Scale AI, which is developing software to annotate images for training artificial intelligence for robots, self-driving cars and language processing, has raised $100 million of funding, bringing its valuation to over $1 billion.
Scale investors include Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Accel, Coatue Management, Index Ventures, Spark Capital, Thrive Capital, Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and Quora CEO Adam d’Angelo.
“Our mission at Scale is to accelerate the development of AI applications,” the San Francisco-based startup’s 22-year-old CEO Alexandr Wang said in a blog post. “We’re proud of what we’ve built over the last three years.”
Scale employs nearly 100 people, but the 3-year-old startup has around 30,000 contractors helping out with the labeling process.
“What we noticed after working on AI at some of the most advanced organizations in the world was that building machine learning systems was challenging due to a lack of mature infrastructure,” Wang wrote. “In particular, we noticed that the critical bottleneck to further progress today was data—in particular, labeled datasets.”
“It takes billions or tens of billions of examples to get AI systems to human-level performance,” Wang told Bloomberg. “There is a really big gap between the handful of giant companies that can afford to do all this training and the many that can’t.”
Customers, including Waymo and Uber, send Scale video or audio data through an application programming interface (API) call, The Robot Report noted.
The company’s software looks over the images, and workers are then asked to review them. If the software isn’t able to label objects automatically, workers can click once anywhere on the object, such as a car, and traces it for them.
“Tasks that used to take hours end up taking just a couple of minutes,” Wang said.
Newer customers of Scale also include OpenAI, which uses the service for language processing, and Standard Cognition, which is developing software to automate checking out at retailers.
“The ultimate question we have is, ‘Is this ketchup, or is it mustard?’” Standard Cognition CEO Jordan Fisher said. “And if it’s ketchup, we need to know if it’s 12.6 ounces of Heinz ketchup, so we can get you the right receipt.”