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St. Pete tech firm wins backing from venture fund founded by Audible CEO

Margie Manning

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Preston Faykus, founder and CEO, RankMiner

RankMiner, a St. Petersburg-based voice analytics company, is one of just eight companies nationwide that will take part in the fall 2018 NVP Labs program.

Taking part in the program will help RankMiner move forward faster with lead generation and sales support, said Preston Faykus, founder and CEO.

The accelerator program, backed by venture fund Newark Venture Partners and founded by Don Katz, CEO and founder of Audible, provides each participant with a $120,000 initial investment and another $100,000 at the end of the program. There’s also potential investment from NVP’s direct investment arm of up to $1 million in subsequent funding rounds.

Participants also get access to the fund’s corporate partners, which include Audible (an Amazon company), Dun& Bradstreet, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, Panasonic, Prudential Financial, RWJBarnabas, TD Bank and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

“Gaining insight and potentially working with some of their LPs would be extremely valuable for us,” Faykus said.

Companies chosen for the 10-week fall cohort get space in NVP’s co-working office housed in the same building at Audible and Rutgers Business School, but Faykus said RankMiner is committed to staying in St. Petersburg.

“We want to build more community here and I want to see the start-up scene grow,” he said.

RankMiner harnesses machine learning and predictive voice analytics to drive call center performance.

“We extract emotions and behaviors from phone conversations to help enterprises identify which customers are at risk of leaving, which are likely to buy more, and which agents are helping or hurting the company’s business,” Faykus said.

He discovered a need for the business at his last position, as a senior vice president at fintech firm FIS (NYSE: FIS), where he ran the fraud analytics business and oversaw several call centers.

Call centers have massive amounts of data, but “what’s missing is a systematic means to take that data and drive predictive and prescriptive results,” Faykus said. “We are first and foremost a machine learning company that’s focused on automating the analytics of what’s going on and helping deliver prescriptive results.  We build predictive models, and deliver those to companies. The results feed directly into their operations … Companies don’t need to hire analysts to make use of our solutions.”

Faykus incorporated RankMIner in 2012 and hired the first machine learning programmer in late 2013. The company now has eight employees. Faykus said RankMiner was mostly bootstrapped with his own funds and with the help of a couple of angel investors.

Competition for NVP’s fall 2018 cohort was fierce. More than 1,800 companies applied for the eight spots. That’s three times the number of applicants for past cohorts.

The companies that were chosen are “game-changers,” said Tom Wisniewski, managing partner at Newark Venture Partners.

The seven other companies selected for the program are:

  • Ejenta, a health tech firm from San Francisco
  • ExemptMeNow, a Software-as-a-Service firm for non-profits, based in New Orleans
  • Floss Bar, a workplace wellness company focused on dental care, headquartered in New York
  • StackSource, a New York-based digital marketplace for commercial loans
  • Talentegy, a Dover, Delaware company that uses artificial intelligence for the hiring process
  • Team Mobot, a robotics software testing company in New York
  • Upsider, a New Jersey firm that has artificial intelligence technology to identify job candidates

The NVP Labs program is the second recognition for RankMiner in recent weeks. In July, the company was chosen to take part in the BMO Harris-1871 Innovation Program, an initiative to engage and mentor early-stage companies with technology for lending, financial planning, digital tools and data analytics.

The startups in that program get to pitch their product or service to a panel of BMO Harris judges, with three winners awarded a total cash prize of $50,000 and the chance to keep talking with BMO Harris to pilot their product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    Mike Manning

    September 25, 2018at4:32 pm

    Seems many of the companies in this cohort are one trick ponies whose products generally make things harder on the little guy, i.e. performance analytics at call centers, digital hiring. Or maybe I’m missing a bigger point.

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