Startup Szl.IT, which promises to bring artificial intelligence to better personalize web content searches, has closed on new funding from three investors, according to an SEC filing. And it doesn’t expect that funding to last long – in other words, more fund raising to come?
In fact, the company is disclosing today what it describes as a “multi-million dollar” investment from Drake Enterprises, which is located in Western North Carolina.
While the Szl (pronounced sizzle) venture is new, its leaders are Triangle tech veterans Richard Boyd and David Smith.
In fact, Boyd tells WRAL TechWire that Smith’s efforts in creating Szl.IT’s underlying tehcnology led him to leave defense contractor Lockeed Martin where he was a senior executive involved in 3D and virtual reality development.
“This is a breakthrough,” Boyd says. “It has tremendous potential.”
The company, which launched in May of 2013, already has an office in Los Angeles and has four full-time employees plus contractors. But Boyd says Szl.IT needs to hire.
“We definitely need engineers who know Ruby on Rails,” he says.
The company also has a website set up just for searching video (Szl.TV).
“When we learned about what the Szl.it team was doing here in North Carolina we wanted to get involved,” said Josh Drake, vice president of Drake Enterprises, in a statement. “Drake Software has enjoyed tremendous success as a software company here in North Carolina and we want to encourage more innovation and success in the state.”
Szl.IT reunites Smith and Boyd with Boyd as CEO and Smith as chairman.
Smith was founder of Virtus, a pioneer in 3D development.
Boyd and Smith were both involved in the formation of gaming venture Red Storm Entertainment along with the late Tom Clancy.
The two ran 3Dsolve, which was sold in 2007 to Lockheed Martin. Boyd also is an investor through Chapel Hill-based Pavonis Group.
So what is Szl?
The New User Interface
“Szl.it was formed to solve one of the fundamental information age problems,” says Boyd in his LinkedIn profile.
“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. Our powerful human-powered neural net is the optimal combination of human and machine intelligence to help people effortlessly filter the flotsam and jetsam of the Net to get what they want on mobile devices.
“AI is the new UI.”
In other words, Artificial Intelligence is the new User Interface.
The Startup factory chose Szl as one of its cadre of firms last fall, and Szl exited the 12-week program in November along with TSF financial backing.
In the SEC filing, Szl says it closed this week on $1.582 million from three investors who were not identified.
What’s Szl and Fzl?
“Szl provides users with personalized online content,” is how Szl was described at the November TSF presentation to investors.
“As you ‘sizzle’ or ‘fizzle’ the content it feeds you, their platform learns your preferences, sorting through the mess of irrelevant Internet media to find what you’ll deem to be the good stuff.”
Here’s how TSF described Szl when the startup was selected for the $50,000 startup funding and accelerator program:
“As the Internet continues to grow, and search technology continues to improve, the proliferation of data sources is actually making it harder and harder to decide where to spend our time. A host of news and infotainment curation services have emerged to try to help people with this problem. The expiration of Google Reader in July 2013 increased the tempo and scale of this need. The problem is, most of these tools require a lot of setup and are really created for power users. Only a small percentage of people who get their news from the Internet spend the time to set up RSS feeds and filters. Szl addresses these problems directly and solves them, while also adding a fun and toyetic interface that we expect will become addictive and will create a new category of methods for interfacing humans to the Internet.”
At its website, Szl says it “was formed to solve one of the fundamental information age problems – A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. Our powerful human-powered neural net is the optimal combination of human and machine intelligence to help people effortlessly filter the Net to get what they want.”
Szl is available in beta, and there is no charge for its use. The software works across smartphones, tablets and PCs.