Data Science Investment Counter —Funding raised by UK data science companies in 2018.
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Appen to pay up to $428m for Figure Eight to improve automation

Search and language data services company Appen announced today it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Silicon Valley’s based rival Figure Eight for around $428m.

Both firms use crowdsourced labour pools to gather data, which is then used to train artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools.

Appen, which has delivered investors a 158 per cent share price lift in the past year, currently has a crowd of 1 million people who work from their homes and cafes creating data sets for the world’s biggest tech companies.

The people who work for the company use specific language to describe images, videos and text. These data sets are then used to train AI for everything from image recognition software to making search engine results more relevant. But the process has been mostly manual.

The acquisition of Figure Eight, CEO Mark Brayan said, will deliver on the company’s plan of automating more of the service Appen provides.

Brayan said the deal was about “future proofing” Appen and allowing it to take on different projects in the future.

“Autonomous vehicles is an area we haven’t been able to do much in”, he told The Australian Financial Review. “You have to annotate an extraordinary amount of video data. There’s a lot of it, and it takes a long time.”

“Figure Eight’s tool set gives them a 50 times productivity benefit [50 times faster than a human] when labelling video data. You get this huge productivity lift.”

Beyond 2019, the company has announced, Figure Eight will be fully integrated into the Appin business. It is expected the two companies will produce combined annual revenue of around $287m.

“We’re very excited to be joining Appen,” said Lukas Biewald, co-founder of Figure Eight. “I’m extremely proud of the team. This is a genuine validation of everything we’ve achieved and a great platform for our teams to combine and continue to do amazing things in AI.”

The deal is expected to be finalised by early next month.

Image via TPHeinz on Pixabay

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