“Above the Trend Line” – Your Industry Rumor Central for 4/16/2021

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Above the Trend Line: your industry rumor central is a recurring feature of insideAI News. In this column, we present a variety of short time-critical news items grouped by category such as M&A activity, people movements, funding news, industry partnerships, customer wins, rumors and general scuttlebutt floating around the big data, data science and machine learning industries including behind-the-scenes anecdotes and curious buzz. Our intent is to provide you a one-stop source of late-breaking news to help you keep abreast of this fast-paced ecosystem. We’re working hard on your behalf with our extensive vendor network to give you all the latest happenings. Heard of something yourself? Tell us! Just e-mail me at: daniel@insideAINews.com. Be sure to Tweet Above the Trend Line articles using the hashtag: #abovethetrendline.

Let’s get started with some new funding news … SambaNova Systems, the company building advanced software, hardware and services to run AI applications, announced a $676 million Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The round includes additional new investors Temasek and GIC, plus existing backers including funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Intel Capital, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Walden International and WRVI. This Series D brings SambaNova’s total funding to more than $1 billion and rockets its valuation to more than $5 billion. Now the best-funded AI systems and services platform startup in the world, SambaNova will use its latest injection to aggressively challenge legacy competitors as it continues to shatter the computational limits of AI hardware and software currently on the market — all while making AI solutions for private and public sectors more accessible … Meroxa announced their $15M Series A funding round led by Drive Capital with participation from existing investors Root, Amplify, and Hustle Fund. The Series A follows a previously-undisclosed $4.2 million seed round co-led by Root and Amplify, with participation from Hustle Fund, Village Global, Meritech Capital, Sequoia, Kleiner, Addition, Menlo, and Index Ventures. Strategic angels participating in the seed round included industry luminaries Adam Gross (former CEO of Heroku), Jason Warner (CTO of GitHub), Calvin French-Owen former (CTO of Segment), & Nick Caldwell (VP of Engineering at Twitter). With this news, Meroxa is making an enthusiastic entrance into the red-hot data-services market … Self-improving artificial intelligence that can learn new tasks from small amounts of data is a crucial step for the advancement of strong artificial intelligence. Researchers at MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are being funded by research and development company, GoodAI, to tackle this problem. The grant is part of the ongoing GoodAI Grants initiative, which has awarded over $600,000 so far. The initiative is supporting research groups across the world that are solving problems related to GoodAI’s Badger architecture. The vision is that each research grant, along with the work of the GoodAI research team, will contribute in some way to basic AI research, and all together fill in some of the gaps in the roadmap to advanced, increasingly human-like AI … Anari AI, an AI chip factory in the cloud, announced it has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Earlybird, with participation from Acequia Capital, Serbian Entrepreneurs, and Eric Ries, author and founder of The Lean Startup. The new funding will be used to continue developing the platform and bring it to market. Anari’s platform makes it possible to design personalized AI chips in the cloud with just one click. With this approach, companies are able to build and deploy AI solutions in weeks instead of 12-18 months, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional hardware development … Synthesis AI, a pioneer in synthetic data technologies, announced $4.5 million in additional funding as they launch a synthetic data-as-a-service FaceAPI product.  The round was backed by existing investors Bee Partners, PJC, iRobot Ventures, Swift Ventures, Boom Capital, Kubera VC and Leta Capital. Synthesis AI comes out of stealth mode to provide their unique approach to data generation for computer vision to a wider range of organizations and applications. The new capital will allow Synthesis AI to add to its world-class R&D teams and continue leading the industry in the development of synthetic data technologies … Striim, Inc., provider of a leading real-time data integration platform, has announced a $50 million Series C financing led by Goldman Sachs Growth Equity. Summit Partners, Atlantic Bridge Ventures, Dell Ventures, Bosch Ventures are also participating in the round … Upsolver, the only no-code data lake engineering platform for agile cloud analytics, announced $25 million in Series B financing led by Scale Venture Partners (Scale). Existing investors JVP, Vertex Ventures US, and Wing Venture Capital also participated in the round … Comet, a leading provider of MLOps solutions, announced that it has raised $13M in Series A funding led by Scale Venture Partners and existing investors including Trilogy Equity Partners and Two Sigma Ventures … Aporia, the production observability SaaS platform for machine learning, left stealth and announced the launch of a customizable monitoring platform for Machine Learning models with full support for private and public clouds. The company also revealed $5M in seed funding from Vertex Ventures and TLV Partners and is already being used by multi-billion dollar companies. Aporia enables data scientists to quickly and easily build their own monitors, so they can keep track of their Machine Learning models’ performance, ensure data integrity and provide responsible AI.

In M&A news we heard … Rocket Software (“Rocket®”), a global technology leader that develops enterprise modernization and optimization solutions for Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire ASG Technologies (“ASG”), a leading provider of solutions for the information-powered enterprise. This acquisition furthers Rocket’s commitment to its customers and partners to continue to grow its portfolio of enterprise software solutions that increase the value of legacy platforms across the technology domains of core infrastructure, security, data & AI, application development, open source, and hybrid cloud … ThoughtSpot, a leader in search & AI-driven analytics, announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire SeekWell. With SeekWell, customers will be able to operationalize their analytics and use SQL to push cloud data insights right to where decisions are made—in business applications. As the companies integrate their offerings, the combination of ThoughtSpot and SeekWell will let users use natural language search to pull data from cloud data warehouses, modify it with productivity applications like Google Spreadsheets, then automatically and seamlessly sync it back to business applications like Salesforce … Pythian Services Inc. (“Pythian”), a leading data, analytics, and cloud services company, announced that the company has acquired ManageServe, a leader in SAP application hosting, implementation, migration, analytics, and end-to-end managed services. ManageServe’s 16 years of experience and successful partnership with SAP deepens both Pythian’s existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) practices and its capabilities to deliver SAP HANA solutions on Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and SAP cloud platforms … AHEAD, a leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions, announced it has acquired data and analytics consulting firm Vertical Trail. This acquisition adds an integral component to AHEAD’s fast-growing portfolio of modern application and cloud infrastructure offerings, helping clients more quickly and effectively utilize their data to create actionable insights and drive positive business outcomes … IBM (NYSE:IBM) announced a definitive agreement to acquire myInvenio, a process mining software company based in Reggio Emilia, Italy. The acquisition will provide organizations with data-driven software that should help them identify the most impactful business processes to automate using AI – including sales, procurement, production and accounting. It also further advances IBM’s hybrid cloud and AI strategy, providing customers with a comprehensive suite of AI-powered automation capabilities for business automation. Financial details were not disclosed.   

In people movement news we learned … Silvio Savarese joined Salesforce as Chief Scientist and EVP of Salesforce Research. “AI is changing the way we interact with the world and enabling humans to reach new levels of achievement,” said Savarese. “Companies developing these AI technologies must do so responsibly, ethically and with humans in mind. I joined Salesforce Research because it is uniquely positioned to advance AI research by focusing on areas like deep learning, reinforcement learning, natural language processing and computer vision – making our products better, our customers more successful and the world better.” … Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Prof. Stephen Clark as Head of Artificial Intelligence. Prof. Clark joins CQC from DeepMind where he was a Senior Staff Research Scientist and led a team working on grounded language learning in virtual environments. He also holds an Honorary Professorship at Queen Mary University of London … Dgraph Labs (“Dgraph”), the open source graph database, announced that Gary Hagmueller has been named chief executive officer as company founder Manish Jain transitions to the role of chief technology officer. This expansion of the executive team partners a proven leader with deep experience scaling companies in high-growth markets with a product visionary, passionate about combining the power of graph databases with GraphQL to provide internet-level scalability. The addition of Hagmueller signals a shift toward commercial expansion as Dgraph enters a new stage of growth … Ahana, the self-service analytics company for Presto, announced the appointment of Satish Ramakrishnan as VP, Engineering, reporting to Steven Mih, Cofounder and CEO. He will head up engineering and technical operations with a focus on advancing Ahana’s vision of simplifying ad hoc analytics for organizations of all shapes and sizes … ThetaRay, a leading provider of AI-based Big Data solutions within the financial sector, appointed Dagan Osovlansky as Chief Product Officer. He will be responsible for ThetaRay’s product strategy, development, and management. Dagan has more than 20 years of experience in tech product development for the banking and financial industry … Datadobi, a global leader in unstructured data management software, announced the appointment of Paul Repice as the company’s new Vice President of Sales for the Americas. In this role, Repice will be responsible for creating and maintaining alignment of the organization’s sales strategies to continue Datadobi’s growth in the unstructured data management market. Repice will report directly to Michael Jack, Chief Revenue Officer, at Datadobi … Arturo, an AI-powered platform that derives property insights and predictive analytics from aerial and satellite imagery, announced the addition of AI scientist Daniela Moody to the team as vice president of artificial intelligence. Based in New Mexico, Moody will focus on data quality assurance, team optimization, technical product mapping, and building out new machine learning and data fusion applications for Arturo … ThoughtSpot, a leader in search & AI-driven analytics, announced Pam Holmberg has joined the company as Head of People. In her role, Holmberg will be responsible for driving employee engagement, recruiting, and human resources at ThoughtSpot. In particular, she will focus on helping ThoughtSpot scale people and talent as the company experiences rapid growth, driven by adoption of its new cloud offerings.   

In the new partnerships, alignments and collaborations department we have … Carleton University and IBM Canada announced a five-year multimillion-dollar collaboration agreement to enhance Carleton’s Institute for Data Science and equip students for essential jobs in emerging digital careers such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data science. The agreement establishes a framework for joint research and educational initiatives to boost the University’s cross-disciplinary AI and Data Science programs and technology-rich learning environment … SingleStore, the unified database for fast analytics, announced its collaboration with IEX Cloud to deliver technology that disrupts the financial data market. IEX Cloud connects developers with more than 150 enterprise-grade financial datasets all in one place, enabling its users to build and scale innovative applications. To support such a robust offering, the platform must ingest, normalize, and analyze large volumes of diverse data in real time. Pairing SingleStore’s technology with IEX Cloud’s platform creates a powerful system that is a game-changer for developers. SingleStore’s database enables speed and scale in data ingestion, processing, and querying. IEX Cloud’s platform then distributes that data all around the world in a single, easy-to-use API with minimal latency … Mode Analytics, the comprehensive platform for collaborative Business Intelligence (BI) and Interactive Data Science, announced that it has joined forces with Fishtown Analytics, the makers and maintainers of dbt, to help organizations understand the freshness of their data by surfacing timestamp and origin information directly into Mode’s reports using dbt’s Metadata API. The release works to build our customers’ trust around insights and promote transparent data provenance across the modern analytics data stack … Qlik® announced a further expansion of its relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) with the launch of a collaborative solution that will help enterprises drive more value from SAP data with cloud analytics. Customers can now seamlessly and easily leverage Qlik Data Integration to deliver real-time, analytics-ready data from their SAP systems into AWS, accelerating and enabling cloud data warehousing, data lakes and machine learning initiatives … Qlik® has deepened its partnership with Snowflake, the Data Cloud company, with the launch of a new joint solution that enables faster ingestion and on-boarding of analytics-ready SAP data to Snowflake through accelerated data pipeline creation and ongoing data streaming with Qlik Data Integration. Reinforced by Qlik’s status as a Snowflake Elite Partner and 2020 Partner of the Year in Data Engineering, customers and system integrators can confidently deploy this integrated solution to increase the use and value of SAP data in modern analytics efforts in the cloud … Wasabi, the hot cloud storage company, announced a new partnership with Unitrends, a Kaseya® company and a leader of all-in-one enterprise backup and continuity solutions. The partnership allows users to automatically move infrequently accessed data to Wasabi’s cloud to free up primary storage capacity, shrink their backup footprint, and better align storage costs with data value … Gurobi Optimization, LLC – which produces the world’s fastest mathematical optimization solver, the Gurobi Optimizer – and Lityx, LLC – which produces the leading no-coding-required automated machine learning (AutoML) platform, LityxIQ – announced that they are partnering to expand the use of mathematical optimization across the enterprise by empowering a wider cross-section of professionals (including data scientists and business executives) to utilize mathematical optimization to address their most challenging real-world problems and achieve their business goals … AI software innovator Mipsology announced a design partnership with E-Elements, a Taiwan-based supplier of professional FPGA service training, design, and technological services. E-Elements will bundle Xilinx solutions enhanced with Mipsology’s Zebra AI inference accelerator in products and services designed for the Asian medical, robotics, and autonomous transportation industries … Esri, a leader in location intelligence, advanced its partnership with SAP by announcing the certification and support for SAP’s database-as-a-service offering and key component of SAP Business Technology Platform, SAP HANA Cloud. With this capability, Esri and SAP are accelerating customer adoption of cloud-based location intelligence platforms with a high-performance environment that scales to the largest enterprises … Contributing to the creation of a new digital world where people realize the value of their own data, Narrative, the Data Streaming Platform that makes it easy to buy, sell and win, announced its partnership with Invisibly, an innovative centralized data advocate working to fortify the future of personal data.  Invisibly’s approved audience and individual data is now available on Narrative’s Data Streaming Platform. Narrative’s Data Streaming Platform connects data users to data originators directly, and gives them the tools, automations, and workflows to make data transactions transparent, fast, and cost-effective.  Invisibly for Brands is built to collect consented, compliant data that is valid, comprehensive, available, accurate, and immediate to unlock a deeper connection to target audiences. 

In new customer wins news, we learned … C3 AI (NYSE: AI) and Yokogawa Electric Corporation (TOKYO: 6841) (“Yokogawa”) announced that Yokogawa has selected the C3AI® Suite as a platform to enhance enterprise AI applications and complement its digital transformation solutions and services for industrial customers. Yokogawa signed a multi-year agreement enabling the company and its wholly owned subsidiary, KBC, to deploy the C3 AI Suite with its advanced AI capabilities to their software portfolio. Yokogawa and KBC implement leading technology and best practices, turning strategy to results through technical and commercial excellence, underpinned by engineering simulation and analytics, and systematized through operational technology and digital services. Yokogawa expects C3 AI to play a critical role in its AI-enabled offerings that deliver optimized productivity for clients, greater levels of industrial autonomy, and creation of new business opportunities across vertical industries, including power generation, renewables, mining and metals, chemicals, and oil and gas … Williams Racing is delighted to announce a new Official Supplier, KX, a global leader in real-time streaming analytics. The agreement will see KX implement a total analytics solution, combining real-time analytics, a time-series database, complex event processing, machine learning and data visualization tools in one platform. This will significantly enhance the analytical capabilities of Williams Racing, supporting the continuous development and improvement of the FW43B on track and wider operational performance. KX will have branding on the team’s sponsor stacks in the Williams Racing garage.

Additionally, we received commentaries about the EU’s leaked plans for AI regulation, which calls for a ban on specific types of AI systems – such as systems that directly track individuals and create social credit scores – among other regulations:

“The EU has long been a leader in regulations that protect citizens from data victimization,” commented Ted Kwartler, DataRobot’s VP of AI Trust and a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building. “They already have a strong regulatory foundation with GDPR and are now effectively taking those learnings and applying them to AI. The focus on a collaborative committee to identify ‘high risk AI’ is an especially well-thought out direction knowing the technology is evolving at a rapid pace. Regulators’ understanding of “high-risk” AI will continue to evolve along with AI methods and new applications. Iterating on what constitutes “high risk” helps ensure the protections of citizens and means AI will be built according to the values and ideals of the society.”

“The leaked EC proposal on AI regulation imposes new requirements on developers of high-risk AI systems. Having reviewed the proposed requirements, I believe companies should not be overly concerned. All the requirements can easily be addressed with existing technology,” said Anupam Datta, professor at Carnegie Mellon University and co-founder of AI model intelligence platform provider TruEra. “Some industries, like banking, have been managing similar model risk-related requirements for many years. That being said, what the proposal does not cover in great detail is how companies should best meet these requirements. Standards for meeting these requirements will need to be developed and shared. The EC should leverage work from organizations like the Veritas Consortium in Singapore in order to move quickly. This will reduce uncertainty around the new requirements that could otherwise slow down AI development and adoption.”

Additionally, Facebook announced Casual Conversations, a publicly available dataset designed to help AI researchers evaluate their computer vision and audio models for potential algorithmic bias. We received the following commentary Ted Kwartler, DataRobot’s VP of AI Trust and a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building:

“Facebook’s Casual Conversations dataset tool is a great first step in helping AI researchers combat bias. When deploying AI to make real world decisions we need to be constantly seeking a holistic solution to the AI bias problem. This means data scientists need to address mitigating bias throughout the entire AI lifecycle. To successfully prevent bias from creeping into models, organizations today need solutions that are built for every individual who applies AI to solve business problems—such as business users, executives, citizen data scientists, IT teams, and more—and actively monitor for bias throughout the AI lifecycle, from data sourcing, data prep and ingestion, to model development and deployment.”

Deep Learning Patent Update – provided by Nelson E. (Nick) Brestoff, J.D., M.S. Exec. Manager & Chief Inventor, Intraspexion LLC. As of April 6th, there were 20 new “deep learning” patents. With 316 “deep learning” patents for 14 weeks, 2021 is on track for 1,174 patents in 2021 versus 726 patents in 2020 and 396 patents in 2019.

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