Kinzen raises $2.2m as it helps clients fight ‘misinformation’

Start-up positions itself as early warning system in fight against harmful deception

Kinzen co-founders Mark Little and Áine Kerr were previously involved with the company Storyful, which was sold  to News Corp for €18m.

Kinzen co-founders Mark Little and Áine Kerr were previously involved with the company Storyful, which was sold to News Corp for €18m.

 

Kinzen, the media tech start-up founded by Mark Little and Áine Kerr, has closed a new $2.2 million (€1.84 million) investment round led by Danish start-up accelerator FST Growth.

The move comes as Kinzen positions itself as “an early warning system in the fight against misinformation”, as Mr Little describes it. He said the start-up has “two major content platforms” among its clients and is revenue producing.

Kinzen has accelerated its work with publishers during the Covid crisis and the US election to protect users from organised campaigns of harmful deception.

“Right now, we’re busy getting new clients. We are talking to major global communications agencies who are advising corporates and also to some public bodies. We’re also in discussion with a whole range of other players who initially didn’t even realise they had a problem with misinformation,” said Mr Little.

Kinzen was originally envisaged as a digital news subscription service when it launched in early 2019. However, more recently, the start-up has focused on detecting misinformation by analysing audio and video content.

The company has developed technology that combines artificial intelligence with human judgment to create what Mr Little called “editorial algorithms” that can find patterns in content to create what the company describes as a “knowledge graph”.

The former RTÉ journalist previously founded Storyful which was acquired by News Corp for €18 million. He said Kinzen technology goes beyond unveiling misinformation, with many other uses including uncovering threats. One of its German researchers recently found an online database belonging to an extreme right group that catalogued death threats it was going to issue to journalists.

“We find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic but also a global infodemic. The pandemic will hopefully be resolved with a vaccine but to solve the infodemic you need to mute the bad actors by amplifying quality news and information and by mitigating the bad,” said Ms Kerr, the company’s chief operations officer.

Managing editor at Storyful

Ms Kerr, a former political journalist, was also previously managing editor at Storyful and global head of journalism partnerships at Facebook.

“We are looking at conversations that are happening in real time, making sense of them by finding patterns . . . We can alert our partners to potential issues early on,” she said.

FST, which has led the new investment round, is part of the Danish media conglomerate Jysk Fynske Medier. Business Venture Partners (BVP), whose portfolio includes Irish companies Urban Volt and Crowley Carbon, also participated in the latest round as did existing investors such as XSell and Hostelworld co-founder Ray Nolan, Enterprise Ireland, and Singapore-based Derianto Kusuma, who previously co-founded Indonesian tech unicorn Traveloka.

Kinzen’s co-founders said investors can see the start-up is operating in what is a multibillion dollar environment given the huge disinformation issues facing publishers and corporations online.

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