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Groundbreaking news service launched by Sheffield company

Published: 21st May 2009

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Ian Pringle and Mike Wheatley of Ensembli at Demo09 2009 in America

A new Sheffield company has developed an intelligent productivity tool to scan, filter and collate news stories from across the web that relate specifically to the users’ interests.

Ensembli was the brainchild of Carl Rahn-Griffith, who came up with the idea to start such a service for software businesses.

To support the development of the company Ensembli received financial backing from South Yorkshire Investment Fund’s Seedcorn Fund, RisingStars Growth Fund II and the Viking Fund.

The investor group has recently completed a further round of funding in the company, taking the total investment to £850,000.

Carl approached the investors with his initial ideas. He said: “Starting a really ambitious business from scratch needs investors who will get involved and help, just as much as it needs their capital.

“Not only did the team see the potential, they helped focus the business on a much wider challenge as well as helping to identify the key individuals the company needed to build the right team.”

Ed French, fund manager for SYIF’s Seedcorn Fund, added: “Carl’s vision hadn’t resonated with investors who were looking for ways to de-risk his plan. We took the view that, with help, we could point the company at a much more general challenge of matching people’s interests to the news they wanted to hear from the millions of stories floating around the internet.”

“We were deeply impressed with what the team had achieved quickly and at a modest cost. Although somewhat basic, there was clearly the scope to tackle the challenge. We decided to back the company further and also help build the rest of the team.”

Starting with initial pre-revenue funding of under £100,000, the first step for Ensembli was to recruit a technical director to develop a prototype in order to demonstrate the potential of the concept.

Mike Wheatley was appointed as chief executive and Ian Pringle became chief technical officer, before Ensembli launched the service to the public at the biannual Demo09, in America in March 2009.

Mike says: “Each internet user will be interested in a wide and diverse range of topics - from politics to people, science to sports - and within each topic everyone will have very specific and developing interests, personal to them alone.

“There was a need for tailored information which is not currently met by current search engines.

“Having been involved in internet and software businesses for some years I was well aware of the many failed attempts to solve the problem, many not making it past the initial concept stage,” added Mike.

"After reviewing the opportunity, the calibre of the technical staff and their early work, it became apparent that Ensembli had a great opportunity ahead.

“Relevance is an intensely personal thing and, at its heart, Ensembli knows who you are, what interests you, and what excites you. We get smarter about you the more you use the service. It's effortless to use, continually acting on your behalf to surface your own must-see stories and keeping you informed while saving you time and effort.”

For more information about Ensembli please visit www.ensembli.com

SYIF can provide seedcorn, loan and equity linked investments, ranging from £15,000 to £2.5m, specifically to help small and medium businesses meet the gaps in funding they need for growth and development.

For more information about South Yorkshire Investment Fund, please visit www.syif.com or ring 01709 386377.

Editor's Notes

About South Yorkshire Investment Fund

South Yorkshire Investment Fund  provided seedcorn, loan and equity linked investments, ranging from £15k to £2.5m, specifically to help small and medium businesses meet the gaps in funding they need for growth and development.

Created as part of the Objective 1 programme, the Fund is a private and public sector business finance provider. The European Regional Development Fund and Yorkshire Forward are investors in the Fund.

South Yorkshire Investment Fund also provided access to Business Angel investments from the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels and Microloans through BiG Business Loan Fund and Donbac Microloan Fund.

Finance Yorkshire has now taken on responsibility for providing gap finance in Yorkshire and the Humber.

For further details please contact Suzanne Tinkler,  on 0845 649 0000.

South Yorkshire Investment Fund Ltd is a company limited by guarantee (Registered No 3936065). South Yorkshire Investment Fund comprises three sub funds, the South Yorkshire Investment Capital Fund, the South Yorkshire Investment Development Fund, which are each managed by YFM Venture Finance Limited, and the South Yorkshire Investment Small Business Fund, which is managed by Finance South Yorkshire Ltd. YFM Venture Finance Limited (Tel 0113 294 5000) and Finance South Yorkshire Ltd (Tel 01709 386 377) are each authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. South Yorkshire Investment Fund also provides a number of services, which are not regulated by The Financial Services Authority. These include the pilot Seedcorn Fund, BiG Business Loan Fund, Mentorbank and access to the Donbac Microloan Fund. BiG Business Loan Fund is managed by Donbac Ltd (company registration No. 01925556) and Key Fund Yorkshire Ltd (Tel 0114 242 8900).