AI21 Labs, an Israeli startup from Amnon Shashua that specializes in Natural Language Processing (NLP), has raised another $64 million in a Series B funding round led by Ahren Innovation Capital Fund. With the raise, the company now has a valuation of $664 million.
It was just last November that AI21 Labs brought in $20 million in funding which at the time gave it a $400 million valuation.
IBM explains that natural language processing strives to build machines that understand and respond to text or voice data—and respond with text or speech of their own—in much the same way humans do.
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Founded in 2017 by Yoav Shoham, Ori Goshen, and Amnon Shashua, AI21 Labs helps machines speak, or communicate, depending on how you look at it. This may not sound like such an original idea. Don’t computers and systems already communicate in one way or another? The answer is yes, but the level at which they communicate and process information keeps on changing.
AI21 explains that in the past decade, neural networks fueled by unprecedented volumes of data and powerful computing led to a revolution in computer vision – the ability of machines to understand and generate images. The company says that language is harder for machines than vision and requires tectonic shifts in the way we build these machines.
Amnon Shashua was already an Israeli success story. He founded Mobileye and saw it through that company’s acquisition by Intel. Shashua still serves as Mobileye CEO and President while also as a senior vice president at Intel. The 62 year old is also is a computer science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Ori Goshen said, “We completed this round during a period of market uncertainty, which highlights the confidence our investors have in AI21’s vision to change the way people consume and produce information. The funding will allow us to accelerate the company’s global growth, while continuing to develop advanced technology in the field of natural language processing. We are looking forward to growing our team and our offerings.”