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Social Sentiment Company ZenCity Raises $13.5M for Expansion

The Israeli company announced its largest funding round yet at a time when local governments are having to weigh controversial responses to unfolding disasters, from the coronavirus to unemployment.

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The Israeli company ZenCity, which helps local governments assess public opinion by combining 311, social media analysis and other open sources on the Internet, has announced $13.5 million in new funding — its largest funding round to date.

A news release today said the money will go toward improving ZenCity’s software, adding partnerships and growing the company’s footprint in the market. The funding round was led by the Israeli venture capital firm TLV Partners, with participation from Salesforce Ventures.

Founded in 2015, ZenCity makes software that collects data from public sources such as social media, local news channels and 311 requests. It then runs this data through an AI tool to identify specific topics, trends and sentiments, from which local government agencies can get an idea of the needs and priorities of their communities.

“Zencity is literally the only way I can get a true big-picture view of all discourse taking place, both on our city-owned channels and those that are not run by the city,” attested Belen Michelis, communications manager for the city of Meriden, Conn., in a case study on the company’s website. “The ability to parse through the chatter from one place is invaluable.”

The latest investments more than doubled ZenCity’s funding, according to Crunchbase, which shows that the company has amassed $21.2 million across three rounds in four years, each larger than the last: $1.7 million announced September 2017, $6 million in September 2018 and $13.5 million today. In May 2018, ZenCity also scored $1 million from Microsoft’s venture capital arm by winning the Innovate.AI competition for Israel’s region.

At the time of that competition, ZenCity counted about 20 customers in the U.S. and Israel. Today’s announcement said the company has over 150 local government customers in the U.S., ranging in size from the city of Los Angeles to the village of Lemont, Ill., with fewer than 20,000 residents.

ZenCity CEO Eyal Feder-Levy said in a statement that his company’s software has a role to play in this moment in history, when city governments are testing new responses to unfolding crises, such as COVID-19 mitigation measures or grants to help local businesses.

“Now more than ever, this investment is further proof of local governments’ acute need for real-time resident feedback,” he said. “The ability to provide municipal leaders with actionable data is a big step in further improving the efficiency and effectiveness of their work.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.