In the biggest venture investment in an Austin company so far this year, artificial intelligence startup SparkCognition has raised $32.5 million.
Verizon Ventures was the lead investor in the deal, with participation from The Boeing Company, through its investment arm Boeing HorizonX.
SparkCognition previously received $16 million from investors including Michael Dell’s private equity arm, MSD Capital, the Entrepreneur’s Fund and CME Ventures.
The deal comes at a time when some Austin tech startups are finding it difficult to raise expansion-stage capital. The second-largest deal this year was a $30 million investment in Austin software maker Zilliant by Goldman Sachs.
Founded in 2013, SparkCognition has developed machine-learning technology to predict when a company’s systems might fail or get hacked.
The company’s technology works by modeling physical and virtual assets and continuously learning from the data. It analyzes the data in real time, allowing it to alert the user if there are changes that could signal a problem such as a failure or cyber attack.
The company has customers in sectors including oil and gas, manufacturing, finance, aerospace, telecommunications and defense.
“You’re talking about 50 billion to 100 billion industrial systems or things connected to the internet,” Amir Husain, SparkCognition founder and CEO, said in a Statesman interview last year. “This is a scope and scale where, frankly, human security and maintenance teams can’t contend with the scale and complexity of the emerging security picture.”
That’s where artificial intelligence comes in, he said. “Cognitive systems augment human capabilities, but at machine speed and machine scale.”
SparkCognition will use the funding to accelerate its growth. The company has more than 100 employees and will be adding workers in data science and engineering, as well as in sales and marketing.
“SparkCognition is at the forefront of a technological shift in machine learning and artificial intelligence which will revolutionize every aspect of industry,” Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, said in a written statement. “They are leaders in AI, and they are pursuing the types of technologies that are critical to our future products and services.”
Some of the top investments in Austin companies in 2017:
SparkCognition, artificial intelligence, $32.5 million
Zilliant, dynamic pricing, $30 million
OpCity, online platform to connect real estate agents with buyers, $27 million
uShip, transport and freight online marketplace, $25 million
TurnKey Vacation Rentals, full-service vacation rental property manager, $21 million
Data.world, online platform for data collaboration, $19 million
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