Brainly Scores $80M for its Online P2P Learning Platform and Community

The pandemic has severely disrupted the framework of education globally. With in-person learning halted or interrupted, both parents and students have faced added pressure to adjust to the concept of remote learning. Brainly is a peer-to-peer online learning platform for parents and students that helps alleviate some of these challenges. At its core, the platform focuses on homework help and questions, where students can give or receive help in a trusted community. Not surprisingly, in 2020, the company experienced 75% growth for its freemium service and now has over 350M students in its community. AlleyWatch caught up with CEO Michał Borkowski to learn more about the massive shift in online learning as a result of the pandemic, the company’s plans to expand its product offering and geographically, and the company’s recent round of funding from Learn Capital, Prosus Ventures, Runa Capital, MantaRay, and General Catalyst.
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Softr scores $2.2M seed for its no-code website and web app platform powered by Airtable

No-code — software that lets you accomplish tasks that previously required coding skills — is an increasingly hot space, even if the basic premise has been promised and not fully realised for many years. Related to this are companies like Airtable, which attempt to make building relational databases and interrogating them as easy as creating a spreadsheet. Now Softr, a startup out of Berlin, wants to push the no-code concept further by making it easy to build websites on top of Airtable without the need to write code.

Recently soft launched on Product Hunt, today the young company is disclosing $ 2.2 million in seed funding, having previously been bootstrapped by its two Armenian founders, CEO Mariam Hakobyan and CTO Artur Mkrtchyan. Leading the round is Atlantic Labs, along with Philipp Moehring (Tiny.VC) and founders from GitHub, SumUp, Zeitgold, EyeEm and Rows.

Started in 2019, Softr has built a no-code platform to enable anybody to build websites and web apps based on data housed in Airtable. The idea is to let Airtable do the database grunt work, combined with Softr’s relatively flexible but template-driven approach to website and web app creation.

Softr’s Hakobyan explains that out of the box the startup offers templates for anything from a simple marketing website to web apps for an e-commerce store, job board, marketplace and more. Those applications can include functionality like user authentication, gated content, payments, upvoting, and commenting etc.

“Softr has zero learning curve and can literally be used by anyone without a tech background, as it abstracts away all the technical aspects and focuses the user on product building and content, rather than technology,” she explains. “Softr uses Airtable as the database, as it makes it easy creating and sharing relational databases, without having to learn SQL or scripting. Airtable has gotten pretty popular in the last few years and is used not only by individuals but also Fortune 500 companies”.

Image Credits: Softr

To that end, Hakobyan says Softr’s magic is that it uses the concept of “pre-built building blocks” (listings, user accounts, payments etc) and business logic to handle most of the heavy lifting on behalf of the website creator. “When using blocks and templates.. ., 70% of the work is already done for the user,” she explains.

In addition, Softr connects to popular services like Stripe, Paypal, Mailchimp, Zapier, Integromat, Hotjar, Google Analytics, Hubspot, Drift and others.

Softr is currently used by “several thousands of makers and startups”. Examples of applications that customers have built on Softr include a language learning school with membership, a baby-sitters booking marketplace, and a community with gated content and online courses.

Armed with capital, Softr plans to expand its customer base to non-tech functions of SMBs to help them build internal tooling, such as employee directories, product inventories, real estate listings etc., and to automate manual processes.

Startups – TechCrunch

Openbase scores $3.6M seed to help developers find open source components

Openbase founder Lior Grossman started his company the way that many founders do — to solve a problem he was having. In this case, it was finding the right open source components to build his software. He decided to build something to solve the problem, and Openbase was born.

Today, the company announced a $ 3.65 million seed round led by Zeev Ventures with participation from Y Combinator and 20 individual tech industry investors. Openbase was a member of the YC 2020 cohort.

Grossman says that being part of YC helped him meet investors, especially on Demo Day when hundreds of investors listened in. “I would say that being part of YC definitely gave us a higher profile, and exposed us to some investors that I didn’t know before. It definitely opened doors for us,” he said.

As developers build modern software, they often use open source components to help build the application, and Openbase helps them find the best one for their purposes. “Openbase basically helps developers choose from among millions of open source packages,” Grossman told me.

The database includes 1.5 million JavaScript packages today with support for additional languages including Python and Go in beta. The way it works is that users search for a package based on their requirements and get a set of results. From there, they can compare components and judge them based on user reviews and other detailed insights.

Openbase data screen gives detailed insights on the chosen package including popularity and similar packages.

Image Credits: Openbase

Grossman found that his idea began resonating with developers shortly after he launched in 2019. In fact, he reports that he went from zero to half a million users in the first year without any marketing beyond word of mouth. That’s when he decided to apply to Y Combinator and got into the Summer 2020 class.

The database is free for developers and that has helped build the user base so quickly. Eventually he hopes to monetize by allowing certain companies to promote their packages on the system. He says that these will be clearly marked and that the plan is to have only one promoted package per category. What’s more, they will retain all their user reviews and other associated data, regardless of whether it’s being promoted or not.

Grossman started the company on his own, but has added 5 employees with plans to hire more people this year to keep growing the startup. As an immigrant founder, he is sensitive to diversity and sees building a diverse company as a key goal. “I built this company as an immigrant myself […] and I want to build an inclusive culture with people from different backgrounds because I think that will produce the best environment to foster innovation,” he explained.

So far the company has been fully remote, but the plan is to open an office post-pandemic. He says he sees a highly flexible approach to work though with people spending some days in the office and some at home. “I think for our culture this hybrid approach will work. Whenever we expand further I obviously imagine having more offices and not only our office in San Francisco.”

Startups – TechCrunch

Cockroach Labs scores $160M Series E on $2B valuation

Cockroach Labs, makers of CockroachDB, have been on a fundraising roll for the last couple of years. Today the company announced a $ 160 million Series E on a fat $ 2 billion valuation. The round comes just eight months after the startup raised an $ 86.6 million Series D.

The latest investment was led by Altimeter Capital, with participation from new investors Greenoaks and Lone Pine, along with existing investors Benchmark, Bond, FirstMark, GV, Index Ventures and Tiger Global. The round doubled the company’s previous valuation and increased the amount raised to $ 355 million.

Co-founder and CEO Spencer Kimball says the company’s revenue more than doubled in 2020 in spite of COVID, and that caught the attention of investors. He attributed this paradoxical rise to the rapid shift to the cloud brought on by the pandemic that many people in the industry have seen.

“People became more aggressive with what was already underway, a real move to embrace the cloud to build the next generation of applications and services, and that’s really fundamentally where we are,” Kimball told me.

As that happened, the company began a shift in thinking. While it has embraced an open-source version of CockroachDB along with a 30-day free trial on the company’s cloud service as ways to attract new customers to the top of the funnel, it wants to try a new approach.

In fact, it plans to replace the 30-day trial with a newer version later this year without any time limits. It believes this will attract more developers to the platform and enable them to see the full set of features without having to enter credit card information. What’s more, by taking this approach, it should end up costing the company less money to support the free tier.

“What we expect is that you can do all kinds of things on that free tier. You can do a hackathon, any kind of hobby project […] or even a startup that has ambitions to be the next DoorDash or Airbnb,” he said. As he points out, there’s a point where early-stage companies don’t have many users, and can remain in the free tier until they achieve product-market fit.

“That’s when they put a credit card down, and they can extend beyond the free tier threshold and pay for what they use,” he said. The newer free tier is still in the beta testing phase, but will be rolled out during this year.

Kimball says the company wasn’t necessarily looking to raise, although he knew that it would continue to need more cash on the balance sheet to run with giant competitors like Oracle, AWS and the other big cloud vendors, along with a slew of other database startups. As the company’s revenue grows, he certainly sees an IPO in its future, but he doesn’t see it happening this year.

The startup ended the year with 200 employees and Kimball expects to double that by the end of this year. He says growing a diverse group of employees takes good internal data and building a welcoming and inclusive culture.

“I think the starting point for anything you want to optimize in a business is to make sure that you have the metrics in front of you, and that you’re constantly looking at them […] in order to measure how you’re doing,” he explained.

He added, “The thing that we’re most focused on in terms of action is really building the culture of the company appropriately and that’s something we’ve been doing for all six years we’ve been around. To the extent that you have an inclusive environment where people actually really view the value of respect, that helps with diversity.”

Kimball says he sees a different approach to running the business when the pandemic ends, with some small percentage going into the office regularly and others coming for quarterly visits, but he doesn’t see a full return to the office post-pandemic.

Startups – TechCrunch

Social gaming platform Rec Room scores $20 million Series C

Social gaming platform Rec Room has scored some new funding as it aims to bring its once VR-centric world to every major gaming platform out there.

The startup has closed a $ 20 million Series C led by Madrona Venture Group . Existing investors, including First Round Capital, Index, Sequoia and DAG, also participated in the round. They’ve raised just shy of $ 50 million to date.

The platform has been around for years serving as a social hub and gaming platform for virtual reality users. In recent years, the company has tried to scale its ambitions past being known as the “Roblox of VR” and scale its capabilities to meet its young user base. This year was big for the platform doing just that.

CEO Nick Fajt estimates that the company has tripled its total audience since this time last year as the company has made a concerted drive on new platforms. While a substantial portion of Rec Room’s audience still comes from its bread-and-butter VR audience, the platform’s base of console users has grown substantially in 2020 and, by the end of next year, Fajt expects that mobile will have grown to be Rec Room’s most common point of entry. Meanwhile, mobile Android remains one of the last major gaming platforms on which Rec Room still doesn’t have a home.

One of the company’s big aims heading into the new year is scaling their creation tools, which allow players to build their own experiences inside the game. More than 1 million of the platform’s 10 million registered users have engaged with creator tools, building 4 million distinct rooms on the platform. Next year, Fajt plans to scale up creator payments estimating that by the end of 2021 they’ll have paid out $ 1 million to their network.

Fajt says he wants creation tools on Rec Room to be more accessible to the general player base than other platforms, including Roblox, aiming to keep tools simple for now and push everyday users to invest time in the creation platform.

Image via Rec Room

“Roblox has an incredible business, that’s certainly no secret,” Fajt tells TechCrunch. “We want breadth of expression over depth of expression; we want anyone who comes into to Rec Room to be able to build.”

Despite the slow maturation of the VR market, Fajt says the company doesn’t plan on moving away from its VR roots anytime soon. The company has just updated its popular battle royale mode Rec Royale for the new Quest 2, as well as on iOS.

Startups – TechCrunch

Getsafe, the European digital-first insurance startup, scores $30M Series B

Getsafe, the digital-first insurance startup that initially launched with an app for home contents insurance, has closed $ 30 million in Series B funding.

Swiss Re, the reinsurer giant, led the round. Existing investors, including Earlybird and CommerzVentures, also participated. Getsafe has raised a total of $ 53 million to date since being founded in May 2015.

The company says it plans to extend its Series B funding with a second tranche to be closed ahead of the company launching products powered by its own insurance licence, scheduled for the first half of 2021.

Pitching itself as a digital insurer aimed at millennials, Getsafe’s first product offers flexible home contents insurance, along with other “modules,” such as personal possessions cover (which insures possessions out of home) and accidental damage cover. Available in the U.K. and Germany and delivered via an easy to use app, the idea is that you build and only pay for the exact cover you need.

Co-founder and CEO Christian Wiens tells me Getsafe currently has 150,000 active customers and that 90 percent of Getsafe users buy insurance for the first time. “We sell more policies to first-time insurance buyers in Germany than incumbents like Allianz, Axa, Zurich, etc,” he says.

Asked why Getsafe is moving to its own insurance license, Wiens says it will enable the insurtech to innovate with new products faster. “It’s better to have an insurance license, acting as a broker creates no innovation,” he says, adding that insurance is a “marathon” and a long term play.

“We hoped to navigate regulation faster and be able to use more existing software, but needed to build most tech from the ground up,” says Wiens.

Meanwhile, the new partnership between Getsafe and Swiss Re is already bearing fruit. Last month, the pair launched digital car insurance optimised for smartphones. “With just a few clicks, users can purchase insurance with the Getsafe app, file a claim, and manage their policy in real time”.

“You can cancel or discontinue the coverage any time e.g. if you don’t use the car in winter months or during summer holidays, just switch it off,” explains the Getsafe CEO.

You can also add up to five co-drivers to your coverage for free in the app. “In 2021, we plan to test driving behaviour based pricing,” adds Wiens. “We [will] track your driving with the app and you save money if you drive safely”.

Startups – TechCrunch

ultimate.ai scores $20M for a supportive approach to customer service automation

Ultimate.ai, a virtual customer service agent builder, has closed a $ 20 million Series A round of funding, led by Omers Ventures with participation from Felicis Ventures and existing investors HV Capital, and Maki.vc — bringing its total raised to date to $ 25M+.

The European startup’s flagship claim for the data-ingesting bot-builder platform is it’s capable of automating up to 80% of customer support interactions.

The focus, as tends to be the case for all these customer service conversational AI plays, is freeing (human) support agents from dealing with dull, repetitive stuff — so they can apply their (less limited) skills to more complex, consultative or emotionally demanding customer queries.

When we last spoke to the Helsinki- and Berlin-based startup, back in 2018 for a $ 1.3M seed round, it described itself as a “language-agnostic” conversational AI — having started out with the hard (linguistic) challenge of Finnish — claiming that gave it an edge in a competitive space with customers in non-English speaking markets. (Though it did also tackle English too.)

Two years on the startup’s marketing focus is broader; today it talks about its customer service automation platform as an “AI-first” ‘no code’ tool — sating it wants to empower b2c users to get the most out of AI by helping them design virtual agents that can usefully handle complex customer interactions.

ultimate.ai will hand-hold you through the process of building a super savvy customer service robot, is the pitch.

Co-founder and CEO Reetu Kainulainen claims it’s always been “no code and intuitive” — though there’s now a handy reference label to align what it’s doing with a wider b2b trend. (‘No code’ or ‘low code’ referring to a digital tool-building movement that aims to widen access to powerful technologies like AI without the need for the user to possess deep technical know-how in order to make useful use of them.)

 

“Everything we build is to guide users to creating the best virtual agents. The whole user journey — discovery, design, expansion — is all within ultimate.ai,” Kainulainen tells TechCrunch.

“In the past two years, we have been laser focused on building a very deep customer service automation platform — one that goes beyond simple FAQ answers in chat — and enables brands to design complex, personalized workflows that can be deployed across all digital support channels.

“We believe that customer service automation will be its own category in the future and so we are working hard to define what that means today.”

As an example, Kainulainen points to “one click” integration with “any major CRM” (including Salesforce and Zendesk) — which lets customers quickly import existing customer support logs so ultimate.ai’s platform can analyze the data to help them build a useful bot.

“Immediately, you are shown a breakdown of your most common customer service cases and the impact automation can have for your business,” he goes on, saying the platform shows templates and “best practices” to help the customer design their automation workflows — “tailored for your cases and industry”.

Once a virtual agent is live users can run A/B tests via the platform to check and optimize performance — and, here too, the promise is further hand-holding, with Kainulainen saying it will “proactively suggests new cases and data to improve your virtual agent”.

“Where we are very strong is in large-scale customer support organizations, who are looking for a holistic, advanced automation platform that can be managed and implemented by non-technical users,” he says.

“The bigger picture is that each of our competitors views the opportunity more narrowly than ultimate.ai does: Our best competitors are either focused on chatbots only, or otherwise limited to the ecosystem of their mother company. Our vision has always been the big picture: Of automation becoming one of the primary means of providing customer service.”

Having multilingual smarts remains an advantage, with ultimate.ai’s virtual agents able to handle interactions in over 20 languages at this point.

“Our market — the customer service automation market — has a lot of players,” Kainulainen goes on, name-checking the likes of Ada Support and Einstein Bots (Salesforce’s own solution) as key competitors.

“This is because it is new and, until recently, solutions were so early that there were virtually no barriers to entry. But the market has changed a lot in the last four years. There are now only a handful of players globally that are worth paying attention to and we are one of them.”

The 2016-founded startup is hitting the nail on the head for a growing number of customers — with close to 100 signed up to its platform at this point, including the likes of Deezer, Telia, Footasylum, and Finnair. Per Kainulainen, it works best for “b2c brands with large (and often repetitive) customer service volumes”.

“This is where automation can provide a huge impact from day one and really free up people to take on more creative and challenging work. We have a broad customer base of close to 100 great brands… and do particularly well in industries like retail/ecommerce, telecommunications and travel,” he adds.

It’s enjoyed a major growth spurt this year, as businesses of all stripes were forced to ramp up their attention to online customer interactions as the coronavirus pandemic became an engine for digital activity.

Customer retention has also risen in priority for many businesses, as a highly contagious virus and public health safety measures put in place to reduce its spread, flipped markets into recession — which Kainulainen points to as another growth driver.

Overall, he says it’s tripled ARR over the last 12 months (albeit, it was the same growth story last year too). Plus it’s tripled headcount to deal with the COVID-19 effect.

Now ultimate.ai is gearing up for fresh growth — saying it’s expecting major developments next year.

“COVID-19 has… prompted one of the most accelerated periods of change in the customer service industry,” says Kainulainen, predicting 2021 will bring “immense innovation” in the space — and that “booming” automation technologies will take “center stage”.

Of course it’s a convenient narrative for a customer service chatbot maker to tell.

But COVID-19 is clearly accelerating digital transformation of consumer focused businesses — a movement that, logically, pumps demand for smarter tools to handle online customer support. So those positioned to harness new momentum for customer service automation — by being able to offer an accessible, scalable and effective product (as ultimate.ai claims it does) — are sitting pretty in the middle of a pandemic.

“We believe that the best product will win this market,” adds Kainulainen. “We have a big vision for what we want ultimate.ai to be. Market maturity for our technology has accelerated massively in 2020, achieving in one year what could have probably taken five. We will capitalize on that by building more, faster.”

The Series A funding will go on sales and marketing, with a planned market push in North America and a desire to go deeper throughout Europe, as well as being ploughed into further product development.

And while — clearly — not every potential b2c customer will be able to ‘automagic’ away 80% of their customer support pings, Kainulainen argues ultimate.ai can still offer a compelling sales pitch to businesses with more “consultative” customer support needs, where automation will only be able to play a far more limited role.

“There’s often a strong correlation between how consultative a customer service organization needs to be and how highly trained and experienced their team is. In other words, it is often the case that organizations with ‘lower bound’ automation potential also only need 10% automation to still drive a huge ROI,” he suggests.

“For example, one of our customers is a large national pharmacy group, where customer service agents are qualified pharmacists who provide prescription medical advice. Here, the goal isn’t to achieve a very high automation rate but rather to automate basic, repetitive processes to free up the pharmacists for more challenging tasks that better use their capabilities.

“For this customer, in addition to the automation of simple requests (which alone provides a huge value) our real-time answer recommendations help pharmacists respond faster and easier.”

Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Omers Ventures managing partner, Jambu Palaniappan, dubbed the startup’s growth “truly spectacular”, as well as lauding its “world-class team” and founders “with a strong vision and unrivalled knowledge of AI”.

“There are numerous chatbot companies out there but ultimate.ai represents something much bigger because at its core is an automation company with massive potential,” he added. “We look forward to working with Sarah, Reetu, Jaakko, and Markus as they expand internationally and advance their deep product capabilities even further.”

“The customer service industry is undergoing an automation revolution. In ultimate.ai, we saw a vision that’s bold enough to lead the way,” added Aydin Senkut, founder and managing partner of Felicis Ventures, in another supporting statement. “We believe that, just in the same way that category leaders have defined marketing and sales automation, ultimate.ai will do the same for customer service.”

Jambu Palaniappan, managing partner at Omers Ventures, will join the ultimate.ai board. Aydin Senkut, founder and managing partner of Felicis Ventures, will join as an investor, alongside former head of Airbnb for Business Mark McCabe, and former EVP global sales of payment giant Adyen, Thijn Lamers.

Startups – TechCrunch

Materialize scores $40 million investment for SQL streaming database

Materialize, the SQL streaming database startup built on top of the open-source Timely Dataflow project, announced a $ 32 million Series B investment led by Kleiner Perkins, with participation from Lightspeed Ventures.

While it was at it, the company also announced a previously unannounced $ 8 million Series A from last year, led by Lightspeed, bringing the total raised to $ 40 million.

These firms see a solid founding team that includes CEO Arjun Narayan, formerly of Cockroach Labs, and chief scientist Frank McSherry, who created the Timely Dataflow project on which the company is based.

Narayan says that the company believes fundamentally that every company needs to be a real-time company, and it will take a streaming database to make that happen. Further, he says the company is built using SQL because of its ubiquity, and the founders wanted to make sure that customers could access and make use of that data quickly without learning a new query language.

“Our goal is really to help any business to understand streaming data and build intelligent applications without using or needing any specialized skills. Fundamentally what that means is that you’re going to have to go to businesses using the technologies and tools that they understand, which is standard SQL,” Narayan explained.

Bucky Moore, the partner at Kleiner Perkins leading the B round, sees this standard querying ability as a key part of the technology. “As more businesses integrate streaming data into their decision-making pipelines, the inability to ask questions of this data with ease is becoming a non-starter. Materialize’s unique ability to provide SQL over streaming data solves this problem, laying the foundation for them to build the industry’s next great data platform,” he said.

They would naturally get compared to Confluent, a streaming database built on top of the Apache Kafka open-source streaming database project, but Narayan says his company uses straight SQL for querying, while Confluent uses its own flavor.

The company still is working out the commercial side of the house and currently provides a typical service offering for paying customers with support and a service agreement (SLA). The startup is working on a SaaS version of the product, which it expects to release some time next year.

They currently have 20 employees with plans to double that number by the end of next year as they continue to build out the product. As they grow, Narayan says the company is definitely thinking about how to build a diverse organization.

He says he’s found that hiring in general has been challenging during the pandemic, and he hopes that changes in 2021, but he says that he and his co-founders are looking at the top of the hiring funnel because otherwise, as he points out, it’s easy to get complacent and rely on the same network of people you have been working with before, which tends to be less diverse.

“The KPIs and the metrics we really want to use to ensure that we really are putting in the extra effort to ensure a diverse sourcing in your hiring pipeline and then following that through all the way through the funnel. That’s I think the most important way to ensure that you have a diverse [employee base], and I think this is true for every company,” he said.

While he is working remotely now, he sees having multiple offices with a headquarters in NYC when the pandemic finally ends. Some employees will continue to work remotely, with the majority coming into one of the offices.

Startups – TechCrunch

Marketing automation platform Klaviyo scores $200M Series C on $4.15B valuation

Boston-based marketing automation firm Klaviyo wants to change the way marketers interact with data, giving them direct access to their data and their customers. It believes that makes it easier to customize the messages and produce better results. Investors apparently agree, awarding the company a $ 200 million Series C on a hefty $ 4.15 billion valuation today.

The round was led by Accel with help from Summit Partners. It comes on the heels of last year’s $ 150 million Series B, and brings the total raised to $ 385.5 million, according the company. Accel’s Ping Li will also be joining the company board under the terms of today’s announcement.

Marketing automation and communication takes on a special significance as we find ourselves in the midst of this pandemic and companies need to find ways to communicate in meaningful ways with customers who can’t come into brick and mortar establishments. Company CEO and co-founder Andrew Bialecki says that his company’s unique use of data helps in this regard.

“I think our success is because we are a hybrid customer data and marketing platform. We think about what it takes to create these owned experiences. They’re very contextual and you need all of that customer data, not some of it, all of it, and you need that to be tightly coupled with how you’re building customer experiences,” Bialecki explained.

Andrew Bialecki, CEO and co-founder at Klaviyo

Andrew Bialecki, CEO and co-founder at Klaviyo Image Credits: Klaviyo

He believes that by providing a platform of this scope that combines the data, the ability to customize messages and the use of machine learning to keep improving that, it will help them compete with the largest platforms. In fact his goal is to help companies understand that they don’t have to give up their customer data to Amazon, Google and Facebook.

“The flip side of that is growing through Amazon where you give up all your customer data, or Facebook or Google where you kind of are delegated to wherever their algorithms decide where you get to show up,” he said. With Klaviyo, the company retains its own data, and Ping Li, who is leading the investment at Accel says that it where the e-commerce market is going.

“So the question is, is there a tool that allows you to do that as easily as going on Facebook and Google, and I think that’s the vision and the promise that Klaviyo is delivering on,” Li said.  He believes that this will allow their customers to actually build that kind of fidelity with their customers by going directly to them, instead of through a third-party intermediary.

The company has seen some significant success with 50,000 customers in 125 countries along with that lofty valuation. The customer number has doubled year over year, even during the economic malaise brought on by the pandemic.

Today, the company has 500 employees with plans to double that in the next year. As he grows his company, Bialecki believes diversity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also smart business. “I think the competitive advantages that tech companies are going to have going forward, especially for the tech companies that are not the leaders today, but [could be] leaders in the coming decades, it’s because they have the most diverse teams and inclusive culture and those are both big focuses for us,” he said.

As they move forward flush with this cash, the company wants to continue to build out the platform, giving customers access to a set of tools that allow them to know their own customers on an increasingly granular level, while delivering more meaningful interactions. “It’s all about accelerating product development and getting into new markets,” Bialecki said. They certainly have plenty of runway to do that now.

Startups – TechCrunch

Computer vision startup Chooch.ai scores $20M Series A

Chooch.ai, a startup that hopes to bring computer vision more broadly to companies to help them identify and tag elements at high speed, announced a $ 20 million Series A today.

Vickers Venture Partners led the round with participation from 212, Streamlined Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, Waterman Ventures and several other unnamed investors. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $ 25.8 million, according to the company.

“Basically we set out to copy human visual intelligence in machines. That’s really what this whole journey is about,” CEO and co-founder Emrah Gultekin explained. As the company describes it, “Chooch Al can rapidly ingest and process visual data from any spectrum, generating AI models in hours that can detect objects, actions, processes, coordinates, states, and more.”

Chooch is trying to differentiate itself from other AI startups by taking a broader approach that could work in any setting, rather than concentrating on specific vertical applications. Using the pandemic as an example, Gultekin says you could use his company’s software to identify everyone who is not wearing a mask in the building or everyone who is not wearing a hard hat at a construction site.

With 22 employees spread across the U.S., India and Turkey, Chooch is building a diverse company just by virtue of its geography, but as it doubles the workforce in the coming year, it wants to continue to build on that.

“We’re immigrants. We’ve been through a lot of different things, and we recognize some of the issues and are very sensitive to them. One of our senior members is a person of color and we are very cognizant of the fact that we need to develop that part of our company,” he said. At a recent company meeting, he said that they were discussing how to build diversity into the policies and values of the company as they move forward.

The company currently has 18 enterprise clients and hopes to use the money to add engineers, data scientists and begin to build out a worldwide sales team to continue to build the product and expand its go-to-market effort.

Gultekin says that the company’s unusual name comes from a mix of the words choose and search. He says that it is also an old Italian insult. “It means dummy or idiot, which is what artificial intelligence is today. It’s a poor reflection of humanity or human intelligence in humans,” he said. His startup aims to change that.

Startups – TechCrunch