Singapore 'hyperlocal' AI startup snags $7M in Series A

NextBillion.ai secures $7 million in its Series A round and plans to use the funds to expand its team and boost product and research development, which focuses on customised "hyperlocal" artificial intelligence-powered applications.

Singapore-based NextBillion.ai has snagged $7 million in its Series A round and plans to use the funds to expand its team and boost product and research development. The months-old startup aims to build artificial intelligence-powered applications that cut across various technology segments, including natural language processing, facial recognition, and cybersecurity. 

Its latest funding round was led by US VCs Lightspeed Venture Partners and Falcon Edge Capital, the startup said in a statement Tuesday. It also is supported by several angel investors including founders of Mad Street Den, Anand Chandrasekeran and Ashwini Asokan, and former Freshworks COO Nishant Rao.

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Established earlier this year, NextBillion.ai was founded by a team of former Grab employees Gaurav Bubna, Ajay Bulusu, and Zheng Shaolin, who helped develop Grab Map including the app's key features such as routing, pricing, and estimated time of arrival. Its software development team also comprises former employees from major Chinese players such as Alibaba, Tencent, and ByteDance, the company said. 

It added that its goal was to build customised "hyperlocal" AI-powered applications focused on addressing business challenges in emerging markets, particularly where language and geospatial infrastructures were complex and unique. 

Its first product Nextbillionmaps touts specialised AI tooling capabilities that source and maintain map data and offers businesses access to various APIs (application programming interfaces) including navigation, routing, and direction and distance matrix. It also is currently developing Nextbilliontasks, which uses AI to decode data and simplify multilingual texts, image classification, sentiment data analysis, and video annotations. 

According to NextBillion.ai, its clientele includes companies across various sectors including social media, ride-sharing, food delivery, as well as freight and logistics, and in Southeast Asia, China, India, and the US.

Said its co-founder and CTO Zheng, who is based in Beijing: "From mapping to natural language processing, content moderation, facial-recognition, and cybersecurity related challenges, our AI solutions are aligned with hyperlocal nuances in both emerging markets and developed markets." 

He also pointed to opportunities in China and the potential to offer AI applications that helped businesses drive their expansion into emerging markets in Southeast Asia, Middle East, North Africa, and India.

Bubna added that such markets were far more complex, with different languages, cultures, hyperlocal nuances, and densely populated cities, than developed markets. 

He said Nextbillionmaps was designed to offer an "intuitive and intelligent location AI-platform" that used both open source data as well as proprietary client data, to enable logistics, transport, ride-sharing, delivery, and e-commerce services "accessible, effective, efficient, and affordable". 

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