Ramp Founder Wilde Takes Over Indico as Reality Sets In for A.I.
[Updated 10/5/17, 6:21 pm. See below.] Technology companies like IBM have arguably overhyped the capabilities of their artificial intelligence technologies over the past few years. But some executives believe the field is turning a corner, and businesses are starting to deliver practical applications of A.I.
“There’s some reality setting in,” says Boston software executive Tom Wilde. “Some proof points need to show up. That said, the dollars being spent on [A.I. products] are pennies of what they’re going to be” in the future.
Wilde will try to deliver on the promise of A.I. in the business world as CEO of Indico, a small Boston-based machine learning and data analytics startup. He was hired to take over the top job from co-founder Slater Victoroff, who is now Indico’s chief technology officer, the company announced today.
Wilde was previously chief product officer at Cxense, a Norway-based data management and analytics firm that serves customers in media, publishing, retail, and e-commerce. He joined Cxense by way of its 2015 acquisition of part of his last startup, Ramp—a BBN Technologies spinout originally known as Podzinger, and later called EveryZing.
Cxense recently disclosed plans to shut down its Boston office. Wilde says he was not laid off as part of the consolidation; he decided to join Indico because he wanted to lead a fledgling startup again.
“It’s the stage that I really enjoy, which is a [company with] a lot of great raw material, a lot of promise, and [is] in need of forming and focus,” Wilde says.
Victoroff co-founded Indico in 2013 while studying at Olin College of Engineering. The company also announced today it received $1.5 million in convertible debt financing led by earlier backer .406 Ventures, which brings the startup’s total venture capital haul to $5.7 million, a spokesman says. The company is an alum of the Techstars Boston startup accelerator. [Convertible debt information added.—Eds]
Wilde says Indico is talking with investors about raising another funding round, and the company plans to expand its team, which is currently around a dozen employees.
Indico makes software for analyzing text and images for customers in industries including financial services and insurance. A financial analyst, for example, might use the software to automatically sift through hundreds of articles and data points, helping ferret out trends and develop investment theses. Part of Indico’s pitch is the work it has done around what’s called transfer learning, which enables the training of machine learning models with fewer examples, so they can get spun up more quickly, Wilde says.
Thus far, Indico has developed products for customers on a “fairly bespoke basis,” Wilde says. One of his top agenda items is building tools and repeatable processes that make it easier to implement the company’s products.
Wilde says he also wants to narrow the company’s product focus and the way it markets itself. For example, it will now focus mainly on text analysis, he says.
“There are a set of industries out there for whom unstructured content is one of the primary vehicles for capturing their knowledge,” Wilde says. “This is not done in databases, it’s done in documents. … Documents are particularly difficult to extract information from at scale,” which is where Indico’s software could help.
When asked about what happened after Cxense’s partial acquisition of Ramp, Wilde says it was a “question of resource allocation,” and Cxense’s board decided to double down on its investments in Europe.
“Cxense has tried a couple times to break into the U.S. market,” he says. “It’s very expensive, and it takes a lot of stamina to do that.”
Wilde says the common thread between the companies he has worked on is that they involve technologies based on content. Ramp created a video content management platform for media companies—that’s the business that Cxense acquired—as well as enterprise video tools, such as helping companies broadcast their CEO town hall meetings, Wilde says. (That business still exists at Ramp.com.) Before Ramp, Wilde held leadership positions at Fast Search & Transfer (acquired by Microsoft), Terra Lycos, Miva, and NameMedia.
With Indico, he’ll try to help businesses analyze and manage their content in new ways.
“I think there’s so much that can be done with this dawn of A.I. and deep learning applied to the problem that wasn’t possible even three to four years ago,” Wilde says.