If our May series on artificial intelligence in Boston didn’t convince you that the region is poised to become a leader in AI, news from this week should. On Thursday, IBM announced it was making a $240 million investment to create a new AI lab with MIT.
Called the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, the goal is to create a bastion of research for AI and how it will impact the world, as well as spur the creation of new AI startups. This builds upon previously announced efforts to advance AI research, including IBM Research’s multi-year collaboration with MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and a $50 million collaboration on the intersection of AI and genomics between IBM and the Broad Institute. And that’s just three of many AI-related happenings in Boston.
For Boston-area startups working in AI, IBM and MIT are in good company — it’s no surprise that some of these startups can trace their roots to MIT. Using data from Crunchbase Pro, we dug up the top 10 funded Boston-area startups working in AI, and they include a wide range of use cases, from autonomous vehicles and consumer electronics, to emotion and voice recognition, as well as business intelligence.
1. Interactions. Funding: $167 million.
Founded in 2004, Interactions is a Franklin, Mass.,-based provider of virtual assistant software that has quietly built a stable of large enterprise customers, including Hyatt Hotels and Humana. Last year, the startup raised a $56 million round led by Comcast Ventures, NewSpring Capital and Revolution Growth, the venture capital firm led by AOL co-founder Steve Case. Earlier this year, the company acquired Michigan-based Digital Roots, whose AI-powered software helps brands find customers on social media. Three years before that, the company acquired AT&T’s Watson speech recognition platform.
2. DataRobot. Funding: $124 million.
Counting Bank of America and other Fortune 500 companies as customers, DataRobot’s machine learning software helps large companies glean predictive insights from massive amounts of data by automating many of the tasks performed by data scientists. The startup raised a $67 million Series C round led by New Enterprise Associates, which was the lead investor for its two previous rounds. A source told BostInno in March that half of the company’s over 400 customers are Fortune 500 companies, and that the company’s annual revenue grew to close to $20 million last year from roughly $2 million in 2015.
3. Jibo. Funding: $72 million.
Founded by MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal, Jibo is working on an ambitious, synonymous “family robot.” Using voice and facial recognition, Jibo is expected to provide a more personable kind of interaction with humans than devices like the Amazon Echo can, Breazeal told BostInno. Jibo’s development was initially funded by an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that raised $3.6 million, which was then followed by tens of millions of dollars from venture capital firms, including Boston’s Flybridge Capital. For all of its hype, however, Jibo hasn’t been without its challenges: the company has delayed the product’s release for two years now, and international orders were canceled last year.
4. Kensho. Funding: $67 million.
Kensho provides a machine learning-based investment analytics platform that is used by major banks, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Earlier this year, those banks invested in Kensho’s $50 million Series B funding round that was led by S&P Global Inc. With the new funding deal, Kensho received access to S&P’s market data, which the company using machine learning to understand the relationship between financial data and events across the world.
5. Tamr. Funding: $42 million.
After being spun out of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 2013, Tamr now counts GE, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Thomson Reuters as both customers and investors. Using machine learning, the startup helps large companies access and combine large amounts of data from multiple sources. The company most recently raised an undisclosed amount from GE Ventures in May, about two years after raising its $25.2 million Series B. As of May, the company had roughly 40 customers, including Toyota, Novartis and Merck, according to Boston Business Journal.
6. RapidMiner. Funding: $36 million.
With a software platform built for data scientists, RapidMiner was named a leader in predictive analytics and machine learning by Forrester Research earlier this year. The company’s open source software helps data scientists speed up the process of creating analytical workflows to figure out things like which customers are most likely to stop paying for a company’s subscription service. In August, RapidMiner said it reached a new record for revenue and customer acquisition in this year’s second quarter, having signed on or expanded relationships with over 10 percent of companies on the Fortune 100 Global List. Its most recent funding round was a $16 million Series C in January 2016.
7. Evolv Technology. Funding: $29 million.
Counting Bill Gates as one of its investors, Evolv Technology is a Waltham-based startup that is building an AI-powered body scanner for large facilities with the goal of preventing terrorist attacks. The company, which raised an $18 million round earlier this year, claims its technology has the ability to detect weapons on a person in a matter of seconds, and can handle over 600 people an hour. Using machine learning algorithms, the company’s Edge body scanner is able to identify features of weapons and other deadly devices listed in a database that was created in consultation with anti-terror organizations. The body scanner also has a facial recognition component that can match faces with a blacklist.
8. Affectiva. Funding: $26 million.
Spun out of the MIT Media Lab, Affectiva is building emotion recognition and analysis software that is used for a wide range of purposes, from helping Giphy automatically tag gifs with emotions and reactions, to studying the emotional impact of advertising. The startup most recently raised a $14 million Series D round in May 2016, and it will be hosting its Emotion AI Summit at MIT on Wednesday, Sept. 13.
9. Cogito. Funding: $22.5 million.
With large enterprise clients like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cogito provides emotional intelligence software for call center and sales operations, as well as healthcare management. The company’s software can help call center professionals provide better service by telling if they’re speaking too much or if the customer is getting frusrated, among other things — and then tells them how to improve. A case study for one of its clients, Humana, found that Cogito’s software was able to improve customer satisfactions by 28 percent and improve employee engagement by 63 percent. Cogito raised a $15 million Series B round last fall led by Boston’s OpenView.
10. NuTonomy. Funding: $19.6 million.
NuTonomy is an autonomous vehicle software company that beat Uber last year in becoming the first company in the world to start testing a self-driving taxi service. Since raising a $16 million Series A round in May 2016, nuTonomy has started testing its vehicles on Boston’s streets, announced it will provide software for Peugot’s autonomous vehicles and partnered with Lyft to help it test self-driving cars. Before all this, the company had already become profitable by providing software to auto manufacturers, including Jaguar Land Rover.