Scale AI secures $100m in Series C

6 Aug 2019408 Views

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Image: Jeff Hilnbrand/Scale

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San Francisco-based tech start-up Scale AI says it is now valued at more than $1bn.

On Monday (5 August), Scale AI announced that it has secured $100m in Series C funding.

On the start-up’s blog, Scale AI wrote that it has surpassed $1bn in value after the funding round, which was led by Founders Fund. There was also participation by Accel, Coatue Management, Index Ventures, Spark Capital and Thrive Capital, as well as Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and Quora’s Adam d’Angelo.

Scale AI’s offerings include AI video annotation services, image categorisation, named entity recognition, and sentiment and intent analysis.

The company created an API that allows developers to send raw data to Scale AI’s platform, where the company uses machine learning and human insight to label and annotate the data.

In the blogpost, 22-year-old CEO Alexandr Wang wrote: “Scale AI is now used by world leading machine learning teams at companies like Waymo, OpenAI, Airbnb, Nuro and Lyft.

“Our platform is being used to provide high-quality training data to an ever-growing number of machine learning teams and industries, including autonomous vehicles, natural language and content understanding, e-commerce and search, mapping, robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality, and offline retail.

“It’s been an incredibly quick three years since I started the company, and the ability we’ve had to accelerate progress in machine learning is palpable. But, as we hope is always the case, we’re far more excited about what we will do in the future,” he added.

Wang, who grew up in New Mexico with his physicist parents, excelled in coding competitions as a teenager and had been offered jobs at tech companies before he graduated high school, according to Bloomberg.

In a statement about the latest investment, Founders Fund partner and former Trump adviser Peter Thiel said: “AI companies will come and go as they compete to find the most effective applications of machine learning. Scale AI will last over time because it provides core infrastructure to the most important players in the space.”

Staffing

Scale AI now has about 100 employees working in its San Francisco headquarters, as well as nearly 30,000 contractors aiding the labelling process.

Speaking to TechCrunch, Wang said: “The humans are pretty critical to what we’re doing because they’re there to make sure that all the data we provide is really high quality.”

However, in an interview with Bloomberg, Wang declined to mention where these contractors are based or how much they earn. Instead, he commented: “We are not trying to optimise the human cost. They earn in the 60th to 70th percentile of wages in their geography.”

Bloomberg discussed the human cost of Scale AI’s work with Mike Volpi of Index Ventures, who said: “If you could be pulling a rickshaw or labelling data in an air-conditioned internet café, the latter is a better job. You’re paid better and it’s not as stressful to your body.”

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com