Startup Profile: who are H2O.ai?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm. Earlier in 2019, Gartner reported that the number of enterprises implementing AI grew by 270% in the past four years. Chris Howard, Research VP at the company warned executives: “If you are a CIO and your organization doesn’t use AI, chances are high that your competitors do and this should be a concern.”
However, while the demand for AI use cases and adoption strategies is higher than ever, Gartner’s survey also uncovered the fact that the industry is experiencing acute talent shortages, and this is only expected to become more of a pain point for companies looking to incorporate AI into their business strategies as adoption spreads. “In order to stay ahead, CIOs need to be creative,” said Howard.
One company looking to provide a solution to the AI skills shortage problem is, like many companies set on changing the world, based in Silicon Valley. This Mountain View, California-headquartered firm is gunning to do to AI what AirBnB did to the hotel industry and Ender to 3D printing: democratize it.
“Empowering Every Company to be an AI Company”
Meet H2O.ai. Co-founded in 2012 by CEO Sri Ambati, the startup has spent the last seven years working to make AI accessible to all. "H2O.ai is democratizing AI and powering the imagination of every entrepreneur and business globally - we are making them the true AI superpowers," said Ambati. "Our customers are unlocking discovery in every sphere and walk of life and challenging the dominance of technology giants. This will be fun."
Today, the company’s open source data science and machine learning platform is used by nearly half of the Fortune 500 and trusted by over 18,000 organizations and hundreds of thousands of data scientists around the world.
H2O.ai’s Driverless AI platform was enhanced again recently, with the creation of over 100 “open source recipes” - curated design patterns for AIs developed by the company’s Grandmasters, Data Scientists and Domain Experts. H2O.ai aims to let its customers use these recipes to enhance and nurture their AI capabilities in the face of a global talent and resource scarcity. Since launch, Driverless AI has tripled the company’s customer base.
"Our makers have been innovating relentlessly to simplify the AI to help with the scarcity of talent and time, and to bring trust, and explainability. This is a quantum leap in the fast-moving AI and autoML space,” Ambati said on Tuesday.
"We are expecting a rapid adoption of AI in capital markets, as AI models started demonstrating ROI," commented Ediz Ozkaya, Head of Machine Learning Stats at Goldman Sachs. "H2O.ai is at the forefront of the space with Driverless AI, which enables us to inject our domain-specific AI capability into the platform in a consistent manner while protecting in-house IP and staying compliant."
This Tuesday, H2O.ai also took its relationship with Goldman Sachs to a new level, as the finance giant led a $72.5mn Series D funding round, alongside Ping An, Wells Fargo and Nexus Venture Partners.
"We're thrilled to partner with the H2O.ai team on their mission to democratize artificial intelligence," said Jade Mandel, Vice President, Principal Strategic Investments Group at Goldman Sachs. "Their deep technical bench and customer centricity make them well positioned to bring transparency and efficiency to the world of prediction."
"We are keen on how the power of artificial intelligence enables insightful and personalized client experiences, and enhances our work with our clients," said Basil Darwish, Managing Director, Strategic Investments at Wells Fargo. "H2O.ai's focus on machine learning transparency and model interpretability facilitates adoption across our industry, and we are delighted to continue to invest in H2O.ai and to further deepen our partnership."
The future looks exciting, both for H2O.ai and AI itself. The startup will use the $72.5mn investment to accelerate innovation, develop new simplified AI product for business users, and expand sales and marketing globally.
"We have been a big believer in H2O.ai since day one. We are ecstatic to see their success across the world with so many companies, in so many industries," said Jishnu Bhattacharjee, Managing Director at Nexus Venture Partners. "AI in the enterprise is a reality that H2O.ai is driving. We are thrilled to continue backing Sri and team as they accelerate their growth trajectory."
How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.