This year’s inductees reflect the booming VC interest as well as the growing variability in AI-focused startups making unique uses of existing technologies, others developing their own and many simply enabling other companies to add AI to their business model.
The mad scramble to adopt Artificial Intelligence amid the Covid-19 crisis is officially old news. We interact with AI as seamlessly as we do our smartphones, through voice assistants, customer service, automated tasks, self-checkout, fraud detection, in healthcare decisions and infinitely more invisible applications that affect our daily lives. Investments in AI research and applications are set to hit $500 billion by 2024, according to research firm IDC. And PwC predicts AI will contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. With all that money flowing, it can be hard to figure out what the coming thing is, but certain trends do emerge.
Our fourth annual AI 50 list, produced in partnership with Sequoia Capital, recognizes standouts in privately-held North American companies making the most interesting and effective use of artificial technology. This year’s list launches with new AI-generated design and and multiple funding round announcements that came about after our esteemed panel of judges laid down their metaphorical pencils. Inductees reflect the booming VC interest as well as the growing variability in AI-focused startups making unique uses of existing technologies, others developing their own and many simply enabling other companies to add AI to their business model.
Hugging Face makes its AI 50 premier as the low-key developer darling turned $2 billion unicorn. The open-source platform (named for the autological emoji) hosts the closest thing to plug-and-play machine learning models, which are used by developers to build features like search, text moderation, image segmentation powered by machine learning and other tools for their own organizations. Hugging Face is also proving an important linchpin in the major leagues, partnering on projects with Qualcomm and Amazon, among others.
The fourth year of AI 50 also heralds the fourth appearance on the list for three startups that also provide AI architecture to major companies. It’s no surprise to see Forbes Under 30 alum Alex Wang and his company Scale AI, back with a $7.2 billion valuation and a fresh deal with the Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. Automated support platform Moveworks marks its AI 50 streak with a $2.1 billion valuation and a breakthrough with conversational AI now able to understand nuance in six languages. And Domino Data Lab returns with an $800 million valuation.
These AI 50 “hat tricks” – the companies who’ve been on the list three years in a row – illustrate the breadth and depth of artificial intelligence and include Abnormal Security (cybersecurity), AMP Robotics (recycling robots), ASAPP (customer service), Cresta (sales support), Databricks (analytics) and Genesis Therapeutics (drug discovery).
But enough about the old dogs – the 2022 AI 50 list also features some fasinating new companies. Overjet emerged from stealth in 2021 to become the first-ever dental AI product cleared by FDA. Cofounder and CEO Dr. Wardah Inam, who did her post-doctorate work in biomedical sensing in MIT’s computer science and artificial intelligence lab, got the idea for Overjet when her new dentist prescribed a treatment plan very different from those she received before. Waabi, founded by AI pioneer and computer scientist Raquel Urtasun, believes it’s taking a new approach to creating self-driving technology for long-haul trucking. And Aurora Solar cofounders Chris Hopper and Sam Adeyemo were introduced to the inefficiency of solar sales as Stanford Students when they installed panels at a school in East Africa. That frustrating experience inspired them to develop Aurora Solar’s proprietary measurement and modeling technologies to help speed up and lower the cost of solar power installations.
The Forbes AI 50 list was compiled through a submission process open to any company based in North America, privately held and developing technology that enables machines to learn from experience or new data or perform human-like tasks such as recognizing speech or images, classifying information and predicting outcomes. The application asked companies to provide details on their technology, business model, customers and financials like funding, valuation and revenue history (companies had the option to submit information confidentially, to encourage greater transparency). In total, Forbes received more than 400 entries. From there, our VC partners applied an algorithm to identify more than 120 with the highest quantitative scores and then a panel of 12 expert AI judges in academia, new IPO executives, venture capital and international technology companies identified the 50 most compelling companies.
Private AI companies that were incubated at, largely funded or acquired by large tech, manufacturing or industrial firms–including some of the leading autonomous vehicle developers–were not eligible for consideration.