Those include accelerators, incubators, competitions, universities, and crowd-sourced funding (such as Kickstarter).

Carolina ChallengeFor instance, he notes, via the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Carolina Challenge, “Students are getting into entrepreneurship while completing a bachelor’s degree. They’re coming out of school starting their own companies and get cashflow positive very quickly. It’s a trend that will continue.”

While there will still be some “home-run hitters” among startups and some great ideas that get tons of funding, most startups are probably better off “Letting customers fund them,” he says.

Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

Procopio, a serial entrepreneur familiar to TechJournal readers for his columns about the startup scene in the Research Triangle in NC, where he is a familiar face at conferences and networking events for entrepreneurs, will participate in the upcoming Startup Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-7.

Speakers from top brands

The Startup Summit is a new addition to the 2012 Internet Summit, which brings 120 thought-leaders to the Raleigh, NC, Convention Center Nov. 6-8, featuring speakers from AOL, Bing, Google, Klout, Mashable, comScore and many other top digital brands.

He’ll join speakers such as Angus Davis, founder and CEO at Swipely, Paul Singh, partner and “Master of the Hustle,” at 500 Startups, Sarah Lacy, founder and editor of Pando Daily, and venture capitalists from NextView Ventures, ABS Capital, True Ventures, Baltimore Angles and Nucleus Venture, Southern Capitol Ventures, Contender Capital,  and North Bridge Venture Partners.

Among the other startup CEOs on the agenda is Procopio’s boss at Automated Insights, Robbie Allen, a former distinguished engineer at Cisco and author of ten books on a variety of technical topics.

Automated InsightsAllen founded Automated Insights, which began by developing automated sports reporting, an idea that got a lot of press for its robot journalism angle. The firm landed a NC IDEA grant and raised a $4.3 million round of funding in October last year.

Automate everything

Procopio, who has been with the firm since 2010, says, “Our slogan is automate everything. “We joke that we want to automate our ping pong games,” he quips. Automated Insights has moved on from automated sports reporting – for which there is a limited market – to such things as recapping Fantasy Football games in a deal with Yahoo. Personally, here at the TechJournal, we think that is one clever idea.

Procopio, who also started and runs the ExitEvent startup network, has this advice for entrepreneurs:

First, “Chase sales and think customers first. Prove your idea before you seek money and consider whether you really need outside capital.”

Second, “Reach out to the startup ecosystem and get involved early. You’ll get so much return on very little investment connecting at educational events or just going out with other entrepreneurs for a beer. Later stage guys are open, helpful and willing to make connections for you.”

Ride the roller coaster

Finally: “Ride the roller coaster. If you’re having days with awesome highs followed by terrible lows, you’re doing it right.”

He sees a lot of entrepreneurs who go a month or two without gaining traction and get the 20th no, then quit.

But, he says, “That’s one of the best and worst things about being a startup. You’ll have days that are phenomenal and the next be crashing down and fighting fires. Doing that, you’re in the right place.”

On the other hand, he says, if you’re not having those highs and lows on the roller coaster, you may be growing complacent and “need to pivot.”

The easiest way to lose, he says, “Take your eye off the ball and get complacent.”



Automated Insights powers millions of Fantasy Football recaps for Yahoo!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

By Joe Procopio

The first week of the 2012 NFL Football Season is in the books and at 4:30 a.m. this morning, me and the crew at Automated Insights began creating and delivering individual Fantasy Football matchup recaps to Yahoo! Fantasy Football.

By 7:30 a.m. this morning, Yahoo! had published several million of these recaps across their league pages and we were seeing tweets like these:

Dear Yahoo! Fantasy Football people. You have earned some serious respect with this awesome “Recap” feature for previous week matchups

By the end of the 2012 season, it will be the largest implementation of fully personalized automated content ever produced.

Each team got a unique, professional-sounding paragraph narrative plus four sets of game notes recapping their individual matchup. The recap is highly relevant and hyper-personalized, even entertaining, highlighting not only what did happen, but how it happened, what could have happened, and even what should have happened.

The recaps were created at a rate of 500 articles per second, all machine-written, unmistakably human, and completely customized. The algorithms take into account all of the custom settings and scoring rules that the league commissioners can create.

The following is an actual (but condensed) Automated Insights generated recap using last year’s actual data from our own in-house league. The winning team in this example may have been mine. It’s hard to remember plus that’s not the point. OK, it’s mine.

Staats Battle Rallies to Beat Greased Up Deaf Guy for Fourth Consecutive Win

Staats Battle crushed Greased Up Deaf Guy, 154.44 – 117.50, for a second win in as many head-to-head matchups this season. Drew Brees was the difference, putting up 42.32 points this week, an upgrade on his 34.06 points the last time these teams met. To make matters worse, Greased Up Deaf Guy had a starter score zero points (Mario Manningham). This is the smallest margin of victory for Staats Battle in the series, as they defeated Greased Up Deaf Guy 121.18 – 69.66 back in Week 1. Finally, even with the loss, Greased Up Deaf Guy earned a spot in the playoffs.

Staats Battle Smooth Moves

  • Drew Brees scored the most points of any player on Staats Battle this season.
  • Benched RB Jackie Battle, who scored fewer points than any RB in the starting lineup with 2.00.
  • Picked up Toby Gerhart, who beat his scoring projection by 46.6%, with 12.30 points against a projected 8.39.

Greased Up Deaf Guy Regret Tracker

  • Left Jermaine Gresham on the bench, where he scored 12.80 points and surpassed his scoring projection by 179.5%, the highest percentage of any player on the team.
  • With 1.00 point, the San Francisco 49ers Defense had their lowest output of the season and tallied just 8.9% of their 11.28 projected points, their lowest percentage of the year.
  • Tony Gonzalez could not reach his projected point total, scoring only 72.9% of his 9.47-point projection with 6.90 points.

What If

  • Greased Up Deaf Guy would be 6-4 if they played the same schedule as Staats Battle.
  • Staats Battle would have beaten eight other teams besides Greased Up Deaf Guy this week.
  • If Staats Battle played Greased Up Deaf Guy every week, they would be 8-4 this season.

Game Notes

  • Staats Battle has won four straight games, the longest current winning streak in the league.
  • Greased Up Deaf Guy could not extend their six-game win streak.
  • With the win, Staats Battle remains undefeated in comeback games this season, improving to 2-0.

This isn’t just a new toy for Fantasy Football nerds, it’s a huge step for automated content. Fantasy Football, at last count in 2008, included 29-million players, many who managed several teams, and those players spent an average of 5-6 hours a week and $493 a year on fantasy sports.

The only solution

This is an area where automated content is not just the best solution, it’s the only solution – a scenario that calls for millions of articles delivered immediately and frequently, something no amount of writers could ever accomplish. The audience is also very niche, but they’re passionate about the content, and in most cases that content is actionable, which makes it extremely valuable.

And that’s something that always gets misunderstood about what we’re doing at Automated Insights. Automated content isn’t designed to replace human writers (at least the good ones). Machine-driven content is best used in situations where human-driven content is impossible or the expense outweighs the benefit.

In this case, it’s a huge value-add for Yahoo’s Fantasy Football offering. In other cases, it has powered our StatSheet network of team sites, allowing us to cover every major college basketball and football program and the NFL, MLB, and NBA — with all of 14 people.

And it doesn’t end there – it’s also producing thousands of individual neighborhood market reports for real estate company startup Sawbuck, as well as niche content in finance and other verticals.

So instead of reading a customized article about which running back would best fit into your specific fantasy lineup, imagine reading a customized article about which stock and how much of it would best fit your specific portfolio.

Now imagine we can do that for millions of people at once. That’s what automated content is designed to do, and that’s what we’re doing with it.

Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio (@jproco) heads up product engineering for automated content startup Automated Insights, which is also StatSheet. He also founded and runs startup network ExitEvent,. You can read him at


New startup accelerator Groundwork Labs launching in Durham

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Joe Procopio

Joe Procopio

By Joe Procopio

It’s always good to get a second chance.

Ask anyone involved in the startup game and they’ll tell you: Part of the makeup of a great entrepreneur is the ability to deal with failure. This ability usually comes, oddly enough, with actually having failed, at least once, on the way to success. It’s a conundrum of the game.

The North Carolina Research Triangle had an accelerator, very recently, and it was successful, and it closed up shop, which caused a lot of disappointment and heartbreak within the startup community. But it’s important to note that while Groundwork Labs will fill the void left by Launchbox in the American Underground in Durham, it’s not a replacement.

It’s something new, with new players, a new mission, and a new vision.

And the fact that the RTP gets another shot with the acceleration concept, that’s, well, lucky, to say the least.

How It Works

Groundwork Labs, much like your traditional accelerator, will select promising startups for a three month session and load them up with the standard foundational elements: space, advice, connections, mentoring, and the all-important $20,000 in walking around money.

They’re starting quickly out of the gate, Spring 2012, which means you should get your application in yesterday. They expect to work with between five and seven startups per session and run at least one and hopefully two sessions per year.

I actually got wind of the Groundwork Labs news about a week ago, but I had been sworn to secrecy. I’m not sure why they were so worried. I’m not that kind of journalist. I’m the other kind. The lazy kind.

Official word broke yesterday afternoon, which happened to be just hours before the monthly ExitEvent social I host for area entrepreneurs, which happened to coincide with the TechJournal Deck Party, in Raleigh, which happened to fall on the eve of Internet Summit 2011 at the Raleigh Convention Center, resulting in a Catalina Wine Mixer of startup tech marketing investor type people in one place. So I had access to a lot of opinion. Others I got to via emails. Disclaimer: There was no free beer involved in the solicitation of opinion.

And overall the opinion is very, very hopeful.

What Do You Think?

“Love it,” says iContact’s Aaron Houghton, “Durham deserves it and many passionate entrepreneurs will benefit from it.”

“Launchbox proved that having a local incubator is important to the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” says Robbie Allen, CEO of Automated Insights. “It really helps raise the profile of all startups in the area.”

James Avery, founder of Adzerk and a very passionate voice when Launchbox closed up shop is, well, excited again. “I am thrilled to see that Durham will once again host an accelerator. I love that John Austin is involved as I think he has done a great job with Joystick so far.”

John Who?

John Austin, Director of Joystick Labs, will also head the Groundwork effort. Before any of the gamers freak out, nothing is going to happen to Joystick. It will continue to operate independently, though it does get a boost in efficiency of shared resources. Joystick will get its next semester underway this summer, and the two efforts will continue to operate in leapfrog fashion.

I got a chance to sit down with John again yesterday. We hadn’t really caught up since he took the helm of Joystick right before this year’s East Coast Game Conference.

The two players in Groundwork Labs, Capitol Broadcasting  and NC IDEA  are very excited about it, according to Austin. There will be synergy between the entities with resources obviously coming from the Underground, as well as the possibility that some of the startups chosen for Groundwork will come from NC IDEA – even though there will be separation in the process, with two separate application programs, etc.

NC IDEA, the grant program that has a symbiotic relationship with VC firm Idea Fund Partners, and another organization I got to dig down into recently, is another positive. Beyond being the region’s best kept secret for early stage entrepreneurs, they’re entire mission is to aid the area in terms of building up a successful, thriving, early-stage ecosystem.

“I think this is an important piece of the puzzle for building a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem in North Carolina,” says Lister Delgado, Founder and General Partner at Idea Fund Partners.

“It is another way to help attract entrepreneurial talent to the state, and to keep the resident talent here. Besides the money and the assistance that an accelerator can provide to the entrepreneurs participating, an accelerator is a great marketing tool for the community. That is why we are excited to be involved.”

Two Types of Investment

Austin backs this up, and notes that NC IDEA and Capitol Broadcasting, who owns and operates the American Tobacco Campus, have split the infrastructure costs from the investment in the companies. This model is much like how Joystick operates. The investors see the investment in the infrastructure of Joystick as an investment in the entrepreneurial community. Not a donation, per se, but with an expectation for a different kind of return.

This is the critical factor in the potential success of Groundwork. Capitol Broadcasting has a business interest in seeing it succeed, through the American Underground and several other initiatives they have operating in the startup ecosystem. As for NC IDEA, early-stage success here is what their mission is built upon. Groundwork is almost like an expansion of their program, a runway off of the grant money, or even just the runway when the money isn’t a critical factor.

This vested interest, skin in the game, if you will, from the funding parties, is designed to give Groundwork enough time to decide whether or not the accelerator will work. That, of course, is up to the companies selected, and in some sense the rest of here in the area already hard at work at making the region stick as an entrepreneurial hub.

So in that sense, Groundwork Labs is another good sign. Second chances are hard to come by, so you’ve got to jump on the opportunity when they do.

Zack Mansfield, VP at Square 1 Bank and manager of their startup assistance program Square Roots, sums it up nicely. “It’s exciting to see a new accelerator for a lot of reasons but the most significant is that if this region is serious about becoming a top hub for startups, we need more of just about everything – more capital, more entrepreneurs, and more people in the ecosystem supporting new ventures to help them grow.”

Joe Procopio heads up product engineering for tech media startup Automated Insights (formerly StatSheet). He also owns consulting firm Intrepid Company  and creative network Intrepid Media and runs the startup social ExitEvent. Joe can be reached via Twitter @jprocoand read at


NC-based StatSheet changes name, nabs $4M round

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Automated InsightsDURHAM, NC -The company that may put at least some journalists out of work, StatSheet, which sells real-time content automation, has raised a $4 million round of funding led by Court Square Ventures and OCA Ventures, with participation from IDEA Fund Partners and other existing investors.

In conjunction, the company changed its name to Automated Insights to reflect the broad applicability of its innovative technology to data-intensive verticals beyond sports where high content generation costs can make comprehensive coverage prohibitively expensive.  The company’s sports offerings will continue to grow under the StatSheet brand.

“We believe this new corporate branding better reflects the long-term potential of our company, and underscores the value of our technology to any vertical with large amounts of structured data,” said Robbie Allen, the company’s CEO and founder.

Automated Insights’ technology transforms vast amounts of raw data into compelling narrative content and powerful visualizations. The content is written entirely by software and can be formatted as headlines, summaries, and long-form articles.  In addition, the content can be published cost-effectively at just about any scale via the web, mobile applications, and all types of social media.

“Our technology has worked extremely well with sports, but it is also well suited to verticals such as finance, real estate and weather, or even sales productivity and business intelligence applications.  In essence, our technology humanizes big data by automating knowledge and insight so the new name is a perfect fit” added Allen.

Automated Insights’ technology can be seen in action in its StatSheet sports content network.  StatSheet currently powers fully-automated, real-time coverage of all 375 Major League Baseball (MLB) and NCAA Division I College Basketball teams via dynamically updated team-centric websites, iPhone and Android applications, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and e-mail newsletters. In September, the company will also launch team-centric sites and mobile apps for all 32 NFL and 244 NCAA Division I College Football teams.

“Automated Insights is revolutionizing the creation of compelling high-quality content and they have proven they can do it at scale through their StatSheet sports content network,” commented Randy Castleman, General Partner with Court Square Ventures. “We are excited to help them continue to grow their sports coverage and apply the technology to new verticals.

“We are thrilled to team up with such a strong management team and experienced investors,” noted Jim Dugan, CEO and Managing Partner of OCA Ventures. “We believe the timing is ideal for Automated Insights’ highly scalable content development solutions.”