Announcing our Investment in Clarifai

Today is about [Clarifai](clarifai.com), it’s about an ambitious entrepreneur in Matt Zeiler, it’s about a true 0 to 1 step function breakthrough in technological ability, it’s about the reawakening of the New York deep tech scene, and as a least important bit, it’s about Lux’s investment alongside USV in Clarifai’s Series A.

Before going further, it makes sense to explain: How did we get here?

At Lux we’ve been investing within the intersection of deep tech and contrarian for over 10 years. The thesis and conviction to be differentiated and shoot for true outsized venture returns has led to investments in nanomaterials, electric grids, drones, digital pathology, and even satellites. Along the way we’ve questioned what it means to be VCs and rolled up our sleeves to play active hands in directly founding companies in Nuclear Waste, semiconductors, and even biotech.

However, time brings about change, brings about new learnings, brings about new theses. I’ve written about this in prior essays: as infrastructure, agnostic to technology and vertical, continues to mature we’re seeing a never before witnessed pace and acceleration in innovation. Not only is it no longer the case that deep tech needs a physical manifestation, but it seems the true rate limiter in technological insight and enterprise value creation is the ability to make sense and lever emergent data generated from novel technologies.

What Matt and the team have developed at Clarifai cannot be under stressed as foundational in both theory and practice. Results from Deep Learning on images and videos over the past decade has brought technological capabilities from ‘not practical’ to ‘better, faster, and more efficient than humans’. Matt’s work and ingenuity during both academia and private research has played a large role in the progress of the entire ecosystem. It’s rare for a small tech company to take on the likes of Google, Bing, or Yahoo in an R&D research contest. It’s even more rare for that small tech company to win as Clarifai did in the 2013 ImageNet Competition.

The proliferation of camera enabled smartphones has led to an exponential increase in our creation and consumption of personalized content via pictures and video. Clarifai’s technology stands to play a major role for consumers and enterprise in being an intelligent engine between content creation and content consumption. For some, the greenfield and whitespace is terrifying. A commercial path or concrete business plan is rarely ever obvious in early innings for break through deep technologies. At Lux we pride ourselves in seeking this risk; in partnering, working, and building companies with meaningful, defensible technological kernels.
It’s a pleasure to announce our investment alongside a world class group of investors in an ambitious team and technology at Clarifai. Embrace the unknown, reimagine the envelope of what is possible, and venture forward!

 
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