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Artificial intelligence startup Mad Street Den secures $1.5 million from investors

Tags: artificial intelligence, computer vision, Mad Street Den, e-commerce, gaming, analytics

February 02, 2015 | COMMENTS ( 0 )

Artificial intelligence startup Mad Street Den secures $1.5 million from investors

Chennai-based artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision startup Mad Street Den (MSD) has raised $1.5 million (Rs 9 crore) from Reservoir Investments' Exfinity Fund and GrowX ventures.

Founded by husband and wife duo Anand Chandrasekaran and Ashwini Asokan in 2013, MSD offers AI and Computer Vision through its cloud based platform to businesses around the world. The platform - MADStack offers a wide range of computer vision modules to deliver new experiences like object recognition, gaze tracking, emotion-expression detection, head and facial gestures and 3D facial reconstruction etc, for consumers.

The idea behind MSD is to bring AI and Computer Vision to people with all kinds of devices from low-end smartphones to high-end public and retail displays with minimal investment. The firm caters to several industries like fashion (e-commerce), gaming, ad tech, analytics - user engagement measurement and market research.

Sharing his views about raising funds, Chandrasekaran said, "We weren't looking to raise funds to be honest. We were bootstrapped. But then we started getting interest from VCs and angels around summer and I guess, word spreads fast around here. We had to be really careful in picking the right partner because we're dealing with something that's entirely a new technology, it's not mainstream in the world yet. We needed folks who wouldn't stifle the promise of growth and excitement of the new tech in the interest of pushing the market too quickly. We wanted someone who was specifically looking to invest in AI and Computer Vision. GrowX and Reservoir have been wonderful partners in that sense for us."

Anand Chandrasekaran and Ashwini AsokanSpeaking about the investment, Balakrishnan V, Chairperson, Exfinity opined, "MSD is one of India's first AI and Computer Vision companies. The founders have a formidable track record in the Silicon Valley. MSD offers AI and Computer Vision as a plug and play solution to businesses around the world."

Outlining the rationale for their investment, Sheetal Bahl, CEO, GrowX said, "We're taking a bet on MSD bringing AI from the hallowed domains of the few and making it accessible to the world-at-large, which could have a dramatic impact on businesses and lives everywhere. Ashwini and Anand bring a combination of skills - neuroscience, computing, UI, and business, that is exceptionally rare and well suited to achieve this vision."

Chandrasekaran is a Neuroscientist turned entrepreneur. He completed his Neuromorphic Engineering from Stanford University in 2009 and was a part of the team that built Neurogrid, a Neuromorphic system that simulates a million neurons in real-time. He then ventured into the startup world.

On the other hand, Asokan is a Graphic Designer turned entrepreneur. Earlier, she was working as a mobile innovation lead at Intel Labs bringing machine learning, sensing, image processing systems to life in the form of consumer centric products. At present, she designs products that bring AI to consumers in a meaningful way and work closely with businesses around the world.

Expressing her thoughts on what encouraged them to start MSD, Asokan said, "People have asked us over and over again - Why have you come back to India to do AI? The answer is simple - the consumer market here is exploding, be it any sector - e-commerce, mobile gaming, mobile advertising etc. New behaviours with tech is just emerging. That's a great time to bring new tech like AI and Computer Vision into the game. We're hoping to catch an audience that's essentially leapfrogged tech. And the interest that we're getting from companies is hopefully proof of that."

Speaking on the same lines, Chandrasekaran shared, "There were two ways in which we could have pursued this dream. It was by either incrementally building out capabilities based on the market, or do what I've done for a decade - stay in the world of academic labs, build strong AI with my background as a Neuroscientist and then find a fit for it. But, we ended up choosing the former - with Asokan's background in user centric product design, it made sense for us to come together and use our strengths to bring this to the market now."

Incorporated in October 2013 in Bangalore, Exfinity Venture Partners is backed by leading professionals in technology and investment management space looking to invest in early stage ventures in IT space. Whereas, GrowX Ventures is a sector agnostic, enterprise focused and early stage investment firm based out of Delhi.

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