Cybersecurity is traditionally thought of as the protection of an organization from digital attacks; attacks used to gain access to sensitive information, data, or even funds. Advances in technology like generative AI now provide an unprecedented opportunity for the scalability of content including disinformation by nefarious actors. This poses a significant and emerging threat to publicly-traded companies, where these campaigns can be used to manipulate stock prices. Blackbird.AI is a narrative and risk intelligence platform that detects and mitigates these types of information-based cyber-attacks. The company’s signature product, Constellation, examines narratives, networks, cohorts, influence, and unusual patterns at speed and scale to alert companies of specific threats in real time. The platform is able to identify signals in 25 languages, analyzing text, images, and memes across the dark web, social, and news sites; an onerous task if done manually. Blackbird also provides a holistic suite of AI-powered insights into scenarios, threats, and emerging risks.
AlleyWatch caught up with Blackbird.AI Cofounder and CEO Wasim Khaled to learn more about the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the company’s total funding raised to $30.6M, and much, much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised $20M in a Series B funding round led by Ten Eleven Ventures, with follow-on support from existing investors Dorilton Capital, Generation Ventures, StartFast Ventures and Trousdale Ventures. Other investors include Paul Kurtz, chief cybersecurity advisor to Splunk, and Richard Clarke, the first “cyber czar” for the U.S. Government.
Tell us about the product or service that Blackbird.AI offers.
Blackbird’s proprietary technology detects and mitigates emerging threats and info-cyberattacks while equipping organizations with the tools to identify influence operations and deploy the appropriate countermeasures.
Blackbird’s primary offering is its Constellation Platform, which provides narrative risk comprehension at unprecedented speed and scale. By examining narratives, networks, cohorts, influence and unusual propagation patterns, Constellation provides a multifaceted view of potential threats. Users can combine these signals to tailor risk profiles to specific scenarios.
What inspired the start of Blackbird.AI?
Primarily the desire to create technology that would better society but also to address a white space in the market. The 21st century has led to an unprecedented growth of online manipulation and disinformation that even educated individuals fall victim to. Despite this dangerous rise, organizations lacked the tools to properly protect both their business and consumers who heavily rely on social media as a trusted source.
How is Blackbird.AI different?
What differentiates us from our competitors is the 360-degree analysis we are able to provide customers. Through our technology, leaders can effectively combat misinformation and detect harmful narratives because of our comprehensive view of threat intelligence with the highest fidelity and scale on the market today.
What market does Blackbird.AI target and how big is it?
A 2019 estimate put the cost of disinformation at $78B per year globally, with publicly traded companies losing approximately $39B annually due to disinformation-related stock market losses. That being said, we are just scratching the surface of industries we can help. Today our key markets including strategic communications, cybersecurity, supply chain risk and the federal/national security markets.
How are you preparing for a potential economic slowdown?
Many startups have found themselves navigating myriad challenges in today’s macroeconomic climate, especially those reliant on the perpetual influx of capital and ever-expanding markets. But because Blackbird operates in the crucial area of disinformation detection and mitigation, we’ve noticed the demand for our offerings has only increased.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
Our customer case studies showcased to our investors the need for global organizations to be able to understand and act on deliberate and accidental disinformation and malicious messaging – whether driven by humans, or automated bots or a hybrid of both. Also, our ability to derive achievable actions alongside insight into how primary and secondary narratives are spread made our investors realize how much more advanced and impactful this is compared to traditional social listening analysis. We have also been predicting a vision of the world’s risk profile that have come to fruition and investors do tend to bet on teams that have a North Start they have proven to execute against.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
Our primary focus in the immediate future is to expand sales and marketing initiatives to reach a wider customer base. We also plan to use the fresh funds to enhance the Constellation Platform and our new generative AI solution, the RAV3N Co-Pilot, as well as support the growth of the Blackbird Global Alliance Program, strengthening our ecosystem.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
It’s a very tough time for startups in general with volatile public markets and startup-friendly banks falling out of the sky. Unfortunately, startups have to be squeezed been cutting headcount and increasing their revenue and traction simultaneously. There is no easy approach here. It’s blood, sweat and tears and this kind of situation is completely new for many of the new founders out there who have seen almost 15 years of upward trajectory in the VC markets. Key areas of focus should be cutting every possible cost which may mean completely changing your roadmap and focus and negotiate with all your customers to pay faster or in advance even with discounts. Anything to increase your runway to get the metrics you need to close your next round or survive the bear market. It’s tough but you live to fight another. For us, we did all of these things and earned the right to close our next round.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Our primary focus in the immediate future is to expand sales and marketing initiatives to reach a wider customer base. We also plan to use the fresh funds to enhance the Constellation Platform and the newly introduced RAV3N Co-Pilot, as well as support the growth of the Blackbird Global Alliance Program, strengthening our ecosystem.
What’s your favorite summer destination in and around the city?
Startups keep you really busy so my personal leisure time has gotten really crushed the last few years, but when I used to get around more, Sag Harbor, any farmer’s market I can find on the weekends. I also used to spend time in DUMBO before it got its facelift.