AI Unicorns: Clarifai Brings AI To Third Party Developers

Photo Credit: Pete Linforth from Pixabay

New York-based Clarifai was founded in 2013 by Matt Zeiler whose interest in the technology was sparked by a video of a flickering flame that he saw while an undergraduate at the University of Toronto. The movement of that flame was not created by human code, but by a computer that had used video data to determine a pattern.

Clarifai’s Offerings

In 2013, Zeiler was finishing his Ph.D. in AI at New York University (NYU), when he received impressive employment offers from names like Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. Instead of choosing any of those, Zeiler decided to set up his own shop – and, Clarifai was born. Zeiler became interested in the AI technology when he was shown an AI-created video by a fellow grad student. He used his coding capabilities and pursued his interest in the field by coming to NYU for his Ph.D. In 2013, he built an image recognition algorithm and tested it successfully in the ImageNet contest. Zeiler continued to improve his code to create a commercially viable product that became the flagship offering for Clarifai.  

Clarifai was built with the focus of providing developers the ability to tag metadata to photos so that organizations can train algorithms to learn what kinds of objects were included in photos. These algorithms can then be taught to search for those objects or use their own photos to search for similar objects. When big players like Google and Pinterest were working on their own visual search capabilities, Clarifai was focusing on bringing that technology to third-party developers.

Today, Clarifai does much more than visual search as it continues to work on bringing AI capabilities to developers to help them accelerate their model development. Its products address all forms of unstructured data including, but not limited to, image, video, text, and audio data files. Its fully integrated AI platform enables machine learning products and services across industries to work seamlessly to create AI at scale. Its AI Lake offering enables teams to collaborate efficiently while providing access control to AI models, annotations, datasets, workflows, and UIs. By providing users access to control inputs, concepts, models, workflows, applications all in one place, the AI Lake provides a consistent and reproducible way of accessing all enterprise AI resources and managing access. The Scribe offers automated data labeling capabilities to improve speed and quality of annotations. Overall, its patented AI platform accelerates model building and drives AI operationalization at scale.

Clarifai started by focusing on smaller organizations. Its first customer was a wedding lifestyle website called Style Me Pretty, which used Clarifai to identify and categorize user-uploaded pictures and served ads based on what was in an image. Since then, the company has moved to Fortune 500 customers along with getting its products certified to provide AI for military, civilian, intelligence, and state agencies.

Clarifai’s Financials

Clarifai remains privately held and does not disclose its financials. In 2021, it disclosed that its revenues had more than doubled over the year and over 130,000 users were accessing its solutions. Clarifai now has over 380,000 users in 170 countries. It has raised $100 million in funding so far from investors including New Enterprise Associates, Menlo Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Lux Capital, LDV Capital, Corazon Capital, NYU Innovation Venture Fund, CPP Investments, Next Equity Partners, SineWave Ventures, and Trousdale Capital. Its last round of funding was held in October 2021, when it raised $60 million at an undisclosed valuation. A round held in 2015 had valued Clarifai at $120 million. Given the interest in AI, that valuation would have surely soared.

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Disclosure: All investors should make their own assessments based on their own research, informed interpretations, and risk appetite. This article expresses my own opinions based on my own research ...

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