At Madrona, we love partnering with founders from their very early days of idea formation and for the long run. Now that WhyLabs emerged from stealth, we are thrilled to announce that we led the $4 million Series Seed investment in WhyLabs, the AI observability platform for massive scale data monitoring and collaborative AI operations. We joined forces with AI2, Bezos Expeditions, Defy Partners and Ascend.vc.
Thanks to an intro from Jacob Colker at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), Maria first met the WhyLabs CEO, Alessya Visnjic, a long-time Amazon software engineer and technical leader, when she was in the early phase of exploring the idea. She kept coming back to a pain point that she experienced at Amazon as a pager-carrying engineer on what later became the core ML team. She was on-call to respond to model failures and data quality issues in internal ML deployments. It quickly became apparent to her that AI needed its own specialized tooling ecosystem. Knowing that the kinds of tools that software engineers rely on to monitor traditional software at scale are not suitable for AI applications, she set out to build WhyLabs.
Alessya’s conviction matched perfectly with our investment thesis around both AI/ML Infrastructure and Intelligent Applications. Through our investments in companies like Algorithmia, OctoML, Snowflake, Turi, XNOR.ai, and Lattice Data, we had come to the same conclusion: while Intelligent Applications are on the rise, the tools that AI builders rely on are at best immature, causing data scientists and engineering teams to spend precious time and effort on non-value added work such as data sampling, error detection, and debugging.
With enterprises of all sizes adopting AI rapidly, global spending on AI is expected to double to $110 billion in four years, according to IDC. The demands on AI practitioners to deliver transparent and non-biased AI systems are ever higher. WhyLabs is a company built on first principles and their solution starts with the data as the single source of truth. The WhyLabs Platform sends AI builders actionable alerts, enabling them to respond to data quality issues and model meltdowns in real-time. We’ve been impressed with how scalable, intuitive, and elegant the platform is – it integrates with existing tools and workflows to support any data type at any scale. While we expect that cloud platforms and many ML platforms for model building and deployment will offer their own model monitoring, we think customers will also need a truly platform-agnostic AI monitoring solution that provides consistent, best-of-breed insights and observability into model performance regardless of where it is running. This follows the pattern demonstrated by traditional APM and monitoring leaders like DataDog and New Relic.
Consistent with Madrona’s strategy of investing in and supporting founders from “Day One for the Long Run,” Maria in particular has worked with Alessya and the team since before they even incorporated. She helped them hone their idea, validate it with customer prospects, develop go-to-market plans and overall strategy, and recruit co-investors. Maria led the investment round for Madrona and served as the Madrona board director. Along the way, Maria, Alessya and the WhyLabs team continued to work together so closely and cohesively that they decided to join forces with her coming on board as co-founder and COO.
Madrona was thrilled with this serendipitous, massive win-win for all parties. Maria brings incredible start-up and GTM experience to this deeply technical team. She joined Cloudflare pre-revenue as an early executive and head of business development helping it grow into the cloud security juggernaut it is today. Her experience scaling GTM dovetails and compliments Alessya, Andy, and Sam’s deep product and technical expertise, making us at Madrona even more excited about the trajectory for this company.
And this is the fourth collaboration Madrona has had with AI2 to fund and spin-out new companies (along with KITT.ai, XNOR.ai, and Lexion), and we are excited to continue to work with them to create new intelligent applications leveraging cutting edge AI to solve important customer problems.