SparkCognition raises $32M — Austin's largest tech funding yet in 2017

by Kelly O'Halloran
June 26, 2017

sparkcognition website.jpg

When SparkCognition launched four years ago, Usman Shuja said their technology outpaced the market.

“Nobody was talking about artificial intelligence or cognitive then,” said Shuja, VP of Market Development and general manager of industrial IoT. “We knew we were early and there was a lot of risk because we didn’t know if this would be something that the market was ready for.”

But as the number of internet-connected sensors on wind turbines, generators and airplanes rose, so did the data pool. And without systems in place to protect, read and utilize the data, then why have connected devices at all?

Enter SparkCognition’s deep learning data engines. Across its suite of products, SparkCognition’s platform can detect and prevent cyber threats, predict machine failure well in advance and complete the tasks of a human data scientist at supercomputer speeds.

That initial risk Shuja mentioned soon evaporated and the demand for SparkCognition’s platform skyrocketed — so much so that today the Austin startup announced the closing of a $32 million Series B to meet escalating market and client demands.

Verizon Communication’s VC unit Verizon Ventures led the round with key participation from The Boeing Company, through its Boeing HorizonX unit.

“It’s a validation of our success,” said John King, SparkCognition’s marketing director. “Our solutions are delivering real results on the market right now. Customers want more and the market wants more.”

The funding will be used to continue to scale, following in the company’s organic path into new verticals that include manufacturing, energy, aerospace, maritime and national security. Shuja and King credit the company’s patented learning technologies and laser-focused leadership to SparkCognition’s rapid growth.

“We have developed algorithms that are really advancing the artificial intelligence industry,” said Shuja. “We’ve automated the thinking of a data scientist. A human data scientist would only be able to master a few techniques that are humanly possible. But when you automate it, you have the luxury to try all of the machine learning techniques and get the best results. In terms of the quality and the time, we’re delivering extremely good results.”

Prior to today’s Series B, SparkCognition has raised over $16 million with investments from Michael Dell’s private equity arm MSD Capital, The Entrepreneur’s Fund, Alameda Ventures, Verizon Ventures, CME Ventures, and Brevan Howard. Today’s funding marks the largest local funding round in digital tech of 2017.

In addition to the funding announcement, SparkCognition also was recognized as a 2017 Red Herring Top 100 North America Winner.

“The journey that SparkCognition is on, and this funding round, in particular, is one of the largest in the history of artificial intelligence,” said Shuja. “We think this puts Austin on the world map for AI startups. Hopefully our success will encourage other startups and companies to come to Austin as well.”

Image provided by company website.

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