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Richard Clarke. Photo via Wikipedia.
Richard Clarke. Photo via Wikipedia.

Context Relevant CEO Stephen Purpura has a simple message as a screen saver on his computer: “Don’t mess it up.”

And so goes the no-nonsense motto of the Seattle startup, which today is announcing $13.5 million in venture funding from leading financial institutions and venture capital firms as well as the appointment of former U.S. anti-terrorism chief Richard Clarke.

“We worked really hard to put ourselves in a position where it would be possible to have a huge outcome and build a huge company based in Seattle,” said Purpura. “Everyday is about execution, at this point. We have taken away a bunch of the risk with the business model, and whether the technology works.”

Some pretty large investors agree with that assessment, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Formation 8, New York Life and Bloomberg Beta. They are part of the syndicate in the $13.5 million round, which brings total funding in the company to $42 million.

Context Relevant’s data science tools have caught the attention of the financial services industry. For example, the company is taking data feeds from Bloomberg, and then mixing that information with data from financial institutions, allowing them to offer better recommendations to clients about what products to buy. Both Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have entered into a business relationship with Context Relevant as part of the financing deal.

contextrelevantlogo1Clarke, the former U.S. National Coordinator for Security and Counter-terrorism who served in the White House under three presidents, is joining Context Relevant as acting head of security products. The two first met at Harvard where Clarke was a professor and Purpura was a student.

The security offering marks a new direction for Context Relevant, one that is important as high-profile cyberattacks threaten banks.

Purpura said that Clarke will help financial institutions detect threats, identifying and stopping hackers in their tracks. He added that some of the company’s products are now being used to “protect the integrity of the global financial system.”

Stephen Purpura
Stephen Purpura

“Global businesses come under daily attacks. They need next-generation defense for next-generation threats,” said Clarke in a press release. “In the wake of recent breaches at banks, exchanges, hedge funds, payment processors, and retailers, it is clear that there is a market for Context Relevant to deliver automated intelligent systems to help address these challenges.”

Purpura said that Context Relevant was not actively looking for financing, given that the company closed a $21 million round earlier this year. He added that it was a rare opportunity to bring together leading minds at both Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.

“It is very, very rare for banks like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs to collaborate on a strategic investment like this,” said Purpura, adding that the system “represents a disruptive quantum leap over existing analytics solutions used in financial services.”

Context Relevant, a 2-year-old company which recently opened an office in New York, now employs 50 people with a goal of hiring as many as 150 new staffers.

As a result of the financing, Bina Kalola, Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Rana Yared, Managing Director in the Securities Division at Goldman Sachs, have joined the Context Relevant board of directors.

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