Vendor Contender: Firm Offers AI-Driven Email And SMS

The email business has a new company devoted to generative AI: Backstroke. Founded by R.J. Talyor, formerly with Exact Target, and his wife, data scientist Allyson Talyor, Backstroke seeks to improve email, SMS, mobile push, and customer marketing for B2C brands.

The company is funded by a $2 million seed round led by venture firms High Alpha and Ground Game Ventures, with participation from Allos Ventures.

"We've seen the movie before with ExactTarget, and now we're ready to rewrite the script with generative AI," R. J. Talyor says. "Legacy marketing tech is behind — it's too complex and not built for mass personalization.”

Talyor adds: “The industry incumbents are ‘Frankensteining’ gen AI features into their platforms. Backstroke is native to these new AI technologies which gives our customers a significant advantage.”



Experts might have questions about Backstroke’s process. The company claims to leverage a dataset from over 10,000 brands, in which millions of messages are tracked and tagged. Performance is determined in more than 200 different ways, it says. 

It took the Talyors three years to acquire these capabilities and the algorithms that drive them.

They now say that the AI tool generates content that drives up to 64% more revenue per send than human copywriters. 

Some brands are going for it: Early customers include Pearl iZUMi, Nathan Sports, Lyssé and The Porch Swing Company.

 “The bottleneck to truly personalized CRM marketing has always been human limitations on content production,” says Doug Bertram, director of E-Commerce at Pearl iZUMi. “Partnering with Backstroke is a huge step forward in automation, allowing us to deliver more delightful, personalized experiences to our customers.”

R. J. Talyor was one of the first 50 employees at ExactTarget, and led messaging product teams through the firm’s  $2.5B acquisition by Salesforce in 2012. R. J. He later founded Pattern89, a creative AI platform that was acquired by Shutterstock, Inc. in 2021. 

As for the investors, High Alpha believes that Backstroke presents an opportunity in the email marketing and messaging space. 

"The company’s speed to market and quick customer traction demonstrate that a platform like Backstroke is inevitable,” says Eric Tobias, founding partner of High Alpha.




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