Bringing Generative AI to the Enterprise: Our Investment in Writer

Announcing ICONIQ Growth’s investment in Writer, a full-stack generative AI platform that makes it easier for enterprises to build generative AI applications

By Doug Pepper, Sruthi Ramaswami and Nikhil Krishnan, with the aid of Writer | September 18, 2023

Writer co-founders May Habib and Waseem Alshikh

Your English teacher tried to warn you: Whether you love writing and have a “writerly” job — white paper author, marketing creative, public relations executive, etc. — or you do other office work in, say, human resources, customer service, or product design, you likely will spend a fair amount of your day consuming or putting together words. Even if you are not a writer, there are sales pitches to draft, meetings to summarize, and product roadmaps to explain. There is simply no way to get around writing.

Thankfully, two entrepreneurs felt dispirited by the time-consuming writing inherent in corporate work and decided to do something about it. Leveraging their prior experience in building enterprise software for localization—as well as recent advances in natural language processing, machine learning, and generative artificial intelligence—CEO May Habib and CTO Waseem Alshikh banded together to found Writer in 2020. 

Writer has achieved significant success since launching in 2020, attracting over 150 enterprise customers, including Vanguard, Accenture, Intuit, L’Oreal, Spotify, and Uber. We are proud to announce that we are leading Writer’s $100 million Series B round, along with participation from WndrCo, Balderton Capital, and existing investors Insight Partners, Gradient Ventures, and Aspect Ventures. The financing also includes participation from several Writer customers, which we believe is a testament to Writer’s leadership in the generative AI space. 

“‘Writing is the last unstructured business process’ was the first slide of our seed deck,” said May Habib, “and since then, the whole world has seen what’s possible when we can automate writing — we are able to augment human creativity and productivity.”  

Writer brings together three essential technologies that are essential for getting the high-quality answers and generations that enterprise customers need: a large language model (Writer’s own proprietary family of models), a knowledge graph for sophisticated retrieval-augmented generations (RAG), and AI guardrails that could help them have confidence that their generations were accurate, compliant, and on-brand. 

From marketing to the whole organization

The Writer platform has expanded from its roots in the marketing function to include use cases for support, sales, operations, HR, and finance teams. Numerous Writer customers are using Writer across three or more functional areas, and an increasing number of Writer enterprise customers now use Writer as their main platform for building internal generative AI use cases. 

When we spoke with Writer’s customers many told us about the numerous ways Writer had positively impacted their teams, collectively reporting an average productivity gain of 53%.

The Writer LLM capabilities have grown beyond text, and many of Writer’s customers use the Recaps feature to analyze, summarize, and organize video and audio content at scale. Users are also using the Knowledge Graph functionality to get around the thorniest retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) problems, to help parse information from a company’s own documents, and build digital assistants and chatbots that are highly accurate.

Enterprise-grade data security and control

While generative AI makes headlines, many enterprise leaders have told us that their adoption of AI is slower than they would like because they have struggled to find AI solutions that can handle complex enterprise work processes and meet their security needs. This reticence has led some to pump the brakes: multiple corporations reportedly have restricted employees from using public generative AI tools to protect their proprietary customer data.

With that in mind, Writer’s team prioritized security and enterprise readiness from the beginning by creating their own family of large language models, named Palmyra.

“It was important for us to invest in building our own LLM so that our models could be self-hosted by the customer and would be open, transparent, and auditable, rather than take a ‘black box’ approach,” says CEO May Habib. 

Palmyra has achieved top benchmark scores from Stanford’s Holistic Evaluation of Language Models (HELM), outperforming models by OpenAI, Cohere, Anthropic, Microsoft, and others.

Enabling AI adoption through trustworthy AI guardrails

Writer also provides customers with a flexible user interface that gives each department their own templates designed to work within that team’s existing workflows and applications. This is particularly valuable for recurring content workflows, such as a daily email, weekly newsletter, or seasonal product description updates on the website. For example, in healthcare settings, Writer users can automate repetitive tasks, such as the creation of referral letters, including the patient’s relevant health history, or the drafting of an email explaining how to submit a claim. 

Writer ensures that what comes out of the LLM complies with AI guardrails - for accuracy, compliance, and brand. Writer’s platform incorporates a customer’s brand guidelines, style guides, templates, previously published material, and business data from other applications. The result is a fully configurable system that can generate custom content for each customer in their own voice. This can include speech variations such as level of inclusiveness, sentence complexity, formality, and more.

We believe that Writer is at the forefront of one of the most important technological transformations we’ve seen in generations. 

The years of experience May, Waseem, and the Writer team bring in NLP, machine learning, AI, and content generation coupled with their deep product and customer obsession have manifested in what Writer is today — and it’s only the beginning. The sentiment we’ve heard from Writer customers underscores the profound impact Writer is creating within enterprises today, and we believe there is so much more to come as customers actively lean into new use cases, mission-critical workflows, and bring Writer to new teams. 

We are enthusiastic supporters of Writer and look forward to a future in which the hardest and most tedious aspects of writing at work have been made easier. 

Thank you, Writer, and welcome! We’re excited to partner on your vision to transform work with generative AI. 

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