VoxCroft Analytics CEO on Leveraging New Investment to Redefine the Open-Source Industry
VoxCroft Analytics recently secured almost $2 million in series A funding from Knife Capital to build on its success in the risk analytics and intelligence space. Barend Lutz is the founder and South African CEO of VoxCroft. We talked to him about the funding deal and the future of VoxCroft.
Fred: In your words, what does VoxCroft do?
Barend: Very simply, we are the people you call when you want to understand the voice of the people. We specialize in the field of open-source intelligence or OSINT -- the branch of intelligence which gathers and analyzes data from publicly available sources such as social and traditional media.
VoxCroft is redefining the OSINT and risk analytics space. We are exploring and expanding the industry by delivering the most sophisticated, cutting-edge OSINT products and solutions to the highest-level decision-makers in the world. We are developing tradecraft and Artificial Intelligence tools that not only keep up with the rapidly evolving, global, socio-political security landscape, but also provide decision-makers with the ‘signal within the noise’ to answer and drive their most pressing strategic questions and concerns.
Fred: Can you provide examples of the company’s recent projects?
Barend: Let me highlight three examples of the meaningful work we are doing. Since 2018 we have been monitoring the insurgency into northern Mozambique. When violence broke out in March of this year, we provided our customers with advance warning and operational intelligence as the situation progressed. Simply put, our customers on the ground were not caught off-guard.
We did the same for our customers in Ethiopia when the violence broke out in November. Among other tools, we tapped into the voice of the diaspora to track advance signs of ethnic tension. We also provided real-time operational intelligence to humanitarian organizations on the ground who needed to act fast to save lives.
Finally, we are providing hyperlocal context for decision-makers at the highest level on globally relevant issues such as climate change. Policymakers with a better understanding of the needs and thoughts of the people make better decisions, and it’s great to enable this in an issue that also means a lot to me personally.
Fred: Why did you choose Knife as an investment partner?
Barend: VoxCroft is expanding globally. We currently have team members in 13 countries and offices in South Africa and the United States. So, we were seeking a partner that shares our values and has a proven track record of global expansion. Everyone in the startup space in Africa knows and respects Knife, and globally they are seen as the strongest investor brand for African scale-ups. We spoke with many entrepreneurs who only had good things to say about the Knife team -- they are the Sequoia Capital of Africa. We saw how they are growing companies like DataProphet, Fundamo, which exited to Visa, OrderTalk which exited to Uber, and Mmhmm which recently raised $100 million from Softbank and Sequoia.
From the very first meeting with Andrea and Keet, the directors at Knife, we could see that they align perfectly with the values that we are building in VoxCroft. They were open, honest, and fair in their approach. They pushed us from the first meeting to drive excellence and find value in the process of investment. They also shared our drive to do ‘meaningful’ work and were as excited as we are about the real-world positive impact that VoxCroft can make in the world.
We are all extremely proud and excited to have a partner like Knife onboard as we take the next step towards global expansion.
Fred: How has the funding changed your plans for the company?
Barend: VoxCroft has been profitable since day one and was already on an upward trajectory before we approached Knife. We are seeing incredible market demand and this funding means we can expand ahead of schedule to meet it. The main benefit of working with Knife, however, wasn’t the funding, but the strategic partnership with a talented team that has the experience to scale up a business like ours into the global market.
Fred: Are there any exciting new projects the company is working on right now?
Barend: Yes, there are so many exciting projects! And let me focus on a recent one that will give a good view of the type of technology that we love working on.
VoxCroft is carving out a niche in what we are calling “austere media environments.” Our strength lies in identifying, collecting, and analyzing the voice of the people from hard-to-reach media environments. Collecting media insights from France, for example, is relatively easy because everything is digital, and French machine translation is good enough that you will not really miss anything.
It is much more difficult in countries such as Ethiopia. In these more closed media environments, media crackdowns are common, access in more rural areas is extremely limited, and -- to make it even more difficult! -- there are multiple languages that are not covered with traditional machine translation tools. Here you really need to go out of your way to get a good sense of what people are saying and what trends are developing. We approach this problem from various angles.
On the one side, VoxCroft is building out our global network of area experts with local culture and language expertise whom we can access for insights and translation. Our Arrow platform is also actively collecting open media mentions and scoring and classifying these to track developing events. But the thing that is most exciting for me on the other side is that we are now developing our own bespoke machine translation solutions for the languages not covered by the large players, including languages like Oromo and Tigrinya. This is providing our clients and our Arrow platform with a new layer of insights that is unavailable anywhere else.
Fred: When you founded the company in 2018, what was the vision of the company and how has it changed since then?
Barend: We started the company with quite a grandiose vision which, although more refined now, still drives everything that we do. One of my co-founders, William Galloway, puts it best. He says VoxCroft’s goal is “to be the best at telling the world's stories with data.” We want to tell these stories accurately and deliver them to the top decision-makers in an actionable way to create a more secure, prosperous world.
See the full press release below: