Just 10 months ago, Petuum moved into its new office. Now, it’s getting ready to move again, to somewhere that’s four times as big. Much of these plans have come to light following the company’s success in raising $93 million last October.
At only two years old the artificial intelligence (AI) startup is doing extremely well for itself. It currently employs more than 70 staff but is hoping to increase that to 200 by the end of the year. “We are growing like crazy,” said Petuum CEO and co-founder Eric Xing. “There are a lot of needs.”
Xing himself has a background in AI research and earned a Ph.D. in computer science from top US college, UC-Berkeley. He’s previously worked alongside other great minds in the field of AI including Andrew Ng, former chief scientist at Baidu.
Petuum has raised $108 million so far from various investors including Softbank and Advantech Capital. The company’s aim is to provide its customers with an online AI platform solution for those not wanting to build their own. “We want to be the ARM or VMware of AI, to offer a universal and general reusable solution for broader AI needs across the industries, rather than solving a specific niche application,” said Xing. “And the others, including ourselves, can build more special solutions on top of it.”
Xing believes that a lot of the more advanced AI software is held back from the general public and accessed only by a few selected companies wanting to utilize it on their own systems. “It’s a very expensive way of doing business. I’m more seeing the opposite,” he said. “I want to make the availability and accessibility of AI inclusive in a different way.”
Petuum isn’t really in direct competition with companies such as Amazon and Google when it comes to AI. According to Xing, they complement one another.
Xing is excited about the company’s new office and feels that Pittsburgh is the ideal place for it to continue to grow. “Over history, Pittsburghers are known to have the character of being the builders,” explained Xing. “The type of company and the work we do in the space of AI can also be characterized as builders.” He also commented on how Pittsburgh may become Amazon’s second headquarters. “It will be really great for the city. We can benefit from them being a friendly competitor, or even like a partner next to us.”