Last year this time, AI and deep learning were very hot. Twelve months later, they are still very hot ;-). But the market has certainly matured. The startups are refining their technology ambitions and market segments to leverage deep learning with greater thoroughness and precision. Investors are getting more sophisticated in separating generic AI from true deep learning companies. The broader public is seeing the shift from isolated examples of extraordinary results (the AlphaGo board game breakthrough, autonomous vehicle demos) to more widespread deployment of deep learning applications (cloud-based natural language translation, automated photo labeling). So it is time to revisit the Cognite 300 Deep Learning Startup list.
Amidst starting and funding companies like Babblabs, I have also been continuously updating my list of the most interesting, most real deep learning startups I can find. I have gotten better geographical balance, especially by getting a better handle on the large cluster of deep learning startups in Israel. I have worked to add new companies that meet my standard criteria – substantial knowledge, use and dependence on deep learning in the product – and to cull the small handful that have fallen off the radar, or were somewhat miscategorized as deep learning companies.
A few observations may be worth adding:
- Funding for deep learning seems to continue to be robust. This is especially true in China, where the level of enthusiasm for AI and the government-encouraged tech investment climate are combining for a feeding frenzy over the relatively small number of good startups. Valuations appear to be climbing to the sky. That’s fun in the short term for entrepreneurs, but the inevitable return of gravity will be less fun.
- Investors all over the world are opening their wallets for AI chip startups in a way not seen in more than a decade. Startups recognize how the extraordinary computational intensity of deep learning training and inference opens the door to massive architectural innovation. The rate of improvement in absolute performance and energy efficiency is dramatic, and will likely follow a super-Moore’s-Law trajectory for at least a couple of years. For better or for worse, however, architects finding a theoretical factor of a hundred may simply not be enough! ALL the rival platforms are finding big gains in neural-network-specific architectures. The real test will be in building the software systems and applications to exploit this cacophony of new silicon. The Cognite list now includes 22 chip startups world wide (a third of them in China) and I am also following 5 or 6 more that still in stealth mode. It is not premature to worry about over-saturation of the AI chip sub-segment.
- Startups across all the application segments are getting significantly more savvy about the technology and the positioning. It is still the case that putting the “AI” label on a tech startup is just prudent – AI is such a broad term that almost any company that processes data can make a claim. The deep learning or neural network subset of AI is much narrower and better defined. Nevertheless, more teams really do understand the technology better, thanks to the widespread embrace of the great open-source tools, massive on-line training opportunities, and the surprising agility in universities to respond to student interest and industry demand. So more teams are really able to do something real with deep learning and to think intelligently about how to apply it to myriad valuable application problems. This is making the task of identifying and filtering startup candidates more difficult: sophisticated deep learning will become increasingly standard – and assumed – as table stakes in many application segments.
I have now let the list grow to 350 companies in order to maintain consistency, and to avoid dropping strong deep learning players. The infographic I designed last June is now out of date, so I am releasing a new improved design, now highlighting the geographical distribution of the companies.
Here are the companies added to the list since the last edition:
3DSignals AiCure Aidoc AISense AISpeech Algolux* AnyVision Aqrose Audioburst Augury AutoX Babblabs* Beyond Verbal Brodmann17 Camereyes Cognata Cognitive ID ContextVision Deep Learning Robotics Deep Solutions Deep Trading Diffblue Element AI eyeSight FeatureX Fifth Dimension GetAlert Gyrfalcon Technology i4drive Imagry Inoven intellegens IntelliGo Invenia Jungo Connectivity Kuznech Lighthouse LipSight Magentiq eye MedyMatch Mod9 Technologies Morpheus Labs Nexar OrCam Technologies PlusAI PointGrab Presenso Prisma Labs ProductAI Qelzal Revuze SafeCue SecondSpectrum Sighthound Soteria Intelligence Thinkforce Trax Trueface.ai tuSimple Vault Video-inform viisights Voyager Labs WebyClip
And here are the handful dropped:
Behold.ai BenevolentAI Blue River Technology CloudMinds Whitematter
* a Cognite Ventures portfolio company