Tech Innovators 2014: Yossarian Lives provides better insight for creatives

Ever got the feeling that no amount of searching yields anything original? Yossarian Lives is developing a piece of technology that is set to reignite creativity.

Tech Innovators 2014 start-up Yossarian Lives first came to the attention of GrowthBusiness when it was presenting at the Dublin Web Summit in 2012.

Two years on and the business is charged with investment and further enhancing its service, which is aiming to become the internet’s creative brain.

Yossarian Lives

Based in: London

Founded in: 2011

No. of employees: 4

Company founder: J. Paul Neeley

Yossarian Lives founder J. Paul Neeley

Founder profile:

J. Paul Neeley is a service designer and researcher based in London. He founded Yossarian Lives with Daniel Foster-Smith to build creative problem solving tools for the Internet through metaphorical association technologies. Neeley holds an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art, and studied communication studies, economics, and cello performance at Northwestern.

Background business profile:

Traditional search engines, like Google, are problematic for creativity, because they return literal results, which reinforce existing ideas. Yossarian Lives algorithms return lateral results that help users see new perspectives, and expand understandings of the world. If Google is the internet’s logical brain, Yossarian is the internet’s creative brain.

Inside track:

J.Paul Neeley’s background is in working out how brand new technologies can be turned into products and services – the implication of technology if you will.

His knowledge in this came from an MA in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art where he also met his co-founder Daniel Foster-Smith. After a number of conversations about the dangers of current online search methods the two decided to come up with a solution themselves.

‘Search engines are self-referential, so you only see the most popular ideas which are then reinforced over time,’ Neeley says. ‘It becomes problematic. What does that to do society over time if we lose diversity of ideas? The more you use search engines the less unique you are, you’re just thinking like others.’

Designers trying to create a new idea, or an advertising executive devising a new concept, cannot go to Google anymore as it is too ‘cliched’, Neeley believes.

The premise of Yossarian Lives is to augment creativity, avoiding the problems of filter bubbles. Having only started as a side project at school between Neeley and Foster-Smith, it won a Deutsche Bank award for its potential.

Feedback from the creative industry has been encouraging, the entrepreneur says, with its system a viable alternative to the tricks that are currently being used.

‘If you talk to a room full of creatives about this problem you get a lot of head nods, they understand. They are going to Google, but trying to game it, tricking it into giving them something interesting.

Building out the technology, which processes very big data sets, is where Yossarian Lives is now at. The founders want to take it out of its alpha stage and to a beta one towards the end of the year, and are actively seeking investment to fund growth.

Recent milestones:

  • Sold first development agreements for Team Version of YOSSARIAN to agency customers
  • Closed seed funding with SAATCHiNVEST

Upcoming milestones:

  • Beta of YOSSARIAN, Creative Search Tool 
  • Expanded sales of Team Version to agency clients

Recent technology:

Algorithms are based on technology developed at Cambridge University. System uses natural language processing and computational linguistics to identify lateral connections between concepts. 


  • Yossarian: creative search and idea generation tool on the market
  • Creative Priming tool in development
  • Audience & Channel Insight tool in development


  • Getty Images Affiliate


  • SAATCHiNVEST (Portfolio includes CityMapper, Evrythng)
  • Technology Strategy Board, SMART Grant
  • Angel investors: Alejandro and Oscar Villarreal

Contact details:

Royal College of Art, Clore Innovation Centre, Dyson Building, London SW11 4AS


View all 23 companies contained within Tech Innovators 2014

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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