While all kinds of gee-whiz artificial intelligence startups have received ample funding over the last few years, they may lose support in the midst of wild market volatility.
With that atmosphere of endangered innovation in mind, Business Insider asked six investors about the AI startups that they particularly like right now. Here are 14 that won praise, including companies that track weather patterns to help grow vineyards, make "smart" cameras to alert authorities to school shooting threats, and collect wastewater to follow the coronavirus through sewers.
Affectiva: Measuring emotional responses to videos
What it does: Affectiva uses emotion-recognition software to measure people's responses to digital content – such as ads and TV programming – to help clients create better ads and more engaging content.
Why it's cool: Spun out of MIT Media Lab in 2009, Affectiva lets gaming, marketing, or entertainment companies run tests to gauge whether an audience is interested, bored, or confused. Companies can use Affectiva's analysis of reactions to cut out the ineffective parts of an ad, or accentuate the popular attributes of a new character.
Founders: Rana el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard
Funding: $53 million to date, most recently in a $26 million round led by Aptiv PLC, as well as Trend Forward Capital, Motley Fool Ventures and CAC.
Aquabyte: Spotting sea lice and keeping fish healthy
What it does: Aquabyte aims to make fish farms more efficient and sustainable through software that tracks how much food fish need
Why it's cool: It uses underwater cameras and computer vision to determine the weight and health of fish, to more accurately deduce their feeding needs. It can also detect and alert farmers to "sea lice," a minuscule and deadly fish parasite.
Founder: Bryton Shang
Funding: Around $14 million from NEA, Costanoa, and others in a Series A
Arable Labs: Monitoring plant health for harvesting trendy wines
What it does: Arable Labs developed an IoT-enabled, all-in-one weather and plant health monitor, that provides weather forecasts and history along with hyper-local plant and soil insights for irrigation, crop protection and harvest planning.
Why it's cool: Trendy California wine country vineyards, including Chalk Hill, Sebastiani, Firestone, and Scribe, use its technology to monitor their grapes
Founder: Adam Wolf
Funding: $18.8 million Series A via S2G Ventures, Middleland Capital, Village Capital, and the National Science Foundation.
Actuate: Upgrading existing security systems to better stop shootings
What it does: Actuate sells cloud software that can be used with existing security cameras to help stop shootings or robberies. It uses computer vision to detect firearms or intruders, and claims to have 99%+ accuracy with minimal false positives.
Why it's cool: Its software doesn't use facial recognition or track personally identifiable information, which means that it's not biased in the same way that a human security guard might be.
Founders: Sonny Tai and Ben Ziomek
Funding: $2.2 million seed round led by Bling Capital, with participation from Upside Partnership, the University of Chicago,Tensility Venture Partners, and MetaProp NYC
Ascent: Automating regulatory compliance
What it does: Ascent helps companies in the financial services space automate their regulatory compliance programs, by interpreting regulations that would otherwise take humans weeks or months to go through.
Why it's cool: Its software uses natural language processing — the combination of computer science and linguistics that helps computers understand human language — to process, understand, and organize millions of lines of text from regulations, and flag issues a customer needs to address. Machine learning models – the brains of AI – learn from all that text to continually adapt and become smarter over time.
Founder: Brian Clark
Funding: $26.3 million of funding overall from Drive Capital, with investments from ING and Wells Fargo
BackboneAI: Integrating product data between companies
What it does: BackboneAI automates data flows both within and between companies, so partners can share insights. For example, a retail company could use Backbone to organize product data from its suppliers, process that data for its internal catalog, and present it to potential customers.
Why it's cool: Backbone automatically pulls data from a wide range of sources, including supply chain records, customers, regulatory agencies, and social media, and helps companies track, understand, and update it.
Funding: $4.75 million seed round, led by Fika Ventures with participation from Boldstart Ventures, Cendana Capital, Dynamo Ventures, GGV Capital, MetaProp, and Spider VC
Balbix: Finding and prioritizing cybersecurity threats
What it does: Balbix analyzes all of a company's potential cybersecurity issues and prioritizes them to allow security teams to save time and focus on the most important threats.
Why it's cool: The company's security system uses sensors and data collectors to test and monitor an organization's entire "attack surface" of vulnerable platforms and devices, then uses that data to predict potential threats.
Founder: Gaurav Banga
Funding: $28.6 million from Mayfield Fund, Singtel Innov8, Mubadala Capital, and John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco.
BigID: Keeping track of customer data
What it does: BigID uses AI to help enterprises be better privacy stewards for their customers at a time of increased data regulation.
Why it's cool: BigID uses machine learning to help companies find where they're storing personally identifiable information, and how it's being used. It can suggest security procedures and pinpoint where a company may be falling short of complex privacy regulations, like the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe or The California Consumer Privacy Act.
Founders: Dimitri Sirota and Nimrod Vax
Funding: $146 million in total funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, Tiger Global Management, Salesforce Ventures, Comcast Ventures, SAP.io Fund and more.
Biobot Analytics: Analyzing sewage to map population health
What it does: Biobot, which says it is the first company in the world to commercialize data from sewage, collects and analyzes wastewater, which contains information about the health of communities.
Why it's cool: The startup is helping cities track the coronavirus through sewers in a pro bono project with MIT.
Founders: Mariana Matus and Newsha Ghaeli
Funding: $2.5 million from Ekistic Investments, DCVC, Y Combinator.
Directly: Teaching customer service bots to understand intent
What it does: Directly's customer service "chatbot" platform greets and interacts with customers and can decide which customers' needs would be better served by a human agent.
Why it's cool: Directly labels and processes every conversation that takes place on its platform, so its bots are constantly learning how to better determine the intent of customer questions and applying that data to future conversations.
Founders: Antony Brydon and Jeff Patterson.
Funding: $56 million total from Samsung, Microsoft, True Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, Northgate and Industry Ventures
Healthy.io: Letting your smartphone do urinalysis tests
What it does: This mobile-device health company is turning smartphone cameras into medical devices.
Why it's cool: The company's first product is a home urinalysis kit approved for sale in the European Union and undergoing clearances with the Food and Drug Administration in the US. Users that need urine testing, which would ordinarily take place in a clinic, can use its app at home to scan a color-coded urine dipstick. Healthy.io automatically adds the results to their electronic medical records. Its second product documents and measures wounds using matching algorithms built from a medical photos database.
Founder: Yonatan Adiri
Funding: $78 million from Aleph, Ansonia Holdings Singapore, Corner Ventures, Google Startup Growth Lab, and JOY Capital
Oxbotica: Teaching any vehicle to drive itself
What it does: UK-based Oxbotica makes autonomous vehicle software that it says can be adapted to all types vehicles, including those on highways, in warehouses, by ports, or in mines.
Why it's cool: The company's autonomous driving system can use built-in lasers, sensors, or cameras to show vehicles how to navigate terrain and around obstacles, or sensory hardware can be added to the vehicles. Because Oxbotica's system is not reliant on GPS, it has more freedom for off-roading, the company says.
Founders: Ingmar Posner and Paul Newman
Funding: $26.5 million from IP Group, Parkwalk Advisors and AXA XL.
Persado: Automatically writing marketing copy using a million tagged and scored words and phrases
What it does: Persado uses computational linguistics and machine learning to automatically write and design marketing messages for websites and email campaigns. It can automatically run experiments on thousands of potential copy combinations.
Why it's cool: The program uses an advanced language database of more than one million tagged words, phrases, and images to create marketing copy that strikes the right "emotional appeal" and has worked with top brands like American Express, Dell, and Comcast.
Founders: Alex Vratskides and Assaf Baciu
Funding: $66 million in total funding from Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital Ventures, StarVest Partners, American Express Ventures and Citi Ventures.
Sixgill: Prowling the dark web looking for threats
What it does: Sixgill automates cybersecurity research programs by scanning deep and dark web forums and providing alerts when a company or industry is being mentioned.
Why it's cool: Security teams can use Sixgill's intel to help them anticipate emerging criminal activity and threats before attacks happen.
Founders: Avi Kasztan, Elad Lavi
Funding: Total of $21 million in funding over three rounds from Terra Ventures, Elron, Sonea IM, REV, OurCrowd