Legendary’s Thomas Tull Invests $2 Million in Chat-Bot Startup Blend

Todd Spangler
Variety

Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Entertainment, has invested $2 million in Blend Systems, a group-messaging app startup launching a new “chat bot” feature that funnels in topical content about individual celebs, companies and brands.

Tull joins previous Blend investors, including New Enterprise Associates, CAA, Foundation Capital and Management 360. The 20-employee company, founded in 2013, had previously raised $9 million.

With the investment, Tull will advise Blend on strategy and industry partnerships. The billionaire film producer has invested in other tech and media companies, including VR pioneer Oculus (now owned by Facebook), augmented-reality startup Magic Leap, self-driving auto startup Zoox, and athlete-driven media startup Players Tribune, founded by Derek Jeter.

San Francisco-based Blend’s free app allows groups of friends to chat privately and share content together. It’s updating the app to include add-on chat bots called “Genies,” which automatically retrieve content like videos, posts and articles from social platforms, the web and other sources related to individually themed personalities or brands.

The first rollout includes Genies for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Kylie Jenner, Shawn Mendes, Jack Johnson, Jack Gilinsky, ESPN, Instagram, Fitbit and Twitter.

“Genies, by Blend, is creating a new category in the bot race by becoming the world’s first media concierge giving users the content they want and need,” Tull said in a statement. “The Blend team has shown tremendous promise and I am excited to invest in such a young, talented team.”

For now, Blend currently does not generate any revenue via its apps, which are available for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows and Ubuntu. The company says it expects to experiment with a variety of models as soon as Q1 2017; for example, it may charge a fee to use Genies, or those could be sponsored.

The company plans to release more than 1,000 Genies over the next year. Each bot will also include Blend’s multimedia link integration to let users view the social, data or media sources directly within the app.

“While platforms like Kik and Facebook Messenger are focused on using bots to monetize their platforms, we’re focused solely on the consumer with no ulterior motives,” said Blend CEO Akash Nigam. Unlike competing chat bots, Genies “will curate content around those key interests and provide relevant topics without making the users even think about it.”

Blend Systems is not to be confused with Blend Labs, a VC-backed startup that sells tech solutions to the home-mortgage industry.

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