Thursday, 05 July 2018

Allen & Overy Fuse start-up Bloomsbury sold to Facebook for $23m

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Allen & Overy Fuse start-up Bloomsbury sold to Facebook for $23m

Allen & Overy (A&O) is unlikely to replace the start-up that has been snapped up by Facebook just two months after it joined Fuse, the magic circle firm’s innovation hub.

London-based Bloomsbury AI, which has built a tool that can read documents and answer questions about them, is joining the social media giant in a deal reportedly worth between $23m and $30m. Facebook has confirmed the move but would not comment on its value.

The deal will involve acquiring the 11-strong team at Bloomsbury in what is known as an ‘acquire-hire’: buying a company for the expertise of its staff rather than its offering. Bloomsbury’s founders have extensive academic backgrounds in AI.

The start-up was founded last year and had raised nearly $1.4m from various funds and angel investors, including musician Matt Bellamy from rock band Muse. While not specifically legal tech, Bloomsbury joined A&O’s innovation hub Fuse in May this year as one of the firm’s second cohort of companies in the hub.

The company was chosen from 80 applications, and the second cohort – also including well-known names Kira Systems and Neota Logic – had a strong AI focus. Fuse chairman Jonathan Brayne said A&O was unlikely to replace Bloomsbury in the cohort. A&O does not take equity stakes in its Fuse businesses.

He commented: ‘We are incredibly proud that one of our cohort has attracted the attention of Facebook, a company that will no doubt help it reach its full potential. We work very closely with the companies in Fuse, we get to know the people, the business and the ideas and so we feel confident that this is an excellent move for Bloomsbury AI and we wish them all the best.’

Fintech company Regnosys and AI business Signal Media were the other new names to join Fuse in May, while incumbents Avvoka, Legatics and Nivaura transferred over. Brayne added: ‘The seven remaining companies in Fuse continue to challenge, excite and inspire us and so we look forward to what these relationships will bring.’

It has been speculated Facebook is interested in using Bloomsbury to help combat fake news concerns on the social media platform. A Facebook statement said: ‘Their expertise will strengthen Facebook’s efforts in natural language processing research, and help us further understand natural language and its applications. The team will help us grow our AI efforts in London, joining a roster of strong engineering talent.’

Bloomsbury has not responded to requests for comment.

hamish.mcnicol@legalease.co.uk