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Writer: Immigrant female founder’s startup snaps $100M to embed Gen AI into corporate content

Writer Founders
Picture credits: Writer

Writer, a startup founded by May Habib and Waseem Alshikh, is making waves by embedding Generative AI (Gen AI) into corporate content. Companies such as Accenture, Uber, and Hilton are using Writer to automate various text-based tasks. Writer’s unique selling point is its commitment to ensure that its language models prioritise accuracy over creativity, thus reducing the chances of generating false information, a common issue with many AI models.

At this point in time, the San Francisco-based startup has netted $100 million in Series B funding. The investment round was led by ICONIQ Growth (that invested in Ramp and Causaly), with participation from WndrCo, Balderton Capital and Insight Partners, who led the Series A, and Aspect Ventures, who led its seed round. In addition, this round also included participation from Writer customers such as Accenture and Vanguard. 

The Series B funding will be used to further invest in the company’s own industry-specific large language models (LLMs), and to add agent and multimodal capabilities to its LLMs. In addition to the financing, ICONIQ Growth’s Doug Pepper has joined the board. 

The immigrant founders’ story

May Habib and Waseem Alshikh, both immigrants with a strong connection to the English language, founded Writer. Their journey began with a machine learning-based translation software called Qordoba in 2015, which later evolved into Writer in 2020. Writer’s success is a testament to their personal experiences and commitment to language and technology.

Habib is originally from Lebanon, and immigrated to Canada to escape the civil war in the ’90s. During her journey in the tech world, she came across the work of Waseem Alshikh, a tech executive from Dubai. Waseem had been experimenting with machine learning techniques to summarise large volumes of data. Both founders had left their native countries for different reasons, but this shared experience of displacement ultimately led them to the creation of Writer.

Fast forward a decade, and their startup, Writer, is at the forefront of generative AI companies. It employs large language models named Palmyra to help enterprises and employees draft and edit various forms of content, ensuring adherence to a company’s editorial guidelines.

Writer’s approach to tackling the issue of incorrect information generation involves making its encoders and decoders communicate effectively. This method, although not perfect, is considered better in terms of accuracy compared to other models like ChatGPT.

Further, it specialises in generating text and integrates seamlessly with various content creation tools, including Google Docs, Microsoft Word, and Figma. Pricing ranges from a platform fee of $30,000 to $1 million, based on the volume of words generated.

Overall, Writer’s focus on accuracy and personalised language models has positioned it as a leader in the field of generative AI, with a promising revenue projection of $20 million in 2023.

“Our foundation models are best-in-class, and they’re auditable, inspectable, and hostable — but it’s not just about the models,” said May Habib, CEO and co-founder of Writer. “Any CIO who’s tried to build an internal generative AI application will tell you that the last mile of quality is the hardest. And we help them nail that, at scale, dozens and dozens of times as they build AI applications and assistants that enable their entire organisation. And our customer’s desire to invest in the company is a true testament to the value we’re providing.”

“Writer’s ability to apply the power of generative AI to many different departments within the enterprise—from marketing to product, human resources, and more—has proven to be a game changer for C-suite leaders,” said Doug Pepper, general partner at ICONIQ Growth. “We believe that generative AI usage within enterprises is hitting an inflection point, and Writer stands out to us as a leader in providing a full-stack and secure platform to deliver on AI’s incredible promise.”

WndrCo founding partner Jeffrey Katzenberg shared, “Writer is a powerful platform for maximising both creativity and productivity in the workplace. With Writer’s generative AI capabilities, organisations can empower their teams to be strong storytellers in all facets of their communication.” Justin Wexler from WndrCo added, “We have high conviction that Writer’s platform will continue to resonate among the Fortune 500 and beyond.”

“Writer stands out as a company in the incredibly noisy world of AI that has a clear, proven business model, traction with leading global enterprise customers and strong revenue growth. May, Waseem, and their team are building something truly unique and we are excited to partner with them as Writer grows in Europe,” said Rana Yared, general partner at Balderton Capital. 

“Writer’s full-stack platform enables Vanguard to combine the expertise, creativity, and knowledge of our teams with the latest advancements in generative AI technology, boosting productivity,” said Nitin Tandon, chief information officer of Vanguard. 

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