Artificial intelligence is not a single technology, but rather a collection of technologies that are applied to specific tasks. As a result, the effects of AI will be felt unevenly through the economy, the White House wrote in its most recent report about AI and automation.
Two things can be inferred from the White House report. First, AI applications can impact the job market both positively and negatively. Some tasks can be automated, leading to the displacement of some labor. However, AI itself is a field that will likely guarantee new employment opportunities in the future. “We have a crisis in our particular industry: the number of people who can do the Artificial Intelligence machine learning work […] is so small that we have to manufacture more,” Eric Schmidt, Alphabet executive chairman and former Google CEO, said at a recent panel at MIT.
Second, AI applications range across all industries, as the following list of the most promising Boston AI startups will demonstrate. These companies are using AI to work in fields such as email management, creative writing, cancer diagnostic and even makeup applications. We expect to see some of their key players at aiWorld, the global AI business event that will be taking place in Boston next December.
Out of all the companies working in AI-related fields, we picked 9 startups in the Boston area that have been making some moves recently, or that simply sparked our imagination:
This company’s product, The NeuralaBrain, is a “deep learning neural network software that mimics how the human brain works” and that could have countless applications, from drones to interactive toys. The CEO is Massimiliano Versace, a Fulbright scholar with two PhDs from University of Trieste, Italy and Boston University. In January, Neurala closed a $14 million Series A round in led by Pelion Ventures, with participation from Sherpa Capital, Motorola Ventures, SK Ventures and Idinvest Partners.
Behind this company, not out of stealth mode yet, there are Jim Crowley, who stepped down as CEO of Skyhook Wireless last year, and Jennifer Lum, co-founder of Adelphic Mobile. According to Crunchbase, Jim Crowley will be the CEO, Jack Crowley the CTO and Lum the COO. According to its website, Forge.AI plans to “create fuel for intelligent machines,” but we don’t know much more. As we wrote in April, Jim Crowley said in the podcast with G20 Ventures that he was building software that would help businesses process unstructured data so that it can be used for machine learning and analytical purposes. For “unstructured data,” Crowley gave as examples things said on television or written in a news story.
Based in Cambridge, this startup is developing a platform providing automated and data-driven pathology analysis, with a focus on cancer diagnosis. The investors are 8VC, Refactor capital, Danhua Capital and Pillar VC. The CEO is Andrew Beck, a former principal investigator at Beth Israel Medical Center, and the CTO is Aditya Khosla, who completed his Ph.D. at MIT.
This Israeli startup, which relocated to the Boston area in 2016, uses AI to predict the priority of emails that hit people’s inbox, primarily Microsoft Outlook users. Knowmail is currently available by request for individual users, with apps for iOS and Android in the development and a full launch scheduled by the end of 2017. Last December, the company closed $3.5 million in a funding round led by CE Ventures, with participation from existing investors AfterDox, Plus Ventures, 2B Angels, INE Ventures, and various unnamed private investors, according to TechCrunch.
Started in 2015 by Backupify founder Rob May, Talla is developing an AI-powered virtual assistant integrated within office chat programs such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Hipchat and Gchat. The company raised a $4 million seed round last year from Jason Calacanis’s Launch fund and Avalon Ventures, among other investors. The goal of the company is to help IT, HR and other internal service teams cut back on repetitive support tasks, by automating answering of FAQs, managing the support ticket process, and more. May is also a venture partner at Pillar, a new VC firm that made an undisclosed investment in Talla.