D.C. Startup Foundry.ai provides practical ML Solutions for big business


When most people think of “AI” they may imagine state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles or naturally conversing androids. But the vast majority of businesses operating today are building neither cars nor robots, and their legions of office workers — whether a layout editor choosing an image for an advertisement or a procurement officer making purchasing decisions — remain relatively untouched by the recent revolution in data and machine learning.

This is a gap that Washington, D.C. startup Foundry.ai aims to fill. Founded in 2016, Foundry.ai provides cloud-based AI-powered software applications for C-Suite executives, particularly those with Forbes Global 2000 companies. Co-Founders Jim Manzi and Ned Brody have an extensive network of such executives — Manzi previously ran Applied Predictive Technologies, the leading predictive analytics software company he founded 20 years ago; while advertising guru Brody ran Yahoo’s commercial business across the Americas.

The maturing software-as-a-service (SaaS) market could use some fresh air, and AI seems a good source. Forrester predicts SaaS vendors will roll out increasingly advanced AI applications through 2018 to help enterprises automate various business decisions.

Manzi and Brody believe many daily decision-making processes in large enterprises can be recognized and solved using AI techniques. Foundry.ai provides the software suite to do so.

We are building a factory to build artificial intelligence applications,”Manzi told Synced, “every time we see a new opportunity, it is much faster for us to implement solutions because we already have the API integration, componentry, dataset, and of course, the existing team.”

Foundry.ai runs four businesses — Visual.ai for image optimization, Supplier.ai for improved procurement, Hud.ai for sales improvement, and Curia.ai for decision optimization tools in healthcare. Clients do not require expertise in machine learning or deep learning, says Brody. “It’s like, to drive my car, you don’t have to be a mechanic.”

Supplier.ai, for example, can help procurement officers make a purchase or conclude a contract. The software identifies possible suppliers and gathers relevant information such as reputation, historical records, and any violations for example to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The system can even help the officer set up a reverse auction to determine which potential vendor is the best choice.

Visual.ai meanwhile works with photo editors to select images and video clips likely to drive user interest and engagement. It then runs the candidates through a Bayesian Bandit to optimize them for particular contexts.

For each business, Foundry.ai uses similar pipelines but deploys different neural networks depending on the specific model type embedded within a given product. Convolutional neural networks for example are largely deployed and refined for Visual.ai products, while other products can use LSTM or Bayesian networks, etc.

Brody told Synced the company’s next challenge will be to branch out into new markets and scale their operations while maintaining quality. Last month the company announced US$67 million in funding which it will use in part to incorporate new businesses into its operations.

Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen