Angel CoFund backs Sophia to help tackle ‘Banner Ad Blindness’

The Angel CoFund, the UK Government-backed fund supporting high-growth businesses across the UK, has today announced its first investment into Northern Ireland, as part of a £1.1m round into Sophia’s advertising platform Ambiance‚Ñ¢.

Ambiance uses Artificial Intelligence to tackle the online issue of banner advertisement blindness. This is where users no longer ‘see’ adverts as they are used to them being irrelevant. Spun out from the University of Ulster and the St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Sophia received seed funding from Halo, the Northern Ireland Business Angel Network in 2010 and further funding from Atlantic Bridge in 2012. Today’s funding announcement brings the company’s total funding to date to £5.75m. The company is already making its mark on the digital advertising industry, delivering ads that boast up to 10x the performance of their peers.

Just last month Sophia announced further appointments to the business’s impressive board, which includes former Saatchi & Saatchi UK CEO and chairman Lee Daley, ex Walmart COO John Rittenhouse and Chairman Chris Horn, who is best known for overseeing the IPO of Iona Technologies in 1997 (the 5th largest in Nasdaq’s history at the time).

The Angel CoFund was launched in November 2011 with the joint aims of backing promising businesses in the UK and supporting the growing angel investment community across the country. This means that it operates alongside the existing NI Co-Fund operated on behalf of Invest NI.

David Patterson, CEO of Sophia, said: “Our aim is to help online brands and retailers to connect with consumers in a relevant way and to tackle the growing issue of digital ad blindness; today’s consumers are much more empowered than ever before and brands need to find more effective ways to connect and bond with them online. Today’s investment is a great step forward for the business as we look to build upon the growth we have already experienced. We’re delighted to be working with the Angel CoFund and to be the fund’s first investment in Northern Ireland.”

Tim Mills, investment director at the Angel CoFund, said: “At the Angel CoFund, we’re always on the lookout for innovative and interesting business ideas, and Sophia certainly ticks the boxes for us. It’s also important that we work to continue building links with angel communities across the country, so it’s a delight to be joining forces with Stephen Houston and Halo, as we make our first investment into Northern Ireland.”

Stephen Houston, non-executive director at Sophia and Halo’s Angel Investor of the Year 2013/2014, said: “For years Halo, the Northern Ireland Business Angel Network, has been working hard to support and promote the booming entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northern Ireland. Today’s announcement that the Angel CoFund is investing in Sophia is great news and we look forward to working together supporting David Patterson and his talented team.”

Lynsey Mallon, Arthur Cox; Stephen Houston, Sophia – winner of the 2013 UK Halo Business Angel of the Year award – and Alan Watts, Director of Halo

By UKBAA 26 Nov 2014