Silicon Valley-Based AI Training Data Provider Raises $14.8M To Expand In East Africa

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Samasource hires and trains data reviewers in East Africa to tag photos and analyze data patterns so that training data can be provided to Fortune 50 firms. Samasource employees in Nairobi. Image: Samasource

Samasource, a Nairobi and San Francisco-based artificial intelligence data analysis firm, has raised a $14.8 million Series A funding round to scale its operations globally, with a special focus in East Africa.

Samasource hires and trains data reviewers in East Africa to tag photos and interpret data sources so that training data can be provided to Fortune 50 companies including Google, Continental, Walmart and Ford that furthers their machine learning and artificial intelligence initiatives, according to a press release.

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AI training data provider

Training data is the information that is gathered and then used to train an artificial intelligence algorithm so that it can complete a certain task on its own, according to FigureEight.

For example, Samasource data reviewers individually analyzed more than 2.5 million items for sale on the shelves at Walmart before using that training data to teach Walmart’s artificial intelligence-enabled system to recognize new items that it previously did not.

Analyzing and labeling training data is considered the biggest obstacle to AI adoption in the industry, according to a 2018 McKinsey report.

Samasource expects to use the investment to expand its workforce and resources in East Africa, according to the press release.

Samasource has a global workforce of around 2,900 people with offices in Singapore, India, the U.S., and Canada in addition to its major presence in East Africa.

A total of 2091 people work full-time in Nairobi and there are 480 staff members in Kampala and Gulu, a rural town in Northern Uganda, Samasource told Moguldom.

The artificial intelligence firm is expanding its digital delivery center in Kampala, Uganda to serve its corporate client base. This will mean increasing the Kampala staff by 90 people this year.

Samasource plans to grow its staff in Uganda by 150 percentĀ in 2020, founder and CEO Leila Janah told Techcrunch.

Janah founded Samasource as a nonprofit in 2008 but transformed it into a for-profit entity in 2019, making the earlier nonprofit group the major shareholder.

Janah became interested in global development while teaching English and creative writing in rural Ghana.

She completed a degree in African development studies from Harvard University and went on to develop the business model for Samasource while working with clients in the outsourcing and nonprofit sectors.

Samasource has also opened an artificial intelligence development center in Montreal, Canada.

Samasource’s Series A round of funding was led by Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Ridge Ventures.

Amsterdam-based investor Social Impact Ventures, Africa-focused Danish investor Bestseller Foundation, and London-based liability partnership firm Bluecrest Limited Capital also participated in the round.