Uber is reportedly eyeing Seattle startup Mighty AI as an acquisition target.
Three anonymous sources tell The Information that Uber held “recent talks” to buy Mighty AI, which develops training data for computer vision models.
The deal could aid Uber’s self-driving car tech ambitions. The transportation giant has been testing autonomous vehicles at a robotics facility in Pittsburgh for years and plans to start rolling out self-driving taxis on public roads in 2020 after a few setbacks in recent years.
Mighty AI CEO Daryn Nakhuda declined to comment on the report when contacted by GeekWire. An Uber spokesperson said “we generally don’t comment on acquisition rumors.”
Founded in 2014, Mighty AI makes software that helps computer vision systems label and identify objects. Autonomous vehicle software is the company’s focus, though customers in other fields have also found applications for the technology such as cashierless checkout and precision agriculture.
The company originally launched as Spare5, the first spinout created at Madrona Venture Labs in 2014. The idea was to have everyday people spend a spare five minutes or so performing short tasks like photo tagging, price guessing or survey taking on their mobile devices.
The startup relaunched under its new name in 2017 when it raised $14 million in a Series B financing round and honed in on selling “training data as a service.” It still taps the insights of people to help make AI engines stronger — for example, identifying objects along the road that could be potential obstacles — and continues to operate the Spare5 app.
“Today, companies’ data is highly proprietary, and it’s expensive to collect and annotate,” Nakhuda told GeekWire earlier this year after the company was nominated as a GeekWire Awards finalist. “We envision a world in which data is shared for the greater good to rapidly advance the development of intelligent applications. To that end, we are investing in a range of initiatives to increase the democratization of data.”
Mighty AI lists 74 employees on LinkedIn; it has additional offices in Detroit and Boston. Its Twitter and LinkedIn pages have gone quiet since mid-May.
Total funding to date is now $27 million. Backers include Intel Capital, GV, Foundry Group, Madrona Venture Group, and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) .
The company’s co-founder and former CEO Matt Bencke passed away in October 2017 after a battle with cancer.