CB Insights reveals 2021 cohort of 100 most-promising AI companies

The startups represent 18 core industries with a broad range of cross-industry applications, the firm says.

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Image: CB Insights

One way to gauge the deployment of artificial intelligence in the marketplace is to track CB Insights' top 100 most-promising private AI companies to watch. The firm released its annual list this week, culled from over 6,000 companies. "This year's cohort spans 18 industries, and is working on everything from climate risk to accelerating drug R&D," said CB Insights CEO Anand Sanwal in a press release.

The products the companies are bringing to market range from revenue-cycle management for hospitals to autonomous beekeeping and municipal waste sortation, the firm said in a blog post, highlighting "the breadth and depth of AI's impact on industries."

The synthetic data platform AI.Reverie made its second appearance on the AI 100 list. The company said it creates a virtually endless supply of annotated images and videos that accelerate computer vision and machine learning across domains. It added that its unique toolset preserves data privacy and provides the control to prevent bias in AI.

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During 2020, AI.Reverie said it grew three times as the demand for synthetic data to train vision algorithms spiked.

The company in January won a $980 million contract with the U.S. Air Force Advanced Battle Management System.

In a press release acknowledging its return to the CB Insights list, AI.Reverie's co-founder and CEO Daeil Kim said in part, "Synthetic data is now a must-have, and more and more enterprises, government agencies and NGOs are tapping the AI.Reverie platform to accelerate AI development while protecting data privacy."

While the names of these private companies might not be familiar to consumers, investors have taken note.

"Last year's AI 100 companies had a remarkable run after being named to the list, with more than 50% going on to raise additional financing (totaling $5.2B), including 16 $100 million+ mega-rounds," Sanwal stated. "Many also went on to exit via M&A, SPAC or IPO. As industry after industry adopts AI, we expect this year's class will see similar levels of interest from investors, acquirers and customers."

According to CB Insights, since 2010, the AI 100 2021 cohort has raised over $11.7 billion in equity funding across 370+ deals from more than 700 investors.

Here are some other highlights:

  • Most-represented categories: Healthcare is the most highly represented core industry. The eight selected companies in this category are focusing on dental insurance, surgical tech, clinical trials and more. Among cross-industry applications and deployment tools, the rapidly evolving MLOps market, which provides software to accelerate the development and deployment of AI models in enterprises, counts six selected companies.  

  • 37 early-stage innovators — in seed/angel and Series A stages of funding — are working on applications like AI explainability (e.g., ArthurAI), wireless signal processing (e.g., DeepSig), and deep-learning accelerators (e.g., Deci). Among these, only water leak prevention company WINT has not raised any equity capital.

  • Top-funded vendors and categories: The companies that have raised the most funding in the cohort are working on capital-intensive projects such as autonomous vehicles (e.g., Aurora, Momenta), drug R&D (e.g., Insitro) and AI processors (e.g., Horizon Robotics, Graphcore). But emerging use cases such as AIOps (e.g., Snyk, Harness) and revenue cycle management for hospitals (e.g., Olive) have also attracted multiple $100M+ rounds from investors.

  • COVID19 response: A number of these companies developed new products and features directly in response to the pandemic to mitigate its impact and help clients adapt. For example, Recursion released SARS-CoV-2-related imaging datasets publicly to improve understanding of the virus and its impact on human cells. OpenSpace released a simplified version of its photo documentation product for construction companies to remotely track job sites. DarwinAI launched COVID-Net, a suite of neural networks for COVID-19 detection and risk assessment in chest radiography.

CB Insights says "artificial intelligence is here to stay," and noted in a recent trend report that "AI companies raised a record $33B in equity funding in 2020. As commercial applications of AI scale rapidly, enterprises want to become 'AI-first' by upgrading their existing data management and IT infrastructure."

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