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Zencity, a platform that meshes AI with big data to give municipalities insights and aggregated feedback from local communities, has raised $13.5 million from a slew of notable backers, including lead investor TLV Partners, Microsoft’s VC arm M12, and Salesforce Ventures. Founded in 2015, Israel-based Zencity had previously raised around $8 million, including a $6 million tranche nearly two years ago. With its latest cash injection, the company will build out “new strategic partnerships” and expand its market presence.

Gathering data through traditional means, such as surveys or Town Hall meetings, can be a slow and time-consuming process and fails to factor in evolving sentiment. Zencity enables local governments and city planners to extract meaningful data from a range of unstructured data sources — including social networks, news websites, and even telephone hotlines — to figure out what topics and concerns are on local residents’ minds — all in real time.

Zencity uses AI to sort and classify data from across channels to identify key topics and trends, from opinions on proposed traffic measures to complaints about sidewalk maintenance or pretty much anything else that impacts a community.

Above: Zencity platform in use

Zencity said it has seen an increase in demand during the pandemic, with 90% of its clients engaging on a weekly basis, and even on weekends.

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“Since COVID-19, not only have we seen an increase in usage but in demand as well,” cofounder and CEO Eyal Feder-Levy told VentureBeat. “Zencity has signed over 40 new local governments, reaffirming our role in supporting local governments’ crisis management and response efforts.”

Among these new partnerships are government agencies in Austin, Texas; Long Beach, California; and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A number of municipalities also launched COVID-19 programs using the Zencity platform, including the city of Meriden in Connecticut, which used Zencity data to optimize communications around social distancing in local parks. Officials discovered negative sentiment around the use of drones to monitor crowds in parks and noticed that communications from the mayor’s official channels got the most engagement from residents.

Elsewhere, government officials in Fontana, California used Zencity to assess locals’ opinions on lockdown restrictions and regulations.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, providing real-time resident feedback for local governments was core to Zencity’s AI-based solution,” Feder-Levy continued. “And now, as local governments continue to battle the pandemic and undertake the task of economic recovery, Zencity’s platform has proven pivotal in their crisis response and management efforts.”

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