From Literature Professor to Tech start-up founder

CINCINNATI — Artificial Intelligence is estimated to bring in more than $150 billion worldwide, according to Markets and Markets, with more than 25% of all investment in new businesses going to AI companies. One company at the forefront of this growing and competitive field is a startup in Cincinnati called Narratize, run by three women founders.

What You Need To Know

  • Cincinnati startup Narratize harnesses AI to help tech innovators tell their stories
  • Narratize co-founder Catherine O’Shea is a former literature professor turned tech leader
  • Narratize raised $2 million in funding at the end of 2023. 

Narratize uses AI to help scientists, inventors and other tech-centered innovators write compelling narratives about their ideas.

“We call our solution ‘human-centered AI’” said Catherine O’Shea, Narratize’s Chief Operations Officer. “We are making sure that when someone gets into our platform, they’re getting asked questions about what they’re working on, the problem they’re solving, who they’re really, who they’re solving it for by all the different aspects of what they’re working on.”

O’Shea took an unlikely path to success in the tech world. She majored in literature in college and taught as an English professor and then worked in nonprofits. She and a college friend, Katie Trauth Taylor, then worked as consultants for tech and science firms, working one-on-one with innovators to help them better tell their stories. They called the company Untold Content. After successfully securing some major clients, including NASA, AAA and Hershey, they realized they could harness the power of AI to help innovators create compelling narratives even faster. 

“We’ve done a lot of research around just even the hours spent that product innovators and engineers spent on writing and again, they’re not trained at all,” O’Shea said. “My husband’s an engineer and he’s like, I’m a horrible writer and yet I constantly am doing it.”

Their Narratize website tells the story of Shannon, a scientist at a global company. It used to take her 20 hours to write a pitch that described her innovation and now, Narratize helps her to craft an even better version in just 20 minutes.

Despite that, getting investors for Narratize took lots of work and persistence, especially since Catherine and her other two founders are females.

“Two percent of venture capital goes to women-founded teams,” O’Shea said. “So getting fundraising over the last year and a half has been was challenging for sure. We even had an individual as we were going through that blatantly to say like, why don’t you add a male to your founding team and make it easier? But we knew the three of us. We knew that we had the right kind of balance of skills and personality and background and experiences to be successful.”

O’Shea, Trauth Taylor and Kara Uchtman finally ended up raising $2 million and attracting a variety of big clients, including Boeing and Good Housekeeping. 

They owe some of their success to the startup booster, Cintrifuse, including doing some of their work out of Union Hall in Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine neighborhood.

“Centrifuse has been wonderful,” O’Shea said. “We worked with them with Untold Content and they’ve been so supportive. And we’ve also been able to learn from other startups here at Union Hall.”

The teacher in Catherine hopes her story helps to inspire others to take a chance on turning their idea into a successful startup, with the message, you can make it here in Ohio – no matter what you may read online.

“There’s an air that if you’re not on the coast, if you’re not in New York, if you’re not in California doing this work, you’re probably not at the most forefront. You may not have the right talent, you may not be connected in the right way,” O’Shea said. “But I think when you’re in the Midwest, you and you’re in Ohio, we come at it with a new approach. We have great schools and a great support system. I think that’s the reason why Ohio is really an up-and-coming scene for startups.”

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