Kensho is Building a Siri for the Financial Industry

Kensho is Building a Siri for the Financial Industry

Former quantitative analyst and Harvard University Ph.D. candidate Daniel Nadler is not your typical startup guy.

“I’m risk-averse,” said Mr. Nadler, who added he’s “not the type to throw on jeans and a T-shirt and launch a startup.”

But, after feeling frustrated with tools available for “quants”–quantitative analysts studying financial markets–and seeing no sign that better technology was forthcoming, he teamed with Google Inc. engineer and friend Pete Kruskall to fill the void.

The pair co-founded Kensho Technologies Inc. last spring to create a Siri-style intelligent assistant for the financial industry and have raised $10 million from Google Ventures, Accel Partners and other top investors to expand their team.

Kensho Technologies Inc. Kensho CEO Daniel Nadler
Affectionately named “Warren,” the software is designed to answer natural language queries for investors much like IBM’s “Watson” answers health questions posed by doctors. Mr. Nadler says he chose the name Warren because it made him think of an older, wise and patient uncle that knew all the answers.

“Subconsciously, maybe I was thinking about Warren Buffett too–not a bad association,” said Mr. Nadler of the famed investor.

Kensho’s Warrren is still in the early stages. It can answer questions that are grammatically correct, with the object following the subject, on a limited number of topics. The team, which includes about two dozen engineers, is working to account for all the variations in the ways people can ask the same question.

The program can now answer questions like “What happens to the share prices of energy companies when oil trades above $100 a barrel and political unrest has recently occurred in the Middle East?”

In fact, Mr. Nadler and others tussled with that precise question on July 3, 2013. On that day, oil prices topped the psychological threshold of $100 a barrel, Egypt’s military removed President Mohamed Morsi from power and the beginning of “high...

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