Canadian machine learning startup Private AI secures $3.15m seed round to streamline privacy compliance for enterprises
Private AI, a developer of privacy-preserving machine learning and natural language processing tools, announced it has secured $3.15 million in seed funding to improve its product offering, expand the team, and accelerate its acquisition of domestic and international customers.
The growth financing is led by Microsoft's venture fund M12 and Forum Ventures, following a sixfold revenue increase since January. Private AI's customer base now ranges from startups to multi-billion-dollar companies, including financial institutions and conversational AI companies.
Priyanka Mitra, Principal, M12: "Companies of all sizes are under pressure to comply with customer data governance regulations and to protect sensitive data. In parallel, business digitization is accelerating, and more customer data unlocks more insights and enhanced AI/ML model training capabilities. We're thrilled to support the world-class team at Private AI as they augment their customers' data redaction and pseudonymization capabilities, improving enterprise security posture without sacrificing business intelligence."
Joining M12 and Forum Ventures in the $3.15 million heavily oversubscribed seed round is pre-seed investor Differential Ventures, along with new investors Shasta Ventures, Hyperplane Venture Capital, and Parliament Angels, a group of early Twilio employees. The startup has also garnered investments from Ajay Agrawal and Chris Hadfield. The new round brings Private AI's funding total to date to $3.45 million.
Patricia Thaine, CEO, Private AI: "This round of funding will help us provide organizations and their developers with world-leading easy-to-integrate tools so they can excel in this post-GDPR world. Our partners at M12 and Forum Ventures both have deep expertise in B2B SaaS and developer-focused tools, and their investment and counsel will be key to fuelling our growth."
Private AI was started by Thaine, Pieter Luitjens (CTO), and Professor Gerald Penn (Chief Science Officer). Thaine and Luitjens hold Master's degrees in Computer Science and Engineering, respectively, from the University of Toronto. While experimenting with prototype browser extensions and apps, they realized how susceptible most software and data pipelines were to data leaks or breaches, and how difficult it was to implement adequate privacy safeguards within those workflows. Thus they built a tool to redact sensitive information from text.
What distinguishes Private AI from similar offerings is how easily and securely the company's software can be implemented. It only takes three lines of code and operates as a black box. Customer tests have shown that Private AI's system outperforms those of Amazon and Google by significant margins, and are able to operate directly within their clients' workflows and infrastructure, which prevents sensitive data from ever being shared outside clients' systems. The company's state-of-the-art AI models are able to hit greater than 99% accuracy in identifying and redacting personal data across more than fifty different entities (ex. name, address, blood type, zodiac sign, credit card number, etc.) in seven different languages. The AI system performs particularly well on messy, real-world text, such as emails, chat messages and free-text fields in databases.
"Many software engineering teams don't have strong procedures or processes in place to identify and protect this data," says Thaine. "Instead, companies often rely on ineffective and outdated systems that don't work well on messy, real world data, or simply trust their employee onboarding paperwork commitments to protect them."
But there's a growing interest in rectifying those gaps, particularly with the advent of more stringent data privacy legislation coming into effect around the world, including Bill C-11 in Canada and the CPRA in California.
Jonah Midanik, Managing Partner, Forum Ventures: "From the very first meeting with Patricia, we had complete conviction in the team and their vision. They've built a best-in-class product that ensures enterprises can truly respect and abide by consumers' ever-growing privacy demands – in a cost-effective and simple way. We are proud to be on this journey with this team, alongside M12 and other top tier investors."