Funding for Bristol tech start-up aiming to revolutionise political opinion polls

Bristol tech pioneers who sold their last business to Twitter have received venture capital investment from two tech funds for their new company, which focuses on using messaging platforms to improve opinion polling.

Poli harnesses the reach and immediacy of social messaging platforms to recruit larger, more representative panels and engage with them more efficiently.

It was founded in 2016 by Andy Littledale, Lee Carre, Dan Fairs and Ted Littledale two years after their social media analytics business SecondSync was snapped up by Twitter.

They saw a gap in the market for a more effective way of taking the pulse of potential voters as the media and political pundits on both sides of the Atlantic reeled from high-profile opinion polling errors.

They spent 18 months building an opinion polling platform from scratch that leverages the reach and penetration of messaging apps to improve the way surveys are conducted. The platform has started with Facebook Messenger and sister platforms using Twitter, Snapchat and Alexa are now in development.

Poli claims this allows it to build larger and more representative panels and engage with them more efficiently than other polling companies.

Financial details of the investment by London-based funds AI Seed and Force Over Mass, which both specialise in early-stage tech businesses, have been revealed other than the amount being described as “significant”.

Legal support for the deal was provided by the Bristol head office of national law firm TLT, which acts for a wide range of fast-growth technology companies and technology investment funds, including in the fast-growing AI and robotics industries.

The firm previously acted for the Poli team on the sale of SecondSync to Twitter.

Poli CEO Andy Littledale said current political turmoil had made polling more difficult as traditional party loyalties had broken down. At the same time technological and behavioural change had exacerbated the problem.

“Understanding what people think is important. Decisions are not made in a vacuum, but in the context of the views of others around us and bad polling is bad for democracy,” he said.

“We have developed a solution that not only improves the quality of polling data but addresses a user need. We help people to see through partisan media stories on social media with objective data about what the country really thinks on issues that matter.”

He said TLT was able to help the founders understand what investors were looking for and how they might prepare the business for investment.

TLT partner Jon Gill added: “Digital disruption is affecting every sector, creating opportunities for companies like Poli to help clients thrive in the digital world. Venture capital and private equity investors recognise this and we are seeing a very high level of activity in this area at present.

“We were delighted to work with Andy and his team again, having advised on their previous transaction and look forward to supporting their growth as they drive the business forward.”

SecondSync grew rapidly in less than two years before its acquisition by providing broadcasters and advertisers with audience insight taken from analysis of viewers’ Twitter conversations.

It provided far more effective research than traditional audience figures, which only reveal how many people have watched a programme rather than what they thought of it.

Its clients included the BBC, Channel 4, UKTV, media management company Red Bee Media and FremantleMedia, the international production company behind programmes such as Pop Idol.

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