Scale AI Inc. today announced on its blog that it has raised $100 million in a Series C round of funding, bringing its valuation to more than $1 billion. The company is building software to annotate images for training artificial intelligence for robots, self-driving cars, and drones. It is also working on natural language processing.
“Our mission at Scale is to accelerate the development of AI applications,” wrote Alexandr Wang, CEO of San Francisco-based Scale AI. “We’re proud of what we’ve built over the last three years.”
Founders Fund led the round. Accel, Coatue Management, Index Ventures, Spark Capital, and Thrive Capital participated, as did Kevin Systrom, Mike Krieger, and Adam d’Angelo.
Scale was founded in 2016 and raised $18 million last August. Index Ventures, Accel, and Y Combinator were involved in the Series B round.
Scale AI builds on big data
The company described its offerings as “the data platform for AI.” Scale AI’s software takes “a first pass at marking up pictures before handing them off to a network of some 30,000 contract workers, who then perform the finishing touches,” noted Bloomberg Businessweek.
“What we noticed after working on AI at some of the most advanced organizations in the world was that building machine learning systems was challenging due to a lack of mature infrastructure,” Wang wrote. “In particular, we noticed that the critical bottleneck to further progress today was data — in particular, labeled datasets.
“It takes billions or tens of billions of examples to get AI systems to human-level performance,” he said. “There is a really big gap between the handful of giant companies that can afford to do all this training and the many that can’t.”
Customers send Scale their video or audio data via an application programming interface (API) call. It is then analyzed by a combination of tools and human review. Scale AI maintains an index of large-scale open data sets for a variety of applications on its site.
With high-quality data, Scale said, its customers can build safe and unbiased AI systems, accelerate time to develop their applications, and keep up with larger companies that have access to data for training machine learning.
Scale said its approach makes it easy for companies that want to use machine learning or deep learning to get started with their data sets or open ones, as well as to optimize their systems and scale up.
The company said that its sensor fusion, video annotation, semantic segmentation, and tools for 2D and 3D shapes can help robots and autonomous systems with environmental perception, inventory handling and sorting, predictive maintenance, quality control, and logistics management.
Other potential uses for Scale AI’s services include e-commerce, mapping, augmented and virtual reality, and inventory management systems.
Who’s who of customers
Scale AI offers its services in an on-demand or an enterprise service model, and it says its services are scalable.
Its customers include leading self-driving and AI companies such as General Motors Co.’s Cruise spinoff, nuTonomy, OpenAI, the Toyota Research Institute, Uber Technologies Inc., and Alphabet Inc. unit Waymo LLC.
Wang acknowledged that there are “many problems beyond the training data bottleneck for us to solve to continue accelerating AI development.” He also said that Scale is looking for partners, engineers, and business staffers.