Sharmin Ali has worked for large corporates like Pfizer, Microsoft, Walmart, and MuSigma in enterprise sales. While working for MuSigma, Sharmin realised that while these large companies had a lot of scope communicating effectively, they had a tough time building human connections and communicating with empathy.
“They would make marketing decisions based on how they felt they should communicate instead of using data to ensure effective communication with the target audience. I love stories, both reading and writing, which has got to do everything with words. I gauged this need-gap of crafting top-notch content using appropriate words and thus Instoried was born,” says Sharmin.
Founded in Bengaluru in 2019, Instoried began its operations in 2020. It helps enterprises and individuals create emotionally engaging content, thereby improving return on investment (ROI).
It is a deep-tech platform that analyses and optimises the emotional quotient, tonality, and relevance of written content across formats like blogs, articles, and social media posts.
Challenges of starting up
Sharmin is not new to content creation. She earlier started a company, which was into content production, where she wrote 70 original scripts of her own.
“Perhaps ahead of my time with regard to content production and popularity of OTT platforms, I sold the copyright of all my content to a Mumbai-based production house and made an exit. Post that, I published two books of my own and also worked with CXOs globally to help them build content strategies. My deep-rooted industry experience and understanding of how content works inspired me to start Instoried,” she adds.
Once the idea was in place, Sharmin roped in Sutanshu Raj, ex-Microsoft and ex-CTO of eagle.ai, as the CTO. She had known him for over a decade.
“My biggest challenge was getting a good team in place and ensuring there were enough funds to support them. After exhausting my savings, I had to break my PPF account and mortgage my gold jewellery as well to pay salaries,” says Sharmin.
Instoried is now a team of 25 people.
What does it do?
The startup aims to help large companies make their marketing and communications content more human with a data-driven, scalable, and repeatable approach using AI.
As you create content, the Instoried tool dynamically analyses it and displays the tone and emotion of your text. When you click on a particular tone or emotion, the tool highlights all the words in your content, exuding that particular tone or emotion.
Upon hovering the cursor over a particular word, it gives you multiple recommendations that are both semantically and contextually relevant, thereby enhancing the empathy of your content.
Sharmin adds that the startup uses proprietary technology and has not used any open source APIs available out there. She says they have used 7 million data points in-house for building its proprietary dataset.
The Instoried tool also enables real-time recommendations on improving the tone and emotion score of the content. The tool has other aspects as well. The headline analysis tool says how captivating the headline is and provides suggestions as well. It also has a plagiarism checker to make the content piece SEO friendly.
Revenue model and market
The platform follows a SaaS-based approach for both SMEs and large companies. There are monthly, quarterly, and annual pricing plans in place, though Instoried prefers annual pricing as it claims it delivers the best price point and maximum offerings.
“Our clients are spread across retail, FMCG, tech, and insurance sectors globally,” adds Sharmin.
According to MarketsandMarkets, the global content marketing tech market is projected to touch $9.59 billion by 2023 at a GAGR of 18.4 percent in the forecast period 2018-2023, with 2017 as the base year when the market size was $3.42 billion.
Competition and future
Apart from Instoried, there is Pepper Content, which offers a similar service. There are others like Fiverr, Upwork, and content services providers such as White Panda and WriterAccess. Instoried, however, focusses on emotional content engagement.
The startup has raised $1.5 million so far from investors including SOSV, Artesian Investments, Mumbai Angels, 9Unicorns, Venture Catalysts, Jain Angel Network, London-based JPIN, and a US-based VC in the pre-Series A round.
“We are excited for 2021 as we plan to launch our own keyboard for both Android and iOS devices that can be used by any platform. Imagine chatting with your loved one and being able to gauge the temperature of your chat, and also getting smart recommendations in real-time. This is the future of chatting with endless possibilities,” says Sharmin.