Venture

Last Week In Venture: Grand Unified Team Collaboration, Explaining AI, And Psychics As A Service

Hello and welcome back to Last Week In Venture, the weekly roundup of funding deals which may have flown under your radar.

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It’s been a busy week at Crunchbase News. We published the first installments of our Q2 2019 reporting cycle, kicking off with a review of the world’s VC market, North America’s place within it, how Texas stacks up, China’s VC scene’s decline, and highlights (and lowlights) from the construction industry.

We also got an update on IPO pricing from Medallia and Dynatrace (and Phreesia), covered a trio of big deals in cancer funding, and took a look at Boston’s tasty food startup scene.

Of course, this is just a tiny fraction of all that happened this week at the intersection of technology and money. There are plenty of companies outside the media spotlight, but in their stories we can find trends and context for the broader market.

Let’s take a look at the week that was in venture land.

Team Productivity, Redux

It seems like founders have been aiming to build the One Team Collaboration Platform To Rule Them All since the earliest days of web applications. Combining Slack-like chat and collaboration tools like Kanban task management, Gantt charts, calendaring, “and much more,” Swit aims to build a grand unified productivity solution, free from the hassle of needing to integrate external applications. Lofty goals indeed, in a relatively crowded space.

Swit CTO Max Lim said in a statement announcing the round that “We were able to utilize a ‘last mover advantage.’ We knew well the functionality and features each department of a company needed and put them into one centralized system.” Swit raised $6 million in a seed round led by Korea Investment Partners. Hyundai Venture Investment Corporation and Mirae Asset Venture Investment participated in the deal, which brings the company’s total funding up to $7 million. Originally founded in South Korea, Swit is now based in SF.

Addressing AI’s Explainability Problem

People have a hard time explaining their own thought processes, much less sussing out how a neural network arrived at its inference. For awhile, there’s been some talk about an explainability crisis in artificial intelligence. The input data and machine learning algorithm are known, but how the statistical weights of each node at each layer in the network set and rebalanced itself is tough to tell.

Kyndi, a San Mateo-based AI startup, raised $20 million in a Series B round led by Intel Capital. UL Ventures, PivotNorth Capital, and Citrix Startup Accelerator participated in the round. “Unlike traditional ‘black box’ AI solutions, the Kyndi platform scores the provenance and origin of each document it processes, while helping organizations quickly find difficult-to-locate information within collections of documents – without requiring large, labeled data sets to train the system,” the company said in a press release announcing the round.

In many applications—like national security, pharmaceutical research, or other fields Kyndi serves, context is just as important as the findings—it’s not enough to simply trust AI; it needs to be verified.

Psychics As A Service

Turns out there’s still money to be made (or at least raised from VCs) by replacing the features and functions of newspapers with websites and mobile applications. The great unbundling of dead-tree media continues apace, reaching one of the last sections of the daily paper to get digitized for fun and profit: the horoscopes.

Furthering the trend of venture backing for startups in the astrology and new-age spirituality space is Seance, a New York City-based startup behind a mobile app which delivers horoscopes and aims to create a marketplace for psychic services. Seance raised $1 million in pre-seed funding from unspecified investors, according to a press release from the company. Citing external research by IBISWorld, the company says the psychic services industry nets practitioners $2 billion annually, and growing. Seance aims to capture “[one percent] of the digital segment of the US market” by 2020.

Color me skeptical, but, hey, there are probably less honest ways to make a buck.

And with that we’re done for the week! We’ll be back, we promise!

Image Credits: Last Week In Venture graphic created by JD Battles. Photo by Sharon McCutcheon, via Unsplash.