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Spice AI wants to help developers build smarter apps – TechCrunch


Spice AI, a Seattle-based startup that aims to make it much easier for developers to use AI in their apps, announced today that it has raised $ 1 million in seed funding.

It’s obviously not a huge turn, but investors are likely to cheer you up: Madrona Venture Group, Picus Capital, TA Ventures and angels like GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich. And the team behind the platform has serious credentials as well, with CEO Luke Kim spending a decade at Microsoft, where he co-created the Incubations team at Azure and led the engineering work to create Dapr, while that CTO Phillip LeBlanc worked on Azure Active Directory. , Visual Studio App Center, and GitHub actions.

The team argues that even today, integrating AI into an app is still far too difficult. While at Microsoft, Kim began working on a personal project focused on neurofeedback. To make this type of therapy more accessible, he wanted to build an AI system that could analyze time series data from an EEG and in doing so, he realized how much building systems like this -this is always difficult.

“It was super tough,” he said. “It’s funny. Because I was at Microsoft, I had all the resources. And I was on this side project – no resources. And in both cases, I saw that people were struggling. to integrate real AI / ML into their applications.

He noted that while there have been huge advancements in AI over the past decade, there is still a big gap between these advancements and the creation of smart software.

Image credits: SpiceAI

“I think of it like the last mile. The fiber optic infrastructure has been built, but connecting to your home has taken a long time. This is the theme I see for really using ML in apps. We’re looking to really fill that gap and make it really easy for developers, ”Kim said.

He noted that in building Spice AI, the team took a lot of what they learned from Dapr, but also looked at what Vercel is doing with Next.js, for example.

Now this may all sound a bit familiar. After all, there is a plethora of startups that want to democratize AI. But Kim argues that most of them just focus on making AI available to everyone, making data analytics and business intelligence easier and accessible to more people. Spice AI, however, wants to help developers integrate AI into their applications. Unsurprisingly, this means that the company’s target audience is professional developers, not data science teams.

An interesting aspect of how Spice AI builds its system is that it focuses on the reward functions. The idea here is that developers can specify what the algorithm should optimize for. If the app controls an air conditioning system, for example, it would result in lower electricity consumption. In a project the company is testing with an Australian retailer, the focus is on finding the perfect pickup location for a customer’s order, which isn’t always the closest location, depending on variables. such as travel times, item availability, etc.

The company is also building a package manager (called Spicerack) that will allow developers to publish the manifesto along with their reward functions so that others can reuse them for their own use cases.

Like similar projects, the Spice AI team is launching their idea as an open source project. The idea is to then release a retail version with corporate support, but the team is also thinking about a hosted version, as well as private registries to allow companies to host their models (the company calls these Spicepods). ).

Madrona has been investing in smart applications for nearly a decade and is excited about Luke and Phillip’s vision to seamlessly integrate AI development into existing workflows so developers can accelerate and build high quality applications, ”said Aseem Datar, partner of Madrona Venture Group, which until recently was the GM / COO for Microsoft’s Cloud. “This is just the start, and I am thrilled to be taking this journey together and working with such a talented team from day one to make it a reality.”