Cambridge, MA-based artificial intelligence company Nara Logics raised $6m in Series A-2 financing round (read here). In conjunction with the announcement, President Jana Eggers joined as and answered our questions about the funding, the company and future plans.
FinSMEs: Hi Jana. First, can you tell us a little bit more about you? What’s your background?
Jana: Hi, Ermanno, I’m Jana Eggers, Nara’s president. As I’m running the day-to-day operations of the company, Tom’s asked me to respond to your questions. So first, a bit about me. I just joined Nara in September, after working with them a few months in advance. I got so excited about what they are doing, that I had to join! My background is in math and computer science, and I started my career at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a research scientist. My career took me through several start-ups and acquisitions. Acquisitions took me to great companies like Intuit, one of the most respected software companies, and American Airlines, one of the largest companies in the world. I’m a products person, which has led me to working in sales and marketing, and operations. I’ve grown businesses within large companies, like Intuit and American, as well as for venture investors, like Accel Partners. Please tell me if you need to know more about me. I’m also pretty “out there” on the web, so Google away.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Nara. What’s the opportunity you found in the Artificial Intelligence market?
Jana: Artificial intelligence in the past has been focused on a computational model. It was based on statistics, and the probability of actions happening. The challenge is that machines don’t draw inferences well. The way the human brain does this is with an incredibly efficient way to connect data that we know, and how heavy or light those connections are. To give you one example on how the computational model is lacking to the inference model, consider popularity, a computational feature. The challenge is that once something gets popular, you can’t differentiation WHY it is popular. Our brain figures out quickly what is important to us by filtering out the noise. The opportunity that we have found is to use this biologically-inspired technique to solve business problems. Right now, we are applying this for personalization on websites and email across a bunch of industries, and we are in trials with folks working on business process decision support.
FinSMEs: How does Nara work? Tell me something about the features of the service…
Jana: For each customer, we build an individual neural network with their data. We can augment their data with Internet data, as appropriate. So for example, we can augment product data with reviews on those products from around the Web. Next step is to start making recommendations. When you as a customer of one of our customers goes into their Website (or gets an email or uses their mobile app, etc.), you get products that are selected for you based on what you like. So for example, you might buy a tablet because of the kid-friendly features and size of the screen, and I might buy the same one based on price and data plan available. Same tablet, different reasons. That’s the basic level. What’s exciting about our technology is how expansive it is… for example, our ability to combine interests of multiple people. So for example, in restaurants, we can find the restaurants that fit two or more people’s likes.
More great info, here: http://naralogics.com/capabilities.html
FinSMEs: Where are you now in terms of growth? Some numbers?
Jana: Sorry, we are one of those folks that are going to say “not yet” regarding revenue and customers. We are happy to talk about our 20 employees, which is double what we had about a year ago.
FinSMEs: You just raised a substantial funding? How are you using the funds?
Jana: Neuroscience is a rapidly developing field. Much of what we know about the brain has been learned in just the last 10 years. We are in the early stages of taking these models to apply them for personalization and better decisions making based on data. We’ll be using our funding to further productize our platform, making it easier for businesses to get started using this technology to improve their business. Right now, we have an 8 week proof of concept program to get people started with recommendations. Our goal is to take that to days, and to expand the number of industries served. In addition, as our announcement mentioned, we have added renowned neuroscientist Mriganka Sur, Director of MIT’s Simons Center for the Social Brain to our advisory board. The reason for this is to continue to push our efforts in applying the latest in neuroscience research to improve our algorithms for better and better results for our customers.
Jana: In addition to the above, we are expanding our customer reach by targeting new verticals. We know the technology we have developed will work across various industries and we can’t wait to get more examples.