UK tech startup Signal raises $1.8m in funding

Firm is backed by Dublin’s Frontline Ventures as it takes on media monitoring market

UK startup Signal has raised $1.8 million in funding as it seeks to expand its business, backed by Frontline Ventures.

The Dublin-based fund led the round for Signal, which specialises in media monitoring and market intelligence, and intends to take on firms such as Factiva. Signal scours the web, monitoring almost 100,000 news sources, 3.5 million blogs, and social media channels to bring real-time information to users.

"We see an opportunity to change the way organisations are able to monitor, discover and draw insights from the world's media," explained founder David Benigson.

“At one end of the market you have the incumbents with their legacy technology and unwieldy interfaces, and typically expensive pricing models, and at the other end of the market you have the free to use tools such as Feedly, which are really easy to use and intuitive but don’t really have the power and the functionality for enterprise in a meaningful way. We see the gap between the two and the opportunity there.”

The incumbent organisations in the market are struggling with the volume of information that has increased exponentially in recent years, he said, describing current methodology for filtering that information as “fairly flawed” and pointing to keyword searches as a source of problems.

Signal uses advanced machine learning to help filter results, with entity recognition that distinguishes between Apple the company and the fruit in its search results, duplication technology that cuts out duplicates and groups similar articles, and smart summarisation, which will extract important information. A key part of the system is the user interface, which makes the tool intuitive.

“We have the opportunity to scale out beyond the big corporates and offer something to the SME as well because it can be a self service model,” said Mr Benigson.

The company employs 15 people and is located in Shoreditch in London. The funding will be used to expand the team further, and Signal has already begun adding to its staff. Although the company was offered other term sheets for other investors, the decision was made to stick with Frontline. “We have a great relationship with the partners there,” said Mr Benigson. “We felt that Frontline both on a strategic level but also on a personal level were really well suited to lead the round.”

Frontline Ventures’ William McQuillan is joining the board.

Among the other investors in the round are Samos Investments, which also backs Betfair and Ocado, angel investor John Moulton and Reed Elsevier Ventures, which owns LexisNexis.

“It was an interesting decision in some ways but we thought they had a huge amount of value to offer us,” said Mr Benigson.

The company is also working on a deal to distribute LexisNexis content through the Signal platform, which will add 24,000 premium paywalled sources to the company’s remit.

The alpha version of the product was launched about six months ago, a release that has already got great traction, he said. The Jamie Oliver Group, European leaders and IG Index are among the firms already signed up to Signal, and the beta is now ready for launch.

Conversations are already underway with corporate clients, and Signal plans to have clients across the world.

“The information we scour is global and I think that businesses increasingly need to be international in their view and that’s where a tool like Signal can help,” Mr Benigson said.

However, the initial focus will be on the UK and Ireland.

“I think our job is to make their decision a no-brainer. If you come with a significantly better proposition, which I think is already what we’re doing and offer it at a cheaper price, which again is what we’ll be doing, I think that makes it a competitive proposition.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist