Financing Boosts for Silicon Valley AI Companies Maana, Digital Genius

Two Bay Area AI startups announced merry company news for the holiday season on Tuesday.

Palo Alto, CA-based Maana, which bills itself as a productivity booster for big industrial companies such as Shell, Chevron, Saudi Aramco, and Airbus, says it has raised $28 million in a Series C fundraising round led by investment bank China International Capital Corporation (CICC) and Eight Square Capital.

Maana uses its AI algorithms to assemble data points from numerous sources, and build models that help a customer’s human staffers to make decisions. For example, a company might draw from its field service records to predict when a piece of equipment is likely to fail, and why. Using Maana, it could then canvass available service personnel, and deploy the most qualified people to keep the machine in service.

Co-founders Babur Ozden and former Microsoft executive Donald Thompson started Maana in 2012, and have since attracted a roster of strategic investors that often have ties to its customers.

These existing investors, who all joined in the Series C fundraising round, are Intel Capital, GE Ventures, Chevron Technology Ventures, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, and Shell Technology Ventures.

New investors participating in the round include Accenture Ventures and Sino Capital. The new money brings Maana’s fundraising total to $68 million.

Ozden came to Maana from New York-area semantic software company Hafia; Thompson was involved with projects in data mining, machine learning, semantic search, and speech indexing while he was at Microsoft from 1998 to 2013.

Ozden operates from the official company headquarters in Palo Alto, where 10 employees focus on sales and business development. But Maana has 75 staffers in Bellevue, WA—most of them in software development and engineering—under the direction of Thompson, the CTO. Another 15 employees are spread across other Maana offices in Houston, Saudi Arabia, and Europe.

Maana’s new money will be used to expand the company’s global business. The company offers both Web-based and on-premises versions of its services.

Digital Genius, which is using artificial intelligence to improve automated customer service responses, announced Tuesday that it has raised $14.75 million in a Series A financing round led by Global Founders Capital.

The San Francisco-based company has lined up customers including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Unilever, Eurostar, Soylent, and TravelBird. Using deep learning algorithms, Digital Genius draws on the record of past text exchanges between consumers and customer service representatives to predict the correct responses to commonly asked questions. KLM says Digital Genius supports more than half of the airline’s consumer inquiries.

Digital Genius was founded in 2013 by CEO Dmitry Aksenov, Mikhail Naumov, and Bogdan Maksak. The startup charges customers a monthly licensing fee per user.

The company’s new capital, which will be used for commercial expansion and further product development, brings its total fundraising to $26 million.

Joining in the fundraising round were MMC Ventures, Paua Ventures, Kairos, and other funds. Previous investors including Salesforce Ventures, Runa Capital, RRE Ventures, Lumia Capital, Compound, and Lerer Hippeau Ventures, also participated.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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