A former Google product exec just raised millions from Khosla Ventures and Eric Schmidt to liberate AI from Big Tech's grip
- Much of the progress made in artificial intelligence (AI) happens today at the world's largest tech companies. Think of the AI that's been created to power Amazon's Alexa or navigate the self-driving cars for Alphabet's Waymo.
- To help level the playing field when it comes to AI tools for mid-sized businesses, Bindu Reddy, a former Google product exec, recently co-founded RealityEngines.AI.
- The 15-person San Francisco-based startup recently raised a $5.25 million seed funding round from investors including Khosla Ventures and Eric Schmidt, Google's former CEO and Chairman.
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Much of the progress made in artificial intelligence happens today at the world's largest tech companies. Think of the AI that's been created to power Amazon's Alexa or navigate the self-driving cars for Alphabet's Waymo.
As Bindu Reddy, CEO and co-founder of RealityEngines.AI, told Business Insider in a recent interview, her latest startup is focused on leveling the playing field when it comes to AI, so that it's accessible to companies not named Facebook, Amazon, or Alphabet."All the technical research focused innovation is happening in large companies and I don't think that's good for Silicon Valley," Reddy said. "Nobody is paying a lot of focus or attention to AI technology that is required for smaller or medium-sized companies."
Reddy - who most recently spent nearly two years working on AI projects inside Amazon - says that building tools for such businesses is a challenge, mostly because the rich data sets needed to train intelligence models are often lacking.
That's why one of the first products her 15-person San Francisco-based team - that functions as a part research lab and part tech startup - has been focused on is something called "dataset augmentation." The practice takes a few known data points, learns from those examples, and then starts creating new, "synthetic data" to "blow up the data set and create much more robust models," Reddy said.
Dataset augmentation can be particularly helpful, for instance, with banks that are trying to stop certain fraud cases but only have a few examples of past instances for AI models to learn from.The startup exec says RealityEngines.AI has currently partnered with six companies to pilot its early tools, though she did not specify the names of those companies. Reddy also says RealityEngines.AI will charge its customers by a "pay-as-you-go" model - meaning only when its tools are used - rather than charging automatic subscription fees, which is industry standard for most enterprise software products.
Dataset augmentation is the first area RealityEngines.AI is tackling, but over time Reddy envisions creating a series of tools that help businesses leverage AI advantages that are mostly limited to the giants in tech today.
"At the moment, data is the new oil," said Reddy, who once served as head of product for Google Apps. "However, the data advantage is going to diminish as researchers invent new techniques to train models with fewer and fewer training data."
Notable investors in seed round
On Wednesday, RealityEngines.AI came out of stealth mode and announced a $5.25 million seed round to fund the company's ambitious endeavor. Among the investors are Khosla Ventures, Ram Shriram, one of Google's founding board members, and Eric Schmidt, Google's former CEO and Chairman.
Reddy said her team was able to raise from such prominent investors partly due to her past experience. Reddy also started a company called Post Intelligence, which had the goal of helping users write better tweets, that was acquired by Uber in 2017. Some of that company's investors, including Khosla Ventures, signed up when they heard about Reddy's latest project.
The entrepreneur also said RealityEngines.AI is a bit unique for Silicon Valley startups, many of which focus on consumer experiences - like Airbnb or Brex credit cards - rather than technology problems.
"Our motto is 'move fast and invent things,'" Reddy said. "I feel like the invention part in startups has been downplayed a lot to the extent of it being - 'move fast and build things' or 'move fast and find product-market fit.' I understand startups are about businesses, but the invention aspect has come down quite a bit."
As for any mentorship coming from Google's former chief exec, Reddy said Schmidt is "actively coaching me."
"As an entrepreneur, you get too focused on whatever you're doing - trying to push your product, raise a series A," Reddy said, referring to Schmidt's advice. "It's really important to be more empathic and understand your team really well and focus more on that sort of thing."