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Isis start-up provides sentiment analysis tool for business, finance

Oxford, 13th February 2012

Oxford-developed software which builds on a deep understanding of linguistics to assess accurately what people mean from what they say online will provide a “sentiment analysis” tool for businesses, particularly finance companies. The new company, TheySay, has been set up by the University’s technology transfer company, Isis Innovation and today announced it had received first-round investment of up to £500,000 from IP Group plc.

TheySay’s approach of using linguistic intelligence along with machine learning techniques overcomes limitations of existing sentiment analysis tools. It is based on work by Prof Stephen Pulman and Karo Moilanen from the University of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science. The researchers used an exhaustive sentiment classification and scoring scheme to classify linguistic structures for sentiment and to score all individual entity mentions in text.

Prof Stephen Pulman said: “We have a very large database of words annotated by hand along several dimensions for the emotional meaning they carry, and we also evaluate the grammatical context in which these words occur, taking account of the effects of negation and other constructs that change meaning. A word like 'progress' is generally perceived as positive, but not when it is in a context like 'fail to progress', or 'little progress'.

“By taking account of grammatical context we can determine emotional attitudes towards the entities and relations mentioned in a text.

“Many companies are concerned about their reputation and the reception that their products receive in the marketplace. TheySay can be used to analyse news reports, blogs, or postings on Facebook or Twitter - companies can get almost instant feedback.”

Understanding sentiment is a proven source of competitive advantage for businesses, government entities, public sector bodies, political organisations and individuals keen to monitor and measure what is being said about them on the internet. TheySay’s software is likely to appeal to companies across a wide range of sectors including the finance sector.

Karo Moilanen, CTO of TheySay said: “The analytical depth and coverage of our technology leads to true Big Data-oriented sentiment analysis and opinion mining, and presents new ways to track and quantify deep affective signals in both unstructured social media and traditional structured text data'.

Tom Hockaday, Managing Director of Isis Innovation said: “The Isis Software Incubator was set up to provide practical, commercial support and mentoring for ventures like TheySay, which has scope and potential across many industries.”

Alan Aubrey, Chief Executive Officer of IP Group, said: “TheySay’s contrarian approach to sentiment analysis is proving more accurate than traditional algorithms and could be of real interest to a broad range of companies looking to make strategic decisions based on, or aided by knowledge of, whether sentiment is generally positive or negative. We are excited about TheySay’s prospects and pleased to have made our first investment into a start-up from the Isis Software Incubator.”

TheySay also received an Oxford University Challenge Seed Fund award to further develop the software in September 2010.

Image available:
PR122_2_TheySay.jpg, downloadable from

Formatted Press Release available from: TheySay Press Release 13Feb12.pdf

For more information, please contact:

Isis Innovation
Renate Krelle
Business Relationship Manager, Isis Innovation
T: +44 (0)1865 280850

IP Group plc
Alan Aubrey, Chief Executive Officer +44 (0) 20 7444 0050
Liz Vaughan-Adams, Communications +44 (0)20 7444 0062 / 07979 853 802
FTI Consulting (for IP Group plc)
Ben Atwell, John Dineen +44 (0) 20 7831 3113

TheySay Ltd
Roy Azoulay

Notes for editors

Big Data
Big data is a term applied to data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are a constantly moving target currently ranging from a few dozen terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single data set. (source: Wikipedia)

According to McKinsey &Co., “The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets—so-called big data—will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus… Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.” (source:

About Isis Innovation
Isis Innovation is the research and technology commercialisation company of the University of Oxford. The Technology Transfer and Oxford University Consulting divisions provide access to technological developments and expertise from University of Oxford researchers, through intellectual property licensing, spin-out company formation, material sales and consulting.
Isis is the highest University patent filer in the UK, has attracted investment into over 65 spin-out companies since 2000, and in the last financial year provided expertise to over 150 clients in 22 countries. Through the Isis Enterprise division, Isis offers innovation management to university, government and industrial clients around the world.
For updates on innovations from Oxford, follow Isis on LinkedIn and Twitter or subscribe at

About IP Group
IP Group is a leading UK intellectual property ('IP') commercialisation company, developing technology innovations primarily from its research intensive partner universities. The Group offers more than traditional venture capital, providing its companies with access to business building expertise, networks, recruitment and business support.

The Company's portfolio comprises holdings in over 60 companies including Oxford Nanopore Technologies, the DNA sequencing development company, Revolymer, best known for its removable chewing gum and Xeros, which has received many accolades for its revolutionary clothes washing techniques with a much reduced requirement for water.

The portfolio includes early stage to mature businesses and has exposure to five main sectors - Energy & Renewables, Medical Equipment & Supplies, Pharma & Biotech, IT & Communications and Chemicals & Materials. To date, thirteen of the portfolio companies IP Group has backed have listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange and one on PLUS Markets.

Founded in 2001, IP Group listed on AIM in October 2003 and moved to the Official List in June 2006. The Group now has long-term partnerships with twelve core universities including those under its commercialisation agreement with Fusion IP plc.

For more information, please visit our website at

About TheySay

TheySay has developed a revolutionary approach to sentiment analysis, based on Computational Linguistics research carried out at the University of Oxford, UK. The company’s software performs exhaustive fine-grained analysis, resulting in accurate human-like sentiment reasoning. The approach of employing linguistic intelligence to complement machine learning techniques enables new levels of insight and transparency, while providing best-in-class results on key performance metrics (independently verified by exhaustive third-party studies).

Publisher Contact Information:

Isis Innovation
+44 (0)1865 280850

Company profile of Isis Innovation
Past press releases of Isis Innovation.


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