PROWLER.io raises £10m and says it can be the next ARM
The £10 million Series A round just revealed by Cambridge AI startup PROWLER.io is a stepping stone to creating another ARM for Cambridge, according to CEO Vishal Chatrath.
Whether that milestone is achieved as an independent or under the umbrella of an international giant will be down to the board at the relevant time but Chatrath “strongly believes” PROWLER.io will emulate ARM’s amazing achievements as a sustainable world number one.
The international investment community clearly believes it, too, as the Series A haul saw global investor Atlantic Bridge Capital and SGInnovate of Singapore join a round led by Cambridge Innovation Capital.
While many other Cambridge technology businesses struggle to recruit skilled staff to scale internationally Chatrath revealed that highly talented new technicians and global customers were beating a path to PROWLER.io’s door.
Headcount has grown way ahead of expectations to 50 from a standing start and that should double some time in 2018. The company already boasts 22 different nationalities among its employees.
“They are applying from almost everywhere to join us, although we have not had anyone from Antarctica respond as yet,” Chatrath said. He is determined that however big the company gets, whether it remains independent or is swallowed by a global heavyweight, Cambridge will always be the nerve centre.
“From foundation I was determined that Cambridge was absolutely key to the success of our technology and our business. It is the best place on earth to continue as our hub. I have worked all over the world and there is nowhere on the planet better than Cambridge for building and continuing to grow a sustainable business of this nature,” he says.
PROWLER.io’s principled decision-making platform makes it possible to perceive and affect the ways agents – such as vehicles, drones, robots, characters in games and even people – interact in complex environments. Its probabilistic models enable customers to understand, guide and optimise the millions of micro-decisions that can occur in dynamic systems. The platform also provides safe, effective ways to test and validate emerging technologies.
PROWLER.io has the potential to transform complex systems design and implementation. The platform is principled in the sense that its core technology is founded on mathematical principles from three previously segregated fields: probabilistic modelling, machine learning and game theory.
The resulting synergy of ideas and methodologies makes possible for the first time a platform whose decisions are clearly based on interpretable principles.
The technology is set to revolutionise sectors such as games development, smart cities and autonomous vehicles and the financial sector is engaging with the company big time.
Physical expansion into new geographical territories from a Cambridge springboard is a given, says Chatrath. The first overseas office is being established in Finland to target the finance industry and the second will be Singapore to look at opportunities in smart cities.
PROWLER.io is using the new £10m to expand its team of researchers and continue development and commercialisation of its platform.
Chatrath said that all the investors understood the potential power of the technology. While Cambridge Innovation Capital led the round, the arrival of Atlantic Bridge Capital is a significant addition to the big hitting band of backers.
Atlantic is a global technology fund which invests in high growth technology companies in Europe, the US, the Middle East and China. Existing investors Passion Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners and SGInnovate reiterated their continued support for the company by participating in the round.
Chatrath was previously head of automotive at Nokia, founder of Chleon Automotive and chief business officer of VocalIQ, which was snapped up by Apple in 2015.
He says: “Many of the big names in our space are narrowly focused on finding uses for their big data – which means they're feeding huge amounts of data to deep learning neural networks. Our solution means we are already UK number one and taking our entire capability into account we can be regarded as European and even world leader across an holistic machine learning and deep learning portfolio.”
Chatrath said the best investors followed technology entrepreneurs with a proven track record of building sustainable, world-class companies and PROWLER.io was “tremendously fortunate” to have globally renowned tech pioneers behind it.
Confidence is drawn not just from the quality of the research and technical teams working at the company but also from the experience of the board, he says.
For example, chairman Carl Rasmussen is Professor of Machine Learning at the Department of Engineering of Cambridge University. He has previously held positions at Technical University of Denmark, the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at UCL and the Max Planck Institute of Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen.
Chatrath said: “Building this business from Cambridge has been the key plank of our mission from the very start. I thought that at this stage of our development we might be up to 20 or so staff but we are almost 50 – that puts us one year ahead of our plan.
“We perceived that recruiting top talent might be our biggest challenge but it hasn’t turned out that way. The floodgates have opened in terms of talent and customers approaching us.”
Chatrath said PROWLER.io had headed through its window of opportunity with a “shock and awe” strategy. “There are other businesses out there involved in the space and I knew we had to be aggressive from the moment we opened out doors.
“If we had waited even six months we could have been overtaken and lost our advantage. Now we have the most envied technology and best people on the planet.”
Even with £10m banked in the Series A round, Chatrath is thinking ahead to securing further scale-up with fresh, ongoing investment.
“As CEO the reality is that that the focus on funding never stops. We are financially comfortable for now even having grown faster than originally envisaged.
“My policy has always been to ensure I raised more money than I actually needed. Our incredibly fast rate of growth at PROWLER.io proves the sense of such a strategy.”
Chatrath is keeping an open mind on whether the company will grow into the next ARM organically or be snapped up by a global giant somewhere along the journey – but he is adamant that the best way to add value for shareholders and investors is to build a sustainable business.
“You can build it from a focus that it will stay independent but the timing of an IPO or acquisition is a different dynamic so you build the best business you can and deal with whatever comes when it comes.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Vishal Chatrath