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AI21 Labs, co-founded by Amnon Shashua, pulls in $64m for AI language services

Tel Aviv NLP company seeks to ‘change the way people read and write’; funds to fuel R&D, recruitment

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Tech Israel editor and reporter.

AI21 founders (from right to left) : Prof. Yoav Shoham, Ori Goshen, and Prof Amnon Shashua. (Roei Shor Photography)
AI21 founders (from right to left) : Prof. Yoav Shoham, Ori Goshen, and Prof Amnon Shashua. (Roei Shor Photography)

Israeli startup AI21 Labs, a natural language Processing (NLP) company that seeks to “change the way people read and write” using artificial intelligence (AI), raised $64 million in a Series B funding round, the company announced on Tuesday.

NLP is the ability of a computer program to understand human language by speech and by text.

The round was led by the UK-based Ahren Innovation Capital Fund with participation from AI21’s co-founder Prof. Amnon Shashua, also the co-founder of Mobileye (an Intel company), Pitango Ventures, Tel Aviv’s TPY Capital, and US billionaire and entrepreneur Mark Leslie, the founder of Veritas Technologies.

The current round values the company at $664 million and brings its total fundraising to $118 million so far, it said. AI21 Labs said it will use the funds to fuel R&D work and recruit new talent.

Founded in 2017 by Shashua, Ori Goshen, and Prof. Yoav Shoham, AI21 Labs developed a software platform where developers can build text-based applications like recommendation engines, chatbots, and virtual assistants. The company launched a text simplification tool called Wordtune, a Google Chrome extension that helps clients improve or streamline content, and Wordtune Read, a tool that analyzes and summarizes documents. Wordtune has millions of users, according to the company.

The features are part of AI21 Studio, an internal core that offers NLP-as-a-Service products.

The company’s newest product, Jurassic-X, is an advanced natural language processing system that uses Modular Reasoning, Knowledge and Language (MRKL, pronounced “miracle”) to elevate answers “and augment them with external knowledge sources as well as symbolic reasoning experts.”

“Jurassic-X can connect to your databases so that you can ‘talk’ to your data to explore what you need – ‘Find the cheapest Shampoo that has a rosy smell,’ ‘Which computing stock increased the most in the last week?’ and more,” the company described.

Goshen said the company “completed this round during a period of market uncertainty, which highlights the confidence our investors have in AI21’s vision to change the way people consume and produce information.”

Goshen told TechCrunch that the AI21 Studio has “hundreds” of paying clients and partners, and over 10,000 users for its free plan.

The NLP market is projected to grow from about $21 billion in 2021 to $127 billion in 2028, according to recent data by Fortune Business Insights.

Alice Newcombe-Ellis, founding and general partner of Ahren, said, “NLP has reached a critical inflection point and AI21 has developed unique infrastructure and products to successfully serve a large and rapidly growing market.”

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