Angel CoFund Backs Sophia to Help Brands Tackle Banner Ad Blindness

The £1.1m round is the first Angel CoFund investment into Northern Ireland

London and Belfast: The Angel CoFund, the Government-backed fund supporting high-growth businesses across the UK, has today announced the fund’s first investment into Northern Ireland, with a £1.1m round into Sophia’s advertising platform Ambiance™.

Ambiance uses Artificial Intelligence to tackle the online issue of banner advertisement blindness. 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’ 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.

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 look out 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.”

About the Angel CoFund

Launched in 2011, the Angel CoFund is a privately run fund that works alongside groups of business angels to invest in high growth small and medium sized businesses across the UK, directly providing funding as well as encouraging the expansion of the business angel market.

Backed by the British Business Bank and the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, the £100m Angel CoFund is able to make initial investments of between £100,000 and £1 million into businesses, alongside syndicates of business angels.

To date the fund has supported 48 companies (for example Ventive, YplanPlayJam and Micrima) providing over £22.4 million in direct investment alongside £81 million from business angels and other investors.