Low-code ML platform Predibase raises another $12.2M

End-to-end machine learning platform Predibase today announced a $12.2 million expansion to its $16.25 million Series A funding round from last year. The company also announced that its low-code, declarative ML platform for developers is now generally available.

During the beta period, which launched when the company came out of stealth last year, users have trained over 250 models on the platform. Now that the service is generally available, these users can also use Predibase to deploy their own large language models (LLMs) instead of using an API from the likes of OpenAI. Users will also get access to Predibase’s own LudwigGPT LLM — named after the suite of machine learning tools Predibase co-founder Piero Molino launched in 2019 (and not the tragic 19th-century Bavarian king).

“Every enterprise wants to gain a competitive edge by embedding ML into their internal and customer-facing applications. Unfortunately, today’s ML tools are too complex for engineering teams, and data science resources are stretched too thin, leaving the developers working on these projects holding the bag,” said Piero Molino, co-founder and CEO of Predibase. “Our mission is to make it dead simple for novices and experts alike to build ML applications and get them into production with just a few lines of code. And now we’re extending those capabilities to support building and deploying custom LLMs.”

To do this, the company also today announced its Data Science Copilot, a system that can give developers recommendations on how to improve the performance of their models. Predibase is also launching a free two-week trial version of its platform.

Current customers include the likes of Paradigm (which does something with crypto) and Koble.ai (a tool that uses AI to help investors find early-stage investments).

Like most startups at this stage, Predibase plans to use the new funding to expand its go-to-market functions and build out its platform.

Between low-code/no-code ML platforms from the likes of AWS, Google and Microsoft and plenty of startups in this space, Predibase is operating in an increasingly crowded market. The company argues that its focus on developers and its ability to provide them with easy escape hatches from the low-code environment allows it to stand out.

Low-code ML platform Predibase raises another $12.2M by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

Cortex raises $35M Series B for its internal developer portal

Cortex, a startup building an internal developer portal that helps engineering teams build better software at scale, today announced a $35 million Series B funding round led by IVP. Craft Ventures, along with existing investors Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global and Y Combinator, also participated in this round, which brings the company’s total funding to just under $53 million.

The service started as a tool for helping developers wrangle their microservices architectures. That remained Cortex’s main marketing message when it raised its Series A round, but since then, it has widened its focus to this new emphasis on its role as an internal developer portal. That’s clearly working for the company, which saw its revenue grow 400% year-over-year. Among Cortex’s new customers are the likes of TripAdvisor, Docker, Grammarly, Unity and SoFi.

“A lot of that stems from the observations and the conversations we’ve had with customers and prospects over the past year,” Cortex co-founder and CEO Anish Dhar said. “I think one of the core things that we’ve started to see is that once a company has around 80 to 100 engineers, things start living in people’s heads. That’s when the spreadsheets that track all of the services are being created. But then, once the company grows, it almost gets exponentially worse.” As these companies grow, not having better visibility into their engineering organization also increasingly becomes a liability. When you don’t know who owns a service — or a service doesn’t have an owner anymore after an employee left — critical vulnerabilities can go unpatched for a long time.

At its core, Cortex always had a catalog of all the services that a company ran and with that, it gathered a lot of valuable data. “Once we’re deployed inside of a company, you start seeing really strong engagement from not only the developers but then other practitioners like SRE and security teams who are constantly running these initiatives to remediate, improve and build that culture of service reliability and ownership.”

Image Credits: Cortex

In its product, Cortex provides users with services and resources catalogs, as well as with scorecards to see how well they are performing against benchmarks for production readiness and development quality, hubs for every team to help them understand who owns what and improve collaboration, as well as, most recently, a new scaffolding service that allows teams to standardize their service architecture and set up repeatable processes for spinning up new ones.

Cortex co-founder and CTO Ganesh Datta also noted that, increasingly, engineering leaders are pushing their developers to care more about the quality of their code and following standards. “That’s where we took a step back and said: We have all this stuff in the catalog, but how do we take that and help you go on this journey to get to a place where now developers are thinking about this stuff on their own?”

That’s also what the team plans to focus on now. With all of this visibility into ownership and services, the team has already built out more tools to allow developers to take action right from the portal, starting with the scaffolding service. The focus now is to expand on this and help developers manage more of their ecosystem from within the developer portal.

“I think what you have [in Cortex] is a really opinionated perspective on how people should eventually arrive at a well-done Internal Developer Portal,” said Cack Wilhelm, general partner at IVP and now a Cortex board member. “I don’t think it’s enough to attack scorecards or scaffolding or incident management or engineering, metrics and productivity. I think what you’re really looking at here is a culture change within an organization and you can’t just piecemeal that. What we loved about Anish and Ganeesh is their vision — having a really comprehensive, opinionated stance on how an organization might go about doing that and then the ability — through product — to get a company to that sort of Nirvana state.”

Cortex raises $35M Series B for its internal developer portal by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

Vartana lands a $20M investment to scale its sales closing platform

Vartana, a business-to-business (B2B) sales closing and financing platform, today announced that it raised $20 million in a Series B funding round led by Activant Capital with participation from Mayfield and Audacious Ventures. The financing, which brings Vartana’s total raised to $39 million, will be put toward hiring and expanding the company’s product offerings, according to co-founder and CEO Kush Kella.

“Today, Vartana is specifically focused on expanding its product offering to solve the needs of B2B sellers in the software-embedded hardware space and the reseller space,” Kella told TechCrunch in an email interview. “These two types of companies require the most diverse sets of payment options which enable Vartana to continue supporting all companies in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) space.”

Vartana’s platform is designed to be used by sellers of B2B software, hardware and hardware paired with SaaS software. Vartana helps to manage tasks like contract tracking, payment terms and signature capture, accepting a range of different payment options (e.g. pay in full, deferred payment) and installment plans.

That might not sound incredibly sophisticated from a technical standpoint. But Andrew Steele, a partner at Activant, argues that Vartana’s making a dent in an industry — B2B sales in SaaS — that’s long been stuck in the dark ages.

“B2B commerce will never fully come online until you enable salespeople, who deliver the human touch for large, mission-critical transactions,” he said in an emailed statement. “That’s where Vartana comes in, bringing fintech to the sales suite to unlock a digital transaction.”


Vartana’s platform is designed to facilitate B2B sales. Image Credits: Vartana

Consider, too, that B2B sellers in all industries have less time these days — and more pressure — to build relationships and close deals, making tech-forward approaches highly appealing. B2B buyers responding to a recent Gartner survey report spending exceedingly little time with sales reps, with the majority saying that they had only 17% of the total purchase journey in such interactions. Any given sales rep has roughly 5% of a customer’s total purchase time, the report found — and that’s on the high end.

Sellers on Vartana can send multiple quotes at one time and give buyers the flexibility to select which payment style works for them. Once a method has been selected, the buyer can e-sign the agreement from the web or mobile to finalize the deal.

On the capital marketplace side, Vartana-developed algorithms to normalize data, rate each buyer and extend debt financing offers. The platform matches buyer loan requests to a network of banks and lenders, allowing buyers to request funds and receive quotes in real time.

Vartana competes with startups including Ratio, Cashflow, Balance, Cacheflow and Gynger. But Kella doesn’t see them as direct competitors, pointing out that Vartana’s model hinges on delivering financing to buyers and targeting late-stage tech companies.

“In the typical B2B sales process, enterprise companies partner with national banks and large lenders to provide their customers the payment flexibility they need to perform business,” Kella said. “Unfortunately, this process involves lots of manual back and forth, paperwork, and negotiation for a vendor’s salespeople, which makes for a sub-par customer experience for the end software buyer. This is the process Vartana is digitizing.”

Vartana, which has around 51 employees, plans to double in size over the next 12 months.

Vartana lands a $20M investment to scale its sales closing platform by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Sam Altman’s crypto project Worldcoin got more coin in latest $115M raise

Follow me on Twitter @Jacqmelinek for breaking crypto news, memes and more.

Welcome back to Chain Reaction.

Got coin? No? Well, Worldcoin did.

Tools for Humanity, the team building Worldcoin, raised $115 million in a Series C round led by Blockchain Capital.

The crypto-focused project was co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman with a three-part mission: create a global ID, a global currency and an app that enables payment, purchases and transfers using its token — alongside other cryptocurrencies and traditional assets.

Worldcoin has faced some concerns from people worried about privacy risks because it requires scanning a billion people’s eyeballs with a five-pound chromatic sphere called “The Orb” in exchange for its token.

“For good reason, folks get concerned and sensitive when it comes to biometrics — particularly so when you add a dose of crypto,” Spencer Bogart, general partner at Blockchain Capital, wrote in a post on Wednesday.

“However, what’s actually happening under the hood is that the orb takes a picture of an iris and the device subsequently generates a unique encoding of the randomness of the iris (an ‘iris code’),” Bogart added. “Per default, the original biometric is immediately destroyed and the iris code is the only thing that leaves the orb.”

While the public may be hesitant, investors are still diving into the project as it’s one of the few crypto companies still receiving hefty sums of capital amid an ongoing bear market.

Other investors in the Series C round include a16z, Bain Capital Crypto and Distributed Global. In March 2022, Worldcoin raised $100 million at a $3 billion valuation.

In 2021, Worldcoin CEO Alex Blania told TechCrunch that the currency is part of a larger effort to drive a more unified and equitable global economy driven by the internet economy, something cryptocurrencies notably haven’t nailed in their first several years.

The latest raise will go toward bot detection, research and development and expanding its Worldcoin project and application. Worldcoin is currently in beta testing and has onboarded about two million users across five continents.

Bogart and Blockchain Capital believe that Worldcoin could become the biggest onramp to crypto and the World App could become the most widely adopted crypto wallet. All of this is TBD.

This week in web3

Arrington Capital-backed group to acquire Celsius assets

Following a bankruptcy process, the assets of the failed crypto lender Celsius Network are about to be acquired by a consortium called Fahrenheit. Behind this name, you will find a group of bidders led by investment firm Arrington Capital. The other members of the consortium are crypto mining firm US Bitcoin Corp., Proof Group, Steven Kokinos and Ravi Kaza.

Take a look at Wolf’s first cohort of Bitcoin-driven startups (TC+)

In Wolf’s Clothing (Wolf), a startup accelerator launched by asset management firm Stone Ridge, wants to bolster Bitcoin-focused applications and use cases. Its first cohort, Wolfpack 1, consisted of eight teams and 23 founders from 10 countries, and they presented their ideas on Wednesday during a demo day, exclusively covered by TechCrunch+.

Montenegro court overturns Terraform founder Do Kwon’s bail

A high court in Montenegro overrode a lower court’s previous decision that would have released Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon on bail. The ruling comes nearly two weeks after Montenegro’s Basic Court agreed to release detained Kwon and his former colleague Chang-joon Han on bail.

Mastercard sees ‘a lot of promise’ in blockchain tech if safety and simplicity are prioritized (TC+)

While the web3 world has seen a significant influx of capital, innovation and talent, more work is needed to ensure traditional players — as well as new ones — can enter the ecosystem confidently. “People look at crypto and think of it as an investment, but there’s a whole sector that’s a lot more useful for financial industries as a whole,” said Raj Dhamodharan, Mastercard’s EVP and head of crypto and blockchain, during a blockchain-focused panel at the company’s North America Innovation Day event. “The technology itself holds a lot of promise.”

Solana launches ChatGPT plug-in to help users interact with its network (TC+)

As the artificial intelligence market continues to heat up, a number of crypto players — big and small — are diving in. The Solana Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind the layer-1 blockchain Solana, has officially integrated AI into its network with a ChatGPT plug-in developed by Solana Labs, the team exclusively told TechCrunch+. (Solana Labs is the team building products and tools for the blockchain.)

The latest pod

For last week’s episode, Jacquelyn interviewed Sergey Nazarov, co-founder of Chainlink, a protocol that provides an oracle network to power smart contracts.

Chainlink is also known as a web3 services platform that connects people, businesses and data with the world of web3. And for good reason — it has enabled over $7 trillion in transaction volume across DeFi, gaming, NFTs and other major industries.

Prior to co-founding Chainlink, Nazarov co-founded four other businesses, most recently SmartContract — which focused on smart contracts.

We discussed a number of things surrounding smart contracts, oracle networks, cross-chain interoperability and Nazarov’s long-term vision for Chainlink.

We also dove into:

  • Unexpected smart contract use cases
  • Cryptographic guarantees
  • How traditional companies can tokenize assets
  • AI and blockchain technology
  • CCIP updates

Subscribe to Chain Reaction on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite pod platform to keep up with the latest episodes, and please leave us a review if you like what you hear!

Follow the money

  1. Dispersion Capital launches $40 million fund focused on decentralized infrastructure
  2. Decentralized science startup LabDAO raises $3.6 million
  3. Openfort raises $3 million to make “frictionless” crypto accounts for gamers
  4. Institutionally-focused digital assets platform PYOR raises $4 million
  5. App automation platform Fastlane raises $2.3 million

This list was compiled with information from Messari as well as TechCrunch’s own reporting.

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important crypto stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday at 12 p.m. PT, subscribe here.

Sam Altman’s crypto project Worldcoin got more coin in latest $115M raise by Jacquelyn Melinek originally published on TechCrunch

Nymbus lands $70M to help banks digitally transform

Nymbus, a startup that partners with banks to migrate their legacy stack and launch neobanks to attract new customers, today announced that it raised $70 million in a Series D round led by Insight Partners. The Banc Funds Company and Mendon Venture Partners participated also, as did Nymbus clients ConnectOne Bank and PeoplesBank.

According to CEO Jeffrey Kendall, the new capital will be put toward investing in scaling Jacksonville-based Nymbus’ various products and services, particularly its core transaction processing engine and platform for commercial banking,

“While banks and credit unions require a robust technology stack to support operations, the market is limited to options that are often over 30 years old,” Kendall told TechCrunch in an email interview. “In 2015, Nymbus launched its cloud-based core banking platform for financial institutions to provide a robust option for replacing legacy technology and reducing technical debt. The solution has grown over time to streamline operations, offer new routes to growth and enhance the overall customer experience.”

Co-founded in 2015 by Alex Lopatine and Scott Killoh, Nymbus emerged at a time when millennials and Gen Z banking customers began looking to online alternatives to traditional banks — spurred in part by a desire to find better rates. According to a survey from GOBankingRates, nearly 30% of Americans ages 25-34 now use online banks, while 21% of Americans of any age have adopted them.

Banks, unsurprisingly, are feeling the pressure to adapt to a changing world by modernizing and digitizing both their operations and products. But most of them aren’t equipped to do so. According to a 2021 McKinsey study, only 30% of banks that’ve undergone a digital transformation report successfully implementing their digital strategy, and the majority fall short of their stated objectives — whether because of technical debt, siloed IT architectures or an unbridgeable gap between the business and IT departments.

Nymbus aims to boost the success rate with a cloud-based banking solution that offers traditional banks features like API access, event-driven alerting and features, robotic process automation and more. Banks and credit unions can integrate the functions they require to expand their digital capabilities, enhance their back-office processes or introduce new products.

There’s a number of companies that offer this type of “banking-as-a-service (BaaS),” like NovoPayment, a startup based in Miami that’s largely been focused on offering its API platform to customers in the Latin American market. There’s also Bud, which recently raised $80 million to expand its AI-based open banking platform, frequently used by banks to power lending tools.

BaaS has become the industry norm, in fact. A 2022 Finastra poll of U.S. financial institutions and banks found that 86% agree BaaS is already expected by customers, while almost half (46%) have improved or deployed a BaaS solution in the past year. According to one estimate, the BaaS market was valued at around $20 billion in 2021 and could grow over 16% from 2022 to 2030.

But Nymbus stands out for its ability to deliver a “fully managed digital bank,” Kendall says, which includes a “unified data stream” that can be used for data analysis, decision-making and strategic planning. The modular nature of the platform, moreover, can reduce costs without sacrificing “operational excellence,” in Kendall’s words — making it cost effective.

“Nymbus’ product suite, which includes core processing, loan origination, account opening and digital channels, coupled with operational resources, empowers financial institutions of all sizes to tap into new market segments and drive growth,” he said. “Ease of maintenance and speed to market are key for the CIO and this is what the Nymbus solution delivers.”

That’s certainly a lot to promise. And Nymbus, when asked, declined to say how many customers it’s currently serving and its projected recurring revenue, which tends to be a predictor of success (albeit not a foolproof one). Still, despite his reluctance to peel back the curtains on the company’s operations, Kendall asserted that Nymbus — which has around 200 full-time staffers and contractors, currently — is well-positioned to weather headwinds in the coming months.

“The general economic uncertainty and slowdown in tech funding has made securing resources for expansion and innovation more difficult,” he said. “But we have solid solutions in our portfolio to support the growing need of banks and credit unions to modernize and meet their customers where they are — in the digital realm. We believe that as banks increasingly realize the importance of modernization, there will be a continued demand for our services.”

Nymbus lands $70M to help banks digitally transform by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Memcyco raises $10M to protect businesses from brandjacking

Memcyco, a Tel Aviv-based startup that provides businesses with tools to guard against website impersonation, today announced that it has raised a $10 million seed funding. The round was led by Capri Ventures and Venture Guides.

The company provides businesses with a digital watermark that they can display on their sites to ensure visitors that they are, for example, visiting a legitimate online store, as well as back-end tools for businesses to monitor and protect their digital assets against brand impersonation in real time.

Over the course of the last few years, businesses invested heavily in identity management and security. The idea behind Memcyco, which was founded in 2021, is essentially to flip this around and tackle this issue from the consumer’s perspective.

Image Credits: Memcyco

“We say: how do I, as an end user or when I’m visiting the brand,  know that this is the real brand and not an imposter one or phishing one? Today, in order to achieve this, the only way is that you need the end user to download an agent to install something on their laptop in order to protect it in that respect. But if you are e-commerce or your bank, you cannot force your consumer to download and install something on their device — so we came up with this solution that is agentless,” explained Memcyco co-founder and COO Gideon Hazam.

Memcyco’s co-founders are all highly experienced startup founders and operators. The company’s CEO, Israel Mazin, founded security company Memco back in the 1990s, which went public and later sold to Platinum Software (which itself was later acquired by Computer Associates). Mazin’s co-founder at the time, Eli Mashiah, is now also a Memcyco co-founder and the company’s CTO. Hazam, too, worked at Memco in the 90s.

Image Credits: Memcyco

“Between all of us founders, there are many years of experience of building startups from scratch to worldwide companies — private funding public funding, partnership with strategic partners like IBM and others,” Mazin noted. “Our background is very important and now we mix our knowledge and our long experience with very young people that came from [the Israel Defense Force’s elite cybersecurity unit] 8200 and other units from the IDF.”

Most of the brands that adopt Memcyco’s solution start with its monitoring tools that allow them to discover potential brandjacking and phishing attempts. The team didn’t want to go into too many details with regard to how their service works on a technical level, but Hazam stressed that the company is taking a very proactive stance here. “We developed — and continue to develop –an AI algorithm that we can use to search for and find the scam before there is an attack,” Hazam said. “We can find them and start following after them to see if there is something that could be suspicious.”

For brands, getting started with Memcyco involves adding a few lines of code to their websites. Most start with the company’s back-end security tools, with the digital watermark being the “cherry on top,” as Hazam described it.

“Everyone knows someone who has fallen victim to a phishing-based brandjacking scam,” said Alex Pinchev, Founder and Managing Partner at Capri Ventures. “Memcyco is the first company to provide a real-time solution to that problem while existing approaches are mostly after-the-fact and leave organizations not knowing which users fell victim to the attack.”

Memcyco’s solution is already in use by several large e-commerce sites and financial institutions. The team intends to use the new funding to enhance the product, support existing customers, and expand its go-to-market organization.

Memcyco raises $10M to protect businesses from brandjacking by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

Episode Six raises $48M to streamline payment processes

Episode Six, a global payments and banking infrastructure provider, today announced that it raised $48 million in a Series C funding round led by Avenir with participation from Anthos Capital. In an email, CEO John Mitchell said that the tranche will be used to expand Episode Six’s go-to-market efforts and scale its business as the company looks to drive digital transformation journeys for banks and companies operating within the payments space.

Episode Six was founded in 2015 by Mitchell, Chermaine Hu and Futeh Kao. Seeking to overcome the limitations of legacy payments tech, the co-founders built a platform designed to streamline various payment processes while reducing costs.

“For CTOs and heads of product who want to grow their books and create competitive products, our platform allows them to launch new products quickly to meet a customer’s evolving needs and capture market share,” Mitchell told TechCrunch in an email interview. “For CIOs looking for payments at scale with safety, security, reliability and cost effectiveness, the platform delivers bank-grade payments’ infrastructure built by industry experts.”

Episode Six offers a range of different products to tackle specific, typical roadblocks in payments. For example, one of its clients, First Fidelity Bank, used the platform to create a real-time payments system with card issuing and processing capabilities as well as fraud detection. Another customers, TransPecos Banks, launched a credit card offering built on top of Episode Six’s infrastructure, while ecommerce checkout firm Montonio is tapping Episode Six’s tech to power credit card processing and acquiring.

“The burden of relying on legacy technology continues to present challenges, especially at a time when innovation is key to winning and retaining customers,” Mitchell said. “This, paired with the rising cost of operating legacy technology, is the reason we are seeing a significant increase in interest in our solution.”

To Mitchell’s point, a growing number of financial institutions, particularly banks, are looking to modernize their tech stacks in light of the increasing adoption of digital payments. A recent survey from Finextra found that 94% of banks are considering varied levels of investment in payments tech in the next 24-36 months. Of those respondents, 65% plan a “significant” or “moderate” level of investment in payments tech during the same period.

Of course, there’s no shortage competition in the payments and banking infrastructure space. Streamline, headquartered in San Francisco, recently raised $4 million for its business-to-business-focused payments product suite. Kushki is a much larger player — the Ecuadorian payments infrastructure startup landed $100 million last year at a $1.5 billion valuation. Other rivals include Pagos and Liquido, the later of which aims to become the “Stripe of LatAm.”

Episode Six, for its part, certainly seems to be attracting business, with a presence in 38 countries and customers including the top 50 global banks. Mitchell wouldn’t answer questions about recurring revenue. But he said that the startup expects to grow to 200 employees by the end of the year, up from 150 currently.

“Our strong commitment to long-term business management allowed us to navigate the challenges of the pandemic with resilience,” Mitchell said. “As a result, we were less impacted. In addition, we have been laser-focused on modernizing payments and banking infrastructure from the very beginning.”

To date, Episode Six has raised around $100 million in venture capital.

Episode Six raises $48M to streamline payment processes by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Anthropic raises $450M to build next-gen AI assistants

Anthropic, the prominent generative AI startup co-founded by OpenAI veterans, has raised $450 million in a Series C funding round led by Spark Capital.

Anthropic wouldn’t disclose what the round valued its business at. But The Information reported in early March that the company was seeking to raise capital at an over-$4.1 billion valuation. It wouldn’t be surprising if that figure ended up being within the ballpark.

Notably, tech giants including Google (Anthropic’s preferred cloud provider), Salesforce (via its Salesforce Ventures wing) and Zoom (via Zoom Ventures) participated in the financing, alongside Sound Ventures and other undisclosed VC parties. It’d seem to signal a strong belief in the promise of Anthropic’s tech, which uses AI to perform a wide range of conversational and text processing tasks.

“We are thrilled that these leading investors and technology companies are supporting Anthropic’s mission: AI research and products that put safety at the frontier,” CEO Dario Amodei said in a statement. “The systems we are building are being designed to provide reliable AI services that can positively impact businesses and consumers now and in the future.”

To wit, Zoom recently announced a partnership with Anthropic to “build customer-facing AI products focused on reliability, productivity and safety,” following a similar tie-up with Google. Anthropic claims to have more than a dozen customers across industries including healthcare, HR and education.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Series C also comes after Spark Capital’s hiring of Fraser Kelton, the former head of product at OpenAI, as a venture partner. Spark was an early investor in Anthropic. But the VC firm has redoubled its efforts to seek out early-stage AI startups particularly in the generative AI space, which remains red hot.

“All of us at Spark are excited to partner with Dario and the entire Anthropic team on their mission to build reliable and honest AI systems,” Yasmin Razavi, a general partner at Spark Capital who joined Anthropic’s board of directors in connection with the Series C, said in a press release. “Anthropic has assembled a world-class technical team that is dedicated to building safe and capable AI systems. The overwhelmingly positive response to Anthropic’s products and research hints at AI’s broader potential for unlocking a new paradigm of flourishing in our societies.”

With the new $450 million tranche, Anthropic’s warchest stands at a whopping $1.45 billion. That nearly tops the list of the best-funded startups in AI, eclipsed only by OpenAI, which has raised a total of over $11.3 billion to date (according to CrunchBase). Competitor Inflection AI, a startup building an AI-powered personal assistant, has secured $225 million, while another Anthropic rival, Adept, has raised around $415 million.

Amodei, the former VP of research at OpenAI, launched Anthropic in 2021 as a public benefit corporation, taking with him a number of OpenAI employees, including OpenAI’s former policy lead Jack Clark. Amodei split from OpenAI after a disagreement over the company’s direction, namely the startup’s increasingly commercial focus.

Anthropic now competes with OpenAI as well as startups like Cohere and AI21 Labs, all of which are developing and productizing their own text-generating — and in some cases image-generating — AI systems. But it has grander ambitions.

As TechCrunch previously reported, Anthropic plans to — as it describes in a pitch deck to investors — create a “next-gen algorithm for AI self-teaching.” Such an algorithm could be used to build virtual assistants that can answer emails, perform research and generate art, books and more, some of which we’ve already gotten a taste of with the likes of GPT-4 and other large language models.

The next-gen algorithm is the successor to Claude, Anthropic’s chatbot, still in preview but available through an API, that can be instructed to perform a range of tasks, including searching across documents, summarizing, writing and coding and answering questions about particular topics. In these ways, it’s similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. But Anthropic makes the case that Claude, released in March, is “much less likely to produce harmful outputs,” “easier to converse with” and “[far] more steerable” than the alternatives.

Why’s Claude superior in Anthropic’s view? In the pitch deck, Anthropic argues that its technique for training AI, called “constitutional AI,” makes the behavior of systems both easier to understand and simpler to adjust as needed by imbuing systems with “values” defined by a “constitution.” Constitutional AI basically seeks to provide a way to align AI with human intentions, allowing systems to respond to questions and perform tasks using a simple set of guiding principles.

In its quest toward generative AI superiority, Anthropic recently expanded the context window — essentially, Claude’s “memory” — from 9,000 tokens to 100,000 tokens, with “tokens” representing parts of words.) With perhaps the largest context window of any public AI model, Claude can converse relatively coherently for hours — even days — as opposed to minutes and digest and analyze hundreds of pages of documents.

That progress doesn’t come cheap.

Anthropic estimates that its next-gen model will require on the order of 10^25 FLOPs, or floating point operations — several orders of magnitude larger than even the largest models today. Of course, how this translates to computation time depends on the speed and scale of the system doing the computation. But Anthropic implies (in the deck) that it relies on clusters with “tens of thousands of GPUs” and that it’ll require roughly a billion dollars in spending over the next 18 months.

In point of fact, Anthropic aims to raise as much as $5 billion over the next two years.

“With our Series C funding, we hope to grow our product offerings, support business that will responsibly deploy Claude in the market, and further AI safety research,” the company wrote in a press release this morning. “Our team is focused on AI alignment techniques that allow AI systems to better handle adversarial conversations, follow precise instructions and generally be more transparent about their behaviors and limitations.”

Anthropic raises $450M to build next-gen AI assistants by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Entro raises $6M to for its end-to-end secrets security solution

Entro, a Tel Aviv-based startup that is building a security platform that helps enterprises manage and protect their secrets like account credentials, certificates and API keys, today announced that it has raised a $6 million seed round led by StageOne Ventures and Hyperwise Ventures.  A number of angel investors, including Trusteer and Transmit Security founders Rakesh Loonkar and Mickey Boodaei, as well as Imperva founder Amichai Shulman also participated in this round.

Today’s enterprises often have to manage thousands of secrets across an ever-growing number of services — and often, they don’t even know how many their employees have created. These secrets are also often scattered and secret scanners and similar tools exist to ensure that this information doesn’t leak, these tools don’t know anything about the context in which these secrets are used. If there is a secret exposed in a piece of source code that already had its privileges removed, then that’s not exactly a high priority for remediation, for example.

The company was co-founded by Itzik Alvas (CEO) and Adam Cheriki (CTO), who first met during their time in the Israeli security forces. Alvas previously worked at a healthcare company and then as a senior SRE manager at Microsoft, while Cheriki worked in a number of security positions at large tech companies like IBM, Javelin Networks, Symantec and Broadcom.

“Secrets were always a big issue for me and for [Adam] as well,” Alvas told me. “We dealt with it for a long time and in our previous positions we were responsible for secret security. We saw how secrets are being created and handled without any proper security oversight — and we decided to do something about it.”

Image Credits: Entro Security

He noted that the team built Entro specifically with CISOs and security teams in mind. The service provides these stakeholders with insights into how their secrets are stored, be that in vaults, collaboration tools, cloud environments and SaaS platforms. It then analyzes the secrets it finds, correlates them to workloads and provides users with a straightforward dashboard that helps them understand any potential issues.

“We spoke with more than a hundred CISOs and heard the same complaints over and over,” said Alvas. “Companies have no idea how many secrets they hold in
the cloud, where they are, who is using them, and most importantly, how to protect them.”

Typically, companies use a multitude of tools to manage and secure their secrets, including scanners like Gitleaks, vaults from the likes of AWS, Azure or HashiCorp, and secret scanners for CI/CD like Cycode or Aqua’s Argon.

Image Credits: Entro

One of Entro’s major differentiators, Alvas noted, is that it is an end-to-end monitoring solution. Because of this, the service can understand the context of where secrets are used and is able to help developers and security teams prioritize which issues they should focus on. The company’s service also integrates with a company’s existing vaults, CI/CD systems, tools like Confluence where developers may share credentials and others. Within a few minutes, Entro can provide businesses with a single pane of glass to identify and remediate the secrets that are potentially at risk.

“In recent years, we have witnessed how companies were devastated by secret-based cyber-attacks that were highly damaging. Today, R&D teams are forced to manage a growing number of secrets in their development and tend to spread them across different vaults, repositories, and services, while security teams are having an incredibly hard time combatting this problem. This is where Entro Security comes to the rescue,” said Nofar Schnider, principal at StageOne Ventures.


Entro raises $6M to for its end-to-end secrets security solution by Frederic Lardinois originally published on TechCrunch

Tangible wants to scale up construction decarbonization

The real estate industry is a bit of a greenhouse gas powerhouse, responsible for 40% of all global emissions. A quarter of that comes from building materials, and Tangible has had enough. The company is building a tool for finding, managing and reporting on lower-carbon, more sustainable, building materials, and just closed a $3 million seed round to fulfill that mission.

Tangible today announced it has raised $3 million in seed funding. The round was led by early-stage construction tech investor Foundamental, and Fifty Years (which led the company’s previously undisclosed pre-seed round). Redstone Built World Fund, Pi Labs, Asymmetric and Deco Ventures participated in the round, as well.

The Tangible platform has been designed to support sustainability and development managers who use it as a tool to find low-carbon materials, drawn primarily from global environmental product declarations, which the company says are all third-party verified. Materials can then be added to a project and the impact aggregated; the results are sharable, which gives developers a view of all their projects, the materials being used and the environmental and health impact. Tangible is also pushing for transparency: Users can share the information with their customers and investors to demonstrate the changes being made on the ground.

“We’re using the funding to grow the product team and continue developing the platform. We’ve been co-developing the platform with a select group of customers, so we’re scaling up for our full launch later this year,” says Anneli Tostar in an interview with TechCrunch. She co-founded the company alongside Nicole Granath. “We raised $3 million in this round, bringing the total we’ve raised to $4 million — all equity.”

The company declined to comment on the valuation for this round.

“We’re excited to develop Tangible and fully launch the platform into the North American market. This market alone is worth around $72 billion — with hundreds of thousands of developers and construction managers who would benefit from using Tangible to report embodied carbon for construction projects,” explains Tostar. “The long-term vision is a full-stack platform for sustainable construction. In the future, people will be able to use Tangible to track projects, see case studies from other organizations, order more sustainable materials, and provide the tools to decarbonize the construction industry at large.”

The industry already has LEED, but Tangible doesn’t believe that is enough to get to climate impact.

“When it comes to climate impact, LEED primarily focuses on energy consumption, with just a few points awarded for considering material sustainability,” says Tostar. “That’s a bit at-odds with how we need to think about carbon reduction. Studies show that the carbon emitted from upfront construction is equivalent to up to 10 years of operating the building, and additional carbon gets emitted every time there’s a retrofit or renovation. What’s more — when we emit carbon matters, the sooner we emit carbon, the more likely we are to kick-start climate cascades, which make the climate warm even faster. So addressing this upfront carbon is mission-critical for abating the worst effects of climate change.”

“We’ve been hearing from real estate investors and owners that they’re receiving pressure from investors, upcoming regulation and green building standards to decarbonize their developments. While many solutions exist to help them address the operational carbon of their properties, they don’t yet have a streamlined way to manage and reduce the embodied carbon of buildings,” says Granath. “While leading sustainability programs in-house and as consultants, Anneli and I saw the overwhelming need for a scalable solution to track, reduce and report on embodied carbon. Tangible is the embodied carbon management platform developers have been waiting for. We’re delighted to be launching Tangible for owners and developers who want a portfolio-wide view of their embodied carbon footprint and where they can decarbonize.”

Tangible wants to scale up construction decarbonization by Haje Jan Kamps originally published on TechCrunch