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Media companies seed data startup Applied XL

Kerry Flynn
Mar 21, 2022
Illustration of a typewriter typing binary code on a sheet of paper.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Applied XL, a startup founded by two computational journalists creating real-time intelligence products, has raised $3.5 million in seed funding, CEO and co-founder Francesco Marconi tells Axios.

Why it matters: Applied XL uses computational journalism methods to automate data gathering. With machine learning, the startup monitors industry databases and identifies trends and changes.

Details: Hearst Ventures led the new funding round, with participation from Boston Globe Media Partners, STAT (both owned by the Henry family) and Alumni Ventures.

  • Applied XL has raised $5 million in total. Its pre-seed investors included Tuesday Capital, Newlab, Frog Ventures, Correlation Ventures, Team Global, Ringier executive Robin Lingg and Scott Cohen.
  • Tuesday Capital, Correlation Ventures, Lingg, Cohen and several existing angels also invested in the new round.
  • Marconi declines to disclose valuation or revenue but says Applied XL customers pay annual subscriptions of $1,500. Those clients include biotech and pharmaceutical companies along with hedge funds focused on life sciences.
  • The company has five full-time employees, including scientists, computational journalists and machine learning engineers.

Context: The founders both left the Wall Street Journal in early 2020 to start the company.

  • CTO Erin Riglin was WSJ's former automation editor. Marconi previously was R&D chief at WSJ and AI and news automation co-lead at The Associated Press.
  • Applied XL launched out of Brooklyn-based Newlab Venture Studio.
  • The team started working with The Boston Globe and then STAT to develop a Covid-19 tracker and a health preparedness index. They also analyzed drug development information for a story that uncovered the lack of coordination responding to clinical development for Covid-19 treatments.
  • Marconi says the work with STAT "received very positive responses, including inquiries from both large companies and government orgs requesting access to the data."

What's next: The startup is currently focused on life sciences. But Marconi says the team has "broader ambitions" addressing the "health of people, places and the planet," such as the infrastructure and energy sectors.

  • "The disruptions to come call for an urgent reassessment of how information is sourced because good information plays a vital role in driving sustainable solutions," Marconi says.
  • The new funding will be put toward engineering, product development and customer experience.

The bottom line: "It's not simply about automating data — it's about interpreting the human meaning in the data," Marconi says.

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