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The AI Startups Scene


Artificial Intelligence (AI) investments and developments have grown in earnest since the start of the 21st century. With so many different applications across data, robotics, deep learning, IT and IoT, there is a huge opportunity for business offering innovative services. Hardly a day goes by where we don’t read about a new technology startup in the news or via social media. In fact, there is such a plethora of them in the market that it is becoming near on impossible to decipher which offer genuinely unique AI services and which are simply trying to cash in on the hype.

The startup scene

A survey by venture capitalist firm MMC at the start of 2019 found that of 2,830 startups in Europe that classified themselves as AI companies, only 1,580 accurately fit the description. The survey report goes on to say it is very important to research a company, their products, website a documentation before diving in at the deep end. It isn’t necessarily the fault of the company. They are not deliberately trying to deceive the public but third party analytics have classified them in that way.

The issue here isn’t necessarily with the companies but the fact of the matter is those who are labelled as AI are attracting 15% to 50% more funding than other technology firms. Startups are aware of how they are classified but there is probably very limited incentive to correct listings when they are getting the investments they desperately need to survive.

In 2019, one in twelve startups are now featuring AI as part of their products and services. Beyond that, more than 10% of large enterprises are using AI based applications as part of their business which is a growth of 4% in only 12 months. If that trend continues as more industries recognise the benefits of AI in promoting efficiency, reducing cost and increasing revenue, the startup market looks set to blossom.

What are startups focussing on

Around one in four AI startups are primarily serving the company’s marketing department. This is where the sweet spot appears to sit with a wealth of data, variety of digital channels and the prospect of creating unique customer experiences. One of the most popular AI solutions is the conversational chatbot. Several startups are using this as their base as firms try to use natural language processing to understand their customers. Beyond this, in utilising a chatbot, businesses can reduce call centre costs and open a 24/7 customer service portal. There are a huge number of benefits which is why startups are swooping in.

AI startups tend to cluster around where data resides. For example, we have seen a lot of traction in healthcare, finance, retail and entertainment because there is a vast volume of consumer information within those. Data is key to AI given that most solutions involve applications like machine learning and natural language processing. Some of the most significant areas are image recognition, tech to speech and making predictions or decisions akin to the recommendation engines you see Amazon or Netflix using.

The most successful AI startups

The list below are the top 10 AI startups in the US ranked by funding amount, published in February 2019.

  1. Dataiku - $147 million

  2. Landing AI - $175 million

  3. Signifyd - $206 million

  4. - $214 million

  5. Data Robot - $225 million

  6. C3 - $243 million

  7. Butterfly Network - $350 million

  8. UiPath - $448 million

  9. Automation Anywhere - $550 million

  10. Zymergen - $574 million

Worldwide, the best funded startups are both from China; SenseTime and Face++.

SenseTime has had far and away more investment than any other and focusses on facial recognition technology. It has had significant government support. The solutions are heavily used in surveillance with support for police bureaus in identifying faces or looking for car number plates.

Toutaio, another Chinese based company is worth circa $3.1B having been founded in 2012. The platform was the first of its kind to take content based on keywords and feed it to readers via an application. It gradually learns what readers like through analysing social media accounts.

At fourth in the US funding list, Butterfly Network also have the highest number of patents filed for their portable, hand-held ultrasound that has been built for under $2k. It uses computer vision AI to help hardware interpret the images.

Some of the largest growth has been seen in the self-serving AI platforms like DataRobot and Dataiku. These companies provide platforms to business who don’t have expert resource but still want to develop AI and machine learning projects. Where resource is thin on the ground, businesses are starting to rely on such startups to get them going.

The list could be endless and a quick Google search for Top AI companies gives you a different list in virtually every article. It is worth reviewing which ones can work best for you and ensuring they offer genuine AI potential and not simply hype.


It is no secret that AI is big business. With so many startups in the space, it is important to be strategic and pick the right ones for you. Many will be industry specific and you must be sure they can adapt to ever changing business needs in a fast-paced digital economy. AI is where the future lies.