One year old AI & Computer Vision startup from Chennai, Mad Street Den(MSD) has raised $1.5M (9cr.) from Reservoir Investments' Exfinity Fund and GrowX ventures. Launched at MobileSparks 2013, MSD offers AI and Computer Vision as a plug and play solution to businesses around the world. Their cloud platform - the MADStack offers a wide range of computer vision modules to deliver exciting new experiences for their consumers.
The company which claims to be one of first AI and Computer Vision companies from India was co-founded by Ashwini Asokan and Anand Chandrasekaran both of which have a strong and long history in Silicon Valley.
Short story of starting up
Anand is a Neuroscientist turned Neuromorphic Engineer from Stanford, who was a part of the team that built Neurogrid, a million neuron Neuromorphic system. Ashwini is a designer turned Mobile Innovation Lead at Intel Labs, driving cutting edge mobile research and working with a team of engineers, scientists, designers and social scientists to bring machine learning, sensing, image processing systems to life in the form of consumer centric products. MSD happened when the husband and wife decided to get together where he builds AI and she designs products that bring AI to consumers in a meaningful way, working closely with businesses around the world.
People have asked us over and over again, why come back to India to do AI. The answer is simple - the consumer market here is exploding. Take e-commerce, mobile gaming, mobile advertising. New behaviors with tech 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 that the rest of the world went through step by step. And the interest we're getting from companies is hopefully proof of that.
Bringing Artificial Intelligence to our daily lives
The users/developers can simply plug into the AI cloud platform MAD Stack with an API and use the functionalities of the product. Company's flagship product, 'visual search for fashion based e-commerce' allows a user to take a picture of any dress and find it on an online shopping portal. This includes personalized recommendations based on visual qualities of clothes rather than just brand names. The company is already working with several e-commerce players for enabling this feature.
There are 2 ways we could have pursued this dream. It was either incrementally build out capabilities based on the market, or do what I've done for a decade - stay in the worlds academic labs, build strong AI with my background as a Neuroscientist and then find a fit for it. We ended up choosing the former - with Ashwini's background in user centric product design, it almost didn't make sense for us to not come together, use our strengths to bring this to the market now.
MSD also caters to gaming, ad tech and analytics companies where its tools enable the user engagement measurement and market research. Ashwini explains that with MADStreetDen, there is no need for exclusive hardware. The idea is to bring AI and computer vision to people with all kinds of devices from low end smartphones to high end public / retail displays with minimal investment.
We were not looking to raise err...funds
The joint statement by MADStreetDen's co-founders say,
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 & excitement of the new tech in the interest of pushing the market too quickly. And we wanted someone who was specifically looking to invest in AI and Computer vision, that was very important. GrowX and Reservoir have been wonderful partners in that sense for us.
Bangalore-based Exfinity Venture Partners LLP (formerly Reservoir Investment Managers (India) LLP backs early stage ventures in Information Technology space, while GrowX Ventures is a sector agnostic, enterprise focused, early stage investment firm based out of Delhi. Sheetal Bahl, CEO of growX, outlining the rationale for their investment, says
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.
MadStreetDen's flagship product (visual search for ecommerce) has a very interesting inside story. The company has not looked back since the launch of its cloud platform MAD Stack and the co-founders are extremely driven to bring artificial intelligence to bring ease to our daily lives.
MobileSparks presentation of Mad Street Den by Anand Chanrasekaran. Please note that the product MAD Stack was later on launched in August 2014.