Who’s Wearing the Sunglasses? Reflections from ACL

Networking, Recruiting, and how DNN demands will drive our future growth

This past week, I had the tremendous opportunity to travel to Melbourne, Australia for the 56th annual meeting of the Association of Computational Linguistics (ACL). This is the single largest gathering for the NLP and ML communities in the world, which meant a busy week for Daniela and I. We made great new contacts, attended a fascinating keynote address on the development of Deep Neural Networks, and met some brilliant talent spread across enterprise and the academy that will drive AI into the future.

With three years of steep growth under our belt, this year’s ACL was a chance for us to define our leadership role in driving this industry toward that future. Our booth had a steady stream of visitors, many representing some of the biggest names in AI on the planet. We weren’t surprised. It’s been a bit of pattern for us this year as we’ve formed a wide array partnerships and rapidly expanded our client roster in 2018.

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More businesses are realizing the value of sourcing high-quality, scalable training data (and the high costs of settling for anything less). We’re uniquely positioned to provide exactly that, which means we’ve been having some fascinating conversations with some incredible companies lately. As always, stay tuned for more on this soon!

For now, as we return to our bases in Seattle and Lisbon we’ll certainly be discussing Anton van den Hegel’s invited talk, “Deep Neural Networks and what they’re not very good at.” As Daniela’s been saying for years, Deep Neural Networks (DNN’s) have long been the “holy grail” of machine-learning development, as they offer the clearest path to self-learning AI that can truly improve on-the-fly.

DNN’s are already responsible for major breakthroughs in fraud detection and manufacturing optimization. But, for all they’ve accomplished, DNNs still fall short in tasks that require contextual interpretation.

Take the image below:

Who's wearing the sunglasses?
Photo By Heather Shwartz, sourced from Unsplash

 

If I asked you, “Who’s wearing the sunglasses?” You’d say “the pineapple” without second thought. DNN models? Not so much. They’re not capable of integrating the linguistic, visual, and contextual understandings necessary to come up with the correct response. At least… not yet.

As always, the barriers to these capabilities are falling. The brilliant scientists and engineers we met at ACL are…well… brilliant after all.

But, for DNN’s to obtain these contextual reasoning and interpretation capabilities, they’ll need incredibly precise, accurate and complexly structured data. DefinedCrowd is the only firm that can deliver the kind of job-tailored high-quality data necessary to train and test these kinds of models. It’s an exciting time to be here!

Which brings me to my final point. As more demand for our data grows, our team will too. Actually, it already is. Right now, we have 23 open positions across our offices in Seattle, Lisbon, Porto, and Tokyo. We met a lot of great talent at ACL. To all of you who stopped by our booth, it was a pleasure. If you passed on a resume, you’ll hear from us soon.

And if we missed you? There’s still time! Go to our careers page to see how to come build amazing things with us.

Bringing Inspiration Home: Our COO Reports on Microsoft Inspire

Hi everybody. Happy to be writing you from the cool PNW air after spending the first part of the week at the Microsoft Inspire Conference in Vegas.

Inspire was a fantastic opportunity to get face-time with colleagues from the Microsoft Partner Network’s startup ecosystem. I made fantastic business contacts, had great discussions, and most importantly, got a few days to dedicate my focus to DefinedCrowd’s long-term growth next to a lot of smart people with firsthand knowledge of the pains startups experience when they begin to scale.

Microsoft Inspire first day

I also had the opportunity to attend presentations and think about the AI revolution we spend our day-to-day grinding toward on a macro-level. I was—I’ll just say it— inspired by a presentation on Microsoft’s AI Earth initiative and the development of ML models that improve conservation, farming practices, and understandings of diverse ecosystems. At DefinedCrowd, we’re proud to be leading the way to a future where AI plays an essential role in solving some of our biggest societal ills.

That’s not just some line I’m being fed from marketing. For us, it’s a pillar. Before founding DefinedCrowd, our CEO Daniela spent years developing and advocating for widespread use of speech interfaces as the basis of assistive technologies (Cortana and Alexa have since proved her right) mainly because she saw the benefits to the blind, elderly and infirm. We believe in what we’re building and in the possibility for a world where fateful calls from freeway shoulders disappear, and no doctor has to say “if only we’d caught it earlier” ever again.

However, we know the AI revolution only gets us to that future if there’s a moral code at its foundation. That’s why I want to close with the idea of a “Hippocratic Oath” for AI, first proposed by Microsoft’s Brad Smith and Harry Shum in their book The Future Computed, and further drawn out by Oren Etzioni at TechCrunch (If you don’t read them you should. Right now. Start here, or here, or even here to see what they’ve been saying about us.)

I won’t lay it out entirely. Instead, here are some lines that stuck with me:

“1. [We] will apply, for the benefit of the humanity, all measures required, avoiding those twin traps of over-optimism and uniformed pessimism.

2. [We] will remember that there is an art to AI as well as science, and that human concerns outweigh technological ones.

3. My [Our] AI will seek to collaborate with people for the greater good, rather than usurp the human role and supplant them.

DefinedCrowd will grow this year. A lot. At Inspire, I heard a ton of buzz surrounding “new” use cases for AI in industries like Fintech, Food & Drink, Retail, and more. None of those use cases surprised me. Because our product offering is, and always has been, industry agnostic, we’ve been doing work across industries like these since day one. We’re in a fantastic position as more kinds of businesses find more solutions in AI and ML models. Just know that as we grow, we’re thinking hard about how to do it the right way.

A talk at Microsoft Inspire about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Thanks to everyone at Microsoft who helped put Inspire on, and who took some time to meet me in Vegas. I can’t wait to see where we are this time next year.

In the meantime, if you want to know how AI can solve problems for you, Check out  our  solutions. And, speaking of growth, we’re hiring. A lot. Check out our  Careers page for opportunities to build incredible things with us at DefinedCrowd.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Smart data has arrived in Tokyo!

We are thrilled to announce that DefinedCrowd has now an office in Tokyo! This is a huge milestone and we couldn’t be more honored and humbled to bring smart data to the top Japanese corporations who are leading the way in the Artificial Intelligence development.

I am also super excited to announce that Aya Zook will be the General Manager of the Japanese subsidiary and the Asia-Pacific region as a result of more than one year of building our business and reputation in the Asian market.

We celebrated this important event with a cocktail reception in Tokyo, that counted with the presence of more than 55 key people from top Japanese corporations. It was a great moment to talk not only about business but also to connect and reconnect with incredibly talented and smart people, who are leading the way when it comes to the future of AI.

The Japanese market is one of the world’s largest economies and historically one of the most advanced in technology. We are truly honored and humbled to help the top Japanese corporations in their path to AI, with our expertise in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Speech Technologies, Natural Language Understanding and Computer Vision.

And with a new office, new opportunities arise. If you want to join us at the Tokyo office, check out our current openings at our Careers page. Who knows if you’re the next member of this growing and worldwide spread family that is DefinedCrowd.

Let’s do this!

The AI smart data revolution is here! 

Artificial Intelligence needs data to be properly trained. A lot of data. Currently, it is estimated that 80% of the data generated globally is unstructured. This environment makes access to high-quality structured data expensive and difficult to obtain quickly. As a result, data scientists have been scrubbing their own data, which is a tedious and time-consuming process pulling them away from their primary focus: science.

If you are familiar with DefinedCrowd’s work, you know that getting high-quality datasets to train AI and ML systems is our business. We have put together an amazing team, which has tirelessly worked on a Software-as-a-Service platform that allows data scientists to collect, enrich, and structure training data for Artificial Intelligence.

From our inception in 2015, we have been hard at work on our platform. Today, we are excited to open up v1.0 of the SaaS platform to the public! High-quality data can be accessed through our online platform, which enables our clients to set up the details as they wish without the hassle of countless emails exchanges with a vendor’s project manager who often has very little understanding of the machine learning process. The platform can also be accessed through the API, for a much more streamlined integration with the clients’ machine learning model infrastructure, which we released last November.

Utilizing a dedicated, skilled community of more than 20,000 on-demand workforce from around the globe, allows us to scale our client’s projects in a timely manner. Whether you want to generate text variants for a chatbot by 100% British-native people or looking to collect speech data from French-speaking natives living in the U.S. for a domain-specific personal assistant experience, the Neevo by DefinedCrowd community provides an unmatched human-in-the-loop service. We’re also very proud that we grew our Neevo community 4 times in 2017, mainly across the top 10 world markets.

With our solution, it has never been easier to access high-quality data to train your AI systems, faster than ever. Whether you want to train a smart personal assistant, a savvy chatbot, or an accurate self-driving car, we have a solution for you. Check out our solutions, or drop us an email at sales@definedcrowd.com – we look forward to helping build or improve your Artificial Intelligence systems!

Announcing the Alpha Release of Enterprise SaaS

Our Alpha marks the first phase towards introducing a self-service model to help data scientists everywhere have high quality data at their fingertips.   

Every company is finding itself thrust into a new era where data-driven decision-making and automation are key to scaled growth. While recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) powering everything from chatbots to personal assistants have helped consumers and enterprises realize the promise of what the technology might bring, we feel there’s plenty of room to improve.

At DefinedCrowd, we believe the key to improving the interaction between humans and machines is access to better data. Too many companies building AI and machine learning (ML) applications are hampered by poor quality data, resulting in inconsistent interactions, slow time to market and lack of language coverages. This results in a halt of innovation that creates poor user experiences.

Today’s announcement of our Alpha release of the Enterprise SaaS platform gets us one step closer to realizing the vision we’ve had since day one of starting DefinedCrowd: Helping all companies reduce cost and time to ship high quality machines through access to intelligent data.

In the alpha release of the Data-Science-as-a-Service platform, we focused our efforts in building intuitive and easy-to-use workflow templates based on our core domain expertise. Speech and Natural Language Processing (NLP). As the only data platform designed for data scientists by data scientist, the platform uses the power of ML and humans-in-the-loop (or crowd) to help enterprise data teams to collect, augment and structure high quality training data for AI and ML applications.

From the alpha release, we have two specific goals in mind:

  1. Expand the ways we help AI and ML application builders gain access to high quality data through a self-service model (while continuing the more hand-on approach we offer today)
  2. Invite a group of enterprises to bang away and give us feedback to improve/inform our Beta release

One of the big goals of DefinedCrowd is to help make machines smarter in a way that always puts humans at the center of the AI experience. The ability to naturally and effortlessly communicate with machines is paramount to realizing a truly human-centric interaction model. What we announced today is only a start to this exciting journey. Over the next several months, we’ll be shipping new sets of workflows to methodically chip away at the data problem. And if we do our job right, it should free up the AI builders to do what they do best – ship machines that understand us, naturally.

You can apply for a trial access here today!

 

DefinedCrowd at APDC 26º DIGITAL BUSINESS CONGRESS

It was an honor for me, and I think I can speak for all present team, to participate in the 26th Digital Business Congress at CCB in Lisbon. Besides the exhibition opportunity of our product, I found the event a very interesting platform for discussion, reflection and mobilization issues and decisive initiatives of ICT and Media in general.

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In addition to the large Portuguese companies represented, such as RTP, ANACOM, PT, VODAFONE, NOS, CTT and others, I found very interesting the will and interest shown by APDC in “give voice” to emerging startups. Speaking about the future and the current landscape of ICT and Media in Portugal, namely in Lisbon, without reference to all the efforts and strategies of these new companies is really a challenge and APDC realized it in time by including a number of initiatives throughout the congress. These initiatives included panels on “Digital Transformation of Business” where startup companies make a structural difference, an exhibition space that was attended by more than 10 startups, as well as the competition “Startup Powered by APDC” (which DefinedCrowd WON! I will talk about it in more detail further down).

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These days, Lisbon is the hub to a new way of thinking and doing business and it can count on this entrepreneurial spirit combined with a growing national investment. Throughout the sessions, new paradigms around the Portuguese technological landscape were discussed, from national investment to the daily challenges, from large companies as well as startups betting on technological development made in Portugal, not to mention the discussion around the Websummit in Lisbon in November this year. Future projections about the top well paid jobs in the next 10 years were made. Topics such as Data Analysis, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and User Experience were certainly on the agenda, which reinforces and re-validates our position in the future of ICT.

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We were honored with the presence of the President of Portugal in this event and Joao Freitas, DefinedCrowd’ CTO, had the opportunity to present in detail our product and our company the same.

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And since I speak of media attention, I am proud to explain in more detail the contest “Startup Powered by APDC” that  we ended up winning. There were 49 startups in the race, 12 of which were invited to attend the congress in CCB. The next challenge was on stage, where a three minutes pitch with Q&A would have to be delivered to a jury of relevant ICT guests. It was with great honor that DefinedCrowd received the award for “Startup Powered by APDC,” and we had the opportunity to once again pitch our product to the big CCB auditorium inserted in the panel “State of the Nation Communications” for more than 1500 attendees. It was a fantastic opportunity, and despite the initial stress, the pitch went very well and we had a fantastic feedback.

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It was indeed a very rewarding and enriching event for the whole team, where in addition to great media exposure, we had the opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss issues with large companies as well as all the other startups who accompany us on this journey.

 

DefinedCrowd closes $1.1M seed investment

As the CEO and founder of DefinedCrowd, I couldn’t be happier with this achievement. We closed our seed round exactly one year after Amy Du and I started this company, in August 2015. It has been an incredible rollercoaster since then, with major highlights such as getting our first customers, opening the Portuguese subsidiary in Startup Lisboa, being accepted into the Microsoft Seattle Accelerator, where we learned so much (thanks to Hanan Levy, Prashant Sharma, Aya Zook and Tim Enger) and meeting our incredible investors, who believe in us and who share our ambitious vision of being the number one data science platform for artificial intelligence worldwide. I’m immensely proud to be working with Amazon and Sony now; these strategic partnerships can help us fine tune our product vision. Being Portuguese myself and knowing the quality and stability of the talent in Portugal, setting up an R&D center in Lisbon was a no-brainer for me. I was pleased to convince Joao Freitas, our CTO and one of the best tech professionals in Portugal, to join DefinedCrowd and to run the operation in Lisbon. In this round, we will continue the investment in Portugal. Looking for Portuguese investment in this context was natural and strategic for us, and we’re thrilled to have Portugal Ventures, the most prestigious VC in Portugal, backing us in this round, as well as BusyAngels, who brings us valuable business experience and insights to the European market. Last but not the least, I am very happy to have SWAN, a Seattle Angel group, as part of our group of investors in this round. SWAN brings diverse business experience and continuous mentorship.

This seed round is a historical milestone for our company and the round of funding allows us to boost our SaaS platform development. We’re growing our team in Lisbon from 5 to 12 people in the next 3 months and looking for a bigger office in Seattle as well.

I would also like to thank all our customers that have believed in us and allowed us to prove our product. At DefinedCrowd, our customers come first. We are here to continue serving them and all new coming customers. And we are already global, with signed customers in the US, Europe and Asia.

We have very ambitious goals for the next milestone and we’re all focused on them. Exciting times are ahead of us!

Lisbon team