The momentum of investment for AI startups is gaining speed, according to an analysis by CAPIQ, Crunchbase, and Quid (2019). These seven AI startups received the highest funding in 2019, highlighting recent overall trends in private investments and public interest for AI-driven solutions. Let’s look.
The State of Interest in AI Startups
Investment dollars continue to pour into AI solutions. In 2019, the most significant investment dollars went to autonomous driving, drug and cancer studies, and facial recognition. However, the five-year growth trends see robotic automation taking the largest piece of the pie at nearly 1000% growth. Supply chain management and industrial automation take up the next two spots, both growing just over 600%.
These trends point towards automation concerns, with many companies realizing the potential of AI to remove obstacles and augment human labor. A study by McKinsey confirms these trends with companies across a wide variety of industries reporting widespread implementation of robotics and even bigger implementation of computer vision.
So how does this play out in startup funding? Let’s take a look.
Vacasa received over $300 million in from a Series C round towards the end of 2019, leading the pack with 2019 private investments. Their tools provide customer experience improvements, giving renters a smoother overall experience, and owners help to price and manage their properties.
Travel and logistics are one of the biggest implementers of AI in the area of Service Operations, with 51% of survey responders in the industry reporting AI implementation according to the CAPIQ, Crunchbase, Quid study (2019), and no wonder. Travel is heavily dependent on a variety of factors, including black swan events, making it difficult to make decisions without real-time analytics. Vacasa’s massive funding round is telling of these trends.
Samsara’s IoT platform raised $300 million from a Series F round also at the end of the year with a focus on operations. Operations is a massive piece of AI interest, and Samsara provides real-time analytics and visibility to one platform. Applications in vehicle telematics, driver safety, and compliance are also a big boon to operations.
While Samsara may not be quite as visible as consumer-facing Vacasa, the proximity of funding implies a massive interest in the behind-the-scenes capabilities of AI. Once again, service operations are a considerable piece of interest across industries according to the McKinsey study, and streamlining industry process controls is highly attractive.
While the consumer travel industry has many options, business travel has mainly relied on traditional, i.e., slow operations. TripActions hopes to change all that, receiving $250 million in June (and another $500 million this year, making it the winner for the year so far). TripActions is streamlining service operations yet again, providing companies with a better, more efficient way to book business travel while using AI to balance company needs and traveler preferences.
TripActions provides a unique solution in the world of travel, with business travelers spend around $251 billion annually around the globe. That’s a huge chunk of a business cost, but Certify estimates that companies see a revenue increase of $9.50 for every dollar spent on travel. Smoothing this process can only improve that ROI.
Yet another entry in service and operations, ThoughtSpot streamlines analytics reporting through an AI-driven analytics platform that integrates with any cloud-based, on-premise, or hybrid source. The company raised $248 million in a Series E round last year.
Attacking these backlogs with a simpler interface can reduce them by up to 90%, according to the company. Machine learning is a growing field across industries, but many companies have no idea how to make that transformation. With a simple interface, that could all change. Business analysts can now get insights through a single click, providing tools for decision making in the fourth industrial revolution.
DataRobot democratizes AI by automating the process for end to end AI deployment. Companies can quickly scale, and industry use cases vary across nearly all industries. Their $206 million Series E round shows the kind of cross-industry interest in this type of product.
AI implementation is growing, but many companies still report either dissatisfaction or unease with the coming digital transformation. An overwhelming number of companies cite the importance of AI presence and DataRobot could provide a path.
CloudMinds is focusing on smart vision, smart voice, and smart motion with its first-of-its-kind Cloud Robot Service Platform. They’re providing Human Augmented Robotics Intelligence with Extreme Reality (HARIX), driving the first commercial humanoid service robot. They raised $186 million from a Series B round early on in 2019, and their work could have far-reaching implications.
AI Robotics formed the fastest growth in investments throughout 2015-2019 (CAPIC, Crunchbase, Quid, 2019), far outpacing other areas. The interest in CloudMinds technology could provide the next generation of smart robotics. They could provide accurate grasping, computer vision, and human-like learning. The funding suggests that it’s the robot and every piece of tech that goes into it.
Contract management is a key part of service operations, occupying a huge chunk of the business process. According to Gartner, a contract management system is moving from “nice to have” to “need to have” and Icertis could ease the bottleneck contracts create within the company.
Icertis landed $115 million from a round in July and counts big names like Microsoft and 3M as customers. Companies seem interested in transforming a once frustrating, but necessary, aspect of business. As business continues to speed up, it could be more essential than ever.
AI Funding Investments Are Growing
Overall, the growth of funding for AI startups is undeniable. As more businesses adopt AI solutions across the board instead of single-use adoption, those series rounds could continue to grow. Many of the companies listed are using AI to augment human intelligence in ways that streamline business operations and building on the digital future.