Daniela Braga’s journey with DefinedCrowd

Earlier this week, DefinedCrowd was Featured in Jornal Económico, a premium financial publication in Portugal. We’ve translated the article from the original Portuguese for our English- speaking friends. Enjoy!

Original Article by
António Sarmento

Founded in Seattle, USA, DefinedCrowd is a startup specializing in training data for Artificial Intelligence. The company counts Amazon, IBM, and EDP as investors and clients. 

DefinedCrowd provides services so that data scientists can gather, structure, and enrich datasets for Artificial Intelligence, helping companies improve speed to market and the overall quality of their AI products. DefinedCrowd accelerates enterprise AI initiatives by combining machine learning technology with human-in-the-loop collection processes. Founded in August 2015 by entrepreneur Daniela Braga, the company is headquartered in Seattle, has R&D centers in Lisbon and Porto, and a sales office in Tokyo. 

Three months after its founding, the company opened their first R&D office at Startup Lisbon. Since then, DefinedCrowd has blossomed from an initial team of three employees to a workforce of more than 70 that is still growing.

In 2016, the company raised $ 1.1 million in seed funding, with investors such as Sony, Amazon Alexa Fund, Portugal Ventures, and Busy Angels.
In July 2018, DefinedCrowd closed a Series A funding worth $11.8 million, led by Evolution Equity Partners. EDP Ventures, Mastercard and Kibo Ventures joined as new investors, while Sony, Amazon, Portugal Ventures and Busy Angels bolstered their investments with additional capital for the data company.

“It is important to raise capital if we want to move fast, especially in the technological sector.”   

Daniela Braga to Jornal Económico

This influx of capital is being used to accelerate product development and accelerate team growth. Two-thirds of DefinedCrowd’s 70 employees work out of Portugal. The company expects to add 80 more team members by the end of 2019.

Over the past six months, DefinedCrowd has announced three partnerships: a formal designation as an Amazon Alexa Skills partner, a product integration with IBM Watson Studio; and participation as a featured vendor in Microsoft‘s co-sell program.

DefinedCrowd’s platform provides industry-agnostic data services and can support text, audio, and image annotation. The company’s clients span industries as a result: from Fintech, to Retail, Healthcare, Utilities, and the Internet of Things. Their client portfolio consists mostly of Fortune 500 companies, including BMW, MasterCard, EDP, José de Mello Saúde, SoftBank, Yahoo Japan, Randstad, and Nuance

DefinedCrowd’s goals are ambitious. The company aims to become the world’s number one AI data provider through expanding their client-base and forging new partnerships with industry leaders. 

With a degree in Portuguese Language and Literature, Daniela Braga has spent her career examining the rigorous use of language, the perfect foundation for her business. “We deal daily with data in 70 languages and dialects. Our clients need, at a minimum, native-level speakers and sometimes even require linguists or specialists in language sciences for all of them” says the entrepreneur.

After graduating with a master’s degree in applied linguistics, she went on to earn a PhD in Speech Technologies at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto and taught at the University of A Coruña for two years before joining Microsoft (whom she worked for in Portugal, China and the United States).

After leaving Microsoft in 2013, Daniela moved to American company Voicebox. Simultaneously, she was invited to teach Data and Crowdsourcing for Speech Technologies at the University of Washington. It was during this time that she saw the gap between the Artificial Intelligence data scientists wanted to develop and the training data available to build it. She decided to found her own company as a result.

Waving a well-paid job goodbye, and with few personal resources, she started meeting with investors in Seattle, and quickly received an initial check: $ 200,000 in financing to start her business. A business that is now signing contracts with some of the largest companies in the world.

DefinedCrowd is in constant growth and employee numbers have been updated to reflect our current position.

An Interview With Dinheiro Vivo

At last week’s Web Summit, we were lucky enough to sit down with Dinheiro Vivo, a leading financial publication in Portugal. Our conversation touched on everything from the quality-focused approach to training data to AI use-cases across industries. Watch the full interview here (in Portuguese), or check out the English transcription below:

Dinheiro Vivo [DV] – For those who still do not know your work, what does DefinedCrowd do?

Daniela Braga [DB] – We are a data collection and cleaning platform for Machine Learning and for Artificial Intelligence. Our platform combines crowdsourcing with machine learning. A mixture of people and machines working at the same time.

Artificial Intelligence is the imitation of a human brain, artificially. To develop our own intelligence, we go to school, we read many books. It takes a lifetime for a person to be able to react and make decisions in their daily lives. The way machines learn is similar. But with the computational capacity that is currently possible using the cloud and our platform, in just 3 months we can combine thousands of human brains in the same computational memory.

Our platform combines crowdsourcing with machine learning. A mixture of people and machines working at the same time.

DV – And then (the data) is used in applications that we use every day?

DB– Namely Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa. Self-driving cars and even more industrial applications like machines that are doing quality control instead of having people doing it. Or at airports with automatic flight controllers.

DV – And this year was a dazzling year, an investment round, new partners, an office in Tokyo. What have you done to achieve this success?

DB – Especially in the United States, our largest market is still the United States, followed by Japan and followed by Europe. Clients are more open, they’re investing in Artificial Intelligence.

There are many companies in machine learning but there is practically no one doing data cleaning and treatment like us. It’s like the spades and pickaxes of the gold rush. We are making the shovels and picks of AI, of modern times.

DV- And coming to Web Summit also makes all the difference, right?

DB– Our growth milestones have been basically aligned with those of Web Summit. We have been here since 2016, which was the first year Portugal hosted Web Summit. We had closed our seed series. Last year (2017) we basically met the group of investors to close the series A. And this year we are here to be on the list of the top 10 AI companies in the world.

DV – And finally, when you leave Web Summit, what do you expect to take with you?

DB – This year it’s basically a visibility and recruitment maneuver- we are in an aggressive recruitment phase. We want to demonstrate that this is really the best place to work in Portugal. We’re also looking to continue developing partnerships, and solidify go-to-market strategy. Next year, I would like for 50% of our revenue to come from partnerships.

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.

Web Summit is here – and we have a new API

It has been a long time! And what a better way to get back on track with our blog than to announce a new release AND our presence at one of the biggest tech event in the world?

Web Summit is here. The second edition in Portugal takes place this November 6th-9th in the sunny Lisbon. We must admit that we are biased, though, as I am Portuguese and part of our team is based in Lisbon. Anyway, this is a huge event for the city and for the start-up scene, which rose so quickly in Portugal.

Since this is a big moment, we decided to celebrate with a big release. We are launching the version 1.0 of our public API on November 8th at Web Summit, where we were selected to have a booth at the Beta program! This new product will make data scientists’ lives easier, as it will allow to integrate DefinedCrowd platform on their own machine learning infrastructure. In other words, you will have access to high-quality data right in your own platform by simply calling an API. Practical, isn’t it?

If you are in Lisbon for Web Summit, make sure you stop by the Stand B 412 on November 8th, at the Big Data Exhibition Area. We will be there to show you all you can do with this new product.

But this isn’t all!

In addition to these news, I am proud to announce that DefinedCrowd was selected to pitch at Web Summit, where I will present our company to an audience filled with top tech speakers, attendees, and juries. This is an amazing opportunity and we are really excited (and a bit nervous!).

Summing up the essential news:

  • public API access for DefinedCrowd’s data platform will be available on November 8th;
  • DefinedCrowd will be at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. More specifically, on November 8th, on the Stand B 412 at the Big Data Exhibition Area;
  • I will be pitching DefinedCrowd on Tuesday, 7th November on Pitch Stage 2 at 2pm.

We are looking forward to seeing you at Web Summit. Stop by our booth, drop us a message on our social media channels or email us at sales@definedcrowd.com, we want to hear from you!

06 Web Summit FB