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Axios HQ raises $20M to expand AI software taming the ‘Wild West’ of internal corporate communications

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Corporations are increasingly turning to a new type of worker for simplified, elevated internal communications: artificial intelligence.

One local company championing this new teammate is Clarendon-based Axios HQ (3100 Clarendon Blvd). The startup was spun out as a separate company in late 2022 after its parent company, Axios, was bought by Cox Enterprises for $525 million, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The startup uses AI to apply the signature “Smart Brevity” style developed by Axios to internal corporate communications. Some 500 clients use it to improve formatting, wording and readability.

Now, the Wall Street Journal first reported, it has raised $20 million in a Series A funding round, which it will use to hire more data scientists and continue developing its software to do more advanced writing work.

In an interview with ARLnow on Friday, Axios HQ CEO and Axios co-founder and president Roy Schwartz shared more details about what the startup plans to do with the money. Schwartz was a former star of Rosslyn-based Politico.

“We’ve been working on it for 2.5 years and it’s been, at the moment, a fully fledged product and has a ton of capabilities that companies need and utilize right now,” he said. “We help you write, compose, format, review your analytics, but in two years from now, I really think we will have drafted your update for you and you will be editing that update, most will be written by the computer.”

Axios HQ in Clarendon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In short, he says, the investment over the next two years will take the AI from providing “augmented writing” to “auto-drafting.” The startup aims to net another 500 clients, which would set it up for another fundraising round in a few years. That will require hiring 20-30 more data scientists and account managers, adding to the more than 100 employees Axios HQ currently has.

“The idea is to go from being a very, very fast-growing startup to being a very successful [software as a service] company with a large client base and a large recurring revenue stream,” he said.

When asked if Axios the media outlet uses the software, Schwartz said it does not. In addition, he stressed the separation between the two companies, noting that they use entirely different systems so clients are not concerned about data being accessed by reporters.

There has been some angst about what AI will mean for writing and, ultimately, journalism as an industry. (ARLnow, for example, uses AI to stay on top of new press releases, summarize stories, automatically evaluate event calendar submissions, and occasionally, make edits.) Schwartz, however, wants to put aside the implications for media and keep the focus of Axios HQ on internal corporate communications.

“A lot of people using the tool are not professional writers,” he said. “What I like to say is that internal communications has been the Wild, Wild West — anyone can send an email to entire company, staff or department and really, hardly anyone is looking at it. The formats are all over the place. What that has meant is inefficient communication at nearly every organization in the world… Things can be shorter, formated much better and understood at a much higher level. That’s what we’re focused on.”

AI would help subject-matter experts who “have a lot of knowledge in their minds but don’t know how to write or format” as well as employees who have “writing that has to be done” — repetitive, weekly sales or marketing updates providing week-over-week changes.

“In that situation, the better use of the human brain is to provide the insight — the why, the trends, explaining the differences versus just taking the data and giving a relatively straightforward update,” Schwartz said. “I would much rather use my brain power to provide insight than write the update… In that situation, you want the computer to be the writer and the human to be the editor.”

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