Computer vision software startup Black.ai has raised $5.4 million in a Seed+ round.
It was led by Jelix Ventures, with support from Right Click Capital and several angel investors. The six-year-old business has now raised $8.55 million and will use the funds to double its local headcount, expands its industry reach, and build out its insights-driven infrastructure.
Black.ai’s camera software enables users to better understand their physical environments and the complex interactions that happen within them. After launching in 2016 in the grocery sector, it has now expanded into healthcare, retail and mining to programmatically detect and optimise different spatial behaviours and trends.
The startup’s computer vision software and privacy-first modelling algorithms create highly granular datasets using non-identifying information so rganisations can automatically and instantly improve the management and planning of their environmental needs. That means retailers can better optimise their customer experiences, healthcare providers are able to improve the care given to people in need, and heavy industries can more effectively implement critical safety protocols.
Jelix’s Andrea Gardiner said the startup is tapping into a space that to date, has only been successfully explored by in-house operators such as Amazon’s Go.
“Black.ai is democratising automation in a way that hasn’t been seen before. It is also addressing an increasingly imperative but difficult technology problem to overcome, the variables of human behaviour,” she said.
“Software is progressively automating the world. From safety, to scalability and reliability, nothing is off limits. Black.ai’s technology is the key infrastructure to support the rapidly growing global demand for smarter environments that react to real-time events. Their software is bridging a need that will fuel future innovations for generations to come.”
Gardiner added that in addition to the leadership team’s incredible smarts and deep tech expertise, CEO Keaton Okkonen, CTO Sebastien Collier, director of research Karthik Rajgopal, and operations lead Phoebe Collier have an unrivalled respect for the ethical and privacy considerations of the space they are in.
“This can be seen across the business — through the ways in which they operate to how they consider customer challenges. They are actively questioning and challenging their thinking, to ensure their software improves and respects the lives of everyone it touches,” she said.
“This flows through to the businesses who use their tech, which is inspiring to witness. We’re thrilled to be part of the journey.”
Okkonen said Black.ai is seeking to make everyday behaviours accessible to software.
“We set out to create a product that gives users a quick and comprehensive understanding of their environmental needs and challenges, without relying on privacy invasive technologies like facial recognition,” he said.
“This has since evolved to the business of understanding human behaviour so that organisations can better streamline their operations to the benefit of their people; be it customers, staff, or those in their care and communities.
“We see automation as the most powerful tool that humans have access to, but there is a huge technological gap blocking us from relying on it in dynamic physical environments; especially where the processes we want to automate are unpredictable.”
Right Click Capital Operating Principal Ulric Ferner said the business is unlike anyone else they’ve seen globally.
“lack.ai has cracked the notorious ‘multi-camera’ problem, enabling their customers to understand and deploy incredible environmental insights at a massive scale. The hustle and creativity of this team is absolutely world-class and they’re only just getting started.”