Spice AI, a Seattle – based startup that aims to make it significantly easier for developers to leverage AI in their applications, announced today that it has raised a $ 1 million seed funding round.
It’s not a huge round, of course, but investors are likely to make you spice things up a bit: Madrona Venture Group, Picus Capital, TA Ventures and angels like GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich. And the team behind the platform also has some serious credentials with the CEO Luke Kim spent a decade at Microsoft, where he helped set up the incubation team in Azure and led the design work Dapr, while CTO Phillip LeBlanc worked on Azure Active Directory, Visual Studio App Center, and GitHub actions.
The team claims that even today, it’s still too hard to build AI in one application. During his time at Microsoft, Kim began working on a personal project that focused on neurofeedback. To make this type of therapy more accessible, he wanted to build an AI system that could analyze time series data from a SEE and in the process, he realized how difficult building systems like this still are.
“It was super hard,” he said. “It’s funny. Because I was at Microsoft – I had all the resources. And I was on this side project – no resources. And in both cases, I saw people struggling to integrate real AI / ML into their applications.”
He noted that while there has been tremendous progress in AI in the last decade, there is still a huge gap between taking this progress and building intelligent software.
“I think of it as the last kilometer. The fiber infrastructure was built, but it actually took a long time to connect it to your house. This is the theme I see for really using ML in applications. We really want to fill that gap and make it super easy for developers, ”said Kim.
He noted that the team building Spice AI took much of what they learned from Dapr, but also looked at what Vercel is do with Next.js, e.g.
Now all this may sound a little familiar. After all, there are an abundance of startups out there that want to democratize AI. But Kim argues that most of them simply focus on making AI accessible to everyone, making data analysis and business intelligence easier and more accessible to more people. However, Spice AI wants to help developers integrate AI into their applications. Not surprisingly, this means the company’s target audience is professional developers, not data science teams.
An interesting aspect of how Spice AI builds its system is that it focuses on reward features. The idea here is that developers can specify what the algorithm should optimize for. If the application e.g. Controlling an air conditioner would result in lower power consumption. In a project, the company tries with an Australian dealer, the focus is on finding the ideal pick-up location for a customer’s order, which may not always be the nearest location, depending on variables such as driving times, product availability, etc.
The company is also building a package manager (called Spicerack) that allows developers to publish the manifesto with their reward features so others can reuse them for their own use cases.
Like similar projects, the Spice AI team is launching its idea as one open source project. The idea is to later release a commercial version with enterprise support, but the team is also considering a hosted version as well as private records to let companies host their models (the company calls these Spicepods).
“Madrona has been investing in intelligent applications for nearly a decade and is excited about Luke and Phillips’ vision of seamlessly bringing AI development into existing workflows for developers to accelerate and build high quality applications,” said Madrona Venture Group partner Aseem Data that until kl. most recently was GM / COO for Microsoft Cloud. “This is just the beginning and I’m excited to be on this journey together and working with such a talented team from day one to make it a reality.”
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