Contextual AI Emerged From Stealth, Apple Bet on AR, and More SF Tech News

Here’s the latest tech news out of Silicon Valley.

Written by Ellen Glover
Published on Jun. 12, 2023
Contextual AI Emerged From Stealth, Apple Bet on AR, and More SF Tech News
Contextual AI co-founders Amanpreet Singh and Douwe Kiela
Contextual AI co-founder and CTO Amanpreet Singh, and co-founder and CEO Douwe Kiela. | Photo: Contextual AI

As always, last week was a busy one for San Francisco tech companies. Fresh funding yielded big valuations and even bigger plans for innovation, particularly when it comes to artificial intelligence. And after about a decade of rumors and speculation, Apple has finally taken the plunge into augmented reality. There’s lots to discuss, so let’s get into it. This is the Built In SF Weekly Refresh.

Instabase raised $45M. The round was led by Tribe Capital, with participation from major VC firms including Andreessen Horowitz and Spark Capital, and brings Instabase’s valuation to $2 billion. The company, which is now hiring, also unveiled its new AI Hub, a repository of AI apps focused on content understanding and generative AI. The platform processes documents and data that companies can use in their operations, including academic papers, legal records, financial data and more. It has also incorporated OpenAI’s GPT4 language model to allow companies to build their own tools for automating business processes, from identity verification to invoice processing. [Business Wire]

Contextual AI launched from stealth. Backed by $20 million of seed funding, the AI startup aims to build the “next generation” of large language models, or LLMs, particularly when it comes to enterprise applications. While impressive, LLMs tend to not be appropriate for business use because they often make up information, and may not adequately protect or secure sensitive data. Contextual AI aims to solve those problems using a technique called retrieval augmented generation, or RAG, which is foundational to its text-generating technology. It essentially augments LLMs with external sources, like files and webpages, to improve their overall performance. [Business Wire]

SF Tech Quote of the Week

“Knowledge workers of the future need LLMs that work accurately, efficiently and effectively over huge private datasets, in a way that companies can trust.” — Douwe Kiela, co-founder and CEO of Contextual AI

Apple bought an AR headset startup. The tech giant acquired Mira, a Los Angeles-based startup that makes AR headsets for private companies like Nintendo World and the U.S. military. This news came just one day after Apple unveiled its own AR headset called Vision Pro, which costs about $3,500. Billed as a “spatial” computing system that “seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world,” the device is controller-free, allowing users to browse hundreds thousands of familiar iPhone and iPad apps by using just their eyes, thanks to an operating system called visionOS. As for its purchase of Mira, Apple has not disclosed how much it paid for the company, or what it plans to do with it. [The Verge]

Charm Industrial got $100M. This investment from General Catalyst, Thrive Capital and others comes on the heels of several major business moves by the carbon removal startup. Just last month it entered into a $53 million deal with Frontier — a carbon removal coalition founded by Alphabet, Meta, Shopify and others — to remove 112,000 tons of carbon dioxide between 2024 and 2030. The company was also part of JPMorgan Chase’s $20 million carbon removal buy in May. Now, Charm says it plans to use this Series B round to expand its engineering and bio-oil R&D efforts, scale its one current operating pyrolyzer into a fleet of “tens of thousands,” and improve its transportation capacity. [Charm Industrial]

In more funding news: B2B sales startup RevSure closed a $10 million seed round to further invest in its product, engineering and AI efforts, further scale customer acquisition and double down on its go-to-market strategy. [GlobeNewswire]

Finch, a B2B startup that helps businesses connect their employee data with tools for HR, payroll, compliance and benefits, received fresh funding from Intuit Ventures. While the exact amount of this investment was undisclosed, the company says it will use the money to continue growing both its platform and team. Finch is now hiring for roles across its finance, engineering and sales teams. [Built In SF]

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