12 AI startups that will boom in 2019, according to VCs

12 AI startups that will boom in 2019, according to VCs

Getty Images/Dan Kitwood

  • Artificial intelligence is the next big technological wave, bringing new technologies, businesses and opportunities.
  • While the big tech corporations are all betting on AI, a number of startups are quietly pushing the AI boundaries AI to create smarter, faster apps and products.
  • Here’s a list of AI startups that are on track to boom in 2019, according to the people closest to the startup world — the venture capitalists that watch, advise and invest in them.

As part of our comprehensive coverage of the startups that will boom in 2019, we asked the startup experts – venture capitalists – to name the startups they think are are going to be hot this year.

We asked them to tell us about companies within their portfolio as well as ones they haven’t invested in but are hearing good things about.

One group of startups came up over and over again: those that specialize in artificial intelligence tech.

From AI robots to software that uses machine learning to automate tasks, here are Silicon Valley insiders’ top AI picks, with funding information taken from Pitchbook, the deal-tracking database.

Appzen: automatically audit expense reports




Total raised:$51 million

What it does:AppZen uses AI to automatically audit 100% of a company’s expense reports, invoices and contracts in real time.

VC who selected it:Arif Janmohamed, Lightspeed

Relationship to the startup:Investor

Why it’s hot in 2019:“Every company has employees who expense things that are out of compliance, out of policy or are just fraudulent. Similarly, every company has suppliers that game the system and push the envelope,” says Janmohamed.

Farmwise: self-driving, robot tractors




Total raised:$7.5 million

What it does:Farmwise has built an autonomous tractor that uses computer vision to cut weeds without the use of herbicides.

VC who selected it:Niki Pezeshki, Felicis Ventures

Relationship to the startup:Investor

Why it’s hot in 2019:The tractor could help farmers save money and overcome labor shortages. “The autonomous tractor that drives over rows of crops and uses computer vision to determine if what it’s looking at is a plant or a weed. If it’s a weed, it uses scissors to chop it, and if it’s a plant, it doesn’t do anything,” says Pezeshki.

“With only a seed round raised, they already have multiple tractors operating on farms in California and are generating significant revenue,” he says.

Fetch Robotics: self-driving warehouse robots

Fetch Robotics

Fetch Robotics

Startup:Fetch Robotics

Total raised:$48 million

What it does:They are developing autonomous robots for warehouses.

VC who selected it:Peter Levine, Andreessen Horowitz

Relationship to the startup:No relation. VC just thinks it’s cool.

Why it’s hot in 2019:“Fetch is building not just robotics to handle the huge 500-1000-pound pallet movement but they also leverage AI to track the inventory updates and object locations to make the warehouses and logistics much more safe and reliable,” says Levine.

FortressIQ: A software bot that helps create other software bots




Total raised:$16 million

What it does:An AI software bot that detects a company’s processes, documents them and helps automate and can then manage them.

VC who selected it:Nakul Mandan, Lightspeed

Relationship to the startup:Investor

Why it’s hot in 2019:“The digital bot ecosystem is growing exponentially, and enterprises need a governance layer to manage their digital bot portfolio to see which processes can be automated, which bots are working well versus not, and which processes should be sent back to humans. FortressIQ is building the governance platform to do so,” says Mandan. “Think ‘Workday for bots’.”

Guru: AI for ‘coaching networks’




Total raised:$38 million

What it does:It helps companies make sure all of their documents for their revenue teams—marketing, sales and support is up-to-date and it automatically puts the right knowledge in front of the right people at the right time.

VCs who selected it:Jake Saper, Emergence Capital and Accel’s Ben Fletcher

Relationship to the startup:Saper is an investor. Fletcher is not, he just thinks it’s cool.

Why it’s hot in 2019:“Guru is pioneering what we call Coaching Networks, instead of letting your most important facts live inside employee’s heads,” Saper says. ” With $25 million in the bank, Guru plans another growth spurt.”

Says Fletcher,”Guru is a knowledge management solution that uses AI/ML to surface content and answers to customer-facing teams when they need it.”

People.ai: automating sales and marketing tasks




Total raised:$38.6 million

What it does:People.ai is software for sales and marketing teams that uses machine learning to analyze customer information, find leads and integrate with email, calendar, audio.

VC who selected it:Peter Levine, Andreessen Horowitz

Relationship to the startup:Investor

Why it’s hot in 2019:“There is a lot of buzz around machine learning, but very few companies truly deliver improved business results, and people.ai is one of those. Their machine learning platform truly augments human productivity (be it a sales rep or a marketing manager or a customer success manager) by automating mundane tasks,” says Levine.

6 River Systems: smarter warehouse robots

6 River Systems

6 River Systems

Startup:6 River Systems

Total raised:$46.7 million

What it does:Autonomous robots for warehouse operations

VC who selected it:Matt Murphy, Menlo Ventures

Relationship to the startup:Investor

Why it’s hot in 2019:The second act for some former members of the Kiva team (bought by Amazon) these robots quickly pick items off warehouse shelves and “reduce mistakes, create higher worker job satisfaction,” says Murphy.

The robots “use AI, integrated with the warehouse management system, to make the picking process more real time and based on demand trends and delivery terms,” he says.

SambaNova: new chips and platform for AI, ML



Startup:SambaNova Systems

Total raised:$61 million

What it does:The point of artificial intelligence is that the computer is continuously learning and changing on its own.SambaNova is building new chips, hardware and a platform for AI, machine learning and big data analytics that can change and adapt to support this type of computing.

VC who selected it:Dave Munichiello, GV

Relationship to the startup:Investor

Why it’s hot in 2019:The tech is based on the research of its two former Stanford professor cofounders. The third cofounder is a chip pioneer. One of the co-founders, Chris Re, previously founded Lattice, a GV-backed company acquired by Apple.

“Huge market. A+ team and founders. Tremendous interest from customers,” says Munichiello. “AI and learning approaches are powering tremendous enterprise gains and will require new platforms to keep up.”

Shield.ai: drones saving lives by scanning dangerous places



Startup:Shield AI

Total raised:$24 million

What it does:Shield AI builds robots and drones that autonomously search buildings and dangerous sites while simultaneously streaming video and generating maps for military sites, construction, oil and gas fields.

VCs who selected it:Sarah Tavel, Benchmark; and Peter Levine, Andreessen Horowitz

Relationship to the startup:Levine is an investor. Tavel is not, she just thinks it’s cool.

Why it’s hot in 2019:“They provide an artificial intelligence platform that helps save our service members and innocent civilians,” says Levine.

“It will be interesting to see how the Shield team accelerates the development and deployment of their AI products, especially in a high risk environment that protects service members and innocent civilians,” says Tavel.

Superhuman: smarter, faster email



Startup: Superhuman

Total raised:$13 million

What it does:Superhuman intends to be what email would look like if it were built today. It bills itself as the “fastest email experience” and includes features like AI inbox help, undo send, follow-up reminders, scheduled messages, and read statuses.

VC who selected it:Santi Subotovsky, Emergence Capital

Relationship to the startup:No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Why it’s hot in 2019:“Email needs to be reinvented. It’s unbelievable that the most popular email clients – Gmail, Yahoo – haven’t updated their interfaces in decades, costing the world tens of millions of wasted hours every year,” Subotovsky says. “Superhuman is on the right path, and I’m excited to see them breakout in 2019.”

Transfix: Transforming the $800 billion trucking industry



Startup: Transfix

Total raised:$131 million

What it does:Transfix is a freight marketplace that companies use to hire trucks from carriers, in the $800 billion trucking industry. It uses AI to match loads with carriers.

VC who selected it:Ben Narasin, NEA

Relationship to the startup:Investor

Why it’s hot in 2019:“Everything on the planet other than babies is delivered by truck,” says Narasin. “Transfix is bringing this antiquated industry into the real time, tech-enabled world and making life better for drivers, shippers and carriers in the process while saving the planet from tremendous waste.”


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