For all their differences through competition in business, corporate honchos around the world today will agree on one thing – data is the new oil. Earlier, the financial services industry relied on individuals to stay glued to news feeds to lend buttress to trading, investment and research. Now, however, computers are increasingly relieving workers of mundane functions and automation is also considered to be more accurate and void of emotional influences behind decision making. Quantitative investments has emerged as one of the front-runners in finances. It leverages machine learning to scan heaps of data across numerous platforms to identify opportunities that humans may not. These ‘quant’ funds are exactly the type of customers New-York-based Accern is servicing.
Founded in 2014, Accern is a web surveillance platform that provides real-time media analytics enterprise solutions to financial services companies. It utilises proprietary natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to condense news articles, blogs and social media posts with feature-rich analytics that is customised as per a company’s requirement.
“You can think of Accern as the one-stop-shop for analytics solutions. We have, pretty much, the entire coverage of public financial news and we could customise whatever stuff they (clients) want,” says Kumesh Aroomoogan, Co-founder and CEO of Accern.
Not only does Accern deliver real-time updates, they also provide their customers with data quality by scanning the articles using artificial intelligence to determine if the articles are positive or negative and how many people may have read it.
The team buys a lot of their data from ‘data vendors’, thus in order to maintain low costs on scraping and crawling, they have identified sources to crawl faster than others.
Accern’s other co-founder, Anshul Vikram Pandey is an award-winning research author who was working with the United Nations (UN) trying to find breaking news utilising micro-blogging social media platform Twitter. “We pretty much had the same idea but for different markets, so we decided to collaborate,” says Kumesh.
Once the product was developed, Accern was contacted by a quantitative hedgefund, supposedly the largest in New York, to give them a demo of it. The next six months was spent on improving the technology, recruiting engineers from NYU (New York University) and developing the product based on feedback. This lead to the New York-based hedgefund becoming Accern’s largest client.
Anshul says, “There is definitely an art in selling your vision to someone who has no idea about this very niche space of text analytics, artificial intelligence, big data and finance.”
The data that Accern collects first goes through noise-cancellation filters, followed by relevancy filters – which is currently focused on finance. After this, comes text processing, which happens to be the core of analytics – which includes sentiment analysis, impact analysis, historical information, time and effect of certain tweets or posts – all of which involves machine learning. The information accumulated in delivered through multiple channels which include real-time APIs which give customers access to data as son as they are processed. Anshul adds, “In the future when we expand to different verticals, only the relevancy component will change.”
“We can take it to the next level by expanding it to different verticals, we can start aiming it towards media companies, we can expand to marketing and PR (Public Relations) firms, you could also expand to businesses in general and then government intelligence.”
Accern currently curates content from more than 300 million websites around the world and processes over 7 million articles and 150 million social mentions each day. Their clientele includes tech leaders like IBM along with hedge funds and large financial institutions in the US. In May of 2017, the company rasied $1.2 million in a seed round from investors including Rostra Capital, VYL, Gurtin Ventures, 26 Ventures, Belmont Capital, and Affinity Investment Group.
Having taken the plunge into entrepreneurship, Kumesh jokingly says the best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to “prepare for bankruptcy.” He goes on to add, “Don’t give up, there could be a lot of days where you’re like, ‘what exactly am I doing?’ But you just can’t give up, just keep going, there’s always going to be a way where it’s going to work out.” Anshul on the other hand takes inspiration from cricketing legend, Sachin Tendulkar, believing that one needs to just work on whatever it is they choose and believe there is a path. He mentions the importance of genuine evaluation onself saying, “when you talk to people, they will tell you, precisely, where you are wrong.”