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H2O.ai Secures $72.5M Series D To Empower Businesses To Take On ‘Big Tech’

H2O.ai, which is on a mission to “democratize” artificial intelligence for not just enterprises, but for “everyone,” announced this morning a $72.5 million Series D. This round nearly doubles the amount the company had raised in previous financings combined over its lifetime.

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Goldman Sachs and the Ping An Global Voyager Fund out of China led the round, which also included participation from existing backers Wells Fargo, NVIDIA GPU Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners. As part of the financing, Jade Mandel, vice president of Goldman Sachs’ principal strategic investments group, will be joining H2O.ai’s board.

The round brings H2O.ai’s total raised since it was founded in 2012 to nearly $147 million. Wells Fargo and NVIDIA GPU Ventures led its $40 million Series C in November 2017.

I hopped on the phone this morning with Sri Ambati, CEO and founder of H2O.ai, and he told me that by democratization, his company aims to make it “faster, cheaper and easier” for businesses to use AI.

“Right now it’s too expensive and difficult because of the talent, time and resources one needs to try AI and to make it work,” he said. “Implementation costs are so expensive for SMBs and large businesses alike. Our goal is to make it really easy to power businesses with AI by essentially making it automatic to the extent that is possible.”

H2O.ai CEO Sri Ambati

It’s doing that with its automatic machine learning platform, H2O Driverless AI, which Ambati said has tripled H2O.ai’s customer base “with expansion across every industry on every continent” since that last round. By using H2O.ai, hundreds of customers such as Aetna, Booking.com, Walgreens, and Capital One “are becoming AI companies..and leading AI transformations in their respective verticals,” the startup claims.

For Ambati, the fact that its own customers have led its last two funding rounds is a testament to open source company’s value.

“We are making them the true AI superpowers,” he added. “We want to empower businesses and organizations to monetize their data and build their own AI to take on the tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft that are coming into their spaces.”

H2O.ai is seeing a huge following in the retail sector, for example, because so many retailers are trying to compete with “the onslaught of the online giants,” Ambati said.

The Mountain View-based company’s ARR (annual recurring revenue) is growing in line with its customer base. ARR has tripled over the last two years, according to Ambati. Meanwhile, employee headcount is 175, about double what it was 18 months ago. H2O.ai recently opened a Center for AI Excellence and Research in Prague, Czech Republic as well as offices in India and Canada.

H2O.ai said it plans to use the new capital “to accelerate innovation and expand sales and marketing globally.”

The company also notes that it supports an organization called AI4Good, which focuses on wildlife and water conservation. It also has made its technology free to academics, so currently, hundreds of students, researchers and universities are using it.

Investors

The company’s investors are naturally bullish on H2O.ai’s offering. Goldman Sach’s Mandel said the company’s “deep technical bench and customer centricity make them well positioned to bring transparency and efficiency to the world of prediction.”

Meanwhile, Basil Darwish, managing director of strategic investments at Well Fargo, said the bank is impressed with H2O.ai’s ability to apply AI to help provide “insightful and personalized client experiences.”

Donald Lacey, managing director and COO of the Ping An Global Voyager Fund, said that his firm likes the “combination of technical sophistication and ease of use present in all of H2O.ai’s offerings.” The firm plans to help the company expand its footprint in China and across Asia.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

 

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