A new cloud-native platform for artificial intelligence capabilities, Graft, has launched out of stealth with $4.5 million in pre-seed funding.
Graft says its platform “distills the AI infrastructure and workflows that top companies are converging around into an all-in-one package that is easy to use, regardless of machine learning proficiency or existing infrastructure.”
“Other vendors sell you a piece of the puzzle, but that’s only useful if you have the rest of the pieces and a team to assemble them. You would spend lots of time and money setting up the machinery of AI instead of investing in differentiating business value. We started wondering, what if someone provided the power of modern AI without the prerequisites? That’s how Graft was born,” said Adam Oliner, co-founder and CEO of Graft.
Oliner was head of machine learning at Slack, where he sought to build an AI infrastructure to expand the company’s capabilities for search, recommendations, content moderation, personalization, and customer experience. Doing so was not an easy task, as building this infrastructure involves hiring ML engineers and data scientists, layering open source libraries and cloud services with multiple management and compliance tools, and then continually maintaining it.
Tech titans like Meta and Google can leverage hundreds of people and millions of dollars to build and maintain a huge AI framework using various types of data from text, images, video, audio, and graphs. Unlike the more elite AI operations, Oliner and his team were tasked with building their own setup from scratch. They went on to successfully deploy an AI infrastructure with advanced search and recommendation capabilities.
Oliner then founded Graft with Maria Kazandjieva (former director of engineering at Netflix), Eric Schkufza (former principal scientist at Amazon), Mick Hakobyan (distinguished tenures at Meta, Netflix and Microsoft), Irina Calciu (former senior researcher at VMware) and Brian Calvert (former machine learning platform technical lead at Cruise Automation).
It was through his past experience that Oliner realized the barriers to entry many companies face, which he says are expertise, infrastructure, and cost. Using piecemeal solutions can only go so far, and he wanted to help organizations focus on value projects like investing in data and label quality. In removing the barriers with the Graft platform, the company says, “Everyone in the organization from business analysts to product managers can apply the resulting intelligence using powerful SQL extensions and straightforward production APIs,” and “Graft turns AI transformation into an afternoon project. No machine learning skills required, no team to hire, and no infrastructure to build or maintain.”
The company’s value statement says it has the ambitious goal of making the AI of the 1% accessible to the 99%, and investors seem to be agreeable. Graft’s $4.5 million pre-seed round was led by GV with participation from NEA, Essence VC, Formulate Ventures, and SV Angel. The company will use the money to grow its team and continue building and marketing its platform.
“Most enterprises have huge and growing data repositories and very few are capturing all the insights available in these troves. Graft’s approach to modern AI will make this process infinitely easier for businesses that crave deeper insights without dedicated machine learning talent,” said Erik Nordlander, general partner at GV. “Adam Oliner is a uniquely brilliant technical leader with an ability to execute, and we’re excited to welcome him and the Graft team to the GV portfolio.”
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