CrowdAI, a computer vision development platform, today announced that it closed a $6.25 million series A financing round led by Threshold Ventures. The fundraising coincides with the launch of the startup’s new solution that allows customers to create AI that analyzes images and videos.
The AI skills gap remains a significant impediment to adoption in most enterprises, a 2020 O’Reilly survey found. Slightly more than one-sixth of respondents cited difficulty in hiring experts as a barrier to AI deployment in their organizations. In a separate report, this by Deloitte, 23% of “seasoned” AI adopters characterized the gap between their AI needs and current abilities as “extreme.”
Devaki Raj founded CrowdAI in an effort to eliminate adoption blockers specifically in the area of computer vision. Prior to starting CrowdAI, Raj studied statistics and machine learning at Oxford, where she earned a master’s degree before working on Maps and Android at Google. She left Google 5 years ago to launch CrowdAI alongside Nicolas Borensztein and Pablo Garcia.
Borensztein previously founded and sold ad platform Ember to Adaptive Media, while Garcia worked at Google on the AdWords API team building out data pipelines.
CrowdAI helps develop computer vision models for clients primarily in the property insurance, finance, and technology markets. The first iteration of the platform focused on cutting down time-to-value for developers and data scientists familiar with AI integrations and workflows, but CrowdAI’s newest release — which is available in free and enterprise versions — requires no coding.
Controversially, CrowdAI has several contracts with the U.S. military, including one with the U.S. Air Force to turn public satellite data into combat insights. (CrowdAI’s history with the Air Force began in 2018, when it participated in the inaugural cohort of the Air Force Research Lab’s Hyperspace Challenge.) The company has proposed highlighting patterns, movements, and changes in maps used by airmen that might otherwise go unnoticed, as well as compiling, analyzing, and mapping out regions in which the U.S. military operates.
In pitches in front of academics, contractors, investors, and Air Force acquisition officers, CrowdAI has demonstrated its technology identifying flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the extent of damage after wildfires, and buildings after bombings in Aleppo. In one presentation, Raj showed the platform mapping all major roads in Syria within six hours.
In a previous interview with Wired, Raj declined to say which applications of CrowdAI’s platform she considered off limits. “At CrowdAI, we work alongside managers, engineers, marketers, and data scientists at every level to learn how our tools and AI workflows can make an impact in their organization,” she said in a statement. “I’m incredibly proud of the team for what we’ve built. With our new next-generation platform, we’re able to make vision AI approachable and intuitive to anyone in the enterprise.”
It’s proven to be a winning strategy. CrowdAI says it saw a 200% increase in its customer base over the past year.
CrowdAI has raised over $10 million to date. Other investors that participated in its series A included Susa Ventures, Ron Conway’s SV Angel, Jerry Yang at AME Cloud, and Y Combinator.
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