British AI startup – Faculty, has raised $42.5. million in growth round led by Apax Digital Fund (ADF). The startup has now raised a total of £40 million ($56.6 million) to date.
The company had announced in April this year that it had won a contract to work with the U.K.’s NHS to better predict its future needs. Furthermore, It successfully grabbed at least seven other U.K. government contracts. The company’s customers include U.K.’s National Crime Agency, Red Bull, Virgin Media, and Moonpig.
The company was found in 2014 by Dr. Marc Warner, Dr. Angie Ma, and Andrew Brookes. It is known for its fondness for hiring swathes of maths and data science Ph. D.s.
Faculty’s purpose, and plans with the investments
The company expects to create over 400 new jobs across its engineering, product, and delivery teams. The investment will also be put towards the rollout of the Faculty’s new learning and development program.
This is not just a regular R&D AI operation. The faculty pitches more like an “AI as a service”. It means the company applies its platform to real-world data for the purposes of real-world outcomes. For example, optimizing a company’s marketing spend or forecasting demand for consumer goods.
Political tangles of Faculty
However, Faculty became briefly notorious after applying its platform to the cause of Vote Leave during the U.K. referendum.
After helping with that campaign, the company has been awarded a public contract. This contract is to help the British government apply machine learning to its post-exit fishing waters. This comes even as the fishing industry has faced stress because of Brexit.
Marc Warner, CEO, and co-founder of the British AI startup, Faculty said that the company has no plans to work in the political sphere again. He said, “Never again. It’s very controversial. I don’t want to make out that I think politics is unethical. Trying to make the world better, in whatever dimension you can, is a good thing. But from our perspective, it was, you know, ‘noisy,’ and our goal as an organization is, despite current appearances to the contrary, is not to spend tonnes of time talking about this stuff. We do believe this is an important technology that should be out there and should be in a broader set of hands than just the tech giants, who are already very good at it.”
From our perspective, it was, you know, ‘noisy,’ and our goal as an organization is, despite current appearances to the contrary, is not to spend tonnes of time talking about this stuff.Marc Warner, CEO and founder of Faculty.
Using the investment to build AI that delivers value
About the investment, he said that the plans are to concentrate on the U.K. first and then international expansion. They have knowledge of what it takes to do important, impactful AI at scale. There is much hype about it but not many AI products are in the market for consumers. Hence, they are sometimes a bit skeptical, and rightly so. The company says, “We figured out a bunch of real-world applications that actually deliver value. And so, ultimately, the raised money is really just about being able to build out all of the pieces to do that incredibly well for our customers.”
The U.K. as a place to develop and market AI
On this Marc said that Faculty plans to continue to take advantage of the U.K.’s talent pool. “The U.K. is a wonderful place to do AI. It has brilliant universities and a very dynamic startup scene. It’s actually more diverse than San Francisco. There’s government, there’s finance, there are corporates, there’s less competition from the tech giants, so there’s a bit more of a heterogeneous ecosystem.”
Mark Beith, a partner at Apax Digital, who joins Faculty’s board of directors, said: “Faculty is a world-leading AI company with cutting-edge technology, inspiring people and culture, and with phenomenal customer feedback. They enable customers to realize the tremendous value of AI quickly but responsibly, providing robust, fair, and explainable AI, with advanced data privacy. We have seen the power and impact of their solutions firsthand, as a client, and are thrilled to partner with Marc, Angie, Andy, and the team to support their global expansion.”
The Apax Digital Fund joins the Faculty’s existing investors, including Guardian Media Group Ventures, LocalGlobe, and Jaan Tallinn, one of Skype’s founding engineers.
The Estonian investor gave Faculty 350 units of Ether in January 2018, worth about $434,000 at the time, and 50 bitcoins in March 2020, worth about $316,000, according to Faculty’s financial filings at the U.K. business registry Companies House.