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Turbine Labs responds to rise of the information age

Tech Startup: The company’s software platform distills information about a given topic into an easy-to-read report


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Tech Startup: Turbine Labs

WHERE: Greenwood Village

FOUNDED: 2014

Initial Lightbulb: Following a predictive analytics startup in Seattle, CEO and founder Leigh Fatzinger came home to launch Turbine Labs from Colorado.

The startup is a response to the rise of social media and the information age. “There’s been an explosion of data,” Fatzinger says. But it’s not just about volume of information. It’s about quality. “Trust in information is in crisis,” he says. “Part of that is based on social media’s impact on consumption of information. Manipulation is a massive problem in the voting sphere and consumer products, but it’s also moving up into the executive sphere.”

That’s the problem Turbine Labs wants to solve for political campaigns and Fortune 500 companies.

The company doubled in size to 30 employees from summer 2018 to summer 2019, and Fatzinger says he expects to hit 60 in early 2020. “We’re onto something. We’re growing really, really quickly, and I don’t think we could have done it anywhere but Denver.”

In a Nutshell: “A turbine takes something that’s massive and turns it into useful flow,” Fatzinger says.

Turbine Labs’ suite of products likewise uses “cognitive AI” to process the boundless amount of data available in everything from newspapers and magazines (to which the company pays licensing fees to access content that’s behind paywalls) to social media platforms.

Launched in the last year, the company’s software platform, with prices starting at $80,000 annually, distills all of the information about a given topic into an easy-to-read report that requires six minutes or less to read. “We ingest effectively everything that’s public,” Fatzinger says. “Our AI reads about 54,000 times faster than the average human reader. We can go through ‘War and Peace’ in about seven seconds.

“We build software that helps an executive get meaningful intelligence very, very quickly using AI,” he says. “They can either choose to be in an echo chamber or filter bubble, or they can ask us to expand their horizons a little bit.”

One example in the headlines: “Boeing is a perfect example of a broken information management system both on the outside of the business and the inside of the business.” Fatzinger says the 737 Max grounding could have been avoided with better access to information. “Inaccurate information leads to misinformed decision-making,” he says.

Fatzinger says the licensing fees could help local newspapers and other periodicals. “We think we have a solution to the media industry’s woes,” he says. “A lot of the inefficiencies of the media business, we take out.” 

The company’s long-term strategy is “to scale all the way down to the consumer level,” he adds. “We need to rebuild local journalism. We need to make it free.”

Bob Varettoni, a marketing consultant who worked for Turbine client Verizon, is a fan of the platform. “It’s very difficult, especially at a large company like Verizon, to make sense of all the things said about you out there,” he says. “It really needs to be distilled to a page or two.”

Varettoni says Turbine’s products do a good job of determining “what was important and what wasn’t,” noting, “You get an alert when something is important, unlike a Google alert – which is a big distinction.”

The Market: “Gartner actually calls it ‘continuous intelligence,’” Fatzinger says, citing a forecast of $80 billion for the cognitive AI software platform space for 2022. “We think we’re a little bit early, but we don’t expect to be early for long.”

Financing: “We’re bootstrapped,” Fatzinger says. “It’s not to say we won’t take on funding in the future, but what we didn’t want to get trapped in is the Series A being the event that puts us on the map. Our goal is to change the dynamic of how executives get their information. That’s what’s going to put us on the map.”

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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