Goldman Sachs Leads a $30 Million Funding Round in Persuasion Automation

Dyllan Furness

Dyllan explores technology and the human condition for Tech Emergence. His interests include but are not limited to whiskey, kimchi, and Catahoulas.

Goldman Sachs Leads a $30 Million Funding Round in Persuasion Automation

Last week, Goldman Sachs led a $30 million investment round into Persado, a company that offers AI-based copywriting and marketing services. Persado claims its system “outperforms man-made messages 100% of the time” in a process they call “persuasion automation.” In other words, according to Persado’s promotional video below, human marketers hardly stand a chance.

Persado’s unique selling point is its ability to create and test the strength of words, phrases, and entire sentences used in marketing content. The company claims to have tagged, scored, and categorized some 1 million of these terms to determine their effectiveness in marketing copy.

Backed by this database, Persado says its software can “effectively parse hundreds of thousands of ways to convey emotions” and apply those expressions to augment marketing campaigns. Thus, the software can alternate copy between feelings of safety, intimacy, and anxiety, depending on a client’s needs. (See below for their “Wheel of Emotions” infographic). This automated system enables the company to generate and test more texts than human-managed marketing departments, which tend to rely on individually created A/B test samples. For international clients, Persado boasts that its software can translate texts into 23 languages.

Wheel of Emotions Persado
Persado developed the “Wheel of Emotions” to help clients visualize their systems emotional database

Assad Baciu, one of Persado’s co-founders, says his system provides clients with “cognitive content” that’s written to motivate, engage, and call readers to action. Need a reader to click a Facebook ad? Persado says they have that covered. Want clients to reply to promotional emails? Persado claims their system has that solution too. “We’ve run 4,000 campaigns and our average uplift on conversion rates is 49.5%,” Baciu told TechCrunch

Persado isn’t exactly new to the content creation industry. Baciu and his co-founder Alex Vratskides decided to start the company five years ago in 2012. At the beginning, Persado focused on optimizing marketing messages. Now the company claims it can craft its own text. Three successful seed funding rounds since 2012, with each of their previous investors also joining the most recent funding round, has helped leverage Persado’s efforts in this direction. Goldman Sachs’s recent investment in the Series C round also highlights the startup’s potential.

Even though Persado was initially created as a means to make people buy things, Baciu thinks his company’s cognitive content platform, i.e. natural language processing software and statistical algorithms, can be used for tasks beyond marketing. “If you have a fitbit device and you want motivation to run the next 5k… if you’re in the market for dating and you want to improve your chances… all of these are examples of areas where cognitive content play a role,” he told TechCrunch.

In a new campaign called “Inspire Action,” Persado hopes to present its software as a means to do just that.

Companies such as Google and Automated Insights have also turned to AI to help with content creation. Google’s Smart Reply email feature lets users train machine learning software to help them answer emails. Meanwhile, Automated Insights’s Wordsmith software already helps brands like the Associated Press and Yahoo craft blogs, financial documents, and sports reports via an ad libs-like program. Through a system called Quill, Narrative Science also aims to translate data into narratives with the assistance of an AI author.

And Persado isn’t alone in its use of AI to persuade and engage potential customers. Two weeks ago, we saw the “world’s first” artificial intelligence creative director land a position at McCann Japan advertising agency. These moves seem to depict a trend in employing AI for both content creation and persuasion. Don’t expect AI to automate all writing tasks any time soon; however, from email responses to newsletters, AI is changing the way businesses present themselves and and engage their customers.

Image credit: Persado

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