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5 AI companies started by immigrant entrepreneurs

In “2019 AI 50”, the Forbes list of the most promising AI startups in the U.S., about 66% of the companies had at least one immigrant founder. How did these entrepreneurs make their way in the tech world and pioneer the future of AI?

SeekOut AI Startup

When searching for the right candidate, recruiters often miss potentially perfect hires. Based out of Seattle, SeekOut is a search engine for talent recruitment that uses AI to match recruiters with the best possible candidates. Three of SeekOut’s four co-founders are from India, including Anoop Gupta, CEO; Aravind Bala, CTO; and Vikas Manocha, Head of Engineering.

When the four former Microsoft professionals created SeekOut in 2016, it was a messaging platform providing information about people who others might be emailing. Later, the founders realized their customers were more interested in the data than the messaging component, and shifted the program in 2017 to what is known today as SeekOut. 

During his nearly two-decade career at Microsoft, Anoop Gupta worked as Bill Gates’ technology assistant, amongst other roles in the company. Before his time at Microsoft, Gupta worked as a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.

Today, SeekOut is valued at $1.2 billion, with 158 employees as of 2022. Last summer, the annual “Inc. 5000” list, a prominent ranking of up-and-coming private companies, placed SeekOut at No. 236.

Databricks Immigrant AI Startup

Valued at $38 billion, Databricks is a cloud-based data and AI platform founded in 2013 by seven UC Berkeley alumni, including five immigrants founders from three countries — Ali Ghodsi and Arsalan Tavakoli-Shiraj from Iran; Ion Stoica and Matei Zaharia from Romania; and Reynold Xin from China. The platform now has over 3,000 employees and is used by companies like Comcast, Walgreens, and the USPS. 

Databricks broadly popularized the data “lakehouse,” which combines components of data lakes and data warehouses to simplify data storage. The startup has invested its profits in other tech companies, such as dbt Labs, Matillion, Alation, and Catalyst. In June, Databricks acquired Rubicon, a startup working to build storage systems for AI.

Feedzai Immigrant Startup

In 2021, financial fraud increased by 159%, with 83% of those cases involving online transactions. Monitoring over five billion banking transactions worldwide, Feedzai uses AI to combat financial crimes and detect fraud.

Portuguese founders Nuno Sebastião, Paulo Marques, and Pedro Bizarro lead the company’s 620 employees. Since its founding in 2011, Feedzai has grown its worth to $1 billion and has clients in nearly 200 countries. The platform uses AI to detect fraud in digital transactions. 

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With backgrounds in engineering, the three founders spent several years brainstorming what to do with the company they were creating. Before landing on fraud detection, they went down various other avenues, like utilities, telecoms, and health.

After going a year without making sales, Sebastião pitched their idea to more than 20 Silicon Valley techies, but none bit. Despite the rejection, the entrepreneurs kept working and eventually received investments totaling $2 million from Sapphire Ventures, ES Ventures, EDP Ventures, and Novabase.

H2O.ai Immigrant Startup

In 2011, Sri Satish Ambati, a tech entrepreneur from India, founded the AI cloud platform H2O.ai. Used by over 18,000 organizations globally, the company today is worth $1.7 billion. H2O.ai is an open-source machine-learning platform that supports algorithms like gradient-boosted machines, generalized linear models, and deep learning.

H2O.ai recently partnered with Optima Partners, a UK-based business consultancy service. Their goal is to create specialist resources for organizations focused on financial services. The AI startup also created H2OGPT, a chatbot application similar to ChatGPT, and a no-code development framework called LLM studio.

Viz.ai Startup

The American healthcare industry is evolving by incorporating AI technology. Co-founder of Viz.ai Chris Mansi was a practicing neurosurgeon in the UK when he noticed that some patients died not because their surgery went poorly, but because too much time passed before they reached the operating room.

Mansi then met David Golan, a machine-learning postdoc and the other co-founder of Viz.ai. Golan had been discharged from the hospital after a suspected stroke and shared an interest in the lack of available data for medical decision-making. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other investment partners funded the Immigrant AI startup that’s today worth $1.2 billion. 

Viz.ai is one of the few medical AI companies approved by Medicare and has signed on more than 900 hospitals. The AI platform cuts the time it takes to get stroke patients into surgery by cross-referencing CT images of a patient’s brain with a database of scans to find early signs of strokes. Doctors are alerted to any abnormalities and can see the images on their phones in real-time.

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