Covington AI startup lands funding for pivot into predictive cultural intelligence

Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton is a reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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Walmart, US Bank, Perfetti van Melle and Sunrise Banks are just some of the large companies that utilize the artificial intelligence services of Covington-based startup NicheFire.

NicheFire recently closed on its latest venture funding round that will go toward financing the launch of TrendFire — a self-service predictive cultural intelligence program powered by generative AI.

In essence, the program uses AI to scour the internet, collecting consumer and web traffic data, then uses what it gathers to predict consumer, political, economic, and societal trends. Companies like Walmart can then use this data to predict the impact of those trends on their brand.

“It’s a really, really valuable insight, especially if a company is trying to understand the pulse of the world, essentially to pick up on, ‘hey, how should we be framing your products? How should we be marketing to new individuals? How should we be defending or delivering value to their brand,'” NicheFire CEO and founder Michael Howard told LINK nky.

So far, TrendFire is only available to a limited number of individuals who are testing the program.

The venture funding comes courtesy of firms such as Keyhorse Capital — a Lexington-based early-stage venture firm; Bluegrass Angels — a Lexington-based angel investing firm; and Allos Ventures — a Cincinnati-based venture firm. The amount of funding is not disclosed, Howard said.

In addition to expanding NicheFire’s AI capabilities, the funding will also help accelerate the business’ growth in terms of talent acquisition.

“What it does is helps us gear up hiring opportunities, so bringing new people on board,” Howard said. “That’s developers, marketing, sales, people, stuff like that. Also, too, it allows us to really double down on sales and marketing initiatives.”

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NicheFire was founded in 2018 by Howard, Steven Howard and Khalil El-Amin in Norwood. Earlier this year, the company moved to Covington due to its affordability. Howard described the working relationship between NicheFire and the City of Covington as “great.”

“They’ve worked with us on subsidies and incentives for small businesses that are trying to start up here,” Howard said. “You know, There’s a lot of big benefits around that. We’re right across the river from downtown and there’s a great culture and scene in Northern Kentucky as well.”

The company demonstrated its commitment to Northern Kentucky by donating a portion of its equity to the Northern Kentucky Entrepreneur Fund. Launched this past January, the fund aims to financially support Northern Kentucky-based startups, entrepreneurial support organizations, educational vehicles and accelerators.

As a Cincinnati native, Howard said that he wanted to be able to support other up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the region.

“Both Ohio and in Kentucky, there’s a really big up-and-coming startup scene,” he said. “My approach on this is that I want to invest in this more. I want to see it become even bigger.”

Lastly, NicheFire recently named Dave Knox — executive director of Blue North — to its board. Blue North is a Northern Kentucky-based entrepreneurship advocacy and resource group.

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