Facebook ‘to buy’ Allen & Overy Incubator Startup Bloomsbury AI

US and UK media are reporting that global social network, Facebook, is ‘to buy’ one of the startups in Allen & Overy’s second cohort at its Fuse incubator. Artificial Lawyer has not been able to independently verify this – yet.

Sites such as Tech Crunch along with some mainstream press were reporting last night that the $40 billion revenue company ‘is purchasing’ London-based Bloomsbury AI, an NLP-focused startup with a Q&A capability that at present is not industry specific and has already had success working with banks.

Tech Crunch reported a price of between $23m and $30m for the AI company.

Reports last night suggested the move was aimed at helping Facebook to reduce the quantity of ‘fake news’ on the site.

So, this would be rather ironic if it turned out not to be accurate. But, given the news’ potential importance it seemed best to at least report this much.

Even if this turns out to be a market rumour with some substance, rather than a completed deal, it still suggests that the world’s largest tech companies are now looking at purchasing AI startups that have moved into the legal space. And that in itself is exciting news.

Bloomsbury AI says of its capabilities:

‘Today, much of the world’s knowledge is communicated through natural language, through documents or speech. Natural language is hard for computers to understand, so technology hasn’t so far been able to give immediate and direct access to this knowledge – even with search it can still take too long, or it can be too difficult, to get the answers you need when you need them.

Our mission is to solve this problem – everyone should be able to ask any question and get the answer immediately.

We’ve started off by building an AI that reads text documents and answers questions about their contents (called Cape). You can use Cape on your own documents or website, so that users of your knowledge can get immediate answers to their questions.

We’re going to use what we learn from this version to improve our AI, so that it can answer more questions – even ones that require elements of reasoning and synthesis. Eventually we want to be able to answer any question that requires reading better than a human.’

Despite having joined the Fuse incubator the company is not that well known in legal circles, and now, perhaps its future – if the reports are accurate – will take a very new direction inside Facebook.

Although being ‘new’ to the legal world, it is clearly seen as well-developed enough by some and  is already backed by investors such as Seedcamp and IQ Capital. 

Artificial Lawyer contacted Bloomsbury AI last night for confirmation of the merger, but has not yet heard back (as of 6AM Tuesday, BST). By coincidence, Artificial Lawyer is visiting Fuse today to say hello to the assembled startups and well-known companies such as Neota Logic and Kira Systems.

[Update: Just back from Fuse, where had a very interesting meeting, but….Bloomsbury AI had gone to ground. Allen & Overy noted that they are unable to make any comment at present. On the plus side, neither Facebook or Bloomsbury AI have responded to reject the news, which suggests that it is true.]

The five companies which are part of the new group in Fuse include:

Bloomsbury AI – an early stage company that uses natural language understanding, cognitive capabilities and machine learning to create virtual assistants that can be taught to read, reason and communicate.

Kira Systems – provides machine learning technology for document review and analysis.

Neota Logic – a provider of automation software whose AI-powered app development platform enables professionals to build and deploy applications that automate legal expertise, processes and documents.

Regnosys – a fintech company which leverages the open source to deliver “machine executable regulation” and drive radical change in the financial industry’s approach to regulatory compliance.

Signal Media – an AI-powered intelligence firm turning information into accessible, actionable business knowledge. Artificial Intelligence is applied to millions of content-rich sources – from news media to global regulatory updates – driving insight and helping businesses manage the risks and opportunities they face.