10 European AI start-ups you should be keeping an eye on
Meet the Artificial Intelligence-based companies you might invest in, not now but in the future
Earlier this year Tortoise Media unveiled its Global AI index, a list of the countries that are leading the way in the investment, innovation and implementation of Artificial Intelligence. The report concluded that while the US has the highest number and most developed AI start-ups, and China is not far behind in second place, many European countries boast healthy AI-based ecosystems.
The European AI powerhouse is the UK which is third in the global index, due to its centre of excellence at Cambridge University and its high-profile exits such as DeepMind. Germany, France and Ireland also make the top 10, and countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria are not too far behind.
Much of the original innovation in Europe’s AI ecosystem was in areas such as data management for advertising and marketing. Arguably, though, the biggest pay days in terms of deals, floatations and acquisitions will be when companies that focus on healthcare and autonomous vehicles, two massively important areas for AI in the future, start to mature.
Here then are 10 European AI start-ups which are worth keeping an eye on, the AI start-ups that are worth investing in, not now but in the future. Several are among the continent’s AI elite but there are also some in interesting verticals and a few smaller companies which show huge promise.
One of the most promising of the recent British AI start-ups, Cambridge-based Prowler has so far attracted around $40m (£30m) of investment to help develop its decision-making platform. Essentially, Prowler combines branches of mathematics, engineering and economic theory to power machine learning to efficiently problem-solve using real-time data.
One of its strongest suites is its flexibility, as it can work effectively in complex and dynamic environments. It can, for example, predict trends and issues in financial markets, resource allocation, transportation and logistics, ride-sharing, smart cities and robotics.
Graphcore is a semi-conductor company that develops accelerators for AI and machine learning. This week it announced it has raised another $150m in funding for R&D and now has a valuation of $1.95bn, which makes it one of Europe's leading Unicorns.
At the other end of the scale from Graphcore is United Robots, a small but growing AI start-up from Sweden that aims to revolutionise content creation. It employs machine learning systems to automate basic data heavy content such as sports stories or real-estate listings for the media.
he company has already worked with a number of high-profile publishers including leading Swedish company Mittmedia. Automated content is set to become a boom area in the coming years. It is already employed by The New York Times, The Press Association, Reuters and The Washington Post. There is even a German-based company, AI Writer, which will create content from just a headline. For more complex content, though, AI is not expected to trump human creators any time soon.
The company’s key innovation is its Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) hardware and accompanying Poplar software, which the company bills as the first processor to be designed specifically to handle the simultaneous, intensive calculations demanded by AI applications. Among its recent customers are Microsoft and Dell. It is bidding to be the Intel of AI and may look at an IPO, probably not this year but at some point in the future.
One area where AI is being used by many large consumer-facing companies on a daily basis is in marketing technology, in particular the use of chatbots to handle customer communications.
While Silicon Valley undoubtedly leads the way in producing AI-based healthcare start-ups, there are European companies that are hoping to rival them in the future. Babylon Health is one of many UK innovators. It has developed a patient-centered remote consultation service which is available in the UK (it works with the NHS) and parts of Africa and there are plans to roll out globally. The service is constructed around an app that quizzes users about their health and then pairs them with a relevant person or organisation who can offer further medical assistance.
A leading company that is innovating in this field is Norwegian firm Boost. It originally focused on working with companies in the financial sector in Scandinavia. However, thanks to broadening its product range, which was aided by a sizable venture investment, Boost now has expanded and boasts offices on both sides of the Atlantic.
Another interesting Norwegian start-up, Huddly combines hardware, software and AI to deliver a range of innovative camera products which are mainly used for video conferencing. AI powers the camera’s on-board neural engine so that it can understand and respond to an environment, optimise the performance of the camera, automate manual processes and deliver a useful suite of analytical data.
The company, which aims to try to democratise healthcare across the world, has a significant war chest. It recently raised $550m, valuing the firm at more than $2bn. It claims this is the largest-ever fundraise in Europe or the US for digital health delivery. There is no talk yet of an IPO, but it is clearly an option that’s open to the company in the not too distant future.
There is a huge race at the moment to develop the elements that will power autonomous vehicles. Some companies such as Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent Alphabet, are attempting to offer high-quality sensors, while others such as TomTom are focusing on maps.
Wayve is a UK-based start-up that’s taking a different approach. It has developed AI that teaches cars to drive autonomously using reinforcement learning, simulation, and computer vision. Its hunch is that autonomous cars will be safer if the quality of the AI processing is better. And it argues that this is more important than, say, the the quality of the sensors. So far it has raised $20m to substantiate its claims. It is clearly a company to watch.
Another AI-based autonomous vehicle company, Five.ai has so far raised $50m in its bid to deliver the software to bring driverless cars to the streets of the UK. In October it launched a world-first trial in which autonomous cars ferried human passengers on busy commuter-filled south-London roads between Croydon and Bromley.
Datasine is a young London-based company looking to transform the way that companies communicate with their customers. It uses an innovative mix of psychology, traditional marketing techniques and AI to optimise each communication (email, social media posts, etc ) so that it has the maximum chance of engaging the recipient. The company raised $5.2m in 2019.
So far the company has raised more than $25m in investment and has worked with many enterprises including Western Union and Bloom Energy.
Meero is arguably the biggest French AI start-up, having so far raised a hefty $23m on the back of an estimated $1bn valuation. It is essentially an on-demand platform where photographers can display their work and find new customers. The AI element is used to process digital imagery including 360° VR photos and videos, in a matter of seconds. Previously, this would have taken significantly longer. It will be interesting to see if Meero chooses to float at some point in the future.
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