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Scale, whose army of humans annotate raw data to train self-driving and other AI systems, nabs $18M

The artificial intelligence revolution is underway in the world of technology, but as it turns out, some of the most faithful foot soldiers are still humans. A startup called Scale , which works with a team of contractors who examine and categorise visual data to train AI systems in a two-sided marketplace model, announced that it has raised an additional $18 million in a Series B round. The aim will be to expand Scale’s business to become — in the words of CEO Alexandr Wang, the 21-year-old MIT grad who co-founded Scale with Lucy Guo — “the AWS of AI, with multiple services that help companies build AI algorithms.” “Our mission is to accelerate the development of AI apps,” Wang said. “The first product is visual data labelling, but in the future we have a broad vision of what we hope to provide.” Wang declined to comment on the startup’s valuation in an interview. But according to Pitchbook , which notes that this round actually closed in May of this year, the post-money valuation of Scale is now $93.50 million ($75 million pre-money). The money comes on the back of an eventful two years since the company first launched, with revenues growing 15-fold in the last year, and “multiple millions of dollars in revenue” from individual customers. (It doesn’t disclose specific numbers, however.) Today, Scale’s base of contractors numbers around 10,000, and it works with a plethora of businesses that are developing autonomous vehicle systems such as General Motors’ Cruise, Lyft Zoox, Nuro, Voyage, nuTonomy and Embark. These companies send Scale’s contractors raw, unlabelled data sets by way of Scale’s API, which provides services like Semantic Segmentation, Image Annotation, and Sensor Fusion, in conjunction with its clients LIDAR and RADAR data sets. In total, it says it’s annotated 200,000 “miles of data” collected by self-driving cars. AV companies are not its only customers, though. Scale also works with several non-automotive companies like Airbnb and Pinterest, to help build their AI-based visual search and recommendation systems. Airbnb, for example, is looking for more ways of being able to ascertain what kinds of homes repeat customers like and don’t like, and also to start to provide other ways of discovering places to stay that are based not just on location and number of bedrooms (which becomes more important especially in cities where you may have too many choices and want a selection more focused on what you are more likely to rent)

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Even Financial raises $18.8 million Series A from GreatPoint Ventures, Goldman Sachs and others

Even Financial , a fintech startup that connects the disparate entities of the financial services industry, recently raised a $18.8 million Series A round led by GreatPoint Ventures with participation from Goldman Sachs, Canaan Partners, F-Prime Capital, Lerer Hippeau and others. The close of its Series A comes on the heels of a $3 million investment from American Express Ventures, Plug & Play and Arab Angels in February . “The round is notable because it signifies the buy-in we’re seeing from the largest institutions in the country,” Even co-founder and CEO Phillip Rosen told TechCrunch. “This is really about the maturation of the fintech ecosystem.” Even offers products like a pre-approval API, real-time pricing, machine learning optimization, a product comparison and recommendation engine for consumers and more. “We provide a Twilio-style API for any consumer facing app or site to integrate,” Rosen said. “Ideally, a consumer doesn’t know Eden Financial exists.” In March, for example, Even expanded its partnership with Credit.com to power its personal loans marketplace. Credit.com offers consumers credit scores, as well as offers and loans. Other Even partners include The Penny Hoarder and Transunion, which Even connects with financial institutions like Prosper, Lending Club and Marcus by Goldman Sachs. Eden is currently doing over $40 million a month in personal loan funding and it’s ramping up partnerships with credit card companies like American Express. “It’s now a time to take advantage of this rapid growth,” Rosen said. “We have an opportunity to build out an infrastructure play, similar to what we’ve seen in travel search.”

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Stampli raises $6.7 M in Series A funding to streamline invoice management

Stampli, an invoice management platform, announced today the closing of a $6.7 M Series A funding round  led by SignalFire, with participation from Bloomberg Beta, Hillsven Capital, and UpWest Labs. If you’ve ever freelanced for a company, you’ll know that the long, instant ramen-filled days between filing an invoice and having it completed can be grueling. Brothers Eyal and Ofer Feldman launched Stampli in 2015 to help solve this problem and bridge the communication gap between accountants, related internal departments and vendors. Aimed at mid to large size companies, to date Stampli has helped a wide range of companies (from fashion to tech) manage over $4 billion in invoices through its AI driven interface. “Invoice management is like an elephant,” co-founder and CEO Eyal Feldman told TechCrunch. “One person sees the head, one person sees the tail, one person sees the legs. It’s a process that different people see different versions of but the whole picture should include everybody. The ability for all of these people to be involved is really the core of the process.” Traditional invoice management between vendors and internal departments in a company can be a tangled mess of email exchanges, lost messages and ultimately delayed payments. But, Stampli’s interface (which can be integrated directly into a company’s enterprise resource planning software like  NetSuite, Intuit QuickBooks, or SAP) allows for every step of the invoice’s journey to have a central landing page for every relevant party to collaborate on. “We found that 85 percent of our users are not accounting people,” said Feldman. “They are all the managers around and all the other people involved. What we found in our research is that when the process works for them is when accounting is happy.” This landing page not only provides easy access to pertinent information between departments, but Stampli’s built-in AI, Billy the Bot, helps invoice managers fill in relevant information by first learning the structure of the invoice and then learning through observation the user’s behavior and work flow. When Billy passes an 80 percent confidence threshold for its decision, it goes ahead and auto-fills the information

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Stampli raises $6.7M in Series A funding to streamline invoice management

Stampli , an invoice management platform, announced today the closing of a $6.7 million Series A funding round  led by SignalFire, with participation from Bloomberg Beta, Hillsven Capital and UpWest Labs. If you’ve ever freelanced for a company, you know that the long, instant ramen-filled days between filing an invoice and having it completed can be grueling. Brothers Eyal and Ofer Feldman launched Stampli in 2015 to help solve this problem and bridge the communication gap between accountants, related internal departments and vendors. Aimed at mid to large-size companies, to date Stampli has helped a wide range of companies (from fashion to tech) manage more than $4 billion in invoices through its AI-driven interface. “Invoice management is like an elephant,” co-founder and CEO Eyal Feldman told TechCrunch. “One person sees the head, one person sees the tail, one person sees the legs. It’s a process that different people see different versions of but the whole picture should include everybody. The ability for all of these people to be involved is really the core of the process.” Traditional invoice management between vendors and internal departments in a company can be a tangled mess of email exchanges, lost messages and ultimately delayed payments. But, Stampli’s interface (which can be integrated directly into a company’s enterprise resource planning software like  NetSuite, Intuit QuickBooks or SAP) allows for every step of the invoice’s journey to have a central landing page on which every relevant party can collaborate. “We found that 85 percent of our users are not accounting people,” said Feldman. “They are all the managers around and all the other people involved. What we found in our research is that when the process works for them is when accounting is happy.” This landing page not only provides easy access to pertinent information between departments, but Stampli’s built-in AI, Billy the Bot, helps invoice managers fill in relevant information by first learning the structure of the invoice and then learning through observation the user’s behavior and work flow. When Billy passes an 80 percent confidence threshold for its decision, it goes ahead and auto-fills the information. But, if it’s feeling unsure about its choice, Billy will leave it as a suggestion instead to avoid introducing any errors to the paperwork. The more invoices users process through Stampli, the more Billy learns how to best streamline the process for that company.

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Bus-sharing app Shuttl gets $11M Series B from investors including Amazon India

Shuttl , a service that lets Indian city dwellers find seats on multiple bus routes through one app, announced today that it has raised a $11 million Series B led by Amazon India, Amazon Alexa Fund and Dentsu Ventures. Returning investors Sequoia Capital, Times Internet and Lightspeed Ventures also participated. The Gurgaon-based startup’s last round of funding was a $20 million Series A announced in December 2015, just eight months after it launched. The Amazon Alexa Fund was created in 2016 to fund new voice technology. One of Shuttl’s most interesting features is “Chirp,” which verifies passengers by sending a sound from their mobile phones to the driver’s version of its app. The idea is that “chirping” is quicker than using tickets or passes and can therefore decrease delays on bus routes. Shuttl, which is owned by Super Highway Labs, was created with the goal of reducing pollution and traffic in major cities like Delhi by encouraging people to take public transportation. In order to compete with Uber and Ola, its tech platform optimizes routes and capacity, while its app enables users to track the location of their bus, giving them similar convenience and reliability to on-demand ride services (as long as they remember to book their seat a day in advance). Shuttl’s platform now includes 800 buses and it claims to have 60,000 monthly active users and provide 45,000 rides per day in five cities. Its new funding will be used to expand into two new cities.

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Outlier raises $6.2 M Series A to change how companies use data

Traditionally, companies have gathered data from a variety of sources, then used spreadsheets and dashboards to try and make sense of it all. Outlier wants to change that and deliver a handful of insights right to your inbox that matter most for your job, company and industry. Today the company announced a $6.2 million Series A to further develop that vision. The round was led by Ridge Ventures with assistance from 11.2 Capital, First Round Capital, Homebrew, Susa Ventures and SV Angel. The company has raised over $8 million. The startup is trying to solve a difficult problem around delivering meaningful insight without requiring the customer to ask the right questions. With traditional BI tools, you get your data and you start asking questions and seeing if the data can give you some answers. Outlier wants to bring a level of intelligence and automation by pointing out insight without having to explicitly ask the right question. Company founder and CEO Sean Byrnes says his previous company, Flurry , helped deliver mobile analytics to customers, but in his travels meeting customers in that previous iteration, he always came up against the same question: “This is great, but what should I look for in all that data?” It was such a compelling question that after he sold Flurry in 2014 to Yahoo for more than $200 million, that question stuck in the back of his mind and he decided to start a business to solve it. He contends that the first 15 years of BI was about getting answers to basic questions about company performance, but the next 15 will be about finding a way to get the software to ask good questions based on the huge amounts of data. Byrnes admits that when he launched, he didn’t have much sense of how to put this notion into action, and most people he approached didn’t think it was a great idea. He says he heard “No” from a fair number of investors early on because the artificial intelligence required to fuel a solution like this really wasn’t ready in 2015 when he started the company.

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