UPDATED 08:00 EST / NOVEMBER 07 2021

AI

H2O.ai raises $100M to expand its AI development platform

H2O.ai Inc. today announced that it has closed a $100 million funding round led by one of its customers, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, with participation from Goldman Sachs, Pivot Investment Partners and several others.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia, or CommBank, is one of more than 20,000 organizations that use H2O.ai’s namesake artificial intelligence  development platform as part of their machine learning initiatives. The startup also counts Nvidia Corp. and AT&T Inc. among its customers. 

Building an enterprise AI model involves numerous highly technical tasks that not only require specialized know-how but also take up a great deal of time when done manually. Once development is complete and a neural network is running in production, ensuring it operates reliably represents another major technical challenge. H2O.ai’s platform, the H2O AI Cloud, is aimed at simplifying much of the work involved in machine learning projects.

A machine learning project carried out in the H2O AI Cloud starts with a training dataset. The dataset contains information similar to the records that a company plans to process using the AI application it’s building. Based on the information supplied by the company, H2O.ai’s platform automatically finds a neural network suitable for the task and then optimizes the neural network’s configuration settings, or hyperparameters, to maximize performance.

The H2O AI Cloud also helps with the feature engineering phase of AI projects. Feature engineering is a task essential to ensuring a neural network produces accurate results. 

AI applications often consider multiple factors when performing tasks such as evaluating if a piece of factory equipment is at risk of malfunctioning. Some factors are more relevant to the task than others.

An increase in manufacturing errors, for example, may be a stronger indicator that a piece of factory equipment is malfunctioning than a decrease in production volume. Feature engineering is the process by which an AI is trained on which factors it should consider most strongly when making a decision, a task that H2O.ai promises to simplify with its platform. 

Keeping neural networks running reliably after they’re deployed is another task that usually requires a great deal of manual work. An AI model that operates reliably soon after being deployed can becomes less accurate over time. According to H2O.ai, the H2O AI Cloud provides features that help developers detect and resolve such issues.

Since its previous funding round in 2019, H2O.ai has added a long list of capabilities to its platform to automate other aspects of machine learning projects. Among the additions are more than 45 pre-packaged AI applications aimed at several different industries including healthcare, finance, retail and manufacturing, among others. 

“H2O.ai is picking winners in every vertical on every continent and making our customers AI superpowers to take on the tech giants,” said H2O.ai founder and Chief Executive Officer Sri Ambati (pictured). “CommBank and H2O.ai are led by our core belief that we can make the world better while serving our communities and customers with excellence.”

H2O.ai and CommBank announced a partnership today in conjunction with the startup’s funding news. The collaboration “will bolster the bank’s analytic capabilities and help improve predictive accuracy of existing models, so we’re able to offer more personalized and targeted solutions at a faster rate,” said CommBank Chief Executive Officer Matt Comyn. The bank is also partnering with H2O.ai on the startup’s H2O Wildfire Challenge, a hackathon designed to help reduce the economic and climate impact of wildfires and bushfires. 

H2O.ai has secured more than $250 million in funding to date. The startup says it raised the $100 million round announced today at a pre-money valuation of $1.6 billion. The proceeds from the round, H2O.ai added, will be used to grow its workforce, add more features and launch new products.

Ambati spoke with theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s video studio, last year on how the company used its technology to mine open health datasets in the early battle against COVID-19:

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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