Tuesday , October 27 2020

Why these former DeepMind engineers chose Seattle to launch the new AI startup Phaidra

Phaidra co-founders Katherine Hoffman, Jim Gao (top right) and Vedavyas Panneershelvam. (Phaidra photos)

Avocado toast meets red meat and potatoes.

This is not the best known way to describe Seattle, but it is the reason Phaidra decided to found his company in the emerald city.

The secret startup has just raised $ 1.5 million to supply customers across the industrial sector with artificial intelligence.

The 4-person company is managed by Jim Gao and Vedavyas Panneershelvam, two former employees of DeepMind, Alphabet's AI research center, and Katherine Hoffman, a veteran of the defense and HVAC industry.

The founders are not from Seattle, but they saw it as the perfect place to start their business given the robust technical ecosystem and proximity to manufacturers.

"Seattle is an important technology center that has never forgotten its industrial origins. We often joke with one another that Seattle avocado toast meets red meat and potatoes," Gao told GeekWire. “As a startup at the interface between industry and technology, it was particularly important to us to share the cultural values ​​of both industries. The coffee is pretty good too. "

Phaidra wants to support industrial companies in the development of internal AI solutions. The startup is still expanding the beta version of its product.

"We founded Phaidra to expand access to the technology by giving industry insiders the opportunity to directly develop their own AI solutions," said Gao. “Although there are already many tools for data scientists or software developers, our experience suggests that expertise is the main driver of AI performance. AI would be much more effective and useful if the people who understood their domains best used AI. "

The company also wants to help its customers maintain ownership of their data and intellectual property. According to Gao, companies typically work with large technology companies to develop AI products – a “double-edged sword” because these companies can use the data themselves.

"The root of the problem is that the world's AI talent is focused on a few large companies," said Gao. "If you could make AI more accessible to non-experts, you could solve this problem."

Gao led a 14-person team at DeepMind that focused on building AI technology for the energy sector. It helped cut it down Google data center Cooling energy consumption, for example, by 40%. DeepMind, acquired by Alphabet in 2014 from Google, is famous for developing the AlphaGo program that defeats a human world champion.

Gao said the COVID-19 crisis has caused industrial companies to hold back long-term projects. In the meantime, the company is focused on helping customers reduce energy consumption and optimize AI returns.

Seattle-based venture capital firm Flying Fish led the starting round. § 32; FirstMinute Capital; NJF Capital; and the University of Washington also participated in the Foster School of Business through a student-led investment program.

About Darrel Hodges

Darrel Hodges works as a computer technician at a technology company.

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