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Tuesday 20 September 2022

Backers see likely success for Unlikely AI

logoThat the man is a genius there is little doubt. But I can’t forgive him for inventing Alexa. I refer to British tech entrepreneur William Tunstall-Pedoe, whose voice assistant start-up, Evi Technologies (formerly True Knowledge), was acquired by Amazon in 2012 for a mooted $26m. And now we talk to our tech – and, worse still, it answers back.

Tunstall-Pedoe spent the next three years helping to build Alexa before moving to a portfolio career as mentor, angel investor and (according to his personal website) calculating that April 11th 1954 was the most boring day in history. No, I don’t know why either (and it isn’t his birth date).

Roll forward a few years to 2018, Tunstall-Pedoe launches Unlikely AI, and a couple of years later raises £1.1m in angel funding (he’s a member of Cambridge Angels). And just a week or so ago it was announced that Unlikely AI has raised a further $20m in a seed funding round led by Amadeus Capital Partners and Octopus Ventures, with a host of angels and other notables also participating.

Now here’s the thing. Nobody seems to know what Unlikely AI does. To quote its website, ‘Most of our work has not yet been announced’ (which I read as ‘we don’t know either’), though you can play with Crossword Genius, ‘an app containing an AI, Ross, who can solve and explain even the most difficult cryptic crossword clues.’ (And, no, I also don’t know why ‘Ross’). It can ‘read’ crosswords too.

Anyway, as the maxim goes, you invest in the founder as much as the idea (or something like that), and clearly Tunstall-Pedoe’s backers are hoping he’ll eventually come up with another ‘pre-Alexa’ technology breakthrough that he can sell to the highest bidder. But hopefully for much, much more than a measly $26m.

I only hope I don’t have to talk to it.

Posted by: Anthony Miller at 09:09

Tags: funding   startup  

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