A company set up by University of Bristol graduates which uses artificial intelligence to create convincing automated handwritten letters has beaten off competition from over 2,000 businesses to win £25,000 worth of seed funding.

Scribeless, founded by Robert Van Den Bergh and Alex Robinson, both 23, scooped one of the two top prizes at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards 2019.

The prestigious university business pitching competition for students and recent graduates has grown to become established as one of the UK’s largest, and recognition in the awards is highly prized by budding entrepreneurs.

Robert came up with the idea for Scribeless after spending several weeks handwriting letters during an internship. He joined forces with Alex to develop software able to learn the nuances of handwriting in order to introduce variation and inconsistencies in its fake handwriting. They automate the process, using AI and advanced printing technology to create handwritten letters which are indiscernible from a letter written by the human hand.

With support from the Basecamp Student Enterprise Team in the University of Bristol’s Careers Service, Scribeless was officially launched in 2018.

The prize money, along with business mentoring and a fully-funded intern, will help Robert and Alex grow their business even further

The service is already being used by banks, hotels and universities to better engage with their customers through the power of the handwritten letter. It’s claimed handwritten letters can lead to open rates above 95 per cent – dramatically higher than traditional follow-up emails.

Scribeless beat over 2,000 businesses who engaged in the competition at the start of this year, with 151 entrepreneurs entering the awards. The businesses were shortlisted down to 60 semi-finalists who pitched across three regional events, from which 12 businesses were identified as finalists.

Robert, who graduated with a BSc in Accounting and Finance in 2017, and his co-founder Alex Robinson, BSc Computer Science in 2018, are now teaching the next generation of talent how to perfect their pitches by partnering with the Basecamp team.

Since the company’s inception, they have hired a number of interns from the University of Bristol and are currently recruiting for internship and full-time positions in their Bristol office.

Robert, Co-Founder and CEO of Scribeless, said: “We are incredibly proud to win the competition and now can’t wait to help more companies utilise our handwritten solution.

“The University of Bristol and, specifically, their enterprise hub, Basecamp have been hugely helpful since the start of Scribeless and supported us through the entire Santander Universities competition. The Basecamp team have helped us every step of the way.”

The business plans to use the funding to continue helping organisations across Europe and the US personalise their marketing and better engage customers.

After raising an investment round earlier this year, the company continues to grow and is recruiting sales and marketing professionals in the UK and US.