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April 20, 2020

MindsDB, AutoML Startup, Gains Seed Funding

George Leopold

The maintainers of an open source framework for automating machine learning projects have raised its profile with a comparatively modest but strategic funding round led by an investor with ties to a string of emerging AI efforts springing from the University of California at Berkeley.

The $3 million seed funding round announced on April 16 was led by OpenOcean. The Finnish-based fund is headed by Patrik Backman, who helped lead earlier open source projects such as MySQL and MariaDB. MindDB has so far raised $4.2 million, according to the venture capital tracking web site Crunchbase.com.

The startup’s autoML framework aims to streamline the use of neural networks while making it easier for developers to integrate machine learning into production workloads. The framework emphasizes AI explainability and trust, allowing developers to select data needed for forecast, then automating the analytics process.

“When we train a machine learning algorithm, when we try to make it figure out relations, we do so on a training data set,” the startup explained in an instructional video. “Then we want to test that algorithm to make sure that it has learned something meaningful [based] on some data it’s never seen before. We call that the testing data set, where we don’t actually give the solution.”

Berkeley-based MindsDB was founded in 2017 by CEO Jorge Torres and COO Adam Carrigan. It exited the Y Combinator technology incubator in the 2020 graduating group with its prediction and forecasting framework. The startup said it would use the new funding to expand data science skills while “democratiz[ing] machine learning along the way.”

The startup joins a growing list of open source alternatives to automated machine learning tools like Amazon Web Services’ (NASDAQ: AMZN)

SageMaker, including an open source release earlier this year from Cortex Labs. These and others also would compete against automation tools running in the cloud and some on-premises, most notably Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) and Databricks’ AutoML platforms.

Last year, market tracker Gartner Inc. (NYSE: IT) estimated more than 40 percent of data science tasks would be automated, boosting the productivity of “citizen” data scientists.

Other investors include Berkeley SkyDeck, the UC-Berkeley investment partner.

The MindsDB community on GitHub is here. The startup so far counts more than 250,000 downloads.

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