Pendulum raises $5.9M to help companies identify potentially harmful narratives online

Pendulum co-founders Sam Clark and Mark Listes. (Pendulum Photo)

The news: Seattle startup Pendulum announced a $5.9 million seed round.

The tech: Pendulum’s software is used by corporate risk intelligence groups within Fortune 500 companies to identify risks and opportunities that arise from social media and other online content. It describes its technology as “narrative-based intelligence” which scans video, audio, text, and more.

“Corporate risk groups are using Pendulum to scan for narratives that could inspire community action that could influence the future of their company and to understand how to proactively engage with these narratives to reduce risks and increase opportunities,” said co-founder and CEO Mark Listes.

The take: Misinformation online has become a huge issue over the past few years amid political divides and a global pandemic. Pendulum hopes that companies will pay for an AI-powered service to spot potentially harmful narratives that could negatively impact brand reputation, employee safety, asset safety, continuity of operations, fraud, and more. “In a world of contradictory and misleading information, smart business leaders use intelligence to see around corners, mitigate risk, provide insight, and shape their decision-making,” noted a recent Harvard Business Review article.

The founders: Listes previously worked as a security leader for the U.S government, helping to combat harmful narratives and foreign election interference in 2016. He was also the former chief of staff at the National Security Innovation Network. He launched Pendulum with Sam Clark, a former eBay engineer who previously created a project called to categorize political and cultural content on YouTube.

The investors: Madrona Venture Group led the round. Pendulum spun out of Madrona Venture Labs last year. Other backers include Cercano Management (previously known as Vulcan Capital) and others.

Risk intelligence is not a new field, but tools to track online narratives are limited, according to Madrona Managing Director Hope Cochran.

“The ability to understand the emergence of an inaccurate narrative quickly and at its source is a tremendous benefit that helps to equip a company in protecting their assets, personnel, and brand, and ultimately making sure the facts are known,” she said in a statement.

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