Meltwater acquires Oxford Uni spin-out Wrapidity to add AI to media monitoring capabilities

Meltwater, the self-described ‘media intelligence’ company, has acquired Wrapidity, a U.K.-based AI startup that has built technology to automate the extraction of data from unstructured web-based content.

Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, including how much Oxford University, from where Wrapidity spun out in early 2015, will benefit, though I understand it only held a minor share in the company via its technology transfer arm. The startup had raised a very modest £200,000 to date.

“After evaluating over 20 companies globally in this space, the Meltwater team determined that Wrapidity is the strongest technology of its kind, complemented by an experienced engineering team led by co-founders Dr. Tim Furche, Dr. Giorgio Orsi and Dr. Giovanni Grasso,” says Meltwater in a statement.

In a call, I asked Dr. Tim Furche, Wrapidity’s CTO, why the startup had decided to sell so early. He told me that, in some ways, it doesn’t actually feel like that since the technology has been almost a decade in the making through its academic beginnings.

He also talked up the two companies’ shared vision, sounding genuinely excited, and cited both Meltwater’s customer reach and huge historical content data sets that can be used to improve and further develop Wrapidity’s hybrid AI technology.

Specifically, Furche told me, Wrapidity’s AI tech can automatically figure out how to navigate web content, what that content is about, and then how to extract the content data in a structured way so that it can be interrogated for different purposes, including media monitoring.

That means, for example, Meltwater will be able to quickly on-board new content sources or domains without having to manually decipher its structure and write new scraping rules.

Furche also tells me that he and Wrapidity’s other technical co-founders, Giovanni Grasso and Giorgio Orsi, are staying on with the company whilst retaining some ties to academia, and that the startup has moved into Meltwater’s Shack 15 co-working space in East London.

I also understand Georg Gottlob, Wrapidity’s scientific head, has joined Meltwater’s advisory board and remains Professor at the Oxford University Department of Computer Science and Professor at Vienna University.

Leon Shpilsky, Wrapidity’s CEO, initially planned to join Meltwater, but has since left amicably to take up a position in business development for Oxford Sciences Innovation PLC, an independent fund aimed at Oxford University spin-outs.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of Wrapidity comes just a few weeks after Meltwater raised $60 million in debt funding from Silicon Valley Bank, and Vector Capital, money it pegged for “strategic acquisitions”. At the time, founder and CEO Jorn Lyseggen talked up the potential to beef up the company’s data science, machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities by acquiring startups in the space that have “proven technology”.

“We see acquisitions as an integral part of our growth strategy,” he said in a statement. “We believe the next 24 months will see a high M&A activity in our space and we raised this capital to give us the firepower to take an active role in these processes”.

I’m told that since 2009 and not including today’s acquisition, Meltwater has acquired nine companies. Most recent was Encore Alert, a 500 Startup alumni that’s built social media alert technology powered by data science. We can now add Wrapidity to the list.